A Kingfisher Day and an Ethical Question

After my last exhibition I decided to treat myself to a day photographing kingfishers with Steve Race of  Yorkshire Coast Nature.  As you know I’m a bit obsessed with them so nine hours in a hide watching and photographing them seemed like a dream day out.

Now for whatever reason I’d just assumed it would be a day in a hide beside a lake frequently visited by kingfishers, so I was a little concerned when I arrived to see an artificial perch above a large black tank full of small fish. I’d read about these set ups and how in the past birds had been injured diving into glass tanks they basically couldn’t see. Steve noticed my reticence and we had a quiet chat with the owner of the hide to put my mind at rest. He explained why they used a black tank, where the bird was nesting, how many young they’d fledged over the years and how the welfare of the birds was paramount to him and to his business. They put my mind at rest but I was quite prepared to walk away if I thought there was any threat to the safety or well being of the birds. I joined the other clients in the hide and even before we’d had time to sit down the male arrived for the first fish of the day. He’d obviously been waiting for us to stop chatting so he could start fishing.

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The male continued to come in at an amazing rates of knots grabbing a fish, bashing it on the perch and flying off to the nest. Unfortunately the female hadn’t been seen for four days and it was thought that she may have been grabbed by a sparrowhawk or another predator. However the male was doing a brilliant job of feeding the young and in one ten minute period caught seven fish which were all flown back to the nest. It was a couple of hours before he stopped and ate one himself.

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I’ve spent hundreds of hours watching and photographing kingfishers in the wild so I know about the patience, skill and luck needed to get decent images. I can also see how days like this have become established and are allowing photographers not only the chance to see these beautiful birds so close but to also capture them doing what they do naturally although in a slightly contrived atmosphere.

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Is it ethical? To start with I was very skeptical, however Mark the site owner has been managing this lake and photographing the kingfishers for a number of years now. It was obvious that this kingfisher was doing a superb job providing for its family apparently on its own. And at the end of the day how much different is this to hanging out feeders in your garden for your local birds, or an RSPB nature reserve specifically managed to attract as much wildlife as possible, or Springwatch putting out carcasses to attract predators they can film for our entertainment.

It also led to an interesting debate in the hide on my recent day photographing the ospreys fishing. One of the other visitors just couldn’t understand that there was no difference between a pond specifically stocked with fish to attract ospreys and a tank stocked with fish to attract kingfishers, even when the pond owner explained that the pond was drained and cleaned and the fish removed as soon as the ospreys migrated South.

In the end I had a fabulous day and took probably the best shots I’ll ever get of my favourite bird but it still it won’t stop me spending hours on the riverbank trying as usual to get just one more.

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Getting The Shot But With a Moral Dilemma

I’ve been after a decent picture of a Goldcrest for quite awhile. As you may know they are Britain’s smallest bird and don’t sit still for a second so are a tricky little devil to get a photo of. There’s a couple on my local nature reserve and I’ve even spotted one near the feeders at work but to date nothing to write home about.

At the weekend I was down in London so decided to spend the day at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes. It was a mucky grey day so I wasn’t expecting much. I watched two kingfishers getting in the Spring mood but they were a long way away and the parakeets just stayed high in the trees. Half way round I spotted two chaps staring into a conifer and I just knew they’d spotted a Goldcrest. As usual it was flitting around bouncing from branch to branch always out of shot. One of the men then got his phone out and started playing the goldcrests song from an app into the tree. Almost immediately the bird returned and started singing back in response. I snapped away getting easily my best pictures by far but I began to wonder if this was right. Is it any different to putting out feeders to attract in the birds? I’m not sure and I felt slightly guilty, did the bird return thinking there was a potential mate around or was it defending a territory? It’s a tricky one.

Kingfisher Update

Last weekend was the first time since the Boxing Day floods that I had managed to get down on the riverbank looking for the kingfishers. The devastation the floods caused is apparent everywhere you look. The two hundred year old bridge over to the church is damaged beyond repair and closed. All along the river bank detritus clings to branches way above my head. Plastic waste is everywhere and in one tree the complete front bumper of a car complete with number plate hangs forlornly.

Its a depressing vista and it will take awhile for Mother Nature to work her magic. The banks of the river have been stripped of vegetation and all the kingfisher perches are long washed away. The geography of the river has changed as well. Where I used to sit for hours on end now has a totally different view and the pebble beach where dippers and grey wagtails entertained me has been moved 50 yards downstream to a more inaccessible spot. It will be interesting to see how Nature moves back and what Spring will bring.

I didn’t see the kingfishers so at the moment I’m just hoping they survived the floods and will be back soon. I’m sure they will find new spots to sit and fish and hopefully their nest site survived and they can produce a new family to delight me through the year.

Hopefully the next time I blog about them there’ll be some pictures!

 

Dear Mr Terrorist

I’m afraid you’ve failed.

I’m not terrified of you, slightly nervous that you’re out there but not afraid. In fact you’re like a wasp in summer, I know you’re there and at some point you might cause me some pain but I just get on with my life.

And you know what, I think that’s what most of us do.

You’ve caused some families distress and pain. You’ve killed fathers, brothers, sons and friends but you’ve turned so many people against you and your beliefs.

Then you ran away!

Next week Charlie Hebdo will be published and instead of the usual 30,000 copies it will have a print run of 1,000,000 and every copy will be sold. So what will you have achieved?

I’m glad you’ve got you’re religion and beliefs, thats your choice and your burden but you can’t force it on others, you can’t use it as an excuse and you can’t hide behind it as justification for murder.

I have no religion I don’t believe in God. But if there’s one out there who can take a joke, can see the funny side of things, can laugh at all our stupidities and faults then that’s the invisible friend for me. He’ll be sat on his cloud rolling his eyes in disbelief right now.

In a few days you’ll be caught or more probably killed and you’ll get to meet your God. And I hope when you do he kicks the shit out of you.

Spugwash

Bleeding Politicians

Bit of a rant time I’m afraid!!!

What is wrong with opposition politicians. Why is it all about mud slinging and blame. Instead of moaning about the problems in the NHS why not come up with some help, some ideas, some input, rather than just bleating on about what you’ll do when you’re in power. The problem is now and if you’ve got some ideas tell the Government, help them out. You’re always going on about how it’s our National Health Service so do something, it needs help now not when or if you get elected.

And if you’re in the Goverment try listening if they make suggestions. Wouldn’t it be nice just for once to hear a politician say about an opponents idea “Actually thats a very good idea”. Just because they’re not a Tory or Labour or Liberal or even UKIP doesn’t mean that they can’t have sensible coherent ideas and arguments that might just be something you hadn’t thought of.

We’re all in this together, if you’re family needs medical treatment they need it now not in May. They’re not going to wait till you think you can change things. Nobody cares what you would have done differently because it doesn’t mean a thing.

Stop looking after number one, slinging mud and insults and get stuck in. Use your influence, use your connections and do something rather than sitting on your hands and telling everyone what a mess the Government are making of it.

You’re no better than them, you’re no help and if all you have got to say is negative then we don’t want to hear.

But just think what it will do to your election prospects if you do make a change, if you do help out or come up with great ideas and input. We’ve been kicking you since you robbed us over expenses and let the bankers rip us off and steal from us, so now’s your chance to do something to make us change our minds. At the moment we couldn’t care less who you are or what party you represent you’re all just in it for yourselves.

Be brave, stick your head above the parapet and get involved.

The World Just Gets More Stupid Day by Day

Today I’m going to eat at least 48 doughnuts. Then I’m going to eat some lard and wash it all down with double cream.

Then according to the European Courts if I’m enough overweight I can claim disability allowances, get my employer to buy me a new chair and widen the doors so I can get to my reinforced desk. They’ll even let me park right outside the door so I wouldn’t run the risk of doing some exercise walking from my car to the office.

“Important to the ruling, is the EU court’s judgement that the origin of the disability is irrelevant even if someone’s gross obesity is caused by overeating or gluttony”

When did we stop taking responsibility for ourselves and become so reliant on nothing being our fault.

I’m sat shaking my head.

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Get a Grip People

According to the BBC news this morning 71% of parents are worried about spending too much at Christmas and a similar number are expecting to go into debt to pay for it all.

WHY, get a grip you idiots. Your kids don’t need an iPad or a pair of Beats headphones, nor do they need the latest must have toy or a computer. Why would you go in to debt to get these things. They’ll still love you whatever they get, so stop putting pressure on yourself and giving kids unrealistic expectations of how the world works.

You don’t need a 40lb turkey, a 20lb ham and enough beer to float a battleship!

One of the girls I work with has 5 kids, the youngest of which are 1 year old twins. And for Christmas she’s buying the twins iPads each !!!!!! I know she can’t afford this and I have tried to explain the futility of what she is doing but she doesn’t get it and nor do I. Last year she bought the other three kids a Playstation EACH.

Is it just me?

Kitchen Chaos

I’m not sure I want to go home tonight.

After weeks and months of beating around the bush and prevaricating about the cost we (well the wife) has decided to knock the kitchen and dining room through into one big room.

Work was due to start this morning so we’ll be living in one room, crammed in with two rooms worth of furniture until its finished. I’m guessing the cooker will be out of action so it’s microwave meals or KFC for the foreseeable future.

I’m sure there’ll be photos to follow as the work progresses.