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SQUIZZLE!

Red Squirrel at the British Wildlife Centre

SQUIZZLE!

The sight of red squirrels at The British Wildlife Centre in Surrey instantaneously turns me into a small, exciteable child! That’s a good thing. I think we should all embrace our inner-child and revel in the simple delights of the World around us far more often! Especially when it comes to wildlife and nature. It’s the best therapy ever! Supporting places like the British Wildlife Centre is also the ideal way to help secure a future for our precious British wildlife, as well as providing a fantastic educational resource for schools. I hope this dear little squizzle will bring a big smile to everyone who follows my blog and more smiles over at Wex Photo Video, as this is my entry for this week’s Wex Mondays challenge.

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Easter Nest Building

Nest Building at Swell Wood Heronry

Easter Nest Building

On Saturday we went to visit family in Somerset to celebrate Easter together. After lunch the grandchildren enjoyed an Easter Egg hunt around the house, with the last egg having been cunningly hidded under Simon’s hat, on his head. When they finally figured it out he was uncrermoniously mobbed for the chocolate treat! After finding all those eggs, we then went off in search of nests. Fortunately they weren’t far off, at RSPB Swell Wood Nature Reserve and Heronry. The heron pairs are busily putting the finishing touches to their nests, high in the tree canopy. They’re well hidden in the dense branches but I managed to get this pair in focus, on the Fujinon XF 100-400mm lens on a sturdy tripod, so that all the children could watch them a bit more closely. It was a dark and dull day so I was pleased to actually manage to get a shot of them! With so many nests, I’m sure there will be plenty of baby herons in the near future. I’m posting this image for today’s Fotospeed challenge. Good luck to everyone taking part!

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Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis Beneath The Sea

Photosynthesis

Most reef-building corals contain photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues. The corals and algae have a mutualistic relationship. The coral provides the algae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis. In return, the algae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes. Most importantly, zooxanthellae supply the coral with glucose, glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis. The coral uses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and produce calcium carbonate. (Source: NOAA Ocean Service Education)

We got to see these coral polyps and their symbiotic algae photosynthesising, under UV light, in the educational Underwater World aquarium at Birdworld in Farnham. It’s mesmerisingly beautiful! The colour that we associate with coral reefs is derived from the algae living within the tissue. When a reef is put under physical stress, the coral polyps actually expel the algae leaving the structures a stark white. This is the tragic, mass death of large areas of reef that we call “bleaching”. Seeing the living coral made this disatrous phenomenon all the more real to me. I’m posting this image for Wex Mondays this week and I hope that it will lead others to think about the plight of our precious coral reefs.

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In The Pink

In The Pink

In The Pink

Having just recently been awarded a Judge’s Commendation for Bird Photographer Of The Year (for the second year in a row), I decided to start creating more abstract and creative images, in camera, of various birds. Birdworld, near Farnham, provides the perfect setting for my experiments and the flamigos proved to be the ideal subjects for capturing unusual portraits. I really enjoyed studying the shapes and lines of their poses! This piece was my favourite composition from yesterday. I just loved the sinuous shape of the neck, flowing in and out of the frame. My commended images have both been in the Creative category for BirdPOTY and have involved a lot of processing. As most of you know, that is definitely where my passions lie, but I do want to expand my portfolio with creative pieces that only require minimal processing, like this flamigo. A bit of Topaz Clarity, selective blur, dodge and burn with some colour adjustments were all that was required. It’s also the kind of composition that I know I can get even more creative with, if the mood takes me. I’m posting it today for both the Wex Mondays and Fotospeed challenges. I would love to get some feedback and ideas! I shall include my commended images, below, for you to see, and do head over to the BirdPOTY pages on Photocrowd to see all the shortlisted and commended entries this year. There are some extraordinary images to view!

Wren In The Woods

“Wren In The Woods”, BirdPOTY 2017 Judges Choice. Published in BirdPOTY 2017 book

Caracara With Character

“Caracara With Character”, BirdPOTY 2018 Judges Commendation

 

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Living Lawnmowers

Living Lawnmowers at Heather Farm Wetlands Centre

Living Lawnmowers

I went for a short walk with the hubby at Heather Farm yesterday to capture the fabulous skies over the Autumnal landscape for today’s Fotospeed challenge. I actually ended up with added extras to the scene that I had had in mind! The Horsell Common Preservation Society (HCPS) is based at the Heather Farm Wetland Centre near Woking in Surrey. You can see the building that they use, alongside the cafe, at the back of the landscape within my photo. The Society’s landholdings include 916 acres of high forest, woodland, meadows and lowland heath that form a part of the internationally important Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. Heather Farm riverside meadows and wetlands were developed as a SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace), which provides a less fragile landscape for people to enjoy walking through. Part of the site is now a much loved dog walking route. Dogs also receive a warm welcome, water, biscuits and towels at the Water’s Edge cafe! Owners are being asked to be extra careful with their four-legged friends at the moment. Within the fenced-off wetland area, Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheep are grazing the grasslands as part of the natural land management and conservation work done by HCPS. Larger areas of grassland within the common are grazed by Aberdeen Angus cattle. These living lawnmowers are the most natural, environmentally friendly way to manage grasses and scrub, maintaining the habitat for a large variety of wildlife. They’re also really very attractive sheep to see! On Saturday the ewes got to meet a rather important new member of this little flock. His name is Hector and you can see him just off-centre in my image. Once all the ewes have fallen pregnant this winter, the farmer who owns them will collect them from the site, so they can lamb safely in the Spring. For now they seem to be greatly enjoying their job and visitors are definitely enjoying them!

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Scottish Wildcat – At Threat Of Extinction

Female Scottish Wildcat

Scottish Wildcat – At Threat Of Extinction

It’s very hard for researchers to know the exact number of these amazing cats left wild in Scotland, as they have hybridised with feral domestic-cat populations over the years. It is estimated that there are now perhaps only thirty five true wildcats left and they are at imminent threat of extinction. It breaks my heart! This beautiful female and her three kittens live at the British Wildlife Centre, near Godstone, in Surrey. Such a great place! I visited last week with my friend Nikki and godchildren, Rosie and James. Rosie loves all cats and the wildcats hold a special place in her heart too. It was wonderful to explore our native wildlife with them, whilst giving young James another photography tutorial! I have a few images of some of the other residents, but the wildcat topped my Twitter poll for what people wanted to see for today’s Wex Mondays challenge. I’m very glad to share a bit of their story with you, but for more information please visit the British Wildlife Centre wildcat page here. The centre does some wonderful work in conservation, rescue & rehabilitation and in education. It’s well worth a visit and I would really encourage everybody to support the amazing work that they do!

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Blue Monday: Spanish Belles

Spanish Bluebell

Blue Monday: Spanish Belles

I photographed these Spanish Bluebells in my parents garden on Easter Sunday for my Blue Monday post and entry for Fotospeed’s weekly photo challenge. The Spanish Bluebell is very pretty but as a non-native species has become an increasing threat to the native British Bluebells in our woodlands. I’m hoping to capture some of those beauties soon! One of the ways that the Spanish variety has been spread to woodland areas has been in the ilegal fly-tipping of garden waste. They can be cross-pollinated with the native species creating hybrids that change future generations forever! Please be careful with your garden waste this year. More information can be found at The Woodland Trust.