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Back in Blighty..
11th April 2012
Well the trip to the south of Europe was splendid. On the way back we called in first at El Rocio, in the Donana national park in S/W Spain, and then had a couple of stops in Exteramurdia and Arcachon basin in France.
El Rocio is really worth a visit, both for nature and the fascinating setting of the town. The streets are all sand and travel is mostly by horse or 4x4. There is a pilgrim association and the church is stunning. The river delta has a nature reserve near the town, with good hides and stunning views of marshes that give close views of Glossy ibis, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, and if lucky Night Heron and Squacco Heron. We took a safari 4x4 ride and came across Wild Boar and Lynx.
Further North towards Salamanca, we got close to many White Storks, the scarce Black Stork, Short toed Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, and even got a view of Eagle Owl.
In Arcachon at Le Teich, the reserve gave great views of Spoonbill, along with numerous Black Kites, and close views of familiar birds such as Grebe, Snipe and other waders.
All of these sites gave good views from hides, with close views and NO staged images where birds are fed or called.
On return to England, I first had to travel to Leicestershire and Lincolnshire to sort out business and see family. The weather was freezing with a bit of a blizzard... such a shock! Now back to Brighton, before the next exhibition which is in Chichester next week.
The plans ahead include stopping near Minsmere, Suffolk, and then renting out the van whilst we embark on a pretty long bike ride, from Montpellier, France to Lincolnshire. We will be on the Tandem with tent etc .... so there will be a few journal images from the trip.
The Algarve
03rd February 2012
In January we caught a ferry over the Channel to Dieppe. Four days later and on less than £300 in fuel we arrive at a Caravan and Camping club rally in the Algarve.
We are actually near Luz, which is in the western Algarve, just along from Lagos. It is far enough away from the mock Greek concrete villas to make it feel like real Portugal, and near enough to small Portuguese villages to make cycling on the tandem enjoyable.
Add to that we are staying on a very posh campsite at winter rates, with good security and lots of games / activities ...all's well.
The odd time that I've been birding, have been mixed. Very few waders in the estuaries, but excellent for smaller scrubland and cliff top birds. Got a great image of Hoopoe here in the trees on the campsite, and also finally got a decent shot of Azure Winged Magpie.
Away from the towns there is plenty to see, with decent pics of Stonechat, Whinchat, Black Redstart, and a Blue Rock Thrush (a new bird to me). Also trying to get good pics of the Lesser Kestrel, Serin, whatever eagles are around and the storks.
The 365 is of course complete, and have now joined a Flikr 366 group which is limited to 100 members. It has several different camera club members and so the content and feedback is interesting. Besides this there is a photo a day on my facebook page, along with a small 366 (max's facebook 366) group.
I had some "happy camper" reservations about joining a rally, some of which were well founded, but hey, we have extended our stay here, and the winter sun is just excellent.
Marion keeps in touch with her new grand-daughter by skype, and I even got my mum onto doing the skype thing.
Need to update exhibitions on the website, as have booked a few more dates, starting with the Oxmarket in Chichester for the last 2 weeks in April. Then off to Martin Mere for spring birdfair.
Meantime we will continue to soak up all the winter sun we can find...
December update ... Merry Christmas.
23rd December 2011
We are now into the dark days of winter and birding opportunities are few.To bring you up to date, we had a great time staying in Lancashire, mainly due to..
..Great warm and friendly people
..A successful exhibition
..Sales exceeded all expectations
..Saw some old friends
..Contacts made and bookings taken for Camera Club talks
..Interest generated in workshops.
..Got to see Blackburn play.
We have booked Martin Mere again for next November and this will include the Bird Fair. Our stay at Brandreth Farm was very welcoming, we were joined for a while by Rob on a visit. We also managed to get to see Ally and Pete, and Ally's crystal shop was particularly impressive (a link will appear). We managed to get down to Crosby to see and take some pics of Anthony Morley's "Another Place", despite my main 24-105mm lens malfunctioning. The result was silhouetted and over exposed figures which actually had quite an impact.
We then travelled to stay in my mums hometown, Lutterworth, and we set up a one day sale / exhibition in the town hall, which again went really well, with a healthy donation made to the local air ambulance. This coincided with the birth of Bethany, Marion's first grandchild, and so we were soon travelling to Hampshire for the first visit. We stayed a few days, travelled to Brighton to see my daughter and Marion's sister, stopped about a week whilst Marion visited relatives, and moved back to Hampshire, staying on Hayling Island where camp sites with hardstanding and electric are very reasonably priced.
In Chichester last week we booked two separate exhibitions at the Arts Centre, one for April, and one for December 2012. I have been invited to join a new group for a "366" by a chap who first introduced me to "365" at the camera club, all images uploaded to Flickr.
Finally, the greatest highlight of the last 8 weeks was not only being e-mailed to tell me my image of a Marsh Harrier taken at Martin Mere might appear on Autumnwatch, it was hailed by Chris Packham to be his personal favourite as he held it up and spoke of its great symmetry.
We are now visiting Marion's family north of London, whilst I am learning about skype so that i can talk with my kids on Christmas day, as they holiday in Ohio c/o Katlyn, Ben's girlfriend.
Peace and Joy to you all at this festive time... x
October travels
25th October 2011
After the journey south, having spent a good few weeks on a rural field in Rutland, we arrived in Dorset. Marion booked a craft fair table whilst I declined to do so, going "birding" with camera instead. Marion had a long day at a golf club trying to sell woollen hats to very few punters in record October temperatures, whilst I had a great time at Ivy lake, spending time with the car park group. These hardy birders had stuffed fat ball into tree bark and were taking shots of Nuthatch as it flitted down for a feed. . . Thanks guys. Marion managed to sell a couple of my images (she displayed a few) which just about covered the table money.
We both spent some time with our respective children at some stage in the month, and I had a great day with Ben as he becomes more interested in photography. I later met with Sal in Brighton and met her Uni housemates. We also did a bit of house DIY at Marion's sisters house, as we spent a few nights on her drive. The wedding I had booked nr Southampton was cancelled, so it was not the most rewarding re commerce. However we settled nr Chichester and had a good time doing walks / jogging and cycling, and stayed for Shelley and Andy's party.
We then moved via Marion's daughters to a nice stop at Hey on Wye. This place made an instant impression and conversations were had re a future property / business in the town. We soon moved again through Wales and responded to an internet invite to meet Kev and Sue, fellow contributors to Birdguides. We spent a lovely couple of hours at their place and made instant friends, and I was inspired by much of Kev's work as much of the bungalow was full of his framed prints.
The rest of Wales was quite tough. We arrived in the remote foothills of Cadair Idris, and managed to negotiate some hairy narrow lanes to get a picture I wanted from Cregannon lake, but then found the small camping site we had tried to book was closed, and the van began to slip on the hill to the deserted farm. We eventually found some grip, turned around and headed off to camp on a larger (but nice) site in Barmouth. The bike ride the next day across the Mawdach estuary and down the Mawdach trail was exquisite. We like Barmouth at every visit and really must spend more time there.
The next move was north to Llanberis, and on arrival found the small pre-ooked campsite full (overbooked) and we spent a night in a beautiful spot on a lakeside car park, not sleeping well as we did not feel secure. We returned to the small campsite the following night, but the site was waterlogged and so we stayed on a small bit of hard ground (after getting very stuck and needing a big pull with a 4x4). This was exposed to the valley od Llanberis and the gusts of wind hit us like a large bat, making three nights with snatched sleep. Half term in wild wet weather is not good. The craft fair we did brought in a small profit, but in the light of sleep deprivation did not seem worth the effort.
Moving 20 miles up the coast to Conwy was like a breath of fresh air. The weather picked up, we found a small sheltered site, and had an enjoyable day visiting Conwy castle, after which we moved here to Lancashire. We are now staying until the end of November at the back of a farmhouse b&b with access to showers, toilets and washing machine...all the little luxuries. We are within walking distance of Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, where I have a photographic exhibition throughout November. I have a lot of preparation work but am looking forward to being in cycling distance of a small town and four great bird and nature reserves.
September rain..
06th September 2011
Here we are in Norfolk with the weather breaking, having a little red wine in the van, watching TV and generally having a cosy time whilst it simply pours outside. Its the sort of rain that will soak you through in 10 seconds...
Good job its this week and not last week, as we were camping and riding around Norfolk on our tandem. A great time was had whilst Marion's sister and her family stayed in the van.
No serious nature photography done now for 8 weeks, as I have completed 2 weddings and 3 craft fairs, which helps put some bread on the table.
Another craft fair in Rockingham Castle, Rutland in just over 2 weeks time, and then a wedding in Hampshire, so still busy. I am thinking more about doing a B/W project in time for the next fair, of buildings and local barges on the Grand Union Canal near Market Harborough, the nearest town to the next fair. The rain should help, as this is good light for B/W photography.
Also on a connected note I re-joined Havant Camera Club, and my first two images submitted for competition are in black and white. Both are on this site...dandelion head and Stromness street.
We are also looking for various other sources of income whilst travelling. The next idea to emerge is international house sitting, so we will have to take a look and see what is involved.
Well it has now just about stopped raining and the light is good so I must leave and use the opportunity to take pics...

regards ..

Craft fairs and weddings
15th August 2011
Well we have been busy. I retired from work (mental health nursing), and happily I have felt more driven and more inspired since I finished back in January.
I was feeling despondent after the Poole craft fair as sales were low and we lost money, but people at the time said it was poor for everyone. At Knebworth however sales and more importantly interest in my work picked up, and the losses of Dorset were wiped out. I am now working through the 1,800 images taken at the last wedding earlier this month, as the couple are soon due back from honeymoon in Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. Very pleased with the images but lots of work to prepare a selected 150 of them for photo-book.
Thing is though, I haven't been out with the 600 mm recently, and so today was a real treat as I got the chance to photograph the red deer in Knebworth park.
Another wedding next week end to prepare for, although an opportunity was missed as the groom couldn't make the pre wedding shoot in the park yesterday due to sleeping off his stag night - and the shoot was after the craft fair ... I hope it was worth it!
31st July 2011
I am now convinced I am allergic to suburbia.... I have no immunity! We have been parked outside Marion's sisters house for a week doing a bit of house / teenager sitting whilst parents away. Its not that the area is poor or anything, because for North London its very pleasant, with woods, Woodpeckers and Parakeets around. It just doesn't come close to Orkney or even Welsh Wales, and I've had a rotten cold.
On a different note the big wedding last week went very well, especially with a degree of camera shyness to contend with. Well pleased with the results and next job will be creation of Wedding book.
Been preparing for our 1st craft fair and after getting through about £150 in inks and paper, decided to abandon the big Canon printer and buy another, smaller version which will store flat in the van. Results have improved greatly, although some barring... The prints done at printers in Newcastle however are great... 75 A3's to mount, label and bag!
Next week is going to be dentist / visit kids / catch up with one or two friends on South coast and then on Fri its our 1st craft fair in poole.
Off now to get a Lem Sip
Time for a blog
25th July 2011