Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Grass Snakes in the Woods

Grass Snake, Ken Hill Wood, Norfolk
In May 2011 I made this This entry to my blog about the challenges of finding Grass Snakes in a local wood. At the time I made the rash commitment to developing my 'snake eyes' in other words my ability to spot Grass Snakes before they saw me and slithered away. Well a lot can happen in the best part of two years, a new baby for one and a wash out of a summer last year as well. So I never did get to develop my Snake spotting skills beyond recognising when I heard one slithering away at speed into the undergrowth.

On reflection I think part of the problem that I have is that I only have a very small window of time over lunch to look for Grass Snakes and not only is my time limited but the middle of the day of the hottest part of the day and when Snakes are at their most mobile and elusive.

Anyway enough excuses, today I was working out of an office in Snettisham and was able to spare a little time over lunch for a walk in the woods. The weather was wonderfully warm and I hoped as I set off to see and maybe photograph Grass Snakes. Straight away I heard and briefly saw a small Grass Snake slither away from me and disappear into the leaf litter.

I then managed to hear and briefly see a couple more Snakes and a loan Muntjac. As I headed back towards the road I heard a movement and froze as a Grass Snake sensing the air with it's tongue moved towards me, I had my compact camera to hand [a Panasonic Lumix TZ30] to hand, I had no time to play with the settings but by crouching dead still I managed to get a couple of OK shots, the one at the top of the page is a crop of the sharpest one that I managed.

I now feel inspired to go back and do better and continue to hone my Snake Eyes.

Today was also the first day this year that I have seen more than one species of Butterfly with a roadside Brimstone, lots of highly territorial Peacock's and a single Green Veined White.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

St James Park - a walk down memory lane

Bridge, St James Park, London

I had a bit of a trip down memory lane today, a work meeting took me into central London just round the corner from where I went to school in Victoria. A regular lunchtime walk in my school days was around the lake in St James Park and even before my secondary school days my mother would bring me and my brothers and sister here on family outings to see the sights.

I vividly remember that on those early visits we would always see 'sparrow man' an old gentleman, perhaps a tramp, who would be stationed at the end of the bridge that you can see in the first image. He would have seeds or bread in his mouth and outstretched hands and acted as a human bird table fro the large numbers of House Sparrows that lived in the park. Today sparrow man and the parks sparrows are both long gone.

But its not all bad news, the summer before last I heard a Reed Warbler singing from a tiny patch of reed something which would have beggared belief when I was at school. There have been other changes too with Ring Necked Parakeets a regular sound and sight ion the park and Egyptian Geese also breeding here.
Egyptian Goose, St James Park, London

As well as the few birds that I managed to see on my brisk walk through part of the park today I also saw several Grey Squirrels and lots and lots of tourists. Intrigued to watch this girl put her hand very close to this squirrels mouth as she fed it some scraps in an attempt to get it to pose for her camera. At first I thought it was very tame but on closer inspection it looked rather ill.

Tourist feeding Grey Squirrel, St James Park, London

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Spring creeping in?

Small Tortoiseshell, Titchwell Village, 7 April 2013

Although I've had the last week off I've really managed to see very little. This is down to two factors the weather and family commitments. However over the last day or two the sun has got out and we've had some great blue sky days.

Spring is slowly starting to assert itself and amongst other signs I've seen recently have been clumps of frog spawn both here in West Norfolk and in Norwich.

Yesterday I did a return journey from here in Hunstanton to Sandy in Bedfordshire and back, managed to spot out the corner of my eye whilst driving half a dozen buzzards, a couple of Little Egrets, a single Sparrowhawk and a few Kestrels.

Buzzards were also a feature of a drive I did this afternoon to get number two son to sleep, with one on the deck and another four thermalling in the air together. Great to see these medium sized Birds of Prey back in East Anglia.

The award though, for highlight of the day either has to go to the Red Kite that flew low over the A149 on the eastern edge of Thornham or the two Small Tortoiseshell's flitting around a sheltered sunny ditch in Titchwell village. These were only my second Butterflies of the spring, the first being a Comma in Norwich a few weeks ago on a rare mild day.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Hunstanton Beach in a digital notebook

Digging for treasure on Hunstanton Beach

For me photography can take many forms, from the carefully composed and studied landscapes and stunning wildlife shots that a modern digital SLR allows us to take, through to the grainy grab shots I can get on my Blackberry. Somewhere in between are the pictures in this blog post, shots taken on a digital compact camera, in this case a Panasonic Lumix TZ30, I recently bought this camera from John Lewis in Norwich [my fourth digital compact] and am really enjoying using it.

I have heard other, better, photographers talk about compacts like this as their digital notebooks, something they can always have with them, available at a moments notice to whip out and take an image for reference or perhaps inspiration for a return visit and a more considered approach with a DSLR.

Hunstanton Beach at Low Tide
These three images illustrate this point, on each occasion for reasons of time, or convenience I had chosen not to cart my heavy camera bag with me when I went for a walk under Hunstanton cliffs. The images here I like, and I think give me lots of food for thought to stimulate a return visit with more substantial equipment.

They also illustrate the amazing versatility now found in a small compact camera, whether shooting a telephoto / silhouette in the top image, a classic landscape in the second or the third a wildlife shot of two turnstones on a boulder as a wave breaks behind them.

Turnstone Duo, Hunstanton Beach