Sunday, April 29, 2012


My recent trip to Scotland produced only distant views of Bottlenosed Dolphins and certainly none were even close enough for record shots. But in July 2009 I stayed at Avoch on the Moray Firth, which is only a few miles away from the famous dolphin watching spot at Chanonry Point. I visited this site twice a day and saw dolphins on about 90% of my visits. Sometimes the animals were a long way from the shore while on other occasions they were very close giving stunning views. The weather for that week in Scotland was rainy and cloudy but at times it was very rainy and very cloudy! Typical Highland weather, I'm sure the sun must have broken through occasionally.
Bottlenosed Dolphins are truly enigmatic animals, they have a very special place in the human imagination. Language alone is inadequate to describe their energy, power, beauty and grace. But one word that they surely embody is dynamic; their reckless acrobatics are one of their most defining attributes.
Here are a few shots from that trip. No captions required.


This photo of me, on the Pyg Track on a wintery ascent of Snowdon last December, appears in this month's (May) issue of Trail magazine. Snowdon is a major feature in this edition.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

London Marathon 2012

The months of pounding the streets through rain, ice and wind reached their fruition when I toed the line last Sunday at the start of the Virgin London Marathon. This was the fifth time that I have run this marathon and my training had gone reasonably well so I was hopeful of posting a good time.
The forecast was for showers but the sun shone brightly throughout my race (it rained later in the afternoon.) I was pouring water over my head by mile five to keep cool, and I did end up slightly sunburned. The crowds where out in force cheering the elites and handing out jelly babies to the slower runners. All the runners owe a debt of thanks to the people of London who never fail to take to the streets in their thousands to enjoy the spectacle and offer massive support to everyone taking part. This is their marathon as much as the runners.
I paced the first 13 miles as planned and went through the halfway point in just under 1 hour 29 minutes. I slowed a bit around Canary Wharf, put picked up the pace again when the 3 hour pacer overtook me. Unfortunately, I got cramp in my legs at 22 miles and had to slow significantly. I limped home in 3 hours 8 minutes; a respectable time but I had hoped to get closer to the 3 hour mark. There's always next year. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and thank my friends for their fantastic support around the course. I finished the day off with some well-earned beers.

Ring-necked Parakeet, this bird appeared
to be pecking at the mortar, maybe it was
obtaining minerals like its wilder cousins
do at salt-licks.
The previous day was spent at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre at Barnes, a true oasis in a concrete desert. I managed to see my first Common Tern of the year as well as close views of Ring-necked Parakeets; not everyone's favourite bird but this colourful alien is always fascinating to watch.

Me at the end of the marathon in Horse-
guards Parade.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


After an easy 5 mile run in the Cheshire countryside (where I saw my first Willow Warbler of the year) this morning, I decided to walk up Tryfan in Snowdonia; this is my way of taking things easy in the run up to the London Marathon! This is a grade 1 scramble and apart from a brief walk up stone steps near the A5 it was hands on all the way to the top. Despite the sunshine there was an icy wind blowing near the summit with snow and ice on the rocks so extreme caution was needed. The panoramic views on the entire route were stunning, and the scrambling was most enjoyable. Tryfan is 3010 feet above sea-level which makes it the fifteenth highest mountain in Wales. It was a great day out and one I intend to repeat very soon.
Me, on the rocky outcrop known as "the canon", about
half way up Tryfan's north ridge.

The view from the summit looking towards Y Gribin.

My picnic guest, not far from the summit, overlooking Llyn
Bochlwyd, also known as "Australia Lake" because of its

Egrets, I've had a few.

Went down to Burton Mere Wetlands yesterday (Saturday), hoping to photograph the Great White Egret that has been around for some time now. Unfortunately, the bird was too distant even for record shots, but there were plenty of migrants around on a rainy afternoon including Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and a singing Willow Warbler. Managed to photograph a Little Egret in poor light, and the immature Spoonbill flew overhead a couple of times but didn't land near the hide.
One week until London Marathon. Did a run of 12.5 miles including a few miles at marathon pace.

Little Egret, wading through the reeds.

Little Egret with its dinner.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scotland at Easter

Travelled up to Aviemore in Scotland for a short Easter break last Thursday. Stopped off at the beautiful Loch of the Lowes Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve near Dunkeld. Had good views of the resident pair of Ospreys including the male in flight with a fish. Arrived in Aviemore later that afternoon and the mountains still had a reasonable covering of snow; indeed, there was even snow on the grass in the town.
Visited Loch Garten as the male Osprey, named Odin, was performing his skydance to the female,OJ, a superb sight.
Over the next few days I managed to see a few of Scotland's special birds including, Capercaillie, Slavonian Grebe, Crossbill and Crested Tit. Visited the Rothiemurchus Pine Marten hide but failed to see any for the second time. Consolation came in the form of close views of Badgers and some very nice roding Woodcock. A quick excursion to Chanonry Point failed to produce any dolphin sightings. Later that day in Cromarty, I dashed out of a cafe midway through a pot of tea to watch a pair of Bottlenosed Dolphins that I spotted in the Firth through the cafe window! The wintering Long-tailed Ducks where also looking very smart.
Training update - managed a steady 16 miles run through the Caledonian pine forest on Friday, and a marathon paced 8 mile run on Sunday. Less than 2 weeks to the big day.

Ospreys at the Loch of the Lowes. The male is flying with a
fish as the female sits by the nest.

Lovely male Siskin on a feeder at Loch of the Lowes.
A wet and bedraggled Badger at Rothiemurchus.

Kayaking on Loch Morlich in the mist and rain.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Marathon training hasn't gone quite to plan this week. Had a few slow runs on Wednesday and Thursday when I felt cold, sweaty and headachey so decided to have a few days rest. Complete rest on Friday (apart from work!) but Saturday I walked up the Pyg Track to the summit of Snowdon then back down the Miners' Path. My friend Jane accompanied me again along with her daughter Emma, aged 13, who has got fantastic stamina; she led the way to the top despite this being her first walk up Snowdon. As usual visibility was poor on the summit but the sun shone for part of the day. Saw my first Wheatears of the year, a singing male serenading his drabber mate on the lower slopes. Also a few Redpolls flew over near the car park. No sign of any Ravens which were so vocal on our last visit.
Ran 22 miles today (Sunday), started slow 7.30 min/mile pace then picked up the pace at mile 16 to 6.50 pace and below. Entertained by the large numbers of motorbikes taking part in the annual Easter egg run that starts on the prom in Wallasey.

Me, before being enveloped by the cloud.

The view back to the car park at Pen y Pas.