On Being too Easily Pleased

When I lived over in Cheshire, in fact about 16 miles out of Manchester, I was not too far from Lyme Park.  A National Trust estate famed mostly for the house, and the large herds of red and fallow deer that roam free on the estate – as well as its starring role in Pride and Prejudice.

There’s a tree – I’m not sure what kind, (maybe a Maple?) but it’s a great shape.  Every time I went over there, I photographed it.  From all angles, and at all times of day – sunrise, sunset, bad weather, good weather.  Different cameras, different light, different viewpoints.

While in the midst of shooting this tree (again) during the Red Deer rut, a cyclist stopped next to me.  He gets off his bike, looks at all the gear I have spread around (I was shooting deer really don’t forget), gets out his little pocket camera – takes one shot, and rides away – with me staring after him,

I watch him go, and I think that I’ve been looking at, and shooting this tree over the years.  He’s taken one shot, and I think he’s probably happy with it.  I wonder if he’s happier with that one photo, than I’ve been after 2 years of messing…….  I’d love to know.

Here’s my version of “That Tree”….

Lyme Park Tree

Bird Photography

It’s been a while since I got out and sat in a bird hide – but finally I’ve been able to manage a half day – well actually not even a full half day – really just a few hours.

Bluetit-1Having said that – it was frustrating to travel down to my favourite hide, as the Christmas traffic was terrible.   Arriving though was a great relief, and the pools and hides were as fantastic as I remember them – it seems a long time, but in reality it’s only been about 2 months.  The birds were co-operative, and it was good to watch as well as photograph them.

I was most impressed by the Great Spotted Woodpecker, a youngster turned up a couple of times whilst I was there, and didn’t even immediately fly off when I came out of the hide.  He was full of confidence, and so handsome.

DSED8263There are around 140,000 breeding pairs of woodpeckers in the UK, though I don’t see them very often, and this one was a delight.

The cold of the day, and the knowledge that I had an appointment in the evening, and ‘work’ to do eventually made me leave, though reluctantly.  Hoping to return between Christmas and the New Year.  Already I can’t wait….

The Rut of the Reds (Cervus elaphus)

Red deer are our largest mammal in the UK.  Stags weigh anything from 90 – 190kg with females 63 – 120kg. The number of branches on antlers increases with age. Up to 16 points in native animals – who can live typically 18 years.

DSED1606The breeding season, or rut, occurs from the end of September through to November.  Stags return to the hinds home range and compete for access to hinds by engaging in elaborate displays of dominance, including roaring, parallel walks and fighting.  Serious injury and death can result but fighting only occurs between stags of similar size that can not assess dominance by any of the other means.  The dominant stag then ensures exclusive mating with the hinds.

DSED6903Only stags over 5 years old tend to achieve mating despite being sexually mature much earlier (before their 2nd birthday in productive woodland populations).  In woodland populations hinds over a year old give birth to a single calf after an 8 month gestation, between mid-May to mid-July each year.

DSED1996Injuries do happen, and sometimes even death.

Red deer are active throughout the 24 hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencing frequent disturbance . Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk.

DSED7496ARed deer are widespread throughout the UK, and can be found in many parks and in the wild.  Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, Lyme Park in Cheshire, Tatton Park, Dunham Massey, and the Lake District.   Also common in East Anglia, and the South West of England.  In Scotland in the Scottish Highlands, Dumfriesshire.

 

The Damselfly

In my last post I talked about Dragonflies, and in this one, I want to talk about their smaller counterparts, the Damselfly, but first the differences between the two..

Dragonflies have eyes that touch, or nearly touch at the top of the head, they are stocky, and have different sized wing pairs.  When they perch, the wings are held open.

Damselflies have eyes that are clearly separated, one on each side of the head, they are long and slender, and have evenly sized wings, which are held close when they perch, as can be seen in the image below.

DSED0659
Blue Tailed Damselfly Perching

Damselflies are carnivorous insects that live and breed near a wide variety of freshwater habitats. They lay their eggs in water, and the immature damselflies spend the first several months or years as aquatic predators. These immature damselflies, called nymphs, have external gills that allow them to extract oxygen from the water. After undergoing metamorphosis, new adult damselflies fly away from the water for a brief period of several days to several weeks, after which they return to breed. Both adult and immature damselflies are predators whose diet consists primarily of insects. (Corbet, 1999; Silsby, 2001)

Damselfly eating an aphid
Damselfly eating an aphid

The mating behaviour of the damselfly is quite unique.  Males have two sets of genitalia.  To mate, the male must grasp the female behind the head, and curl his abdomen into a circle.  In this position the male and female are said to be ‘in tandem’ – if the female is receptive, she will curl her abdomen forward to join the tip of her abdomen with the male’s second set of genitilia, sperm is then transferred from one to another.  This position, called ‘the wheel’.  After mating, the female will lay eggs usually below the water line, often guarded by the male

Mating Damselfly
Mating Damselfly

The average Damselfly, probably only lives between 3 to 4 weeks as an adult, but the damselfly nymphs can spend months in this early stage, depending on food source, temperatures and so on.

Damselfly do need a minimum temperature at which to fly – in the early mornings, they can be seen spreading their wings to dry out the morning dew, and warm up.

Damselfly in morning dew
Damselfly in morning dew

Damselfly and Dragonfly populations are good indicators of environmental quality and population levels are a good indicator of the health of the area.

They are the most ancient of insects, with evidence of them being found as fossils some millions of years ago.

A Summer of Dragons

This week I was out walking with the dogs, and noticed a good number of Damsel and Dragonflies.  By Friday I had a bit of time, and decided to go hunting Dragons…. The majority I saw were Brown Hawkers…

Brown HawkerThe Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) is a large dragonfly about 73 millimetres (2.9 in) long. It is a distinctive species and is easily recognised, even in flight, by its brown body and bronze wings. At rest, blue spots on the second and third segments of the male’s abdomen can be noticed; these are absent in female.

It is widespread in England but commonest in the South East; local in Ireland and rare in Scotland. It is found on well-vegetated ponds, lakes and canals. It patrols a regular hunting territory around margins which is vigorously defended against intruders.

The flight time is mainly July to September. The nymph has stripes on the side of the thorax and distinct banding on the legs. (Text from Wikipedia)

Brown HawkerYou can get more information from the British Dragonfly Society
http://www.british-dragonflies.org.uk/

Happy New Year

Happy new year for 2013 – and it’s been great so far…

Already we’ve had a fabulous studio shoot with the wonderful Laura Norrey – a 1950’s style pinup model.  She’s quite new to modelling, but I think that she’ll go far – a lovely personality, willing to work hard and takes direction exceptionally well.  I really hope we can get her in front of the camera again in the near future.

Here’s a few images from a brilliant shoot – enjoy

DV7B7730 DV7B7818

Barlow Studios Portrait Shoot
Barlow Studios Portrait Shoot

Snow is falling

A trip into the Peak District this week showed just how cold it’s been.  No real snow where I live, but a mere few miles, and a touch of elevation, and the temperature has dropped like a stone.

First Snows
First Snows

It’s been good to get out though, after so much work on this month – and though this post is brief…. it’s made me remember why I love photography so much.  It’s the getting out and doing it.  I could never be an ‘armchair photographer’, one of those who say, “I’d love to get a shot like that” – well the answer to that is, you can….. you just have to get off your backside, and get out and shoot it….  Enjoy the weather………

Higger Tor

The 2012 Rut

Every year I try to get pictures of the stag rut – and every year, I come back with super images of deer, but not of them fighting.  I dream of seeing two huge stags scrapping away, preferably on the brow of a hill, with a dramatic sunset going on behind them; and one of these years I’m going to get my dream shot.

In the meantime, I’m plodding all over the place to get the best I can, and this week, although I didn’t get them fighting, I did get shots of Fallow Deer Calf born this summer – looking like Bambi…

In Britain, the Red deer rut peaks in October, though does usually kick off in September. The male Red deer are fighting for supremacy, to allow them to control and mate with the largest harem. The best time to see the rut is, as with most wildlife spectacles, early morning and evening, but don’t get too close as the males can be very aggressive at this time of year.

The fallow deer rut peaks a week or two later than the Red deer, but is also definitely worth a watch. Fallow deer can be found in most counties in England and Wales, and there are large populations in pockets spread across Scotland. Young fallow start breeding when they are about 18 months old. The mating season, or rut, starts in late September and peaks in mid October. Usually, the doe gives birth to a single fawn between late May – mid June. The fawn is weaned by October.

Back to Birding

It’s been a long while since my last post – we’ve had such a lot going on here, with some good and some bad stuff.  I’ve carried on working, but not done much photography for myself.  Last week though, a big effort was made, and I headed over to a bird hide, and sat there for a good few hours contemplating nature, the world, and chatting with friends.

It was a great morning to be out – soft light, loads of birds, and some splendid shots….

Loved this chap for the aggression he was showing… get out of my territory !  So small yet so feisty.

Good to see a Nutthatch make an appearance too

And a woodpecker….. all in all a great day out….