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`MEGABLOG!!!!!!`

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on December 3, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Havent updated for a while and was asked the other evening when I was going to so here goes,its a big one!

 

My second trip to the annual Deer rut at Margam again didnt go too well.I always seem to miss the timing of it regardless of when I go.On this occasion though I did bump into one of the local Photographers that shoots the Deer all year round.He informed me that the Red Deer that live there originated from wild stock from the Scottish Highlands and because the climate up there is much harsher than it is down here they rut earlier (September).This makes a lot of sense as although they live here now their genes are still telling them to start rutting in September rather than October as they do in the London Parks.I have kept in contact with him and he assured me that as soon as they start next year he will let me know.I did get some nice shots of the Reds though with the Stags roaring but it meant climbing Margam Mountain to get them though!

Next project was Otters.I was contacted by a (now) friend via Flickr with regards to a pair of Dog Otters that were showing well down on the coast.He showed me some pics and I was well up for it.They had been seen every morning between 8am and 12pm for the previous two weeks so although being Wildlife this was as good a guarantee as you will get.I met him on a clear frosty morning at Swansea West Services and followed him down to the Quay where they had been seen.Plenty of tracks about when we got there with also a few Dog walkers and Wildfowlers out on the Saltmarsh but he said the Otters ignore all distractions.We waited and waited as fellow photographers came and went but nothing.A few of the Wader flocks came up indicating the presence of a predator but nothing came into view.After a few hours I had to move around a bit as all feeling in my feet had long departed.By lunchtime I,along with my companion,had enough and made our way back to the cars ignoring the Brass Monkeys on the wall.As I drove the 70 miles home I couldnt help but feel gutted that they didnt show but have been in this game long enough to know that nothing is guaranteed.The other guys there have set up a Flickr group for the Quay and I have kept my eye on it for new sightings but nothing.I was told of a couple though that would be happy for me to shoot a family of Otters that they have befriended enough to hand-feed so just need to find some time for them.

The new hide has been very busy with clients coming from all over to use it all hoping to get shots of some of the species we get there.We sited it on the edge of a Beechwood in the hope of attracting Brambling through the Winter and we havent been dissapointed.One of the clients I had is an RSPB Photographer and they had never even seen a Brambling let along shot one.On arrival to the hide there was only one in the tree and things went very quiet for an hour or two.Things soon perked up though with a total count of 7 Brambling on the floor and another 10 in the trees along with our regular species.The following weekend and another session with two photographers from the Midlands didnt go quite as well though.They came specifically for the Brambling but none showed at all.I couldnt believe it but the Jays and Nuthatches kept them clicking but I could understand the frustration they must have felt because of my `non` Otter session a few weeks before.We are almost fully booked until Christmas now and with a few more harsh Frosts and some of the white stuff it should kill off the Beech Mast that the Bramblings love so much and they should be regular visitors again.We have also started hanging some Apples in the tree as there is quite a substantial mixed flock of Blackbird,Fieldfare and Redwing on the farm.The Blackbirds found them almost immediately so the the Winter Thrushes should follow....hopefully!

Had a fabulous session on the Blorenge Mountain a few weeks back whilst on a recce for some Winter Landscape locations.A bright clear morning meant a Frost with some low lying mist in the valley below.The climb up was not too bad but I was too late to get to the top by sun up.I didnt really have any shots in mind on the day but some Welsh Mountain Ponies were hard to resist.The shot I saw was a backlit `ring of fire` sillouette with the sun creeping over the Horses back and the misty valley below.To get the shot meant lying on my back as the sun was quite high in the sky by this point so down I went.I selected a small aperture to render the sun as a star and set the exposure so that I could just make out the pattern on the Horse whilst retaining the backlit effect.The resulting shots can be seen in the Dogs/Captive/Pets Gallery.

Next projects on the cards (besides the hide sessions) are a new Short Eared Owl site that I recced the other day and the Waxwing irruption (yes there is a specific word for an invasion of Waxwing!).They are making their way slowly and are in Cardiff and Brecon.I dont do cities very well,as the Wife will tell you,so the Brecon Birds will be the ones I go for unless some turn up in the Valleys.

I have added some more Workshops/Sessions on the Homepage including Landscape and Upland Birds.The Landscape Workshops are designed for clients to choose what they want to shoot rather than me set the location.If somone wants to shoot something from my Landscape Gallery or wants to learn a particular technique I use then I can accomodate either or both.The Upland Bird sessions will be set on a private moorland road and quarry complex.The client will shoot from my car for the whole of the session and the species on offer range from Meadow Pipits and Skylark to Peregrine and Ring Ouzel.Prices for these sessions can be found on the Homepage along with details on how to book.

 

The Shooting Estates

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on October 15, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Was out with the Dog yesterday morning and was looking at the hundreds of Pheasant in the fields of the local estate waiting for the inevitable day of the first of this seasons shoot.This got me thinking about the effects of a shooting estate in modern day rural life and whether it still has a place.Firstly I have to say that I am talking from past experience of both side of the Gun,both Gamekeeping and as one of the Guns.I will also give my views of what I am now,a conservationist.

 

The amount of land that a driven shoot estate needs is massive.Of course this isnt only taken up by release pens and copses for the birds to live in but also arable fields that need to be farmed.This provides jobs for local families by way of being tenant Farmers.They rent the land off the estate to farm whether it be livestock or crops so the land is well managed.The copses that provide cover for the birds also attract other wildlife so a rich habitat is beneficial for both the estate and nature.

There are also jobs further down the line when you take time to think about it.The Gamekeeper himself along with his beaters right down to the Dog trainers,breeders and kennel men that house them and everyone in between.This can include the feed companies for the grain to feed the Poults as well as the Pheasant breeders themselves that usually sell them at market or direct to the estate.

The estate I was at yesterday also used to manage the local Grouse moor way back in the 70`s and 80`s.Back then there were swathes of purple Heather in late Summer as it was regularly burned to kill off the grasses that `choked` the natural vegetation.This in turn provided plenty of food for the Grouse and they flourished along with such rarities as Hen Harrier and Merlin.Sadly the moor isnt managed anymore and the Grouse have all but gone.The Hen Harriers and Merlins are now only seen on passage and its all attributable to there being no more Grouse shooting on the moor.

These Conservation points are all providing that the estate is managed properly and legally.There are still many cases of Gamekeepers and Estate Managers being prosecuted for the killing of Raptors though,especially on the Grouse moors in the North of England and Scotland.This practice is both abhorrent and needless as a well managed moor will provide plenty of birds for both natural predators and the paying Guns.All raptor species have a vast hunting territory so for them to take one or two birds a day to feed three or four chicks would be a miniscule dent in the population of Grouse on a large moor.The same applies to Pheasant shoots with say a local Goshawk pair.They will take what they need to survive but a well Keepered estate with many thousands of birds can easily afford to lose some through natural predation.

 

Thats the Conservation issue with regards to the Shooting Estates but there is also the ethical issue.

The Pheasant in particular is not native to the British Isles and was introduced from Asia for the sole purpose of being bred,shot and eaten.It is a stunning bird to look at and the distinctive call of the cock is now synonymous with the British countryside and many escapees now breed and survive in the wild.But is it right to breed them just to be shot by the hundreds,killed and put into the human food chain by way of the local Butcher?

When you strip it down to the bare bones is it really that different to the local Abbatoir killing up to 4500 Lamb and 500 Cattle a day,not really.Take away the nice clean packaging and the trolley with the dodgy steering and you have pretty much the same scenario.A species being bred for the human food chain,just a slightly different way of getting there.

 

After writing all this I ask myself do I agree with the big estates.Personally I would never pick up a Gun again but providing they are managed properly,legally and with conservation in mind as well as profit I think they can only be beneficial to modern day rural life.

A New Outlet

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on October 7, 2012 at 3:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Had some great news last week in the form of an email from international photo library Getty Images.They have requested to represent my photographic work and put it up for sale.For those that dont know Getty Images they supply most of the TV news channels along with worldwide magazines and newspapers with images and are one of (if not the) largest photo libraries in the world.The process works like this.They selct what images they want from my photo stock and request via email the hi res files.I then have to dig them out,re-process them and email them along.Their editors then decided whether they are worthy or not to go into their photo library to be put up for sale.As I write this I have had no rejections so far and have 23 images on sale there.Bearing in mind that I dont shoot any journalistic stuff and stick mainly to Wildlife and Landscape I wont be resigning from the day job just yet but really pleased to be chosen by Gettys all the same.

We now have the pool set up at the feeding station and within half hour of it being filled with water we had both Nuthatch and Great Tit in there (see Birds Gallery).Its starting to get very busy now as the days are getting colder and I will be taking some pics very shortly of the hide/feeders to put up on the main page along with the full range of services on offer along with prices.

Went down Margam yesteday for the annual Deer rut and to say it was dissapointing is an understatement.It didnt start well when a mates tripod head release gave way and his camera and 500mm lens went crashing to the tarmac snapping the lens off at the mount..........not good!He managed to borrow a mates spare camera though and got some pics he was happy with.It was a lovely sunny morning so tried for some backlit stuff at first but only managed a few of some young Fallows.As the sun got stronger and the Red Stags moved up to the forest area I tried for some strong sidelit portraits along with some straight shots.There was no rutting action at all and only a few were bellowing so my guess is we were a little early.The rut is well and truly underway in the Highlands and we usually fall a few weeks behind being milder down here so another visit next week is on the cards.Some of the pics from yesterday can be seen in the Wildlife Gallery.

New Feeding Station

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on September 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Finished off the new feeding station on the weekend that will be run and maintained by myself and fellow Wildlife Photographer Andrew Symons.It was a bit of a struggle to get the dismantled shed (hide) panels down to the location but its now up and running.Our first session was an early morning one and although we wasnt expecting too much in the way of species we had GS Woodpecker,Nuthatch,Jay and Treecreeper all make an appearance along with 3 Tit species.Some of the pics are in the Birds (General) Gallery.

It is this feeding station that we will be hiring out to other Photographers throughout the next few months.The hide can be hired for either full days (8 hours) or half days (4 hours) at a very competitive price.This is ideal for Pro Photographers that wish to add to their respective portfolios with species that can be hard to get to without the hassle and cost of setting a feeding station up yourself.It is on a private Farm so there will be no disturbance from other Birders or Photographers either which is a bonus.

Also on offer at extra cost for those wishing to learn the art of Bird Photography will be Workshop type sessions.These can be with either Andrew or myself where along with taking shots of Woodland Bird species you will learn about camera settings,setting up hides/feeding stations,fieldcraft and any other aspects of this hobby you wish to learn.Unlike many Pro led workshops that tend to keep a lot of techniques to themselves (no-one likes competition ;)) and just teach the basics we will teach you anything you wish to know.

Please contact either myself via email or Andrew through his website on the links page.

New Projects

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on August 25, 2012 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Havent updated the blog in a while as I simply havent been doing much on the Photography front since getting back from North Wales in July.I have uploaded some landscape stuff I did though taken on the only day I had up there with any decent light.

As a Wildlife Photographer I am always up for a new challenge by way of shooting a species that is known as being particularly hard to approach.One of these species is the Red Grouse and as it lives on open moorland with very little cover they are a nightmare to stalk.I could go the easy route and drive to the North Yorkshire Moors where they can be shot from the car and if I was working on a commision I probably would but I am not.A local mountain has held a small population of them and a dawn recce in the fog recently turned up 31 birds in covies from just 2 birds to 12.There are two main footpaths on the hill that are often used by walkers and the Grouse are sandwiched between the two amongst dense Heather,Bracken and Wimberry Bushes.I went up there last week with another Wildlife Photographer (Andy) in clear conditions to see what was what and the closest we got to them was about 100 metres.The only shot I took is in the Birds (General) Gallery but to get anything decent we are going to have to try a different approach so watch this space.

Another project we are just starting together is on some river Otters.Again these are very difficult to shoot as they are largely nocturnal but we have yet to locate them.We have been told roundabouts where they are so some dawn raids to look for signs on the edges of the deeper pools of the river are needed to see where we can set up.This will mean Ghillie Suits as setting up a hide will not be practical as they tend to move around a lot.

 

On a different note Andy and myself will be hiring out our Winter Feeding Station hides to shoot species such as Great Spotted Woodpeckers,Nuthatches,Bramblings and a whole host of other Woodland Bird Species along with mammals such as Grey Squirrels,Wood Mice and Bank Voles.These are ideal for experienced photographers to add to their portfolios or for beginners wanting to learn how to shoot Birds and to get the best out of their equipment without the work and time involved in setting one up themselves.

 

Please contact either myself through here or Andy via email andrewsymons[email protected]

Red Squirrels

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on July 29, 2012 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)

A year or two back I was watching a Welsh Wildlife programme on TV about the excellent conservation work of the Red Squirrels Trust Wales on the island of Anglesey.I have wanted to shoot these stunning mammals for a few years now since seeing them in the Caledonian Forests of the Scottish Highlands whilst on a family holiday.

Having booked a caravan for a week in Pwllhelli in July of this year I decided to see if I could get a contact to someone that could point me in the right direction as to where to go and when in order to photograph them on the island as it is only an hours drive from where I was staying.This I managed to do via a popular social networking site on the internet.

Once in the caravan and after some messaging via mobile phone I had some great info on a feeding station in a particular forest car park from a member called David.He said that the best times were very early in the morning or late evening so an early start was called for.

I set the alarm for 4am and made my way to the island.After eventually finding the car park and the feeders I got out and in the dim light of dawn I noticed the lid on one of them was moving.Within a second or two out shot my first view of a Welsh Red Squirrel!

I picked my spot to set up between two of the feeders in amongst some thick undergrowth and got into my DPM camo gear.No room for the ghillie suit as the car was packed full on the way up but Squirrels,both Red and Greys,dont have particularly keen eyesight so providing I kept still I should get something.It wasnt long before they came back but the light was truly awful.The shutter speeds I was getting were dire,sometimes down to 1/13th sec at iso 800 but thankfully my Slik Tripod is as solid as a rock.The most I had in front of me were 3 individuals one of which had a black tail and was very dark on the back.I scattered some peanuts to try and get some shots on the ground but they didnt want to know.They insisted on eating the Sunflowers Seeds from the feeders leaving the dried Sweetcorn put in there for the Greys.Red Squirrels wont eat the Sweetcorn but it is put into the feeders to tell the group whether or not Grey Squirrels are present in the wood.If the Sweetcorn has been eaten then traps are set out for the Greys that carry the Squirrel Pox virus.It is this disease that has decimated the UK Red Squirrel population so to keep them away from the Anglesey colony is vital for any recovery programme.

After a couple of hours shooting I did manage to get some pics I am very happy with and by 8.30am the first Dog walker had arrived.As soon as the Dog was spotted the Reds shot off and the magic was over.I did wait another hour or so but didnt get another glimpse but left a very happy photographer.

I have to say a big thank you to David for the information on where to go as being a family holiday I didnt have the time to search for them.

Some of my favourites from this fabulous session can be seen in the Wildlife Gallery.

 

 

Wildlife Photography......an insight

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on July 12, 2012 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

With this blog post I thought I would give an insight into how some of my images are captured as quite a few photographers have asked how I manage it.

Firstly was a session with some Common Sandpipers that I came across a few weeks ago.They were in an old quarry on some local moorland with very little cover.My first job was to observe from a distance where the birds preferred to feed in relation to the shallow pool within the quarry itself.Once that was established I could then plan my route in to get within camera range.The best time of day would be evening,especially a sunny one (which are quite rare at the moment!).On my chosen day i carefully made my way to the quarry edge and just peeked over to see the birds location in relation to me.I then lined my shadow up with the bird which meant that when I dropped down into the quarry the bird would be looking directly at the sun in order to see me.I have used this method many times when stalking on open ground.Once into the quarry I then had to find some cover in which to make up the dead ground between me and the bird.I am confident that this will be the only time I will say this but fortunately some fly tippers had dumped an old fridge in the pool.This was perfectly in line with the bird,me and the sun so got myself as low as possible and crept forward.To get behind the fridge meant that I had to physically wade into the pool so in I went.I managed quite a few pics by resting the camera on the side of the fridge,you should never look over cover as the bird will fly straight away.The resulting pics are in the Waders/Waterbirds Gallery.

Next up was a pair of Whinchat I came across with a mate and other Wildlife Photographer,Andrew.First I watched as the male was singing setting up a territory with the female hanging around.Over the period of a few weeks both birds stayed in one particular area until I no longer saw the female.The male continued to sing and make alarm calls when I got near which told me he had something to protect.This turned out to be a nest of eggs.Knowing the species as insect eaters I knew that the area they were most likely feeding at was a damp patch of moorland.There is no better place for insects in the Summer and I proved to be right.After the incubation period I got a bit closer and proceeded to watch as both adults were coming back and forth with food.I dont get too close at egg stage with nests as they can easily abandon.It didnt take long to locate the actual nest itself which was under a grass tussock.Next plan was where to set up to get shots of them coming back and forth feeding the chicks without disturbing them.The ideal place was between the nest and the damp feeding area but never directly in between to alter the adults flight path.Myself and Andrew tried the Ghillie Suit at first but the birds were spooked by it.We then went by way of the 2-man dome hide which worked a treat.We had some nice shots of both male and female going about the business of raising chicks (see Birds General Gallery) and they are just about ready to leave.Our final session will be on Saturday morning when hopefully we will get some interraction between the adults and chicks.

 

The next project we have just started are on a pair of Little Owls that Andrew found last weekend.Had some nice portrait stuff already in the Birds Of Prey Gallery but hopefully thats just the beginning!

Summer Visitors

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on June 16, 2012 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (0)

This time of year I tend to try and concentrate on our Summer migrant birds as I can shoot the resident species throughout the Winter.My target species for this year along with my regulars were Spotted Flycatcher,Wood Warbler and Redstart.The first of these I came across was when I was checking some Pied Flycatcher nestboxes with a mate and fellow Wildlife Photographer.As we walked down the track we watched as a Wood Warbler was catching insects in a tree.It was only after a few seconds that we saw her come down to where she had a nest of eggs in the grass (being a ground nesting species).Whilst she was incubating I quietly set up my gear in the hope she would come back out again to feed.This she did on several occasions and I managed a few snaps as she alighted on a stick before dropping into the nest.A few days later I went back to check but a Fox had ripped out the nest leaving just one egg out on the grass.The risks of being a ground nester.

Next in line was Common Redstart.My mate seems to have found a superb place for these just up the road from where I live and the first pair I shot was in an old stone wall.I managed some pics of the female but the male (an altogether more stunning bird) proved too elusive.After a few days the chicks fledged and that was that.It wasnt long before my mate phoned me to say he had found another pair in an old quarry.The light on this place being in the open was fantastic.The male came in and what a stunner he was so snapped as many pics of him as I could.Sadly a few days later my mate phoned to say that a Cat had raided the nest and the female along with all but 2 of the chicks were dead.The male is continuing to feed the remaining chicks so hopefully they will make it to fledging.

Next was Spotted Flycatcher.Whilst sitting in a pop up hide bored out of my skull waiting for some Green Woodpeckers to fledge I decided to go for a wander to stretch my legs.A few metres away I came across a pair of them hunting insects.It wasnt long before I watched them enter a nest in an old dead tree so took some snaps.I am hoping to go back there sometime this weekend (weather permitting) to get some more before they leave for warmer climes

Cuckoos `n` stuff!

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on May 29, 2012 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Had an impromptu week off work last week due to an accident ending up with a bruised and sprained wrist.It was a stunning week weather wise so took the time to try and capture some Summer migrants that I have struggled with up to now.

First on the cards were Whinchats which are small passerines that breed on the local uplands.I went out with a mate to one area which is a particular hotspot for them.We set off from the car and try as we might we couldnt get near them.I did come across a pair of Stonechat though so managed a few shots of the stunning male bird.We also saw quite a few Cuckoos over there which were males displaying in the hope of getting the attention of a female.My mate was going to Skomer to shoot Puffins the following day so I decided on a first light visit to get some pics.I set up in my newly aquired Ghille Suit and watched the flight patterns to see if I could spot a particular routine.The Cuckoos were flying between a handful of Hawthorns to which I set up in the middle and just waited.The first bird came in close enough for some shots and landed on a wall in full display.The sun had just risen behind him which made for a decent sillouette pic.The next one came even closer but his body was obscured by branches,still made for a decent portrait shot though.My favourite shot of the session though was of a male bird that landed quite a distance away in the top of a Hawthorn with a Caterpillar in his beak.

My next trip out was to one of my favourite woods where I usually shoot Pied Flycatchers.I bumped into the guy that rings them as they breed in nestboxes there and he filled me in on what was about.First on the cards were a pair of Wrens.I managed some pics but as they were still on eggs they weren`t very busy.Will have to pop back in a few weeks time.The Pied Flycatchers are also on eggs as we had a very wet/cold spell so being Summer migrants they are quite late to breed.These will also have to wait but definitely something to look forward to soon.

All pics can be seen in the Birds (General) Gallery.

Kingfishers..................at last!

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on May 7, 2012 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This time of year (Spring) is always a busy one for me.Trying to get some Wildlife Photography done in between my Peregrine Falcon monitoring and the curse of work is always hard.After my mate (and fellow Wildlife Photographer) phoned me last week to let me know of a pair of Kingfishers he had found I couldnt let this one go as I have never shot them,though have always wanted to.

I had to wait until this weekend to try for them though and despite having a case of Man Flu (much worse than normal Flu!) I was buzzing to give them a go.The site is on a small Valleys river not far from me and most of Saturday morning was spent searching up and down the river with my mate to see where they were fishing.They were not using a specific place so we made the decision to shoot them as they came back up river to feed the chicks.They always stopped on a particular branch before entering the nest which was on the other side of the river from us.Its very important not to interrupt the flight path of the Birds as they come in to feed the still underground chicks.Not only is it unethical but also illegal too and the birds should be allowed to come and go as if you werent there.This particular pair are used to people walking their Dogs as it is next to a footpath (like the Dipper site I use) and also the Anglers using this stretch of river.They were not bothered at all by our presence and it was a pleasure to watch them coming and going.

This morning was when I really had a go at some shots so met my mate at 7 am on site and set up  my Umbrella Hide ready for the downpour that was to come.The shutter speeds were awful and I had to bump up the iso to 1600 (not good on a Canon lol) on f 8.0 still only getting 1/50th sec.I dropped the contrast a little on my in-camera menu to avoid excessive noise but was happy with what I got ( see Waders/Waterbirds Gallery).

Looking forward to going back down soon but the same mate has also found a live Fox earth with a vixen and 3 cubs.Decisions,decisions..........just need some spare time now!


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