Tiger Match

In October World Land Trust runs a fundraising appeal where any donation that is made will be matched. This means that any donation given during the fortnight is doubled. This year the funds where going to WLT’s Big Cat Appeal.

As one statistical example show big cats need help. Tigers have lost 93% of their range in the last 100 years. So to do my bit I auctioned of a painting that I did of a tiger in the hope of raising a few pound towards the Big Cat appeal.

Tiger painting
Tiger – Watercolour, Gouache & Pen

The Tiger was painting using a combo of watercolour, gouache and pen. It ended up rainy £100 towards the Big Cat appeal.

Painting Experiment

I’m now beginning to really enjoy drawing again and thought I would give painting ago.

I was never going to put the pen down as this is what I’m most comfortable with. I want to try to bring some colour into my work but I don’t want to work in a really tight way as I had always done whilst at college.

I’m really pleased with how it has turned out and I think I’ll carry on down this route of adding colour to my paintings to see what comes out.

Red Backed Shrike - Watercolour, Gouache and Pen
Red Backed Shrike – Watercolour, Gouache and Pen

Birding up North

Whilst on a recent family visit to the North, I ventured out for a day of birding. First port of call was Pennington Flash near Leigh. It boast to be ‘one of the premier bird watching sites in the North West’ so surely it had to be worth a visit.

Pennington flash
Pennington flash

We called in at the first hide and met some friendly locals who told me many a story about the place. How the flash is a 70-hectare lake created by coal mining subsidence. They also proudly mentioned the list of over 240 species of bird that had been seen there.

Whilst there I saw as many as 6 kingfishers, lots of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs along with lots of wild fowl. The highlights of the trip around the flash had to be Willow Tit’s feeding behind the first hide, unfortunately they were being heavily papped by some seriously large lensed photographers. Another highlight was a female Garganey which was a nice one for the year list. There were a couple of Arctic Terns when I was there and the following day there were up to 9, along with three or four Green Sandpipers.

Pennington flash
Pennington flash

After leaving Pennington Flash I moved onto Elton Reservoir as I has seen there were at least 2 Black-necked Grebes.

Elton Reservoir
Elton Reservoir

Now Elton Reservoir is in a place called Bury. You drive through an estate and then out the back you go over a bridge and it looks like to are heading to a prison, which actually turned out to be hospital. I wasn’t sure if the fences were to keep people out or to keep patients in. Either way to get the reservoir you follow a drive way to the sailing club and you come to this beautiful reservoir (well it was on this day I was there as it was beautiful and sunny). There were views over the town and to the hills beyond. There were sailing competitions going on whilst I was there, which made it look very picturesque. Luckily though the boats were only at one end of the reservoir. At the far end I could see large numbers of Coot with several Great Crested Grebe and when I got down there a Family of little Grebe. Then in and amongst this lot were two Juvenile Black-necked Grebe. Looking back through my note pads etc I could find no record of me having ever seen one before so I had bagged myself another lifer.

Thompson Common

I was trying to think of something exciting to call this post, but to be honest if you have ever been to Thompson Common then you know there is no need to call it anything else, the name should conjure up enough excitement anyway!

Common Darter
Common Darter

I visited Thompson back in June and fell in love with the place then. The combination of the wooded areas which let shards of light through the canopy to highlight many of the Pingos, combined with the open grassy areas which have pools full of reeds make this place feel pretty special.

Green-veind White

What this habitat does is provide home to many bird species, it was lovely to be surrounded by the sound of calling Bullfinches and Green Woodpeckers. On my first visit I came face to face with a few Roe Deer which looked more baffled than in fear of my presence. There are also plenty of Butterflies on this occasion, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Green-veined white, Ringlet and Common Blue.

Common Emerald
Common Emerald Damselfly

I think one of the things its most known for is the sheer number of Dragonflies and Damselflies. I believe there have been 19 species recorded. On my previous visit I managed to see one of its specialities the Scarce Emerald Damselfly. On this trip it was really rather staggering how many odonate there were around. Literally every step seemed to disturb one or more. I managed to record Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Common Darter and Common Emerald this time and managed to photograph a few, with the Southern Hawkers being very willing to be photographed.


Birthday surprise

4 June and it’s absolutely pouring it down with rain. I was determined not to waste the day. Armed with Ginger beer, cake and a map, along with all usual optical equipment I decided to try somewhere new and headed for Thompson Common and Lake. I had heard it was good for Odonata and wanted to take a look. I had also been reading another blog that said it was a cracking area for birds as well.

On arrival I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the correct place as it’s not well signpost which made it all the more appealing. Thompson common is part of the Pingo trail which makes for an interesting landscape with many pools for wildlife to inhabit.

Once I had made it through the trees I came to the first pool which had lots of Damselflies in the tall grasses and plenty of Marsh Orchids scattered about a little way from the pools.

Southern Marsh Orchid at Thompson Common
Southern Marsh Orchid

I managed to get a photograph of a few Damselflies one being the image below. I tried to ID the species myself when I got home but had no idea as to what it was. I contacted the British Dragonfly Society and was informed that it was a Scare Emerald Damselfly which are limited to only a few areas in the UK one of which is Thompson. It is listed as rare and recognised as vulnerable by the UK and at one time thought to be extinct.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly
Scarce Emerald Damselfly

I continue my walk all the way to Thompson Lake. This took me through Thompson Covert which was just stunning. It look like a place time had forgotten.

Thompson Covert
Thompson Covert

On arrival at the lake I sat down ate some birthday cake, had a ginger beer and watched the Swan family as they went about their business. Thompson has to be one of my favourite places to visit. Also the pub in Thompson itself is pretty good as well.

Swan family at Thompson lakes
Swan family at Thompson lakes


As seen on TV

Through work I have had the opportunity to meet some interesting people and also visit some interesting places. Well this continued on June 3 2014 when we were invited to visit the set of Springwatch at Minsmere and then be in the audience of  Unsprung.

We were asked to bring along any drawings that we may have and I genuinely and rather embarrassingly happened to have my sketch pad with me when I arrived.

The show is presented by Nick Baker and goes out straight after the main Springwatch show, and it was an interesting experience to see a live show being made.

Well Andy Warhol once said everyone has their 15 minutes of fame. I think I roughly had about 5 seconds when I was asked to show one of my pictures and say my name. Below is the picture I got to show live on national TV

Redstart - Pen and Pencil
Redstart – Pen and Pencil


Moody Skies over Hethersett

Stormy Sky look over Melton
Stormy sky looking over Little Melton

There was a storm brewing in the skies of Hethersett on this evening so I decided to try to experiment with some HDR photography.

I went about my business with my Nikon D80 in hand and my new-found understanding of the process. I took myself off round my usual walk, which also meant I got to check if anything new had appeared on my patch.

The first image was taken by the lakes overlooking Little Melton and the second looking over Hethersett towards the Water Tower.

Stormy Hethersett looking towards the water tower
Stormy Hethersett looking towards the water tower

I returned to the computer in an attempt to create the traditional HDR photograph using Photoshop. Needless to say this isn’t as easy or as effective as you would like to think. I decided to make use of the images I had taken with the above results.

Looks like I will have to do many more trials with HDR or just now use the Dan Bradbury method!