Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Ten favourites from last year

"Red Squirrel in Snow"

Happy new year to you all. To start off this year I thought I would share ten of my favourite photos, not necessarily my best, by ones I particularly like that I took last year. 2016 was a slow year in terms of my photography, I took a lot less photos than I usually do due to various reasons, but I still caught one of my favourites I have ever taken... this red squirrel in the snow.

This was a fun morning, we had a dusting of snow here, nothing worth while... but a spent some time gathering up as much as I could off the hand rails in the copse to form this little pile here. Then calling the squirrels over, I was lucky to get one climb on top and look straight at me. Animals in the snow always look good, the contrast of the colour against the white really makes them stand out and look vibrant.

Buster is a real character, one of my favourite otters, and I am yet to have a portrait of him that I really like... maybe that should be one of my aims for this year. This is one of my favourites though from earlier this year, in a rare moment where he stood still for a few seconds.

You know I always look forward to the dancing adders, last year was no different, but looking back I was disappointed with the photos I took. Probably because I am being too fussy, but I have taken some lovely ones over the years that it is difficult to get something different. I am still after a unique portrait though, and this is pretty close to what I have in mind. Sharp head fading in to the background. Bit more work needed on this, but a good reminder of spending time with these lovely animals.

I had to include one from the bluebells. So many to chose from, last years bluebells shoots with the members were some of the best we have done. Conditions were almost perfect, and despite the lack of bluebells compared to previous years, we still managed to get some lovely pictures. This is Aluco, a tawny owl, in the bluebells.

Of course I had to share one of the wildcat kittens again too, a good year for us with breeding them, and this was one of my favourite portraits. One of the kittens at about 5 weeks old.

Not the best photo by far, but a fun one that makes me smile. One of our female polecats, Cassie, with all 8 of her kits causing trouble.

I really like this one of one of our harvest mice being released. It's not as good as my more well known harvest mice shots, but for some reason I really like it and used it a lot last year for work.

Another huge success for us last year was breeding two long eared owl chicks. They are both now mature and flying well in our displays, and it was great fun documenting their growth. This is Leo, fully feathered, just a head shot to really show off the ear tufts and facial disk.

I had to include one of a pine marten, here is Drogo... happy to see us... A will hopefully be a big year for him this year, as we introduce him to a female for the first time. Hopefully next year (2018) will bring photos of pine marten kits.

And finally, one from last week, definitely not one of the best, but definitely one of my favourites. Susie, one of our stoats, is turning ermine... Arguably making here more beautiful than normal. Stoats are one of my favourites, and from Susie arriving a few years a go, I have really taken to her and she is my favourite I have ever worked with. Such a character, and a nice little poser... even if only for a couple of seconds at a time. She is quite a famous little stoat now too.

Anyway, thanks for looking, and hopefully some more photos to share this coming year :-)

Thursday, 15 December 2016


It has been a slow second half of the year in terms of me taking photographs. Lack of time due to work being so busy was definitely a factor, and a little slack of motivation too if truth be told when I did have a bit of time. I didn't help that my main lens broke too! All fixed now thankfully.

Here is a quick catch up of things, a bit photo heavy and nothing special, but worth hanging in there till the end if you want to see a photo of some cute otter cubs!

So to start off, you may be wondering what the photo above is... why did I just take a photo of some grass?.. Well, if you look close enough, you may see some of the grass is neatly woven in to a ball. This is a harvest mouse nest out on our nature reserve.

I have always known our mice do well out there, as I often see signs and on occasion the mice them selves, but this is the first time we have found one of their nests. This is important as it means we can record this to show our releases are a success (don't ask me why, but just seeing them is never enough to some people).

Lucy, being our resident craz... uh, enthusiast of harvest mice :-) is spending time to record and monitor all these nests this winter for our records at work. All good stuff.

I was asked for a particular type of photo of our polecats for work. You know the deal, blank space and backgrounds etc... not looking at the camera. Very difficult as the time of year was when they had kits. These were the best I could do in the twenty minutes I had one afternoon.

And I couldn't ignore the males, so here is one of the boys.

Before the rut I always check on the deer, while out in the paddock I took this close up of their fur as an experiment for something I'm currently working on. Hopefully more on that next year.

A simple portrait of one of our red squirrels.

While in there I realised I don't have a photo of them drinking, something I have seen many others share before. So I took a quick one when I saw this squirrel grab a drink. I was a bit close unfortunately so the tail got a bit cropped off, but you get the idea.

The last work thing I did was our deer rutting, above is the one we used for publicity, and one of the last photos I took before my lens packed in.

So I was limited to a wide angle or a large zoom. Above a nice portrait of Albus during the rut in the morning sun.

Then most recent, a couple of weeks a go, I did a little session with our long eared owl Percy. I'm not a huge fan of silhouettes but the conditions lended them selves to it... and if you're going to do it, I think you need an animal with an obvious outline if that makes sense. Another owl would just not of worked as well.

So a series of portraits, all in landscape as they were needed for a calendar.

This was the one I ended up going for.

This was possibly my favourite, a little more obscure.

And I just had to take this portrait while he was posing in this beautiful shape against the tree.

"Me and some Otter Cubs" by Alan K Jones

As promised, here are some baby otters! Adorable aren't they?..

They are now 7 weeks old, and recently we health checked them and micro chipped them etc. They will probably start too come out over the next week or two, and thankfully my main lens is now fixed and back in my possession ready to try and catch them having their swimming lessons.

Thanks for looking :-)

Friday, 2 December 2016

Houdini the Weasel

"Houdini" the Weasel

For those that follow our "British Wildlife Centre" Facebook page, you may have seen our new cover star for our 2017 leaflet. "Houdini" the weasel. The office selected the above photo to grace the front of the leaflet for next year, and I was particularly pleased to see on elf our less known animals make the call!

Weasels are such amazing animals, our smallest carnivore in this country... it is said that a female weasel could fit through a wedding ring, and this is probably true... but I would have to say it would need to be a small weasel and a big wedding ring.

One thing I always use to try and explain to people the size of a weasel, is a comparison to a pack of Polos. A female weasel is about the same size. I must try and get a photograph of one of our weasels next to a pack at some pout to illustrate this.

Our cover star, and indeed the weasel in all these photographs, is Houdini. She is a real beauty, but sadly no longer with us having passed away earlier this year to old age. She was a rescue who came to us with out a tail. Having been rescued, she was too tame to release, and so I sent a dear friend of mine "Robin" to collect her from the midlands where she was found. This is the beginning of where her name came from...

You see, I was often asked "is she called Houdini because she escapes a lot?" And the truth is she never escaped once while she was here. Robin however did have an interesting car journey home.

When he arrived back to the Centre, we checked the cage she Houdini was supposed to be in, and she was no where to be found. Bemused, we kept searching, and then from the corner of my eye I saw some movement out of a small hole in another box that was in the back of the car. Keeping a close watch, a few seconds later, Houdini popped her head out of the hole again. During her trip down south, she had managed to get out of her cage, and find a much more suitable box to travel in :-)

I don't have too many photographs of our weasels, they are extremely quick and fast, but you can see a couple of different poses in this post. My favourite is the second picture in this post, a classic portrait which you all know I like, and in the grass which really shows her scale and how small weasels really are.

Thanks for looking :-)

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Long-eared Owls

Earlier this week I went out on the reserve with our two new long eared owls, and keepers Meg and Tom. I haven't picked up my camera in a while, due mainly to time... and admittedly possibly a little lack in motivation too... but the glorious evening called, and I had yet to take some nice photos of these two owls since they had fully grown.

Above is Leo, hand reared by Meg. A beautiful long eared owl who has already been on a few of our owl days.

Despite the weather being lovely, we had surprisingly little light. So when it did break for a few moments I took advantage to take a head shot of Leo to show off his facial disc.

Here are all four of them, you can see how dim it was despite the weather, surprising really but we made the most of it. Took a while to get all four of them to look at the camera at the same time :-)

And here is Percy, reared by Tom. Still a little maturing to do, but practically there. Despite being siblings they are different in both looks and personality. Amazing how the same animals are still very individual, have their own characteristics, even when from the same litter parents.

We set them up in a few different places, but didn't spend too long. We hoped to go in to the woods... but unfortunately it was too dark for that.

Tom and Percy chilling in the grass, all in all it was a good sessions.

Then right before we all left, Meg flew Leo in the Dell. He is a little star already in our displays, and I will get some nice photos for you of him flying out on the reserve when I have time, but just for a record shot this will do.

Thanks for looking :-)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Owl Growth

Long-eared owl in the snow

It has been a busy couple of months at the Centre, so busy in fact that I have rarely picked up my camera! People have often said to me, "It must be lovely working there, being able to take photographs whenever you want"... but that's the thing, I'm working here!.. rarely get the time to photograph, it's just when I do get the time I have a few advantages of course.

So what's been happening? Well, them owls been growing... What's it take to make a long eared owl like Archimedes above? About 8 weeks growth from the chick below...

This is Leo at around 3 weeks old. It always amazes me every time we rear an owl how quickly they change, but they have too grow their adult feathers quick to help survive in the wild. You can see he can't reliably stand on his legs yet, often sitting on his haunches.

Another week or so, and now a confident stander... almost strutting you might say. Head is beginning to take shape, and the feathers beginning to push through on his wings.

A bit older, and a bit more feather showing. More coming through too on the tail and wings, and the face continuing to take shape. Beginning to look like an owl.

Not far off the finished article. Wings and tail are complete, facial disc looking good, just some down to lose on the chest and back. The back of the head is nearly always the last to mature, and then his little ear tufts will begging to emerge.

I have lots of photos of all British owls developing, but won't bore you here and now. But just to finish see these three stages of a barn owl growing and maturing.

Thanks for looking :-)