Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Final blog of 2014: Attenborough Nature Reserve

 The snow still lingering on the ground

For my last shoot of the year I decided to visit one of my favourite reserves and not to far away Attenborough Nature Reserve, a Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust site it holds a stunning array of habitats most notably its wetland and reedbeds which would be the main focus for me today.

 Reed Bunting

While in the kingfisher hide I noticed this little brown bird hoping around and visiting the feeder, I had no idea what it was (I'm afraid my bird knowledge still needs some work) later finding out it was a reed bunting.

Bittern in the reeds

I was delighted to see my first Nottinghamshire bittern after trying for the last couple of years of trying it was a true delight to see the little brown heron sunning himself. The tower hide is a little high up to get a decent shot of the bird but shows of the bird in any case. 

Short video of the bittern can be found here

Friendly Robin coming in for a snack

Because of the cold weather often some of the smaller garden birds at Attenborough can become quite tame when encouraged with some food. On the way back to the car this robin was following me so having some seed on me I decided to give him a little feed when a idea for a shot came into me head!

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Top Ten Wildlife Experiences of 2014

Well 2014 is coming to a end and what a amazing year its been for me traveling all over the UK to document various species.

From these 10 trips alone I've traveled 3840 miles ! (from Nottingham and back)

Heres a rough recap of some of my best wildlife moments of 2014

10. Water Voles

In spring I visited the water voles in Derbyshire to try and build up a portfolio of images of them and is still something I'm working on now. 70% of voles dies during the winter and few live longer then a year so its a tough life for a vole not counting merciless mink or horrendous habitat destruction. One of my goals for 2015 is to film and photograph the voles underwater and have a couple of sites lined up for this.

9. Cornish Jelly

A trip I was looking forward to all year was returning to Cornwall to photograph Blue Sharks in Penzance however the weather was not on my side and due to high winds the boat trip was called off. Not wanting to waste a opportunity I snorkelled around the coastline at Falmouth and found this stunning Compass Jellyfish which had been washed in from the storms, it wasn't til after I discovered they are mildly venomous!  

8. Richmond Park Deer Rut

Richmond is a national hotspot of the red deer rut and can often lead to legions of wildlife photographers visiting the park to photograph the clashing stags, while I was in the area talking to a local scuba club about underwater photography I decided to visit the park early to get some shots of the deer. They weren't quite rutting but very close to it with lots of chasing and parallel walking.

7. Leaping Salmon

When you think of Salmon you typically think of Scotland but I was pleasantly surprised to find a site less then a hour from my home! This population of salmon is the most inland group traveling up the Humber to reach the Dove in Derbyshire.


6. Peak District 

With the peaks being about a hour away I knew I wanted to do more work in the park this year, not just in rivers but more landscapes and wildlife also. The heather this august was breath taking and coupled with a sunrise it meant I even managed to get a half decent landscape shot.

5. White Clawed Crayfish

One of the great things with wildlife is it can always find a way to surprise you, while working for the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust they told me about a good population of white clawed crayfish in the River Witham a river I'd visited since a child but had no idea the crayfish were living in it. Within a few minutes of searching with a licensed surveyor we found 5 of them! With the crayfish plague wiping out a lot of them it was great to see a healthy population so close to were I live.

4. Powan of Loch Lomond

I suspect a lot of you reading this would of never of heard of a Powan or European Whitefish, its a rare glacial fish similar to arctic charr that are a left over from the last ice age. Due to climate change, invasive species and siltation the Powan have had a bit of a ruffe time. Normally they live deep down in the Lochs but visited some captive reared Powan at SCENE which are being studied and released back into the loch.

3. French Adventure 

While filming for angling series 'Mr Crabtree goes fishing' I was tasked with underwater, time lapse, stills, some interviews and wildlife and I have to say France was a herpetologists dream! Reptiles are a big love of mine and saw whip snakes, viperine water snake, wall lizards and this stunning green lizard having a yawn.

2. Sea Lamprey

These really are a weird looking 'fish' I knew I wanted to photograph one of these fish for a while but they only enter rivers in early summer and even then only hang around for a few days so was a spur of the moment sort of thing when I heard they were around. I had a farmer in Sussex, wildlife trust member in Wales and river keeper in Hampshire looking for them and ultimately the river keeper got in touch first!

1. Puffins Underwater

I'm not overly a birder but have a great interest in all natural history particularly some of the iconic species like kingfisher, bittern and in this case the puffin. I did some research into areas to get underwater footage of puffins and the farnes was top of my list. I can tell you it was incredibly hard and didn't manage any high quality stills just footage on the GoPro (see below) but was amazing to see a species like this flying underwater and something I'll be working on next year for sure along with other water birds.  

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Grey Seals at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

 Mum and pup sleeping

Donna nook was one of the places I've heard about for a while but never visited until recently and was a incredible experience seeing grey seal pups with in metres of me (behind a fence)

Less then a day old male pup with umbilical cord 

The grey seal mums feed their pups for 15 to 21 days with a rich milk that is 60% fat and the grey seal pups balloon out very quickly. After this weaning stage the grey seal mums leave their pups and the area. Grey seal pups leave too, as they must teach themselves to feed.

Sleeping Grey Seal Pup 

The scientific name of the grey seal,Halichoerus grypus, comes from the Greek for 'hooked-nose sea-pig'.

Grey Seal pups have a white coat when born & for up to 3 weeks, then they moult into their adult coat. 

One draw back for me is the huge numbers of people which made the viewing slightly less pleasant but on the whole was worth a visit for sure.

Life is hard for Grey Seal pups. About 30 to 50 percent of them die before their first birthday. Grey seal mums recognise their own pups calls and know exactly how their own pup smells. 

Although typically diving to depths of up to 70 metres when feeding, grey seals can dive to depths of around 300 metres.

Image taken through the fence not on open dunes and no contact with the seal was made

Short video of a seal giving birth

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography

Monday, 3 November 2014

Leaping Salmon

 Hiding in the currents they wait

Now as some of you may be aware of I'm rather fond of fish, So much so I must be the UK's only fish twitcher! However there's one thing I've never witnessed and thats Atlantic Salmon leaping upstream so thought its about time I remedied this.

 Brown Trout leaping

I visited a fairly unknown site that has a steady run of Salmon as well as Brown Trout trying to get upstream. The Brownies would jump much higher then the Salmon but didn't have the strength to make it over the weir.

 Another unsuccessful leap

Brown Trout will jump to reach spawning grounds upstream with the Salmon and in some cases can hybridise with Atlantic Salmon though this is rare. It averaged 3 or 4 fish leaping a minute and although I've seen it on Autumnwatch every year nothing prepares you the actual site which put a smile on my face which would not dissipate.

 The mystery fish

At the time I thought this was quite a silvery fish to be jumping and wasn't till I got home that I realised it was a steelhead a searun rainbow trout which is a unusual fish for a river. Rainbows often find there way into rivers when they get washed in from fishing lakes or can be stocked by anglers but the anadromous form of the rainbow is a rarity in the UK.

Powering upstream

Brown Trout on its way to spawning grounds

Some of the fish almost look like they are taking flight and can really reach a good bit of height some going well over 6ft in the air. The remarkable journey these fish take is extraordinary with them growing up in the river and moving out to sea to feed up on shrimps and small fish before coming back from the northern atlantic ocean to spawn again.

Breaching the water the male has developed its pointed snout

Salmon in Scottish and Northern rivers can take up to 3 years to go back to sea while salmon in southern chalk streams will go after just one year because the warmth and extra food. Chalk stream salmon are under threat because they are at there temperature barrier for spawning so if the rivers increase in temperature they may disappear from them for good.

Hen salmon flung high into the air after leaping out of the rapids

Cock salmon making the leap

The sight of a huge Atlantic salmon breaching the rapids to go further upstream was something that will stick with me for a long time and always a nice change not squeezing into a wetsuit and having to get in a freezing river to photograph fish so i could get used to this kind of fish twitching!

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography

Friday, 24 October 2014

Think I'm going Batty!

Anthony McKeown and Angelena Efstathiou setting up the harp trap

I've never really given much thought about British bats, partly because I rarely see any and, being a photographer, they are a tricky subject to get naturally (not factoring in the licence issues). So when I was invited to come along on a bat survey I jumped at the chance to see some of our winged little friends.

Putting it in a clearing where the bats are likely to fly

To be able to monitor the bats you need to catch them so you measure, weigh and assess the health of a population as well as seeing which species are around (we have 17 resident in the UK). The use of a harp trap, which is harmless to the bat, is used. They fly into fishing line and trail down into a bag where they are then collected and data is processed.

Different frequencies attract different species of bat

A acoustic bat lure is used, having a silver spinner and bat sounds played to attract them into the trap.

'A Soprano in the hand is worth two in the roost'

The most common species we caught was the Soprano Pipistrelle, which up until 1997 was classed as the same species as the common pipistrelle, the most common bat in the UK and the one you're most  likely to see in towns and cities around street lamps.

Lorna Griffiths with a Soprano Pipistrelle

The use of gloves is used so disease can't be passed from bat to person and vice versa. One thing I quickly realised was how small they are, weighing less than a £1 coin.

Special scales are used as the bats are so light

They get cold very quickly so the whole process of capture, weighing and release can be done in under 5 minutes.

Vital data collected

We were doing this survey under the license for the Nathusius Pipistrelle Pilot Project which is involving a small number of bat groups, project leaders being Daniel Hargreaves and the Bat Conservation Trust's Kate Barlow. Matt Cook from our group is the licensed worker for harp and lures.

Sharp teeth used for eating various insects including mosquitos and midges

My favourite capture of the night has to be this little chap, the Natterers Bat, which has slightly longer ears than the pipistrelles.

Natterers Bat in Matt Cook's hand

Five Bat Facts

  • A group of bats is called a 'colony'
  • Bats hang upside down for two reasons: they can get high up and away from their predators and enemies; by just turning loose and flapping their wings they get 'instant flight'
  • A young bat is called a 'pup'
  • Bats hibernate or migrate to warmer climes in the winter
  • The largest bat in the UK is the Noctule, weighing 40g and a wingspan of up to 40cm

If you would like to know more about bats in Nottinghamshire check out

Or nationally you can get in touch with the Bat Conservation Trust

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Theres nothing better then being up early to see sights like this 

So i went down to Richmond a few days ago to do a talk on Underwater Photography to Richmond Sub Aqua Club which was a good bit of fun and was hosted in a pub which always makes the speaking interesting! While in the area i decided to get up early and head to Richmond Park to see the Red Deer Stags begin the rut!

You can almost forgets its in London 

Despite living quite close to a deer park in Nottingham i'd never seen deer roar or rut before so was a new experience for me and one i immensely enjoyed. After the glorious sunrise the light went a bit flat but i still went looking for more deer action.

 All the shots are full frame so the animals are quite close!

The deer in the park are very used to people which allows for some unique shots that would be almost impossible in a more wild setting. I was still wary though as these are powerful animals and pumped full of testosterone ready for a fight and had to warn a couple of dog walkers to stay back.

One of the larger dominant stags 

The sound of a red deer roaring is like nothing else i've ever heard, its a primordial noise and over the sunrise seemed like i was in the Cretaceous. Richmond is often over run from wildlife photographers but i was quite surprised to see more deer then togs and had the herd largely to myself.

Almost thought they would start to rut but not quite

No antlers locked while i was there but lots of parallel walking, urinating and vegetation in antlers so would expect it to happen soon.

Top Photography Tips for Richmond Park

1. Get in early! the park is open from 7am so you get a good chance to get some sunrise deer shots.

2. Despite the deer being used to people i still used a long lens (70 - 300mm) rather then my usual choice of a fisheye which could of got messy with the stags.

3. Avoid weekends as the park will be a lot busier and more people to contend with.

4. Read the animals behaviour if its coming towards you slowly back off, see how they are reacting to each other and you can often guess when they are about to lock horns.

5. I opted to be low for most of the shoot to try and emphasise the size of the stags which pretty big (our largest land mammal)

My next blog will be on seals as i'm off to the farne islands diving with them and donna nook for seal pup births!

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography

Monday, 22 September 2014

Lincolnshire River Trust: The Witham Catchment

As a child I used to visit Grantham quite a bit to see my great grandparents and I always looked forward to seeing the River Witham in Wyndham Park, along with all the fish and ducks, which really set me on a path to becoming a professional wildlife photographer. So when the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust hired me to film the Witham from source to sea I jumped at the chance at seeing my childhood haunt!

The idea was to produce a film of the Witham catchment showing groups and locals’ opinions of the river and highlighting issues as well as wildlife. As part of the Catchment Based Approach, funded by DEFRA, the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust host the Witham Partnership, which is trying to protect, enhance and restore the catchment.

Upper Reaches: Grantham 

Firstly I joined the Grantham Rivercare Group who had organised a clear up day taking rubbish out of the river, it was fantastic to see locals so interested in their river and I wish more rivers had groups like this.

Duck passes over brown trout

Not wanting to leave the wildlife out i was pleased to find a few fish to film in what was quite a urban setting.


Dace, Chub, Roach and Brown Trout! 

 Jake with a male and female

Further up the river nearer to its source we met Jake Reeds of the Environment Agency who was looking for White Clawed Crayfish (under licence). This gave me an opportunity I've waited a long time for…filming/photographing these incredible crustaceans in an English river.

White clawed crayfish are critically threatened

I've been coming to the Witham for years and didn't even know these little guys were in it (lots of water voles too!) which is partly why the trust wanted me to make this film, to show of its wildlife as well as interviewing locals and groups on their views of the river.

Middle Reaches: Lincoln

The Brayford Pool has plenty below the surface

After interviewing the Environment Agency, Sea Cadets and the leader of Lincoln City Council, I went on to film some of Lincoln's wildlife. The Brayford Pool is an area often over looked and I even had a member of the public say the classic line "There's nothing in there”. Well I hope he sees this blog, because we found a massive abundance of roach, perch, rudd and a hungry pike.

Lauren Tewson the Director of LRT and members of the angling match at Tattershall

I also caught the end of an angling match near Tattershall Bridge, plenty of fish were caught including a large tench, and a good mixture of bream, perch, dace and roach.

Lower Reaches: Boston

 Kingfisher looking for a meal

Boston was the biggest surprise for me as it seemed to have a wealth of bird life, including this quite bold kingfisher which was quite happy to let me snap away. It was fantastic watching it catching fish in such an industrial setting.

 Bitten off more then it can chew

Another good fishermen is the cormorant, though maybe not quite so graceful. I watched a group of five and they were expert hunters, it was interesting to note that their success rate for catching fish was very high, about every 3 or so dives resulted in a fish like this huge eel!

 Because they're effective hunters they're not too popular with anglers.

This cormorant even caught a pike, which was in the brackish end of the river, so shows they can tolerate some saline water.

The mudflats provide great feeding for waders

The end of my journey brought me to the mudflats were the Witham goes into the Haven and that empties into the Wash. It’s incredible to see a river change as you go through its reaches and I would recommend anyone to do it in order to see a variety of wildlife and habitats. The finished film will be out before the end of the year and online for everyone to see.

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography