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Newsletter - February 21st 2017

Hi Everyone

So far the 2017 weather has been a bit of a wash out and not conducive to much photography. However I have managed to keep the wolf from the door by running a few bird photography workshops down at Arundel. On one of them the fog and gloom refused to lift virtually all day but we did not give up as in inclement conditions you can often get an image that is different from the norm. Here is an example which I think demonstrates the reward for the persistent photographer and, in this case, for my client Glenn. I would be interested to hear what you think of this philosophy and the image that resulted from it.

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting feeding on Phragmites Reed

I did have some days with clients when the sun came out and here is a nice result taken on one of those brighter days. At this time of the year Moorhens gather up in groups and this often leads to friction amongst the males as they seek to win the favours of the females. Frenzied fighting is commonplace between rival males as they become locked together on their backs as you see below. As an aside, everyone knows that Cuckoos are parasitic, but did you know that Moorhens are also parasitic? Well yes they are, they are known as “Brood Parasites”. I don’t have the time to go into it here but, if you are interested in this strange behaviour, it is worth checking out as it is really quite clever.

Moorhens Fighting
Moorhens locked together in combat.

Changing tack, in January I attended a fungi foray in Surrey. Yes I know it’s an unusual time to be looking for mushrooms but the fact is that they can be found in any month of the year. Dare I say, a fact I clearly demonstrate in my book “The Wild Mushroom” nudge, nudge! Anyway, as a consequence I have now gone down in the site record books as the finder of the 682nd species for this incredible site. Can you believe that? A single location in Southern England where you could find almost 700 species of Fungi.

Earthstar Geastrum Brittanicum
Geastrum Britannicum

Now don’t go looking for this earthstar in your fungi guides as you will almost certainly not find it. My find was sent on to Kew for precise identification and it turned out to be a very rare species indeed. It was first accepted and announced as a new British species approximately two years ago but in actual fact it had been actually found by a friend of mine Barry Hughes, co-author of the Collins guide to Mushrooms & Toadstools. He had discovered it in Wales almost 10 years before whilst photographing Pied Flycatchers!

Now there is one more twist in my tale. Back in October last year I was at this Surrey site with the UK’s top fungi spotter, Scottish Annie, when we both found these stunning fungi together but of course we did not know how rare it was and, not surprisingly, we subsequently misidentified it. But here’s the amazing bit, we didn’t just find one that day, we probably found over a hundred!

Where? I am afraid the location has to be secret, to reveal it publically would be a potential disaster especially as the land is privately owned. However Ann, who will be working with me, and I look forward to seeing you on my fungi workshops next Autumn – I will say no more?

Montpellier Snake
Montpellier Snake in water
Croatia Tour April 2018

On a different note I am currently researching the possibility of a brand new tour in 2018 to Croatia in search of Reptiles and Orchids with some beautiful and stunning landscapes thrown in. There are something like fifteen species of snakes and lizards including one of Europe’s most deadly vipers, Vipera ammodytes the Nosed-horned Viper, and the venomous back-fanged Montpelier snake shown above. Personally I can’t wait to see a Nosed- horned Viper let alone photograph it!

There will also be several amphibians and birds and goodness knows how many species of Orchids. I am going out there later this year to conduct a recce and hopefully meet up with two local guides; both are specialists, one on reps and the other on orchids and wild flowers. Please let me know if this tour appeals to you. It will certainly be different!

A public talk at the Steyning Centre.
“The Four Seasons”

I am very pleased to be asked to give this talk on behalf of the charity “The Steyning Downland Scheme”. It will take place at the Steyning Centre on Wednesday 29th March beginning at 7.30 and finishing at 9.30 with a halfway break for refreshments. The cost is a just £5 and all the proceeds go via the SDS charity specifically for adder conservation on the adjoining Sussex Downs.

Adders at Steyning
Pair of Adders

The image above shows both a male and female adder taken on the Wiston Estate site. The female is the fairly standard brown colour that we would expect whilst the male is a rare black, melanistic form. Notice how he has spread his body out on the left hand side to twice its normal width in order to maximise on the suns rays. Obviously one of nature’s solar panels.

I am hoping to raise sufficient funds to protect this adder site, which I have been monitoring for several years, by having it fenced off from public and dog access. Dogs are regularly bitten by adders in the UK and this can be extremely distressing for both the dog and its owner, not to mention vetinary costs. Only two years ago, on the Downs near Worthing, a lady had both of her dogs bitten and sadly both dogs died. I would hate for anything like this to happen here in Steyning and hopefully the new fencing will go a long way to prevent it.

“The Four Seasons” is one of my most popular talks and covers my normal year as a professional wildlife photographer in Britain. It will appeal to everyone who has an interest in British wildlife and the countryside whether they take photographs or not.

Tickets are limited and can be purchased online from the SDS here. (http://steyningdownland.org)

Workshops Available during February & March
Bird Photography Masterclass
Arundel Wildfowl & Wetland Trust.

These workshops are currently available as a 1/1 or 2/1 basis on a day of your choice, weekends excluded. They will be tailored to you personally and to your level of skill. The costs are £150 for a 1/1 and £250 for a 2/1.

There are also Group workshops with a maximum of 8 participants. The cost for a place on the group workshop is £65. The first available date is Wednesday 8th March

Water Rail
Water Rail

Arundel has its fair share of water rails. They are shy secretive birds but you can find them if you know where. I took this one yesterday (Monday 20th Feb) whilst with a 1-1 client. All the workshops will all be preceded by an illustrated talk inside the centre and then followed by followed by practical tuition outside.

Adder Photography

Various Locations in Sussex and Surrey

These workshops are currently available as a 1/1 or 2/1 basis on a day of your choice, weekends excluded. These workshops will be tailored to you personally and to your level of skill. The costs are £150 for a 1/1 and £250 for a 2/1.

There are also Group workshops with a maximum of 8 participants. The cost for a place on the group workshop is £65. The first available date will be decided following my recces to the adder sites.

Regards George

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George on the Salmon Glacier in Alaska

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