It's been way too long since my last post so this is a catch-up of the last few months. As I touched on back in January, personal circumstances have resulted in some big changes including me moving home but my photography has kept me relatively sane and I've had a few good trips, including a visit to the Forest of Dean for the beastly Hawfinches as well as the Avon Gorge for the resident Peregrine Falcons. I have also finally taken the plunge and upgraded my 300mm F2.8 lens to a 500mm F4. A big difference and still relatively early days but so far so good! The highlight though was finally being published in the national press. More on that later.
So, where to start? Well, my feeding station has been doing well and with spring in the air I spent some time with some obliging blue tits in amongst the blossom and got some pleasing results after a bit of work, my favourite couple of shots below:
A bit further afield, a few very early mornings were required to get to the Forest of Dean before the rush and these paid dividends with some incredibly close views of the Hawfinches that feed at Parkend. Despite an incredible lack of common sense or field craft from many birders and photographers, I did get a few keepers. I must say though that the sheer stupidity of many visitors to this hot spot became infuriating and on both occasions I left earlier than planned for fear of blowing my top. I'm normally a very calm person and it takes something special to rile me. Despite polite words with a few people things just didn't get better. A shame as it ruins things for all. Anyway, here's a magnificent female Hawfinch taken during a quiet moment...
The Peregrine Falcons at Avon Gorge are a popular attraction during March and April as they begin displaying / courting and I recently made a visit with good friend Dave Soons. We were joined by Pete Blanchard and spent a good 5 or 6 hours with only fleeting views of our targets, soon bemoaning what a poor day we were having. During this time a few people came and went and the temptation to follow suit was growing until we were treated to some awesome displays with the birds zooming past no more than 10 - 15 feet away at eye level. At that range it's pretty much impossible to get a photo so we just took it in and enjoyed the spectacle. It was a challenging session with the birds often coming head-on towards us and it took a change in settings to really get going (thanks Pete) and the D500 did a fine job in locking on and tracking the raptors as they cruised through the gorge. In the end we had an amazing day and will definitely be returning once the chicks have fledged in June.
Back in February I was contacted by a press agency who thought a few of my images would go down well with the press and they weren't wrong. On Monday 20th March I got an email to let me know that both the Daily Telegraph and the Mail Online had used a number of images. Happy days!
Finally, and most recently, I've been lured by irresistible temptation of the first butterflies of year, specifically Orange-tips which have emerged during the recent warm weather. My first search was during a cool and overcast evening and despite a good few hours of looking I came home without finding any. Always a disappointment but it makes the next time even more appealing and builds the anticipation. A few days later I met up with dad and we went off in hunt of these small butterflies. It was again overcast and very cool indeed, with a fresh breeze blowing which would make photography more challenging. Almost immediately we found a roosting male on a blackthorn twig. Incidentally, this was in a very small sheltered area where I found a number roosting together last year. We then moved onto a couple of fields which were absolutely full of cuckoo flowers (one of the Orange-tip's main food plants). We spent a lot of time scanning the flowerheads but no joy. We then moved to an adjacent field and within a few minutes of looking we found a couple of males roosting quite close to a hedge. This meant they were sheltered from the breeze so I was able to get a number of images. It was great to find these butterflies as they've been a bogey species for me in previous years. I'm hoping they'll remain close-by for another session soon, so watch this space!
Keywords: Avon Gorge, Butterfies, Forest of Dean, Hawfinch, Orange-tip, Parkend, Peregrine Falcon, Spring
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