Potter Pits, 8 Aug

Small Copper

I had a look at Potter Pits, Shipley Station Butterfly Meadow and the site of the cinema on Thursday.

Please click on any of the images to view in their gallery where you can also view them full size.

Walking along the narrow entrance to Potter Pits I saw a few butterflies but they quickly flew away but at about the same time I heard and then saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the top of one of the trees.

Until I got a bit closer I did wonder whether these Small Copper butterflies were Small Skippers. They are a similar colour and around the same size. At one point I did get close to some Ragwort that had both a Small Copper and a Small Skipper but the Skipper skipped off before I could get a photo.

I could hear a few birds around other than the Woodpecker, mainly Blackbirds over towards Bradford Beck, but I could also hear Grasshoppers. I got down low and moved slowly along the path until I saw a Grasshopper hop. I carefully followed it and managed to get a few photos of it. There seemed to be quite a few about so it is possible that these three photos are not all of the same one. A couple of times it did seem to know I was there and was quite good at hiding round the other side of what it was holding.

I didn’t spend long in Potter Pits and on the way out I spotted this Large White butterfly. On the edge of the path I spotted this black wasp with orange legs. There are several species apparently and I am no expert to try and pin the ID down any further. At the same time I looked up and was surprised to see quite a few gulls milling around. I think most of them are Black Headed Gulls.

Before going over to Potter Pits I also had a look at the site of the Glen Royal cinema on Briggate where this 19? Spot Harlequin Ladybird was seen. Feel free to update me if any of my IDs are wrong. Teasels are also on the site.

After looking at the cinema site I also had a walk around the Shipley Station Butterfly Meadow and spotted new looking Burnet Moth cocoons and Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. I have yet to see a Burnet Moth caterpillar. I admit to not knowing whether it is too early to see fresh cocoons.

Monday at DMNR

On Monday afternoon I went down to Denso Marston Nature Reserve to see if anything interesting was happening.

Click on any of the images to see it larger in its gallery.

On the far side of the pond, in the reeds, I spotted movement. There was also quite a bit of noise from Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits but I managed to get my camera on this little brown job. A Sedge Warbler. Chiffchaff. It looked as though there were at least 2 flitting around but with the other little birds around it was difficult for me to tell.

Thanks Steve for telling me that they are Chiffchaff and not Sedge Warblers. And now I have looked back at previous Sedge Warblers I have seen it is obvious.

They are not brilliant shots but I don’t often see these birds on the reserve.

Some of the leaves of the reeds look as though they are covered in insects – plenty for the birds to eat.

The pond was occupied by two adult Moorhens and five chicks. The size of the legs and feet looks ridiculous on the chicks. I assumed that the 2 and 5 were all one happy family but at one stage an adult was having a good go at one of the chicks. The adult and other chicks then moved off stage left and a few seconds later the other adult entered stage right and seemed to offer TLC and fed the chick.

The Water Lillies looked spectacular but a 600mm lens with 1.4x teleconverter on is perhaps not the best of lenses to get a photo to do them justice.

More Painted Ladies

Painted Lady

I’m still enjoying the number of Painted Ladies that are visiting our garden.

To get some of these shots I tucked myself into the Buddleia so that I could get some of the light behind the wings. I quite like them.

I have also been keeping an eye out for Mint Moths on the Sage and Oregano. I spotted something tiny move in amongst the Oregano flowers. These are tiny flowers and I had to get my glasses to look closer. This Mint Moth caterpillar seemed to be moving these tiny black spheres. Are they moth eggs? Or is it caterpillar poo that it was moving out of the way of its next meal? A quick search on the internet shows that Mint Moth eggs are pale spheres. Intriguing.

With my macro lens on I was also able to take these shots. I have yet to ID the first one.

Small Things in our early August Garden


From previous posts you can see that we have many Painted Ladies and other butterflies in our garden that are easy to see. But that hasn’t stopped me from looking for other smaller things that take a little more to spot.

We have Mint Moths on our Sage and, as here, on our Oregano. You can see its tongue dipping down into the tiny flowers. Tucked under the flowers are also some Mint Moth caterpillars.

The Oregano is also a favourite with other insects like these Hoverflies and Bees, as is the Toadflax.

This pair of Large Whites seemed rather stuck together tail to tail. I guess the one with the black dots on her upper wings will be off laying eggs on someone’s cabbages soon.

Purple Hairstreak on a Friday

Purple Hairstreak and Peacock

The last week or so I seem to have been taking photos of butterflies more than anything else. Our Buddleia has been teeming with them. Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admirals, Large Whites, Green Veined Whites and dozens of Painted Ladies. We have also had a few Holly Blues high up in the Hawthorn.

Click on any of the images to view them as part of their gallery.

This then got me thinking about other butterflies so on Friday afternoon I decided to go along to Shipley Glen where the Oak trees towards the top edge of Bracken Hall Crag are just at the right height to look for Purple Hairstreak butterflies from the rocks along Bracken Hall Green.

They took a little searching out; Purple Hairstreaks are small. I did see one with its wings together walking along a tiny branch but I would not have noticed it without having watched it walk off a leaf onto the branch. If they spend time under leaves or on branches then they would probably have stayed hidden from me. You are also limited to looking at a small part of the tree that is close to the rocks at the edge of Shipley Glen. Any further up in the canopy and I would have needed a good pair of binoculars to find them.

Thoughts on Birds of Prey Centre shots

Barn Owl

Here I have put together some of my thoughts on the photography aspects of the Shipley Camera Club day at York Birds of Prey Centre. It presented several opportunities to use different camera settings and techniques for the different situations we found.

I felt obliged to go on the trip because I was promoting wildlife photography to the camera club and several skills needed in the wild could be practiced. However I don’t think I will go to such places again and now feel that I would have made more of a case for wildlife photography by not going.

Depth of Field

Several of the birds were on perches in front of their wired enclosures. In this particular situation I was not trying to show the plight of the birds but to get a “good” bird shot. Therefore I wanted to minimise the distraction of the background. Using the maximum aperture (smallest number) of your lens gives the minimum depth of field. To make the best use of this minimum depth of field it is then necessary to make the distance from the camera to the background as great as possible in relationship to the distance from the camera to the subject. This can be done by getting in reasonably close to the subject and positioning yourself so that the background is a long way off or by getting in VERY close to the subject so that any background, even though not very far away, is still blurred out of all recognition.

In the example above the focal length was 250mm and aperture f:5.6 which is the maximum for the Canon EF-S 55-250mm lens.

Lens size and depth of field

The diameter i.e. maximum aperture, of the lens you have plays a big part in controlling depth of field. For a given framing the focal length has negligible effect on depth of field.


The larger the achievable aperture on the lens the smaller the depth of field and therefore the more blurred the background. With the perched birds in front of their enclosures the largest aperture would normally give the best results but check the results. If you are lucky enough to have a lens with a really larger maximum aperture it is possible that the depth of field is so small that other parts of the bird are too out of focus.

Focal Length

a) When measured from the camera a short focal length lens apparently has a much greater depth of field than a long focal length but for a given framing situation the depth of field of a short focal length lens will be the same as the depth of field of a long focal length lens and so the blurring of the background will be similar. With the smaller focal length you need to get in close to frame the subject and hopefully with the apparent larger depth of field the background is blurred. With a long lens you are further away from the subject to get the framing you want and so the ratio of camera>background distance to the camera>subject distance is a lot less than with the short focal length but the blurring of the background will be similar.
b) Feature distortion varies with the focal length of the lens. With a short focal length you can get close to your subject but be wary of causing feature distortion. With a birds head you can get close and, of course, focus on the eyes. Let’s take the extreme example of a long beaked bird where you have got very close. When compared to the eyes the beak is a lot closer to the camera, in relative terms, than the eyes and as a result the beak will fill more of the frame and appear much larger in comparison to the eyes. With a long focal length the comparative distance of camera>beak and camera>eyes will mean that the beak will appear normal size in relationship with the eyes. (This is why, when doing people portraits, where the head and shoulders or more is in the frame, a lens of 50mm focal length or more is used; 85mm is very popular I believe. Feature distortion is reduced.)

Birds in Flight

If the bird is against a bright sky think about whether you need to overexpose to compensate, otherwise you may get just a silhouette of the bird and any attempt to reclaim detail in post processing may be disappointing. The photo above was taken with +1.5 stops compensation.

For the photographer the best way to take a photo of a birds in flight is when it is coming towards you. It is then easier to keep it in the frame but it can make focusing more difficult because the distance is continually changing. Because the bird’s motion across the frame is comparatively low you don’t need to use a high shutter speed, as a result you can get motion blur in the wings to show the movement and at the same time get a nice sharp and steady eye.


  • Use panning when the bird is flying across your view. Follow the bird in the viewfinder and take shots as you smoothly follow it across your view.
  • If it is available set the lens to the appropriate image stabilisation setting for panning, otherwise the lens will try to cancel out the movement, on my lenses this is OS2.
  • Use a small set of focus points and get focus on the eye.
  • Use back button focusing to separate focus and shutter firing.
  • Start following the bird in the viewfinder as early as possible.
  • Take several shots. If you start shooting early you will at least get some images even if the bird is erratic and you loose it in the viewfinder. Think about the noise of the shutter, switch to “silent” shooting and/or don’t start shooting early if you think the bird will be disturbed by the noise.
  • Use a small aperture bearing in mind you also need a reasonable shutter speed so that even though you may not get focus on the eye it is still sharp.
  • Use a reasonably fast shutter speed but not one that will freeze the background if there is one. The blur in the background helps to add to the impression of movement.


With a moving subject it can be difficult to get it in the viewfinder quickly (hence start trying to do that well before you will want to take the shot). And the longer the lens the more difficult it is to do.

I recommend trying to keep both eyes open. Even though it might not consciously be registering, the eye that is not to the viewfinder will provide information that with practice will help you get onto the subject quicker.