Longest Day

Well its come to that time of year when the evenings start to draw in, but for a while yet at least we can enjoy some amazing summer evenings.  Over the weekend I spent an evening at Camber Castle and shot this quick timelapse:

Hope you enjoy!

Little Terns

Summer has finally begun!  I base this on the fact that I’ve seen Little Terns preparing to make their nests on the shingle at Rye Harbour.

real terns

These two happy campers were looking like they were setting up right by the roadside, a perfect viewing spot for anyone interested in these diminutive birds.   But of course this isn’t just by chance, the reserve have put a lot of effort into protecting these birds as they aren’t doing too well at the moment.  They choose to nest on very open, exposed beaches where they can get flooded out by high tides, eaten by mammals on the ground or hunted by birds of prey in the air.  Combine that with having to feed hungry little chicks by carrying back small fish from the sea one at a time and parenthood for a Little Tern sounds like a tough job.  But at Rye Harbour the terns are coaxed into nesting a bit further inland safe from the sea, inside a nice big electric fence that should protect them from dogs, foxes and badgers.

fake terns

This is done with the help of some fake terns sitting out on the shingle ridges looking like they’re enjoying themselves.  And to really sell it the inanimate objects are given a voice with a tape playing Little Tern calls in the background.  Combine this with a second electric fence to block really determined predators and you get the perfect summer location for a tiny tern.  And now that a few terns have been drawn in by the decoys and tape playback, the whole process should snowball as the real terns sit there, calling away like the two in the top picture, and attract other breeding pairs.

So look forward to more pictures of these guys as they one of my favourite seabirds and look like they should be around in numbers for yet another summer in Rye Bay.


Well I have a plan for the summer at last- it always gets to about this time in the season before anything really comes together!

adult tern

This year I am going to be carrying out a survey of the terns in Rye Bay (in East Sussex/Kent), monitoring where they are breeding, where they are feeding and generally how they get on this year.  Its a completely new “thing” so I have to generally make it all up myself.  This feels very different from other jobs where I’ve had autonomy but had to follow a rough plan of what to do.  So right now I’m busy reading up on old papers and reports and spending lots of time looking at maps, trying to plan a whole summer of watching terns.

adult with fish

It might sound fairly simple, and it did to me at first, but I’m attempting to cover a pretty big area (almost 20 miles of coast plus some inland sections too!).  So before the terns return in big numbers I’m getting my action plan together…

And needless to say my action plan includes some time with my camera.  Whereas the last couple of years I’ve collected a million photos of puffins, this year its going to be terns, terns, terns.  I’m also continuing to play around with filming so expect a few more clips on here and probably some more timelapses.  And at the end of the season I’m hoping to have a nice report on the terns as well as a short documentary on their lives in the South East.

p.s. here is a link to my latest timelapse– the incoming tide at Rye Harbour, the prime feeding spot for the Common Terns breeding there

Indian Summer…?

I’ve had a lot of bad weather out on Skomer but the past few weeks have been lovely!  Nice calm weather, warm winds and minimal rain…  but looking at the forecast makes me think this week is going to be wet and windy so thought I’d post these pictures before it hit! The nice weather has also been helping birds on passage.  Below are a few Common Scoter making their way past Skomer the other evening and on land the bushes are intermittently being filled with Willow Warblers and the like.  Won’t be long before something a bit rarer comes along (hopefully!).

Re-Terning to Terns…

Back to the Common Tern, these smart birds deserve more than just a cursory mention- especially as they now nest so close to one of the birding hides at Rye Harbour that a good shot is guaranteed this time of year!

staring very hard at something... probably a stone.


I just liked this shot because it looks like the bird is extremely suspicious of a stone.  It’s surrounded by them the whole summer but that one must be dodgy, or maybe its that little bit of Stonecrop growing next to it…

Anyway, these birds always look good.  Their matching red beak and legs combined with the bold black cap and pointed wings and tail give the impression of a very smart bird, their dainty features suggest a fragility that simply doesn’t exist.  These birds travel huge distances over open sea, fish in the frigid saltiness of the open ocean and will mob birds much larger than themselves to protect their young.  Hopefully I’ll ctach a few passing by Pembrokeshire before I make it home for winter this year.

You’re doing it wrong…

Sometimes you come across slightly confused individuals out on Skomer, and it’s not even the Wardens after a sociable evening!  Out of thousands of birds there are inevitably a few that don’t quite get things right- whether it be bad parenting, trying to eat something out of the ordinary or their bodies not quite behaving.


More plagiarism

Well there it goes, the first half of the year gone and with it the summer solstice.  Now the nights are drawing in once more and it’ll soon be christmas… but it is still summer for a while (hopefully!).

And to catch the best of the views it’s always best to be out at dawn, something I fail to do quite a lot- especially when dawn is before 5am.  Luckily Rich is slightly crazy so here is his summer solstice blog with accompanying pictures showing the stunning dawn!



Another smart seabird this time, the Razorbill.  A masterpiece of black and white that shows you don’t need colour to look impressive, their stout beaks with flashes of white do that for them.


A pretty gull…?

“Seagulls” get a pretty bad press.  Most people encounter the Herring Gull whilst in town when it pinches their chips in summer and turn against gulls as a whole.  But there are quite a few types in this country, and few of them have expanded quite so much into urban spaces.  I personally think the Lesser Black Backed Gull is quite a smart bird, and Black Headed Gulls are a bit kinder but neither compare to the dainty Kittiwake.



So a bit of a break from the nature photos, but I got a nice delivery today.  I had ordered some cards from MOO.com and they arrived this morning, in a rather uninspiring brown cardboard box.  But inside all my cards were beautifully printed and nicely packaged with envelopes and everything provided.

I’m only this excited bout things like envelopes because I am trying to make a bit of money from my photos and looking at my cards I think I might actually manage it.  Down here in the South East the unemployment is getting a bit silly and I tend to take seasonal jobs so the winter is a time when I go home to the ‘rentals and take any work I can.  My plan now is to develop a little bit of a photography business to see me through the winter months – selling images I take during my summer adventures!

So you might get some updates like these over the following weeks, hope you find them useful/interesting/not too annoying.  In the mean time if you are interested go take a look at MOO.com or even take a peep at my own company website in the making… YatesPhotographic