Somehow a whole year has passed by since I last posted on this blog! Hopefully, any regular visitors will have noticed that I haven't completely abandoned the website though and will have seen some of the new photographs that I have uploaded during the past year.
The last twelve months have seen me move from the East Midlands to Norfolk, to start a new job working for the British Trust for Ornithology, and welcome a new four-legged friend into my life. My new profile photograph (below) reflects this change and shows me with my camera on my back playing with Amy on Titchwell Beach in Norfolk. She is a wonderful dog to take along with you when out photographing for the day as she is very patient and will happily wait by my side every time I stop to capture an image. She can make life a little challenging though as every time I bend down to get a better angle on something or to photograph something close to the ground, she sees that as an invitation to be fussed!
Me and Amy on Titchwell Beach, Norfolk
Most of the new images that I have posted in the past year are Norfolk related - seals photographed mostly at Horsey, waders photographed along the north-west Norfolk coastlines and sea/sandscapes. I am currently processing some of the images I haven't had chance to work on yet (I will finish the seabird images from last year's trip to the Shiants Isles!) and am busy looking for new photographic opportunities (that don't include the very photogenic Amy - believe me I could add a gallery just of her!). So, look out for images of spring flowers coming soon and updates to the American albums when I return from my upcoming trip to help out with the Delaware Shorebird Project again. Oh, and the moth trap will be coming out again soon too!
Grey Seal pup portrait taken at Horsey Beach, Norfolk - one of the new images in my 'Mammals' gallery
I also promise to try to keep this blog updated a little more regularly than I have done lately!
A new set of galleries has been added to the website today featuring a few photographs taken in Delaware on the east coast of America. The images were taken during visits to volunteer with the Delaware Shorebird Project (DSP) in May 2012 and 2013.
Delaware Bay is positioned on the Atlantic Flyway and is the final staging area for thousands of shorebirds on their migration from their South American / South-eastern US wintering grounds to their Arctic breeding grounds. In spring, the Bay is also home to horseshoe crabs. These prehistoric looking creatures spawn on the beaches in their millions and their tiny green eggs are full of protein – just what the hungry shorebirds need to replenish their body fat and to provide them with enough energy to complete their journey north. In the short time that the knot spend in Delaware Bay (1-2 weeks) they can double their body weight by foraging on crab eggs!
Horseshoe crab surrounded by tiny green eggs
Unfortunately, for a number of complex reasons, the shorebird populations have diminished in recent years. In 1997, the Delaware Shorebird Project was established to research and monitor the health of the birds in order to better understand the connection between the birds, Delaware Bay and the horseshoe crabs. The data gathered are helping to identify and protect the resources that are so critical to the success of the shorebird migration. The DSP works in partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wash Wader Ringing Group (WWRG) and it is through the latter that I have been able to join the project over the past two years. A sister project, the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project runs concurrently on the New Jersey side of Delaware Bay. The birds use both sides of the Bay to feed, often swapping shores to avoid inclement weather. Having data from both sides is crucial for researchers to gain a full picture of the state of the shorebird populations using the Bay.
Sunrise over Back Beach in Delaware Bay
Small part of the flock of birds on Back Beach, Delaware Bay
Project work involves catching and flagging birds, counting the numbers of birds using each of the beaches each day and re-sighting the colour flagged birds. Target species for the project are red knot, ruddy turnstone, sanderling (all of which are colour flagged) and semipalmated sandpiper (not flagged on the Delaware side). Other species that are ringed but not flagged include dunlin, short-billed dowitcher, semipalmated plover and least sandpiper.
Semipalmated sandpiper being released after ringing
When not catching, time is spent counting the birds in the Bay and attempting to find and read leg flags using telescopes. Team members visit the key beaches along the Bay shore, including Back Beach in Misspilion Harbour, where the largest numbers of birds congregate. Re-sighting colour flagged birds gives information on arrival and leaving dates of individual birds, movements of individual birds within the Bay and information on survival of individual birds.
Re-sighting flags from a boat
Approximately 10% of the red knot population passing through the Bay is estimated to be flagged, along with smaller percentages of turnstone, sanderling and semipalmated sandpipers. Flagging projects are undertaken in a number of different countries; the flag colour indicates which country the bird was flagged in. In the US, lime coloured flags are used, Canada uses white, Argentina orange, Brazil blue and Chile red. Percentage counts are also taken of knot and turnstone to ascertain how many birds in the group are flagged e.g. 50 clearly visible birds of one species will be counted and the number of flags noted. Researches can then use this data to extrapolate the percentage of the population that is flagged.
Red knot with an orange flag on it indicating that it was originally ringed in Argentina
The project work is quite intense (seven days a week) however, there is always time to fit in the odd birding trip too. There are a number of local wildlife refuges such as Prime Hook and Bombay Hook which are well worth a visit. As the project drew to a close on my first visit in 2012, most of the birds had already departed for their breeding grounds so the local staff took us out for a fantastic day’s birding down to Redden State Forest and to Cape Henelopen. Before setting out I (as the only person never to have visited the States before) was asked what I would like to see. I proceeded to reel off a ridiculously ambitious list knowing I would be happy to see only half of what was on there. Well, I wish I had asked for the lottery numbers because we (and by we, I mean the locals who knew the area backwards) found every single bird on the list including blue jay (ridiculously common over there but I hadn’t seen one), red-headed woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, scarlet tanager, brown-headed nuthatch and the pièce-de-résistance, piping plover!
The gorgeous piping plover
In 2013, a sneaky birding trip saw three of us join the Sussex County Bird Club / Delaware Audubon on a birding trip to the Great Cyprus Swamp in the south west of Delaware State. The area is a privately owned habitat that is managed for deer. It has previously been drained but is currently undergoing management work to try to restore the habitat to its former glory. This includes removing the trees (sweet gums / tulip poplars) that are colonising the drier areas and re-wetting the woodland. The trees being removed are being ring-barked, leaving large numbers of ‘snags’. The by-product of this is a large increase in the number of red-headed woodpeckers. We managed to see ten! The trip highlights included a cracking male American redstart, yellow-throated warbler, Louisiana water thrush and wild turkey. We also managed to see a black rat snake hassling ovenbirds (some very worried looking adults trying to protect their chicks) and tiger swallowtail butterflies (both the yellow and the black morphs) – stunning!
The most iconic species in Delaware Bay is the red knot. This species is currently being considered for extra protection in the US through listing it as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Threatened means it is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant proportion of its range due to habitat loss, lack of food, asynchronies in timing of migratory cycle and predation on breeding grounds. Hopefully a ruling will be made in 2014 and if successful, will mean a recovery plan can be created and implemented to protect the species and start to restore the ecological health of the population.
The Delaware Shorebird Project is an international partnership effort between the DSP, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Delaware Museum of Natural History, the BTO, WWRG and local volunteers. As a direct result of the project, the decline in the red knot population has been halted. Recovery may take a while longer yet, but the fact that the decline has been halted is a wonderful indictment of the fantastic work that this project has done over the past fifteen years or so. More information on the DSP can be found on the project website: http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/shorebirds/Pages/default.asp
It has been a privilege to be a part of the team over the past two years and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the WWRG for allowing me to join them and to the staff and volunteers at the DSP for their support and for welcoming me into the team. I am very much looking forward to joining them again this May. This year I also have a cracking new lens so am very excited about the images I will be getting whilst I am there. I will of course be adding the best shots to the American galleries.
Over the past few weeks, I have been busy acquiring samples of some the items I am selling on the website (UK goods) so that I can quality check the products and post photographs of some of them. I am pleased to now be able to add photographs of placemats, coasters and canvas prints. The quality of all of the goods I have tested so far has been superb and the images have been reproduced faithfully in terms of colour and crop.
I am particularly pleased with the coasters and placemats, as the high sheen, heat resistant finish shows off the images at their best. At present, the website is only set up to enable customers to buy coasters as a set of four, all of the same image and placemats as a set of two of the same image. The good news is that I am currently building up my stock and soon I will be able to offer placemats and coasters in sets of two or four, either with matching images or as sets of images of similar subject matters. At present, I am working on sets of wading birds, seabirds, images of Derbyshire and flowers, with more to follow in due course. Please get in touch if you would like to suggest a subject for a set or commission a set (any of the images can be combined into a set).
A selection of the coasters available
The quality of the canvas prints is also top notch. I chose to purchase images with a photo wrap, mounted on a 3.8cm thick frame. The canvases are tightly stretched and look very professional and they come with mirror plates for hanging. One of my colleagues liked the Ladybower image so much that she bought it on the spot. I just managed to take a quick snap of it before it was whisked away to adorn a wall in Sheffield.
My favourite Ladybower image printed onto a panoramic 24x12 inch canvas.
Snow scene near Shap in Cumbria, printed onto a 24x12 inch canvas.
I have also added a few new card and postcard templates to the website. At present, they are only available as multi-packs but I will be rectifying this and adding an option to buy individual cards soon. I am also working on a new template for the back of the cards that will allow me to include details of where the images were taken or what species is being depicted. Watch this space for an update when the new items are available.
As always, if you have any questions, please get in touch.
I have finally figured out how to sell items through an American supplier so it is now possible to buy items in the US and Canada. At the moment, the only purchasing option is in US Dollars but this could change if anybody in Canada wants me to set up a Canadian Dollars buying option. For that matter, if anyone wants me to set up selling in Australian Dollars or Euros, I can do that too. Feel free to send me a message and I will set it up.
To buy American goodies, when you click through to the buying function, you will need to set the shipping option to United States and the currency to US Dollars and you will then be able to see the products available in the States. So far, options include canvas wraps, prints, greetings cards, mouse mats, coasters, bookmarks, magnets, playing cards and phone and I-pad cases. As I am based in the UK, I obviously haven't had chance to purchase and vet any of the American products so I would value feedback from anyone who buys anything.
Not all of the products available in the US are available in the UK (and vice versa). For instance, none of the British supplier options that are connected to this site sell phone or tablet cases. If anybody would like something that isn't shown as a purchasing option, please get in touch. The suppliers sell a lot more through their websites than I can offer on here so there is a good chance that I can source what you are looking for away from this site.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions.
The option to buy my images is now up and running. If you have taken a shine to any of my photos, you can now purchase them in a variety of guises from prints and canvases to cards, fridge magnets, mouse mats, jigsaws, place mats and coasters. At present the site is not set up to sell in the US but I will be rectifying this as soon as I can.
Examples of a few of the products I am selling are shown below. If you have any questions about any of the items for sale or have any ideas for additional products, please contact me. As always, any constructive feedback will be gratefully received.
A5 size cards. Square format and panoramic (DL) format cards are also available.
Sanderling card. The cards are all blank inside for you to write your own personalised message.
Fridge magnets (that can also stand up on a desk should you wish them to).
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