The Photographer’s Ephemeris and Hatton Locks.

My photography club organised a small outing to photograph the full moon rising perfectly from the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ as its commonly known at Hatton Locks. It was then that I was first introduced to the App of The Photographer’s Ephemeris that I can see as a photographer or just lover of sunsets and the occasional sunrise having a lot of fun with.

If you put in the location of Hatton Locks and go back to the date of the 10th May, you will see that a full moon perfectly aligned with the locks and that soon after the moon started to rise, in the opposite direction the sun started to set. It was a magical evening… well it was apart from the cloud.. So by the time the moon had cleared the clouds it was no longer in perfect alignment, but I feel in this case, as I was there, tripod at the ready and I haven’t increased the size of the moon., it is only a small tweak with photoshop to drag the moon back into a central and slightly lower position.  I always find those pictures amusing where the moon has been made bigger, its always obvious to me that a little skullduggery has taken place.

The next evening was hubby’s birthday,  I think the moon was in an even better position and only just off the full moon, but alas it was even cloudier.

The App works globally so even in unfamiliar territory, but wanting that spectacular sunrise/sunset, it is easy to find out which way to head. I am not going to make a landscape photographer anytime soon, but at least when I practise with this App in hand it will help to bring me something that is a little interesting, one hopes!

Mother Coot with babies….

I’ve always known Coots and indeed Moorhens were feisty little birds that could kill one of its own kind without a moments hesitation, most notably in the spring when the females will fight to the death over nesting rights, but what I hadn’t realised is just how bad they are at being parents. They often have a large clutch of 8 or so eggs and rear all of those chicks well for a day or two and then kill them off, until they only have one or two left. The mother in this photograph had three chicks a couple of hours previous to this photo and only one a couple of hours after.

After a little bit of reading so I don’t know how true this is, there are two schools of thought. As anybody that has watched Coots or Moorhens for more than half an hour, you may realise just how sexually active they are and the poor girl doesn’t stand a chance as the male mates with her every half an hour or so. What can happen then, is that the girl finds herself without a nest, but fully laid up with an egg which she must lay, so she nips into a neighbours nest and lays there. The Moorhens instinctively know this and rear all 8 or so chicks for a couple of days and then kill off any that don’t show the characteristics of the parents..

Another idea is that the Moorhens are very bad parents and are not good at feeding the chicks, I witnessed this but have not photographed it, a mother passed a twig to its young, which just held it in its beak not knowing what to do with the wooden twig, then the mother took it out again. Then as the babies become sick and weak the moorhens kill them with a single blow to the top of the head – which thankfully I have not witnessed.

Whatever happens they all have a big clutch and are within a few days are left with one or two chicks. They breed three times a year apparently, so if this natural selection didn’t occur we would be over run with them. There is an awful lot of wickedness and treachery that goes on in nature and what would appear to be your average duck pond.

Cuckoo

I don’t always manage to put up my images on my blog. I put many more up on my Flickr account. Flickr Account.if you like to see them it is worth clicking on the link. And on that note I forgot to put up some pics of a Cuckoo I had snapped a few weeks ago, a much better image, but not perfect, than that little grey blob I posted as my first snap of it. And then last Sunday, one of the boys shouted out that we had a Cuckoo perched in the blossom of the Hawthorn opposite the hide and we all went into a mad frenzy of clicking.. It was the best fun and how we laughed at the rather rude heckling that the guy that pointed it out had endured.  I must say it is good fun in a hide, I’ve always liked the male sense of humour, being brought up with 3 older brothers and a father whose very essence of being is his quick wit and jovial nature. A female Cuckoo, one hopes it won’t be the last.

Ugly ducklings swimming.

The babies first day on the water today. To tell you that photographing a very white swan in sunshine against dark water and gun metal grey cygnets is tricky is rather an understatement.  If one tries to get the exposure right for the babies the mother’s whites blow out and if the white of the adult swan is correct the cygnets disappear into the dark of the water.  And then… to try and get the babies all looking in roughly the right direction at the same times as their mother, well you might as well just pack up and go home. I rather liked this image, but we only have the two cygnets. This is about the best of the three swimming, where you can see individual cygnets, their eyes and bills and no obvious shadowing falling across their back or head,  but the gap is too much, I suspect quite fixable in photoshop, but I always like to get as much right in the camera as I possibly can. Mum is in the middle of a feeding frenzy, and although not perfect, I think makes an interesting image.

The game is on, to get the best image that I can.

Feeding time.

I like to wander before settling in a hide, I find it good for the soul to be at peace and only hear the crunch of ones heavy boots on gravelly man made paths accompanied by a cacophony of bird song.  The birds are very busy at the moment, flitting here and there in search of food for their ever demanding offspring. Then returning home, often at great speed darting straight into where their nest is without a moments hesitation. I hear the cries of their young as they clamour to be fed first. It is absolutely delightful and I could and do spend hours wandering around absorbing the sights and sounds.  Never have I been more grateful for a town/countryside childhood, it brings such pleasure as one reawakens what was taught and absorbed as a child.

This blackbird was still singing even with this amount stuffed in its beak, it was quite remarkable. Then hopped down onto the grass before flitting into the hedge where its young await.

Ugly Ducklings.

I have been waiting so long for these babies, bearing in mind that I photographed their act of conception, I think they should be called Huey, Dewey and Louie,, “There once was an ugly duckling,….

They are only a day or two old and even though I sensed they had hatched. Mum was doing a very good job of hiding them, so these pics took three trips past and the best part of two hours of waiting and photographing to capture.

Enjoy.

And breath.

For the last twenty weeks or so I have been engrossed in one online course or another.  Firstly starting with a photoshop course and then heading straight into a ten week course from the Open University combined with the Royal Photographic Society.  It has been quite intense, submitting ten photos a week tends to do that to a girl, but yesterday I submitted my final ten and nearly 700 words of supportive work and now I can breath and play with some of my new found skills. I am definitely still in the embryonic stage of learning photoshop, but at least now I know what some of the buttons do and can at least remove an offending twig and the image still looks good. And more to the point I am starting to enjoy it now, which I didn’t before, so on that note I am off to play some more. I quite like this retirement lark!