Malvern Hills guided walk 26/7/11

Henley-in-Arden Wildlife Society contacted me and asked if I could take their group on a guided wildlife walk on the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. 
Worcestershire Beacon followed by North Hill was the plan for the morning walk and then British Camp and Swinyard was programmed in after lunch.  17 people turned up on what was a great day for walking and being outdoors and also for observing wildlife.
Some great birds were seen including Pied Flycatchers chasing Redstarts around a hawthorn tree, two migrant Wheatears, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a very close flyby from a juvenile Sparrowhawk, hovering behviour from both Kestrel and Buzzard (although I think the Kestrel wins feathers down!) Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Stonechat feeding their young, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Linnet and juvenile Whitethroat to name but a few.
A great line up from the insect world were seen aswell including Small Heath, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and excellent views of Grayling (a Malvern speciality), Cinnabar moth caterpillars, a single Vapourer moth caterpillar, Violet Ground Beetle, Wolf spider, and Funnel Web Spiders.
A great day with great company was had by all and the ice cream at the end just finished it off nicely! 😉
If you are a trust or society leader and would like to find out more about the guided walks I offer please get in touch either by email or by phone and I can discuss the options in more detail.

Flight photography – Canon 800mm f/5.6

I had a few days off last week and had the chance to try out the new Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with my Canon 1D Mk4.   I’ve used it already photographing around my local areas but thought I would have to put it through its paces by taking it to Slimbridge WWT in Gloucestershire for flying wildfowl and Gigrin Farm in Powys at the Red Kite feeding station.   At Gigrin, with over 300 Red Kites in the air at once, there were no end of subjects to photograph and Slimbridge was equally effective with  small  flocks of Pintail, Mallard and swans filling up the airspace.
I can honestly say it is a fantastic piece of kit that I would love to have the money so I can add it to my equipment list (any offers out there!!?).  With an aperture of f/5.6, I was surprised at how quick the autofocus was at finding subjects.  It is very responsive (probably because the subjects are so large in the frame!!) and locks the subject in focus consistently.  It is even quicker when the range distances are correctly set on the lens.  I often found when photographing subjects at different distances it took a while for the lens to track from minimum focusing distance and then to infinity, but once focused on the subject it didn’t want to let go.  With the lens itself being 4.5kg in weight, on several occasions I found myself handholding this lens without any problems.  A big plus for those situations where tripods can’t be set up quickly enough. 
With mixed weather at both Slimbridge and Gigrin, the presence of dark snow clouds mixed with sunny intervals allowed me to get some interesting photographs with atmospheric results.  I love photographing in these conditions as photographs have an extra depth and edge to them compared to the usual all blue or white overcast skies that are usually present.
Below are some of the results from my trips.  Hope you enjoy.