Jack snipe

You wait 40 plus years for one to come along in front of your camera and two come at once and get in each others way!

Jack snipe. 800mm lens plus 1.4 extender. 3200 iso.  1/400th at f8. It was almost dusk.

I have photographed Jack snipe once before, but not as close as this. I needed better light, but hopefully will try again.


The kingfisher is back on the lake where I usually photograph them. It is about this time of year when we start to see them each year. They are not very reliable yet, but I took a few pictures yesterday and will try again in the morning. I have started off on a very thin, but attractive twig, which I usually prefer to a larger branch. The downside to using such a flimsy perch however, is that the bird is not so likely to return to it to eat a fish as it prefers a thicker branch to slam the fish against before swallowing.

From a hide. Canon EOS 1d Mk1v. 800mm lens. 1/1250th at  f5.6.

Tawny owl

I was sitting in my car in the corner of a field watching the evening light fade away when a Tawny owl called behind me. I could only think of one old, hollow tree in the hedge it called from and 20 minutes later drove round and parked close to it.  After a few minutes the owl popped out and posed wonderfully for me, but I had no cameras set up. I have been back 7 evenings now and it has never posed quite so well. Mostly I just get head shots as it peers out of its hole. By going around the front of the tree I can get the whole owl, but only by using flash as there is no natural light from that angle. The setting sun lights up the side of the tree. I am going to set up a trap camera tonight and see where else he lands after dark. Maybe he uses the fence posts opposite the tree, which could make a nice picture. I left food out for him last night, but he didn’t touch it.

As I drove away last night in the dark I miss-judged where a muddy hole was and got the car stuck. I have everything in the car for extracting it, planks, spades, ropes and a hand winch, but in the dark it is never fun. So I called my friend Pete with his old Skoda to come and pull me out. Once he got there it only took seconds to get me free.

All taken with Canon EOS 1d Mk1v. 800mm lens. 1600 iso except for the flashed full bodied image, which was 800 iso. Portable canvas hide.

House Sparrow

Over the years I have found several places to photograph House sparrows. A red-tiled information stand in Greece and a similar bus stop in Norfolk for instance. The red tiles made for attractive pictures, but I have just found a new spot with more subdued coloured tiles, which are equally photographic. The roof is at head height and covered in lichens and moss, perfect for photography. The only downside is you have to pay £14.50 to get in to Twycross Zoo. It is the roof of the Meercat house, not far from the entrance. Twycross it not a good zoo from the point of view of open enclosures suitable for photography so it was the only subject I took pictures of on the day, other than a head shot of a White stork. Maybe I will try in the spring for the sparrows when the males might be singing.

House sparrow 800mm lesn 1/640 at f7.1. 800 iso. Although I used the big lenses for this shot I also took pictures with the 100-400mm. There was no problems getting closer.

Green woodpecker

Canon EOS 1d Mk1v. 800mm lens. 1/200th at f5.6. 800 iso.

There is a meadow full of ants nests which these birds spend a great deal of time in, but the grass is very long and they do not show well. I cut the grass with a petrol strimmer and lawnmower in one small area to create a “lawn”. Not that is a very good lawn! But it did the job and the woodpeckers came to it within 2 hours. Taken from a canvas hide put up by one of the ant hills. I have since added an upright Silver birch trunk to the spot and the birds have landed on that twice, but not posed well yet. I expect I will try again tomorrow although Mistle thrushes are feeding on the Rowen berries already. I need to try for that first.


I was slow to learn that my 800mm lens will autofocus with a 2x extender on, but only in Live view mode. I was in a hide with Nick Martin and he borrowed my 800mm for a distant Osprey shot. The next thing I knew he was auto focusing with the 2x on while I am telling him he can’t do that, it does not work. But it appears it does and the rest of the world knew it, but not me.

In live view the focus system works on contrast rather than “phase” focusing and it is slow, but it gets there. Nick feels it is best to zoom in the live view image to get the result sharp. It certainly works. Taken on a focus4nature tour in Finland.


Canon 800mm and 2 x extender. Canon EOS 1d Mk1V. 800 iso. 1/1000th at F16.  From a hide by nest. With the cameras built in 1.3 crop that is a 2080mm lens. I always imagined we would start to suffer with heat haze at such magnifications, but no sign of it.

Black-throated diver

Black-throated diver, Finland. 800 iso. 1/500th at f8. Canon EOS 1d Mk1v. 800mm lens. The Black-throated diver is not such a rare bird in Finland and we watched two nests while on a short trip there. Both nests were very close to wooden summer houses that are so familiar around the Finish lakes. One was only 10 meters from an outhouse in the “garden”. Not that it is a proper garden, but amazing how close to humans they nested. Perhaps because man’s activity keeps predators at bay.

Some individuals can be quite confiding. I was standing in the water for this shot with no hide. Just keeping still, with the camera very low to the water on a tripod and a right-angled finder to save having to bend all the way down to the viewfinder and get a wet backside. If I had known I would have taken my chest waders for a bit more comfort.

Great-spotted woodpecker

There are two good times to photograph Great-spotted woodpecker at the nest. Firstly when the young have just hatched and both parents are going right inside the hole to feed them. As the parents come out they launch themselves from the hole into the air and there is the chance to do them in flight. I have done Lesser-spotted woodpecker like this and have since been looking for the opportunity to do Great-spotted the same. I must have found twenty GSW nests this year and the first one was very suitable as it was out in the open and got well lit. It was a bit high and would need all my scaffold tower to reach it. That was my mistake as I found it while they were still on eggs and should have moved the scaffold tower straight in to position during March, which was a warm, dry and sunny month . Instead I left it and by the time they hatched the ground was so wet from the April rain that I could not get my car and trailer into the wood for mud. It was too far to carry the scaffold.

Maybe they will use the site next year and I will get another chance.

The second time to photograph them is when the chicks are ready to leave the nest and are leaning well out of the hole. I found another site that did not need a scaffold tower as the nest was on a steep slope and I could sit at the top in my hide and be level with the nest. The light was not so good here so shutter speeds were slow and it took a few thousand exposures to get the chicks head sharp as they move very quickly. This shot was taken at 6400 iso with Topaz Labs noise reduction filter applied in Photoshop. Amazing what you can do at high iso settings now.

Canon EOS 1v Mk4, 800mm lens. 1/200th at f8. ISO 6400. Topaz Labs noise reduction applied.