13 June 2017

Bart and Ruby – Another year, another breeding attempt.

Some 400 years ago Great, or Common Cranes, became extinct in the UK. It was the usual sad tale of humanity persecuting another species by over-hunting and drainage of their ideal habitat and to such an extent that they disappeared from these shores.

In the 1970’s the Cranes returned of their own volition, albeit in small numbers, but it was not until 1982 that the first successful breeding occurred – in Norfolk.

Then in 2010 the RSPB, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust – based in Slimbridge and several other collaborating groups founded the game changing project known as the Great Crane Project.

The project set out to hand rear 93 Great Cranes chicks and return them to the wild on the Somerset Levels. Crane chicks learn the vast majority of their life skills from their parents, obviously not around due to the hand rearing – and so a unique approach was born – Crane School.

We won’t go into any further detail of the project and/or process involved in rearing and releasing  these birds as you can read such details in the links we’ve provided above.

And so to our heroes – Bart and Ruby are both Crane School graduates and were both hatched in 2010. They have been paired for a number of years now and have made several breeding attempts – all of which have failed at the egg stage.

Now in May/June 2017 they have tried again – and this time they have built their nest – with two precious eggs -  in a spot which is very easy to watch. Slimbridge, about 15-20 metres from Hogarth Hide to be exact.

So, watch, film and photograph is what we have been doing: Click each of the Links in turn to see how Bart and Ruby have been making us all nervous…

Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four

As Slimbridge is just short of a 200 mile round trip for us we can’t spend the amount of time we would like to documenting the nest site, but we do our best. Keeping an eagle eye on the sightings pages allows us some idea as to when is an opportune time for looong  M5 drive.

And so, after years of trying we finally heard news – one of Bart and Ruby’s eggs hatched on the 10th June – so we get up very early  and in the car with many kg’s of camera gear in tow – this time saved my back by using a set of suitcase wheels as a trolley and arrive at the hide, expecting it to be full of people, but no – our timing was perfect and there was only one intrepid observer there.

What did we see? CLICK the image to meet Bruby.

Slimbridge WWT D7200 X14 C13  12-06-2017 13-32-048

This little beauty – at only 2.5 days old it was still very wobbly on its little legs but very outgoing, the proverbial precocious youngster. We were very pleased to see both parents doing their duty and caring for the chick whilst continuing to incubate the remaining egg. Which, by the time we left, had a little beak sticking out of a hole. So we captured some 45 minutes of HD video and rather of lot of photos of the little family, which we’ll doubtless post in due course. We then went home happy.

On the M42 we were almost killed when travelling at 70mph when a BMW decided to aggressively overtake a truck when we were beside them – they didn’t even look and almost side swiped us off the road – I had to do a massive swerve and control the car to avoid the collision. When they saw our dashcam they slowed to such an extent that we lost them in traffic.

So, thanks for that…. spoiled an otherwise fantastic day.

More on the cranes later….

21 May 2017

A recent visit to Bempton Cliffs

Just a few images for now,  i’ll add text later – probably…. Click a pic to open larger.

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and this, below, is what we’ve been up to most recently…..

Slimbridge bart and ruby 720p

2 May 2017

May Bank Holiday

So how was your bank holiday weekend – enjoyable we hope :-)

Ours was busy busy busy. We took the Nikons and the XF305 for a couple of long drives. Seri, who will blog the trip later, took Friday as a leave day giving us plenty of time for photographic mischief.

So Friday we went for our first trip of the year to Bempton Cliffs. A very long day trip from Coventry, where we live, we spent roughly 7 hours in the car and covered about 360 miles. With 4 hours on site we were both pretty wasted by the time we got home.

The  cliffs are a prime breeding site for many species of true seabirds – Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar and Kittiwake all breed on the cliffs in large numbers. There are many other species to see also, naturally, with small numbers of Puffin as well as gull species, occasional Peregrines, Linnet, Skylark, Kestrel, Tree Sparrows and, well look at the above RSPB link for a general guide.

Highlight of this trip was undoubtedly the long range views of two Short Eared Owls – one of which can be seen hunting in the video below…

A good if somewhat tiring day.

seo bempton_x264


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Saturday we stayed in Coventry visiting Tocil Woods which is situated within the grounds of Warwick University. Yes, Warwick University is in Coventry LOL.

We had a happy hour or so wandering in the woods which are beautifully bedecked with thousands of Bluebells at this time of year, and then home for food, fluids and lots of rest.

Dipper at Gilfach Farm - Otter Hide

Sunday and we were in the car again for another 300++ mile trip – this time back home to Wales.

Rain was forecast for the afternoon so we got up especially early and were in Gilfach Farm nice and early. First stop there, for us, is always at the bottom of the humungous hill and into the “Otter Hide”. Otters have been seen there, but never by us. We go there in search of Dippers. We were almost immediately rewarded by sighting of the little brown marvel of nature.

Seri got to grips with shooting the birds with her Nikon and I began the task of setting up the XF305 for shooting into the darkness of the river. As you can see from the video it didn’t work out too well….

I captured the above video with the camera in a less than ideal position and setup. The bird then delivered it’s beak full of food to the nest (under the bridge) and went out of sight. So I dutifully set the camera to a better position, sorted out the exposure and colour profile and waited for its return.


So back to the Nikons for me too…..

We had a great time at Gilfach shooting the Dipper, Pied Flycatcher, Pipits and Nuthatches amongst others.

We then drove down to our beloved Aberystwyth, where we lived for a decade, bought the smallest portions of fish and chips we’ve ever seen, and headed straight back into the hills and into Nant yr Arian, a place we’ve been visiting regularly for 20 years or so.

Photographed the Red Kites feeding and then the long drive home……

Bank Holiday Monday we were both dead on our feet so a little bit of shopping and then stayed home, planning our next raiding party :-)

We shot some 5,200 still images over the weekend and a bit of video.

Obviously we’ve not posted any still in this posting, but 50+GB of data takes a long time to sort out – so next time :-)…

For now – here’s one we did earlier…..

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Click the image to see our latest work in progress.

Take a look at our Flickr site to see what else we’ve been up to.

20 February 2017

Busy Birds at Brandon Baldwin.

There’s a steep learning curve to the new (to us) video camera. The XF305 is not for the faint hearted :-), but we’re getting there. Worked out most of the systems, and slowly getting to grips with the ergonomics – no pun intended – which in itself is quite a task given that most surfaces are covered by control buttons or switches of one sort or another…. We know, of course, from experience of using advanced DSLR’s that muscle memory will eventually kick in and at that point you don’t have to think of, or look at, controls to know you’re hitting the right one for a given situation.

Installed a bunch of Custom Picture profiles now, and have found a few that give a more or less finished look that we like, so that’s a big bonus - in that it drastically cuts down editing requirements and precious time…

Anyway our video output may not be hugely interesting at present, but we are going through the learning process with this advanced tech – not helped by a catastrophic laptop failure last week in which we lost all the XF footage we had captured to date, and which required the purchase of a new £600 machine…. sigh.

Went to Brandon Marsh with the sole intention of capturing 30 minutes of footage to work with, which was no great chore :-).

The above video is a 5 minute clip – minus a few seconds cut from the front where I was setting the camera as I wished, from that 30 minutes, and I have to say I'm very pleased with it.

Again, my pleasure is not so much for the subjects captured, delightful as they are, but rather as a demonstration that I am actually picking up required techniques.

So the video shows, as I said above, 5 minutes of footage, roughly, all captured handheld and in one non-stop clip – for such a big lump of camera it’s good to see virtually no involuntary camera movement. I like the exposure, and my panning is OK.

You will appreciate that, due to limited broadband upload speeds we have to seriously reduce quality and this shows in the presented footage. I have posted it at 720P so make sure you view that resolution for best, or at least better, results.

The footage was originally 2gb of raw data – now reduced to 80mb or thereabouts.

Feel free to critique.

3 February 2017

Squirrels and Ants


Garden Ants “rescuing” their young pupae sisters– the footage is shown at 7x speed.

Remarkable creatures – they left not a single pupae exposed, picking each one up delicately in their jaws and carrying it into the lower levels of the nest, and safety.

No ants were harmed in the making of this film……..

30 January 2017

A 3 week love story


Shot in Donna Nook in November 2016 using our little Kodak Playsport handheld thing. Original is HD 1080P this is optimised for embedding only and is much lower IQ.