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Over the last year or so I have been putting peanuts out for a couple of badgers that visit our garden two or three times a week. They don’t come every night and very rarely together, and it can be at anytime after dark Despite my efforts to get them to arrive earlier or even at a regular time none of which have been successful.
However because they often don’t eat all the nuts, we get lots of visits from birds early next morning that clear up the remainder. One such bird is the Greater Spotted Woodpecker.
This bird is skittish to say the least. Three months ago the slightest movement of the camera or even a gust of wind would have this bird disappearing from view. However firing the camera, whilst he is feasting, has over time, taught him to ignore the sounds and movement, which previously scared him senseless. My aim was always to do something different picture wise and I had come up with an idea of placing the camera high in the tree to get an image of him has he worked his way up the tree trunk.
Easier said than done as he has many trees in which to choose from.
Over the last few weeks I have got closer to this bird than I ever have, and one cannot help marvel at the way it goes about its daily life. How did it evolve to become such a specialist?
The woodpecker group of birds are found around the world in different guises. No other bird to my knowledge smashes its beak into such a solid object as a tree, and as in their case, it’s the tree that comes off the worse for wear.
I’m not going to go into to much detail here about how it survives many of you already know about the woodpeckers biological make-up that allows it to behave in such a way, and if you don’t, then Google it, it’s worth doing. My thoughts go past that and ask the question how did they come about?
If any other bird was to try smashing it’s head against a tree the shock wave alone would surely do irreparable damage. At what point did evolution stick a shock absorber in the bird’s head. It’s not as if, this could be done on a gradual basis. It’s one of those things that either works or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t one dead bird and end of the evolutionary line.
Any way if anyone has the answer I would love to know, meanwhile its back to trying to get some more unusual images of this evolutionary marvel.
- As I sit here writing this blog, I can hear the final sound checks that are being made at Rockness across the loch from home. Rockness is a weekend celebration of music and dance where upon approximately 30,000 people will enjoy the festivities.
- Make no mistake this is big business and large amounts of money will change hands over the next few days with many pounds going back into the economy.
These sorts of event’s attract all sorts of people from die-hard old hippies (myself included) to Rock festival virgins. Most will have a great time but a few will become victims from other less scrupulous human beings, who think rules are for others.
But are animals much different?
At my bird feeder this morning a number of birds were quietly having their breakfast whilst others waited in the branches for a free spot to feed.
Out of the blue came a small siskin who sat on a branch and watched the proceedings for a short while before launching an unprovoked attack on a feeding bird, chasing him off.
Not content with one victory he then decided he wanted the feeder to himself and proceeded to start on the other birds. The long arm of natures law arrived in the form of two large chaffinches who drove off the aggressor away before returning to feed themselves.
Despite showing much less aggression, his attempts to return to the feeder were thwarted, and the sentence of no seed was vigorously carried out by the chaffinch, who would not tolerate the siskin’s presence, but seemed quite happy to let others feed.
Despite our freedom rules have to exist in any society and my guess is animals aren’t that much different.
A reminder in my inbox that there is only a week till the close of the BBC wildlife competition, left wondering where the hell has this year gone.
This has just been compounded by a colleague, who has just denied that the ever heard of the band squeeze, and he’s 24. At this moment in time I am left wondering where have all the years gone.
Looking back I realised that music has played quite an important part in my life. Often I hear a tune I’m immediately transported back to when I first heard that song. It might have an association with an old girlfriend of that particular time, or a place or part of the world I was visiting.
I then got to wondering if images do the same. Many if not most of my images hold a memory for me in one way or another. But do they strike a chord with others. I would like to think so, but the reality is probably not, and even if one or two have then the chances are I wouldn’t know. Like wise do other people’s images do it for me. Well in this world where images are thrown at us by the hundreds of thousands, certainly a lot less than they used to. For me it takes something extra special for it to have the wow factor. Is this because picture standards have fallen? Well there is certainly a lot of poor photographs flying around, but of course such images may mean something to someone else, and I am often looking at these images from a technical, rather than an emotional angle.
These days I find myself looking more at images which tell a story. Photographs that connect me and my interests or indeed inform me, become favourites.
Images that show me things I have never seen before, that give me a connection, are the ones that stand out.
When I think back, it was one such image that made me pick up a camera in the first place.
The image was the Jim Brandenburg wolf looking at him from behind the tree. This made me feel as if it was the wolf watching the photographer rather than the other way round. So special was that image to me, I immediately went out and bought my first SLR camera, a Practica MTL 3. A completely manual camera in every way but it did have the luxury of a centre weighted inbuilt light meter, and at the time was cutting edge. Having just bought an extreme Macro Lens I am now seeing things I have never seen before and am amazed that often these images are right on my doorstep, and I been walking right past them on almost a daily basis. With the leaps in technology that photography has undergone over the last 15 years, and the changes that have occurred in whats possible to photograph, It will be interesting for me to see what inspires Mr Brandenburg and his panel of judges, as it is he who is the head judge in this year BBC competition.
Having had a full English Breakfast last sunday, and watching as the rain gave way to glorious light, I decided that a second rarity would take place, we would go for a family walk. This was met with mild enthusiasm from Julie my partner and a total rejection from the youngest member of the household whom had only just surfaced from the duvet.
Despite her unusual protests (normally Rosie jumps at the chance of adventure) and after a series of “do we have to, where are we going to go, I have been round those wood’s loads of times, I don’t need to see them again…………..” You get the picture, we set of with no plan, A flask of hot chocolate, a camera each and enthusiasm, on my part any way.
After a short while and family chit-chat suddenly I found some flowering gorse (I know it’s January) I decided to try to get some images. The girls suitably unimpressed carried on walking, as I cursed for not putting the Macro lens in my pocket. Out of the corner of my eye a lichen covered post started to draw me ever closer as I studded the possibility of making an artistic image. I needed to find a way to get as close as the short zoom lens would allow. The more I looked the more possibilities came to light.
After a good hour I decided to try catch the girls up who by now had disappeared out of sight. After only 200 yards I found them both lying in the undergrowth photographing the frost on fallen leaves, and having much fun looking at the different patterns the frost had formed. They also were cursing at the lack of a macro lens. Finding some interesting frost Patterns we then carried on to the ridge over looking Lochness and poured ourselves a hot chocolate each, and taking in the view our young protester announced I love being out here its just so wild. Was this the same girl who left the house with us. The one that moaned belligerently for the first 300 yards.
I had to agree as much as I love taking images the just being there, seeing nature in all it’s glory is by far the best part and as I pointed out it’s just a case of making the time and effort to do it. As in life sometimes to do nothing is by far the easier option. But then our inner-self and well-being suffers.
I do wonder about the human race sometimes, A walk, or should I say jostle through the centre of Inverness during Christmas week, raises a wry smile as I watch the animal instinct within us scurrying about, It’s as if the very survival of the next generation depends on our actions here and now.
People buying Stuff for people, most of which has had little or no thought, as to whether this person actually needs, or even wants the said item. It will probably end up being taken back to the shop at best, or just stuffed into a draw somewhere until that person moves house, where upon the local charity shop will have the unenviable task of trying to resell it, again only to find out that Primark (other discount stores available), were selling them at three for a fiver in the first place.
Then there’s the food. When I was a boy (Yes I know it was a long time ago) My mother used to buy enough food to get us through the next five days. She did this with some Justification, as that’s how long the shops were shut. Now however they only close for a few hours not even days, but still the hunter gatherer goes ballistic, and fills the car to bursting point with enough food, to feed a complete african village for a week, a large proportion of which will end up heading to the nearest landfill.
Now I can here you shouting – “Ba Humbug” but nothing could be further from the truth. Christmas is a time of celebration. but do you really need 140 Satsuma’s to feed 8 people (unless of course your going on a satsuma diet, or planing to eat turkey el orang’e, with that bird which is one down from an ostrich, and has been contributing to climate change in your oven for the last seventeen hours)
I know there are some slight exaggerations here, but it’s not that far from the truth. It is not Christmas I’m having a jibe at. Its our over consumption of just about everything to do with it.
Nice meal drink, good company and laughter (not necessarily in that order) are things that matter, and of course, despite our moaning, life is not to bad here in our western world. Lets be thankful for what we have and give a thought to those who don’t have that choice.
Merry Christmas all and a Healthy and Happy New Year.
2011 just seems to have been a blur. As I grow older life seems to go faster. Seasons come and go and best laid plans get pushed aside. Some of the years planned images for one reason or another are still to be shot, mainly due though to the unusually dreary weather we have endured here in the north of Scotland.
Frozen Planet series has finished in a blaze of controversy whipped up no doubt by the media press trying to sell papers. Most of you will already know the story, the press calling the BBC for filming new-born polar bear cubs in captive conditions. Filming in this manner is not a new thing and if any thing is more open now than it has ever been. For me this excellent series, made headway into presenting and informing, bringing the frozen worlds of north and south into the living rooms of many who will never see the beauty, feel the extreme cold, or smell the crystal clear air.
Climate change is now only denied by the few, however there are still many that believe that human intervention is not to blame. That I personally doubt, but apportioning blame is both pointless and futile. Understanding the problem and finding a solution however is vitally important, as our world population is set to increase. With the world climate change summit eventually coming to an agreement and with many small but none the less important schemes in which to capture carbon, on the rise. I believe in that whilst not being able to stop climate change we can at least slow its rate.
Key to that in what seems to be a taboo subject (at least by governments) is our ability to control Population. At current trends this is set to increase by another 3 billion people worldwide during the next 18 years.
The U.K. alone is set to increase to 70 million during that time. The sustainable development group Forum For The Future in a report said, Britain would struggle to handle such growth. This large increase in population would be ‘catastrophic’ and put unsustainable pressure on housing, schools and hospitals as well as natural resources. If we fail to tackle the problem soon, then the longer its left the harder the task will be.
Of course there are some that say that nature will do the job for us, and that we will reach the point, when we are not able to provide life’s basic essentials for a large part of the world’s population, but do we really want to go down that route.
I am optimistic that we are not that stupid but only time will tell.
I’ll leave it there before being accused of going off on a rant, (who shouted to late) but I wonder who we will apportion blame to, when explaining to our grandkids in 20 or 30 years time.
I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Life here in the Highlands of Scotland, is never boring and our efforts after three years of hard slog are starting to pay off. I’m not talking financially I’m talking of course about wildlife.
When in 1992 I started to take my photography seriously a mentor of mine told me that photographing wildlife is 90% preparation 9% Patience and just 1% pushing the shutter. Whilst I would give the patience part a larger slice of the pie, it has proven to be good advice. One thing that I would add, is knowledge. I suppose one could include that heading in preparation but at the time I was blissfully unaware of what he was trying to say. Walking the ground finding whats around, looking for tracks and signs of an animals presence all helps in getting the image and can save you large amounts of time. Animals are just like we humans in that they are creatures of habit. if there is a good enough reason they will visit a place time and time again. That reason is often but not always food, The old saying the more I get out the luckier I get is so true, and it is of course no coincidence that it will always be that way. Now all that has to happen is for the light levels to rise and this incessant rain to abate, then its all down to lady luck and myself.