Issue 1 March 2012
Macro Tips Improve your insect photography
West Coast Journals Adventures in OZ
Scilly Twitcher Tales from a birderâ€™s eye view Feature on Pink Footed Geese
A Wild Goose Chase
Wild-Eye Wildlife and Travel Magazine
image by Cain Scrimgueor
A welcome from the editor......
Hello and welcome to the first issue of Wild-eye. This magazine is the culmination of a number of students hard work over the last couple of years. Although containing work predominantly from the Wildlife and Media course, it also has contributions from the Animal Conservation students too.
With technology constantly redifining all we do it is more and more important to use it as a positive weapon in the fight to aid conservation. No longer can we rely on articles in newspapers to highlight the plight of some of the worlds most endangered animals and habitats. The public want instant media. They want to be able to see something before itâ€™s even happened (well not really, but near enough). Blogs, websites and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are the vehicles from which this battle must be fought. Well why wouldnâ€™t it? Facebook gets millions of people trawling itâ€™s pages daily. This compared to even the most popular television station or newspapers who pale in comparison. Wild-eye aims to showcase all of our work and to promote our individual blogs and websites, while also raising important issues in the world of Natural History. You will find many interesting articles as well as tips and tricks to improve your own photography skills. Hopefully this magazine will inspire you and others to take an interest in your own environment as well as giving you a great deal of pleasure.
Conte Page 17 - 20 Tracking for Dummies Page 21 - 22 Donna Nook Grey Seals Wildlife Photography Society Page 23 - 24 Donna Nook in Pictures Page 25 - 26 Wildlife Art CornerPage 27 - 28 Total Film Review Page 29 - 34 The Coral Coast and Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia Page 35 - 40 Woodland Funghi Page 41 - 48 Macro Photography Page 65 - 66 Scilly Twitcher Page 67 - 72 A Woodland Story of Hope Page 73 I Spy an Aye Aye (Featured Second Year Expedition) Page 74 Flower of the Month Page 75 - 76 A Backpackers Trip to Kaikoura
Whatâ€™s in this issue
ents Wild Goose Chase Cain Scrimgeour Follows the fortunes of the Pink Footed Geese in Strathbeg
e of Wild-eye?
Raptor Persecution How the UKâ€™s Raptors still face persecution
Around the Wildlife Blogs All the best images from the students
Wild Goose Chase The story of The Pink Footed Geese at Loch of Strathbeg Article and Images by Cain Scrimgeour
Back in late August I was contacted by RSPB North Scotland, who presented me the opportunity to produce a short promotional film for their Loch of Strathbeg Goosewatch events. The Geese were due to return in early October in the beginning of my 3rd year at University; therefore I had a maximum of one week to collect the footage. A very daunting task. To paint a picture of how daunting this seemed I have to first describe the reserve. The Loch of Strathbeg is located an hour and ten minutes North of Aberdeen, six and a half hours from my North Tyneside home. It covers 1000 acres of mixed habitat from the
seashore all the way up to deciduous woodland, with everything in-between, although the main area being the Loch itself, which is Britain’s largest dune loch. I would be based at Starnafin Farm, the offices for reserve staff with accommodation for volunteers. From here I could access the visitors centre, which provides views over ‘The Low Ground’, an area of pools and wet grassland, broken up by drainage channels and ‘The Tower Pool hide’, which is a ten minute walk through farmland, which provides views of the same area, but also a larger panoramic of the reserve. The two other hides on the reserve have to be driven to; the ‘Fen Hide’ and the ‘Bay Hide’ are ten minutes away by car, and a further five minute walk to the from there. The ‘Fen Hide’ is at the Western point of the Loch’s ‘long arm’. The walk down takes you along a boardwalk through damp woodland, populated by Alders and Birch that dwindle away into a large reed-bed, which surrounds the hide. The Bay Hide looks over a large panoramic view of the reserve facing North, with a ‘Bay of the Loch’ beneath it. These four vantage points give visitors a good overall view of the reserve with most areas covered, although the reserve has another larger area relatively unexplored
No matter how much recognizance or research visits I made prior to the proposed filming week, I would not of got a true understanding, or idea of the task ahead until my subject arrived, the PinkFooted Goose. Up to 60,000 geese, 20% of the world’s population visit the reserve by anyone, apart from the reserve staff. This area is the reserve shoreline and dunes. A twenty minute drive from Starnafin Farm, through country lanes and farmland brings you into a large grazed area of the dunes, and a ford across ‘The Cut’, the Loch’s only outlet; this is as far as you can get in a car. A relatively short walk east brings you out onto ‘The Lagoon’ a small estuary like environment hidden in the dunes, right beside the sea. Walking south after ten-fifteen minutes you reach ‘The Plantation’ a stand of mature weather beaten Scot’s Pines, alien to their environment. From here there are no more reference points or land marks, only the shoreline, dunes and loch working their way three miles South towards Rattray Head.
I’ve set the scene, a large empty, relatively unexplored tract of land, a wilderness. Navigating this land, in terms of vantage points and light I felt relatively confident as luckily in late July I spent two weeks as a residential volunteer on the reserve, spending every minute of every day out and about exploring this massive reserve. These two weeks became my reconnaissance for the filming to come. Without these two weeks my task would have been a great deal harder. No matter how much reconnaissance or research visits I made prior to the proposed filming week, I would not of gained a true understanding, or idea of the task ahead until my subject arrived, the Pink-Footed Goose. Up to 60,000 geese, 20% of the world’s population visit the reserve in October. The Loch of Strathbeg is their first touchdown, from their Icelandic breeding grounds,
where they rest, feed, and then continue their journey south, to Norfolk. A large amount of my time the week before I set off was spent researching the Pink-Footed Goose, its habits, behaviour and also what in terms of art, photography and footage had been captured before. I also looked at historical references and the reserve’s past blog posts. In terms of the geese on the reserve, I knew that they roosted, rested and fed on there, but I also knew that on first arrival they were sporadic, with no clear routines in place, until the majority of birds had arrived. There was also the possibility that there would be no geese on my arrival. In this time I also planned the end product to a tee, with the knowledge of behaviour and prior media I developed a shot list and by liaising with the RSPB I developed a story line in order to express passion and inspiration, as well as the joy of the spectacle. I felt I was ready. On the 1st of October I began my long journey north; thankfully the geese had started arriving. Pulling up to the reserve at 15:00 on the Saturday I was greeted by Diana Spencer, the Visitor Officer for the reserve, who had originally contacted me. She informed me that there were geese present, but not in spectacle making numbers as of yet. Eager to get started, and to try and get an idea of goose movements, Diana and Kathryn Newton (long term residential volunteers) drove me down to the Lagoon where the geese had been seen going to roost. Diana was determined for me to get some footage and stills of the geese on the beach, as this was a fairly unknown and undocumented behaviour on the reserve. On arrival there were no geese present on the Lagoon, although they were about, with some on the loch. Apparently Strictly Come Dancing was about to begin so I was left, with the promise of a lift once it had finished. Sitting at a vantage point I waited for the sun to set and the geese to arrive, none arrived on the lagoon, but instead on the loch. This provided me with their time of arrival, being 18.30 and the position and direction of incoming birds, mainly south and west. It was Sunday and the beginning of an early day. A goose count had been planned. This is a nationwide count of geese leaving their roost sites in the morning and a wealth of volunteers and staff took up vantage points all around the reserve in order to count the birds leaving to feed. We had to be in position by 06:30 at the latest and so I followed Vicky Anderson (Reserve Warden) and Emma Cuthbertson (Assistant Warden) to the south end of the Loch. This was towards Rattray Head, where the majority of the geese were thought to leave. A number of geese did leave, although a large number were present on the beach, uneager to move. The ‘har’, the Aberdeenshire fog
closed in and the count was abandoned, 12,000 geese, a disappointing start for the staff. The reserve’s Goose Festival was planned for the rest of the day and I hoped to gain some public interactions and inspiring images. Unfortunately the ‘har’ hung around and only a few visitors ventured out, the second disappoint for the staff that day. The following morning was a re-scheduled goose count where I joined Diana and Emma at the south end. The morning was glorious, beautiful pink, orange and red skies, and geese! This turned out to be the only beautiful sunrise I witnessed in my week stay. There seemed to be a larger number of geese and clear conditions, which provided good counting opportunities, I filled up on sunrise shots, as well as shots of the staff counting. A large number of geese were again present on the beach, and reluctant to move, so an accurate count couldn’t be made, although the figure was pushing 20,000, with at least 5,000 on the beach. Due to the Diana’s eagerness for me to get beach shots of the geese, I headed down to the area were the geese had left from in the morning. It didn’t take much scanning of the untouched beach before I picked up on a large amount of feathers and goose droppings in my binoculars. After further investigation the ground was covered in faint goose foot prints, mostly covered by the
blowing sand. I found the denser area of activity and set my hide up on the windy beach. Even though this beach was largely unvisited and human free I had bumped into a few dog walkers on my wanders and it was not practical to take all of my equipment with me at all times, so my hide also acted as a store. To prevent curious dog walkers from following footprints to the roost and also to prevent them finding my hide and equipment it was important that I left as little trace as possible, which when travelling through dunes and sand is difficult! The quote by Chief Seattle came to mind ‘take only memories, leave nothing but footprints’ and it dawned on me that sometimes in our field of work this isn’t practical. We may only take memories (or media) and leave nothing, no footprints.
“take only memories, leave nothing but footprints” and it dawned on me that sometimes in our field of work this isn’t practical, we may only take memories (or media) and leave nothing, no footprints.
Unsure if I would return or whether or not the hide would be blown away I nervously went off to explore the dune system and take a vantage point over the loch, leaving the majority of my kit in the hide. I enjoyed close views of Kestrels and Common Buzzards who were using the dunes to glide along, with no movement in their wings. Hidden by the marram grass they passed overhead undeterred. As the light began to fade I returned to my hide to spend the night, one goose was present on my return. The night was windy, but comfortable, and I appreciated that the roof was still over my head. I woke to find my sole goose friend sitting on the sand, without his 4,999 mates; now a standing joke amongst the RSPB. My hide became the most important piece of equipment in my holdall and the majority of sunrise and sunsets were spent in it for the remainder of the week. Although I had used portable hides a number of occasions prior to filming the geese, I had never filmed wildfowl from one before. The hide and field craft, which joins it was so important to my task of filming the geese at close range due to the use of the surrounding land. As the
geese numbers build so do the shooters, on all sides of the reserve boundary they wait for the geese that venture out to feed. Due to this, the Pink-Footed Goose is very wary of man, especially when in flight. Something which makes a wildlife photographer and filmmakers job twice as hard when trying to gain natural, unaltered behavioural shots. With the issue of approaching the geese, there was also the possibility of flushing the geese, an unacceptable act in my own ethics of wildlife photography, which was re-enforced with my observations on the reserve. When the geese were disturbed through a ground predator or someone made a noise, some would lift, before returning after a short while. Others would head off from the reserve to other more favourable feeding grounds. As they headed off into the distance gun shots soon filled the air. This highlighted the importance of field craft in order to prevent unnecessary disturbance, which could ultimately lead to the death of the individuals being filmed. This is something that I will always remember as I progress into a career. Filming the geese coming into and leaving their roost was one of the greatest wildlife experiences I have ever had. After I had located a suitable site to setup the hide,
it could be left over night, which at least gave me another half an hour in the morning. Although 05:00 starts were the latest I was to see and with a twenty minute drive and a forty-five to an hour walk, the hide was still some distance away. It was on the Wednesday morning where I found myself speechless, unable to do anything but watch through the small hide windows. The hide had to be approached in the dark as not to flush the geese. Walking along the Loch edge I could feel that there were more geese than on previous days. Settling down in the hide, waiting for
the sun to break the horizon, the noise steadily built, becoming deafening. They began to rise, flying within metres of the hide on all sides and in all directions. I was right in the middle of it all. Time passed quickly, and before I knew it I looked out to find geese surrounding the hide. They were feeding on the short grass created by the rabbits amongst the dunes, a few hundred birds at least were grazing. This was my first close feeding encounter of the week. Filling all my memory and depleting all my battery I sat in the hide for ten hours, until the nearby military base sounded its test alarms, disturbing the geese and giving me a window to leave. A truly unforgettable
experience, which I didn’t expect to get much better. From Wednesday the geese settled into a regular roosting pattern, rarely visiting the beach, but allowing for daily behaviour to be predicted and arrival times to almost be on the dot, dependant on weather. They began visiting the Low Ground and reserve fields for a large part of the day, so my filming was directed back towards the visitor centre and ‘Tower Pool hide’. ‘Dr Goose’ and ‘Dr Goose’s hide’ had been mentioned a few times. It wasn’t until one of these filming sessions that I learned its exact location, and due to the current behaviour of the geese I had to
visit it. Vicky showed me how to get there, and the next morning I arrived in the dark, losing my bearings initially. ‘Dr Goose’s hide’ was used for some very interesting surveying by Dr Goose himself. It was located in the centre of one of the reserves many grassy fields, where the geese were now feeding and resting. Dr Goose would visit a few times a month to count juvenile geese and to look at family groups. A big task amongst thousands of geese. From this he could gain an understanding of the summer breeding, as in their Icelandic home it’s impossible to gain a figure due to their nesting habits.
Surrounded by a barbwire fence to keep the cattle out, you have to crawl into the hide through a small door. A computer chair sits in the centre and rectangle shutters giving all round views, with a shelf beneath. It wasnâ€™t high enough to stand in, nor wide enough to stretch your arms out, but it was comfortable. It allowed me to setup my MacBook so that I could transfer footage as I went. Once I had removed the shutters and glass I waited accompanied by a curious cow now and again. In the gloom six geese could be seen, still at a distance I scanned through them and found one with a neck ring, CGJTU. He was first ringed on the 26th October 2003 in Aberdeenshire as an adult male, making him at least eight years old. His time had been spent in the majority on the Moray Firth, although also in Aberdeenshire and in 2008 Martin Mere. As the light built geese could be seen heading to the Low Ground, and I felt that I had missed my opportunity. I spoke to soon as four hundred geese joined me, coming to an unbelievably close range, in brilliant light. I filled up on footage. Footage that eventually made a brief appearance on Autumnwatch. Once I thought I had obtained all the footage I needed my attention turned to the three hundred plus Lapwings that were feeding around the hide. Engrossed in these close encounters and the behaviour of both species I clocked up over ten hours in the small hut, worth every minute.
The time spent preparing for project, and time on the reserve has been the most beneficial experience I have had. Learning a great deal of new skills, and how to combat issues that will arise in the future, but also giving an insight into my life ahead.
Click Here to view Cain's Goosewatch Video
Tracking for Dummies Seeing more in nature
Written by Robert Brumfitt
Tracking is an art which is slowly vanishing in the 21st century; an ancient skill that was once essential for the survival of mankind Tracking is an art which is slowly vanishing in the 21st century. An ancient skill that was once essential for the survival of mankind is now only possessed by a small minority of people. Tracking allows the individual to enter into the mind set of the animal and the signs it leaves behind reveal a wide array of information about it, from species, size, weight, sex, age and the list goes on. This article will look at the basic principles of tracking, a skill that is vital for photographers and videographers who want images of wildlife of a more elusive nature. Like most skills, tracking is something that can only be developed through constant practice. The first steps towards noticing the tell tale signs left behind by wildlife
is through having a basic knowledge of the subject involved, understanding their behaviour as well as the habitat in which they are found. The fundamental tip to notice more is simply. Move slower. In this day and age we rush about our daily lives and we never really take the time to stop and slow down. When you get outdoors it is vital that you slow your pace. If you think you walk slowly already, slow down some more. Moving fast does not only scare away wildlife, it limits the amount of information you can process regarding your surroundings. Once you slow down, more things will start to appear.
Wet sand and snow let us see the presence of animals more easily with footprints and trails worn through the vegetation
Now you have began to slow down... begin to stop. Stop frequently. Survey the ground ahead of you as well as at your feet. The things to look for are disturbances in the surface on which you are walking; anything that is out of place or isn’t following the general trend. Disturbances in the soil, a trail of grass pushed in one direction, they all stand out even to an untrained eye. Tracks are always more visible on surfaces which are easily disturbed; wet mud, sand and snow are good places to start your search and in these conditions even the most evasive of creatures can’t refrain from leaving a print. Once you have found a print or disturbance there are two logical steps: first is to try and identify what the animal is and secondly to follow the trail. Identifying a track can be a simple or challenging process. When you track it is a good idea to bring a reference guide (Something which you can to refer to in order to recognise a track). There are numerous books and guides out there, which catalogue a wide array of animal tracks and will help you identify your subject. It is also handy to take a notebook to record your findings or take photographs of the track (which you can refer back to). Similar to detective work, tracking is about putting together pieces of a puzzle
in order to solve it. Sometimes you may find a track that has been damaged or is hard to read. When this happens there are steps which can be taken to gather more information: . Continue to follow the trail to find a clearer print. . Look for other signs. The other signs left by an animal can be various or specific. Look for signs such as scat, damage to plants and trees, lays or the animal itself. A good tracking book or guide will usually help you to identify different kinds of scat, the tell tale feeding signs of a specific animal and what a lay/nest/burrow may look like. You need to ensure you look out for the animal itself, even if you don’t know what it is. When tracking it is vital that you don’t focus solely on the floor. Look ahead and around yourself. Switching between the two when following a trail will lower the chances of your subject escaping your gaze and if spotted will help in identification almost instantly. When you think you might have identified the track or want to pursue the trail further another set of skills are required. Approaching any wild animal is a difficult task; it requires a basic understanding of senses. As we all know, most wild animals have senses, which are far better than our own. Better senses of smell, hearing, eyesight, you name it. When following a trail and
trying to catch a glimpse of your subject you need to take all of these into consideration. The next set of guidelines will enhance your ability to approach an animal and require far less skill: . Always try to approach a trail with the wind against you (the wind carries your scent and will alert any animals of your presence). You can lick your finger or throw some torn up grass in the wind to determine its direction. . Try to refrain from wearing cosmetics or anything that may smell unnatural. If you are planning to go out tracking or observing wildlife, as uncultured as it may sound, try to refrain from washing beforehand. If you do, use a soap which has a natural scent, for example a bar of pine scented soap. .Wear neutral and earthy colours as this will help break up your outline in woodland or any other natural setting. These are colours animals associate with regularly therefore you are more likely to blend in this way. Also if you want you can wear camouflaged clothing, it will help but it is not essential. . Move slowly and try to make as little noise as possible. This may sound like common sense but it is worth mentioning. Most animals have incredible hearing and
nine times out of ten they will have heard you before you get anywhere close. If you follow these simple rules you are more likely to find your subject and even if you donâ€™t, tracking can be satisfying none the less. Tracking is like reading a story, the more you read the more enticing the story becomes. Helping you to understand an animal further and the way in which it lives. Hopefully this article has covered the basics of animal tracking and has provided an insight into a skill which can be extremely rewarding and interesting. The only extra advice that can be given is to first of all purchase a reference book; there are so many good books out there, which catalogue animal tracks and signs. The most important factor however is to get out and do it! Tracking will bring you closer to nature, improve your awareness and give you a sense of accomplishment. Itâ€™s a skill that once developed will stay with you for a lifetime and hopefully lead you on many unique adventures of your own.
Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony
Wildlife Photography Society Trip By Sian Hill
On the 18th of November a group of students, including myself travelled to Donnor Nook Nature reserve in search of Grey Seals. This was organised by third year Wildlife and Media student, Cain Scrimgeour. Not only is this site an nature reserve but it is also a RAF bombing and shoot range. Most of us found the irony in this. Obviously the bombing was discontinued when the seals came to give birth and mate, as they only land on the beach once a year. Before we travelled, there were pre-warnings about getting too close to the pups, as the cows will abandon them. There seemed to be a bit of conflict between the wildlife photographers and the conservationists. The photographers would like to get “that shot”, even if it requires getting too close. On the other hand getting too close may cause the cows to abandon the pups because they will smells of humans. With this in mind, I was happy to see that there was a fence between the tourists and the seals. This allowed them to roam with minimum human interaction. It was nice to see that the seals did still come fairly close to the fence, which gave us the chance to get “that shot”. The most memorable moment of the trip for myself was on the second day. We woke up early to miss the tourists and to get the best light. As we were waking down the beach there were similar sites to the previous day; mothering and fighting seals,. Unknown to us, further down the beach there was a cow giving birth. I got there seconds after it happened, although the sight after was still impressive. The pup was steaming, wet and bloody, big eyed from the new sights of the world. I was so enchanted by this I didn’t manage to get any photographs, but the image and memories will always stay in my mind. Image Paul Mitchell
Donna Nook in Pictu The Wildlife Photography Society
Wildlife Art Corner
by Adelle Sophie Gough
Tip - Working with chalk pastels on canvas or paper
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trusts’ Donna Nook National Nature Reserve is host to some 3000 grey seals, providing a vital marine reserve for Britain’s population, which is considered important in conservation internationally. The colony spends most of the year out to sea or congregates at resting spots around the coast, but every October to December, these aquatic acrobats lumber up onto the shore to give birth near the dunes. This spectacle brings us over 1300 pups every year, and who could ask for more than to be amongst the singing bellows of grey seal mothers as they protect their wide eyed young. It is a great privilege to be feet away from these curious newborns peering down your lens as they begin their lives in the wild. If you have specific tips you would like to see, or have art you have created that you would like to be included in the next issue, simply email email@example.com with images or questions plus your name and course for your chance to feature! These amazing creatures are the inspiration behind this issues art lesson.
Grey Seal Pup Donna Nook
Keep your surface upright so that you can see the whole image – this way the proportions of the animal you are capturing stay true. Start with a simple drawing, but don’t use an eraser. Work from a photograph if this helps. Work with the graphite until you build up a rough outline to guide the pastel colour. This will build character in the piece.
Begin to add the colour. Don’t be afraid to use obscure colours, this will only add depth before adding more realistic tones later on. Use heavy blocks of colour relating to light and shade and blend with your fingertips.
Continue to layer the colour and coat with hair spray at regular intervals to fix the chalk. Layer, layer, layer!
Once the base colour is in place, you can start to add the finer details - it helps to use hard pastels for these For sharp highlights (essential for the eye “catchlight”), press white pastel onto the surface and dab, blending as little as possible. For shadowing or fur effects, rub soft pastel onto your finger and dab onto the drawing where needed. This works particularly well with black, as too much of the pigment can overpower other colours. Continue to use hard pastels to add fine details such as whiskers, until you are happy with the final product! Fix with hairspray to complete the piece.
Media students, conservationists and just ordinary wildlife enthusiasts. Even those who just changed channel to avoid the X-Factor. Every
First off, the latest masterpiece from Sir David Attenborough, ‘Frozen Planet’. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen them already. From the dramatic imagery of life on the poles, to breath-taking landscapes, every episode takes us deeper into the struggle wildlife faces in the harshest climates in the world. Points of interest include the stunning underwater sceneries and the ‘making of ’ insight into the producer and cameraman having to live in a small hut trying to film penguins and the risks they have to go through just to get the shots they want. Future film makers beware! Any negatives? Not really, except perhaps that it lays in the same format as every other Attenborough film. Ever. There’s nothing really new or original in the style or production. But maybe familiarity in this instance is best? Release Date : 2011 TV
My Rating : 5/5
One Word : Stunning
yone likes wildlife films. They teach us, entertain us and make us go ‘Oh No!’ when some unsuspecting seal gets eaten by a killer whale.
Mysterious Miniature World
Next is a strange film I picked up a few years ago. ‘Mysterious Miniature World’ is a slightly cheesy, yet quite informative insight into bugs and beasties not usually considered for good wildlife film, things like, flies, spiders and even rats, later spanning across to lizards, frogs and hummingbirds. Laid out like a 50’s science fiction drama, it features some beautiful macro shots, informative voice overs and engaging, if not a little cheesy music. Negatives include the voice over, which does get a little irritating, and the content, which doesn’t really seem to flow logically. More of a film to be watched in a science lesson I think. Release Date : 2007 DVD
My Rating : 3/5 One Word : Interesting
In the next issue The Cove
Last Chance to See
(A hard-hitting documentary about the whaling issue in Japan)
The rarest species on earth and their final struggles as shown by Steven Fry and Mark Carwardine
Europe - A Natural History The changing landscapes and life from billions of years ago to now, all across Europe
Got any films you’d like to tell others about? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Coral Coast and Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia Journal extracts by Ella Nodwell
Western Australiaâ€™s Coral coast stretches from Jurien Bay
in the south up to the small fishing town of Exmouth in the north, 260kms of which lies the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef. A haven for brightly coloured fishes, rare turtle species and the famed whale shark that visit the crystal clear waters between March and June, this is one of the largest and most unique reefs in the world. Fringing so close to the shore, there is no need for boats as you can step right into this marvel straight from the beach. Travelling with two comical Canadians, we spent just over a week exploring everything the Coral Coast and Ningaloo Reef had to throw at us, during which time I wrote these journal entries...
Tuesday March 9th 2010 Hamilton Station – A 24 Hour rest Area
Shopkeeper with crazy beard – ‘Go snorkelling at Whalebone, there’s no algae there so you can see the sharks coming’ Chris – ‘What?!! Is there sharks here!?’ Shopkeeper with crazy beard – ‘Well it aint called Shark Bay for no reason son!’ The itinerary of the day included the first stop; the stromatolites at Hamelin Bay Telegraph Station. The 1.5km walk in the boiling 45 degree heat made me unsure if they were really worth it as they just looked like rocks but learning that they were 3.5 billion years old and began all breathing forms of life made me grateful of their existence and willing to walk 20 minutes for them. It was amazing to see their small air bubbles popping on the surface of the water and to realise that without these little guys none of us would be here. The second stop was Gaulet Bay, recommended by ‘shopkeeper with crazy beard’, The snorkelling here seemed a bit dull until I was swimming back and suddenly a huge school of fish were surrounding me at every angle, maybe 200 of them and they weren’t shy! Other than that I spent the most part snorkelling in fear of the sharks, especially considering the murky nature of the water. We then headed to Whalebone
where we didn’t snorkel but paddled to keep cool then onto Eagle Bluff. The boardwalk enabled us to spot (I think) lemon and nurse sharks and some other dark, large and rather alluring shapes in the water. All in all Shark Bay is an amazing marine park, unspoilt, quiet and beautiful with some incredible lookouts and not a soul in sight. It was time to continue north though as we had the Ningaloo Reef up ahead! So we headed to Denham, which was pointless as it was way off track but the guys found a good tent and completed some standard chores. The emu casually wandering down the middle of the road made it worth the trip for me and provided some amusement. We needed to backtrack in aim of making it to Carnarvon before dark, but instead had to reside in a 24 hour rest area next to the road. Not completely ideal, obviously no showers and the long drops smelt so bad I used the bush, but at least the rest area provided a camp spot until sunrise. Much star gazing later we went to bed to the beautiful sound of a road trains engine running all night long.....
Wednesday 10th March 2010 24 Hour Rest Area – Coral Bay The morning mainly consisted of fixing the car in the rest area – for which I learnt how to change an oil filter! Then the drive to Coral Bay... One nice lookout took us to a pile of stones which people had marked with memorial messages. This was a really heart warming thing to see especially in the middle of nowhere. For the majority of the journey we were inundated with termite mounds, covering the landscape as far as we could see and most of them towering over 6 feet. We
stayed in the caravan park that night and went for an afternoon snorkel. The beach wasn’t quite as beautiful as I had remembered it and as the tide was so far in the snorkelling seemed disappointing. Dinner that night was a beautiful couscous with sweet potato mash and more decent wine...thank you Margaret River. I was very happy to see there were no flies and it was such a cool night that we woke up in the morning with dew and sticky tree sap covering absolutely everything!
Thursday 11th March 2010 Coral Bay – Exmouth Cape Range NP The day began with more car problems, I kept waking up in the night to a strange whirring noise, but when I awoke properly in the morning I couldn’t figure out if I dreamt it or if it was real. Soon enough I realised that all the doors had locked themselves in the night, definitely a central locking problem! After nearly an hour of being locked in, we got the doors opened and took out the fuse. Manual locking from now on, Damn. We then headed out to the reef again and it was awesome!!! Two and a half hours of snorkelling in amazing coral, heaps of fishes (including a few too big for my liking) I dived down loads with my expensive new snorkel which was definitely worth the purchase. There were hardly any people there and swimming far out in to the reef made all the difference as the corals and fish changed drastically. It felt like I was in finding Nemo. Coming out of the water through the pink coral spawn (which I later found out is what attracts the whale sharks at this time of year) I soon realised that my peculiar way of kicking has once again given me a dodgy knee. Walking shall be fun for a few days. After a beautiful outdoor shower, literally that amazing that I had to go back for a second one and wash my hair, we headed to Exmouth. Just before arriving we spotted the 11km drive up to Cape Range NP, which was definitely worth while as the winding uphill track took us to views that were breathtaking. I’m not usually a fan of gorges as they generally involve
at least a 1.5km trek in sweltering heat but this was drive-through so ideal! Exmouth wasn’t really how I expected it; I don’t really know what I expected as I knew West Coast towns were sleepy, laid back and unpopulated. For some reason though I expected a bustling hub of people and activity and I was quite excited by the presence of new human beings but no, just another sleepy town, two IGA supermarkets right next to each other? And a really misleading advert for whale shark tours, ‘$160!! Usually $360 –Early bird special!!’ When enquired we discovered that you pay $160 then once they find the whale shark you pay the extra $200 if you want to jump in the water. So you pay $200 to jump in the ocean with your own snorkel. Fair enough they have a spotter plane but there seems to be a grey area between ludicrously priced tourist activities and nature, so we decided to save our dwindling dollars. After not much deliberation and some tension over whether to stay in town or head into the Cape Range NP to camp, we chose the latter. T-Bone and Lakeside were full but we soon stumbled across NEDS campsite and a nice spot surrounded by trees and shade. We set up camp for the night, ate our extremely hot curry, made up some constellations and hit the sack.
Click Here to view Ella's Underwater Video
Friday 12th March 2010 Cape Range NP- Cape Range NP
Bloody Kangaroo’s!! I woke up this morning to discover our whole new loaf of wholegrain bread (I was excited after white coles budget loafs) had been stolen by a kangaroo. The whole loaf! Just the bag left and a pile of dung right by the back of the truck, which I’d left open after this morning’s dramas, so right by my head! Can they really eat that much? Anyway we still had some watermelon so brekkie wasn’t completely ruined and I discovered the beach only a few metres away was perfect for a morning wash, nearly as good as the outdoor shower! We headed straight to Turquoise Bay and being so early in the morning not one soul was there yet. The snorkelling was obviously exceptional, not so much coral as coral bay, obviously, but a lot more variety of fish and a massive abundance of them. We had to take care not to be carried into ‘The Gap’, an area where the tides meet the reef sucking you out to sea which could easily result in death. Luckily just walking out into the ocean a few metres the snorkelling was amazing, with a lot less risk. We soon spotted a huge ray chilling out under a ledge and my fear of big fish seemed to vanish and I spent more time chasing them. After 2 hours of snorkelling we were starving and decided to eat our cheese and crackers before heading to oyster stacks, which I’m beginning to wonder whether it was my favourite snorkel area. There were so many more fish here than anywhere else and the stacks themselves were incredible to snorkel through and around. There were some huge schools of fish hanging out underneath the ledges and the area was shallow and close to the
shore so it seemed a lot safer than some of the other spots. I say this until we found a blue-ringed octopus in its hole, which in theory should be more terrifying than any shark, with one touch leading to paralysis. However, he seemed unthreatened and so did we. I think it was my favourite spot because if I was a fish, this would be the area and fish community that I’d like to live in. Being 2.30pm Chris and I thought it would be a good idea to begin the 7 hour drive to Karijini NP. This was much to Chris’ dismay as he wanted to spend more time on the reef and go for an early morning snorkel so we did just that and headed back to NEDS to find a camp spot. It was hot and there were loads of mozzies and flies doing everything they could to annoy us, not to mention the killer ants! Adam disappeared for a very long time while Chris and I cooked up a stirfry, whilst watching an incredible scene of a kangaroo standing on a hill with a lightning storm breaking out in the white clouds behind him...I mean incredible! A very long time turned into full darkness and after Chris went to look for Adam along the beach returning unsuccessfully we started to worry a little. However he finally showed up and had spent the last few hours engrossed in conversation with some other Canadian campers, tut tut, he did bring us back a box full of free food though!
Saturday 13th March Cape Range NP- Tom Price
Exactly a week since we left Perth! So, early this morning I went down to the beach for the standard Cape Range morning swim, it was somewhat overcast and I was the only one on the beach so I decided to have a proper wash and shampoo my hair (natural plant shampoo, so no effect on the marine life) . All of a sudden I spotted some fins a few metres away from me, my natural instinct was to think sharks and I panicked quite a lot before realising it was actually a pod of dolphins! Brilliant! To top it all off I spotted a couple of turtles surfacing so I hurried out of the water to grab my snorkel and fetch Adam and Chris. We swam around for a while and soon enough I spotted the two turtles underwater which was awesome and something I’ve always wanted to see. They were quite timid and shot off quickly but it was something quite special to see them in their natural habitat. Unfortunately the dolphins got away but I soon found another two octopi (I think blue ringed). We then headed to Lakeside to our final snorkelling spot on our Ningaloo journey. The only animal we were all dying to see now in its natural habitat was a reef shark, unfortunately this didn’t happen but the highlight was soon to come and after swimming around for only about 10 minutes a curious turtle swam past then slowly glided through the crystal clear water as we followed behind it and luckily caught it on film. It was so undisturbed by us being there and so peaceful in its environment that I felt like a part of its underwater world. Something that I’ll never ever
forget. We left the Ningaloo reef that afternoon to head inland through torrential downpours, whilst dodging cows on the blocked roads and driving 80km down outback tracks in the dark towards the mining town of Tom Price. ‘Top’ town of W.A actually meant highest and not ‘top’ as we once thought. Yes it all made sense... it was a shithole. We were greeted by swarms of flies and mosquitoes and a $43 dollar fine for arriving at the campsite late. The downpours actually made a welcome change after all this heat but I’ll certainly miss the magic of the Ningaloo Reef and remember that place forever.
Appreciating and Identifying Species : A Photog
For those that have yet to delve into the strange but fascinating world of fungi, even entertaining a small interest, there are some superb specimens to be found and new unusual photographs to be taken. Mushrooms and toadstools still hold a fairy-tale mystery around them that can hold a little magic in low light or atmospheric photographs. They encapsulate elements of still beauty, vivid colours or accentuate in small subjects the intricacy of life. Furthermore, what other subject offers a budding photographer such an opportunity for variations of form, richness of colour, subtleties of texture and high abundance of subjects themselves? They don’t move about much so you can plan shots to put yourself when and where you want to be, to be able to get a great image. One of the main factors why fungi are neglected is the boundary that often confronts people when common names no longer apply and Latin names become the only means of accurate identification. How on earth are some of these words even pronounced? Bonoboss precarious, is that even a real thing? From experience I can say that approaching Latin names isn’t difficult, I promise, but it will take some work. You may notice all Ink caps are Coprinus in Latin. If you can remember the common group names that describe the Latin names you will find it surprisingly easy. Not all fungi will fit into these ‘boxes’ but the majority will. Wax caps are Hygocybe etc, etc. It’s a case of getting your eye in and carrying on learning, building your knowledge. Although I make a photographic point of view, where naming a species in question could be argued not as significant, I write this article with the same, if not more intent, of encouraging those interested to get out there and become small fungi fanatics at identifying a comparatively little studied group. The whole idea might seem daunting to many. After all there are between 2000-3000 species of mushroom fruiting fungus in the UK. It will take many seasons of knowledge to hone your I.D skills and of all species we generally encounter fungi offer good odds on the discovery of new species all the time, so long as you know what you’re looking at. The problem beginners have with identification, of anything for that matter, is just that. Where do I start, everything looks the same? This is because they usually are not ‘looking’ at what they are trying to identify, more to the point because they don’t know particularly what they are looking for to help them. This should not be a problem for any budding fungus identifier if they follow this simple premise. All species can be narrowed down to at worst a manageable small handful or more usually two or three species by discounting all known characteristics about every other group until you disregard so many that there is almost a tick box list of things that mean it can only be this, this or this. If you can become fluent in all the main characteristics that divide groups then this grounding for identifying any fungi species you come across will help immeasurably. This is where the years of practice part comes in. Apart from easily identifiable species, learning a books worth of fungi Latin names is a gargantuan, say impossible task and the use of multiple books is usually required for positive identification. Not only because illustrations can be at times more informative than photographs but because no fungi book is a complete species list with full descriptions. Those people that go out with one little book in search of edible fungus are often wasting their time. Identification is not always easy but then again that’s sometimes part of the fun.
graphic Introductory Guide
Woodland Funghi Identification
by Steve Williams
Group name: Boletaceae Common group name: Bolets Name: Leccinum Identifiable by: Not gilled like most fungi, holes of pin hole size are instead present which
is highly diagnostic of all Bolets, note the coarse scales partially coating the stalk and light hazel coloured cap. Bolets also often have flesh that turns blue when broken and exposed to the air. Rates of reaction and appearance can also help aid in identification.
Group name: Coprinus Common group name: Ink caps Name: Coprinus micaceus Common name: Glistening ink cap Identifiable by: Its more cinnamon colouration
in comparison to other closely comparable species, black gills
Group name: Coprinus Common group name: Ink caps Name: Coprinus comatus Common name: Shaggy ink cap or
Identifiable by: Identifiable by: Commonly occurring species, easily identifiable in appearance.
Group name: Tricholomataceae, Armillariella Common group name: Honey fungus Name: Armillariella mellea Identifiable by: Colouration of cap, grouped in occurrence, ‘scales’ on cap, elongated white stalk
Common group name: Sulphur Tufts Name: Galerina mutabilis Identifiable by: Sulphur tufts appear, as the name suggests, in orange coloured clumps in
good density’s usually. It can be identified by its ‘double disk’ cap, i.e. light central colour changing to a surrounding darker colour, and also its ‘scaled’ stalk that ends shortly before reaching the cap.
Books to look out for.....
Name: Leucopaxillus giganteus Common name: Giant funnel-cap Identifiable by: Its size, decurrent gills, funnel shaped appearance, wavy margins
Group name: Lycoperdaceae Common group name: Puff-ball fungus Name: Lycoperdon perlatum Common name: Common puff-ball Identifiable by: All puff balls are readily identifiable by
their round shape and often slightly spiky texture. Often white in colouration.
Group name: Oudemansiella Name: Oudemansiella mucida Common name: Porcelain fungus or
Poached egg fungus
Identifiable by: Distinctive species, highly
recognisable. One of a number of fungus where the common name is often more memorable than its Latin name.
Macro Photo by James Ewing
How to Improve your Insect Photography With all forms of wildlife photography one of the key aspects of taking a successful photo is to portray the subject in a way it is not usually seen. One of the great advantages to macro photography is that you are shooting a subject that cannot physically be seen in anywhere near as much detail by the naked eye. Photographing the tiny, unseen world of invertebrates, especially insects and spiders, can convey them in an entirely new light, capturing the beauty of their minute detail and extravagant colours. Alas, even with a substantial selection of quality macro lenses available in the market, shooting at high magnification is not an easy task. But hopefully some of these tips will help you to understand and improve your techniques in digital macro photography.
For ‘true macro’ photography the easiest and most efficient way to achieve good results is to use a lens with 1:1 magnification. What this means is the image projected on the camera’s sensor can be up to the same size as the real subject. For smaller subjects this will greatly improve the quality and magnification of the photographs. Although for some larger subjects 1:2 magnification (up to half of real size) can still produce some nice results. The images below were all shot with a Sigma 70-300mm f4 Macro lens with an enlargement ratio of 1:2.
ography 70-300mm 1:2 lens 1/200 sec, f/11, ISO 500
70-300mm 1:2 lens 1/250 sec, f/13, ISO 500
Focal lengths of macro lenses range from 50mm to 200mm, and itâ€™s important to remember that they are all prime lenses with fixed focal lengths, so no zooming! The advantage to having a greater focal length is that you will not need to get as close to the subject to achieve 1:1 magnification. This can make life a little easier when trying to get a shot of a skittish butterfly or a tucked away spider.
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 1/125 sec, f/13, ISO 640
Another way to increase the focal length is with a teleconverter, which sits between the lens and the camera. For example, using a 2x TC on a 50mm lens will effectively increase your focal length to 100mm, doubling the working distance needed to capture 1:1. The shots below were taken using a Sigma 150mm f2.8 Macro 1:1 and were a lot easier to take with the added distance between the lens and the subjects!
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 1/250 sec, f/13, ISO 640
Depth of Field and Flash
The main limitation with increased magnification is the depth of field. The more magnification you have the less depth of field you get. This leads to higher f-numbers needed to keep the subject in focus, which in turn reduces the amount of light exposed due to smaller apertures. The best way to combat this is to use an external flash, although there can be some drawbacks such as glare and reflections. These are outweighed by the freedom to increase your depth of field and capture a more detailed photo. On a budget I still find the cameraâ€™s built in flash effective, with a decreased power level helping reduce glare. Generally speaking it is best to stay at the high number apertures, from anywhere between f16 and f32.
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 1/200 sec, f/18, ISO 800
Camera shake is an important factor to consider with high magnification, with the slightest movement by free hand holding becoming emphasized greatly through the lens, especially with the added weight of some of the heavier macro lenses like the 150mm and 200mm. A tripod can help significantly with helping you to keep your shallow depth of field focused in the correct spot. One drawback is that the tripod, coupled with using a prime lens, can limit your freedom to move quickly to frame and compose a
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 1/200 sec, f/14, ISO 640
shot, with some insects like flies and bees rarely staying in the same spot for more than a few seconds! It pays to be patient sometimes and wait for the insect to come to you. For example when trying to photograph a bee pollinating a flower, rather than chasing the bee from one flower to the next choose a flower and compose your shot, then when a bee lands to collect its reward you are already set up to take the photo with just the click of a shutter.
Once you have all of these techniques in your head the next step is actually finding a subject and taking a photo to be proud of! Composing a shot of an insect can have its advantages and disadvantages but here are a few tips to keep in mind > They’re everywhere! There’s always an insect waiting to be found underneath an unturned rock or down in the underbrush. You will notice considerably more if you learn to keep a sharp eye on your smaller surroundings when you are outside. > Learn about your subjects: Find out where you can find them and what time of year they are found, there’s no use going out to try and find a Spider in the snow! Some species are easier to photograph than others and will happily sit still for hours while you compose your shot. > Capture the subject in a unique pose or perspective: avoid aerial shots; everyone knows what an insect looks like from high above, get down to their level. > Pick the right time of year: Most insects are seasonal, being most plentiful in the Spring and Summer. > Start early: Morning photography not only benefits from softer light conditions but, being coldblooded, insects are less active in the cold of the morning and some of the speedier species can be photographed with greater ease as they warm themselves up for the day ahead. > Be patient: Some days you may find an abundance of subjects and other days you can struggle to find one. But keep in mind that they are out there! > Move slowly: Our considerable size compared to an insect can easily scare off your subject, even the cast of your shadow can be enough movement to convince them it’s time to fly off. Move calm and slow when approaching your subject.
> Manual exposure: shooting on manual settings allows the greatest freedom with exposure when needing to use extreme apertures and fast shutter speeds. > Manual focus: this allows greater speed of taking a shot, not relying on the camera to find the subject. The easiest method is to focus your lens at the desired magnification and simply move the prime lens closer or further from the subject until the desired area is framed and in focus. > Keep the background in mind: A macro subject can become more defined with a clear and simple background. With high magnification background detail is usually just made up of out of focus colours, this can work in favour of the composure of the photograph if framed correctly. > Be respectful: Remember that insects are the same as any other member of the environment and deserve the same amount of respect and responsibility by us to be conserved for future generations to enjoy. You may think killing one insect to get a nice shot is fine but it all has an effect! Hopefully some of the information in this article will inspire and aid you in taking some macro photographs of your own. The rewards of capturing your ideal shot can be great and the portrayal of the unseen world of insects can be one of real beauty.
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 640
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 1/125 sec, f/11, ISO 640
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 0.6 sec, f/16, ISO 200
150mm Macro 1:1 lens 1/200 sec, f/14, ISO 200
Other Students Macro Images
Around the Blogs The section features the editors choice images from the Wildlife and Media students blogs Featured Blog of the month - Cain Scrimgeour Since an early age the natural world has had me hooked. Through the influence of my family, wildlife has always been a deep interest. I was born in North Tyneside in 1990, my main interest grew to be Birds, and one bird set in motion what is now my passion. In the summer of 2004 I found Holywell Pond. My first visit to the members hide saw me looking into a Great Crested Grebe nest through a telescope. From then I began visiting as often as I could. Noting what I seen on each visit. One morning I bumped into a local birdwatcher who set me in the right direction, teaching me the skills of birdwatching, further reinforcing the spark which had just been lit. This man was Eric Galloway. Holywell became my second home.
Raptor Persec Now tell me, if the United Kingdom were to have its very own pride of Lions, would we stand by and watch as they were hunted, trapped or poisoned? Raptors are the United Kingdom’s crown jewels. We don’t have the majestic Tiger prowling through our woodlands and long gone are the days Elk and Wolves roamed the highlands of Scotland. Unlike many other countries, we are devoid of large carnivores. Even our herbivores are petite in comparison to elsewhere. Our nature lacks the brutal force of big cats and dogs. We will never have a pride of Lions, nor do I expect will we ever see a wild pack of Wolves range free in our lands again. We do however; have some beautiful, feathered predators. Our Birds of Prey surely more than compensate for our lack of teeth and claws? They boast impressive talons, hooked beaks and baffle us with their adaptations. Although Owls are scientifically classified in a different order to the remainder of Birds of Prey, I am including them amongst the Raptors for the purpose of this article. Raptor is taken from Latin, meaning to seize and plunder with force – Owls fit this bill! So, from the Little Owl, our smallest native Bird of Prey, to the Peregrine Falcon, the fastest creature on the planet and the White Tailed Eagle, with its 9ft wingspan, our Raptors should meet our desire for the cunning and lethal killers we seek out around the world. Even the name ‘Raptor’ advertises the predatory nature. Not convinced? The United Kingdom have a variety of Birds of Prey, the list is quite extensive. More than likely you will have witnessed the Kestrel as it hovers on a roadside verge, seeking out a Short-tailed Vole. The Marsh Harrier sails over her hunting ground; wings held in the characteristic V shape, languid and relaxed with her head down similarly searching
for her prey. Now tell me, have you been a witness to this? Still looking for something with more force? How about the Sparrowhawk; these long-legged, agile aerial hunters often take you by surprise, zipping over a hedge. They catapult around trees and extend their talons at the precise moment to snatch a retreating Blue Tit. Or even a pigeon if you’re watching a larger female! Regardless if you hold our Raptors with such esteem as the planets mammalian predators or not, almost everyone experiences a thrill of excitement if they see a Bird of Prey. They are awe inspiring and often breath-taking. Why then, is the United Kingdom’s crown jewel’s still under threat at the hands of humans? During 2010 alone, the RSPB received 128 reports of raptor poisoning incidents, affecting at least 129 individual birds. Another 227 reports of destruction or shooting of Birds of Prey were filed. Egg collecting incidents totalled 40. Even with numbers this high, it is expected that actual figures will be much higher – many incidents will go unnoticed and will not be reported. Many of our Raptors are already facing environmental pressures including habitat loss, climate change and reduction of prey availability. Following the harsh winter of 2010, breeding pairs of Barn Owls in some areas of Northern England, Scotland and Wales were down a whole 90%. Despite being fully aware of the struggles our iconic countryside Raptors are dealing with, we (including the government, the media, the wildlife crime officers and the general public) sit by as onlookers while unresponsible people commit crimes against them.
by Rachel-Anne French
Image Cain Scrimgeour
has a job to do, and why would you want it to be more difficult? Unfortunately though, it may be said that many gamekeepers feel that the law may not apply to them and nothing should make this acceptable. A key example is that of the Hen Harrier – this is our most intensely persecuted raptor. Its link to predating grouse throughout the summer months has led to much conflict with gamekeepers and estate owners. Nests of the species have often been destroyed, as well as individuals being shot, trapped or poisoned. A 2008 survey found that only five pairs nested successfully on ‘driven’ grouse moorland in northern England and Scotland. Sufficient habitat exists for 500 pairs. Despite the evidence and the obvious low numbers of our Raptors this illegal persecution still continues. Now tell me, if the United Kingdom were to have its very own pride of Lions, would we stand by and watch as they were hunted, trapped or poisoned? Of course we would not. Similarly, the public will not stand by and allow the government to cull the Badger, despite this species being in high numbers and arguably the cause of Bovine Tuberculosis. With this in mind, I cannot comprehend It is fair to say that some control is executed by bodies how the public, the government and the wildlife crime such as the RSPB and the wildlife crime officers – but police are still allowing persecution of our Birds of Prey. it is not enough. In 2010, there were only 49 individual prosecutions involving wild birds. In comparison with For some of our Birds of Prey times are extremely difficult the number of reports and what the actual number of and if things continue we may find that we can appreciate illegal killings would be if all uncovered, this number them much less often. Even our humble Kestrel is in pales into insignificance. Many of those found guilty leave decline! Surely a car journey will be much less enjoyable with only a fine – 14 of the 49 received were given prison without the site of a little Falcon hovering by the roadside? sentences (11 of these being suspended sentences). The The Barn Owl is struggling more every year, both the punishments or chance of getting a punishment obviously Long-Eared Owl and Short-Eared Owls are seen less and do not deter nor dissuade these people to commit illegal are most likely suffering due to habitat loss, combined raptor killings – despite it having been illegal since 1954! with the reduction of prey items. Our Merlin and Hobby are a sight for sore eyes. It was long since that I witnessed Now you might ask, who on earth would want to go the aerial acrobatics of a Hobby in pursuit of a Swallow. around deliberately laying poison and traps or shooting our winged beauties? This is the part where our story becomes even more awkward. It has long been known that gamekeepers have controlled ‘vermin’ across their shooting estates to protect the valuable grouse that they rely upon. We can look back at shooting records, handed in by individual keepers to see exactly what they dispatched – which before 1954 always contained hawks and owls (often huge numbers of them). Gamekeepers claim that they have reformed and that they are not to blame for the continued demise of raptors but much evidence is to claim otherwise. Not to tar all gamekeepers with the same brush but I cannot omit that a great deal of evidence points the finger of blame towards the shooting fraternity. To clarify, I am not biased – I myself have worked on a shooting estate and understand how they function. I sympathise with gamekeepers, everyone
I hope that our country will wake up and realise the error of its ways. Scotland is already one step ahead of England with the introduction of new legislation. This recognises that those who persecute Birds of Prey may do so at their employer’s discretion and enables punishment to be given to those who instigate the crimes. To end on a positive note; our Sparrowhawk and Buzzard have increased in numbers and continue to do so. Although, the large rise in the number of these predators is causing some controversial discussion. That will be an article for another time! I ask you now, to show your support and sign the petition to push England’s government to follow in the footsteps of Scotland. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23089
Image Paul Mitchell
Fanatical birder Ashley Howe shares some of his birding experiences on the Scilly Isles
Scilly Twitcher by Ashley Howe
This autumn has been dominated with westerly winds, due to a near continuous series of low depressions whipping across the Atlantic from North America. In the nineties, the Isles of Scilly was always traditionally known as a magnet for American vagrants to Britain, however, since the turn of the century Scilly appears to have lost its way and has nearly fallen off the birding map. With the ideal weather forecast predicted, perhaps this year is the year where the Scillies place themselves back on top form! The autumn exploded into action in mid-September with an unprecedented influx of Nearctic waders that involved Semi-palmated, Buff-breasted, White-rumped, Baird’s and Spotted Sandpipers in record breaking numbers. Amongst these came the hoped for; Least Sandpiper, that remained for just one evening on private land in Hampshire and a Greater Yellowlegs which was promptly re-identified from its close cousin; the Lesser Yellowlegs on the Camel Estuary, near Wadebridge, Cornwall. The bird went to roost nearby on its first morning and was swiftly relocated the next morning feeding down-river on the low tide. With this news I found myself racing from my home county, Hampshire, down to the South-west in the hope of connecting with this difficult bird. With regular updates whilst enroute I was quietly confident that I had this one in the bag and would surely see it. However, on arrival whilst pulling up in the car park; I heard news that the bird had flown up river towards where it roosted the previous night. The remaining 3 hours of light that night were spent in vain trying to relocate the bird with nothing more than a juvenile Sabine’s Gull as a minor consolation.
Later the same week played host to the first American passerine of the autumn; a mobile Red-eyed Vireo on the Isles of Scilly. This was an early record and got many birders excited by the fact that there could be more passerines caught up in the weather systems tracking west towards the British Isles. From all the American passerines to have occurred in Britain, it is the wood warblers that are the most sought after. Many of which have only ever been recorded once and even then, their stays have been either very brief or on some of the most far flung and inaccessible islands, so with the predicted weather forecasts, this year seemed a good a year as any to hopefully deliver! By Saturday, 17th September I found myself heading down to the South-west again after a wholly unconfirmed report of a Northern Waterthrush on the Isles of Scilly the night before. As hoped for, the Waterthrush was confirmed at first light, but by the time I got to Penzance the boat had already sailed and the planes and helicopters were fully booked for day trips. It looked as if my efforts had been wasted. I went to go see a fresh juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs at a nearby reservoir while I thought about what to do next – whether I cut my losses and head home again or sleep in my car till the next available crossing. Whilst doing so, news came through of another American vagrant on the Isles of Scilly; a Black-and-white Warbler and like the Northern Waterthrush it was a species I had never encountered in Britain before – the last recorded was as far back as 1991!
At this point my obsessive nature kicked in and I needed to get over to the Scillies by whatever means possible. Another conversation with the travel operators at Scilly Travel revealed one possible alternative that would require me to pay the sum of £180 for a helicopter flight and to then stay on the island for three days and come back on Monday. I didn’t have to think long. Within the hour I had flown the 20 or so miles to the island of St. Mary’s where I was promptly on the lookout for my query. I was only one of five twitches’ that managed to get on the island that day – no doubt hundreds more would be making the pilgrimage if the birds were to stay until Monday. It was a tense few hours, late in the afternoon but thankfully I managed to connect with both elusive birds in rainforest-like terrain before darkness. Views were brief and not at all satisfying but at least I could say that I had seen them. It was now time to start looking for a B&B with vacancies. Surprisingly, the following day both birds were still present and so I managed to obtain much better views of both. The Warbler was creeping from branch to branch in the canopy in pursuit of any insects it could find, whereas the Waterthrush skulked in the undergrowth and occasionally bobbed along the water’s edge of its favoured hidden pool in the half-light. I managed to grab a few shots of each with my camera before deciding to go and explore the rest of the island. There was plenty of other worthy birds to see, with a tame juvenile Solitary Sandpiper in a rather peculiar spot; the Newford Duckpond. This was probably the first time it had ever seen humans and so was not at all bothered about approaching me while it probed the mud for invertebrates. While photographing this bird I accidentally flushed something from further along the
track. It had large blue panels in the wing so I had some initial thoughts as to what it might be, investigating, I soon found the bird sat amongst Mallard on the duck pond and it confirmed my suspicions. It was a juvenile Blue-winged Teal – fresh in off the Atlantic, completely shattered as it could hardly keep its eyes open as it fed. I was delighted to see that at the end of the day this bird seemed to have recovered and was now likely to survive. Further up the road was a lingering European Bee-eater from the summer. The golf course held 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers and an immature Dotterel – again these were very approachable and allowed excellent photographic opportunities. Monday came, as did hundreds of birders from the mainland who attempted to connect with as many rarities as they could in their very limited time allowance on the island. Unfortunately for most there was not enough time in the day to see everything and so the majority left with mixed feelings. Presumably the same Red-eyed Vireo from earlier in the month reappeared for a few moments before disappearing again and a Woodchat Shrike put in an even briefer appearance on the approach road to the airfield just as I was about to leave the islands after having the most memorable three days birding of my 10 year career. The Isles of Scilly continued to hit the headlines in the birding world throughout the autumn with more North American vagrants found as well as lesser rarities from the continent. Co-incidentally, only two days after leaving the islands I found myself over there again in the pursuit of a Baltimore Oriole. I’m sure many will agree that the Isles of Scilly have well and truly reinstated themselves as the place to be during autumn passage!
A Woodland Story
How a proposed woodland extension is creating an extens
Trees and woodland have always held a certain mystic to myself and many people throughout the world. Described as the lungs of the planet, these green oxygen farms are home to millions of plant and animal species and play the most important of all roles needed for human existence. In an age where man has exploited and raped the planet of almost all of its resources, any remaining forest needs to be cared for and preserved; not only for the plants and animals living within it, but for humanity itself. While China industrializes in the East and America continues with its greed driven consumerism in the West, the planet
is quite literally on its knees begging for mercy. Resources are being stretched like never before and the wooden wheels of this old neglected cart are falling off. Thousands of years of evolution has created man. Man is supposedly the most intelligent species on the planet, but yet itâ€™s unable to learn the simplest of lessons. Weâ€™ve left the woodland and abandoned nature, instead choosing to sit and play computer games, drive big fuel thirsty vehicles and destroy the one thing that can counteract the damage caused. Acre upon acre of rain forest is being cut
With an increasingly gloomy outlook, little rays of light penetrate the dense canopy of greed and lend themselves to a more sustainable future for our planet. An initiative from Carlisle City Council along with part funding from the AONB North Pennines, an ambitious plan to plant an 10.8 hectare woodland has now begun. The new woodland will link two important wildlife habitats in the Brampton area. Gelt Woods and Talkin Tarn will be joined by the planting of 11,000 native trees ranging from large Sessile Oaks to smaller more shrubby trees like Holly and Hazel. This will create an extensive wildlife corridor linking two important ranges of habitat. This will not only attract new species of plant, animal, bird and invertebrate, but will also support the growth of the existing population.
y of Hope
sive wildlife corridor in Cumbria by Paul Mitchell down for timber. Mass grasslands for crops and cattle are created, the latter, which themselves is one of the biggest contributors of global warming. Britain, resembling more of patchwork quilt rather than the expansive woodland of the past has bought into the same ideology and is left paying millions of pounds per year to farmers in way of subsidies. Most of our wild mammals, two thirds of our breeding birds, more than half of our butterflies and moths and one sixth of our flowering plants are dependent on woodland, so it‘s importance is profound.
The first link in the chain is Gelt Woods, a lush, magical ancient woodland that lies at the foot of a deep gorge following the River Gelt. The Gelt snakes through the trees, carving a path through its soft sandstone bedrock. A Chinese Taoist inspired inscription found on a wooden sculpture created by artist Vivian Mousdell reads, ‘Soft yielding water overcomes the hard rock, low flowing river overcomes the high crag‘. This compares a human’s journey through life to a rivers path through a rocky landscape and seems fitting when used in the context of this article. The sandstone, which encapsulates this green oasis has for centuries been quarried. Its stone has been used to help build Hadrian’s Wall and can be seen in the construction of many local buildings. Nowadays the woods have become an important habitat for many species and is a designated site of SSI. Managed in part by the RSPB with Brampton Parish Council, the woodland is home to many species of bird, invertebrate, plants and animals. Pied Flycatchers, which are rare to the area, nest there and the raking calls of the resident Jays resonate through the dense foliage. Greater Spotted Woodpecker can be heard drilling the dead wood and Nuthatches skip from tree to tree. The large trees also play host to one of Britain’s most threatened mammals, the native red squirrels. These can often be seen foraging in amongst the beech nuts strewn from the abundant beech trees and provisions are also in place to protect them from the invasive Grey Squirrel species, which has decimated the population in other parts of the country. All of this provides a stable and safe area for the population to expand further and will hopefully play a small part in the recovery of one of the countries favourite wildlife pin ups. The second link in the chain is Talkin Tarn, a small kettlehole lake, shaped by the effects of the enormous pressure from the glaciers 18,000 years ago. Folklore tells the tale of an old witch who was turned away from all doors in the village, who was later to exact her revenge on her rejecters
by casting a spell and flooding the entire village. The management of the tarn was taken over by Carlisle City Council in April 2006 and a 10 year action plan implemented by Country Park Manager Fiona Shipp means that the park is in safe hands for years to come. The plan outlines measures to increase habitat, aid conservation and to heighten the profile of countless number of species living and passing through the area. Used as a municipal facility since 1972, the park has many walking trails, boats to hire and cafĂŠ facilities. A local rowing club who use the tarn to practice have recently invested in the park by building a purpose made boat store and club house. A lot of the facilities have been renovated or built in recent years, providing the public with a boat house, which also holds art exhibitions, an education building to support the parks ongoing educational work and many disabled facilities, making it a truly accessible place for people from all walks of life. With a strong emphasis on being eco-friendly and self-sufficient the park has its own wind turbine, water and air derived heating system. They have wood burners that are fuelled by coppiced wood grown on site and local Herdwick sheep wool is used as insulation. These sustainable measures provide the staff and public with hot water and heating in all public areas. The Tarn itself is home to many resident Coots, Moorhens, Swans and Mallard ducks. The winter brings migrant wildfowl like the Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Smew, who graze on the Tarns abundant supply of pond weed. The surrounding woodland plays host to many more bird species. The Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Fly Catcher, Brambling and many other bird species all nest on site. The introduction of a new Red Squirrel feeding station provides the resident population with
much needed food through the harsh Cumbrian winters. Badger, Fox and Roe Deer are also some of the more evasive animal species to spot, but they are there never the less. Many species of wild Orchids adorn the forest floors and are protected by the park staff. Blue Bells, Snowdrops, Crocuses and Daffodils are the first of the spring plants to add colour to a pale landscape awakening from a cold winter slumber. The planting scheme itself is already under way with the first 2000 trees being planted by various school and local groups. The strong relationship built with local schools through the parks educational programs has enabled Country Park Manager Fiona Shipp to call in many favours. The children, whose generation will be entrusted with the future of the planet are getting involved in what will one day become their legacy. Planting the trees will hopefully teach them the important role that the woodlands and forests of the world play in the creation of not only habitat for our animals and birds, but also as the providers of the one thing we cannot live without, oxygen. The local rowing club who use the tarn have also been getting involved in the tree planting, putting something back into the place which they love. More tree planting is planned for next year, but unfortunately for this year the growing season is now over and planting them this late would result in the tree becoming damaged, if not killed. On a more personal level, being a local lad myself I have enjoyed these two areas for many years. Many a day has been spent walking the trails, sitting eating lunch while watching people feed the ducks and in more recent years the areas have become a massive source of inspiration for me in my photography work. There is no better sight than that of the sun dropping below the hills to the west of the tarn as its water develops a blue shimmer and itâ€˜s ripples seem to freeze like the windblown surface of a mountain. The last remaining people head to their cars and the birds skim the surface of the tarn and forage in the trees for their final meal at the end of a long day. Then comes the night shift. Bats begin to stream out of the derelict Tarn Hotel, which lies on the side of the tarn and owls can be seen hunting in the surrounding fields. The bird and bat calls become more vibrant as sight is replaced by sound and it is then that you realise who this place really belongs to. Country Park Manager Fiona Shipp is both the guardian and bastion of wildlife at Talkin Tarn and her and her colleaguesâ€™ hard work and planning has enabled this scheme to go ahead. Unassuming in appearance, yet forthright in her actions she gave me a great insight intoo
the place, which for years I had taken for granted. Many things that we donâ€™t see are now required to keep these places as they should be. No longer can we rely solely on Mother Nature to do her bit while the human race bludgeons these magnificent areas for its own gain. Schemes like this are a great way to not only improve the health of this ailing planet but are also a great way to educate its residents about the importance of looking after what we have and preserving it for future generations. The next time you buy your Oak furniture or sink your teeth into a nice imported Argentinean steak please spare a thought for the people working to repair the damage caused by our societies mass consumerism. Think about how you yourself may make a small difference. Do you need to take your car to the local shops, do you really need that Solid Oak table in your living room, is it essential to cook an extra six steaks, twelve sausages and ten burgers on your barbeques just for them to be thrown in the bin. Instead think about getting involved in similar schemes, offset your carbon by paying subsidies or planting your own trees. Many airlines today give an option to offset the Carbon used from your journey by investing it in the planting of new woodland and forest and for the conservation of existing ones. The planet is not ours to exploit and plunder; only by working at repairing the damage caused by previous generations can we ensure that our future generations will be able to enjoy the same quality of life as our own. Then maybe they too can walk through lush forests and enjoy the sights and sounds of the wildlife surrounding them.
The planet is not ours to exploit and plunder; only by working at repairing the damage caused by previous generations can we ensure that our future generations will be able to enjoy the same quality of life as our own. Then maybe they too can walk through lush forests and enjoy the sights and sounds of the wildlife surrounding them.
Flower of the month by Daniel Sencier
Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell) The delicate beauty of this tiny flower was in abundance as I walked the coastal path at St. Bees Head this summer. The five violet-blue petals are fused together to form a bell shape about 15mm long. Behind this are five long green pointed sepals, and for all its glory, the flower is scentless. They seemed very popular with the bees but these flowers can also self-pollinate. The seeds produced in a capsule about 3mm long are so tiny that you can hardly see them, but when they germinate, they can compete with the tallest of grasses, with amazingly rapid creeping growth. They prefer dry grassland with poor nutrition, but these tough little guys can be found growing in cracks in walls, on cliff faces or even in sand dunes. The first hard frost takes down all the flowers but the Harebell is an evergreen perennial, with the heart shaped, toothed leaves staying green throughout the winter. Harebell leaves can be eaten raw in a salad and are often found in ancient recipes. An earache remedy can be made from the root and the crushed flowers can form a wash that is said to be good for sore eyes. Chewing the roots is said to be good for depression and may even help to treat heart and lung problems. On the down side, the devil is said to be close to this flower, and witches use it to turn themselves into hares. If eaten by mortals it would allow them to see the fairies and goblins of the magic world. The flowers were known by ancient Britons as â€˜Dead Manâ€™s Bellsâ€™ and would never be picked, which did ensure their survival rate. But on a more peaceful note it is the county flower of Yorkshire, and I bet you thought that title belonged to the white rose?
Featured 2nd Year Expedition many around, leaving our chances of seeing one quite slim. However, not seeing one of these hideously lovely beasts won’t put a dampener on the overall expedition, there are still plenty of other critters that should grab our attention!
Image Trish Waller Most of you that know me should have heard by now that myself, Carly Horwood, Trish Waller and Carla Harman have chosen to go to Madagascar next Spring for our student initiated expedition, on a quest of a lifetime - to find and film the illusive Aye-Aye! The Aye-Aye is a fabulously-disgustingly-cute critically endangered lemur. It is only found in Madagascar in specific areas, only comes out at night, and to add more to the struggle of being able to find one – it’s very shy and hides away in high tree canopies.
One of the main animals in the reserve is the Indri – an endangered primate that is the largest of all the living lemurs. They don’t have the classic long lemur tail; however, this is compensated for by their long powerful legs which allow them to jump from tree to tree with ease – sometimes jumping up to 10 meters at a time! The eerie calls they make to each other can be heard from over 1km away – definitely a sound experience I am very much looking forward to being enthralled by! Chameleons and different types of frogs also inhabit the area. With a lot of the conservation efforts focusing on the amphibians, this should hopefully make our documentary diverse – showing more fauna than just mammals, which conservation projects can often lean towards.
At first glance it may appear to be something seen in a horror film or nightmare! However after taking a closer Covering 710 hectares, there are many areas to be explored look at the anatomy of this animal you start to see it in a and film. Making this documentary on the reserve will allow us to be able to gain further knowledge into the lives whole new light. of these creatures and in the long-term help to promote With it being the only Primate to use echolocation to Association Mitsinjo – which are the main conservation obtain food you have to give it some credit! Tapping on tree team in this area. branches with its grotesque long finger and listening for movement inside the tree allows it to detect where insects We can’t let the Aye-Aye, Indri and other magical creatures and grubs lurk. Once the area has being pinpointed, the of Madagascar become a distant memory, so hopefully lemur will perform the surgical task of biting a small hole our expedition will have a positive outcome towards the in the tree, inserting the long skinny digit into the area lives of the African fauna and our documentary efforts where it thinks the unfortunate insect will be hiding while will help Association Mitsinjo in the long run. poking it out and feasting on the goods! It’s getting nearer and nearer to the time for us to depart to Madagascar was once a richly diverse country, but it’s Madagascar, so everything is getting very exciting in the sadly no longer the lush green land that it once was. build-up and admittedly - I’m quite nervous too! However Deforestation has caused 4/5 of the beautiful land to the sheer passion we all have to get to Madagascar is be demolished. Humans have caused this destruction; outweighing the nerves and hopefully, if all goes to plan, however there are still some kind-hearted people that are we will have an amazing adventure! desperately trying to help the animals get their habitats back by creating protected areas, so that the fauna can live To find out more about our expedition, see what fundraising we are planning or to kindly donate to us in peace as they once did before man stepped in. and help us reach our goal, please check out our website The national park we are planning to focus on - ‘Andasibe www.isaii.org.uk. Mantadia’, has an abundance of flora and fauna including many species of Lemurs, Reptiles and Amphibians. The Aye-Aye is present in this park, however there are not
A Backpackers trip to
Kaikoura by Holly Brega
My travel story began at the age of 15. Actually it would have been even earlier due to my parents who travelled South Africa and exploring throughout my whole childhood - documenting it has become second nature. When planning trips, especially wildlife trips, I have come to the conclusion a plan is a bizarre concept; no matter how much you plan, how much thought and detail has been considered, it will change. The beauty is to expect the unexpected, which is impossible but it is what makes every single experience different. Kaikoura, a small town on the sea front is a favourite place of mine, located on the East coast of the South Island in New Zealand. I stumbled upon this community towards the end of travelling where organised work for free accommodation was the set-up, the three day stop longer hikes around the mountain range, including the over turned into three weeks. I had fallen in love with this three day Kowhai- Hapuku trail through the range. place, the people and the lifestyle, constantly exploring I have many happy memories from this small town mountains, beaches, coves and dried rivers. waking up at 4am to watch the sunrise over the sea was Fyffe was the name of one of the Maori whaling families a truly majestic moment, and our boat flying over the in this area and they used the land wisely, by making the waves as we headed out to sea to find some inquisitive most of the natural sources and creating food, medicines Dusky Dolphins, who are known for their acrobatic skills and timber for canoes. The Kaikoura mountain range in and out the water. One great morning was spent with behind Mount Fyffe is home to many rare species of the Dolphins - we soon realised after a few dives just animals and plants. Mount Fyffe stands at 1602 meters how intelligent they really are. In the water we witnessed looking over the peninsula of Kaikoura; the walk up takes their communication clicks, synchronised swimming and around five hours and can be combined with many other agility. They are truly magnificent creatures. Another
beautiful morning was spent sitting on a pier accompanied by seals watching the morning glow from the warm amber sun. Down at “Meatworks Bay” the sun shines over the crystal blue water, the snow-capped mountains, and a large seal population.
The wildlife Kaikoura offers is endless; there is a small hidden path leading off from the main road called the Ohau Stream Walk. Following this path will take you to a waterfall which acts as a kindergarten for seal pups. There are hundreds of pups happily swimming, playing and retrieving the sticks from the water; it is a perfect place to retreat to after a day’s work. The evenings were spent relaxing in a clearing upon the side of a hill overlooking the peninsula with inspiring snow-capped mountains illuminated by the setting sun, listening to blues, playing the acoustic guitar. I was in true backpackers’ bliss.
and a something a little unusual to finish off on.......
The White Roe Deer by Ciara Laverty
On one of my trips into the woods to do some filming, I caught a glimpse of an animal that completely took me by surprise. The weather was terrible, the wind howled and raged through the trees while the rain pounded heavily off my hide. I had been sitting there for one long, cold hour and a half and was beginning to give up hope of seeing anything. Then a completely white roe deer walked out from between the trees. Excitement pulsing through me I quickly tried to focus my camera and got a short shot of it before it disappeared back into the trees again. When I arrived home I researched all white roe deer, and found that they are extremely rare with fewer than a dozen recorded in the last 60 years. Knowing this I feel so privileged to catch a glimpse of such a rare creature.
Click Here to view Ciara's Leusistic Roe Deer Video
Image Ciara Laverty