Tag Archives: wildlife blog

The Mother of all Geese

Wild Bird Wednesday Greylag Geese
Greylag Geese on the Isle of Mull Scotland

Happy Wild Bird Wednesday :0)

Click the link below to see photographs from many talented folk around the world and feast your eyes on our fine feathered friends!!

Wild Bird Wednesday

The Greylag Goose (Anser anser) is believed to be the ancestor of most modern day domestic Geese. It is the largest of the native UK and European native Geese and, to my eye, it is very similar in size to a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis).
This beautiful bird is officially classed as amber status in the UK, meaning moderate cause for concern for the population numbers.
In the South of England release of birds has been on going for a number of years to help re-establish their population with some success, but the population found in Scotland are from the original native stock and retain more of the natural behaviors of true wild birds.
This was taken on the Isle of Mull, the second largest of the “Inner Hebrides” off the West Coast of Scotland.
Another first for me on a really rather wonderful trip to magical Mull :0)

Shot with the my trusty Canon 100-400mm f/4.8-5.6 L lens wide open on the Canon 7D to get the shallow depth of field to give the soft focus bokeh of the 2 Geese in the background


Tiny Ant on a Clematis leaf with the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro lens

Extreme Macro Ant
Tiny Ant on a Clematis leaf

Well, it is a Saturday, and I am sure there are some Macro Monday groups I could find, but I got the sudden urge to balance my postings a bit with a macro photograph!

I also remember my intention to talk about equipment and technique from time to time on my blog, so here come the technical bits and do feel free to read no further and just enjoy the picture if such things do not excite you – I shall completely understand :0)

You can see it is a macro shot, of course, but please believe me, this is not a giant tropical Ant, and this is not an ordinary Macro lens!!

Allow me to introduce you to the remarkable Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Lens.

This incredible piece of glass really is unlike anything else available from the main camera makers.

Although the term is used loosely for close up work, true macro is 1:1 magnification and above. This means that the image falling on the sensor is the same size as the object.
Such specialist lenses are readily available, but this lens starts where they stop!

It starts at 1X magnification (it can only focus close, so you cannot get smaller magnification or use it for normal photography unlike the standard macro lenses). It then goes to 5X magnification at which point a grain of rice will not fit into the frame.

Before you rush out to buy one, a word of warning. This is a notoriously difficult lens to use:

Autofocus? Absolutely not!
Depth of field? About 0.05mm at f/2.8 and 0.3mm at f/16, both at full magnification
working distance? Less than 2 inches at 5X
Viewfinder visibility? Very dark!!

All of the above mean that lighting is very, very hard indeed!
The short working distance makes getting direct light onto the subject difficult, with shadows being a big problem
You will want plenty of light and a small aperture to get a half decent Depth of Field and the normal solution would be a slow shutter speed.
At this level of magnification any movement is magnified so much that an imperceptible breeze takes this option away.
Unless you have a controlled environment inside, with no breeze, the only realistic option is flash.

Again, normal camera-mounted flash will not work, as the lens will block the beam.
Specialist ring flashes mounted to the front of the lens can work very well and are certainly the most practical option, but cost a fair bit of money.
Many people have made some weird and wonderful rigs as a cheaper alternative, and for this shot I have put a metal foil-lined Pringles Crisps tube over the end of my Canon Speedlite (hotshoe-mounted) and put a diffuser on the other end, angled down over the Ant.
A bit Heath-Robinson, but it has worked surprisingly well!
Another method which has worked for me is to hand hold the Speedlite flash to one side of the lens, with a reflector the other, to balance the light and avoid shadows, and remotely trigger the flash.

I do aim to get hold of a specialist Flash in due course, as this really is the ideal solution in my mind

The nature of the lens means that the view in the viewfinder is very dark (remember, this lens does not autofocus), making manual focus very difficult, and I have found using Live View at full brightness a far easier option.

I absolutely adore this truly fabulous piece of glass, but if you are tempted, please do not get put off by the huge and steep learning curve and be prepared for a low strike rate and frustration in the early days.
Rest assured that when a shot works there are few more satisfying lenses out there :0)

Beautifully Camouflaged Otter On The Isle Of Mull, Scotland, UK


Beautifully camouflaged otter on Mull, Scotland
Mull Otter among the Seaweed

You may have seen my last posting, An encounter with the magnificent White Tailed Eagle on Mull, but here is the real reason I went to Mull, to fulfil a childhood dream of seeing a wild Otter!

This is a photograph of the European Otter, Lutra lutra. I drove from Kent, England to the Isle of Mull, Scotland with the aim of seeing these beautiful, but shy and elusive animals from the Lutrinae subfamily of the Mustelidae family which includes Weasels and Wolverines. On the last day of my 10 day trip, searching for an Otter for several hours a day, I came across this male, foraging among the Kelp Seaweed on the edge of a Loch, and what a wonderful experience it was. You can see how well camouflaged they are against the brown of the Seaweed and the granite rocks, which make them such a difficult animal to spot, certainly worth the long drive and the huge amount of patience on my part :0)



Black Headed Gull, Rye Harbour, Kent, England

Black Headed Gull Rye Harbour Kent
Black Headed Gull Rye Harbour Kent

Happy Wild Bird Wednesday :0)

Click the link below to see photographs from many talented folk around the world and feast your eyes on our fine feathered friends!!

Wild Bird Wednesday

I have barely been out with my camera for the last few months but have been looking through some of my archives. I stumbled across this one from my first proper day out just after I got my first DSLR in June 2012. Here we have a Black Headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) a small gull with amber status, but common on the Kent Coast in England, where I took this in Rye Harbour. I do like this shot (especially as it was on my first “proper” day out with a DSLR (!) and was surprised not to have shared it before. I love the bokeh backdrop of waves and breakers and the position of the wings in gliding/hovering mode and the angle of the head with the drop of water on the tip of the beak.

Taken with the wonderful Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens on my Canon 7D. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival, if the rumours are well founded, of the canon 7D mark ii. I appreciate there are advantages with Full frame DSLRs, but the extra reach afforded by cropped frame for wildlife is something I see as an advantage with a cropped frame (1.6X on the Canons). though some say cropping from a full frame is at least as good image quality wise. The 7D has served me well and I have shots which I am very proud of, but I have many buried on my hard drive never to see the light of day. My main gripes are the noise above 800 ISO and the focus which is a trifle hit and miss. Sometimes it deals with tricky shots perfectly but fails miserably on static objects!!

There are more rumours about a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM mark ii. To be honest, I think I have not been good enough for Santa to get me both for Christmas, but a second body would be rather wonderful :0)

Wandering Whistling Ducks (Wild Bird Wednesday)

Wandering Whistling Ducks
Wandering Whistling Ducks

Happy Wild Bird Wednesday :0)

Click the link below to see photographs from many talented folk around the world and feast your eyes on our fine feathered friends!!

Wild Bird Wednesday

Here we have an Australian trio of charmingly named Wandering Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata) performing some synchronised swimming. An understated but utter delightful species of waterfowl in my eyes :0)

Rainbow Bee Eater, Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia (Wild Bird Wednesday)

Rainbow Bee Eater
Rainbow Bee Eater in Port Douglas. Beauty on Chains

Happy Wild Bird Wednesday :0)

Click the link below to see photographs from many talented folk around the world and feast your eyes on our fine feathered friends!!

This Wednesday is rather special: Stewart, who spearheads the weekly Bird photography blog exchanges and links which make Wild Bird Wednesday (WBW) such a valuable source of photographs and web links is today hosting his 100th WBW!! He has selected 15 of his favourite WBW photographs and posted to his blog. They really are spectacular, so do click the link below and enjoy them. Links to this weeks participating Blogs (around 70 )from around the world can be found on his page, so do drop in and enjoy the weekly event which is WBW :0)

Wild Bird Wednesday

Today is my third WBW blog posting, so a long way to go to catch up with Stewart’s landmark figure and after last weeks British bird, I have chosen to return to an Australian bird, the spectacular Rainbow Bee Eater (Merops ornatus)

You will never forget your first encounter with this beautiful bird and the brightly coloured feathers have an almost metallic sheen to them.
I took this shot in a Park near the Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia.

I have a number of shots of these birds on branches and plants, but there is something about the mix of the modern steel chain with the stunningly beautiful colourful bird which makes this one that bit unusual and a personal favourite!

The bokeh background is provided by a Paperbark tree (Melaleuca spp), a stunning tree, superficially resembling a Eucalyptus, but unrelated, with a soft bark often hanging off in huge multilayered sheets – hence the name.

Click here for more of my bird photographs – enjoy!!

Beautiful black swans in flight

Fine art photography
Beautiful Black Swans in flight

A shot from my Son’s”best day ever”!

We took a boat trip around the lake at the Mareeba Wetlands, Queensland , Australia, and there were several black swans (Cygnus atratus) gracefully paddling as swans do. I had assumed that all their plumage was pure black and only when these 2 appeared in flight did I see that the front third or so of the wings are pure white, which disappears entirely the moment they touch down.

the background shows a shallow fringe of reeds, Eucalyptus trees and the lighter patches are huge termite mounds

Taken from the boat with the Canon 7D and my favourite Wildlife lens, the Canon 100-400 mm F/4.5-5.6 EF L IS USM Lens

As for me, it has to be one of my best days ever too :0)

PS it is Harvey’s 12th Birthday today, so this ones for him 🙂