Sunday, May 27, 2007

Leaving the Nest

This weekend I was lucky to be there when the bluetit chicks fledged from the nestbox at my parents-in-law's house.
Thinking of leaving home?
After much deliberation, this chick takes the plunge
First time out in the big bad world
With the constant effort of feeding the kids, the adults can end up looking pretty ragged

Saturday, May 12, 2007

More Garden Bird Photography

With practice I am getting better at capturing photos of the birds coming to the feeders in the garden. These are taken though the kitchen window, allowing me to be quite close without scaring off my subjects.
A starling on my fat ball feeder
Bluetit on feeder. Hardly any bigger than the fat balls.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hatching Bluetits

I've put up a few nest boxes in the garden and I am monitoring them as part of the national nest recording survey run by the Britsh Trust for Ornithology ( Here are some photographs of one of the boxes, which a bluetit has nested in.

5th May, the eggs are hatching
6th May, 7 eggs hatched now
7th May, 7 hungry mouths
12th May: Still 7 mouths if you look carefully
16th May: How many chicks now? It is getting harder to count them.
19th May: One chick appears to be developing feathers slower than the others.
21st May: 6 or 7 chicks? It is getting crowded in there!
24th May: Too big to all fit in the nest cup now, and there are only 6 I can see. Mostly ready to fledge apart from one which looks less well developed than the others.
The next time I came to check the box they had all gone.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fenland Dawn

I'm not usually up and about at 5am, but I was doing a bird survey for the British Trust for Ornithology ( which required me to visit a random 1km square of farmland out in the fens at dawn. I was rewarded with a nice sunrise and some wildlife sightings, in addition to a few hours complete peace and tranquillity.
Sunrise over the fens
Flat fenland landscape
A hare out in the open in the early morning
A Chaffinch perched on a ploughed field

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Garden Wildlife

More practice with my long lens, photographing birds coming to the feeders outside the kitchen windows. this time Goldfinches.
Goldfinch eating Nyger seeds


I'm not a fan of squirrels in general, but this one did pose rather nicely for me to take a picture. He looks wary because our cat catches and eats them when he gets a chance!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Bear Cave

One evening on our caving expedition I heard about a cave where a complete bear skeleton is lying on the floor. This sounded like an excellent photographic opportunity and a chance to see something quite unusual. So we organised the kit we needed to descend the 20 metre deep vertical entrance shaft to the cave, and assembled the camera kit. Once safely down the vertical drop, we explored the two well decorated chambers in the cave, and photographed the bones from several animals. But we could not see anything which looked large enough to be a bear.
Fine formations in the first of the two chambers
More formations in the first of the two chambers
Skull of some sort of big horn sheep
Complete dog skeleton
Another dog
A third dog
The cave entrance consists of a steeply sloping sided pit before it turns into a vertical shaft dropping 20m to the floor. It appears to have acted as a natural trap, catching unwary animals who have lost their footing and fallen to the bottom. The animals appear to have survived the initial fall, but being unable to escape they eventually just laid down on the cave floor and died. Caves tend to protect things from natural erosion, or from being buried under the soil which accumulates on the surface. So bones like these can remain almost perfectly preserved for thousands of years.

Disappointed that we did not find the bear, we returned to the surface at least happy with an excellent photography trip underground. In the bar that evening we happened to see some photographs taken a couple of days earlier in the same cave, and there were pictures of a great bear skeleton just lying on the floor! How could we have missed that? After finding out where exactly it was located, we made another visit one evening later in the week. This time we found the bear. It is quite large compared to the other animal skeletons we found, but due to the bones having become calcified, it blends into the floor surprisingly well. We had to position our flashes at a low angle to cast shadows so that the skeleton stood out from the floor.

Tony 'Badger' Radmall with the bear skeleton
Bear skeleton partially calcited into the floor
In addition to the photographs posted here, I took stereo pairs of all the bones we photographed in this cave, with a plan to generate some 3D images of what we recorded on this trip. These visits were to start a long association with this cave for me, and resulted in several further photographic trips to this special place over the following years.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Expedition Cave Photography

My second year caving in Matienzo in Cantabria, Northern Spain. These were some of the photos I took on a trip into Cueva RiaƱo.
 Mud formations and a fallen stalactite embedded in the mud

Decorated section of passage (with Tony 'Badger' Radmall)

Deep underground in one of the caves we were exploring is a passage named 'Cat Print Passage' after the discovery of what appear to be footprints from a cat in some otherwise untouched mud protected by an undercut on a bend. This was my attempt at documenting this feature as to my knowledge there were no photographs if it.
 Close up detail of some of the cat prints with a caving flash slave unit for scale 
(the slave unit is 6cm along the longer edge)
Wider angle wide showing the area of mud,
with low angle lighting to highlight the foot prints