Nigel's  Wildlife  Photography  Blog  :  2016

Saturday 24th December

Twelve Images From Twelve Months,

The Past Twelve Months Has Seen .....

Since January, I have managed to press the shutter many thousands of times whilst standing in many areas of Britain.  Allthough, I did not do much outside of Britain this year, I did manage a week in Finland back in Feburary. targeting northern species including woodpeckers in some lovely snowy conditions.
The woodpecker below is of a male Grey Headed woodpecker which was taken during my Finnish week.
During april, Sue and I had a long weekend in Glasgow where we spent a bit of time walking around the city.  We went to quite a few places including a few well known tourist locations that we had not previously visited.
We also walked around the city mural trail and i managed a few images of some of the great street paintings.

One species that I have spent quite a bit of time working with in 2016 is the Tawny Owl.  My friend Tom Robinson has worked hard to increase both the number of species available ,along with the quality and the popularity of his hide set up in Lincolnshire.  As a result, he now has a great set of hides for a variety of birds including: Cuckoo, Buzzard, Red Kite, Kestrel, Grebes and other water birds.
He also has both Tawny and Barn owls and, I have spent quite a few evenings on his farm photographing Tawny Owls in a variety of poses and set ups including this one on an old farm tractor. 


For more years than I care to remember (probably around 25), I have wanted to visit St. Kilda in the far west of the Hebridies, and during a 10 day trip across the Hebrides in July, I finally manged to reach these great islands.
On the same trip, we also visited the Shiants, the Monarchs, and several other great destinations. This includes Canna (shown below)

This was followed by another week on the same boat "Elizabeth G" with Hebridies Cruises back in September for a week around Mull.

Since then I have been discussing a few options with Hebrides Cruises and am pleased to announce 5 more trips away with them in the Western Isles during 2017.  This is a really exciting opputunity and i am really looking forward to visiting many new destinations as well as several places not visited for a while.

There will be more to follow next year, as this exciting travel and photographic story develops.

Above is an image taken from onboard the Elizabeth G, Left is the island of Sanday, and right is Canna.
Below is an image of Craig left, and myself right, taken by Sue.
I was very pleased to have done very well in photographic competitions and was awarded several medals.  As a reslt, I managed to accumulate enough acceptances to gain my AFIAP distinction back in June.
Shortly afterwards, I managed to gain enough acceptances for my EFIAP distinction which I can not apply for until early 2017.  As a result, I eased right back on the external competitions and have not entered many for many months until entering the annual Smethwick exhibition in November and once again i was very pleased with the sucsess.

The image of an European Brown Bear that was taken a few years ago in Finland not far from the Russian border has done me very well in competitions over the years.

The bear walking across a swamp in the moonlit night.  It was awarded two Gold meadals at this years "British Small Print Championships".

In my local area, I manged some good days out doing more macro work as well as some days in hides and a few images from my Leicestershire garden.  The youg Green Woodpecker was seen feeding on ants in my garden, I carefully got my camera into position and manged some images including this one below.
One of my favourite times of the year is the August on the Grouse moors, when the heather is a lovely pink colour and everything looks so vibrant.  Thjis year, was no exception and I have a few days in Yorkshire followed by a few days in Scotland.
above is two images of Green Winged Orchids taken locally.

The end of a year is always mixed, the weather can mean a great time photographing wildlife in lovely soft winter light, or it can mean lots of rain. Over the past few months of 2016, we have had more than our share of rain.  Indeed in Scotland earlier in the summer i had lots of rain.  Therefore it would be more accurate to say that in 2016, I had too much of my share of rain.  But,  Hey - Ho,  there is nothing that can be done about the weather, it is one of the things we have no influence over.

But a couple of days ago, i had a lovely weekend on the East coast, doing a bit of sight seeing, a bit of eating, along with some walking, and the opputunity to get my camera out.  Sue and i saw some good species, and one of them was several hundred Grey Seals.  I took several hundred images, many of which I am still to do anything with.

But below is a Grey seal pup born at the end of 2016. hopefully a nice way to end a very brief and mini review of the year. 


Wednesday 21st December
Seasons Greetings To One And All

Thursday 8th December
Another Great Year Of Talks Comes To An End

It is the time of the year when organisations finish their regular programme, they hold their Christmas events and guest speakers are not due again until next year.

Normally at the end of each year, I write a few lines on this blog as a summary of my year, and, as normal in a few weeks time I will update this blog with my thoughts in a couple of weeks time.

In the meantime, earlier this week, I completed my final talk of the year, which was "winter wildlife" for an audience in Welshpool at the town's camera club, it went down well and i enjoyed meeting a great appreciative audience for the evening.

This year i have done over 30 talks and have enjoyed virtually all of them its great to visit new people and show them my passion for wildlife photography.

Next year I have around 20 bookings so far and am obviously hopeful the number will grow.  There are also a few bokings for 2018 as well, so i am pleased that at the start of the year I made the correct descission to purcase a new high end projector to help showcase my images.


Over the years, I have recieved some great feedback from the organisations, that I have visited.  I dont usually post this on my website, allthough I always reply back to the sender.

But I thought I would make an exception and give an example below
Thank you to Keith Watson and to Dunchurch Photographic Society who I visited earlier in 2016.

Dear Nigel.
Once again, on behalf of everyone at Dunchurch Photographic Society, I wish to thank you for an absolute wonderful evening last night. I was being totally honest when I said that I had been looking forward immensely to your talk, and you way surpassed the expectations that I had.
I have to say, you are one of the best guest speakers that we have ever had, certainly in my time at Dunchurch anyway. I just cannot get over the quantity but the quality of images that we were treated to last night. It will leave a lasting impression on all of us I am sure.
It was also very clear just how much everyone else was enjoying it too and that was proven at question time and during the tea break as normally we are quite a shy bunch of people when it comes to that, but last night was not the case.
We are quite simply going to have to invite you back again thats for sure, and hopefully that will not be too long in the future. 
Thank you for your kind words that you have posted on our FaceBook page. I see that has been responded to and likewise, we all wish you a very Merry Christmas and send our our best wishes for a happy New Year.
Sincerest regards
Keith Watson
Dunchurch Photographic Society

Above is a few images that are from my 2016 talks.

I am really looking forward to my 2017 talks, meeting both new faces along with old friends in the year ahead.
Hopefully I will see some of you the readers of my blog at one of my talks.  Please say hello.


Friday 2nd December 
2017 Is Getting Closer

Every year seems to pass so very quickly, it must be a sign I am getting old.

But when each year, I choose the design and then produce a set of images to be part of my calendar for the year ahead, there is always the realisation that the nights have already drawn in, and the next year is just around the corner.

I always say, I have left it too late, and that I will start earlier the following year.  Well in 2016, I have left it later than I should, but everything is still on track, and here I am telling myself that my 2018 calendar will be produced earlier next year.
Well time will tell, and in 12 months time, I can report on progress.

In the meantime, I am pleased with my 2017 calendar, and over the next few weeks, it will be passed out to quite a few people both in locally to me in the East Midlands, and across Britain.  Several will be posted out to people across Britain, Europe, and even further afaield and it is good that this will all happen several days ahead of the last posting dates for Christmas.

Most of the 2017 calendars are reserved for presents, already been sold, or are already on their way to their home for the next twelve months.  But a small number remain, if there are any readers of this blog who would like to purchase 2017 calendar, then please get in touch.
Please use facebook messenger, send me a text or email.  Or even direct from this website using the following link:


Sunday 20th November
Pleased With Ongoing Success At Smethwick International 
As regular readers of my blog will know, I enjoy entering photographic competitions and over the years, I have been fortunate to have received some great success at the prestigious Smethwick International.
Indeed, in terms of numbers, Smethwick's annual exhibition is probably the competition where I have enjoyed the most success.  I have been fortunate, and with this years results, I have won 7 awards inthree years.  Four of which are gold medals.  Thank You to the judges.
This year, I entered images into both the print and digital sections.  A few were new images that have not been entered into any external competitions elsewhere.  Of these new images, I had 5 new images acceptances.  This was pleasing and was a mixture of prints and digitals.  In addition, also had a few images accepted that had ben accepted elsewhwere including a few that had won medals elsewhwere.
Also, I am really pleased to announce that the print of a Red Fox below, was awarded a Royal Photographic Society gold medal in this years exhibition.

The Red Fox had not been entered into any other external exhibition before, but is one of the 15 images that forms part of my ARPS panel with the Royal Photographic Society.  It also won the Print of the year award in my local camera club which is Leicester Forest Photographic Society.


Friday 18th November
Winter Themed Greetings Cards

For a while, I have been thinking about adding a few new designs to my Greetings card range.  My view was that it would be good to print locally, so a few weeks ago, I got a few quotes and then placed an order with a small but friendly local firm.

Envelopes, and cellophane wrappers were also order and today, I visited the printers to collect a box of card all printed and ready for me.  I find it hard to know which images to chose, and which will look good when printed, so was slightly nervous about what the designs that i had chosen would look like.

The lady from the printers had already told me that they looked good, and when i went to collect them, I need not have worried, they look lovely and I am certainly pleased with the result. 

The four designs that were printed are shown below.
If anyone would like to purchase a card, then please contact me. They are blank inside and will be great for either greetings cards or as Christmas cards.

Above: Mountain Hare
Below: Arctic Fox
Above: Ptarmigan
Below: Willow Grouse

Friday 11th November
Sometimes an Image Remains Relevant
And Memorable For Many Years
Today is Armistice Day, the 11th hour of the eleventh month and both today and on Remembrance Sunday we all think of the poppy as a sign of remembrance. 

This image of a wild Poppy was taken a few years ago, and every year at this time, I think it is still relevent, indeed, I can remember exactly where and when it was taken.

It is definately not the best picture that I have ever taken, but I feel the petal that is about to fall links with the fallen that we all remember with the traditional remembrance poppy.

I do not put political comments either on my website or on other social media.  But far to many people have been killed and injured in too many wars and conflicts across the globe.  Too many have been injured, and all of this badly effects those left at home. This has been going on for too many years and we should all remember the survivors all year around.


Tuesday 8th November
On Tour With My Projector
The past few weeks has seen not much activity with my camera, I seem to be very busy with a wide range of things, not all of which have been photography or wildlife related.  Work has been busy recently with several visits including London, Birmingham, Exeter, Nottingham, to name a few.  I am aware of the winter months approaching so have been trying to loose a bit of weight and have been out walking a bit trying to get a little fitter after some good holidays during the summer months.  
But one item I really like about the Autumn is that it is the start of my visits to different photography and wildlife groups to show them some of images and to talk about my travels.  October and November have proven to be a great start to this with a very busy period.  Several weeks have seen more than one talk, and I have certainly enjoyed visiting quite a few new groups.
Polar Bear, (above)  and Silver Studded Blue, (below) are images from two of my most popular talks "Winter Wildlife" and "British Wildlife In Macro".

My diary of talks for 2017 looks good and I have started to get a few talks booked in for 2018, so I am pleased with progress.

To add to this, I have purchased a lovely new top of the range Canon projector and am a lot more happy with the image quality at the talks.

The audiences over the past few weeks have been a wide range of different groups as are the future bookings.  These include Photographic Societies, RSPB Groups, Wildlife Trust Groups, Womens Institute, Trefoil Guild, "Monday Clubs", Village groups, and other interesting people.  It is always good to meet new people.


Penguins are always popular and feature in many talks, therefore, I have both a 50 minute and a 90 minute version of my talk on "Wildlife of The Falkland Islands".

Many other talks have both a 50 minute and 90 minute version including "An evening of wildlife photography" which is a lovely introduction to the joys of wilflife as seen from behind the lens.  It is a great talk for groups that are not wildlife or photography based such as Trefoil Guilds, Womens Institute, village societies, etc.

As the volume of talks increases, I am in the process of adding different length talks to increase the flexibility for different groups.

Above is an image of a Corncrake from the Hebrides, which was taken on Uist, it is one of the images from my new talk which is "A Focus On Birds" which was shown to an RSPB group in Birmingham last month.  I have also got bookings for this new talk in 2017, and 2018. 

If any readers of this blog would like a talk for their group, then please get in touch. The easiest way is via the "contact" page at the bottom left of this website.  I aim to answer all emails and requests within a couple of days, and often quicker, but there will sometimes be a delay if I am away from internet connection which sometimes happens.

I look forward to hearing from you and meeting more groups.


Mon 10th October
A Week In The Hebrides With All Four Seasons Of Weather Most Days

Many parts of the world are effected by all sorts of weather, and a visit to Scotland is always going to be one of those locations that is effected, be it good, bad, or indifferent.  It's always a case of being prepared, and making the most of whatever conditions you find.  The weather is certainly one of the things that we can't alter.

The last week in September saw me return to the West Coast with Hebrides Cruises where we had a huge range of weather every day.  Lots of rain, high winds, occasional sleet, along with some warm sun and clear blue skies, indeed several days felt like we were experencing all four seasons every few hours.

This can make for some fun, interesting light and it is always worth having the camera ready.  A good example of this was some good views across Mull in some lovely light in Loch Salen as we stopped to drop anchor for the night. 

We also had some lovely blue sky and good views in Loch Sunart and managed a trip ashore on the island of Carna which was a new island for me, which was welcome.
As we cruised around the North end of Mull, we manged to get some good sightings of an Otter, and some good views across towards Eigg and some of the distant islands.  But as the wind was increasing with a forecast not looking not good for any boats to be out on the open sea.
With such windy weather, it was very sensible that Rob our captain chose to shelter in Tobermory and we waited for the storm to pass over, which it did.  But that gave us the opputunity to have a look around several places in the lovely small town including Aris Park which has some great walking.   We also had good views of the building on the sea front which have been made famos by the brightly coloured paintings.
We passed by the island of Kerrera which a few weeks earlier was featured on a documentatry on Scottish islands that i enjoyed watching on television. 

Sunday 18th September
200 And Still Going Strong
It is a rare sight to see me, Nigel, the author of this website and blog in front of the camera.  Its not that I am camera shy, its just that I don't end up looking good in any images and as such I now almost exclusively concentrate on being on the shutter side of any lens.

Over the years, I have been gradually climbing the Scottish Munros.  I first started walking the Scottish mountains in the mid 1980's during a winter mountaineering week run by a mountaineering club that i was a very active member of at the time.  We stayed near to Glencoe and whilst I didn't keep records of the peaks that we climbed, we certainly had a great week ascending loads of great climbs including Ben Nevis and the Aonach Eagach, etc. in full winter conditions.

At the time there were no such thing as digital cameras, mobile phones, or any of the fancy gadgets that have such a big impact on everyones life 30 years later.

I returned to Scotland on a regular basis at least once per year and often many more times and have no doubt that i quickly climbed over 100 Munros (based on my memory of the peaks that i can remember).

In the late 1990's I was still visiting Scotland regularly, and decided that I would try to climb all of the Scottish Munros.  At the time there were 277 mountains reaching the magic height of 300 feet and considered to be a mountain summit in their own right.
As I was unsure of exactly which ones had previously been to the summit, the obvious thing to do was to start the list again and this time keep a record as I went to ensure that all the peaks were climbed.


Shortly after this, I ended up doing a few more trips abroad, moved house, and got into photography.  This resulted in far fewer visits to Scotland, and often these trips would be shared with a camera and many heavy lenses.

I have always wanted to try my hand at landscape photography, but always ended up following my passion for wildlife photography instead.  Even though I am happy to carry a very heavy pack of wildlife lens around when i need to, I have never really been 100% comfortable carrying my digital SLR in the mountains.

Since last summer, Sue and I have made an effort to climb more of these Munros and 20 more have been added to the list (allthough a few of these I have previously climbed before).

I have started to use my iPhone camera quite a bit more for quick snaps and recording odd events.

Since then the number of Scottish Munro's has altered a few times and currently stands at 2825.  On Tuesday 5th September, Sue and I climbed two peaks in Glen Shiel, the second of which is named Sgurr a Signe, and it was my 200th confirmed Munro.

Hence the iPhone image of me on the summit and the rare sight of me in front of the lens rather than in front of the shutter.


Thursday 25th August
Think Pink

Wildlife photography is as much about the background and the setting as it is about the subject, it doesn't matter how good your subject is, it will not make a good image if the background looks wrong.

one background taht always looks good is Heather, it can be a variety of coulours depeing on the flowers, lights, etc. All shades of pink and purple can look good and provide a great backdrop.

Each ear during August or September, I try and photograph a few species in these lovely colours This usually involves a trip to Scotland, allthough Northern England also has some great Grouse moors.

Is is often worth trying this before the start of the Grouse season (the NON glorious 12th August) or going to a location where wildlife is not shot.

This year, I visited quite a few sites and manged to get quite a few images of various species including Red Grouse, Mountain Hare, and Red Squirel.

14th August
There Is A Green Woodpecker On My Lawn

As regular readers of my blog know, I enjoy travel and have been fortunate to have travelled to some great locations over the past years.  But I also enjoy photographing local species, and I have also enjoyed taking local pictures of the many species to be found in the East Midlands.

The most local that anyone can get is their own garden. I am fortunate that that I get two species of British Woodpecker visit my Leicestershire garden.  A couple of days ago, I spotted this young Green Woodpecker on my garden lawn and managed to get a few images.  


Wed 3rd August
The Fresh Taste Of The Sea
Unfortunately everyone wants a huge variety of fresh food to be available in the big name supermarkets all year round irrespective of what is, and what is not in season.  This often means that much of the food we purchase and eat having been grown far away on different continents and has already travelled many thousands of miles before sitting on supermarket shelves waiting to be purchased.

But there was also a large amount of Scottish produce that was very fresh indeed.

Amongst this was some great sea food including Mackerel that we had the opportunity to catch with rod and line whilst at anchor.

But one of the highlights was the fresh Scallops that were collected by Rob our skipper of the coast of Mull during a 30 minute diving session.  These were expertly cooked by our Martin who was our chef.  These great tasting Scallops were extremely fresh, had zero food miles, and were served within 1 hour 20 minutes of leaving the sea.


With all of this hard work going on around me, I was pleased to take the above images to record a short sequence of the event.  I even managed to help with the preparation of the Scallops.  It is unusual for me to appear in front of the lens, but the picture below proved I did indeed help out.

Wed 27th July
(Updated Early August with more images)
St Kilda - A Long Time On My Wish List 

Many years ago, I was fortunate and had the opportunity to cruise around Mull as part of a small group of just six people aboard a private yacht, the weather was kind, the seas were blue and we got some great images all of which were on slide film.  The following year the same group of six of us chartered another yacht and did a similar cruise but this time it was circumnavigating Skye visiting several great locations including the Shiant Isles.

Ever since these trips which were back in the 1990's, I have always wanted to visit St. Kilda as part of a small boat cruise, but for one reason or another have never got around to sorting a trip to progress this.

I have not updated this blog for over a month now (and I have set myself a target to update this blog at least once per month).  But, the reason why I have not updated my blog is because I have spent the past three weeks in Scotland, during which we have had very little wi-fi or internet access.  For ten days of these three weeks, Sue and I were on a cruise around the Outer Hebrides where we visited several great islands including Canna, The Shiants, Harris, The Monarchs, and St. Kilda.


Above is an image from our journey around the sea stacks of St. Kilda which was 3 hours of stunning scenery and wildlife which we took on the morning we left these islands.

Below is another image of cruising around the stacks.  We then headed east across the high seas to anchor in a sheltered bay off the coast of North Uist.


A visit to the Scottish islands by a multi day criuse is never going to produce the same kind of wildlife photography results as a trip targeting specific species using long lens and several hours looking for these targets.  But it is a different and magical experience that has a great feel to it.

Although you have have several days were you might hope to see something such as Dolhins or Minkie Whale, you often go for long periods, just watching the world go round which is very relaxing.

Then you get lucky and it becomes better still.
above is a Great Skua (Bonxie) below the tall misty cliffs of St. Kilda.
Below is a Minkie Whale, one of about twenty that we saw between Harris and the Shiant isles during one great morning.

Below the whale is a Common Dolphin, one of a pod of about twenty that were with the boat for about twenty minutes.

We managed to go ashore on Hirtra for a few hours in what might be described as extremely mist conditions, but it was still good to walk around the abandoned village and see the famous Soay sheep.
I have several images to sort and process, and more will appear in my online gallery and facebook pages when  time allows.  I also intend to add some of both this years and last years images into a couple of my updated talks as a mini "Wild Hebrides" section.
As well as St. Kilda, we visited several other islands including the Monarch Isles (above) and Canna (below)

The boat we joined for this trip was the Elizabeth G, which is a small boat for a commercial holiday such as this.  But its a converted lifeboat that has accommodation for ten guests and up to five crew.  It was ideal for this as it continued to cruise during the worst weather that Scotland could throw at us.  Force 7 gales were no problem even though all of the day boats that normally visit St. Kilda were at anchor and had not been used for several days.  The trip comes highly recommended.  The food was excellent, but that is going to be the subject of my next blog post.

A few images of Elizabeth G are shown below.


One of the things that nobody has control over is the weather, and it would be fair to say that from a weather perspective, luck was against us.  It rained every day of our voyage, sometimes for hours on end and sometimes the occasional showers lasting just a few minutes.  The winds were coming from the west which made things tricky, including some very rough seas.  It's hard to take images when the viability is only a few yards, the boat moves up and down aver ten feet in each direction, and the waves crash over the boat.

The image below was taken in the tender during the transfer to tarbet on the island of Harris.

But, I am certainly not complaining.  I had a great time and it is now firmly on my list of places that i defiantly want to revisit again.


Wednesday 22nd June
AFIAP Success, Working Towards BPE

An update to my external competition entries, today, I received an email informing me that my AFIAP application has been approved, so I am obviously very pleased to be able to add the initials AFIAP to my photographic collection of letters which is now:

Nigel Spencer, ARPS, AFIAP.


Since submitting my AFIAP application several months ago, I have been very pleased with my continuing success with FIAP accredited exhibitions and have passed the 250 acceptances needed for EFIAP which is the next level.

The FIAP accounting system is a bit odd, the rules state that acceptances for levels above EFIAP can only be counted if they were gained after the EFIAP has been awarded.
Therefore, I need to apply for my EFIAP later this year and if successful, the award will probably be dated June 2017.  Only acceptances dated after June 2017 can be counted.
A bit of an odd system!!!


In the meantime, I am currently entering a few BPE (British Photographic Exhibitions) and currently have around 50 acceptances.  My target is to reach 300 acceptances which will qualify me for a BPE 5 Crown.

The Artic Fox image above which has done very well for me in FIAP competitions is also doing well in BPE Exhibitions.  In 2016, the image has been selected for 3 awards.  It was awarded second place Silver in both Neath and Southport, and a selectors medal in ALBA.

The image of a different Arctic Fox below, taken a few days later was awarded a Highly commended also in the 2016 BPE Alba exhibition, indeed I was particularly pleased to receive 4 awards in this one exhibition including a commended for one of my Badger images and a commended for my Black Throated Diver.  


Friday 10th June
Red Kite Overhead

Red Kites are now a common sight in many areas of Britian and can regularly be seen flying overhead.

Having seen them regularly in other areas of Leicestershire, including seeing them flying over the main Leicestershire road network close to home, it was really only a matter of time before they were spotted flying over our garden and the fields behind.

Today, was the day, and I am really pleased to have now seen these wonderful birds soaring overhead at home.  Indeed, it is great that Sue and I have another species to add to our species list and look forward to enjoying seeing these lovely birds of prey whilst looking out of our windows or in the garden.


The image below is from my arcive not taken of a newly spotted Red Kite.  But I hope to take some more images of our newly seen local Red Kites in the near future.


24th May
Chequered Skipper - Scotlands Rarest Butterfly

Last week, Sue and I spent a relaxing week in Scotland doing a bit of walking, and wildlife watching. Amongst the species seen were the tiny Chequered Skipper which is now only found in small localised colonies in western Scotland after becoming extinct in England in 1976.

The last stronghold for the Chequered skipper in England was the East Midlands, and there is a pub in the small Market town of Oundle which is named "The Chequered Skipper" I must visit, have a beer and take an image of the pub sign.  I guess it would be a lot easier to locate and photograph a pub sign than another visit to Scotland's west coast whhre these tiny butterflies are reasonably easy to locate, but are actually quite hard to photograph.


Thursday 12th May
Butterfly Conservation Book Cover

For quite a few months, I have been keeping quiet about a lovely new book which uses one of my photographs as its cover image.  As the book is now available, I will tell the story in this blog update.

Last year, I was contacted by the conservation charity "Butterfly Conservation” to discuss the use of one of my images on the front cover of a new book that they were writing about the “Butterflies Of The West Midlands”.  The charity wanted to use my well known image of a male Silver Studded Blue butterfly sitting on some lovely purple Bell Heather.

The book has been in preparation for quite a few months, but the charity has now finished the book and it has been printed and delivered ready for the 2016 butterfly season.  I was therefore really pleased today when the postman delivered a copy through my letterbox earlier today.


It certainly looks to be a great book, it has 156 pages, and contains a wide variety of useful information.  It has many topics which range from identification and population status of butterflies in the area, site information on the 40 species of butterfly found in the five counties that make up West Midlands, along other useful items such as 26 butterfly walks, and web links.

My friend Roger Wasley with whom over the years, I have had many a happy hour photographing lots of different subjects was part of the Butterfly Conservation editorial team on this project.  In my opinion, they have produced a very informative guide which I have no hesitation in recommending it as an excellent guide to the area.

Butterfly Conservation (BC) is a small national charity, but is does some great work promoting both butterflies and moths.  It has a small number of reserves and also promotes habitat management for butterflies and other wildlife.  The world famous broadcaster David Attenborough is the president of BC.  I have been a member for several years and feel they do a good job considering their size and given their budget from members subscriptions must be proportionately smaller than many of the very large and well known wildlife charities.


Back to the new book, it is convienient to use and at 24 x 17 cm it is handy reference sized. It is now currently available for purchase, from many Natural History bookshops.  I is published by Pisces Publications and can also be purchased from their website  here.

As my original image was captured in landscape format, Butterfly Conservation cropped my image into a portrait format so that it fitted with their book cover design.  The cover uses my image as the main feature along with nine small thumbnails and is shown above.  Below is my original image.
Over the years, this image has done well for me in various competitions, it was awarded a medal a few years ago in an MCPF  (Midland Counties Photographic Federation) competition.  It is also now available as a greeting card, and as a mouse mat, please contact me if you are interested in either, or using any of my images for various purposes.

Sliver Studded Blue are a lovely summer butterfly, which are far from common, there is a Butterfly Conservation reserve in Shropshire where I have photographed them a few times, including this image of a male sitting on the distinctive purple coloured Bell Heather.

More Silver Studded Blue butterfly images can be found on my  Silver Studded Blue  web page.

Butterfly Conservation have kindly invited Sue and myself to the official book launch in a few weeks time which we are looking forward to, it involves a local butterfly walk, so I might take along my camera.

Friday 22nd April
Great News From The Scottish International Salon Of Photography

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have recently entered a few international photography exhibitions.  Its always tricky know which images to enter.  Many photographers have their own favourite images which are not always their best images, and its not unusual for the photographer to like images that will not do well in competitions. 

As a result, I always try to enter at least a couple of images that have been accepted into other exhibitions or recieved awards previously.  It's always good to feel that you have at least got something that has a strong chance of acceptance.  I also try and enter a few new images, and the number of these depends on how brave i feel, along with the cost of entry. Sometimes i just enter tried and tested images as it is important for the overall number of acceptances to grow as this feeds into other distinctions.

In the Scottish International, I felt brave and entered a mixture of new images, including mono, along with a few old favourites such as my Porcelain Fungi, Black Grouse, and Waxwing images.

It's always interesting when the results are due to come out, wondering what you will get, how many acceptances and if overall it has been worthwhile.
But I need not have worried, the results email from the 93rd Scottish International Exhibition Of Photography, showed that i had a total of eight images accepted into the exhibition, but also contained further great news.


I was obviously thrilled to read that I have been awarded a FIAP Gold medal for the "Best Ornilogical image in the exhibition" for my Waxwing image (shown above)

Previously, I have not entered any Black and White images into an international exhibition before, indeed, I have not entered any black and white images into any club competitions or elsewhere before.  But I thought I would try four of my wildlife images that I felt where suited to a mono conversion.  Out of the four, the three images below were accepted into the exhibition, and I consider 75% success in my first mono venture a great success.
"Arctic Fox Sitting In The Snow"
"Polar Bear Head Study"
Obviously I am very happy with all of the above, but as an added bonus, my image of a Pine Marten siting in a tree that was part of my ARPS panel with the Royal Photographic society, was awarded an Honourable Mention.

I have been very happy with my results in international competitions recently, which has resulted in my increased the number of acceptances, different images, and countries.

I got 6 images accepted into an exhibition in France last week which is a new country that i have not entered before.

But to receive news that I have three black and white images accepted, and honourable mention, and gold medal all in the Scottish International is great news and certainly more than I expected.


Tuesday 19th April
And Now For Something Different

A few months ago whilst browsing facebook, I saw a photograph of a building in Glasgow, it caught my eye because painted on the side of a building was a man with a robin on his finger.  The artwork looked impressive which lead to me reading the article which stated it was a newly painted and latest in a collection of street murals in Glasgow.

As a result, I did some more research and discovered that there are around 20 of these murals in the city, all of which have been painted in the past few years.  The first mural was painted in 2008, but most are more recent, indeed many were painted as part of the "Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail" which was created to brighten up parts of the city for the Commonwealth Games which were held in the city in 2014.

As a result, Sue and I went to Glasgow for a long weekend to visit a few places, we wanted to see a few of the famous Charles Rennie Macintosh sites, visit the Willow Tea rooms, and see a couple of the famous painting in the city by Salvador Dali and the matchstick figures.

We also wanted to see the murals, so we got the map and mini guide and decided to walk around the city and try to visit them all.  I also decided to take my camera along and try and record a few images of my own.

The mural that a few months ago we first saw online was the one depicting "St Mungo" who is the patron saint of Glasgow and is the newest of the murals.  It has been painted since the guide was published and as such is not shown in the mini guide.  It is however well worth a visit and we enjoyed the skill needed to create such a wonderful piece of art.
All of the Murals have a bit of a Glasgow theme, some of which are linked to the university, or the Commonwealth games, or famous Glasgow citizens.  The Badmington player below being a reference to Kieran Merrilees who is Scotland's top ranked Badmington player who represented his country in the 2014 Commonwealth games.

There are several animals depicted in the murals in what the guide calls a "growing menagerie"

Included in this are the "Glasgow Panda" which in in an alleyway a few feet away from the main shopping streets of the city.  On one of the footbridges over a main road there is a crocodile named "Croc0dile Glesga" which has is painted on an underpass and depicts a gap between two bricks as the slit in the creatures eye.

One of the murals that I particularly liked was called "Argyle Street Cafe" and was pained on boards that were covering the windows of an unused shop in Argyle Street which is one of the main shopping streets in the city.
Another of the Murals is entitled "Big Birds" and has a collection of various species painted.
Many of the murals are big bold striking images that cover the side of very large buildings, whilst others such as this one below "entitled "Wind Power" is quite small and takes a bit of searching to find.

Tuesday 22nd March
Fifty Not Out

As regular readers to my blog and my facebook page will know, over recent months, I have been increasing the number of images that I enter into photographic competitions.

As part of this, I am entering FIAP exhibitions to try and gain enough acceptances to apply for both their AFIAP and their EFIAP distinctions.  For each of these distinctions there are a number of different goals that must be reached.  These include the overall number of acceptances, number of countries that you have had at least one acceptance, and the number of salons (exhibitions / competitions) that also need to have at least one acceptance, etc.

Another of the FIAP requirements is the number of different individual images that are accepted.  For the EFIAP distinction that you have at least 50 different images accepted into at least one of accredited salon.  I have therefore been entering a few images that have not been entered into any previous competitions with the intention of trying to ramp up the new acceptances and to try and reach the 50 mark.
I was therefore pleased to hear this week that one of my Pine Marten images was accepted in a FIAP exhibition in Germany and in doing so this was my 50th images accepted into international exhibitions.  It was also awarded an Honourable Mention, which is obviously also good news, but I am particularly pleased to have achieved 50 different images accepted.

The Image was also one of the fifteen images that formed part of my ARPS panel with the Royal Photographic Society.


Everyone has mixed views about competition and exhibition photography, sometimes it is just a means to an end.  In some ways the FIAP exhibitions fall into this category with the photographer attempting to get the set number of images accepted under each of the targets needed to result in a FIAP distinction.

But in other ways, this is good. it pushes the photographer and it is always good to have a challenge.  Certainly  getting photographs accepted into international salons is a great challenge.  It also has the bonus that it proves you can produce images of a certain standard.

It is a good feeling when the email notification of results arrives and you find you have done well.  This acts as a  great motivator to then enter more salons and exhibitions.


Moving forward, I have quite a few ideas of various photography projects that I hope to progress in the future.  Some of these need quite a bit of time, but others will progress when an opportunity arises and it can be a case of being in the right place at the right time.

But whilst creating images, I will also be trying to push myself into entering exhibitions which will hopefully result in more international acceptances.

I feel the next step of "One Hundred Not Out" is an achievable target and it is a target that I will now start to work towards. 


Thursday 17th March
Royal Photographic Society (RPS)
Nature Magazine Article

A few months ago, the editor of the RPS nature group magazine which is entitled "The Iris" approached me to enquire if I was willing to allow them to publish an article on my successful ARPS panel in the magazine.

I was obviously happy to agree to the request, and I sent the editor my images along with some text that I wrote to support the panel.

Today, the postman put a copy of the magazine through my letterbox.

The article is spread over four pages of the magazine, and the image below shows all of these four pages stitched together to make a single image. 


Sunday 21st February
Competitions - Update On The Previous Update !!!

Since writing my blog post on Photographic competitions a few days ago, I am really pleased to have found out that one of the images that my club (Leicester Forest Photographic Society) used in the GB Cup of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) was awarded the "Chairmans Nature Award" 


For those interested, details are in the PAGB newsletter that can be viewed at:


The winning image is of a Black Throated Diver and was taken in Finland in 2014.

More of my Black Throated Divers from this trip can be found here

This image has become one of my most successful images in terms of competition use.  It has over 20 FIAP acceptances along with a Gold medal in the Bristol Salon, and a Silver medal at the Smethwick International.  It is also part of my successful ARPS panel with the Royal Photographic Society.


Thursday 18th February
Update On Photographic Competitions
The number of photographic competitions that I enter depends on a number of factors, but recently I have entered quite a few competitions over quite a wide range of photographic areas.
Leicester Forest Photographic Society

As a member of Leicester Forest Photographic Society I enter quite a few of their internal competitors and have been pleased with many of the subsequent results.  Last season I won the print league which comprises of several rounds where members enter prints to be judged.  Those that do well in each of the rounds are then entered into the final where the yearly "best Print" is chosen.  I had a few images do well in the early rounds which then went through to the final.  One of my Red Fox images won the overall competition as the best club print of the year.  As this was my first season with the club I was obviously very pleased.

Last season I also won the annual open competition for the best digital image with one of my Red Grouse images from the Peak District.
This year I entered the maximum three images into the Open digital image and was again very pleased that I was awarded a "Highly Commended" for one of my Black Grouse images along with the overall winner for one of my Kingfisher images. 

Above:  "Kingfisher Flying"   winner of best digital image 2016 in Leicester Forest Photographic Society, "open projected digital image competition". 

Leicester Forest often use my images as part of many of the inter club competitions that they enter with other clubs and other national competitions run by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain.  The club has had reasonable success in these and my images have done fairly well, indeed last year I won the Best mammal image in the GB cup for one of my European Brown Bear images.

This year, the club asked me to help with the selection panel and we chose what we thought was a good set of images to represent the club.  In the nature section, my images id reasonably well, I was awarded 14 out of 15 for one image and 15 out of 15 for another.
In the Open section, my images did not fair so well.  two images were each awarded 8 out of 15, which was a particularly low score.
This is really interesting, because one of these images was awarded 15/15 in Smethwick and received an award and the other was awarded 14/15 in Bristol which was judged on the same day.

Obviously each individual judge has different thoughts and judges as they think best, but the wide variety of scores did make me an several other smile.  It also lead to some interesting comments on judging standards at the club meeting earlier in the week.


Above:   "Arctic Fox In the Moonlight"
A score of 15 out of 15 and awarded a ribbon at Smethwick International exhibition of photography.
but a score of 8 out of 15 in the GB cup of the PAGB.
it has also been accepted in about a dozen other internationals.

British Photographic Exhibitions

Currently, I don't enter many "British Photographic Exhibition" competitions, I think I should make an effort and enter a few more.  In 2015, I only managed to enter one BPE competition which was the "Rushden Open".   As a result I came second in the Open section with one of my diving Kingfisher images.

At the start of 2016, I decided to enter more, but so far have only managed to enter one which was the "Southport Open".  Earlier this week, I had my results notification and I was also awarded second place, this time in the nature section with an Arctic Fox image which was taken in Churchill.

Above:   Arctic Fox Second Place in the Nature Section of Southport Open BPE competition.
This image is becoming one of my most successful images in external competitions, it has had over twenty acceptances and won six awards.
FIAP International Exhibitions of Photography

At the moment, I enter more FIAP exhibitions than any others, and in 2016, I have so far entered seventeen exhibitions.  I am still waiting for the results from nine of these.  But am pleased to have received over 30 acceptances so far this year.  The most pleasing was a FIAP exhibition in Hungary where I received 3 honourable mentions for three images in the nature section.

Above:   Waxwing, one of three images awarded an honourable mention in the 2016 Dreamscapes International in Hungary.
British Wildlife Watching Club Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown On Spey

During 2014, Sue and myself stayed at the Grant Arms hotel in Grantown on Spey, they run a photographic competition for images that have been taken during guests holidays at the hotel.  I entered the competition and won two sections.  The prizes were two holiday vouchers.

I used one of these holiday vouchers in September last year and Sue and I had another great time.  As a result, I entered some of the images I took during our stay into the 2015 photographic competition and I am pleased to report that I won the best macro image in the "plants and insects" category and have won another holiday voucher.


Sunday 14th February
Three Species Of Woodpecker And Two Species Of Jays

I have recently returned from a visit to Finland where my friend Danny Green and myself targeted three species of Woodpecker and two species of Jay.  We had hoped for lots of snow including falling snow and had targeted early February as a good time for our visit.  Last year we visited during the first two weeks of April and had very deep snow during our visit to the Bear hides and the Grouse species, it was good fun but we only just managed to get photos of the bears due to the snow conditions.  This year it was much warmer and there was far less snow both on the roads and in the forest, indeed each afternoon the trees looked much darker as the frost and snow melted during the day.  The weather was quite windy which was threatening to remove the lovely white background as it blew the snow from the tress.  The temperature we encountered was also very mixed, it started around - 5C and over the next few days it dropped to around - 12 degrees before warming up at the end of the visit to around zero.  There was also the odd furry of falling snow during our last day in the hides.

During our visit, we saw all of our five target species which all showed well for us, this resulted in a reasonable amount of time spent behind the camera taking photographs rather than chatting in the hide, eating biscuits and drinking coffee whilst waiting for activity.  None of these five species were new species for me, but it was a great break, both relaxing and enjoyable capturing more images of these lovely species to add to our image collections.

Female Grey Headed Woodpecker
Female Black Woodpecker
Male Great Spotted Woodpecker

The above images are only a small selection of the images that ended up on my memory cards, indeed during six days of photography, I took around 2500 images.  As a result, I am currently busy sorting them out ready for use online as well as in my new talk which has a section on European Woodpeckers and is entitled "Focus On Birds".

As part of this update, I have also been busy reprocessing a few older woodpecker images and realised that my woodpecker gallery on this site is in need of an update, so over the next week or so, I intend to update the these galleries of this great species.  I also need to update my Jay images online and below are two images of the two species also photographed during my visit.

Above: Common Jay
Below: Siberian Jay

Monday 25th January
Wild Tawny Owl

There are five species of breeding owls in Britain and one of the most tricky to see is the Tawny Owl which very nocturnal even though it is regularly be heard hooting at night.  Even though they generally go out to hunt during the first hour of darkness, they are rarely seen by bird watchers or photographers which means Tawny Owls are hard to photograph.

Like all Wildlife photographers, I love Owls and I always jump at the opportunity to photograph them, over the years I have had mixed success, but have gradually added images of all of the five British owl species into my image collection along with some of the European species that have been photographed during my visits to Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

One species that I have previously only achieved poor quality record shots of is Tawny Owls, and I am keen to put this right and add more images of this common but shy owl species.

I visit a wide range of sites in my photography and love finding my own subjects to photograph.  But for some species you have to either be very lucky, and sometimes the time spent looking for subjects means this is just not practical.  I am aware of a few photographers that photograph these lovely birds in a totally free and wild state including a site in Linconshire, and a site in Dumfrees in South West Scotland.  So when I was offered the opportunity to photograph these great birds visiting a pool in the early evening, this was an opportunity not to be missed.


A friend and myself entered the hide at the side of the pool just before dark and set up the camera and flash equipment. It was a full moon and visibility was reasonably good.  As it turned dark we could hear the Tawny as it started calling and we saw it a couple of times as it was flying around its territory hunting and looking for food.

A few minutes later the Tawny flew towards us and landed by the pool looking for food, I took the opportunity to take five or six images.  The wait always seems longer than it actually is because of the darkness, cold, and the need for silence, but it was only around 5.15 pm less than an hour after darkness had arrived.

I would like to take the opportunity to say Thank You to my friend Alan McFadyen for the opportunity to get these images, it is appreciated, am I am very pleased with the results.

In the longer term, I know of two sites where wild tawny can be photographed and I hope to build up a bigger portfolio of images of this lovely species.  If I am lucky, and manage to get more, then I will post some more on here.  Fingers crossed, watch this space. 


Wednesday 14th Jan.
Porcelain Into Bronze...

As reported in my earlier blog post, I have been entering a few FIAP photography competitions recently, and have been awaiting the results.  One of the salons that I entered was the "4th Digital Circuit Miroc" which is four separate competitions under the same salon.  The entrant submits four images in each section which are then judged separately in each of the countries participating in the salon.  In this case the countries were: Serbia, Russia, South Africa, and Hungary.

I was pleased to get 7 acceptances in total, and even more pleased when i found out that I had also been awarded a "Salon Bronze Medal" for this image of two Porcelain Fungi.


Tuesday 12th Jan
Photography Competitions

If you chat to photographers about camera clubs, then you get a wide range of views from avid supporters that belong to several clubs to those that think they have a negative effective on individuals photography.   Over the years, I have joined a few camera clubs local to where I live and currently, I am a member of Leicester Forest Photographic Society.  I enjoy many of the speakers, indeed over the past few years, I have visited many camera clubs and given one of my wildlife photography talks.  They seem to be well liked and as I am often asked back, I must be ding something right.

Another aspect of camera clubs is photographic competitions, both internal within club members, regionally and nationally with many competitions on offer.  Some of the bigger clubs also run their own open competitions (often called salons) that are open to individual photographers to enter their images.  Many of these salons are affiliated to organisations such as FIAP, or BPE.  The photographer can collect acceptances and when they have reached a certain level apply to the organisation for an award.

Some are relatively easy to understand and calculate.  For example BPE requires 25 acceptances for level one, 50 acceptances for level two, etc.  But some are more complex.  FIAP also requires a minimum number of acceptances for each level, but has additional criteria, the photographer needs to have been accepted in a number of countries (8 for level one, and 20 for level two).  In addition, the photographer also has to have had a set number of different images accepted, a set number of salons where they have been accepted, a set number of prints accepted, etc. etc.

Over the years, I have entered odd salons, and occasionally had some great success.  But, I have not entered salons on a frequent basis, and as a result, I have gradually acquired 150+ acceptances in 10+ countries, 25+ salons, I have amassed enough acceptances for the first level FIAP.  But on some of the requirements criteria, I am virtually at enough acceptances for the second level FIAP.

As such, I have entered a few salons recently in India, Serbia, Turkey, Cyprus, South Africa, Russia, Hungary, and other countries to see if I could increase the number of acceptances, countries, etc.  I decided to enter a few new images along with some tried and tested work and now that the results are starting to be emailed out, I find that as a result I have also increased the number of separate images accepted.  The images below are new acceptances and have been accepted into new countries.


In the longer term, I am not sure which of these patronages I will be entering, but I have enjoyed entering these recent salons.   Obviously its best to only enter images that you hope will do well, but there is always an element of anticipation and uncertainty as you wait for the results.
I have therefore also entered salons in Greece, Australia, Emirates, and Oman and are awaiting the results along with a couple of salons in England and Wales.

Perhaps, I should set myself a personal target.  Maybe:
A total of 500 images accepted into 50 countries.
Of these 100 are separate images, and the number of salons where I have had at last one acceptance also 100.

On some criteria I am almost half way, but others require many more acceptances.  It is just a thought, and may not happen, but, it is something to aim towards.


Sunday 10th Jan
January Update - A Few Brief Notes On What Has Been Happening
A Damp Start

The past few weeks have been exceptionally wet across Britain and whilst I have not been out with my camera this year, the fact remains that in Leicestershire we have managed to escape the terrible weather that Northern England and Scotland have had for the past few weeks.  Whilst this weather is not good for photography, it is certainly on a completely different scale to the many flooded houses further north. 

It will be interesting to see what this brings to the British wildlife seasons over the weeks ahead.  I have seen reports online of orchid species starting to grow which is obviously very early.  I have snowdrops in flower in my own garden along with quite a few daffodil shoots that have been visible for several days.

Whilst, I am not the greatest of swimmers, I am happy to view and photograph water birds whenever the opportunity arises, including the two hides above which I used in Norway and Bulgaria.  It is hard to understand how devastating the floods have been that have become such a common sight on our television screens.

Smethwick International Exhibition
One of the best international exhibitions of photography is held each January at the Smethwick Photographic Society close to the M5 motorway in Birmingham.  This year, I was very pleased to receive a gold medal in the nature section along with a Royal photographic Society ribbon in the open section.  I have entered this competition for the past 7 years and have visited it on three occasions including this years award presentations which were held on 2nd January during the opening afternoon.