Glorious spring flowers

There can be few things more uplifting after a cold, dark winter than spring flowers heralding brighter weather ahead. Don’t get me wrong, winter has it’s merits, but for me spring is a time for fresh starts and there are few more glorious than the beginning of the flowering season for a great number of our native plants. I thought I’d share a few photos from my recent local wanderings which encapsulate just a couple of my favourite finds this spring. I’ll begin at the beginning with one of the earlier species to flower, the Wood Anemone which, in the right conditions, can carpet a woodland floor to much the same effect as the Bluebells do later. These dainty flowers are also known as Wind Flowers for their propensity to nod at the slightest breeze. They are an excellent source […]

Revisiting a family collection

It has been quite a while since I’ve written anything for a number of reasons, but I’m back at last and I’m rearing to go! I thought I’d get my 2017 blogging underway with an unusual topic that I’ve been longing to tell you about for some time: a family collection. If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen a recent post linking to an article about an egg collection that has been taken on by the Natural History Museum and this is my take on it all. When I was a child my love of wildlife, and birds in particular, was nurtured and encouraged by my parents but also by my Great Uncle John. He lived in South France and we didn’t see him very often, but every time we did he would be asking me what […]

Christmas Review 2016

It’s that time of year again. If you celebrate Christmas hopefully by now you have gifts for your nearest and dearest bought and wrapped, a fridge full of delicious food and drink, and a decorated tree around which to enjoy the festivities. It is always one of my favourite times when I spend time with my family to reflect on the year just gone and look forward to the adventures that the New Year brings. I thought that I would extend that to you too and so today I’m reflecting on my three favourite shots of the year in my Christmas Review 2016. It is always difficult to narrow down my favourites from a year’s worth of images but my first is this image of a Knapweed Gall Fly. It probably isn’t everyone’s idea of a beautiful subject but I like this […]

Greece in Autumn

Last week I told you about the beginning of a tour I led for Greentours to the Peloponnese in south-western Greece. Today I will pick up where I left off for the second half of the trip. While the mediterranean climate is a draw for many a tourist in the area, Greece in autumn holds a special lure for nature enthusiasts at this time of year in the form of stunning arrays of autumn bulbs. The second morning in Gytheio we woke to bright blue skies and after a lovely breakfast overlooking the calm waters of the harbour, we set off for the day. We headed north towards Sparta and skirted the edge of the town heading west towards the hilltop citadel of Mystras. From afar you could barely see it, the hill it is perched upon blends almost seamlessly with […]

Autumn Bulbs in Glorious Greece

At the beginning of this month I was privileged to spend a week leading a tour to the Peloponnese in southwest Greece for Greentours. It was ostensibly to see the autumn bulbs there, and indeed the display was wonderful, but of course we saw lots more lovely things too so I thought I’d take a moment to share it with you. I had intended to write this a lot sooner but the last couple of weeks have been rather hectic so apologies for the gap between posts! We flew from Heathrow into Athens, arriving mid-afternoon. Having collected luggage and vehicles we set off northwards across the Corinth Isthmus, crossing the impressive Corinth Canal whilst on the motorway, towards our hotel for the first night. We arrived just as darkness descended to a wonderfully warm welcome. The following morning we woke to […]

Macro Matt’s Autumn guests

Autumn is that time of the year when the spiders start to come inside and take shelter in our homes. Spiders; we run from them, scream at them, stomp on them and kill them.  They come in all shapes, sizes and colours and we fear them more than any other British garden inhabitant, but why? Growing up as a child I did all of that, if ever I saw a spider I would shudder and lash out. Am I arachnophobic? Of course not, it’s what the majority of us do. We are taught to fear these creatures without even knowing why. You read about it in the press every year ‘Killer spiders invade Britain’ or ‘Cold weather forces Venomous spiders into our homes’. The fact is that spiders have been around for millions of years, they’ve been in our houses and […]

Autumn Events for 2016

The last few weeks have been pretty crazy and I haven’t had time to blog for a while, sorry! However, in light of further busy times in the run up to Christmas I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you some of my scheduled Autumn Events for 2016. 17th November – I will be giving a talk to the March Camera Club on Alpine Flora and Fauna. I will look in detail at the rich biodiversity of this beautiful part of Europe and share my passion for photographing the many species which call it home. This will be at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel in March, Cambridgeshire from 7:30pm.     19th November – I will be back at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel in March for their annual Christmas Craft Fayre – the first of the season. I look […]

Autumn in the air

This last few weeks as I’ve stepped out of the door each morning I can’t help but feel autumn in the air. Summer is most certainly drawing to a close. Blackberries are ripening in the hedges, the first hues of the beckoning season are beginning to appear, the House Martins have reared their second brood which are preparing to fledge any day now, and there have been a few misty mornings bringing with them that earthy smell that I associate with autumn. It isn’t quite here yet though and these past couple of weeks I have been enjoying those moments that you only really get at this time of year, when the last of the summer’s butterflies bask in the morning sun and dragonflies perch peacefully between flights. One species which I always enjoy seeing is the Small Copper. This year […]

My walk on the Wild Side with Cambridge TV

I was just getting ready to post this week’s blog yesterday (which will now be up next week instead) when I got some exciting news and I just had to share it as soon as possible! I recently spent an afternoon filming at  Trumpington Meadows with a team from Cambridge TV who were making a feature on the reserve for their series, The Wild Side. The episode went live at rather short notice last night. Having spent so much time getting to know the reserve and photograph it through the seasons, I was really pleased to be asked to take part in this short documentary. The focus is on the development of the reserve and it’s biodiversity, with an added piece on macro photography by yours truly. It was a strange experience for me to be the other side of […]

Brilliant Birdfair

This year, for only the second time, I visited the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. The fair took place over 3 days last weekend and is affectionately known as Birdfair. As on my first ever trip last year, I loved everything about it! Despite my being on crutches on the day after a nasty ligament injury only a few days previously, I was able to hobble successfully to every stand imaginable. It has been described as The birdwatchers’ Glastonbury but for those of you who haven’t been (apart form the fact that I highly recommend you do!) I will try to explain what it is that makes it such a wonderful event: 1. The stands Whatever your interest with wildlife may be there is a stand for you – although called the Birdfair, there are a great many other […]

Autumn anthology joy

After a brief break for the last couple of weeks I am pleased to be back blogging again and even more so as I have some exciting news to share: the latest in a wonderful series of books for the Wildlife Trusts is out now and again I am thrilled to have a piece of writing within its crisp, new pages! Like the previous editions, this beautiful anthology is a mixed anthology of old and new works exploring the progression of autumn in our countryside and I was pleased to have a piece about the importance of the hedgerow during this season of fruitfulness accepted. I am particularly excited to be featured alongside such writing greats as Rev. Gilbert White, WB Yeats and Dylan Thomas as well as some wonderful present day writers like the editor Melissa Harrison, John Lewis-Stempel and Amy Liptrot. Once again though, I am lucky to find myself among friends as […]

I’ve got a brand new combine harvester…

…Actually I don’t, but I do have some new combine harvester images which I thought I’d share this week. It is a rather different subject to my usual wildlife photos but I always love watching the harvest, it reminds me of my childhood.     These images are from the fields around our house. My husband and I were watching from the end of the garden as a team of three combine harvesters and three accompanying tractors with trailers worked into the night to make the most of the weather. From our point of view they had picked the best time for it – the sunset intensified to a glorious glow.         This afternoon as I write the team are back, having baled the straw yesterday, they are now collecting the enormous bales with fancy self-loading trailers. In […]

Nature Blogging

If you read my blog regularly, you will know that once a month I invite a guest to write a piece about their interests and passions. I have been privileged to have support and encouragement from a wide range of of guests, and I hope that you have enjoyed their input too. In return, I too have written a couple of guest blog posts for others and thought I would take this opportunity to share them with you.   The first was for James Common about Orchids:     More recently I have written for another James, the Grantham Ecologist, about Dragons and Damsels:     I hope that you will enjoy my guest posts on their blogs, but that you will also take a moment to look at their writing too – it is wonderful to share a love of […]

Magical Meadows

Last week’s wonderful guest post about the creation of a wood-meadow by Lin Hawthorne inspired me to revisit a local and rather magical meadow. I thought I would share with you a few of the reasons why, for me, it is such a special spot. Let me start by describing it. By comparison to Lin’s lovely space, it is a much smaller plot for starters at under two acres. It is a vaguely almond shaped field which lies alongside a railway line. On the one side it is bounded by the embankment which is covered in low growing trees and shrubs, while the other is contained by a mixed hedgerow backing on to a country lane. It is wetter at one end than the other and there are a profusion of ant hills dotted throughout the space. Rabbits are frequently seen diving […]

A Wood-meadow in every Parish? Lin Hawthorne imagines…

The Three Hagges wood-meadow project began in 2012, with two aims: The creation of a new ecosystem with the aim of restoring lost biodiversity to an arable landscape, and the creation of future ancient woodland. The motivation was a need to address the losses that are by now familiar to many of us: 97% lowland meadows, a similar percentage of coppiced ancient woodland, and many, many miles of mixed and ancient hedgerows. Along with them – these systems in which our native plants form the base of an ecological pyramid – we have seen declines of many invertebrates, including multiple pollinating species that depend on them for pollen, nectar and hosts for their young. And with those, the decline of songbirds that feed their young on the larvae of said invertebrates, and so on up the chain. Most of these declines have […]

Gardening with nature

In recent years “gardening for nature” has been a hot topic, and rightly so; as we invade and pave over wild habitats, we need to provide spaces for the species we have dislodged in the process. Be it by putting up a bird box or planting bee-friendly plants we can all play a role in providing a home for nature on our doorsteps. The difficult part once you start is gardening with nature. I should first explain a little about our situation: We are lucky to have inherited a beautiful mature garden from the previous owners of our house, who were a retired couple with a keen interest in keeping their garden immaculate. They had bird boxes and feeders up, and naturally some of the wonderful flowers in the borders were ideal for bees and butterflies so they hadn’t created a […]

Suffolk Wildlife: A summer weekend of wonder

Despite now living quite close, Suffolk is a county I have visited little but I have wanted to do so for a long time. This last weekend I got the opportunity when my husband and I decided to take a weekend break to celebrate our wedding anniversary. With Springwatch having just finished at Minsmere we knew we were in for a treat with the Suffolk wildlife and we were not disappointed. Today I thought I’d share with you just one part of our short break. The first afternoon in the area we headed out to a local nature reserve, Darsham Marshes which is managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. We spent a very enjoyable hour or so walking around the reserves and it was a wonderful spot despite the overcast weather. The first thing we spotted having suited and booted […]

Miniature Miracles of Nature

I love exploring different wild locations and I find that just as every season brings different natural delights, so these pockets of wilderness have a varying character throughout the year. The local wood is at its most vibrant in April when the bluebells are in full bloom, and the meadow next door takes on its own carpet of colour a few weeks later when the cowslips, cuckoo flower and green winged orchids are at their finest. By contrast, the small patch of marsh just down the road is at its best now in my opinion. There are all sorts of lovely species which call it home throughout the year, but the summer months see a series of colours adorn the anthills and a wonderful buzz in the air. Essentially it is little more than a small field, albeit rather boggy at one […]

Wild Walks

This week I thought I’d share with you a few photos from various wild walks I’ve been on recently. In the spirit of the “30 Days Wild” campaign run by the Wildlife Trusts which starts today, I like to try and get outdoors as much as possible and often for me that means taking myself off for a walk on the wild side. The only problem is that sometimes I don’t get very far very fast because something has caught my attention and then I spot something else a couple of feet away and so the cycle continues. I don’t always carry my camera with me, I do occasionally feel like a break – it seems that every creature on the planet knows when this happens though and inevitably, they all come out and dance in front of me at […]

Cambridge’s Newest Nature Reserve

  It has been a little while since I last gave you an update on my project to document Trumpington Meadows, the newest nature reserve taken on by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, so today I will be sharing some of my latest photographs of the site. First though, some exciting news – the reserve will be officially opened to the public on Saturday 11th June, so please do come along and find out all about it for yourselves! If you are interested, the details of the opening event are as follows:   Now for that update I mentioned: I had hoped to take some lovely wintery images around the reserve but as you know, this winter was exceedingly mild and those beautiful icy conditions never really materialised. I had to settle for some signs of spring instead and […]

Beautiful butterflies

Recently, I read a wonderful book called The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham (I would highly recommend it if you haven’t already come across it!). The author describes his personal challenge to see every British species of butterfly in one year and I found it gripping reading. There is something intrinsically joyful about seeing the first butterflies of the new year on the wing and Patrick captures that beautifully in his writing. The book also inspired me on a personal level; that is not to say that I intend to try and follow in his footsteps, but it did make me realise that there are quite a few species which I haven’t seen before, be it in Britain or at all. The first to emerge are those which have braved the winter elements and survived their hibernation. Among them Small Tortoiseshell, […]

Bat punt safari

The ecology survey season is upon us. I’ve already completed my first newt surveys of the season and last week I was invited by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust to join them on their first bat punt safari of the season, along the river Cam. I’ve done plenty of bat surveys in my time but have rarely had the opportunity to observe bats with a detector in my free time and never from a punt! I was intrigued and excited by the concept and as the evening approached was relieved to find that the weather was nothing short of wonderful – a minor miracle in itself after snow, sleet and hail only ten days ago! These bat punt safaris have been running for 6 years now and have taken around 3000 people down the quiet waters of the […]

James Common’s Spring Birds

Heralds of the changing season Spring is by far my favourite season – a time of rebirth and renewal as the sombre, sometimes tedious aura of winter; the drab colours and chills fade away in wake of the changing season.  Spring is vibrant, exciting and fresh; Wood Anemone, Bluebell and Celandine carpeting the ground, butterflies and bees back on the wing and Hedgehogs fresh from hibernation. All of this leaves much to be enjoyed, learnt and discovered; though for me, a naturalist with a particular fondness for feathered things, it is migrant spring birds that make this season the truly marvelous affair I have come to know and love. This year I set myself a challenge; to, with a certain degree of detail, record the various comings and goings of migrant birds on my local patch. A challenge that has seen […]

Give Nature a Home

There is a laudable trend currently to “Give Nature a Home”. I believe the phrase was coined by the RSPB in a campaign to get everyone involved in wildlife conservation and the idea is certainly a good one. It got me thinking and I have several anecdotes which I’d like to share with you about giving nature my home. This morning I released yet another Ladybird into the garden from the confines of our dining room. As I write, there are 3 more wandering around on the ceiling in there… they will have to wait! Growing up in the countryside and continuing to do so as an adult, nature has always played a central role in my life and not always outside the house. Not only did we have similar influxes of ladybirds in my childhood home, but they would […]

Wild Sardinia

If you read my blog regularly you will know that I recently celebrated a big birthday and my wonderful husband announced he would take me on holiday to celebrate. We decided on the island of Sardinia and spent a long weekend there at the beginning of the month – not quite long enough in the end, I wished I could have stayed longer! Anyhow, despite being a holiday I couldn’t leave my camera behind so I thought I’d share a few images with you in this week’s post. We flew to Cagliari in the far south of the island, in fact we didn’t have much choice about that at this time of year. It was a warm but rather flat grey day when we arrived but that didn’t bother us too much as we were already into the afternoon and […]

Country Innovation’s Raptor Waistcoat

Well I guess I must’ve done something right as Alice has asked me to pen another wee post for her blog, and this time I am going to let you know all about our Raptor Waistcoat. For those who didn’t catch my last post (back in December 2015), my name is Maria Chilvers and I own Country Innovation, which I set up some 20 years ago to specialise in gear for the bird and wildlife market. It was a classic case of starting with one product (which was our Rover Ventile® Jacket which I wrote about in my previous post) and the company has just grown from there to provide a whole range of garments specifically for anyone interested in watching and photographing wildlife.     The Raptor Waistcoat (Gilet, Vest or whatever you want to call it) was a […]

The colour of spring

Recently, while looking through some photos I’d taken, I noticed a common theme. Apart from the green of new growth there is one colour which stands out at this time of year: Yellow. I would go so far as to call it the colour of spring, for it isn’t anywhere near as prevalent at any other time of year among wild flowers. Stop to think for a while of spring flowers and among those emblematic of the season are a great number of yellow blooms: Daffodils, aconites, primroses, cowslips, oxlips, lesser celandine, kingcups…     There are others too though not necessarily associated with spring, they can be found flowering now too: Gorse, buttercups and dandelions for example.     That said, yellow isn’t perhaps strictly the only colour of spring, as white – if you can call it a […]

Spring has sprung – a little bird told me!

In my opinion you cannot say that Spring has sprung until a certain migratory bird has returned to sing in our woodlands. The Chiffchaff is a small brown warbler with a creamy yellow breast which declares its name loudly from the tree tops at this time of year and on into the summer. For me this little bird is the ultimate harbinger of Spring. Today I heard my first of the year and it had the same effect as ever, bringing an instant smile to my face. I often hear my first of the year in my parents’ garden in rural Herefordshire but despite listening fervently to the dawn chorus every day while I was home over the Easter weekend, it was not to be. Instead I heard it in my village in Cambridgeshire. I have yet to tempt one into […]

Slow down & connect with nature

Last year when we visited Yosemite National Park in California, my husband and I were astounded at the number of times we were a) told that we probably wouldn’t see any wildlife b) pushed past by other tourists in a hurry to get to the next sight on the map & c) interrupted from our quiet enjoyment of the area by those same tourists talking overly loudly at each other. Despite all of these though, we did see wildlife and in abundance too. Among others there were lots of song birds, three species of woodpecker, chipmunks, chickarees and ground squirrels, mule deer (less than 10 yards from the trail), even a coyote. It got me thinking that perhaps people were simply unaware of the wild wonders around them. They didn’t seem to be looking anywhere other than at where they […]

30 wild things to do before 30

In a couple of days time I will be celebrating a bit of a milestone birthday. I’m sure you can guess… Anyhow, it got me thinking. I’ve been pretty lucky so far in my life and so I thought I’d share with you 30 particularly memorable wild experiences that I’ve had. Perhaps it will inspire you to get out there and see some of them for yourself. I considered lots of different ways that I could put them into some sort of order but in the end I couldn’t decide which my absolute favourite has been and there’s quite a range so instead I’m going to start with some that are closer to home. So without any further rambling, here are my 30 wild things: Walk through an English bluebell wood in full bloom There is something utterly wonderful about […]

Spring flowers

I am honoured to have been invited by Alice to write a guest blog post, and lucky to have been asked to choose a seasonal theme at the beginning of March. The winter is rather sparse for the British naturalist whilst the summer is so abundant that pinning down a single topic is no mean feat. In March however, the choice is easy. Spring flowers! Any post about flowers in spring 2016 needs to be caveated with reference to the unseasonably warm winter we’ve had which Alice talked about in her blog last week. The BSBI New Year Plant Hunt, running in its fifth year in 2016, gathered records of flowering plants sent in by recorders from all over the UK on New Year’s Day. This year found a staggering 612 species, around a quarter of the species habitually found […]

Unseasonable warmth

I often find that when I’m at my desk I get distracted by emails, other work or tasks around the house (I work from home). Getting out to somewhere where there are fewer distractions, with a note pad & pen in my pocket, is a useful way for me to focus my mind on writing or other large projects which need planning. I also rarely go anywhere without my camera so that if I notice anything unusual I can take a snap. Yesterday is a perfect example: I had an idea in mind for this week’s blog, but having got caught up with other things I hadn’t set it out fully, so I decided to make the most of the unseasonable warmth and sunshine, and visit one of my favourite “thinking places”; my local woodland. It is the very same […]

Spring anthology excitement

Having been unwell last week I am pleased to be back blogging again and even more so as I have some exciting news to share: tomorrow is the launch of the first in a wonderful series of books for the Wildlife Trusts in which I have a piece of writing! It is a mixed anthology of old and new works exploring the many facets of spring on our shores and I was thrilled to have a piece about spring in my local deciduous woodland accepted. I am particularly pleased to be featured alongside such writing greats as Shakespeare, Hardy and Austen as well as some wonderful present day writers like the editor Melissa Harrison, Kate Long and Sir John Lister-Kaye. More than this though, I am among friends; I know several other contributors well and am happy to share this […]

Phil Starkey’s views of Cornwall in Winter

I have lived in Cornwall for twenty six years after moving down from Cambridgeshire as a child with my family. We moved to the most southerly tip possible, The Lizard peninsula and to The Lizard village itself. To say that for the majority of the winter you couldn’t see the coastline for fog is rather an understatement, but when it was clearer it was quite something. I used to be able to walk from my house to the ever popular Kynance Cove and sit on the cliff tops, watching the huge waves batter the rocks in storms, golden light fall over the cove itself at the end of the day, and watch the wide range of beautiful wildlife there. From Peregrines and other wonderful birds, to Seals and even the odd Whale out to sea if you were lucky. I […]

Cypriot spring – part 2

Last week I started to tell you about the joys of a Cypriot spring and some of the wonderful wildflowers and other wildlife that calls this magical Mediterranean island home. I realised that there was far too much to share in a single post and so I invite you to join me now for the second half of my trip. You will recall that I mentioned we were getting ready to move to our next hotel. We had already packed up but before breakfast I joined a couple of others on another early morning ramble where we saw Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Common Whitethroat and a flock of Corn Buntings. We came across a lovely patch of Gladiolus italics and watched a Violet Carpenter Bee feeding on some Prasium which prompted us to think of our own stomachs and return to […]

Cypriot Spring – Part 1

I had hoped to have taken a few more photos over the past few weeks but the weather has not been kind and while I’ve captured a few nice shots it wasn’t enough for me to put together a coherent blog piece…perhaps next week! Instead I’m going to treat you to a few images that I took in Cyprus a couple of years ago and bring a little sunshine to the cold damp shores of Britain for a few minutes while you read this. I think it will be too much to include the whole trip so for now I’ll start with the first half. I hadn’t visited the island before but had heard that the Cypriot Spring was a rather lovely season and so when I got the chance to visit on an organised tour I was really intrigued […]

Extended Autumn

I was asked by Alice to write an article about anything I wanted so long as it was seasonal. That’s always a difficult one. When you sit down and think what it should be, you get loads of ideas to choose from. I think this year it is even more difficult as the seasons aren’t, well, very seasonal. I should be out for nice crisp frosty forest walks with lots of lovely ice crystals highlighting all of the bits of plants and trees that are still standing. I’ve not been able to do that. I should have been able to go sledging by now, well most years I can, but no snow and no lovely snowy landscape pictures to take. Instead it’s been a lovely extended Autumn, very mild, and I have been able to get out for lots of walks […]

Winter Wonderland

With Christmas fast approaching I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite “winter wonderland” images. I’ve been very busy of late as I’m sure you all have too – it’s that time of year after all! I haven’t been out photographing many of my usual subjects though so apologies for the slow down on that front. I’ll tell you all about it when I get the chance. In the meantime, the weather hasn’t been too kind this winter and my thoughts are with those in flood-affected areas. It has also meant that atmospheric images like these few have not been available for the taking yet. I’m sure I could find something if I travelled further north, but that will have to wait till things calm down in the New Year! The first image I’d like to share is a […]

Rover Jacket

I met Alice at this year’s Birdfair at Rutland Water, and she’s asked me to scribe a few words about gear recommendations for wildlife photographers, so here goes! My name is Maria Chilvers and I own a company called Country Innovation, which specialises in gear for the avid birdwatcher and wildlife photographer.     My whole working career has been in the outdoor industry as I used to run one of the UK’s largest buying offices for all outdoor products. Almost 20 years ago, when every outdoor company was producing bright red and blue rustly jackets for the hillwalkers, I decided to ‘go it alone’ and produce my own range of high quality clothing for the bird/wildlife market which, at that time, was virtually non-existent. I spent ages out on reserves talking to my target consumer and getting a real […]

Ivy Bee Bliss

This week while the weather outside is less favourable I want to think about a particular plant, Common Ivy (Hedera helix), and why it is so important for wildlife. You might be wondering what the link is between the two factors but at this time of year there are few plants which are still flowering and Ivy is one of them. This is a slightly spontaneous post after a somewhat momentous wildlife encounter I had last week. You might have read about it on Twitter if you follow me (@AHunterPhotos). I found an Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) and I was rather pleased to have done so.

Colourful Choices

  Each season has its highlights as far as photography is concerned, but autumn does perhaps offer the photographer more colourful choices of subject than any other time of year. Whether you are into landscape photography, macro work or wildlife portraiture it’s a fun time to be out and about. For me, when the colours start to change in the leaves as temperatures drop, the urge to leave the warmth of my home office, camera in hand, becomes strong and I don’t always have to go far. In a few weeks’ time, the richly coloured berries of Cotoneaster and Pyracantha in the garden will attract a variety of birds, but now they make a nice backdrop for some macro photography. This shot of a Garden Spider’s Web has Pyracantha berries in the background. The droplets of water left by the misty […]

Phone photography

One of the most frequent comments I receive is “I wish I could take photographs like yours but I only use my phone”. This week I thought I’d share a few photos that I’ve taken on my iPhone in the last couple of years, to prove that you don’t always need a fancy camera to achieve reasonable results. Don’t get me wrong, I love my camera – my husband has joked before that I should perhaps be married to it rather than him! That said, I don’t always have it to hand when I should and sometimes I prefer not to take it out. I go with the grand notion of actually experiencing wildlife rather than focusing on the photograph I want to achieve. However, if I find something wonderful I can’t help but want to document it. There are […]

Superb Spiders

Misty mornings and heavy dew are almost synonymous with autumn in my mind and so it will come as no surprise that I enjoy photographing them too. One particular subject is favoured by many a naturalist and photographer in these conditions; spider’s webs. These natural wonders are all the more spectacular when bejewelled with hundreds of tiny droplets glinting in the morning light. It therefore seems a particularly fitting way to start this week’s post with just such an image that I took recently.     For some of you, I expect that spiders are not a particularly welcome sight. I know that as a youngster I was not at all keen on them. I have to say that handling spiders is still something that I don’t enjoy, but as I’ve grown to understand what incredible creatures they are, I […]

Fabulous Fungi

Autumn was my Uncle’s favourite time of year. He loved the bright changing colours, the crunch of leaves underfoot and the earthy aromas that autumn brought, not to mention the sloes in the hedge which he steeped in gin. On many a crisp autumnal day we enjoyed the delights of the Worcestershire countryside together, and I often remember him in this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. I love autumn too though I’m not sure that I could say it’s my favourite season, mainly because I don’t think I could separate one from another; I love them all in their own way. One thing which I particularly enjoy in autumn though is the emergence of all manner of fungi. While some species can be found almost year round, autumn is by far the best season for a fungi foray, producing […]

Delightful Devon

Firstly, a huge thank you to Alice for asking me to write a guest post for her blog. I thought that, as she was based in Cambridgeshire in the South East, I would share a little something of what we have over here in Devon in the South West. I’ve lived in Devon now for 16 years and have never tired of exploring the many facets of the county. We are so privileged to live in such a wonderful region with so much diversity, both in its wildlife and landscapes.     Within the county are two of the UK’s National Parks: Dartmoor (above) and Exmoor. The latter also has Europe’s first Dark Sky Reserve, designed to promote astronomy by keeping light pollution to a minimum and allowing fantastic views of the night sky. Both moors offer varied landscapes, flora and fauna and […]

Trumpington Meadows in Autumn

JYou may remember a little while ago that I introduced you to one of my latest projects, documenting the development of a new nature reserve on the edge of Cambridge. Trumpington Meadows is still unveiling its secrets to me and although I’ve missed a few, Yellow Wagtails nesting on the edge of the reserve for example, I’m determined to capture as much as possible despite spending relatively little time there. It is appropriate therefore, that I share some images from my latest visits. September’s was quite late in the month as I’d been away in Scotland. I had thought I might find the first few autumn colours emerging, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It still felt like summer despite the cooler start and patches of mist burning off. The first thing that struck me as I walked onto […]

Perfect patterns

I don’t know about you, but I find myself constantly astounded by nature and its many forms. I am always learning new things, even about species I thought I knew intimately. Some discoveries are through reading and research, others via observation. There is often a sense of perfection in nature’s creations, be it symmetry in a flower’s petals or the precision in the whorl of a snail shell. Beauty surrounds us, though many take it for granted. In this post I’d like to share with you some of details that have caught my eye in the past few months, and make an attempt to explain why I love seeking out natural patterns & textures. I have quite a few photos of things that I like but which often don’t get considered as additions to my portfolio. They are personal to […]

Demystifying Macro kit

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is what kit I use for my macro images, so this week I thought I’d explain and share a few tips along the way.   The main piece of equipment that will impact your macro photography is what lens you use. I have a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM which is fantastic and has a close focus distance of 30cm  making it particularly good for flowers and smaller, less active invertebrates. Of course there are a great number of lenses available on the market which are brilliant for macro subjects. If your budget won’t stretch as far as a new lens though, there are other options too. Extension tubes are the simplest in my view. These are basically hollow tubes which fit between your lens and camera body, that move […]

Outer Hebrides Heaven

I’m back from my latest adventure – I hope you enjoyed Ryan’s guest post while I was away? As I mentioned before I left, Scotland holds a special place in my heart and is a part of the world that I’m particularly familiar with, having been a great many times. This year though I was able to explore an area that I hadn’t visited before: the Outer Hebrides or more specifically, the Isles of Lewis and Harris. We took a couple of days to drive up to the Isle of Skye where we made a few brief stops at some of our favourite spots on the way. One un-planned roadside pause for me to photograph some lovely light on the hills between the Old Man of Storr and the Quirang, led to some lovely plant discoveries. Firstly a pristine Devil’s […]

Ryan Clark’s Garden Invertebrates

I have lived on an urban housing estate in Buckinghamshire for over a decade now and it has shaped my view on the world around me. Despite living reasonably close to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, I didn’t have the access to green spaces that others may have had. My connection with the natural world was through the window and investigating the garden. As a child I used to photograph butterflies in the garden on a cheap digital camera. I still have these photos and they are precious to me because this is when I discovered the natural world.  My connection with nature started at home for me, not through David Attenborough documentaries, but by getting muddy and exploring the garden.  I aim to encourage you all that you don’t have to travel far to see amazing wildlife!

Scottish Reminiscences

In anticipation of my trip to the Outer Hebrides which starts at the end of this week, I thought I’d share with you a few images and stories from previous trips to Scotland which, as I mentioned in my Welcome Blog, is one of my absolute favourite places on the planet! I have been visiting the West Coast of Scotland since I was a small child and have a great many fond memories of summer holidays spent rock-pooling, braving the chilly waters for a swim, walking in the mountains and eating great local seafood. There is something slightly other-worldly about Scotland for me. I think it has something to do with the vast open landscapes where mountains meet the sea and nature surrounds you completely. Every breath of air seems fresher. The smell of pine forests, bracken and dark, damp, peaty earth […]

Macro Madness

The question that I’m most often asked is what my favourite wildlife subject is to photograph. I always say that I struggle to choose and it’s true, but there is a particular group that I tend to fall back on, especially since my investment in a decent macro lens at the beginning of 2014. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily love invertebrates any more than any of the other amazing species I have been privileged enough to photograph. I think what it comes down to is that there is incredible diversity of invertebrate species within a few feet of my back door. That’s not to say that I live in some super or exotic location (although I do love it here!), but that a lot of these tiny miracles are easily overlooked simply due to their size.

Summer at Trumpington Meadows

Last week I told you about an exciting project that I’ve begun this summer with Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, but in truth it is hardly a new venture as I’ve been involved for several months now. So, I thought that you might enjoy seeing a few more of the images that I’ve taken over the last 2 months. Trumpington Meadows covers quite a large area and I had yet to explore it fully. My second visit in June offered the perfect opportunity. I spent the best part of a day wandering around, enjoying the summer sunshine and drinking in the atmosphere. In the past few weeks, the wildflower meadows had burst into bloom, the few initial flowers were now here in profusion and there were great swathes of colour.     There were even […]

A New Project

In my last few posts I’ve shared stories of my travels along with some of the photos I’ve taken. This time, although there will be pictures, I want to tell you about a project I’ve been working on that’s a bit closer to home. It’s quite an exciting one for me, and I’ve been longing to share more about it for a while but only just been given the all clear to do so. As some of you may be aware, I write periodically for a couple of branches of The Wildlife Trusts, usually covering seasonal species to look out for or particular places of interest to visit. Recently my local branch, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, got in touch to see if I was interested in taking part in a larger project. Of course I jumped at the […]

The Écrins

I left you last week wondering where the next part of our French adventure would lead. I won’t keep you guessing any longer. We loaded up the vehicles and set off to our new location, the Écrins Massif in the Hautes-Alpes. The rock type is more variable here which leads to a different variety of flora. A couple of hours after setting off, we found a convenient parking area half way up a mountain. We had a lovely picnic lunch in the shadow of a stand of young pine trees next to a river that gurgled and splashed as it rushed its way down the hillside. The call of a Marmot rang across the valley and a pair of Fieldfare flew across to sit in the top of the tallest tree.

The Vercors

I hardly know where to begin this week, I have so many photos to share. As I mentioned at the end of my last post I had only a day and a half at home before setting off on the next adventure. This time I headed to Folkstone to meet up with my parents. I left my car on a friend’s drive and we boarded the Eurotunnel bound for the South of France. We drove down over a couple of days and were due to meet with a Natural History tour group at Lyon. The first half of the tour would explore the Vercors region which is a Limestone massif on the edge of the Alps.

The Pyrenees

At the end of May I was lucky enough to join a tour to the Spanish Pyrenees with Experience Nature Ltd with the aim of photographing Lammergeiers as well as the other three European species of vultures. I am now pleased to announce that I will be joining future tours as a Co-Leader specialising in flowers and butterflies. On that note it seems fitting to start, as we did, with a butterfly. This stunning Blue Spot Hairstreak was one of the first things we saw before we even reached our destination. We pulled off the road into a layby overlooking a beautiful lake, and this gorgeous butterfly was one of several species making the most of the Field Scabious and other wildflowers on the roadside.      

British Spring Beauty

I think I mentioned it in my last couple of posts but in case you missed it, California was incredible! That said, I was just as keen to get out with my camera again when we got back (hence I’m still processing photos several months later!). The end of April, for me, is the moment that spring really kicks into gear. Migrants are beginning to trickle in from foreign shores and the British countryside is rapidly turning a vibrant shade of green. There are of course other colours bursting through the muted cloak of winter. One of my favourite spectacles in the UK is a woodland floor carpeted with Bluebells.

America part 2 – Yosemite

Having whetted your appetite with my last post, I hope you will be looking forward to reading about the second half of our trip to California – I’ll begin: We’d spent a fabulous week on the coast and were readying ourselves for the next part of our adventure. We packed up the hire car and set off the following morning, heading inland towards Fresno. We didn’t go into the city but instead took a detour through the hot, dry farmland around the outskirts. Before long we were leaving the sprawling almond and pistachio groves behind us. The horizon which had been flat and featureless, developed lumps and grew rapidly more inviting as we drove on. Having located our B&B on the edge of Oakhurst, the gateway to Yosemite, but been unable to check in for a couple of hours, we decided to explore […]

America part 1 – The California Coast

Having hinted in my last post at a trip my husband and I took in April, I thought I would start by telling you about the first half of the trip including LA and the California coast here: We flew into Los Angeles and spent a couple of very enjoyable days catching up with friends, seeing the sights and eating too much. For me, the best part of LA was the short hike we did to the top of Griffith Park. The views were pretty incredible, especially with the observatory in the foreground – it really gives you a sense of what a huge place LA is. I did manage to make a fool of myself by slipping on a rock and spraining my ankle in spectacular fashion, but apart from that it was still a good start to the […]

Welcome to my blog!

I’m really excited to finally have the opportunity to start my own blog. Some of you will already know that I write on a monthly basis for the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (@HMWTBadger), as well as contributing regular articles and content for the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust (@wildlifebcn). I am so pleased to be able, at last, to share my musings on a blog of my own. It is something that I have wanted to do for a while and here it is!