year, I put up two door mice nest boxes in some hazel near the
orchard hide. I've just walked by and spotted a blue tit coming
out of one of the boxes. When you put up door mice nest boxes,
you have the hole facing the tree so it's easy for the door mice
to climb into. I have heard of door mice using bird boxes, but
not often heard of birds using door mice boxes.
I had a quick
look inside to see if there was a nest and saw a pile of young
blue tits looking up at me.
the activity at the feeders was on the meal worms. There were
a number of adult birds coming in including a ragged robin, but
now towards the end of June there are a lot of newly fledged young
coming in to the feeders. On the log feeder the adult greater
spotted woodpecker was feeding it's young. It would come to the
dish of meal worms by the garden fork and back to feed its young
waiting on the log feeder. Some young robins have quickly learnt
to feed on the meal worms in the dish. The
young woodpeckers have just found the meal worms, but have also
taken a liking to the garden fork. It's a traditional wooden design
(photogenic) but to the woodpecker, it's a handy branch near the
meal worms. The young woodpeckers are easily distinguished from
the adults as they have a red cap and pink pants!
end of June, the feeding station comes to a natural slow-down
and I'm off on other projects. I've not done much work with kingfishers
this year as the weather has not been ideal and the high rainfall
has increased the height of the river, preventing the kingfishers
from nesting and also making it difficult for them to fish. When
the weather is like this, more people see kingfishers by ponds
and lakes where the fishing may be easier. Kingfishers can have
up to 3 broads a year so do recover quickly. Also the milder winters
have kept the numbers up.
popped back to the door mice box to see if all the blue tits have
fledged. They have, but what's more fantastic, there was a door
mouse in a comfy blue tits nest looking up at me. When I put the
box up, I put a few leaves in it to give a bit of encouragement
to a visiting door mouse, but I think the ready made nest did
the trick. You need a licence to inspect door mice boxes, so I
will leave well alone and hope the boxes boost the local population.
a lot of blackberry bushes nearby as well as hazel nuts for feed
in the autumn and nectar for the spring. I'm going to plant some
honeysuckle to give another source of food and hopefully, the
population will grow and spread.
Down at the orchard hide its all change at the feeders. There
are less seed eating birds like goldfinches or greenfinches and
I'm not topping up the nija or mixed birdseed so much. What are
going down well are the meal worms. As soon as I come to top up
the dish there is a queue waiting in the nearby bush. Meal worms
are a perfect food and ideal at this time of year for feeding
young. I think the most I've seen a woodpecker take back to the
nest is 15. It's a bit like a puffin being able to catch and hold
a bill full of sand eels. The woodpeckers are always at the front
of the queue followed by the blackbirds and then the tits and
robins. I've not seen the local wren come in. Its nest is about
50mt away, but from my time photographing them there seems to
be enough insects nearby.
wrens had converted an old swallow's nest in a garage and to get
the photos I had rigged up a ladder and camouflage screen. I would
slowly climb the ladder with my camera and pull over the screen.
The wren would totally ignore me. Her instinct to feed the young
was driven on by their calling and bright orange gapes. As soon
as they spotted her they would tussle for the best position to
be fed. It's the female that does all the feeding as the male
moves on and through the daylight hours she is non stop, only
as the light fades does she stop and brood the young. By the time
of fledging they are the same size of the adults and the nest
is near to bursting. It was only a couple of days after taking
this photo that the four young fledged safely into the orchard.
BBC 'Wild China' series on TV had some stunning wildlife filming
- last year we supplied Dome hides to help get closer to the wildlife.
We usually get to hear which programmes they will be used on when
the orders come in. For the filming of the series 'planet earth'
as with 'Wild China' many hours/days are needed in the hides for
just a few seconds of film.
asked what's the secret to wildlife photography/filming - well
I've found it's a combination of:- subject knowledge - the amount
of time you have to put in to it - having the right kit to get
you close enough to film and of course a lot of luck. For me when
it all goes right and comes together it's fantastically rewarding.
I've had a
couple of projects on this month and the weather has been kind
to me. It's a good time of year to capture behaviour shots. There's
lots of displaying and chasing happening over these next few months.
If you're out on a bright day try some motion shots. Check out
your camera settings. If you're using digital you have the extra
benefit of increasing the ISO speed - by going up to 400 or 500
gives you more light and allows you to have a faster shutter speed
which will freeze the action. For a lot of my work the camera
is on aperture priority so when I go from f8 down to f6.3 or f5.6
the shutter speed automatically increases. If you pick a bright
day you could get a shutter speed of 1000/1500 of a second. This
will freeze most action and give you a striking picture. Normal
rules of composition apply - get down low around eye level if
you can. Have enough space around your subject and balance the
position of your subject in the frame. Allow a little extra space
for your subject to move into. One of the benefits of using a
wide aperture f5.6/f4 gives you a softer background and makes
the subject stand out. Using a long/zoom lens also gives a softer
background (shallow depth of field). The picture of the dabchick
(little grebe) also has the added punch of the frozen water droplets.
This year's Countryfile photo competition is titled "Animals
in action" - capturing wildlife or farm animals in motion
(we had a good plug because the two photographers talking about
how to take good action shots were using our kit and Dome hides).
Have a look at the Countryfile website for more details, Google
Another project I've been working on this April are my log feeders.
I've always had loads of ideas but not got around to putting them
into practice. I always seem to get attached to the log feeder
I'm using at the time, I know I should keep changing them to give
different background/settings but I only seem to change them when
the woodpeckers have given them a good hammering - literally.
On my early
log feeders I would cut out the back of the log and put over a
wire mesh to hold the peanuts and drill holes down the sides to
push peanuts into - good side on shots of woodpeckers and nuthatches.
The log size I normally use is around 10-14 cm dia. and about
2mt high. I look around my local wood for fallen branches. If
you find one with some moss or ivy all the better (in the next
few weeks I will be updating my photo tips section - woodland
birds + more tips). To hold the log in place I use a metal fence
post spike. This has always worked well at my orchard feeding
station positioned about 4mt from the hide. I use a Canon 300mm
f4 lens and a 1Ds full frame camera. 4mt gives a good size image
with enough background to show the season and habitat.
Some of my
ideas for a more mobile and quicker to make log feeder I've finally
got around to actually making. I've been buying up old garden
forks from the dump (recycle centre). The going rate is between
50p and a £1. I cut the handle off and attach the fork to
the back of the log. My log feeders are now easier to move around
and stick in the ground. Holes are drilled into the sides for
the peanuts, but I now have a Mark 3 peanut feeder - homemade
special that I can just screw onto the back of the log feeder
and move onto the next feeder when needed.
Over the next
few weeks I will be updating my photo tips section with my new
designs and some new subjects.
a pond in our garden for many years. When my children were young
the pond was just an upturned dustbin lid, but this was still
large enough to attract some frogs and newts. As the kids got
older we scaled up the size of the pond and over the same time
the numbers of frogs and newts have increased. There's quite a
frog chorus at the moment and as I creep up with my camera I can
tell if I've been spotted - they stop croaking and freeze. Sometimes
as soon as I get near they all disappear under water, other times
I can get quite close. The photos look better if you can get down
low for an eye level shot. I use a 300mm f4 lens with my flash
set on manual. The
distance is about 1.5mt (5') and I can get an F stop of F11 or
F14 which gives me a reasonable depth of field for this close
range. I don't have to travel far, I can see the number of frogs
in the pond from the kitchen window. My family and neighbours!
are used to seeing me creeping around my front garden with a camera
eye and a torch velcroed to the side of the flash gun.
It may seem
strange to have a photo of a sparrow hawk on a garden fork. It's
not a natural setting but I was set up to photograph robins. The
day was showery and the light was fading. I was getting a few
photos as the robins came in for some tasty meal worms. Then -
all the birds on the feeders suddenly flew off. I thought some-one
had walked into the orchard but a second later a sparrow hawk
had landed on the fork. It was just 3mt away from my hide and
sparrow hawk filled the frame with my 300mm lens. A few shots
and a couple of seconds it was in the past. My beaming smile lasted
much longer and my decision to go down to the hide with my mug
of tea that showery March morning was a good choice.
is booming - spring is in the air and thoughts of getting out
with the camera is in a lot of peoples minds. The weather is still
unsettled and our C80 all in one
camera and lens covers are very popular. I keep my cover on
my camera and 300 f4 lens all the time (C80.2R-A) and for my camera
with a 24 - 105 I keep the cover in the bag and just put it on
if the weather closes in or I'm by the coast (C80.1-O).
We get great
feedback about our products and how
quick customers get their orders - but at busy times it can take
a bit longer to send out orders. If you're planning a trip and
need some kit, please try to give us as much notice as possible.
This spring we have had a lot of interest from magazines and more
people are finding out about us (in the UK and around the world).
We are a specialist company perfectly suited to this age of the
internet. If you tap "wildlife watching" into Google
we come up as number one.
along the Devon lanes in February the low winter sun shines through
the leafless trees on the horizon. The sun is setting about 4.30
at this time of year and on this day the sky had turned a pinky
orange. The two trees in the picture are just a few minutes from
home. I had just enough time to rush in, get the camera and go
back to where the trees lined up with the setting sun. Metering
on the sky turned the trees into a silhouette which made the picture
more striking. Over the weeks I had regularly seen the possibilities
of a photo but on this occasion it had all fitted into place.
When I've been in galleries I've often hear people saying that
the photographer must have had a good camera. This photo could
have been taken on any camera and have got the same result. It's
just that I had spotted the picture developing and was lucky enough
to be in the right place at the right time with a camera. I think
I and a lot of photographers would also say that we are often
in the right place at the right time without a camera. These are
the times that you have to just sit back, watch and take it all
I had a week
away in Cornwall this Feb and managed to spend some time walking
along the coast path. The photo opportunities are excellent with
stunning landscapes and plenty of wildlife, although I didn't
expect to come back with a photo of a chough. There are only about
thirteen choughs in England at the moment. They are now breeding
in Cornwall so hopefully the numbers will increase over time.
The RSPB, National Trust and coastal farmers are working hard
to provide the best habitat and hopefully numbers will rise.
The camouflage of the C80 camera and lens cover was very useful,
I don't think the chough even knew I was there. As soon as I heard
it call (it was very close) I dropped down behind the wall along
the footpath. After a couple of seconds I looked up with the camera
up to my eye covering my face. If I had looked up and then swung
the camera around I would have been spotted. The chough had landed
on the cliff edge just 6 mts away and was looking out to sea calling.
A few seconds later it glided effortlessly away on the updraft
from the cliff edge. It was a brief encounter but I had a couple
of shots on the memory card.
- W me 5862 lft
.. shows how you can use the C80 cover
with your hand inside.
winter months I'm popping down to the orchard hide every few days
and topping up the feeders. If the weather is right I will take
a mug of tea and stay a couple of hours. At this time of year
there are a few extra birds about. There has been a Brambling
coming in with a small flock of chaffinches. I've also photographed
a tree creeper checking out the pole feeder. The tree creeper
normally goes from tree to tree in the orchard looking for grubs
and insects in the bark. "I think my pole feeder has just
become part of the orchard". The local pair of Bull finches
have been around but I don't think the weather has been cold enough
to bring them to the feeders yet.
We have a
new C80TL Triple layer camera and lens cover added to our list.
This cover helps to protect the camera and lens from the cold.
Made with 3 layers of material to protect from the weather and
insulate from the cold helping to reduce battery drain and digital
shut down. The inner fleece layer has a heat pack pocket at the
back of the camera to fit our C40.7 heat pads. We have been making
them as specials for the last year and have had some good feedback.
Have a look at our new products section or our C80 page on the
popular products bar. This cover also helps to reduce shutter
noise - I use one for close up Kingfisher shots with a cable release
back to the dome hide. Our C61 Neoprene lens cover sets are proving
to be very popular . We are adding more sizes to our list so keep
an eye on the link at the bottom of our C80 page or New product
page. The covers give good camouflage but most importantly good
shock absorbency protecting the lens from knocks and scratches.
We are temporarily out of stock of Advantage timber pattern neoprene.
Its been so popular that we have run out before our new stock
of neoprene arrives in early March.
down the orchard hide when I can - weather permitting. This time
of year the feeders need topping up more often. The feeding station
has become a regular stop for the local woodpeckers and nuthatches.
There has been a pair of bull finches around and an occasional
pheasant, so hope to get some chances to photograph them.
This time of year I'm normally planning my spring projects. I've
sent in my schedule 1 licence reports for this year and have just
received back my licenses for next year (barn owl & kingfisher).
You need a licence to photograph barn owls & kingfishers at
or near the nest site. This does apply to other birds and you
can get more information from Natural England or the RSPB.
Seasons Greetings to all our customers & friends - past, present
& future. Kevin Keatley.
north winds in November brought the fieldfares back to the orchard.
I had been thinking the blackbirds would finish off all the windfall
apples before the fieldfares arrived. Now both birds vi for the
few apples left.
As I walk
to the orchard I can hear the fieldfares chattering and when in
the hide I can watch both birds chasing each other away. It seems
they spend more time doing this than eating the apples.
The feeding station in the orchard is getting busier as the weather
gets colder and the autumn hedgerow fruit and berries come to
I started topping up the feeders in September so now they're a
regular stop for the local birds. I just need the weather - seems
to be too many rainy grey days at the moment. Frosty days are
excellent bringing more birds to the feeders. The only downside
it's usually a bright blue sky giving very contrasty photos. I'm
after cold bring days with high hazy cloud, a bit like a natural
soft box. Snow also gives an excellent light acting like an all
round reflector - you just have to watch your metering (these
last couple of years we've not had much snow). Roll on a few hazy
red deer on Exmoor are at the end of the rut. There are still
a few stags chasing each other across the moor. The cold north
winds have brought down flocksof golden plovers to the high moors.
They are a beautiful sight and sound as they swirl low around
the moor after the chasing stage have put them up.
From the high vantage point of the moor, the valleys below are
under a blanket of mist. It's a great place to watch a sunrise
as it passes through the layers and changes in light can make
the misty valleys look like a golden sea. A wide angle lens can
capture the whole vista and a zoom lens can shorten the perspective
and draw in the pastel lines of hills. I'm juggling two cameras
trying to capture both.
some new products to our site, some of my recent designs I've
been using myself and then have worked up a range of sizes for
our price list. Our C81 end of lens cover/cap
and our C61 neoprene lens cover
sets are on our New Products section. Soon to be added are our
triple layer C80TL. These covers are perfect for cold conditions
reducing battery drain and digital shut down. The C80TL
is an 'all-in-one' cover. Top layer - proofed polycotton, middle
layer water proof pu nylon and an inner fleece layer with a heat-pack
pocket. We have been making them as specials for a while and getting
good feedback. I'm always working on new designs and products
- usually when I'm sitting in my hide. What a job - fantastic.
I have had
a couple of trips to the New Forest this month. It's a good place
to photograph the red deer rut (just West of Brockenhurst). Most
of the year the stags are deep in the forest, but during September
and October around dawn and dusk they are out in the open. It
is a good chance to get some photos of the stags calling and fighting.
When I am
taking photos of the deer I am normally walking around the margin
of the heath and forest. I try to set up my tripod backed by some
gorse or bracken to break up my outline. You don't need a hide
or screen to photograph the deer at this time of year, but I do
use a cover for my camera and lens (it's a white Canon 500mm).
I also wear my advantage timber jacket. It is just enough camouflage
to blend in. Full camouflage is not needed for the rut as the
stags are intent on keeping their hinds close by and chasing off
rivals. At this time of year they are less aware of your presence
as long as you don't get too close. Wear natural colours - greens
and browns - avoid wearing light colours as they really stand
out at dawn and dusk and are visible over a long distance.
On one trip
I was set up by some bracken and bushes photographing 3 stags
having a tussle and clashing antlers. It was a real glimpse into
their natural behaviour. At one point they suddenly stopped and
looked in my direction. Looking behind me I spotted somebody walking
by. I wasn't rumbled and the stags soon got back to their tussle
totally unaware of my presence and I came away with some good
I met a few
of our customers on my trips to the New Forest this season. It
is great to meet others with a passion for nature and wildlife
This is a good time to start a winter feeding station. I've not
used my orchard Dome hide since May so had to clear a small jungle
to get to it. Putting out nut and seed feeders now gets the birds
used to your station. So when the natural food declines and the
winter sets in, you have regular customers/subjects for your photography.
I look forward to my regular visits usually 2 to 3 times a week
topping up the feeders and an hour or 2 in the hide.
With my morning mug of tea by my side and a chance of a good photo.
It's a great way to start the day, see photo tips section for
some ideas on getting a feeding station.
coming soon, scope covers - similar to C80 all-in-one covers - ask
for details. Made from waterproof material - protects against rain,
dust, sea-spray etc. Perfect for protecting digi scoping kit.
have recently been using an infra red trip to photograph owls in
flight. I thought the kit was excellent and so I will soon be adding
it to our list. I will also be adding a photo tip page on how to
lenses getting longer and more a lot more expensive it pays to protect
them from the potentially harsh elements and rugged areas you might
find yourself when trying to get "that" shot. Because
of this we have come up with two new products that can give your
lens that extra protection. Firstly a Neoprene
cover - this offers high shock absorbing and thermal protection;
and secondly our new Lens cover/cap to
go with our C80, C40
is exactly what you need when trekking to your spot. Both have been
specifically designed to protect long lenses and are available in
a range of patterns.