Are you looking at me punk?

This is the second year in a row that we have baby robins in the garden. Inquisitive and less shy than their parents, the baby robins sit around long enough to let me go inside, grab my camera and go back out to take a few shots from different angles while he watched my from his perch, before he flew away, following his mum in search of more food rather than being deterred by my presence.

This year’s fledgling is aptly christened Wee ‘Rocky’ Robin in view of his attitude and wonderful expressions.

No snow but wonderful light

The majority of the country ground to a halt due to extreme snow falls, but we are out of luck. Absolutely no snow to be seen here. Although I suspect there must be snow on the high grounds, the low cloud base completely obscured any mountains capped with snow.

So my plans to spend part of today photographing snowy landscapes has unexpectedly fallen by the way side. Thankfully, the light was wonderful with the sun fighting to shine through the cloud base.

Swallow singing it’s heart out

Our swallows are back from their African sojourn. At least four pairs have returned the very lengthy journey and are, once again, swooping through the fields, round the cottages and over the loch catching insects.

This swallow is one of a pair nesting in the eves of our cottage, high above our kitchen window, and has made this pole that is stuck in the fence just outside the kitchen window as his favourite perch.

With the high winds this weekend, their speeds are phenomenal, with absolutely no chance of shooting one in flight. But there is plenty of time this summer to try and capture these beauties in flight.


At the weekend, we finally got a couple of lazy days at the cottage, with time to enjoy some sunshine on the deck with a book, watching the birds and a little photography. We had an abundance of small birds frequenting the trees beside our cottage and scuffing themselves on thistle seeds and sunflower hearts on the feeders. The noise of the chirping and bird song was at times deafening.

I tried some photography with the same approach as a few weeks back: manually focussing on the plane between a branch and the seed feeders, and triggering off sequences of shots when a bird is about to jump of the branch or fly into the frame. I really need to get myself a wireless remote, as I cannot place the camera close enough to the feeders while staying far enough away from them not to scare the birds.

Unfortunately, I had less success with shooting birds in flight than two weeks ago, coming away with a lot of ‘nearly wonderful’ shots, particularly of the colourful siskins, gold finches and lesser redpolls. These two images of a siskin in freefall are the best of the lot and are in fact two different crops from the same photo.

I just cannot make up my mind which one of these two photo’s I like best. I love the one above for it’s simplicity and making you wonder what is going on. I also love the bigger picture below, with the goldfinch’s look and expression, also wondering what is going on.

Would love to hear what your thoughts are.

I want to be alone!

Just like Greta Garbo said: “I want to be alone!”

Lola was tucked in for a snooze after her dinner. Very unhappy I disturbed her with taking a few pictures. But she will be happy once she gets the bag of goodies from Misfits Dogs a tweet of this picture with the comment “I’ll only come out of my nest for a wonky chomp” has earned her.

Chaffinches galore

The seed feeders in our garden attract a large variety of finches and tits. The chaffinches are, without a doubt, the most numerous, easily outnumbering the green finches, gold finches, blue tits, coal tits, great tits and siskins combined.

While enjoying a warm late morning with a mixture of sunshine and cloud on the deck, I decided to do a little experiment. I set up the camera with my 400mm lens combo and remote trigger release on my tripod, composing a frame just to the left of one of the seed feeders, manually focussing on the plane containing the seed feeder and setting the camera to aperture priority at f8. Every time one or more birds were about to fly into the frame, I triggered a burst of three to four shots.

After quickly deleting the large number of shots with empty frames, I set about selecting the ones that are sharp as well as showing a nice flying pose.  What actually amazed me was the high success rate of sharp and nearly sharp images with a first attempt.

Once I had my shortlist of images, I set about cropping these to a tighter composition round the chaffinch, generally 20% to 25% of the frame, boosting the contrast slightly and brightening the shadow areas a little to compensate from shooting into the sun.

I am pretty pleased with the results and will definitely repeat this approach with a few tweaks. The next time I will place the camera much closer to the feeder with a tighter composition and at a slightly different angle using my 70-200mm lens at 200mm. This should bring the focal plane more in line with the common flight path and provide some extra sharpness and wider depth of field. The tighter composition will probably affect the success rate, but should require less cropping and therefore, better quality images.

The male chaffinch is actually a colourful and wonderfully striking little bird, as illustrated by this series of seven images. They are often overseen by photographers as they are so common, but should deserve much more attention.

These three images show a female chaffinch in flight. Not as colourful and striking as the male, but still a cute little bird and a worthy subject.

To illustrate the nearly sharp images, here are three shots that would have been great if they had been sharper.

A peacock on the daffodils

The fabulous weather has brought out the butterflies en mass this week, resulting in the unusual combination of red peacock butterflies feasting on bright yellow daffodils.

I just love the beautiful colours of the daffodils and the peacock.

The wee scurry beastie

The weather has been absolutely fantastic this week, more like having a mid somer’s day in the middle of March, than the heavy snow we had two year’s ago at this time. We have been able to eat lunch outside in the sun all week, admiring the hazy views over the loch and Arran, the flocks of birds frequenting the trees and our seed feeders, and the black throated divers wailing on the loch.

Yesterday we spotted this little weasel scurrying through one of the big hollow trees in the orchard. Thankfully, I had my camera with 400mm lens at hand, so I got these couple of shots while sitting at the table. I got up and followed it round the side of our fence until it disappeared behind our neighbour’s shed, but it was too fast to get another shot off.

This is the second time we have spotted this shy and fast animal in over a year. Our neighbour’s kids call it ‘the wee scurry beastie’ as it used to live in their loft, scurrying across the ceiling. We don’t know where it’s nest is these days, but it can’t be far.

Pink rain over Arran

After a hard days work at our cottage, making good progress with creating a second bedroom from the junk store upstairs, it was time for a rest. While admiring the view with a well deserved glass of wine, the dark grey rain clouds over Arran started to turn pink. So I decided to grab my camera and sprint up the little hill at the back of the cottage.

Thankfully, I was just in time to capture a couple of ‘close up’ images of the pink rain and blue and pink clouds over Holy Island with my lens zoomed out at 200mm, followed by a series of six images with my lens zoomed in at 70mm resulting in the ultra wide panorama below, before the sun disappeared below Kintyre and the rain clouds changed back to their boring grey.

A Late Afternoon Sun over Arran

Spring is most definitely on it’s way!

It’s been an absolute gorgeous day in Cowal with a lovely sunshine, although there was still a bit of a chilly wind. A great day for pottering about the garden and pretending to be a lumber jack. The best thing was to be able to sit outside with a cup of coffee in the sun.

The views from our cottage are always superb, especially when the sun sets with its warm glow over the forest and a pink glow over the mountains on Arran beyond. Although a great colourful sunset, I prefer the black and white version above.

It promises to be a very cold night with a clear, star studded sky and a touch of ground frost. And who knows, maybe a chance to see the Aurora Borealis after a week of red alerts and cloud covered skies.

Gone for a swim in the loch

We got up and came downstairs in the morning to find an empty dog basket in the lounge and Lola nowhere to be seen. That is, until we opened the curtains, with a hot dog lying stretched out in the spot of sun between the French doors and the curtains.

The nice ‘early spring’ morning with a warmish sun and without the biting cold wind from the previous days looked inviting, so after a cup of tea we went for a morning’s wander down the field to the loch. Lola running ragged through the field, chasing imaginary mice and a couple of real pheasants.

Lola must have got too hot lying in the sun that she thought it was spring and decided it was time for a swim in the loch. The water was pretty freezing and did not look inviting to me at all. But Lola loved it, as she went in for a paddle and a swim several times.

Storm damage

We awoke in the early hours of Tuesday morning, unable to sleep due to the deafening noise of the gale force winds outside. Following several loud thuds on our roof and the worsening rattle of slates and metal, we decided to head downstairs to relative safety, scared that one of the trees would fall onto our cottage or a branch would break through our bedroom’s velux window.

As it was still pitch dark and too dangerous to go outside, we made a cup of tea and settled in the lounge to ride out the storm. As soon as we had checked the weather forecast online, the lights flickered briefly before total blackout. With the emerging light outside we could eventually see the devastation of the huge branches that had broken off the trees beside our cottage and hit our roof lying in the garden

The force of the gales hitting our cottage full on was phenomenal. We could clearly see the gusts rippling across the loch before hitting our cottage full on. This movie was taken through our patio doors’ windows well after the height of the storm when there was sufficient light. The force of the gales was phenomenal and the amount of water being blown off the loch was amazing to see.

When the winds had died down even more, we went outside to inspect the damage to our roof. As you can see from the images below, the lead flashing was blown upwards, and the slates were damaged in five places, with the main damage being caused by the falling branches. Later we found some of the slates that had  been blown hundreds of meters away into the fields behind the cottages.

Later in the morning Jim, our neighbour, and I started the clearing and the repairs. First we nailed down the corrugated iron on Andy’s roof before clearing the fallen branches in our garden to gain access to our roof. Jim’s experience with slating was invaluable and we cannot thank him enough for his effort and help with repairing our roof.  Without him we would not have been able to repair the roof ourselves.

Thankfully, we were prepared for unexpectedly long power outages with an abundance of candles and an open fire for warmth, boiling water for tea and coffee, and for cooking. We thought of going to the Kames for a bar meal, but they were closed for food due to the blackout. It was a novel experience though, cooking Irish stew for dinner on the open fire by candle light.

Due to the non-stop horizontal rain and the continued blackout, we decided to head back to Glasgow on Wednesday afternoon, a day earlier than planned. It was a journey through a landscape devastated by the storm. We had never seen so many trees felled in one gale before. There were several stretches where the trees fallen across the road reached double figures. And we were lucky, as the road to Dunoon had literally just opened. In fact, were driving behind the van that removed the ‘road closed’ signs.