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Macro

Dragon's Continued

I know insects aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but the way I see it, I have all winter to concentrate on Birds and Mammals and these guys aren’t going to be around for much longer. I was reminded how short this period was during my pursuit to increase the dragonfly species count at The Canyon this year. I’ve noticed that there weren’t any Chasers or Skimmers present when there is usually several buzzing around the lake on a hot sunny day like today. I was reminded on Twitter though, that the season for these types of Dragonfly have already passed and most of the adults have reproduced and have since perished during August. It’s such a short life for a Dragonfly and they all have slightly different peak emergence times throughout the year, which makes a lot of sense from a survival perspective, as this way, they aren’t competing for the same food supplies. Black Darters emerge rather late in the year in comparison to other Darter species, so thankfully there are lots around. 10+ Males are 3 females were spotted in the last two days, which is more than I’ve ever seen at the canyon.

Black Darter Pair - Left Male | Right Female


I’ve known of a couple sites in Ebbw Vale for a while now that holds a rarer hawker species called a Brown Hawker. I’ve been meaning to make a visit myself and was given an extra push after a tweet from Lee Gregory who reported 2 Brown Hawkers at Waun-y-Pound ponds. As the weather was good and I had a meeting in Ebbw Vale, I went straight over there and connected with 2 Brown Hawkers almost instantly upon arriving at the middle pond. I didn’t realise they were so big! I watched one catch a mating pair of Common Darters and it actually ate them both! What a monster! I couldn’t get a great pic but the one I did get shows just how camouflaged they are and also the habitat they chose to roost in which is primarily heather patches.

Brown Hawker

Brown Hawker


Here’s a Southern Hawker, Painted Lady Butterfly and some more of a very obliging male Black Darter.

Marsh Fritillaries

It’s been on my ‘todo list’ for a few years now to make the effort and see the beautiful Marsh Fritillary butterflies at one of our last known breeding sites in Aberbargoed. I believe most of the site is a former colliery, a habitat formed from the scars of industry, but this scar has healed, even when it was thought to never heal again. It’s actually proving to be a ‘win’ in conservation terms, as the coal spoil itself has created a variety of micro habitats because of the way the spoil handles water. Some water gets trapped creating marshy habitats, some completely runs off creating dry patches. This water management has resulted in such a variety of plants occupying the same habitat, which is proving to be just what our insects need, as with most insects, they need a variety of plants to complete their life cycle.

This is why our modern farm practises aren’t good for biodiversity. Fields are drained to turn into dry grassland, replace with poo and chemicals which pollute our waterways. Ground nesting birds still move in, lay their eggs, and then the farmer will cut the grass, killing all that once lived there, Reptiles, Amphibians, Mammals, all dead or injured, which then attracts the predators, foxes, birds of prey, crows and gulls, of which are then blamed for feeding on still-birth lambs, and until quite recently, persecuted for it, because NRW allowed for licensed shooting of these animals who are just cleaning up after our mess.

Specialist species like the Marsh Fritillary don’t stand a chance in modern Britain. We’re so caught up in that ‘human race’ thing called life, that we forget we’re ruining it for our future generations. The exploitation needs to stop. We need more protection for nature. There are good farmers out there doing all they can to minimise their impacts on nature but it’s doing to take more than just the good will of the minority. Wildlife Trusts, Butterfly Conservation, RSPB, they are all doing their part to try and balance the equation but it’s not enough. If our government doesn’t act now, species like this will be lost forever.

Sorry rant over, also included in the photos were some very fast Dingy Skipper Butterflies, a Drinker Moth Caterpillar, some microscopic Gorse Shieldbug Eggs and a scenic shot of an emerging Fox Glove in a field of blossom. All these shots were taken with my Canon 100mm macro which is proving to be good investment. It’s nice to roam around with a small lens for a change. Lugging the telephoto and tripod around can be a bit much all the time.

Gwent Uplands

Another unbelievable sunny day today, perfect for Reptiles and it would seem Butterflies too with Brimstone, Peacock, Red-Admiral, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell all on the wing. I spent most of my time today in search for an Adder but still can’t find one. I think I need to change the method, try and approach it a little differently. Either that, or focus on a new sight instead, maybe somewhere that’s a little less vast.

I only got the camera out once after spotting what I first thought to be a Cuckoo, but luckily it landed on a post and it turned out to be a beautiful Male Merlin! My first adult Male bird and my first on my local moorland. I’ve only seen Merlin a hand full of times, but they’ve all been distant, hunting on the wing or perched a mile off, so it was nice to get one full frame in the scope in beautiful sunshine. A single Peregrine was hunting low to the moors too, flushing all the Skylarks but no catch this time.

In other news, I may have secured a deal with a new distributer for my photography prints. This company offers much better prices than my current dealer which means I can bring down my sale price to something a little more competitive. It also allows me to sell a lot more stuff, like Pillows, T-Shirts, Mugs, Hats, Beanbags, Prints, Canvas’, phone cases and much more. There is a catch however and I’m not sure whether I’ll get around it but the dealer is based in the US / EU. This wouldn’t be an issue but with Brexit coming up, this option may not work out for me as there’s no telling yet if we’ll continue to have free import charges from the EU to the UK. I very much doubt that will be the case, so this might all be a complete waste of time.

Either way the company offer great free mockups and I’ve updated my canvas’ in my store so you can see the difference. Check it out

Also, if you missed Sundays blog, I’m now offering some design services for new local businesses. Read more about it via my new Design Page

Back to the Basics

I don’t mean to use this blog as some kind of depressing therapeutic journal..but I’m not going to pretend that everything’s great for me right now. Times are tough at the moment and I hope that in writing this down it will not just give me a little relief but it might even be relatable to others, and therefor mutually encouraging.

In October last year I wrote my first blog about my own Mental Health issues. It was a massive leap for me to admit that I’m suffering and to ask my Doctor for help. The first lot of tablets didn’t agree with me so counselling seemed to be my only option. I’m now into my second session, and i’m realising now just how deep this issue goes. I’ll talk in more detail about this once my counselling has finished. Hopefully by then I’ll be in a better place to talk about it.

Social Anxiety has always been a massive barrier, Preventing me from reaching simple daily objectives, and recently preventing me from turning up to a public enquiry to save my local Canyon. It was extremely important to me to help save the Canyon and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that it’s being fought by equally passionate people, I’d feel pretty devastated about missing it. The Canyon is a place that I regularly turn to if I need a place to be alone, surrounded by pure serenity and beautiful scenery / wildlife. I hope that the enquiry is going well and wish everyone the best of luck. I have my fingers crossed that the right decision is made.


I haven’t ventured that far just yet but the woodland opposite my house has some great fungi opportunities with Winter Polypore, Jelly Ear, Scarlet Elf-Cups and with the warm temperatures, a 7-spot Ladybird emerged too. That is due to change for a short period with a slight sprinkling of snow today and plummeting temps. Ice can present some nice macro opportunities though so I’ll keep an eye out for that. I just need to get out of the house more.

On the Job front though, I’m still out of work and struggling to find something that isn’t going to make my health worse. I know many people stuck in Jobs that are quite frankly.. shortening their lives. Everyone has had to do a Job that they aren’t comfortable with or don’t like, but my health problems are no longer going to be pushed aside. Concentrating on my health though is coming at a financial cost so I can only hope that things pick up quickly or that I can find a way of selling my photographs.

Being self employed has never been more appealing to me than now. The value of being able to choose your own working hours, working around health and to not have the social pressure and stress that comes from Bosses & Colleagues.. this seems to be the logical step forward but it’s also the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. My self confidence has been knocked quite a bit, with a damaged wrist from working at Llandegfedd, which took away any chance of me falling back on my music career and also any chance of continuing my career in physical conservation work. Just when I seemed to find something that suited me well, in a production company, the social anxiety came back to haunt me. So I’m here now, stripping everything back to the basics, taking pictures that I enjoy and staying well away from people looking to use me to bump themselves up the ladder. It’s time to get myself there instead. There’s no room for selfish, unappreciative people in my life. Oosh that was a rant and a half. Please don’t feel too depressed after reading all that.. Here’s some pictures to make this look like a positive blog.

Ivy Bee's

Finally caught up with an autumn and found my own Ivy Bee’s, unintentionally of course. Just met up with a friend at Pontypool Park Gates and thought I’d check the Ivy along the bridge right next to the Esso Garage. Took a while to spot them at first in amongst the wasps and hundreds of Harlequin Ladybirds but there were about 7 Bee’s regularly feeding at the same time nearest the Esso garage. Not easy subjects to get a good photo of really but I did my best. I may return this week for a second crack at it.

Ivy Bee

I’ve been organising photographs this weekend, getting on-top of backups before installing a new operation system on my Mac. Mac 0s Majave is proving to be a must-have upgrade for photographers. The new finger ‘showcase’ viewing mode is particularly useful for previewing a days work of photographs. Mac was always good for photography as you only needed to press spacebar to preview files and photo’s without even opening them. Well, in this new showcase mode you don’t even need to do that, you can simple zoom into the photo there and then, without opening anything. This allows you to find out which images are sharpest much quicker and delete those which aren’t needed, very quickly. In doing this, I came across an image from the Spring. A Garden Warbler, peeking out of the shadows of a dark gorse bush.

Garden Warbler

Whats a Garden without a Garden Spider? Been keeping an eye on this female for a couple weeks. She’s laid quite a few eggs so next year should be good for them if they can survive the winter.

For those that watched Autumnwatch this year, what did you think? Squirrels were a big feature, and I was shocked to see that American Grey’s were actually below their native Red Squirrels in dominancy. Being much bigger animals, I would have thought the Greys would have dominated over the Reds at the bird feeders. I wonder if our native Red Squirrels would be as dominant over the Greys? I guess we’ll never know if the Greys continue to spread disease to them. A trip up North is needed soon, I do miss seeing our Reds.

Grey Squirrel