Steve Liptrot Photography: Blog en-us (C) Steve Liptrot Photography (Steve Liptrot Photography) Sun, 25 Mar 2018 20:20:00 GMT Sun, 25 Mar 2018 20:20:00 GMT Steve Liptrot Photography: Blog 110 120 How much weather can we have in just a few weeks? We are only half way through the month of March and we've had so much varied weather. Only this week I was up at WWT Martin mere, Lancashire where I was watching blue tits and tree sparrows checking out nest boxes in Spring like weather. This morning I woke up to a few inches of snow! It must be confusing for the wildlife. Over the last month I took advantage of the 'Beast from the East' formerly known as winter and visited the red kite feeding stations of Gigrin farm and Llandeusant several times. I've always wanted to photograph the stunning red kites in snowy conditions. I visited Gigrin as the first snows arrived and managed a few shots of kites feeding on the wing in the snow.

Red kite (Milvus milvus)Red kite (Milvus milvus)Red kite in the snow at Gigrin farm.
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Red kite feeding on the wing at Gigrin farm, Rhayader.

Didn't have much luck with the snow at Llandeusant red kite feeding station but got an arty shot showing the birds natural surroundings.

Red Kite CountryRed Kite CountryThe Red Kite Feeding Station, Llandeusant, Carmarthenshire.
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Red kite above the Black mountain, Llandeusant.

At least once a week I pay a visit to WWT Slimbridge to see what has called in but in this case most of the wildfowl had migrated back including all of the Bewick's swans. Luckily the resident birds made up for that. Three water rails were active under the feeders from the Willow hide and another two spotted from the Knott hide.

Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)WWT Slimbridge.
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Water rail 'Dancing on ice' from the Willow hide.

Other waterfowl, snipe, oystercatchers and little grebes were all quite active. That's what I like about Slimbridge, there is always something to photograph whatever time of the year.

Female common teal (Anas crecca)Female common teal (Anas crecca)WWT Slimbridge. Mrs Teal wrestling with a worm from the Knott hide, Slimbridge.

I visited Parkend in the Forest of Dean which is known for its good numbers of Hawfinch. This winter has seen a large influx of these migratory birds to the UK. At Parkend you can photograph the birds from the luxury of your car! Other birds to watch for are chaffinch, greenfinch, nuthatch, song thrush & redwing. This is the best way to see these elusive birds as they are very 'flighty'. Now and again you get some people who still insist on walking round disturbing the birds but that's another story!.

Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)Parkend, Gloucestershire. Female hawfinch at Parkend, Forest of Dean.

Paid a visit to my 'local patch' of Forest farm. Normally at the end of February the kingfishers start to pair up so I wasn't expecting many sightings. A few snipe were seen from the hides and the usual small birds. Went for a walk down the Glamorgan Canal on the reserve and there she was. Mrs Kingfisher fishing from the trees in the glorious Spring sunshine.

Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)Glamorgan Canal Nature Reserve, Whitchurch.
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Mrs Kingfisher on the Glamorgan Canal, Forest farm nature reserve.

February sees the opening of The International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent, Gloucestershire. A place I have visited over the last few years. It is a great place to get up close to various birds of prey and practise your 'bird in flight' shots. My favourites are the owls and kites. It is not just the flying of birds the centre does. They are heavily involved with the conservation of these magnificent birds. They are also have long term experience with captive breeding around the world.

Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia)Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia)The ICBP, Newent.
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Burrowing owl at The International Centre for Birds of Prey.


Ural owl (Strix uralensis)Ural owl (Strix uralensis)The ICBP, Newent. Ural owl 'Bramley' in the snow at the ICBP.

On the theme of birds of prey and especially owls I went to photograph the Short-eared owls at Aust Warf. Aust is between the two Severn bridge on the England side of the river. I've been half a dozen times but the owls were quite distant. On my last visit the owls were very active mid-afternoon and came very close. I was initially using the 500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter (700mm focal length) but the converter soon came off! Had some great shots until a dog walker let his hound chase the owls off!! What is wrong with some people?

Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)Aust Warf.
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Short-eared owl hunting for voles at Aust Warf.

Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)Aust Warf.

Short-eared owl at Aust Warf.

During the past week I paid a visit to my native Lancashire to visit family. I always make a point of visiting WWT Martin mere as this is where my love of wildlife photography started over 40 years ago. It is a great reserve where thousands of pink-footed geese, whooper swans, various ducks and waders visit during the winter months. From the hides great views of the raptors such as kestrel, Marsh harrier, Peregrines, Buzzards and even Barn owls. The latest hide is the Discovery hide where the daily feeds take place. Here you can get very close to the wildlfowl and waders who don't seem to mind lenses of all sizes pointing at them! As long as there is food around the birds will be there. Martin mere is the only place I now see tree sparrows in good numbers. They were house hunting when I visited so I guess Spring is just around the corner. I hope!

Tree sparrow (Passer montanus)Tree sparrow (Passer montanus)WWT Martin mere, Lancashire. Tree sparrow at WWT Martin mere, Lancashire.

'Fancy a dance luv?''Fancy a dance luv?'Great crested grebes.
Cosmeston Lakes, Penarth.
A pair of great crested grebes at Cosmeston lakes, Penarth.


Thanks for reading my latest instalment.

More of my images can be viewed on my flickr page.


]]> (Steve Liptrot Photography) Sat, 17 Mar 2018 11:52:26 GMT
My Typical Day at WWT Slimbridge As you probably guessed I spend quite some time at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) reserve Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. It is a brilliant place to photograph wildlife especially during the winter months. As I spend a lot of time there I'd thought I tell you what I get up to on a typical day!

As a WWT member this entitles you to visit several of the hides from 08-15. Normal opening is 09-30. This is a great time to visit as you get the first rays of sunshine if the sun bothers to show! Also wildlife tends to be more active at the start and the end of the day. My first visit is the Rushy hide to watch the morning feed. There maybe hundreds of ducks, geese and of course the visiting Bewick's swans. Usually around a 100 visit the reserve in winter.

First light from the Rushy hideFirst light from the Rushy hideWWT Slimbridge First light from the Rushy hide

Bewick's swan (Cygnus bewickii)Bewick's swan (Cygnus bewickii)WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. Bewick's swan coming in to land

This is a great spectacle to witness which only happens in the winter months. My next port of call is down to the Holden tower (3 storeys high) which gives great views across the reserve especially to the River Severn and the fields which the wildfowl use for grazing. You sometimes get the odd rarity flying up the river but they are usually out of reach for the 500mm lens and a teleconverter! From here the wiley red fox maybe seen searching for a meal or the many raptors such as Peregrine falcon, Marsh harrier or Buzzards looking for breakfast. When the tide is on its way in the birds feeding on the mud will move further inland making them slightly easier to photograph. Between the Holden tower and the Rushy there are another four more hides to visit. Next stop is the Knott hide. The Widgeon duck are usually grazing here and sometimes a Song thrush can be spotted searching for worms.

Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.

Song thrush

Directly opposite The Knott hide is the Stephen Kirk hide where you can spot various ducks, geese & swans and sometimes the waders such as Redshank, Ruff and Curlews. I have photographed kingfishers here in the past which tend to sit on the barbed wire fence. Not the best perch for a decent photograph but who can resist a kingfisher!

From here it is a short walk to the Willow hide. I always check the purpose made slots in the fence for anything. Winter is a good time to spot the elusive Water rail. In Spring & Summer you may spot various visiting warblers. The Willow hide is a great hide which was only made a few years ago. This is the best place to see the Water rail and the various small birds visiting the feeders. If you stay a while the Great spotted woodpecker may pay a visit.

Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)WWT Slimbridge. The elusive Water rail from the Willow hide

In the hide there is a small purpose built hole just big enough to get the lens in and get some great low down shots of the Water rail such as the one above.

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)WWT Slimbridge. Long-tailed tit from the Willow hide

Opposite the Willow hide is the Robbie Garnett hide. A great place to photograph birds in flight and landing on the pools. This hide is where most of the photographers hang out. Also from here in winter there is the stunning spectacle of hundreds of Lapwing, Golden plover, Curlew, Northern pintail, Widgeon, Teal, Shovelor, geese & swans. It is even more of a spectacle when the birds of prey join the party causing panic and mayhem sending thousands of birds into the air. One of the reserves great spectacles. After all this excitement it is usually 09-30. The rest of the reserve is now open so I make the long trek down to the Kingfisher hide. On the approach to the hide walking down the South Finger watch for the Treecreepers, Long-tailed tits & Goldcrest in the trees. From the hide you may see the visiting Great Bittern (not been spotted this winter). On the pool Little grebe and Gadwall are usually around. In Feb-Apr the Kingfishers have been spotted pairing up and digging a nest in the far bank on many occasions. At this time the windows are locked to prevent any disturbance. The feeders attract a variety of small birds such as Blue tits & the finches. Siskin and Brambling have been spotted here. Usually the sparrowhawk will make an unwelcome visit. Otters have also been spotted from here and the South Finger.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)WWT Slimbridge.

Goldfinch from the Kingfisher hide

From here I head back towards the reserve calling in briefly to the Van de Bovenkamp hide. If the Bittern is around it is a good place to get some flight shots. From here I grab a coffee from the kiosk and visit the Zeiss hide. I never see much close I can photograph here but you get some great views towards the sea wall watching the many distant wildfowl & waders. A good place to watch the noisy Rooks feeding and gathering nesting material.

Next stop is the Hogarth hide which is on the South Lake. This winter has seen great numbers of Common snipe and Lapwing visit here. It's best to photograph here later in the day when the sun has moved round. On an overcast day (like most times when I visit!) good shots of the Snipe can be had and they will come close to the hide. Also watch out for the the small waders amongst the lapwing such as Dunlin and Little Stint.

A walk of snipeA walk of snipeApparently a 'walk' is the collective noun for a group of snipe.
WWT Slimbridge.
 Common snipe in front of the Hogarth hide

From here a quick call into the Discovery hide. When the sun is shining it's worth making a return visit later on when the sun has moved. From here you'll see swans, geese, ducks, Cormorants, gulls and many waders such as Redshank, Black-tailed godwit, Oystercatcher & Redshank.
Usually around this time its lunchtime. In the afternoon I tend to spend most of my time between the Rushy and Robbie Garnett hides catching the various birds in flight. If the sun has been shining I'll often return to the Hogarth hide for the Snipe and other waders etc. At this time of year many of the birds in the collection part of the reserve will be pairing up putting on mating displays which are great to photograph. I like to watch the Eider ducks and Goldeneye were they will throw their head back and make an amusing call! There is always something to photograph at Slimbridge and you can see why it is such an attraction for many photographers and visitors.
Pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)Pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. Oystercatcher from the Discovery hide.
Green sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)Green sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)WWT Slimbridge. Green sandpiper. A summer visitor to Slimbridge

I am now offering one to one tuition for beginners or experienced photographers at Slimbridge. I will be teaching you the ideal camera settings which I use and composition techniques to get the best out of your wildlife photography. Also teaching you things to watch out for whilst photographing wildlife and other tips and techniques I have used over the years to great success.

For more information regarding these day courses please contact me to let me know your requirements and check for availability.

The full day course (9.30 till 16.30) is £110 per person or the half day course (09.30 till 12.30) is £65 per person.

These prices do not include admission to the centre.

Thanks for reading my latest installment.

More of my images can be viewed on my flickr page.




]]> (Steve Liptrot Photography) Sun, 04 Feb 2018 20:39:54 GMT
January so far.... Is it me or is everybody naffed off with this weather? Here in South Wales, it's either overcast or misty. Not the best conditions for photography.

I haven't ventured far these last few weeks, just visiting the usual haunts of Slimbridge wetland centre and Forest farm nature reserve near Cardiff. Last Wednesday I arrived at Slimbridge with good intentions and a good forecast predicted (which never happened!). Whilst waiting for the fog to lift I had propped my camera and lens on its monopod up against the hide, the next thing I heard was crunch! On the floor was a cracked camera body and the lens attachment was ripped off. ££££££ The air was blue as I cursed my stupidity. The lens was ok thank god and worked ok on my spare camera body. The next thing I did was order a Nikon D810 body! Damaging my camera was probably an omen. A rather expensive one! I was meaning to do this for a while since the introduction of the D850 the D810 prices have decreased slightly. Don't get me wrong the D500 is a good camera with amazing auto-focus and shutter speed but the D810 has amazing quality and resolution and the shutter is soooo quiet. So when my D500 returns from the Nikon hospital it will be relegated to the back-up body!

In all this unplanned extra expense I managed to photograph an elusive hawfinch at Forest farm nature reserve near Cardiff. There has been a big influx of these birds to the UK this year and are always great to see. They are probably making up for the lack of waxwings this winter. Last year was a 'bumper' year but not many have migrated over this year. Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)Forest farm, Whitchurch.

Hawfinch near the warden's office at Forest farm nature reserve.

This was probably the last photograph I took with my D500 before it was sent back to Nikon! In pieces!!

At the start of the week I was talking to a regular birder at Slimbridge of a sighting of a Great Northern diver just up the road at Sharpness marina, Gloucestershire. As I wasn't getting any worthwhile shots here I called in on the way home. Sure enough the bird was bobbing about on the marina lake battling the waves. It wasn't easy to get close to at first but then it started to dive for food. Whilst under the water I was able to get closer by moving a bit quicker than I normally do (a bit of a feeble attempt at jogging!) and dropping down low when it resurfaced. It worked-ish and got I some half decent record shots. I call my not-so-good photographs 'record shots'.). I'm my own worst critic! Lol. Great northern diver (Gavia immer)Great northern diver (Gavia immer)Sharpness marina, Gloucestershire. Great Northern diver on Sharpness marina lake.

Today I called at Forest farm for a couple of hours to try out the Nikon D810. The lakes were frozen so the kingfishers wouldn't be playing but the jays were helping themselves to the peanuts I had brought. The grass was white with frost which made a great back drop for the jay shots. I'm really impressed with the 810. The quality of the shots are fantastic and there is plenty of resolution available if a shot is to be cropped. The big plus factor is how quiet the shutter is on this camera as opposed to the 'clunk' of the D500. I also tried it in QC (quiet continuous). Impressive stuff. I wish I'd bought this body ages ago. The 810 has a 5 fps which is plenty. I'm not one of these 'trigger happy' togs. One of of my best kingfisher flight shots was taken with 1 shot when I used to have a D800 which was even slower! Gotcha!Gotcha!Mr Kingfisher after a successful fishing trip.
Forest farm near Cardiff.
'One shot' kingfisher taken at Forest farm.

Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius)Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius)First shot with the Nikon D810.
Forest farm, Whitchurch.
Eurasian jay in Arctic conditions using the D810.

After a couple of hours at Forest farm I drove up to Gigrin farm in Mid-Wales. Gigrin is famous for being a red kite feeding station for the last 23 years! An amazing place I love visiting but today it was CLOSED!! More obscenities filled the air, I should have checked their website as they have limited opening times in winter. Whilst I was in the area I had a drive up Elan valley. A stunning place to visit especially in the Autumn. I took a few long exposure shots of the water flowing over the reservoir dams. An impressive sight. After nearly freezing to death I retreated to the visitor centre cafe for coffee and cake! 

Caban CochCaban CochCaban coch dam, Elan Valley.
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Caban Coch Dam, Elan Valley.

Thanks for reading my latest installment.

More of my images can be viewed on my flickr page.



]]> (Steve Liptrot Photography) Fri, 12 Jan 2018 22:15:22 GMT
My first blog!! At last I’ve finally got round to writing a blog! I never know what to write in these so I’ll tell you about my latest exploits at RSPB Ham wall in Somerset over the last couple of weeks. I have visited the reserve a few times over the years which only ends up being once a year. So last week I had a quiet period at work and spent 3 consecutive days there and a day the following week. I find this is a better way to get to know a place and was rewarded with some great images. My main goal was the elusive Great bittern preferably in-flight (image below). The problem with these birds is you never know where they are going to spring from but I had a friend on my side. The Weed Cutter! The cutters were busy tidying the place up a bit which spooked the birds as they went along the reed beds. I don’t think the birds were too impressed but I got the shots I was after!

Great bittern (Botaurus stellaris)Great bittern (Botaurus stellaris)RSPB Ham wall, Somerset.

Great bittern 'spooked' from the reed beds.

Walking round the reserve the little birds such as the long-tailed tits, bearded reedlings, reed buntings, cetti’s warblers and goldcrests were busy calling and feeding up for winter. Just stop for 5 minutes and they will soon appear. While I was walking around Loxton’s marsh, I heard a thrashing in the reeds and a roe deer appeared, she jumped in the water and swam to the next island. I watched this activity for around 10 minutes and she never spotted me. It’s amazing what you can see at this place.

European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)RSPB Ham wall, Somerset.

Roe deer hind swimming between the islands on Loxton's marsh.

On one of my first visits a regular visitor advised me to sit at one of the screens dotted around the reserve for a couple of hours because you never know what is going to fly in or out of the reeds. So with a full flask of coffee and a bite to eat I found a screen and waited and waited! The little birds were everywhere and the ‘Blue Lightning’ kingfishers were darting about ‘pipping’ as they zip past. I also heard the distinctive ‘ping ping’ of the bearded reedlings but they were not coming out today. I did manage to catch up with them on my fourth visit.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)RSPB Ham wall, Somerset.

Common goldcrest. The UK's smallest bird.

 The marsh harriers were out in force hunting for small birds usually teal (small ducks). After a couple of hours I went for a walk to the Avalon hide which is quite a walk. I’ve never had much luck with this hide, maybe things will be better this time. There were plenty of ducks such as mallard, widgeon, gadwall and teal and a preening great egret. These birds remind me of a white pterodactyl when they are flying!

Great egret (Ardea alba)Great egret (Ardea alba)RSPB Ham wall, Somerset.

Great egret flying over Walton's marsh.

On my 2nd & 3rd visits the weed cutters were still doing their job so I spent quite some time in the Tor view hide (great views of Glastonbury Tor). I got some good shots of the stonechats (male and female), Cetti’s warbler, little egrets, marsh harriers and reed buntings. I could still hear the ‘ping ping’ from the bearded reedlings but they were deep in the reeds. I managed get another shot of the great bittern and a couple of great egrets chasing each other around the lake. The day was coming to an end so I watched the starling murmeration. Well worth visiting Ham wall for this alone. An amazing spectacle.

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)RSPB Ham wall, Somerset.

Grey heron

My final visit was 5 days later and it was bitterly cold (-3C!) and everything was frozen. The start of the day was very quiet but as the sun rose things started to wake up. The great egrets were still chasing each other and the kingfisher was looking for unfrozen areas on the pools. A walk over to the Avalon hide and I hear the distinctive sound of a ‘squealing pig!), a water rail. A shy bird but when things are frozen they will appear on the hunt for food. Managed to get a couple of shots but it was too close for the 500mm lens I could only photograph its head! Nice shot though.

Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)RSPB Ham wall, Somerset.

Water rail close-up on Avalon marsh.

Whist walking back to the main reserve I heard that ‘ping pinging’ again. I thought that’s it, I’m not going until I at least see a bearded reedling. After only a couple of minutes they appeared. Six of them (3 pairs). That was the ‘icing on the cake’. My visits all within a week or so had paid dividends and more. The bittern was my main aim, but with the egrets, goldcrests and the reedlings I was made up. I would have liked to have seen the Glossy ibis and the reported sightings of a rare Firecrest but there is always another day.

Bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus)Bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus)RSPB Ham wall, Somerset.

Male bearded reedling on Avalon marsh.


I hope you enjoyed my first written account of what I get up to when I’m not maintaining aircraft. Please feel free to leave any comments or ask questions regarding any aspect of my photography.

More of my images can be viewed on my flickr page.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018.





]]> (Steve Liptrot Photography) Sun, 17 Dec 2017 21:12:01 GMT