Category Archives: UK

Barbary macaque

Monkey Forest

Barbary Macaques are native to the Cedar forests of the Atlas mountains in Morocco and Algeria, and once roamed wild across southern Europe and north Africa reaching out to Tunisia and Libya. But due to deforestation, logging and persecution from local farmers, the wild population of the Barbary Macaque has been reduced to just over 12,000 in the wild. In 2009 IUCN classified the species as endangered and added them to their IUCN Red list. Today the Rock of Gibraltar is the only home out side of the Atlas mountains where 230 individuals run wild.

However… The Trentham Estate in Staffordshire UK is home to 140 Barbary Macaque monkeys, although in captivity, roam freely among a 60 acre woodland they can call home. On our way home from a family wedding in Derby, we decided to divert across to Trentham to take a walk in the woods among the Macaques.

After walking through the gates to the forest, it was not long before monkeys could be seen playing and chasing each other throughout the trees. The forest plays a vital role in bringing awareness and education to the UK public of these endangered species, and runs breading programs to help re-introduce this animal back into the wild where possible. Within the forest the 140 individuals have divided into Two troops. The oldest female within the forest is 25 years old and the youngest just a few months old. Paths throughout the forest lead you down from the gate to a flat open area, winding up to the top of a hill before a descent in to a small valley and stream, this then leads you back round to the open space at the start of the forest. The monkeys run completely free within the 60 acres and can be seen all over the forest.

Watching the monkeys go about their daily business can be quite amusing, they are extremely social animals and have many different expressions. Moods within the troops can change instantly and fights within the troop can break out right at your feet. Although we only spent a few hours in the forest, it would be quite easy to spend all day walking around and watching the Macaques… We shall return for a full day in spring next year!

 

Comments Off

Puffin Island

Puffin Island

After a failed attempt last year to land on Skomer island Pembrokeshire, this year we decided to return to the Farne islands. Although the weather was fantastic both days, a combination of strong winds far out to sea and the new moon tide, prevented us from landing on Staple island. However this did not affect our visit to Inner Farne, shortly after disembarking our boat and as we climbed the path to the top of the island, the Arctic terns wasted no time in attacking our heads.

Each year Arctic Tern’s fly thousands of miles to nest on the island, there are so many Tern’s on the island the birds nest anywhere possible. Nests can be seen on the walls, in the grass and along the edge of the walk ways. Every day before the island is open to the public, the resident RSPB wardens re-adjust guide ropes along the wooden pathways so visitors do not accidentally harm nest close to path.

The Arctic Turn’s story is one of many, the island is a temporary home and breading ground for Black Headed Gulls, Guillemots, Shag, Kittiwake, Sandwich Turn, Common Turn, Razorbill, Herring Gull and of course the Puffin.

Puffin

On this trip the main story that was played out over and over is one of feeding for the Puffin. Across the island Puffin have burrowed in to the soft soil that lay on top of the island rocky structure, Each year new burrows are dug and old are revisited. Once the chick of the breading pair hatches from its egg, parent Puffin’s fly out to sea to catch Sand Eels to feed the chick. As the comical Puffin returns to the island and lines up for a typical clumsy landing, Black headed Gulls are already poised and waiting. As soon as the Puffin lands on the ground the Gulls attack, experts at mugging the Puffin for as many if not all of the food intended for the Puffin chick.

Not all is lost for the Puffin and not every fishing trip is lost to the Gulls. If the puffin is fast once on the ground, his little waddle will get him to the nearest burrow before the Gull reaches him. Even if the burrow is not his, the Puffin will enter to escape the thieving Gulls. PuffinThe Puffin knows that after a short while the Gull will loose interest and other inbound Puffin’s will draw the Gulls attention away from the burrow being used as refuge. Once the coast is clear, the Puffin will gingerly appear from the hole making sure the Gulls are not there, then dart off to the correct Burrow, in some cases the Puffins burrow is just next door. After the chick is fed, once again the Puffin heads back out to sea for more Eels and to run the gauntlet of the Black Headed Gulls.

 

Comments Off

Morning Light

Morning Light

After a record breaking winters rainfall Saturday started with a welcomed clear sky, Perfect for my first early morning shoot at Richmond Park! Up at 5am driving round the M25 to get to the park for first light was not easy after a long week at work, but well worth making the effort for.

The park was being bathed in glorious light as i parked my car and broke out the camera. I so wish the park was closer to where I lived, you don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate how beautiful the park is!

The Red Deer were quite active in the early hours, keeping ahead of them and positioning myself so the early morning light would make the shot I wanted was not so easy – This was my first attempt.

Looking forward to the next clear sky already – not the 5am start!

Red Deer  - Richmond Park

Red Deer  - Richmond Park

Red Deer  - Richmond Park

Comments Off

Black + White Photography

Black + White Photography Magazine

This months edition of Black + White Photography magazine sees my Wildebeest image in print! Issue No. 152 – July 2013 – Page 28. for those of you who buy who read this fantastic magazine.

Comments Off

Clouded Leopard

The most majestic, small and elegant cat, the Clouded Leopard. With teeth the same length as a fully grown tiger, the Clouded Leopard has the longest proportioned teeth, second only to the Sabre Tooth Tiger. African and Amur Leopards can climb trees with ease, but this smaller, more agile cat completely puts them to shame. The Clouded Leopard is the only cat that can climb along branches upside down and climb down trees head first, turn around and go straight back up without touching the floor. The Clouded Leopard lives between the Himalayan region and China. In 2008 IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) declared the status of the Clouded Leopard as vulnerable with a population of adult cats to be less than 10,000 in the wild.

The first time I visited the WHF (Wildlife Heritage Foundation) big cat sanctuary, this cat would not come out to play. So on my next visit, I was not expecting to see one again, but to my good fortune not only was I graced with one Clouded Leopard but two.

Until this encounter the African Leopard was my favourite big cat, but the markings and the pure beauty of this beast has completely captivated me. We need to do everything in our power to stop poaching of these animals for their coats, and protect their valuable habitat and just maybe our next generation will be able to see these in the wild, not just in captivity.

 

Comments Off

Farne Islands

Leaving the harbour was nice and calm, but as soon as we hit open water, our small boat was thrown from side to side; the swells were not for the feint hearted but it would not be for long as we soon reached the islands. We were the first visitors that the islands had seen since the start of the season and the rangers looked pleased to see fresh faces. Being the start of May, the puffins were still on arrival to the islands, the breading season starts in May and ends in July. Guillemot’s, Shag’s and Arctic Terns were among the many birds on the islands, even though we were at the start of the season the birds were showing well!

Our stay on the island was short lived, the sea was getting worse and our captain could not risk the safety of the boat. After 30 minutes on the island it was time to leave. Hopefully our next day would bring better weather.

Driving to the boat the next day we could not believe it, the sky was crystal clear, what a change from the day before. As we climbed aboard the boat, our captain said “Told you better day today lad!, better day today!” The sea was remarkably calm and flat, our ride to the islands was amazingly smooth. Our first drop off was Staple Island, with over an hour on the island we were able to get great shots of the puffins and other birds. As the rain came down we moved off Staple Island and on to Inner Farne. In the height of the breeding season, as you make your way up from the shore to the top of the island, Arctic Terns dive bomb all visitors in defence of their nests, lucky for us this was not an issue.

Walking around the island, Puffins darted in and out of their nests, heading out to sea to catch Sand Eels and bring them back to their mate.

Due to bad weather this year, the Puffins have struggled to breed successfully and trips to the island have been limited. To follow the latest news from the islands check out the Farne Island Blog!

The Farne Islands are a wonderful place to see a wide variety of the UK’s treasured wildlife.

Comments Off

Raptors

Driving up the A1M looking up at the sky, I hoped the rain would ease. I was on my way to the English School of Falconry.

The ESF has many different raptors ranging from small owls to bald eagles. This was my first shoot involving birds at close range. I had made attempts to shoot snake eagles and  kites in the Masai Mara, but could not quite get a good image of them in flight.

Not all birds wanted to play ball on the day, but the ones that did were spectacular.  Shooting birds is extremely tricky, but the rewards are exhilarating.

The ESF offers a great opportunity for practice. The falconers are extremely knowledgeable, giving advice on what the bird might do next, helping to get those great shots.

By the end of the day, the sun was out and we managed four flights with the star of the venue, an 18 month old bald eagle, the aim of thee shoot was to fly over the lake and get shots of him picking his prey from the water surface.

Whilst the bald eagle was fun to shoot, my favourite was the red kite.  Maybe a trip to the Welsh countryside to capture  this magnificent specimen in the wild is called for.

Comments Off