Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Burren in Bloom

The Burren is in full bloom with a spectacular display of Gentians, Mountain Avens and Hoary Rock Rose alongside the more common spring flowers. The unusually early spring with weeks of warm sunny days has resulted in one of the best floral displays for many years.


Early Purple Orchid

Cuckoo Flower

Wild Goats

Lesser Butterfly Orchid


Wood White

Friday, April 22, 2011

Male Orange Tip Butterfly

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Clonbur Wood

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamnii)

There are hundreds of Brimstone butterflies flitting around Clonbur Wood, North Co. Galway, at the moment, along with Holly Blue, Peacock and Tortoiseshells. I took a walk there yesterday in glorious spring sunshine. Clonbur Wood is a Life Nature Project aimed at restoring priority woodland and habitat. The woodland is mixed with Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce, Scots Pine, Ash, Beech, Yew, Birch and Oak. The walk takes you through majestic woodland, crosses the Clonbur river along the way, then onto the south shore of Lough Mask. It also includes an area of limestone paving. The variety of wildlife I saw along the way was amazing: Jay, Merlin, Raven, Chiffchaff, Wren, Mallard, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Red Squirrel, Fox, flowering Wood Anemone and Dog Violet to name a few. I also saw signs of Otter, Pine Marten and an active Badger set. The mixed woodland, river, lakeshore and limestone habitat make this a pretty unique location.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

7 Spot Ladybird

7 Spot Ladybird (Coccinella-7-punctata)

There are a lot of 7 Spot Ladybirds around at the moment, just emerging from their long winter hibernation. The -15 degree centigrade temperatures obviously didn't upset them too much. They overwinter in communal groups.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Irish Hare

Irish Hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Moon

"I don’t know if there are men on the moon, but if there are they must be using the earth as their lunatic asylum."

George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Photographing Birds in Flight

Fighting Goldfinches
Canon 5D, Sigma 170-500mm f5.6-6.3, Focal Length 307mm, ISO 1000, Shutter Speed 1/4000th sec, f5.6, Flash Used, Tripod Used

One of the wonders of the natural world is the magical poetry of birds in flight. One has to marvel at the power of the evolutionary forces that not just overcame the complex physics involved in allowing a creature to become airborne but resulted in animals which are simply masters of the air. Our world is practically two dimensional in comparison.

Photographing birds in flight is one of the more challenging areas of wildlife photography. Birds are fast moving animals and freezing their wing beats in a photographic image requires a high level of precision. Fast shutter speeds are essential – anywhere from 1/1000th to 1/8000th of a second. To achieve this you will normally have to work with an ISO range of 500 to 1250 depending on the light available. The shutter speed used depends on the speed of the wing beats. Small birds, such as Blue Tits, have phenomenally fast wing beats and shutter speeds of greater than 1/3000th of a second are usually needed. Larger birds may not flap their wings as fast but they still move through the air at a rapid pace. The key is to reach the correct shutter speed for the species involved and to get this you need to work with the appropriate aperture and ISO. Obviously at higher ISOs there will be more noise in the final picture but this will have to be dealt with in Photoshop.

At fast shutter speeds it is possible to hand hold the camera and pan with the subject. This is an art in itself and takes plenty of practice. Tracking your subject and keeping it in sharp focus as you fire off the shots is the trick. This is easier with a big goose than with a tiny wren!

Obviously having top of the range zoom lenses would make life so much easier. If you have 5 or 6 grand in your back pocket you can pick up a high powered zoom lens with image stabiliser which allows really fast shutter speeds at low ISOs. Most of us can’t afford the Rolls Royce of the camera world and work with the cheaper Sigma lenses and their like. I work with a Sigma 170-500mm f5.6-2.3.

One way of getting close to small fast birds is by using the garden feeder. I have located my feeder 15 feet from an open window which allows me to take shots at close range. The next trick is getting a shutter speed fast enough to catch them in flight. I set the camera up on a tripod and use a flash gun on another tripod beside it. The birds are close enough for the flash to be effective and this gives me shutter speeds of over 1/4000th of a second. The next problem is trying to track the birds and this is nearly impossible at the speeds they move. To capture them I switch to manual focus and focus on the feeder and use the remote switch to fire the shutter. Flash is never ideal but it will capture the action.

Take a look at the shooting information in these pictures and you will get a better understanding of the techniques described.

Canon 5D, Sigma 170-500mm f5.6-6.3, Focal Length 500mm, ISO 640, Shutter Speed 1/2500th sec, f6.3, No Flash, Hand Held

Greenfinches Fighting
Canon 5D, Sigma 170-500mm f5.6-6.3, Focal Length 268mm, ISO 1250, Shutter Speed 1/4000th sec, f7.1, Flash Used, Tripod Used

Brent Geese
Canon 5D, Sigma 170-500mm f5.6-6.3, Focal Length 500mm, ISO 640, Shutter Speed 1/3200th sec, f7.1, No Flash, Hand Held

Chaffinch and Goldfinches
Canon 5D, Sigma 170-500mm f5.6-6.3, Focal Length 307mm, ISO 1000, Shutter Speed 1/4000th sec, f5.6, Flash Used, Tripod Used

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011


Great Tit (Parus major)

Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret)

Coal Tit (Parus ater)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Garden Friends

Coal Tit (Parus ater)

Great Tit (Parus major)