Searching for a kingfisher.

Climbing out of the car, I headed towards the footpath and away from the main road. Less than a minute of walking brought me away from civilisation, and into a colourful meadow, buzzing with life. Bright flowers could be seen in every direction; bees steadily making their way around, dipping into the sweet nectar on offer. Butterflies flitted around the meadow and, upon closer inspection, lots of little insects darted between the grasses.

Making my way through the tall vegetation, spiders scuttled away from my feet as I headed towards the river. Once out of the meadow, I was surrounded by trees. Bird calls were louder and more frequent here, the high pitched warning of an intruder ringing in my ears. I walked quietly and slowly, looking into the trees along the riverbank, hoping that the birds would get used to my presence. My goal? To find a kingfisher. I had seen the striking, blue bird twice before – both times, the bird simply being a flash of blue as it flew past me and down a river. I had heard that there was a resident kingfisher here, and had seen many photographs from other people. Having had no luck on my first visit, I was hoping this would be the special one.

As I neared ‘Kingfisher Gate’, something caught my eye. Sitting on a small branch, hanging over the river, was a very plump looking object. I snapped a quick photo, realising that yes, it was a kingfisher!

Slowing down, I kept my eye on the bird as I made my way around a huge bush, hoping that I would get a better view from the other side. I was not disappointed! This bird was eyeing me, though not showing any signs of distress, as I made my way forwards getting as close the the river’s edge as possible. I sat down, pushing vegetation out of my way so I could get a clear view. Sitting still, I watched and happily snapped away, not believing my luck. I believe it was a juvenile, though possibly on the older end of the scale! Whilst it’s coat was a lovely, bright blue, it’s feet were very dull and you could just see a little white on the end of it’s beak – both signs of a young kingfisher.

The sound of small feet padding along the floor disrupted the silence, and the kingfisher flew high up into the trees. Once the dog had passed, I spotted the kingfisher again, this time nearer and easier to photograph. I managed to watch for a little longer, before it decided to move on and settle somewhere else.

Wandering back down the river, and towards the meadow again, I reflected on just how lucky I had been. I did not expect it to be so easy. Coming home from university for the summer, and hearing about this place, I had set myself a goal to photograph a kingfisher. It is June, and that goal is complete! Now I will just have to go back, again and again, in the hopes of getting to watch more behaviours and capturing them. Until next time…

1 person likes this post.

Matka – An expedition to Finland. Part #2.

imageAfter visiting Martinselkosen Eräkeskus Wildlife Centre, we headed towards the Boreal Wildlife Centre. There was a two hour drive between the two, with this place being further South. This meant that there was less snow in the area and more green forest! This place was really pretty.

On the first day/night, we just explored a little and relaxed. We were actually so tired that we slept quite early, and set an alarm for 11pm to get some night shots! I really wanted to do a timelapse but it just didn’t work out. I’ve just never managed to get a good quality timelapse… How do you do it?! Anyway, this night was brilliant. We ended up seeing a tiny glimpse of the Northern Lights! It was only a bit of green in the sky (which was hardly visible to the eye but could be seen in camera) but it was so awesome. Green, purples and pinks… The sky was pretty!

Our small glimpse of Northern Lights!

The next morning we did some more exploring. Walking in the woods and just taking in the beautiful scenery. I took so many tree photos here.

Also managed to see and photograph a red squirrel and brambling. The red squirrel had funny colouring! Body mostly grey, white chest, red tail, red paws and red face/ears! It was cute though.

After lunch (3pm in both of these centers) we headed out for our first night in the hide. This hide gave us a very wide an open view – a lot different from the trees and the swamp in the first place. We were waiting for 4-5 hours for the first bear to appear but, once one had arrived, two more quickly followed. There was one bear that had a white patch on it’s back and I think it looked awesome! Whilst we were waiting for the bears, we just had lots of ravens in sight.

The area had lots of left over animal bones…

And lots of ravens.

Now for the best bit… The morning of our second stay in the hide, we saw two wolves! Yes, wolves! We felt so lucky because the guide had told us that the wolves would constantly patrol their territory and as a result they would only pass through the hide area once every 7/8 days. They didn’t stay for very long, but I’m happy that I managed to get some photographs! It was an incredible sight.

Phew, that was a long one, wasn’t it? Next Friday post up is Rovaniemi!

1 person likes this post.

Matka – An expedition to Finland. Part #1.

Well I guess it’s time I started talking about my expedition to Finland, right? If you’re new or just passing by, you may be a little confused here. I’m in my second year of university (and it’s almost over!) and for one module I had to plan an expedition. Now this could be anywhere in the world, but due to finances, we chose Finland. I say that as if it isn’t an amazing place but it was, and is a brilliant country to visit. I’m really happy to have experienced the things that we did, and I would definitely go back! Just next time it would be cool to see the summer or the winter… The spring is a relatively quiet season, with not much happening for visitors! As you may have realised from the title, I’m going to do this in three posts.

The journey from London to Helsinki was pretty uneventful. Once in Helsinki, we had a long 5 hours waiting time ahead of us as our next flight to Kajaani was in the evening. A lot of this time was spent wandering around the airport, trying to figure out the floor system and finding the supermarket and cheap food. We managed to find a pizza place (first meal in Finland was a cheese pizza – I know…) and then settled back down in front of our gate. The flight to Kajaani was also uneventful. It was a small plane, and when we arrived at Kajaani airport it was a little strange! The area where we picked up our bags was tiny. The airport only actually had one gate I think!

Our first port of call was Martinselkosen Eräkeskus Wildlife Centre, located in Suomussalmi. We were picked up by the guide and another visitor, and then driven two hours up north. It was nearing midnight at this point, but we were looking out of the car windows, trying to stay awake, and managing to see a few Arctic hare on the journey as well as getting a tiny glimpse of green in the sky! It just felt so surreal.

The place itself was really pretty, and I took a lot of snowy tree photos! On the first day we managed to explore a little before heading out to the big hide. The area in which we were staying was very deserted – no houses around and lots of forest. On site, we saw plenty of bullfinch, chaffinch and tits, as well as a few woodpeckers and a red squirrel. We also spotted some big paw prints on our walks, but obviously no sights of the bears during the day ;)

I have never seen so many Bullfinch in one place!

How cute is this little cabin?!

To get to the hide we went in a 4×4, and then on a snow mobile ‘sleigh’ for the final bit. I’m not going to lie, that bit scared me! First impressions of the hide were that it was huge! I knew it had bunk beds in, but it really was huge. We had been inside the hide for less than 5 minutes, and the guides were still putting food outside, when the first bear turned up. It was ridiculously easy this night… Overall we saw four different bears and even managed to see them all at once. It was incredible, and as I said, super easy. It kind of felt too easy…

The bear on the right was definitely the most photogenic…

Pretty river!

I really loved all the forest around us.

The second day was also spent exploring. We managed to find a really pretty river, which looked very strange against all the white snow. In the evening, we went into another hide for a night! This hide was a lot smaller, and was meant for two people. We had three of us squeezed into it! Fine for the evening, but sleeping was something else! We were very squished and had extremely sore hips the next morning… Anyway, this time we were waiting for at least 4 hours before we got our first bear sighting! Very different to the first day’s experience, right? We also saw four bears on this night, and I’m guessing that they were the same ones from the first night – we were actually only a few hundred metres away.

Mr Photogenic again ;)

That was our time at Martinselkosen Eräkeskus! The next part will show our time at the Boreal Wildlife Centre and I will post it next Friday!

1 person likes this post.

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!

4 people like this post.

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

1 person likes this post.

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

1 person likes this post.