December 2021 (updated 31/12)
Nothing for the first half of the month and then lots of trips during the holidays. The weather has been mild but wet and misty, with low lying cloud and poor visibility on many days. Most of the photos below are from Leighton Moss, where I keep hearing reports of otters but I haven't managed to see one (on the final day of the year, and my 5th visit in 2 weeks, 3 otters turned up at once - see above). I also spent a day in southern Scotland with a morning at Mersehead and an afternoon at Caerlaverock. Unfortunately there has been a severe avian flu outbreak and thousands of birds have perished. Dead geese were visible in the fields and out on the saltmarsh. Hopefully the epidemic will pass and populations will recover.
The last picture in the collection is my first weasel photo. Captured in dark woodland, early in the morning, with an 800mm f11 lens, eye detect autofocus didn't have a chance.
Don't miss the red squirrel photos below from earlier in the month.
This seems to be the only time of year you can buy hazelnuts in the shops and it reminds me to make an annual trip to find red squirrels. It didn't happen in 2020 due to lockdown, so I thought I'd go out before any new restrictions are introduced this winter.
The eye autofocus on the Canon R6 did a good job, even in poor light, and I managed to try both the RF 16mm f2.8 and the RF 100-400mm f5.6-8 lenses. The telephoto zoom doesn't have a great aperture for dull winter conditions but the IS worked really well. DxO PureRaw came to the rescue again using ISO 3200-12800.
The dark nights have returned and work has been so exhausting I haven't been out much at weekends. I did manage a couple of hours at Leighton Moss early in the month and the bearded tits were still around the grit trays. It was a good test for the eye detect AF on the Canon R6 with the 800mm f/11. I thought the dense reeds would confuse the camera but it picked up the birds better than I used to with the 7Dii. I have a small RF 16mm lens to try when I can find the energy and/or time. Maybe I'll wait for the Christmas holidays.
A mixed month. A short break in Northumberland included visits to Kielder Forest and the moors around Otterburn. I've also had a couple of trips to Leighton Moss where the bird numbers are starting to grow and a family of otters have been visible.
Autumn seems to be late this year but the trees are finally changing colour and the wind and rain have arrived. I spent a couple of very wet days building my first book to celebrate the slow improvement in my otter photography. Some of the recent, and better, photos are available here.
I managed to track down a used Canon RF 800mm and I've been trying it out during my limited trips this month. It has a fixed aperture of f/11 and doesn't let in much light. The squirrel picture below was taken at ISO 25,600 and -1 exposure compensation just to get a reasonable shutter speed. Even the R6 is noisy at that level and the first image shows the original photo with the just the exposure adjusted. Lightroom noise reduction gives a very soft photo but I've been amazed by the results from DxO PureRaw. Topaz DeNoise has been my main tool for high ISO images in the past but I prefer the results from DxO. I've also tried it on some old pictures, all the way back to my Olympus E3, and it seems to work wonders every time.
August usually triggers my annual complaint about the summer being the worst season for both wildlife and landscape photography and 2021 has been no different to any other year. I know we should all be thankful that many of the Covid restrictions have been lifted, but that has been a double edged sword with visitors flocking to our local area.
There are a few new photos below, although the two from Ennerdale were actually taken in July and I forgot to add them earlier. The swifts and swallows have left, rowan trees are full of berries and the first leaves are turning so autumn is on the way. Hopefully September will be more inspiring.
I'm finally switching to Canon mirrorless after months of dithering. My Panasonic G9 and various micro 4/3 lenses have been traded in for an EOS R6 plus 24-105mm. Hopefully I'll pick up the RF 800mm lens next. I've kept hold of the Canon 90D with the 100-400mm and the 400mm f4 DO and I have an adapter to use my old EF lenses on the new camera. My first impressions of the R6 are good and if everything goes to plan all the Canon DSLR kit will also end up being traded for the RF 100-500mm and 14-35mm lenses.
July 2021 - Coll
I had a great week on a Naturetrek tour, exploring the island of Coll and sampling the wildlife and landscapes. We saw otters on 4 out of 6 days and I managed to take some decent photos for a change. The orchids and beaches were another highlight.
A selection of my favourite photos from the trip are below and the full set can be viewed on the Field Trips page - https://andynayler.photography/coll-july-2021
If you don't know anything about Coll try this link - https://tnmcoll.com/pdf/IloveColl.pdf
Life, or more correctly work, has been a little chaotic so I haven't been out with a camera as much as I would like. There are lots of baby birds around but at this time of year a lot of wildlife remains quite hidden, protecting their young. July and August can often be the worst time of year for wildlife photography but I have a trip to Scotland planned and a break will hopefully recharge my batteries.
My usual walk from the front door is about 5 miles and carrying a heavy camera and lens has been giving me a lot of pain in by back and neck. I've tried various different straps and bags but even the lighter micro 4/3 equipment has left me struggling. After a lot of searching online I've bought a Sony RX-10 iv bridge camera with 24-600mm zoom. So far I've been very impressed and even used it on my first big day out to Dumfries and Galloway, leaving the Canon in the car. I've split the photo grids below into bridge camera photos and DSLR/mirrorless. See if you can work out which is which.
The highlight of the month has to be an early morning during the Easter break. A lovely sunrise, rabbits and roe deer in the fields, and then an otter. As a child I never thought I would see an otter in the wild so to see one on a walk from my front door was a dream come true.
As lockdown restrictions have slowly eased I've started to venture a little further afield. The trails are all open at Leighton Moss but none of the hides. I'm not sure why you can visit the hairdressers but not sit in a draughty wooden building with all the windows and doors open, but I'm sure the RSPB have guidance to follow. After resisting the temptations of the Lake District for 3 months my wife and I drove 15 minutes up the road for a walk near Coniston. The first car park we passed was already full at 9:30am so we found somewhere quieter and walked up Beacon Fell. It may be a very busy summer in Cumbria.
March 2021 New Home - New patch
65 bird and mammal species in the first month, just walking from the front door. Local habitats include: estuary, saltmarsh, raised bog, river, farmland, birch wood, coppiced wood, and conifer plantation. I have a six mile walk that takes in all the different areas and I usually set off just after dawn with my Panasonic G9 and 100-400mm (the Canon kit is just too heavy). The local ospreys should arrive soon and the adders and lizards will start to emerge so lots to look forward to.
We're about to move, in the middle of lockdown, to a house overlooking a nature reserve. I've bought a new Swarovski scope ready to watch the wildlife from the window and I thought I'd try digiscoping. You can buy kits to attach a DSLR to the scope but I've just been using my iPhone held up to the eyepiece.
The 2 photos below were taken at Foulshaw Moss, about a mile from my current house for anyone worried I've been ignoring restrictions. The picture on the left is taken from the viewing area for the osprey nest. The orange rectangle in the middle shows the section covered by the picture on the right taken through the scope. I think it is a couple of peregrines in one of the dead trees. I'm very impressed!
So, we start the year with Lockdown 3.0. I managed one quick trip to Leighton Moss at the very start of the month before everything closed down again. There were a few bearded tits in the reeds along the causeway but, with the pools frozen, not much else to see.
The middle of the month brought a bit of snow so I enjoyed a morning photographing the birds in the garden and then a nice walk in the afternoon to keep up my daily exercise. I don't remember seeing a blackcap in January before so catching one in the snow was nice. It turned up a week later to be included in my RSPB Garden Birdwatch, with 14 species in total.