Sunday, 30 December 2012


2012, its been some year, my time in education came to an end, and a new story is now in its beginnings. Here's some of my highlights from the year.

January had just kicked in when myself and Brian visited Gosforth Park, we were reward with some exceptional views of a Bittern, and one of my favourite images from the year.

Hard frost in January, and an early start at Holywell saw me photographing fence posts. Macro puts a whole new perspective on the often missed beauties.

The stars, and time-lapse photography began to take a foothold.

Heading South, with Ashley Howe and Ryan Deal, I made my first visit to Norfolk.

A large part of my Winter was spent filming my final media project, between Holywell and St Mary's.

A first look at the film.


2012 seemed to be filled with those wildlife moments, when your heart beat quickens, when you become immersed in your surroundings, when all your senses share the experience, when you feel that spark all over again. One which stays solid in my memory can be found HERE

Roe Deer

The Great Crested Grebes at Killingworth Lake performed brilliantly.

Great Crested Grebe

I entered a small film competition with my film 'A Quiet Corner', and came third place!

April saw a good movement of Avocets in the county, with 5 present between the Beehive Flash and Holywell Pond.

June was spent at RSPB Troup Head, in the presence of the Gannet.


A boom of Bee Orchids.

I also had a return to the Isle of Mull, and a visit to Lunga.

The stars had me out a lot, capturing time lapses, a brief moment allowed me to capture this picture at Dunstanburgh Castle.

The Short-Eared Owls arriving at Holywell allowed me to Reconnect and experience what it was to be a Short-Tailed Vole.

October my website went live,

And December saw myself and Gary Storey watching the Aurora in the county.

Thank you for following my blog, I wish you all a Happy New Year !

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Paramo Weekend

On Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th of December (this weekend), I'll be at CW Tent's Paramo Weekend, showing (and selling) some of my photography work. There will be a huge range of Paramo garments, with discounted prices, and experts at hand to provide advice. If your in the area why not pop in :)

Monday, 3 December 2012

Gosforth Park

I've been busy over the past few weeks filming the Autumnal scene in the Natural History Society of Northumbria's Gosforth Park Reserve, the finished product is almost complete and will be available to watch soon.

My focus in the park is now turning towards the winter environment, so today I headed down to have a wander around. The time was spent visualising my ideas, and finding new ones.

No Bitterns were insight today, nor Red Squirrels, unlike Brian and Sam's success, although the woodland birds did put on a good show at the feeding station.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Waxwings !

On my way back from walking the dogs this evening I heard the familiar 'trilling' of the Waxwing, looking back I found two birds feeding on the berries amongst the Hawthorns. These individuals weren't my first Red House Farm Waxwings, but they were the first that showed well. The hedgerow they were in runs along Monkseaton Drive, behind Sainsbury's, I've long awaited these winter migrants to visit this area as it always seems to produce a good number of berries.

There was just enough time and light left for me to run the dogs home, and run back out with the camera. Unfortunately it was too dark for stills, but here's a bit of footage. (Best viewed in HD)


Hopefully they'll stick around for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Live !

Over the past couple of days I've been working on setting up a website, I'm pleased to say its now at a stage where it can go live. You can find it here

The site will continue to develop so keep stopping by :)

A quick half an hour tonight at Holywell was more than worth while, 3 Short-Eared Owls were hunting the main meadow. If you haven't been down to Holywell to see the SEOs yet I would highly recommend it, you don't need to travel any further than the public hide.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Past Couple of Days

The past couple of days have been spent with Gary Storey, starting in Cumbria on Thursday.

Heading over early our first destination was the Solway, in search of the reported American Golden Plover, unfortunately we never did find the it but we were treated to an assortment of other waders compromising of Redshank, Lapwing, Curlew, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Knot, Golden Plover, Snipe and Ruff, with a supporting cast of 4 Scaup, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Pintail, Barnacle Geese, Pink-Footed Geese, and a massive amount of Lesser Black Backed Gulls.

The Solway itself was unbelievably calm, almost mirror like, the vastness of this landscape is always memorising.

Next stop was Martindale in the hope of some early rutting, this wasn't to be the case but we did find over 200+ Red Deer and a few young stags. The weather continued to be good to us and so we spent a good few hours in the valley. I'll be revisiting the area in a couple of weeks time.

Our final spot of the day was the Badger Sett, I've visited this site a number of times and without fail I've been rewarded. Meeting Andrew at 18:30 we quietly made our way to the viewpoint, within ten minutes or so your absorb into the landscape, senses finely tuned. Generally its an hour - an hour and a half wait for the Badgers so your attention turns to the wildlife going about its business as the sun sets. The first of which was the hammering of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, unseen but definitely heard, the visualised image of it foraging for grubs in the branches dominated the mind. Next a Robin began feeding beneath us, a birds eye view of its activity, completely oblivious to our presence and a nearby Blackbird bathed in a small pool, yet again unseen but every splash could be seen, in the mind.

The use of all the senses whilst watching wildlife has always interested me, experience the same event in a number of ways. Taking away one of those senses brings an entirely different sense of feeling to that particular moment. I like to think it takes you back to the bare bones, no over thinking, just the realisation and appreciation of the moment.

As the last of the light faded the Blackbirds began alarm calling in the plantation to our right, the reaction to an emerging Tawny Owl, within a couple of minutes it began to echo out its own call. 

The Badgers soon began to emerge, the first individual gave great views as it sniffed around the sett, scratching as it went, at one point laying down to scratch its front. One Badger soon turned into 7, once they had made their way away from the sett to feed, we quietly snook out from out viewpoint and back to the car.

Friday started a bit later with the plan to head for Holy Island, unfortunately I mixed the tides up and we missed our crossing, so instead we headed for Seahouses for some fish and chips and to meet some of the locals.

A trip to Seahouses isn't complete without feeding the Eiders.

We did eventually get onto Holy Island in the fading light, unbelievably picking up the stunning Arctic Warbler on arrival, within 2 metres or so of us! The rest of the night was spent moon lapsing over the castle.

A quality couple of days.

Back on patch, a text off BD today had me down in search of a Redstart in the hedge line by the Public Hide.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Friday, 14 September 2012

Spotted Redshanks

Afternoon visit to Holywell today produced two nice surprises, in the form of these Spotted Redshanks.

Back again in the evening and only one Short-Eared Owl was hunting the fields, I sat until it was almost completely dark, I'm pleased I did as this Barn Owl quartered the ground, coming close on occasions. (My camera struggle to focus in the light, shooting at ISO 6400, 1/60, f5.6)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Osprey !!!!!!

The most cropped picture known to man, but there it is, my first patch Osprey! Spotted it flying high, heading quickly South as I headed for the Cattle Field.

Without fail 2 Short-Eared Owls were hunting, watching one drift high off towards St Mary's where Jack seen it later on. Time was short tonight as I joined the wardens to set a number of small mammal traps, I'm looking forward to seeing whats inside.

Monday, 10 September 2012

I think I'm a Short-Tailed Vole

A wander at Holywell tonight produced one of the greatest wildlife experiences I've ever had, it felt like I almost entirely became part of my surroundings, and the ecosystem within it, connecting with the natural world on a whole new level. I've felt this feeling before, the feeling you get when your smell, shape, and sound all merge into the land, and the wildlife that roams it excepts you as an everyday part, no longer a threat, no longer something to be feared, and no longer something to avoid. This is what I strive for.

As regular readers might have realised, I have an affinity for Short-Eared Owls, and Holywell has had a recent influx of birds which have been showing well for over a week now. 

Tonight as I wandered down to the Pond a single bird hunted the recently bailed field and the hedge line which surrounds it, a recognisably pale bird which has hunted this area since it arrived, presumably a male due to the paleness of the face. The pond itself was quiet, no Shorties hunting the meadows, and only a handful of Teal at the public shore. It wasn't long before I moved on, heading for the Cattle field.

The Cattle field is just over the Waggonway, this is where the bulk of the SEO action has been taking place, a favoured hunting ground, up to 4 Owls have been seen hunting the rough grass. Over the past week I've found the best time to visit is from 18:00 with activity dying off by 19:00. I'd arrive later than usual tonight, not reaching the fields until 19:30 ish. A single Owl could be seen hunting the edge closest to the Waggonway as I followed the footpath, although it had vanished by the time I had reached the red gate.

I continued to follow the footpath, scanning back I picked up a dark Owl sitting on a fence post. This bird had regularly gave good views earlier last week from the public hide, coming extremely close on occasions. As turned around a second paler bird was hunting further up, towards the top of the field. I slowly made some ground between myself and the Owl before it began to bank round, and fly straight towards me, still quartering the land. As it reached the 30-40 metre mark I dropped down and lay on the track, with my back against a gorse bush. Quartering the ground it dropped once or twice, unsuccessful in its dive, before landing on a nearby straining post.

From my low position I had brilliant binocular views of the bird sitting on the post, constantly turning its head, occasionally 'locking on' to something in the grass for a brief second, before becoming distracted once again. I sat for some time watching this beautiful bird, its bright yellow-orange eyes seemed extremely prominent against its pale plumage, and the darkening skies. It had not noticed my presence. 

Looking ahead I marked an approach mentally, the lie of the land would allow me to get closer, but firstly I needed to make my way to the opposite side of the track. A check through the binoculars showed that the Owl was still unaware and I began to move, gently side ways, before stopping to see the Owls reactions. I couldn't believe what I seen, the Owl had seen those first movements, but instead of showing the stretched out, aware of my presence posture, it had locked on, frantically moving its head up and down, fixing its eyes on my position.

It took flight, I could feel the adrenaline pumping, my heart began to pound. The striking amber eyes were heading straight towards me, heading low but fast along the track. Time slowed and I realised the Owl was actually heading for me! Its eyes not leaving my position for a second. I lay solid, kept my binoculars just off my eyes and waited as the Owl gained ground. 

Before I knew it the Owl was above me, hovering, less than a metre above my head. It banked round and began to head back, I let out a little squeak with my lips and it locked on and began to hover again, then flew round and hovered once more, before returning to the post it had originally left. My heart was racing, the best encounter I've ever had with a Short-Eared Owl, this was more than a close view, I was being hunted, for that brief moment I had some feeling of what it is to be a Short-Tailed Vole.

I sat in shock and wonderment, watching the Owl again on its post for sometime before I began my original idea of an approach. Sliding on my belly the 30-40 metres, I made my way slowly to the Owl on its perch, keeping within the tracks and the rough grass, breaking my outline and movement, constantly accessing the Owls behaviour. Not once did it see me, continuing to scan the field from its perch. Reaching the spot I had planned to stop, behind a large thistle clump, not more than 4-5 metres away I gently took off my binoculars and reached for my iPhone. Binoculars were no longer needed as I could see the body language of the owl with the naked eye.

The squeak was tried again, and I could see the Owl was interested, moving my body a little it again took flight ! This time it was above me in seconds, managing to capture a tiny amount of footage. It returned to its perch briefly before immediately returning hovering over me once, before heading off down the field quartering as it went. I had survived ! 

An encounter I'll never forget.

Monday, 3 September 2012


I've been birding, and observing the wildlife at Holywell for roughly 8 years now, it was in fact Holywell which kick started my passion, and without it I wouldn't be where I am today. Back in 2004 I was out on a bike ride with a school mate, at 13 years old we still had some boundaries which are mothers enforced upon us, but thankfully these generally went in one ear and out the other. We headed out of Whitley Bay and along the backtrack, the Dene was a familiar place to us, so instead of going straight into the woods we headed out to explore the surrounding fields. This is when we found the pond. I don't have any memory of visiting the public hide, I can only remember venturing down to the members hide, finding it locked. 

A number of returns later, desperate to find out what was inside, I eventually arrived to find it open. A regular birdwatcher called Sid kindly let me in, he asked me if I would like to look at a Great Crested Grebe nest and I jumped at the chance! From that moment Holywell had me hooked. I kept thinking to myself, how could something so different and unusual and rare be found so close to my house, what else was there to be seen?

It wasn't long before I became a member of Northumberland Wildlife Trust and bought a key for the hide, biking down to the pond almost every day. One morning I arrived to find a birdwatcher leaving, this man was Eric Galloway, he took me under his wing and I began visiting Holywell Pond every Sunday morning, arriving early, as Eric said, this was the best time. He taught me how to become a birdwatcher.

Soon after my Granddad began joining me on Sunday mornings, and we visited every Sunday morning for a number of years.

I've dug up my first notebook, with the first entry dated 2nd October 2004. It was a struggle to read my own handwriting:

' Holywell Pond (07:45)
3 Whooper Swans, 1 Otter, 1 Male Scaup, 10+ Black Headed, 25+ Lapwings, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Pochard, 5+ Jackdaw, 15+ Woodpigeon, 2 Juv Herring Gulls, 1 Adult Mute Swan, 3 Moorhen, 4+ Great Tits, 5+ Crows, 3+ Blue Tits, 4 Magpies, 1 Tufted Hybrid, 2 Coot, 1 Wren, 1 Great Blacked Backed Gull, 7 flocks of geese flew over unidentified, 1 Robin, 1 Tufted, 55+ Greylag, 1 Female Chaffinch, 1 Male Chaffinch, 1 Wigeon'

Not a bad morning by the sounds of it, 3 Whooper Swans and an Otter. I'm not sure what the Tufted Hybrid I noted was, and I presume the unidentified Geese would have been Pink-Footed Geese.

Since I've began watching Holywell local and regular birdwatchers have always told me it was a shadow of its former self. Stories of wintering Smew, Bitterns, and Short-Eared Owls, at one time being one of the best wintering sites in the county for the latter.

Last night it felt like I reconnected with this shadow, as I arrived at Holywell to find the lone summering Short-Eared Owl to be joined by at least another 3 companions, hunting the ground from the pond, through the cattle field all the way to the Obelisk and across to the Dene. Nights like these go unforgotten, the fact that these Owls were on my patch, in 8 years I hadn't seen this many Short-Eared Owls at Holywell.

Tonight I revisited with the camera, the pictures don't do these stunning birds justice, but I was more than happy to photograph them on patch.

Hopefully they'll hang round for a few days.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A rare moment...

Last night I headed up the coast to Dunstanburgh Castle with the aim to capture a star time-lapse. Parking in Craster Harbour and wandering up towards the castle at about 21:00 a few people headed in the opposite direction. On reaching the castle I scouted out the best position, setup my gear and waited.

Clear skies were awaiting, as the light steadily faded a Barn Owl hunted the grounds, with emerging Pipistrelle type bats. I started the time-lapse at 23:30 and settled down for the two and a half hours it would take to complete. An hour or so in a light appeared from the harbour, presumably a boat, suddenly lighting the entirety of the castle. The resulting effect can be seen below.

Back on patch a lone Black-Necked Grebe still lingers.

Monday, 16 July 2012


Just back from a wander around Holywell, great to see 10 Common Terns using the island this afternoon. The Short-Eared Owl from Sunday was still about, sitting on one of the posts which surround the main meadow, no sign of the Green Sandpiper.

As I left the gate I caught sight of this Fox amongst the crop, on the tractors tracks, it stood and stared for a few seconds before it was off!

Common Blue

Spotted this little beauty on my way out of Center Parcs yesterday, posed long enough for a few images.

Back on the patch, the past few days have provided some great sightings including, Green Sandpiper, Barn and Short-Eared Owl hunting the main meadow, large numbers of Golden Plover, Tufted Duck with 5 ducklings and at least 6 Common Terns on the pond making use of the newly gravelled island (the most I've ever seen).

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lunga's Puffins

I've been away on the Isle of Mull for a week with the UOC Wildlife Photographer's Society, the weather was kind and we had a brilliant trip. I'm sure Phil has a full account soon to be published, but for now I'll leave you with a few images from our visit to Lunga.

You can now find me on Facebook HERE