Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Moving On!

My journey, it seems, has come to an untimely end, on Google Blogger at least.
I am very pleased to announce my Nature North East website is now officially live at http://www.naturenortheast.co.uk/.
From now on this will be the new home for my blogs, photography and in the future, a video series.
Though I will still be posting content to the Nature North East Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, the website will offer much more high quality versions of my photography, blogs and videos.
Any positive or negative feedback is more than welcome so that I can iron out any kinks or glitches in the machine should they arise.
Below is a small preview.

- David

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Swollen Seas

Bubbling and powerful, the North Sea savagely struck the shoreline of the North East coast around St Mary's yesterday. The morning was grey, dull and miserable; but on the eastern horizon the light of the sun burst through the heavy clouds and lit up a small portion of the distant sky. A stunningly gothic morning on the tidal shore.
- David

Shorelark, Blyth Harbour

An approachable Shorelark lurking around Blyth South Harbour?
Count me in!
The Shorelark / Eremophila Alpestris; is a scant visitor to our North East coast during the colder months of the year and at the mouth of the river Blyth I saw my first!
I had read online of news of an individual bird at the harbour and unfortunately I first got the news when I was preoccupied at the gym and the sun was already fading, so I decided that the following afternoon I would go and have a look after work. 
That day I was treated to some fantastic views of this lone Lark.

- David

Sunday, 20 September 2015

'You Forgot The Common Sense'

I was sent a link this morning to a Daily Mail article, oh the joys, the subject of which was this years poor breeding season of our most declining raptor, the Hen Harrier. 
I read through this short article a couple of times and in all honesty, it was an absolute non news article,  I'm guessing it must be a slow news day. 
Once again Ian Bothams 'You Forgot The Birds' group reared its ugly head.  As usual its line of fire was pointed directly towards the RSPB, nothing new there then.
Ian Gregory, the campaign director for Bothams pitifully desperate group, is quoted saying;
'the RSPB should admit it had not adequately protected the hen harrier nests it controlled.'
He also went on to describe the RSPB as 'a charity which specialises in failure'. 
Strong words about failure there, which is a tad hypocritical considering the groups website has the image of a Carolina Wren on it. Any British birder will know your going to be pretty hard pressed to find one of those in this country.
I guess they forgot their British birds, whoops!
The aforementioned Carolina Wren

Well I digress, lets get back to the Daily Mail article. So what Mr Gregory is eluding to are the nest sites that were being monitored and protected by RSPB staff and volunteers in England. His choice of words just go to show how uninformed he and potentially his peers actually are, they clearly have no idea how nature or conservation actually works. 

I was there with boots on the ground during the 2015 nesting season and I personally watched a total of three nests in England over a three month period. Sometimes in glorious sun and other times in torrential rain. 
In brief here is a rundown of what took place, now obviously I can't go into specific details due to confidentiality and I can only speak of the sites I watched personally. I can't attest for any other breeding areas;

  • The first two nests failed due to natural reasons caused by that of inattentive young male Harriers, this inattentiveness which was potentially caused by a lack of experience resulted in the females eventually abandoning the clutches after overly extended periods of male absence.
  • The third nest had all but one egg hatch with only one chick surviving to fully fledge with the other chicks succumbing to either potential illness or starvation. The birds were sent away for  post mortem and I haven't been informed of the results.
  • There was also a fourth nest I was scheduled to watch and upon arrival at the site I was informed that it had failed, that very morning it had succumb to probable Stoat predation.

So there we have it, the nests weren't persecuted and they weren't adequately controlled by RSPB staff and volunteers. They were monitored 24 hours but unfortunately mother nature can be cruel and sometimes things don't pan out the way they would in an ideal world.
Misinformed non articles like this from the Daily Mail are nothing but a diversion from the real issue of driven grouse shooting. Not once did I see a Harrier bring a Red Grouse chick to the nests, its a strange concept that Red Grouse only exist at present to be shot out of the sky by a cold few. Its insulting that this uninformed group can point a finger of blame so nonchalantly and grab media coverage in doing so, when they have no idea what on earth they're talking about.

We forgot the birds?  
You forgot the common sense!

- David 

The Skydancer

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Bamburgh By Dawn

Friday morning I was awake, fed, watered and on the A1 heading North by 5am, my destination Bamburgh.
I had a burning desire to get up there and shoot the beach landscape at first light, and yes I know its a huge cliche for Northern photographers to shoot at this location but lets be honest, its a beautiful locale of a bit of snap happy action. 
I hit on lucky with the light on Friday morning and as the sun rose the between the Farnes and the world sprang to life it lit this glorious area of Northern Northumberland up in swathes of stunning light, just beautiful.
Well worth the 3:30am wake up call and the hour drive.
- David 
Stag Rocks is your stereotypical craggy shoreline, its fantastic and to me marks the southern entrance into Budle Bay. Below is the aforementioned white stag, I'd love to know who keeps him looking fresh.
A young stonechat, one of many hanging around the white building at Stag Rocks
.......Later in the day I found this little yellow eyed chap! (No pun intended)

Monday, 14 September 2015

...Here Be Dragons!

A slight reprieve in the gloomy weather this morning afforded me the option of getting out and about amongst the reeds and I had chance to look around a small private pond I have been allowed access to.
Impressively sized and stunningly coloured the Migrant Hawker is an impressive member of the Odonata, this was one of many defending territory over the reed beds today.
A small Emerald Damselfly showed albeit briefly before being chased off by one of the Southern Hawkers.
 The gorgeous Black Darter, there was a small number of these jet black beauties basking around the pond margins and at times would be quite confiding.

The most numerous of the pond dragons by far, the Common Darter.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

From The Vault: ....Within The Hawthorn

Yes ladies & gents, another Little Owl photograph.
I couldn't resist a dip back into the Nature North East vaults to retrieve another Athene Noctua photograph, of which I have numerous I assure you.
This particular individual, who lurked within a Hawthorn tree, was actually the first Little Owl I photographed with my SLR. Previously any attempt was made using a telescope and my iPhone, which was adequate but now has been deemed obsolete.
This shot was also taken during the winter, which is one of the best times of year for shooting certain Owls and during the winter months a few hot pockets open up in the North East. This is due mostly to large roosts of Asio Owls we get here in the North East, Asio referring to the genus of two of our Owl species. These being both Short-Eared and Long-Eared Owls; Asio Flammeus and Asio Otus respectively.
These roosts are one of the many reasons I eagerly await the return of Jack Frost and his Winter cronies; don't get me wrong I have spent a lot of time with all of our Owl species this year so far, the highlight being a distant Eagle Owl in Lancashire - that was an amazing experience I had waited two months for, as brief as it was - but these large roosts are a sight indeed.

Nature North East

Friday, 21 August 2015

Hollywell Dene Waterfall

After an early finish from work yesterday I headed to the coastal woodland of Hollywell Dene to take some long exposure shots of the mini waterfall situated half way along the woodland trail.
Unfortunately as I was exiting the dene, whilst attempting to photograph a Shield Bug, my SLR came up with 'Shutter release ERROR!' and as I took the lens off the mirror fell off!
There are however, two upsides. Firstly its still under warranty so fingers crossed I can get it fixed painlessly, and secondly I have a brand new Nikon SLR arriving on Monday which luckily I ordered on Tuesday. I'd been wanting to upgrade for a while.
Was this fate? Who knows, either way its great timing and I can't wait to get to grips with my new camera body.

North North East

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Winters Gibbet - Monument To Murder

Ominous, lonely, bleak, eerie, historic and somewhat atmospheric; Winter's Gibbet is situated near the small village of Elsdon, along the edge of Harwood Forest and is a reminder of a murderously dark deed dating back to the 17th Century.
This afternoon I took a drive up to Winter's Gibbet for a spot of photography, the weather was overcast and not brilliant but if anything it adds to the murderous vibe of the site and I attempted to grab some shots that encapsulated the remoteness of the location.
Unfortunately the Gibbet has been completely replaced, so its not original but it does still serve as a reminder of what once was.
I'm looking forward to getting back up here one evening and trying some dusk and even astrophotography, I only hope the ghost of William Winter doesn't decide to keep me company.

Nature North East

Sericomyia Silentis; One of many insect species amongst the moorland vegetation.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Dusk Photography At Seaton Sluice

As has been apparent in my previous blog post, I've been frequenting St Mary's at dusk to try and work on some coastal landscape photography; on Thursday night I turned my attention North towards Seaton Sluice and Rocky Island.
The weather was fantastic, however a few more clouds in the sky would have really increased the drama I wanted in the shots. Overall I couldn't find the shots I was after, I attempted to salvage what scenes I could and was relatively happy with what I achieved.
I have ordered a few ND filters to help with the brightness of the sun so until they arrive I have to make do with what I can.
I'm really enjoying my foray into coastal landscape photography; it really makes a change from wildlife photography, which I still do but have put on the back burner for now as I try to hone my camera craft towards landscape scenes in the North East as oppose to amateur wildlife shots.
- David
Nature North East

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Sundown At St Marys

It may be one of the most overly photographed and cliched sights of the North East, along with Sycamore Gap, Holy Island & Bamburgh Castle but St Marys Lighthouse is a true icon of the glorious north.
I can't resist driving five minutes from home to the iconic lighthouse on an evening and taking a few shots. I'm really trying to improve my knowledge and practical experience with landscape photography at the moment and while I still have a tremendous amount to learn I'm finding this a stunning location to do so.
Oh and the local wildlife is always a bonus.
Nature North East

Monday, 3 August 2015

A Shortie & A Sunset

Short-Eared Owl; F5.3, Shutter Speed: 1/2,  280mm, EXP: +2.3
I decided to end a night of job interview prep with a chilled hour of photography on the coast. A beautiful evening with stunning light and a surprise encounter with a Short-Eared Owl; absolute magic!

Nature North East

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Brilliant Brampton Breeding Bucket List Bee-Eaters

On Friday morning I read the fantastic and surprising news that two pairs of Bee-Eater had bred in Cumbria, with a total of six birds present in and around Low Gelt Quarry, just off the A69 and not far from Brampton.
I remember having a conversation about twitching with a colleague in the RSPB and I said that I wouldn't consider myself a big twitcher, its just something I don't really do. That being said I told him a few species I would twitch; species such as the Roller, Hoopoe and Bee-Eater. 
So when I got wind of Bee-Eaters in my neighbouring county and the fact they were breeding, I had to do it! They are after all a bucket list bird for me they're beauties!
Managed to get my Bee-Eater hungry face in the local paper; hint: Look for the beanie! ;)

Upon my arrival the twitch remained quiet for a good while, the weather was a bit chilly and overcast. Not what I expected, to be honest I expected the six birds to be very active upon arrival, this wasn't the case and it was a good hour and twenty minutes before I got my first glimpse.
Very distant Bee-Eater; shot on a 300mm lens. The result was clearly less than adequate.
It was a disappointingly distant lone Bee-Eater, it showed briefly perching on a fence post and flying above the nesting Sand Martins on the far side of the quarry. 
Another long wait ensued and with more and more twitchers arriving it was beginning to look a tad grim, then suddenly another lone Bee-Eater; probably the same one, appeared again in the same area, perching on the fence posts and dropping into the nest burrow a couple of times.
Only one of the six birds was showing whilst I was there and the individual never came closer than a few hundred metres, a bit of an anti climax but I suppose thats twitching and with this being an organised twitch by the RSPB  for breeding birds the viewpoint was always going to be very distant.

That aside it was such a buzz to finally see my first Bee-Eater, however distant, and brilliant to have two pairs breeding up here in Northern England! 
Hopefully a sign of more to come! Bee-Eaters would inject a nice oomph of colour into British bird life along with the Kingfisher and a few others.
I may make another trip across in the coming weeks on a warm afternoon and try my luck again; its to good of a bird to refuse after all!

Nature North East

Digi-scoped Bee-Eater, using my iPhone and another birders scope.