Monday, December 22, 2014

White-tailed Eagle

A rather close encounter with a White-tailed Eagle on the west coast of Scotland earlier this year. Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Red Grouse

A Red Grouse, possibly wondering where all the trees, eagles, harriers, mustelids, etc went. This was photographed earlier this year in Scotland on a grouse moor, where there was a notable lack of wildlife, but an abundance of Red Grouse.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Crested Tit

A Crested Tit photographed in the Cairngorms, Scotland. It's been estimated that there are 7,000 individuals in Scotland. About one third of this number were in Caledonian pine forest remnants, with the remainder occurring for the most part in plantations of Scots pine. However, the density of birds in the native pinewoods was almost ten times that of the plantations, thereby indicating that the ancient forest provides a much more favourable habitat.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Little Owl

A Little Owl perches on electricity pylons on the outskirts of the Forest of Dean. It is one of our non-native species of owl, introduced to Britain in the 19th century.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wild Boar

A Wild Boar browsing the forest floor in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Short-eared Owl

A Short-eared Owl in Gloucestershire, one of five seen hunting that afternoon, along with at least two Barn Owls and a Merlin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

European Otter

An Otter on the River Stour at a time when the river was at one of its lowest points.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Northern Wheatear

The Northern Wheatear was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher. This one was photographed among the breakwater at Poole Harbour, Dorset.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Red Squirrel

Great Grey Shrike

I took this photo last winter. Since then the bird has flown off to Scandinavia, hopefully bred, and returned to over-winter in the same place as last year. I found it on its return, which reminded me I really ought to post this photo!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Capercaillie

Capercaillie are primarily pinewood grouse that inhabit native pine forest and occasionally, conifer plantations. They spend a lot of time feeding on blaeberries on the ground, but may also be found in trees, feeding on pine needles. The males are black, huge and unmistakable, especially when they gather to perform their mating ritual at favoured “lek” sites. But the UK capercaillie population and range has declined rapidly, and it is now at risk of extinction. This is due to its very specialised requirements: these birds need not only suitable habitat, but wide expanses of it. Conservation and restoration of this habitat is essential for their survival.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Grey Seal

This Grey Seal was photographed on a small island amongst the Treshnish Isles, Scotland. Population studies estimate that just under half of the world’s grey seals live in the waters around the UK, and the breeding colonies in the Hebrides are the largest in the UK. Of particular importance are sites on the Treshnish Isles and on the Monach Islands.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Common Seal

A Common (or Harbour) Seal on the Cairns of Coll, Inner Hebrides. These are the most common species of seal in Britain, and can be found virtually all around our coastline. Britain is home to 50-60,000 individuals, representing about 10% of the world population.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Silver-washed Fritillary

A close-up view of a Silver-washed Fritillary in the Forest of Dean.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Great Spotted Cuckoo

A Great Spotted Cuckoo seen in Pembrokeshire earlier this year. Like our Common Cuckoo the Great Spotted Cuckoo is parasitical, choosing corvids or starlings as its host, but it doesn't eject the chicks or eggs from the nest. Instead they just tend to fail to compete with the cuckoo chick.

Monday, October 06, 2014

White-letter Hairstreak

The White-letter Hairstreak is a difficult to see butterfly, usually found at the top of elm trees, but they do occasionally visit ground level to feed, as did this one in Dorset. Their colonies are usually restricted to a small handful of trees, or even one individual tree.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Common Crossbill


A Common Crossbill in the Forest of Dean. This is the most common species of crossbill to be found in the UK. Of all the others, the only one I'm yet to photograph is the Scottish Crossbill, having already captured Common, Parrot and Two-barred Crossbills. The Scottish Crossbill will have to wait until the next trip to the Cairngorms.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Common Dolphin


Common Dolphins filmed in waters between the islands of Coll and Mull (Inner Hebrides) last month. Common dolphins are thought to be one of the most abundant cetacean species, with population estimates suggesting that there are several hundred thousand animals globally, yet overall numbers have declined due to a combination of factors. There is evidence that significant numbers of common dolphins are accidentally caught in open sea trawl and drift nets; they seem particularly vulnerable to this threat because they are attracted by the fish inside the nets but do not jump over them to escape. Common dolphins are also subject to the same threats as other cetacean species including the pollution and degradation of the marine environment, injury and disturbance from vessels, and decreasing food resources due to overfishing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Scottish Wildcat

The Scottish Wildcat has long been my holy grail of British mammals. More than any other species, this is the one I've always wanted to get a photo of. Over the last couple of years, I've made numerous attempts at capturing a Scottish Wildcat on camera, both in the Cairngorms and more so in western Scotland. Living roughly a 500 mile drive away from the sheer vastness that is Wildcat country, it's been a bit of a challenge. Up until now, the closest I'd got was last August, when I managed to get a brief glimpse of a good looking cat at night, but failed to get a photo. The mental image will always remain though.

In September this year I returned to one of the most remote parts of western Scotland for yet another attempt. In addition to my usual camera gear, I had a night vision scope with the ability to record video and stills, and again I had an array of camera traps (many thanks to Gareth for the loan of those). After many nights spent with the night vision I'd failed to connect with a cat again. The camera traps had been out for just over a week. I left them in place as I headed to Mull for a few days, then collected them before the long drive home. By the time I had just one more camera trap to collect, after flicking through the shots of Pine marten, Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Badger, rodents and birds, I'd all but accepted that this was again going to be a trip where I'd fail to capture a Wildcat. The last camera was set to capture stills rather than video, and its IR beam wasn't as powerful as it could have been, but this is what it captured.

A Wildcat appears out of the darkness, spending 58 seconds in frame before noticing the camera and quickly disappearing. The lack of light combined with IR reflection on the fur makes it impossible to examine pelage markings, but it's clearly a large stocky cat, and it's clear from some of the stills in the sequence that this cat is wearing a radio-transmitter collar.

The Scottish Wildcat is literally clinging on to existence. Current estimates suggest there are as few as 35 Scottish Wildcats left, making it quite possibly the rarest mammal on the planet. They are prone to many threats, along with many other species, such as persecution and habitat loss, but by far the biggest threat today is hybridisation. There is some very good work taking place now on the west coast of Scotland to protect the last remaining Wildcats, with minimal funding. I personally find it strange that so much money and effort is directed towards iconic foreign species (great though that is), many of which face a less uncertain future than the Scottish Wildcat, whilst at the same time our own only remaining native and endemic wild cat species is spiralling towards extinction.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hooded Crow


A Hooded Crow photographed a couple of weeks ago in western Scotland. The Hooded Crow is widely distributed across Europe, but in the UK it is restricted to north and western Scotland and Ireland. It was once considered to be a geographical variation of the Carrion Crow. Although it is a separate species to the Carrion Crow, hybridisation is possible.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lion's Mane Jellyfish

The Lion's Mane jellyfish is the largest known species of jellyfish in the world. These ones were filmed in waters around Mull, Scotland last week. They are fairly easy to spot as they spend most of their time near the surface of the water. The Lion's mane jellyfish appears in the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" published in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes discovers at the end of the story that the true killer of a school professor who died shortly after going swimming (shouting "the lion's mane" before he succumbed.) was actually this jellyfish. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hummingbird Hawk-moth


This Hummingbird Hawk-moth was one of many seen (at least 30) on Portland on Monday. Virtually every patch of flowers had at least one of these nectaring around them. The Hummingbird Hawk-moth is a small, day-flying hawk-moth. Hummingbird Hawk-moths are summer visitors, migrating here from Southern Europe in variable numbers each year. In some years, they can be common and may frequently be seen in gardens hovering like hummingbirds to feed on the nectar of Honeysuckle, Red Valerian and many other flowers. They can also be found in woodland edge, heath and shrubby habitats. The caterpillar feeds on various species of bedstraw, so the female adult moth lays her eggs on the buds or flowers of these plants.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

European Swallow

A Swallow perched on the Minsmere sluice on Friday last week. More than likely it is one of the same birds we filmed a couple of months ago in the same spot.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Kingfisher

This is the same Kingfisher I posted a photo of back in May, which was photographed back in February this year.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Black Guillemot

Unlike most other European auks the black guillemot is typically found in ones and twos, scattered around rocky islets. It is typical of the larger sea lochs of western Scotland, and the northern and western isles, but is also found in Ireland, the Isle of Man and in a handful of spots in England and Wales. This one was photographed at Corran in Scotland last year.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Smooth Snake

This Smooth Snake was photographed in Dorset in May this year. Smooth snakes are Britain's answer to the boa constrictor. Though harmless to humans, reptiles and small mammals have much to fear. Smooth snakes kill or subdue their meals by squeezing the life out of them before finally swallowing the unfortunate victim whole. They hibernate communally through the winter and, after emerging, the males fight for females. Rearing up, they push their opponents to the ground and coiling around each other until one gives up. They are incredibly rare in Britain being restricted to southern heathland, but widely distributed throughout Europe.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Short-eared Owl

A Short-eared Owl photographed in Cambridgeshire earlier this year as it hunted over the fields.

Red Grouse


With my fourth trip of the year to Scotland coming up in little over a month, I'm still working my way through pictures from the last two trips. This Red Grouse was one of many seen around Lochindorb in April. They are considered game birds, and extensively shot, by means of both 'walked up' shooting and 'driven' shooting. For more info on driven shooting, why it's so bad for the Hen Harrier and other species, and to sign a petition calling for it to be banned, follow this link to Mark Avery's blog.

Friday, July 11, 2014

European Otter

A curious Otter on the River Stour.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Springwatch video

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Capercaillie


I photographed this battle-worn Capercaillie back in April in the Cairngorms, Scotland - definitely one of my wildlife highlights of the year!

Monday, July 07, 2014

White-tailed Eagle


A White-tailed Eagle, photographed last year in the Hebrides (Mull), Scotland.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Silver-washed Fritillary

These two photographs of a Silver-washed Fritillary were taken almost a year apart from each other. The most recent one (below) was taken a week ago on the Dorset/Wilts border. where they were present in large numbers. They are our third largest butterfly.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Eurasian Nuthatch


The Nuthatch population is on the rise in Gloucestershire, but the most densely populated area is the Forest of Dean. This particular bird was photographed back in April this year.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wild Boar


A pair of male Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean.

Purple Emperor


Not one of my better photos, but it's a Purple Emperor, so I can't be too picky. It was fairly high up a tree in Wiltshire. The following words have been lifted from www.thepurpleempire.com...
The Purple Emperor is neither the rarest, nor the largest of Britain’s resident butterflies. So how has this elusive insect managed to maintain such a hold on the imagination of generations of the UK’s amateur and not-so-amateur lepidopterists? His elusive nature is, perhaps, part of the appeal. This is not an insect you will stumble upon, unless you are blessed with extraordinary luck. He must be sought out, in suitable country, and even there the untrained eye may totally fail to spot him unless he knows how to look. And yet, this is not another humble brown retiring beast, easily confused with many similar dingy species, but a soaring rush of colour and spectacle – a flash of black, purple and white that sets the heart beating faster. He flies higher than most, and maintains a lofty perch during the middle of the day, as befits his regal reputation – so if you would wish to add his photograph to your collection, you must either content yourself with perhaps a pair of antennae protruding over the edge of a distant leaf.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hawfinch

The largest bird in the finch family in Britain, the Hawfinch, photographed in the Forest of Dean.

Mountain Hare


A Mountain Hare in ermine on CairnGorm Mountain, Scotland, photographed in March. This is quite a large crop. The conditions up the mountain were pretty horrible - strong winds and low cloud. The Mountain Hare is only found above 500m, and even then it is now confined to Scotland, the Peak District and the Isle of Man. Global warming will likely push their preferred habitat even higher, potentially shrinking their potential habitats even further.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Large Blue


The Large Blue became extinct in the British Isles 35 years ago, and now exists once again in a small number of sites due to a successful reintroduction programme. This one was photographed earlier this week in Gloucestershire. It also becomes the 500th species to make it on to the species list.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary


After so long away from home, it was nice to get out in the Forest of Dean this afternoon. The sun was shining and there were a good number of insects on the wing. This is one of three Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries seen today, along with Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods, Common Blue, Large Skipper. The highlight of the dragonflies today was a Golden-ringed. Woodlark still singing, Tree Pipits still displaying and a Cuckoo still calling. It's almost like I was never away!

Springwatch 2014


I'm back home after 5 weeks filming for BBC Springwatch. It was my first visit to RSPB Minsmere - an awesome reserve managed by an equally awesome group of RSPB staff and volunteers. This was me filming a bee swarm on the root plate of a fallen tree, which was broadcast at the end of programme 5.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Kingfisher


A female Kingfisher surveying the river for fish, photographed a couple of months ago. The hungry brood of a Kingfisher can demand over 100 fish a day from their parents, which they dive for at the surprisingly low speed of about 10mph. This will likely be the last update to this blog for a month or so, until I'm back from working on Springwatch at RSPB Minsmere.

Wryneck


The Eurasian Wryneck is a member of the woodpecker family of birds. With their cryptic plumage they look quite different to the other three members of the woodpecker family seen in Britain. They are most often seen on the ground, scouring it for ants, their main food source. I photographed this particular bird last year in Gloucestershire. It's a rare migrant in the UK, which sees around 250 birds a year according to the BTO.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Adder


Another local shot from the Forest of Dean - a female Adder yesterday. I got some record shots of her basking partially obscured by bracken, but when I returned a bit later, she'd moved on and was out on the hunt, and I was able to get this shot.

Tawny Owl


A pair of Tawny Owl chicks in an old Buzzard's nest in the Forest of Dean yesterday. A real pair of characters.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Crested Tit


This is another photo from my most recent trip to the Cairngorms, Scotland. There are some well known and regularly used sites where photographers like to see Crested Tits. Unfortunately, they didn't prove very useful on this trip, as the birds there were very few and far between, and the light was really poor. This particular bird, along with its partner, simply dropped down from the tree tops during a trek through a scots pine forest at the northern edge of the Cairngorms. The light was great, the perch perfect. It's a rare thing for everything to fall in to place like that without even trying!

Willow Warbler


A Willow Warbler, photographed this week near home in the Forest of Dean.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Osprey


An Osprey returning with nesting materials in the Cairngorms, Scotland. This shot was taken at 600mm then very heavily cropped. The nest is on an island on a loch. It's a well known spot to watch Ospreys, and apparently when the young have fledged they will practice fishing amongst people canoeing on the loch.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Adder


A male Adder in the Forest of Dean earlier this week. The British Adder population has experienced a massive decline in recent years. Flooding, habitat loss and fragmentation amongst other things, have seen numbers drop in most areas, and disappear altogether in others.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Red Squirrel


A Red Squirrel in Curr Wood in the Cairngorms. There are thought to be around only 121,000 Red Squirrels left in mainland Britain. They are at threat from the invasive North American Grey Squirrel which out-competes the Reds for food, and by squirrelpox, which is also carried by the Greys.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pied Flycatcher


A male Pied Flycatcher in the Forest of Dean yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Great Northern Diver


This Great Northern Diver photo was taken last year. The Great Northern Diver is the largest of the UK divers. It's a specialist fish eater, and can dive as deep as 60 metres. Whilst watching this bird it would sedately drift on the surface of the lake, but once it was underwater, it could appear literally anywhere on the lake in a very short space of time. Since this bird, all other Great Northern Divers I've seen have been distant and at sea - which is more typical for divers.