Archive for cuckoo

Signs of spring

Posted in Conservation, European Wildlife, Photography, Take Action, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Despite a bitter winter in western Europe, the dry start to 2011 has meant that many typical signs of spring are appearing early in the UK. Looking back, the impressive ‘supermoon’ that appeared in the night sky on the northern hemisphere spring equinox should have been a clear indicator that this year’s season of growth was going to be something special.

Spring means different things to different people. For some, it’s the return of swallows from Africa. For others, it’s the burst of colour as bluebells carpet our woodland. Whatever your favourite sign of spring may be, in our changing climate it is more important than ever to record these moments to map how our wildlife is adapting or being affected. If you are out and about in the UK and you’re seeing butterflies or hearing cuckoos then you can help build a picture of spring by logging what you’re seeing via the VisitWoods website.

For me, spring came alive in Suffolk over the Easter weekend as I was fortunate to hear my first booming bittern. The males of this red status bird only make this far-carrying call in the spring but the rarity of the species in the UK means that few people get to hear it. I also tracked down and saw my first cuckoo of the year after following its distinctive call. Hobby falcons skillfully catching dragonflies overhead and adders basking in the sun were unexpected but equally compelling.

After the cold and dark winter, the vibrant colours of spring are just as evocative to our senses as the sounds, smells and antics across the country. The brilliant yellow of gorse and the breathtaking blue of carpets of bluebells have inspired me to find, enjoy and photograph (in that order) as many signs of spring as possible. I’ll be adding images to the dedicated Signs of Spring portfolio on my main website as I go, so be sure to check it out.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

White-tailed Eagles, part 2

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2009 by Neil Aldridge

9M6J2897crop2I recently returned to Scotland to try and get the shots of white-tailed eagles I felt I was missing from my last visit. The weather was perfect on all 4 days, giving me the chance to capture the eagles hunting at a higher shutter speed and a lower ISO.

While all seemed rosy with perfect conditions for the eagles to feed their chicks, truth be known these were one of the lucky pairs after a spell of bad weather had hit western Scotland earlier this spring, meaning that many nests have failed this year.

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The weather I can put down to luck but the timing wasn’t by chance. I’d planned my visit to Skye for a few weeks after the chicks would be likely to hatch so that the adults would be hunting twice as hard to feed their growing chicks and to keep themselves in shape, providing me with more opportunities to get the shots I was after.

9M6J2769cWith some shots already in the bag from the previous day with the 1d mark3 and the calmest, brightest day of the lot upon us, the timing seemed perfect to try the new 5d mark2 with a 1.4x teleconverter and 400mm f2.8 combination. But, true to the unpredictable nature of photographing wildlife, the eagles didn’t want to budge from their nest, content with digesting the sea bird they had killed before our arrival on the scene earlier that morning.

In the end I had to be happy with what I’d captured on the first morning and this gave me the chance to see what other wildlife was thriving alongside the eagles on the island.

The trip provided me with my best views of golden eagles and one of my most memorable encounters with a pair of otters. Also, knowing that cuckoos are having a hard time of it at the moment, it made it all the more rewarding that by the end of the trip we’d seen 5 of these charismatic birds. In true Scottish style however, the warm weather following spring rains also meant one other thing – midges!

In all, it was again plain to see how important white-tailed eagles are to the local community. Sentimentality aside, a bad nesting season such as this one can have knock-on effects for tourism and the local economy and that came across in my conversations with those people whose lives are intrinsically linked to the presence of these magnificent birds.