Tag: Holy Island
Landscape photography is a bit of an oddity; unlike wildlife, landscapes tend to not move while you’re trying to photograph them (and if the landscape did start to move, I don’t think having to use a faster shutter speed would the greatest of your worries…). Composition and light are the two factors that I always emphasise to clients on our landscape photography workshops and bespoke tuition sessions, and Tuesday afternoon gave me the opportunity to do that in one of Northumberland’s most iconic settings – the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
I met up with Pat mid-afternoon and we headed towards the harbour. Perhaps a cliched location but with so many boats, so many viewpoints and the ever-changing sky and lighting conditions, there was plenty of scope for playing with exposure, composition and shooting angle. As Pat took a series of images using her own lens and a couple of mine too (12-24mm f4 and 105mm f2.8) I scouted out different compositions and shooting angles for her to experiment with.
Northumberland has so many iconic locations for landscape photography that you could visit a different location every day and never get bored or take the same image twice. If you’re a relative beginner and want to learn how to use your camera equipment to the best of it’s ability, or a more experienced photographer and would like to explore Northumberland’s rich opportunities with a local guide, give us a call on 01670 827465 to see what we can do for you
After postponing our Seal and Seaduck Special last Saturday (sea conditions were ideal, but it would have been really irresponsible to encourage anyone to drive on Northumberland’s roads at the time) we arrived at Seahouses Harbour yesterday morning ready for our final boat trip of the year.
Everyone was well wrapped-up and we were soon boarding Glad Tidings VI. As we sailed out of the harbour a veritable battery of long lenses was produced in readiness for the anticipated wildlife. With a skipper and crewman with excellent eyesight and wildlife-spotting skills, 2 NEWT guides, and clients with sharp eyes as well, the boat was soon being manouvered to offer the best possible opportunities to view or photograph the wildlife. After 13 years of organising offshore wildlife trips we know the importance of the skipper to the success (or otherwise…) of the trip and, with Craig and William, we were in excellent hands.
The first half of the trip concentrated on the Farne Islands themselves. A lot of the Grey Seals had well-grown pups, quite a few of the adults were moulting and there were a couple of cow seals still heavily pregnant.
Shags were sitting around on the islands, Little Auks were bobbing about like corks in the increasing swell, and we had a brief view of a Black Guillemot as it flew from Gun Rock towards Inner Farne. Heading north we enjoyed the sunny (but cold) weather and scoured the sea just south of Holy Island. Plenty of Eider were sitting around, along with a pair of Scaup and several Red-breasted Mergansers but a Slavonian Grebe near Guile Point proved elusive. Red-throated and Great Northern Divers were seen but in much smaller numbers than we would normally expect. The journey back down the coast featured one of our favourite birds; Long-tailed Ducks were sitting around in groups of 10-15 and offering some excellent photo opportunities.30 or 40 Common Scoters proved a bit more skittish and didn’t come near the boat. 2 Gannets were a bit of a surprise before we returned to the harbour.
Although the wildlife was very obliging perhaps the best thing about the day was the truly beautiful lighting conditions, a real bonus for wildlife photography and something that all of the photographers on board commented on. We can’t control the light, or the weather, but we keep taking clients to the right places at the right time…
Woodcock are continuing to feature in our birdwatching at the moment. Martin saw two more yesterday; one flying ahead of the car as he drove through Ashington and another one flying over our house, as Lee from G&S Organics was delivering our weekly groceries.
Yesterday evening we were out and about again. This time it wasn’t a nocturnal birdwatching trip but a much more sociable occasion, meeting up with a friend for a meal and a few drinks.
Nick was already in the pub, with a pint of Guinness in hand, when we arrived. The conversation through the evening focused primarily on raptors; a real obsession for all three of us. He didn’t make it to this year’s North of England Raptor Conference so we filled him in on the highlights. As our discussions covered population ecology, persecution, identification and migration patterns, the time raced by and soon we were driving back through the snowy wastes of Northumberland. Unsurprisingly, most of our discussion had focussed on the Hen Harrier; probably the most persecuted raptor in Britain. Our study area covers twelve 10km squares in southwest Northumberland, notable for having no breeding Hen Harriers, although a vast amount of suitable habitat. There’s a lack of Peregrines as well, although at one site they can often be seen displaying in the early spring…
On our North Pennines tours, the lack of raptors is often commented on by our clients. When we explain the reasons, and back this up with our own observations and experiences from the harrier nest we monitored in North Tynedale, we’re generally met with looks of incredulity, horror or dismay. Who knows, maybe 2011 will be the year when the Hen Harrier starts to make a comeback on the moors of Northern England? Don’t hold your breath though…
Now, after a morning which Martin spent being interviewed for the BBC Politics Show (which will be shown at 12:00 on Sunday 11th December), it’s time to process another batch of Gift Voucher orders and finalise details for this Saturday’s boat trip around the Farne Islands and Holy Island. Gift Vouchers are an ideal present, and our final boat trip of the year looks like being a really good one, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book.
I was giving a talk last night and realised just how important the final week of July has been over the last few years; 7 years ago we were married, 6 years ago I’d just returned from leading a week of birdwatching and whalewatching on Mull, 3 years ago I was in my final week as a teacher and 2 years ago we had our first bespoke tour for clients wanting to experience the wildlife and birdwatching that Northumberland has to offer.
We spent our wedding anniversary on Holy Island, and here are some of the orchids we found;
Occasionally I find myself pondering that question. On Wednesday I left home early to drive to Seahouses and collect Carolyn and Brian, two clients who we first met last year. As we headed up the coast through Bamburgh and towards the Lindisfarne NNR for a day of birdwatching, we stopped at each promising area. Before we reached Holy Island itself we’d already had excellent views of 4 Harbour Porpoises, good views of three Whimbrel (alongside a Curlew for comparison) and a Brown Hare as well as the growing numbers of House Martins and Swifts. A Sedge Warbler perched helpfully on top of a stunted Hawthorn as he belted out his song, a Whitethroat was elusive before eventually showing off the bright white throat feathers that give it it’s name and a Wheatear hopped along a drystone wall. On the island we watched a Heron as it preened whilst hidden in a reed bed, listened to another Sedge Warbler and tried to locate a calling Water Rail. Skylarks and pipits were unobtrusive in a sheep field that also contained at least 6 Wheatears and, once we’d left the island we watched over 1000 Grey Seals as they relaxed in the bright sunshine.
After dropping Carolyn and Brian back in Seahouses, I headed home, packed my bag and drove down the A1, out of Northumberland, to my sister’s house. 04:30 Thursday morning and I was on the road again, this time travelling to King’s Lynn. Two days of being a student were relaxing and enjoyable, studying the acoustic signals used by cetaceans being my own personal highlight, before the north beckoned. Finally, just before 10pm yesterday, I arrived back at home, headed to the ‘beer fridge’, sat down to a delicious Chinese meal with Sarah and then collapsed into bed. With tomorrows “Beginners Birdwatching; Songs and Calls” being close to home we don’t have a really early start so this afternoon is a chance (something that’s going to happen less and less over the next few months) to catch up with e-mails, ‘phone calls and product planning/development. It’s the great paradox of running your own business; many people choose that option in order to have more free time…but if your business is successful there’s a period, certainly during rapid growth/expansion, when 9 to 5 doesn’t look so bad after all. Would I go back to that? What do you think?
We set off for Holy Island this morning with a clear objective in mind for the journey – photograph a Little Owl. Many years ago one of my fellow photography students produced a series of excellent images of Tawny Owls and explained his technique for finding the birds. Needless to say, the hard work was done in the dark. Finding Little Owls in daylight isn’t uncommon although I’ve realised in the last couple of weeks that, especially when all the trees are bare of leaves, it’s easier to find them at night. We stopped off at one of the sites I’ve been watching regularly and there, in beautiful light for photography, was a Little Owl. Sarah has been developing (no pun intended) as a photographer, so I manouvered the Landrover into position as she took the shot…with my new D300s.
The highlight of the remainder of the journey north was a large flock of Linnets, with a few Brambling mixed in, swirling backwards and forwards as a male Merlin darted across the field they were in. A covey of Grey Partridges sat tight just long enough for Sarah to fire the shutter again.
As we neared Holy Island the rain began, and by the start time for our walk it was icy and heavy. Not the highlight of the day.
Well, with today’s images processed and added to our ‘Northumberland in the Winter’ presentation we’re on our way out now to entertain a group of holidaymakers who may need cheering up