Wildlife Watching Supplies ®

Kevin's Year in Photography

Wildlife Watching Supplies® - a year in photography and nature photo blog by Kevin Keatley.

The aim of Wildlife Watching Supplies® is to bring together a comprehensive range of camouflage materials, waterproof and breathable clothing and equipment that hides and covers, is quiet and comfortable and most important of all allows you to blend in with the environment.

While most of our customers are wildlife photographers or naturalists, we also sell to wildlife filmmakers and film production companies, the BBC, RSPB, Universities, Police units, Security companies and the British Forces. Wildlife Watching Supplies® have supplied the UK Special Forces and NATO with camouflage kit for over 10 years. Our products have been tried and tested in some of the harshest climates around the world.

We are a UK based Devon company but supply wildlife watching equipment throughout the world. We also have dealers throughout Europe (see International Dealers).

If you are going on a trip or it's an urgent order please let us know and order in plenty of time. We can make up specials but they may also take a bit longer. If you have any questions we are always happy for you to email us. Thank you.



 

Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.June update

Autumn last 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.

During May, 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. Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.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!

Towards the 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.

I've just 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.

There are 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.

 


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.May update

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.

Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.The 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.

The recent 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.

I'm often 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.


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.April update

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 BBC Countryfile.

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. Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.

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.

Happy photographing.

Kevin Keatley.

 


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.March update

We've had 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. Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.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 to my 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 thWildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.e 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.

The business 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.


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.February update

Driving home 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 in.Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.

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.


January update

Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.
C80 TL - W me 5862 lft ….. shows how you can use the C80 cover with your hand inside.
Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.
Tree creeper

During these 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.


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.December update.

I'm getting 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.


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.November update

The colder 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 an end.
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 bright days.

Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.The 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.

We've added 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.


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.OCTOBER UPDATE

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 natural shots.

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 photography.


Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.

September update.
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.


Also 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.

Wildlife Watching Supplies ® - having the right gear for wildlife watching and photography is essential and we manufacturer the highest quality camouflage clothing, camouflage hides, camouflage materials and scrim nets and other safety products.I 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 use them.

With 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.


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