On my doorstep.

Last week I was at home, and on the Monday I managed to photograph four different bird species quite literally on my doorstep. I was actually sat in the doorway, looking around my street. I only saw this blackbird once, but I saw many house sparrows, a few starlings and two goldfinches! It’s quite amazing really when you can look out into your garden and see so many birds, despite not really being anywhere near trees/fields/the wild ;)

Some not so great photos, but some photos nevertheless! All taken on my 70-300mm lens. Some photos heavily cropped (the starlings – they stayed up high!) but others as taken! I actually hadn’t realised that we had Starlings nesting in the street until Monday!

Blackbird Katie Halsall

Blackbird

Starling Katie Halsall

Starling

Starling Katie Halsall

Starling

House sparrow Katie Halsall

Female House Sparrow

House sparrow Katie Halsall

I’m thinking these are both young – the left one male and the right female.

Goldfinch Katie Halsall

Goldfinch

Goldfinch Katie Halsall

And then there were two!

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Looking into the trees.

Blackbird Katie Halsall

When I first started at university, I was never really ‘into birds’. To be honest, I didn’t think they could be that interesting… Oh how wrong I was! I am now a person who will quite happily sit/stand for a length of time just watching birds go about their day. Now, I’m definitely not an expert… I still struggle with some identifications!

Since starting university, I’ve also photographed ‘new’ birds that I’d never managed to get properly back home. Now blackbirds are always around, but I’ve always struggled to get good photographs of them. They’re just so skittish! When I booked the 100-400mm lens out from uni I managed to get these two photographs. I’m super pleased with the second!

Blackbird Katie Halsall

Blackbird Katie Halsall

When I last visited Talkin Tarn I managed to get a few firsts! I’ve taken a photograph of a woodpecker before, but it wasn’t great. I’m slightly happier with this one!

Blackbird Katie Halsall

There were four reed buntings on this fallen tree, and admittedly I had no idea what they were. I thought they were treecreepers until I looked at my photos closely! This was very difficult to ID! I had to seek help from a few people and the result was reed bunting! The colouration of pipits also got me a little… Apparently a female reed bunting anyway!

Blackbird Katie Halsall

Having never conciously seen one of these, I had no idea what it was… See, I said I wasn’t an expert! Here’s a pretty bad photo of a Pied Wagtail! Kind of a strange looking bird if the ask me!

Blackbird Katie Halsall

And here’s a Chaffinch. I’m only posting this because you can so clearly see the colours and pattern on this male!

Blackbird Katie Halsall

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Finding frogs.

Walking through the park on my way to University in the morning is something that always starts my day off on a good note!

One morning, as I walked through the garden area, a quick movement caught my eye. Crouching down next to the small pond, I noticed a few frogs heads stuck out of the water! Unfortunately, that was on a Tuesday morning and I was making my way to university to catch the bus to Newton Rigg… The next day I awoke early and made my way to the pond, hoping that the frogs would still be poking their heads out. Of course they were, and I was super impressed with these two photographs. I had never managed to see common frogs up close enough to get photographs. As this pond was very small, it was relatively easy to get to them.

Common frog Katie Halsall

Common frog Katie Halsall

imageI went back to the pond a few times, and on the last trip I got these photographs. Looking back at the top two, and then at these ones, I just see so much difference. These later ones were actually taken with a 7D instead of my 500D (which I think makes a huge difference!) though all were done with my 100mm macro lens. The green of the leaves was amazing, and I really like how the colours came out in these photos.

The later trips showed the frogs starting to mate, and mating. On my last visit there was a clump of frog spawn which would have easily covered both of my fists. In the last two photos you can see a bit of the frog spawn.

It’s really starting to feel like Spring, and it’s about time seeing as we’re ‘officially’ in Spring now. This season is my favourite time of year, and I’m hoping to get out a lot with my camera. I have a media assignment starting up and I’m planning to film birds for that. Will be posting some bird shots soon!

Of course, I’ll also be going to Finland mid-April, and I’ll have a post up about that before I go! It’s going to be different, and I can’t wait to visit the Arctic Circle! It’ll be a bit of a cold Spring in parts, but I’m looking forward to the weather warming up and being able to go outside without a jacket!

Common frog Katie Halsall

Common frog Katie Halsall

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A journey into the unknown.

I was walking through a vast field, the rain falling gently and the air around me quiet – the absence of roads was deafening. Not knowing where I was, it was a surprise when I stumbled across the river Peterill, snaking through the field and disappearing under a bridge, into the cover of trees.

I followed the twisting river, the sound of fast flowing water rushing through my ears. The ground underneath me changed from soft grass into a muddy pathway. I saw few human and dog footprints from those who had braved the off beaten track. The wet mud showed all the activity of passersby – though I didn’t see any animal prints besides the dogs. Walking on, I found myself dodging fallen branches and pushing through brambles, the area wildly overgrown. In front of me, sparrows would flit from tree to tree, chirping as they flew by. Rustles in the hedges told me that something was there watching and waiting for me to pass by – not quite used to the human presence.

In the corner of my eye I sensed movement. Slowing down, I turned to see a dipper on the opposite side of the river. It wasn’t paying much attention to me as I sank to the ground. Lying across the wet riverbank, I stayed still, watching and photographing as the bird preened whilst stood on a rock.

Photograph Dipper preening. by Katie Halsall on 500px

Having the time to just sit and be in the wild is calming. You can take a step back from the ‘real world’ and take the time to really appreciate what’s around us. Birds calling, the sounds of leaves rustling and a river flowing beside you is real. Sitting alone in nature watching the animals around you, feeling the soft ground beneath you and having rain on your face is as close as you can get to the real world.

After a while, the dipper decided it was time to find food, and I watched as it bobbed around the water. Seeing a dipper swimming and diving was great, being a first for me. It flew off, and I decided to journey further down the river.

Not far from where I had been, I came across a bridge. The river had widened, and the path had gone. Disappointed, I made my way up the side of the riverbank and found myself in a shop’s car park. Following the direction of the river, I spotted a small sign on the opposite side of the road, signalling that there was a public pathway. I eagerly made my way across the busy road, having to wait for the lights to change before I could zip across.

The rain started to get heavier as I set off down the pathway. I came to a flooded section, and had no choice but to walk through the brambles. I could see tall reeds a few metres ahead, and glimpsed small birds flitting between them. By the time I got there the birds had disappeared, leaving me to just wonder what they were. I carried on along the river, occasionally seeing a sparrow fly past me. I met a couple of dog walkers along this stretch, smiling in greeting.

I was happily walking along, looking down the river trying to spot some form of wildlife, when a deafening sound of wings flapping scared the living daylights out of me! I hadn’t seen it, but a grey heron had clearly heard me and decided that I was a threat! After recovering from that shock, I spotted a second dipper. This one was a lot more wary, and as I lowered myself onto the ground, it scuttled behind some branches. A few minutes later I was happy to see it come back out, walking along the branches that hung over the flowing water. It dipped in and out a few times before disappearing off down the river.

Having gotten fairly wet through the rain, and being hungry, I headed back to the main road and started back home. I had mud on my trousers and my hair was frizzing in the rain; it was beginning to resemble a birds nest. Needless to say, I got a few strange looks on my journey home. It didn’t matter – I had finally gotten photographs of a dipper, had seen a heron and had a lovely walk. Just what I needed before a four hour shift at work later that day!

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Talkin Tarn birds.

Stepping onto the platform, I wait for the train to move on and then stand still. All that can be heard is the rustle of trees and the call of birds. Brampton Station is quiet and often deserted. I walk up the long, winding road, which runs almost parallel to the tracks, only having to stop once for a car to pass. I was making my way to Talkin Tarn, a last minute decision on that day.

It was a cold, crisp day and I could hear lots of birds calling and flitting between the hedges as I walked by. A Robin popped out to say hello, watching me before disappearing again behind the hedge. To get to Talkin Tarn, you have to walk through a field, which often has grazing animals on it. This morning it had cows. A cow spotted me walking, and instead of wandering in the other direction, it carried on moving towards the water tank – just metres away from the path that I was using. It was a little unsettling, being so close to a huge cow with it eyeing me as I walked past… I went through the gate quite quickly after that!

Once in the Talkin Tarn boundaries, the atmosphere felt really strange. It was quiet, with just the occasional bird call, and it felt like the birds were watching and waiting for something to happen. As I headed to the feeding area, dozens of birds flew up from the ground, moving from tree to tree and any slight noise or movement. Moments later I spotted a squirrel hanging about in this area. At a first glance, I had thought it was a grey squirrel but upon close inspection of the slightly blurred photo that I managed to snap, I could see a red head, and ear tufts. It was very grey at the back, but I believe it was a red squirrel… It disappeared too quickly to get any other photos!

Sitting myself at the feeding station, I spotted lots of Chaffinch, Blue Tit and Great Tit, a couple of Nuthatch, a Robin and I also got a short glimpse of a Common Woodpecker. No squirrels in the feeding area today! A Moorhen did appear for a few minutes though…

I had been sitting there for a while when I heard the fluttering of wings on my left side. It sounded like it was really close, and I slowly turned my head to see a Robin sitting on the fence around half a metre away from me. I slowly lifted my camera, and it just stood watching me. It was almost too close for my 70-300mm to focus. I managed to snap a few photos before it flew away again though it did return for a second time! It was quite happy to sit and watch me, watching the other birds…

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Hello!

Long time no see, eh? I am currently in the midst of designing a new website, and I am hoping to get that sorted and up and running within the next few months. I’m enjoying the process, but I haven’t started coding yet so wish me luck!

Anyway, on the photography front, I haven’t done much lately and that’s why I haven’t posted anything. I am going to start storyboarding ideas for videos and photographs so will update on what I’m doing in due course! I got a 70-300mm canon lens for Christmas, which is great because my 70-300mm Sigma just isn’t sharp anymore. I’m not sure what happened to it! Hoping to get some new bird shots soon!

I’m also looking to start writing more, so keep an eye out for some adventures coming your way! (And if anyone has any tips about getting articles online, please send them my way!) University lectures start again on the 14th, and I’m starting Animal Behaviour so I’m really looking forward to that!

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