1 December 2011

Atlantic Grey Seal Mating Rituals

 

Our final trip for 2011 was all about watching seal mating rituals and practice - it is not, in the main, a cute and fluffy image..... the wine was left in the fridge and the roses never left the shop.......

But it is nature, which is what we tend to photograph, and it is where next years cute and fluffy pups come from.....

For clarity, the male is pursuing the female and trying to pin her down so that he can mate with her. He will bite her, throw her around and generally do whatever it takes to get the job done, so to speak. That said the females do fight back, especially if they still have a pup in tow.

We don't use the R' word here - these are animals, not people, but it is particularly brutal....

This image shows the early stages of a pursuit in which the female is desperately trying to get out of the way.

This image also looks very sweet does it not? - looks like the seals are having a cuddle.

In actuality the bull is dominating the cow and attempting to subdue her into mating with him....... Very little of the cajoling you see with other species such as birds.... Of course the bulls must fight with, or at least scare off, rivals on the beach in order to get to this position.

That said you often see younger bulls sneaking in under the dominant male's radar so to speak......

Don't know about you, but I would be happy to receive this as a Valentines Card. The seals look as though they are in a passionate embrace.  The reality, as  I'm sure you've already guessed is somewhat different.

In this image the bull basically has the cow by the throat and is further demonstrating his power and dominance over her. The cow, shortly after this shot was taken took a chunk out of the bulls head, making what looked like quite a gash in his cheek.

Seal mating is not for the feint of heart.

So we get to the potentially dodgy stuff - as this series is about seal mating practice you should not be overly surprised to see seals mating.....  No stupid, or crass comments please - this series was, and is hard work to capture and put together....

Anyway the seals get together: As you can see the male has a sizeable gash on his cheek, where the cow fought back, he is also holding her by the neck - this is more to allow for a stable platform from which to mate than to keep her from "running", as by this stage the cow seems to have relaxed into her role as future mother to his pup.

Seals, like almost all other mammals use a Baculum, or penis bone, to gain the necessary stiffness to allow for mating - think about it, what a marvellous piece of evolution it is that allows such large animals to maintain a necessary streamlined state in water by allowing them to pull this significant bone into their abdominal cavity when not required.............

And so the next generation of seal pups is on its way - well, not quite actually. Grey seals mate at the same time every year (more or less) and yet they have a similar gestation period to humans.

The seal cow once inseminated enters into a state of embryonic diapause whereby the embryo is essentially in a state of suspended animation. Several months later the embryo will implant and a pup is finally on its way.

And with that I think I shall go and do something else :-) hope you enjoyed the series. and thanks for any feedback. Appreciate it.

Originally shown on our Flickr site >>>>>>

13 November 2011

A Seal is Born

 

Donna Nook D300s X2  11-11-2011 10-37-51

Click the image for video of a seal pups arrival…….

NB: The video was shot using a Kodak Playsport 1080p handheld video camera. We’re pretty happy with the job it did, you guys can make your own mind up I'm sure :-)

13 October 2011

27 September 2011

Moving house is hard work

Thankfully we have now finished and can begin to enjoy our lives, and photography once more.

We both have brand new Nikon DSLR's to play with, and we'll start posting images again in the near future.

22 July 2011

Just a few images

We are presently in the process of moving home – and do not, as one would reasonably expect, have a great deal of time for blogs and so on – so here are a few images to keep things ticking over, so to speak.

Click the image for a slideshow of shots from July 2011.

Seri is still writing her blog as and when time allows…..

8 June 2011

Another Windy Day at Bempton Cliffs

 

Probably our final trip to Bempton Cliffs – we’ve made the long haul up the East Coast twice this year, and to be honest with health issues it is just plain too far to drive for us……

Bempton, that said, is a great place to visit, and should you get the chance to go, I would suggest that you grab it with both hands :-)

Click the image above for a slideshow of this visit: Lots of Kittiwake, Razorbills, Gannet and Guillemot

21 May 2011

A Trip to Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT)–Cley Marshes.

After 4 days of horrible pain and illness, lying in bed for 4 days straight I finally awoke pain free (unfortunately at 4 am) – so we did what we usually do, and made the most of it. This time with a trip to the wonderful, if very dark and cloudy,  Cley Marshes in Norfolk.
The lovely Seri will provide a write up of our visit, click on her name to read….. In the meantime there are some 95 images in this slideshow. Hope the images inspire others to visit :-)

5 May 2011

A Trip to Twycross Zoo

On Mayday of this year (2011) we decided to visit the relatively local spot of Twycross Zoo, which is located in North Warwickshire. The following is a slideshow of images from that trip.

Principally a primate conservation facility the collection is limited in other areas, few large predators, for example, but it is still worth a visit….. Anyway 58 images to view………..

NB: Many of these images were shot through glass, which inevitably affects quality.

9 April 2011

We’re still here, alive and kicking :-)

So, our most recent trip – Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Trust site – Gloucestershire. A long, hot, tiring, very painful, and thoroughly enjoyable day out with the lovely Seri.

Click the image for a slideshow of 89 shots from the trip.

Hope you enjoy the images, we certainly enjoyed taking them…….. Click the link above for more info on Slimbridge – it is a very important conservation site and a beautiful place for a walk.

2 February 2011

Still here :-)

This blog is not abandoned - I am not too well at the moment and lack time and impetus to sit down and type...... More soon, I promise :-)

in the meantime here are a few images to view…….

NB: There are 110 images in the slideshow from several locations.

19 January 2011

Brandon Marsh – Awakening

Three  trips to Brandon Marsh recently, namely on the 11th 13th and 17 of January. Why Brandon Marsh so often – well, it is close to our house, we are members of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and so have no additional entry fees (£2.50 per person for none members) and it is an easy walk when you are not feeling so well, with lots of places to sit and rest in pleasant surroundings.

The principle reason, of course, is to go visit the residents. Over the past 5 years or so Seri and I have taken in excess of 100,000 photographs in, around, and of the Brandon Marsh site, as you can probably guess there is little to see or photograph that we have not already seen and/or photographed :-).

So, time is moving fast – the weather is improving, and winter’s cold snap has finally snapped – well, lets hope the snow and ice has gone for good this time :-). The days are still cold and relatively dark for photography, but the odd bit of sunshine is making itself known, and most welcome it is too, both to us, and to the wildlife on the reserve.

All of the lakes are now fully de-iced – first time since late November that there has been no discernible ice………..

There has been quite a  lot of fungi around in the past few weeks, since the ice melted, with many species in evidence. Take a walk through the woods and you can find lots of beautiful shapes and colours from highly coloured yellows through to bright purple the fungi are a beautiful addition to the overall scenery, and one which we have photographed widely. We NEVER id fungi for others, there are too many potentially dodgy ones out there, so if you wish to know what something is you might like to look here – it is a reasonably well resourced site……

Most people who visit Brandon Marsh do so to see the bird life – whilst the ice was around this was in scarce supply – mixed flocks of Siskin, various Tits as well as Redpoll and Bullfinches were around, but very hard to see in the poor light. The lakes were almost empty, fishing birds cannot, obviously fish through ice and had to make their living elsewhere. We did not see Heron or Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes or the many breeds of diving ducks for weeks – but now, at last, they are all returning.

Many of our fellow photographers are more interested in the pursuit of the rarer species – Bittern, for example, draw the “crowds” whereas Shoveller, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Lapwing, Shelduck, Gadwall, Cormorant, Grey Heron and the numerous other common species do not. We tend to photograph them all with equal joy. Watching the behaviour of these delightful creatures is a joy in and of itself, especially at this time of year. All of the above species can now be found making their living on the lakes once more…..

We have many hundreds of shot of the Bittern in our collection and do not pursue them “at all costs” – if we come across them we are delighted and will sit for hours photographing them, but it is not worth our time to sit for hours in feint hope of a sighting……

Whilst sitting in the Baldwin Hide, A Heron, a rather clever one at that, suddenly took off, leapt on top of a Cormorant and stole the fish it had caught, leaping into deep water as it did so. I’ve not seen such behaviour previously – as I said a clever bird indeed :-) when I say leapt on top of I do mean this quite literally. The result? A well fed Heron and A most surprised looking Cormorant – doubtless with a bit of a headache too :-) such is life, such in nature……...

Just about every species, where there is more than one individual present, on the lakes, is starting the long move towards mating and raising of the next generation. Teal are to be seen in small groups of males, peeping loudly to gain the attention of  the often solitary female in the centre of their group – She, in her turn is doing her best to ignore the persistent attentions of the attractive little monsters.

Mallard and Pochard are paired up with the males defending their ladies’ “honour” and chasing off all comers. The Goldeneye – a delightful sea going duck which comes inland at this time of year -  are starting their odd mating displays in which they arch their backs to place their head onto their own back, lift their little legs out of the water and then kick vigorously.

Mature Cormorant have their white heads and white belly patch to show they are all grown up and ready to breed and pretty much everything on the lake is getting on with this sorting out stage of the mating game.

In the reserve itself it is now noticeable that the Robins have given up on feeding from the visitors hands and are now sitting atop the higher branches in their territory singing. Looking for love - in human parlance – they are in the territories from which they hope to woo a lady Robin and raise young. These territories they will defend to the death – once again - literally………

And so the reserve is awakening after winters slumber…….

A great time for visitors, a great, if somewhat challenging, time for photographers (poor light). A great relief for the starving Herons and others fishing species – but not – one suspects – for the fish……….

10 January 2011

Bradgate Park and Groby Pool

9th January and we got around to actually going somewhere – the usual reasons for a late start – illness and Seri’s work getting in the way of our playtime, ce’st la vie :-).

So we awoke to a glorious day, bright winter sun, which means very blue light and overly long shadows to the photographer. Sunshine and a diminished ice supply makes for a pleasant change – this winter started early and has been quite harsh, compared to a usual UK winter, of course……

We decided to make the 28 mile trip up the M69 to Bradgate Country Park, in Leicestershire, not a long trip and a great place to visit.  In a previous post we showed Bradgate in the snow, now, finally the snow has all gone, although the river is still iced over in places.

Each visit we make to Bradgate also encompasses a visit to Groby Pool, again see the previous post for details and a map of the area. Groby, a sizeable lake, is still iced over, with pockets of clear water.

It is quite interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable

for the Swans and Ducks, to see the waterfowl walking the ice sheet in order to get the the feeding spot. A very small rocky bank from which visitors, and there are quite a few visitors, feed these lucky birds. Mute Swans are at the lake in larger numbers than normal – for the free food  no doubt – with many of them doing their dominance display – all fluffed up making themselves look as large as they possibly can. The swans are also getting quite fractious – many squabbles are occurring – and the youngsters are having quite a hard time. Restricted swimming space and a food supply which they are trying to protect for themselves is certainly having an effect.

Coots and Black Headed Gulls are ducking and diving amongst the larger species and manage to hold their own quite well. The Coots grab food and run, usually with the gulls in hot pursuit. Great to see, not so great to be a participant perhaps……. Alas such is the life of a wild animal.

The resident hybrid ducks are back – they were missing last time we visited – and it was so nice to see them.

Whilst at Groby we took the opportunity – nice place with few people – to test some new equipment. A Hahnellive view” remote control unit – which allows the used to view what the camera’s viewfinder is seeing through a small wireless screen, which in turn accommodates a remote control unit that can operate the shutter from up to 60 metres distance. We have few photos of Seri and myself together, and now we have the opportunity to take such shots – at the risk of scaring people :-)

The system works, but we need to practice with it at home, to get the best out of it. Click the link above to get info on the unit…….

The reason we have few shots together – well, basically on the first hand we don’t feel comfortable handing several thousand pounds worth of camera equipment to a stranger and asking them to take our photo and secondly it is not practical to set up the tripod, push the timer switch and then try to run back into the shot. I’m not that fast on my feet these days :-)

A happy 45 minutes or so feeding the birds and off to Bradgate.

We visit Bradgate for the whole of the environment, we love to see the birds, deer, the ancient oaks and indeed all the people interacting with the environment. We fed the ducks, couldn’t find our little friend – the noisy Wigeon – on the way into the estate, but we could hear the little monster on the way out and gave him his customary feed.

Lots of ducks around, a Bibbed Mallard and a bunch of Mallard mostly, but also this visit a trio of Tufted Duck males, with a solitary female. A couple of Mute Swan adults bathing enthusiastically as it their wont.

We discovered a few years ago that Swans, as well as many geese species, invert in the water when bathing, kicking their legs in the air as they do so. It is very funny to see, but hard to identify as the manoeuvre takes only a second or so to complete. So, if you see a Swan bathing watch closely you may see this very funny spectacle. Last year we found a Leucistic  Jackdaw, this trip we found it again. A very odd looking little thing :-) good to see him still around.

One does not visit Bradgate and not go in search of the herds of deer, it is one of the reasons for the parks “fame”. It is perfectly possible to visit Bradgate, spend several hours on the estate – assuming one can afford to park there, now the price has gone so high – and find no sign of deer whatsoever, apart from copious droppings and hoof prints.

It is equally possible to walk into the park and find Fallow bucks on the pathways, within a couple of metres of the hundreds of visitors who arrive daily with their children and their dogs. Red Deer, despite their immense size, compared to Fallow, tend to be a little less “friendly” and prefer to keep their distance from people. We have often observed that the Fallow are unimpressed by people, and take little notice, whereas Red Deer look distinctly uncomfortable in human company.

On this trip we were quite fortunate in that, after a reasonable walk, we found a large herd of fallow females, youngsters and yearling bucks. Unfortunately they were in a less than ideal spot to photograph, with the now failing light behind them, but we got a few shots….. Just across from them we also spotted a group of 5 adult Red Deer stags, all friends again now the rut is over.

It was interesting to see that 4 of the stags were very relaxed, whilst the 5th was very agitated – and was keeping a constant vigil on the numerous people around them. It was equally interesting to see that this guardian was dominant within the small group, where he walked so his colleagues moved out of his way – and quickly :-) They clearly knew who was the boss……….

Whilst photographing these handsome fellows we began chatting with a really nice young fellow from Africa – who was, like us, enjoying the experience of photographing such majestic animals.  Didn’t catch his name, but we enjoyed the chat nonetheless……

Lovely day, good company, nice gentle walk and to end the day a gorgeous red-sky sunset. What more could one ask for :-)

3 January 2011

2011–A New Year

And so begins a new year – 2011 began for us with a tiring – but ultimately entertaining – New Years Day visit to Coombe Abbey Country Park, in Coventry – just a couple of miles from our present home. We have visited Coombe every January 1st for the past 3 years, and it has become something of a tradition for us. You would be surprised, or perhaps if you live in Coventry you wouldn’t :-) to see just how many people visit the park.

Lots of young families getting out and getting exercise after the  holiday excesses. Lots of kids on their new bikes and scooters, toddlers on new push along tractors and such, playing with new footballs and various other toys. Adults playing with their new toys, cameras to be seen everywhere – shooting their kids, their partners and family members – shooting the ducks, gulls and swans  and the gorgeous hotel and the parklands themselves – but almost always trying desperately not to point their new toys at other people……. It is so sad to see how nervous all the photographers are in public spaces.

We adopt a general rule. If we see someone carrying and using a camera in a public space then we feel free to photograph them. That said, we never photograph people’s kids, for example, without permission. The UK has gone more than a little crazy about such things………

Anyway on to the wildlife – arrived in the carpark to be met by more Grey Squirrels than we’ve ever seen in one spot before. It was heaving with these intelligent little creatures. The reason? People have been placing lots of food around the carpark for the birds and such. It is a delight to see the birds so close in – Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits all over the place, Nuthatches dropping in and out of the scene – Wrens, Blackbirds and Song Thrush all making the most of their free meals. Shame it was so dark – lack of light means lack of opportunity to capture the action – but we got by :-)

A walk down to the bridge over the main lake, the usual culprits are all around – a large number of Mute Swans, adults and juveniles. At this time

of year the adults are highly aggressive towards their young – nips are common…….. The resident East Indies Black duck is prominent as usual – with its friend the pure white duck – these two are never more than a few feet from one another. The East Indies gets lots of attention – usually from people questioning how rare it might be :-) and does anyone know what it is…… No-one asks us, and we don’t spoil their fun and give the game away LOL

Suddenly a shout went up “you gave it a whole donut?” – a mother shouts at her kids – we turned to see a group of swans squabbling over the treat in question. Have a look at this postings gallery, there are a few amusing Homer-esque shots  of the swans desperate attempts to keep the donut to themselves.

A walk up to the hide which is situated to overlook the Coombe Park Heronry – we were looking for birds on the natural feeders – posts with holes drilled into them, with fat based feed placed into the said holes. Disappointing to see there was no food available to the birds and consequently very few birds to be seen. Fortunately the cold spell took a break over the New Year or the smaller species which rely on these hand-outs would doubtless have been in trouble.

Walk back to the car and home – another New Years day – a bunch more photos :-)

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Second of January and we made our first trip of the year to our favourite spot – Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve.  Seems like almost everyone we know has turned out to the Marsh at the same time – spent more time talking to people than actually looking for the wildlife – but that’s all a part of the “game” I guess :-) Many of the photographers at Brandon Marsh exhibit their material on Flickr – search for Brandon Marsh and you should find at least some of them……

At this time of year Seri carries a little pack of dried mealworms with her – food for Robins. The Robins at Brandon are renowned for their cheek and indeed for their cuteness.

You can often see a visitor holding out handfuls of feed and the Robins swooping down for a snack. The Robins have very distinct personalities too, some of them do a smash and grab – dash in, grab a mealworm and tear off again all in less than a second.

Some of them will hover for a second or so, making a more discerning choice of mealworm, these guys are obviously a little braver than the former group. Some are very nervous of the camera – we always photograph them as they feed from Seri’s hand – it is their payment to us – so to speak :-) this group will perhaps wait until we throw the food onto the ground and walk off. We always leave a treat even if they won’t perform…….

A final type is the over-confident robber – sorry – Robin – these fellows will head for your hand before it is out of your pocket and are ready and waiting for you as you walk into the reserve. Many a visitor has been followed by a little posse of red breasted muggers LOL in recent weeks one or two of the blighters have been jumping onto the pot of mealworms before Seri even opens it such is their intent :-)

It is a delight to behold………

All of the ponds are still frozen solid – very tough on the Herons and Kingfishers – who have vacated the premises for the time being. A lot of people have been seeing the Bitterns in various parts of the reserve – we’ll wait until we happen upon them, we don’t stalk wildlife – we rely on serendipity (a happy accident).

So we walked around the reserve – a very quiet affair – walk around a corner and we find lots of people looking upwards – usually a good sign – there was a large mixed flock of perhaps 50-60 birds. Lots of Tits, mixed in with Redpoll and Siskin and the odd Goldfinch just too dark to photograph them well.

Walk on a little further, flash gun attached to the camera it is now so dark, and we found a couple of Yellow Brain Fungi – a very pretty bright yellow fungi also know as “Witches Butter

And so we walk back to the car – drive to the entrance and then get out again LOL we spotted a small group of horses -  too good an opportunity to miss…….. Several dozen photos later and we went home tired but happy – but very tired LOL

From here on it is back to the grindstone – Seri has been on vacation for the past month – tomorrow back to work……

Oops forgot to mention t0 – we also had a bunch of visitors to our feeders  - see the gallery linked from the  image in this post :-)