Thursday, 30 June 2011

London Zoo - Penguins and Tigers

As the weather was so good last Sunday, my girlfriend Kelly and I decided we should do something to enjoy it so opted for a trip to London Zoo to see the new penguin enclosure.

We managed to get a 2 for 1 offer, using a National Rail deal. I'd strongly recommend you use this, even if you have a travel-card, as adult entry is not cheap. Even buying two single tickets, that we knew we were not going to use, we still ended up saving around £14.

We arrived just as the penguins were about to be fed, so headed straight there. The new enclosure looked great, and a heck of a lot more like a natural habitat than the old one. A great example of modernist architecture it might have been but it was certainly not the best environment for penguins.

As well as the rock and the sandy beach for the different subspecies of penguins they have, there is also a great concave window to see the penguins swimming under the water.  The children we saw enjoying this were absolutely fascinated being able to watch the penguins swimming.

Granted the entire exhibit smelled of fish but then what did I really expect when the penguins were being fed with, well fish.

We then took a wander over to the tiger exhibit. As I suspected, due to the heat (and boy was it hot on Sunday!), the tiger we could see, which I believe was Lumpur the male, was dozing in the shade.

The tigers at London Zoo are Sumatran tigers, a critically endangered subspecies, from Sumatra in Indonesia, with an estimated 300 wild tigers believed to exist in March 2008. Unfortunately numbers continue to decline as a result of a loss in habitat.

After a short time, he woke up, had a stretch and proceeded to have a wander around his territory.

It was great to see him roaming around the enclosure and patrolling up and down the fence, as all other visits to the zoo found him exactly as we had at first, asleep. I couldn't help thinking he was eyeing us up as lunch though.

We were then able to have a sit down on the display lawn and watch the predatory birds display. I opted for the shade for this one, whereas Kelly opted for the sun. The first photo I managed to take was of the black vulture, which seemed to enjoy scaring a couple of girls by skimming their heads by mere millimetres.

The display I enjoyed most though was that of the lesser Kestrel. We were treated to an amazing display of fast flying, diving and swooping. It was amazing to watch. Unfortunately I had a slight issue with my camera and managed to switch from the setting it was meant to be on, so was unable to capture the wings in sharp focus as I would have liked. However, I think the next photo shows nicely the speed it beats its wings when in a hover.

Then it was a trip over to the other side to visit the giraffes. They were out enjoying the sun, seemingly trying to work out which trees they could reach.

As we were heading back to the entrance, we had a wander past the owls, including this tawny frogmouth owl.

And finally, as we were leaving, we had a quick walk past the penguin enclosure again, this time without the crowds watching them being fed. Luckily for the penguins, there were a couple of herring gulls helping clean up what they couldn't manage.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Back to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

The day after my wildlife photography course, I decided to go back to the wetlands centre and continue to practise and implement what I'd learnt the day before.

It was another great day, weather wise, so I had a little wander around to see what was about. Bird wise, there was not a lot to see but there was plenty of other subjects to take pictures of, such as perfectly in bloom white water lilies.

I waited for an hour or so in one spot to see if I could catch a glimpse of a water vole but had no luck there. However, I did see the other star of the show that day, all of the Narrow-winged Damselflies that were out in force.

Finally, I paid a quick visit to the Dulverton and witnessed the Common Terns mugging the few Herring Gulls who were eyeing up the nests on the islands. It was great to watch them tussle and was great practice for taking quick photos.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Introduction to Wildlife Photography, with Iain Green

I decided that, if I actually want to take decent photos, it probably wouldn't do any harm taking a course to get some tips and tricks. My knowledge of the fundamentals of taking a photo are pretty good (i.e. I know how to put the camera on to automatic and which button you press to take a photo! Only joking) but as I am, admittedly, very much an amateur when it comes to nature and animal photography, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take some advice from a professional. Fortunately for me, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Barnes was able to help out, offering a days introduction to wildlife photography with photographer, Iain Green.

Iain has been a professional wildlife photographer for the past 14 years, with his subject focus being very much on wild tigers in India.  As there is a distinct lack of tigers in Barnes, fortunately, it was good to know that he was adept at a wide range of subject matter, with his attention turning more recently to the wildlife that is all around us, the wildlife of London, in all its shapes and sizes. Please do have a look at his website. There are some gorgeous photos to see there.

The day started off, at the wetlands centre, with a brief introduction from Iain, covering his experiences and some of the fundamentals of wildlife photography including researching your subjects, composition and, perhaps most importantly, respecting the animals and habitat you're working in.

Then it was out to take some photos. We started over at the Wildside of the wetlands centre, admittedly my favourite part of the site. Iain was able to remind me that I needed to think about shooting from different angles and not to be solely reliant on my zoom lens.

Here, for me, it was all about Tufted duck babies...

And flying bugs. In this case, an Ichneumon Wasp.

After a bite to eat, it was over to the other side of the site, to have a look in the hides and to take a look at the, very much in bloom, RBC rain garden. Iain gave some invaluable tips for the set-up of your camera and here, to put those tips into practice, it was all about the flowers on offer, taking photos from angles different than the usual.

It was a warm day and it looked like this starling had taken full use of the plentiful water to cool down.

I had taken a few photos from below, looking to the sky, in the past and like the results I had achieved. The plane flying through the frame helps to place the photo in a specific location, another of Iain's tips, directly under the Heathrow flight path.

Small skipper butterfly

Iain also offered a first for the wetlands trust, an introduction for me to the resident lizard population, basking on some logs in the sun.

Overall, a fantastic day spent in the sun, taking photos, getting great advice and tips from Iain.  Is Iain in any danger of me stealing his job yet?  Erm, probably not.  Has this made me want to practice and improve?  Absolutely.  Watch out Iain!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Wandle Trail - Yellow Wagtails and Butterflies

I've been meaning to take a walk along the Wandle river for a while now, as I cross it everyday on the train to work. The river Wandle runs through south west London, through the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton, and Wandsworth, joining the River Thames at Wandsworth. In the past, it became little more than an open sewer, polluted to such an extent that it was once considered one of the most polluted rivers in England. Thankfully, the river Wandle is now a lovely, clean river (as far as it can be in a city anyway) with diverse range of plants, birds and fish, including Brown Trout.

I started off at Wandsworth and was greeted by a pair of Yellow Wagtails, eagerly feeding their brood of chicks in a nest under the bridge.

As I walked further up the Wandle, through Wandsworth town centre and up to Earlsfield, I was a little disappointed at the level of access to the river. A lot of it was fenced off or hidden behind buildings, meaning I had to take various urban detours until I got past Earlsfield station. Then I was able to walk along the rivers edge, taking in all of the animal and plant life on offer.

It was nice to see so many butterflies enjoying the sun, including Comma's...

... Red Admirals...

... and Small Whites.

Swifts were a plenty, zipping over the river. I must have taken over 100 photos until I managed to get one in frame and in focus. They're quick!

I was also lucky enough to see a Broad-winged Damselfly which decided to settle on a leaf, as I headed back towards Wandsworth.

And, as I got back to Wandsworth, the Wagtails were still busy feeding.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Older Photos - Dogs

Having grown up with Golden Retrievers (my Parent's currently have 3, with a Flat-coated Retriever thrown in there for good measure), dogs have naturally been a focus for my photography (...sorry, couldn't resist that pun).

They start as cuties...

And grow to become super models...

I can safely guarantee that there will be plenty more photos of the dogs as I go on!

Older Photos - Underwater

Another love of mine is scuba diving.  Since qualifying as an advanced open water diver about 5 years ago, it has become a very large factor when planning holidays... can I dive there?  Unfortunately I can't afford the £1000+ it costs to get a scuba case for my Nikon, so I make do with a Panasonic Lumix which isn't as high resolution as I'd like but still takes nice photos.

The following photos were all taken whilst diving Sipadan in Borneo.  After diving there, it's clear to see why it's rated as one of the top places to dive in the world.

This next photo is of a Frogfish, which was waiting for it's photo to be taken at the bottom of the anchor line.  It looks so odd and stays so still that it would have been easy to miss it.

Finally, a tiny Tube-worm Blenny peeking out of it's home.

These next photos were taken while holidaying in Barbados last year.  The first is a view to the surface through the wreck of the Bajan Queen, one of the Carlisle Bay Marine Park wrecks.

The highlight of the diving in Barbados has to have been diving the wreck of the SS Stavronikita.  The wreck itself is down at 30m, at the shallowest point, and, as it begins to appears from the gloom, you get a sense of how big she is.  Well preserved and with lots of marine life, including huge deep sea fans and a couple of Hawksbill Turtles, it's definitely a dive worth doing.

This was at the bow of the Stavronikita, showing the anchoring chain.

As well as wrecks, there are the turtles.  Barbados is home to, and the nesting sites of, Green, Hawksbill and Leatherback Turtles.  I saw mainly Hawksbill whilst diving and we were also lucky enough to see one come onto our hotel's beach to nest.

And finally, a major part of the reef's cleaning team, the Banded Boxer Shrimp.

Older Photos - Birds & Bees

As you may have guessed already, I like taking photos of birds and, as you might expect, I have a lot of older photos. Here's a selection of some of my best shots (so far...).

The first is a baby Wren I saw at the Leg of Mutton nature reserve in Barnes. I was amazed to see how close I could get to it without it flying away (this shot was taken from about 2 metres away). I think I may have been the first human, or one of the first, the bird had seen as it looked as interested in me as I was in it.

This next shot was taken in my garden. I was outside enjoying the sunshine and noticed this Cuckoo Bumblebee rummaging around in the leaf litter.

I had to put at least one photo of a Robin in this post! This one was seen at the Barnes Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, singing away in the sunshine.

On a visit back to my Parent's, we had a trip to Sandringham. The prize for us was to see a family of Ducklings grazing near one of the ponds. Cuuuuuuuuute!!!

This is our resident Dunnock, who often visits the bottom of the bird feeder to see what's been left by the greedy Wood Pigeons (see below).

This spring we were lucky enough to have a family of Great Tits nesting in the conifer at the back of our garden. The parents were busy at work, feeing the baby with peanuts which, we later saw, the baby was quite capable of getting itself.

A Grey Heron on the hunt at the Wetlands Centre.

And finally, one of our fat and greedy Wood Pigeons. I watched this one eyeing up the crumbs on the tray and then proceed to majestically fail to land on it. This is as close as it got on this attempt; 2 feet on but couldn't seem to get it's balance so gave up and went back to the fence to re-group.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...