They say a break is as good as a rest and I think I can testify to that after spending the half term holiday in Flamborough, on East Yorkshire’s coast. Why Yorkshire? I hear you say. Well, at this time of year the breeding season for seabirds is in full swing and I booked a week there in hope of seeing my holiest of grails; the puffin. You have to admit, they are seriously cute! Flamborough Head is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to a variety of birds, plants and other beasties that thrive on the exposed chalk headland. The cliffs are the highest in the north of England at 100ft and at this time of year there are kittiwakes, fulmars, razorbills and guillemots crowded onto every available ledge. The puffins prefer to nest a little higher up, making burrows in the earth above the chalky outcrops.
I was lucky enough to see puffins the very first evening. They are fascinating little birds, and quite elusive amongst the chaos of the breeding season. However, once I had spotted one it became easier to pick them out; their orange feet are something of a giveaway when they are in flight!
Just along the coast at the RSPB’s site at Bempton Cliffs there is one of UK’s major breeding sites for gannets. These huge birds (6ft wingspan, no less) were truly amazing to watch. As they came to the cliff tops to gather nesting materials, just a few feet from the path, the use of a telephoto lens was almost redundant.
My week in Yorkshire provided just the impetus I needed to motivate me to get out more with my camera. Although there is so much to photograph on anybody’s doorstep if you look carefully enough, changing places for a week works wonders!
In learning to see more clearly we can come to recognise opportunities when they arise and look creatively at what can be achieved. This image of a frog snapped on my mobile phone is the result of one such set of events. In the harsh weather we experienced in the winter of 2010 and early 2011 I lost a number of well-established shrubs from my garden. This created some spaces to be filled, but I was in no rush to choose new plants until the weather improved considerably.
As it turned out, this project went onto the back burner and by 2012 these spaces were still there, by this point screaming at me to do something about them. In the throes of a spring clear-out, I decided it was high time to dispose of two dustbins which I been using to make compost and leaf mould but now no longer needed. Anxious to avoid sending them to landfill, I was about to list them on Ebay (another new venture for 2012!) but then put the listing on hold as I was about to take a short holiday. Totally unrelated to this, I had spotted frogs in my garden on a number of occasions that spring and had been wondering how I might create a more amphibian-friendly area for them. Suddenly all these factors coalesced and I saw the possibility that they combined to present; I could turn one of the unwanted dustbins into a small pond on the site of one of my ex-shrubs and Hey Presto! space filled, no bin to dispose of, frogs homed and photo opportunity looming!
The bottom half of the bin was soon installed and over the summer several frogs took up residence. I saw up to five at once and was soon able to distinguish between my visitors. I soon discovered that frogs make an excellent photographic subject as when you approach them they adopt an unblinking stillness, presumably to convince advancing predators that they do not exist. Needless to say, I spent much of last summer crouched beside my makeshift pond aiming my Canon 100mm f2.8 at assorted willing models busy sunbathing on a convenient nearby stone. Oh, and I still have the other dustbin, having finally turned it into a storage bin for bark chips.