23 Feb 2010

I have just won a Nikon Camera in the Daily Telegraph's Big Picture Competition

Last saturday I was having a look at the travel section of the Daily Telegraph and on the back cover I noticed a picture of a tiger chasing two deer. It was taken in India and the photographer had won a camera. I said jokingly to my wife I am going to win a camera next week and I received the same response as I usually get when I say I am going to win the lottery. "That's nice Darling"
So I sent of one of my shots of an Albatross at Kaikoura to the Telegraph.

Well this morning I was telephoned by a nice woman called Caroline who informed me that my photo had been chosen to be published in the Daily Telegraph travel section this coming weekend and that I had won a Nikon Coolpix S640. Happy Days

22 Feb 2010

A Reminder that the Northern Ireland Ornithologists'Club "Sam Penney Memorial Lecture" is on Wednesday 24th February

On wednesday night Chris Gomersall an ex staff photographer of the RSPB is giving the annual "Sam Penney Memorial Lecture" at the Ulster Museum at 7.30pm.

Sam Penney was one of Ireland's leading ornithologists in the 40's and 50's and was the first president of the Northern Ireland Ornithologists' Club.

One of the first Bird Photography books I bought was his 2001 book "Photographing Wild Birds" along with Artie Morris's "The Art of Bird Photography"

You can visit Chris's website HERE

18 Feb 2010

Indian Bird Photography

A Beautiful Peregrine Image by Clement Francis

I have recently been receiving some emails with questions from some Indian Bird Photographers and enquiries about them.

Well I think this guy Clement Francis has some simply outstanding photographs.

Have a look at his Portfolio

The other site I would highly recommend is Vijay Cavale's India Birds
as many of his photographs have bird calls as well.

Here are some more.
  • Rishi Bajpai's Indian Wildlife Photos
  • Vijay Cavale Bird Photos
  • Clement Francis Bird Photography Outstanding
  • Mohanram Kemparaju's Bird Photography
  • Krishnan,s Bird Gallery
  • Dhritiman Mukherjee Images
  • Ramki Indian Wildlife Images
  • Rathika Ramasamy Bird Images
  • Ganesh H Shankar Nature Photographs
  • Jayanth Sharma Wildlife
  • Sudhir Shivaram's Indian Wildlife Photographer
  • Suresh V S it's Just Birds

    Another Beautiful Peregrine Image by Clement Francis
  • 15 Feb 2010

    Why have the Black-Tailed Godwits Disappeared from RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve

    Well I have been to the RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve quite a few times recently and I find it unbelievably depressing and I am finding on speaking to volunteers and birders that I am not alone. Some birders have said to me recently that it is barely worth going any more and if they do it is for the social aspect rather than the birding. You used to go and there was nearly always Black-tailed Godwits right in front of the hide, and I mean loads, which was one of the main attractions of the Reserve. The beauty of this was that when the Black-tailed Godwits were feeding several species of shorebird also feed amongst or on the edge of these flocks. So there were chances you would see Ruff, Curlew, Snipe, Redshank, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper. The largest flock of Godwit I have seen recently are at the Whitehouse Laggoon on the other side of Belfast Lough so I guess they have found a better food source there.

    Now it feels as though its a desert. Right out in front of the hide there were a large patch of willows kept at about four feet in height and to the right of the hide there was a row of willow along a wall kept about two to three feet in height. The willows afforded birds protection particularly the Reed Buntings, Robins, Chaffinches and Tits. The willows in front also provided cover for the Water Rails. Most of the willows in front of the hide have been cut down and the small hedge to the right protecting a little crop field have all been cut down. See the photos below.

    Why would anybody remove the habitat that protects these small birds from a Sparrowhawk that regularly flies past I just do not know.

    It is a year now since the RSPB suspended and then sacked Anthony McGeehan as the warden and I'm afraid it shows. On a positive point his Industrial Tribunal is on March 8th and he will be asking for his job back, compensation and an apology and the sooner the better in my view. At least he had the right idea that if you bring the birds close to the hide the public engages with them far better than looking through binoculars or scope to the far side of the reserve where many of the waders roost at high tide in Belfast lough. So it is definitely time to go back to feeding them on a regular basis rather than sporadically.

    On two occasions recently I have seen a fox walking infront of the central hide and the last time I was there one of the occupants of the hide told me he had seen two together in the last couple of weeks.

    So yet again unless the RSPB urgently does something about it the breeding success of any breeding bird on the reserve will effectively be compromised and this is after spending thousand's of pounds on a predator proof fence.

    Earlier in the year the RSPB with funding from the Alpha Programme managed by Groundwork NI replaced a sluice that controlled the water levels on the reserve. Why this was necessary I am not really sure as it had been working up until Anthony was suspended in early January 2009, he had a problem in the summer which had been rectified. Then the RSPB pretty much abandoned the reserve for a few months until bringing in a retired warden to help out for a few months. The idea of the sluice was to enable control over the levels which makes me wonder why for most of the autumn the water levels were far too high and there was a distinct lack of waders. Why put in a sluice if you are not going to use it properly?

    In my opinion the senior management of the RSPB Reserves in Northern Ireland is distinctly lacking. Look at Belfast Harbour in the summer they advertised for a new warden and hired Chris Sturgeon. He had little conservation experience having mainly worked on building sites in Australia or as a barman in France but he had beens working as a volunteer on the reserve with Anthony. Now I think Chris works hard and has had an almost impossible job in having to follow in McGeehan's footsteps but there was considerable disquiet amongst RSPB workers in Northern Ireland especially some of those on contracts with the RSPB who applied for the job, however again in my opinion at least he would do his boss's(Gregory Woulahan) bidding. The advert for the job in the papers said 'knowledge of birds would be an advantage but is not essential'. My God what eejit would put an ad in the paper for a RSPB warden of probably Northern Ireland's most prestigious reserve saying knowledge of birds an advantage but not essential.

    I had an interesting exchange in Fermanagh at the end of January relating to Chris's boss. I was photographing a shoot and in the morning one of the guns shot a mink swimming across a river. I didnt witness it but at lunch I was talking to the beaters and one of them started talking about mink and how that last summer there had been a great fuss and panic within the RSPB in Northern Ireland as this guy had written on a blog about the RSPB drowning mink down on their reserve in Fermanagh. I didnt let on it was me!!!! This beaters best friend did work on and off for the RSPB and the beater told me that the reserves manager had come down and told everybody to totally deny the allegations and had also contacted the warden who was on a year off on an island in the southern ocean to keep his head down. It just confirmed what I already knew. When I got home I rang my wife's relative who works at Belvoir and they were very loath to talk about anything as Mike Clarke the Director of Operations of the RSPB had sent out a letter to the staff at Belvoir telling them not to discuss Anthony McGeehan or related issues with anyone. However fortunately blood is thicker. They told me that Woulahan had been in a right old pickle about it. They also told me I wasn't very popular up there ;-) As I said to them you would wonder whether Woulahan would tell the truth in Anthony's Industrial Tribunal they said highly unlikely as he was too busy protecting himself at everybody else's expense and their view was the sooner he was moved to somewhere else within the RSPB the better as there is a lot of ill feeling within Belvoir(Belvoir is the Northern Ireland headquarters of the RSPB) about him and that everybody is too scared for their jobs to say anything.

    12 Feb 2010

    American Museum of Natural History

    I have been asked by The American Museum of Natural History to mention to my American readers that it has has two bird-related events coming up in February and March of this year .


    An Evening Devoted to New Illustrated Poetry Anthology About Birds

    WHAT Part poetry and part field guide, Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds combines more than 100 poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Simic, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens, and others with carefully matched illustrations by renowned artist David Allen Sibley.

    Poet Laureate Billy Collins will join fellow poets George Green, Joshua Mehigan, Linda Pastan and David Yezzi at the Museum to celebrate poems from the anthology paired with their own work. Artist and ornithologist David Allen Sibley will also be discussing his life-like illustrations. Joel Cracraft, curator of ornithology at the Museum, will introduce the program. Book signing will follow.

    Co-presented with the Poetry Society of America and New York City Audubon.

    WHEN Wednesday, March 10, 6:30 pm
    Wine, coffee, and snacks will be available for purchase at Café on One
    from 5:30–6:30 pm

    WHERE Kaufmann Theater, first floor
    Enter at 77th Street
    The American Museum of Natural History

    ADMISSION $15 adults, $13.50 Members, students, seniors


    Three Tuesdays, February 16—March 2, noon – 1:30 pm

    Catch a peek at owls, songbirds, and woodpeckers in the woods, seed-eating birds in the fields, and many species of ducks and gulls in the lakes as Paul Sweet, Collections Manager in the Department of Ornithology, guides you through three Central Park habitats to observe the varied bird species of New York City.

    Advanced Registration required (212.769.5200); space is limited.
    Walks start across from the Museum on the northeast corner of Central Park West and 77th Street.

    Lowell Eschen│Publicist│Communications Department
    American Museum of Natural History
    Central Park West and 79th Street, New York, NY 10024
    (o) 212.769.5310 (f) 212.769.5006 leschen@amnh.org

    11 Feb 2010

    WWT Castle Espie

    My WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) membership has just been paid for another year. I do like the direct debit system when it comes to charities as it means I don't forget to renew the membership. In Northern Ireland we have WWT Castle Espie which is situated at the top left hand corner of Strangford Lough. It is on the old site of the Castle Espie Lime, Brick and Pottery Works which was in production from 1850 - 1879. After which my family bought it off the Murland family in 1885 before selling it to the Dickson family ,who owned the adjacent Quarry Farm, in 1912.

    WWT Castle Espie is a wetland reserve that has recently gone through a massive makeover costing millions and it looks as though the money has been well spent. In 2007 the Heritage Lottery Fund gave the WWT a grant of nearly £3 million pounds towards a restoration project to improve the intertidal and freshwater habitats at Castle Espie with the idea of encouraging greater numbers of waders and duck to roost and breed there. In addition they have also built a fabulous new visitor centre.

    You park in the woodland carpark where you will find Goldcrest, Long Tailed Tit and Goldfinches in the Larches. You then make your way to the front of the building.


    You enter the building and there is a very long room where at the lefthand end there is the Loughshore Cafe

    and a reception area in the middle of the building and a shop leading to gallery space and a Theatre on the right hand end. The shop is excellent and in my opinion one of the best places in Northern Ireland to buy birdfeeders and birdfeeder accessories. They also have a good range of books and clothing.
    The back of the building looks out onto the lough and the pools where the duck collection, which is the largest in Ireland, is found.

    There is also a nice bronze of the WWT founder Sir Peter Scott.


    Quite close to the building they have a feeding station on a platform where the local garden birds can be found. Robin,Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Collared Dove, Bluetit, Great Tit.





    At reception you can buy grain to feed the ducks which means of course that you can get extremely close to them to photograph. Over the last month or so I have started to build up a small collection of headshots of the various duck there.







    Once you go past the initial ponds you come out into the area that has had the most amount of work done. Infact at present it doesn't look great with plants protected by bright orange protective fences and bare earth. However one will have to imagine what it will be like in a few years time when everything has started to grow.

    In the middle of the central pond the WWT have built a Crannog, that is to say an artificial island and dwelling place. They were very prevalent in the medieval and prehistoric times and there are at least 2000 examples in Ireland.


    This one is going to double up as a hide!!

    As you walk around there are quite a few wild duck and geese that fly overhead. Here is a Greylag.


    Out beyond the Crannog there is a beautiful new observation platform overlooking the Castle Espie Site and the top end of Strangford Lough.


    It has stunning views.



    The hides and viewing points overlook Strangford Lough, an area of international importance with its eelgrass beds and wide variety of wildfowl and waders including Shelduck, Shoveler, Redshank, Godwit, Lapwing, Golden Plover,Knot, Dunlin and the Brent Goose. Infact most of the worlds population of Brent Geese winter here on Strangford Lough.


    I think in a few years time it is going to be brilliant and in the weektime its a great place to go and have lunch.
    Sadly James Orr the center manager is leaving Castle Espie but I feel he has left a great legacy for the years to come for which he can be very proud.

    1 Feb 2010

    Naturescapes 2009 Images of the Year.

    I regard www.naturescapes.net as one of the best nature photography sites on the web and their bird photography section is second to none so I am really pleased tonight to have received an honorable mention in their 2009 Images of the Year.