Category Archives: Bird photography

Ten Thousand Birds ornithology since Darwin by Tim Burkhead, Jo Wimpenny, Bob Montgomerie Book review

By Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny, Bob Montgomerie

Those of you that know me, know Im passionate about wildlife particularly birds. Ive been a keen ornithologist since my childhood and collected many books over the years.

Most ornithology books tend to be ID books which we all need, but after many years of avian research I do love my bird books with a bit more scientific detail and information.
So when Princeton press offered me their latest ornithology book I jumped at the chance.

Ten Thousand Birds provides a thoroughly engaging and authoritative history of modern ornithology, tracing how the study of birds has been shaped by a succession of visionary and often-controversial personalities, and by the unique social and scientific contexts in which these extraordinary individuals worked. This beautifully illustrated book opens in the middle of the nineteenth century when ornithology was a museum-based discipline focused almost exclusively on the anatomy, taxonomy, and classification of dead birds. It describes how in the early 1900s pioneering individuals such as Erwin Stresemann, Ernst Mayr, and Julian Huxley recognized the importance of studying live birds in the field, and how this shift thrust ornithology into the mainstream of the biological sciences. The book tells the stories of eccentrics like Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a pathological liar who stole specimens from museums and quite likely murdered his wife, and describes the breathtaking insights and discoveries of ambitious and influential figures such as David Lack, Niko Tinbergen, Robert MacArthur, and others who through their studies of birds transformed entire fields of biology.Ten Thousand Birds brings this history vividly to life through the work and achievements of those who advanced the field. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and in-depth interviews, this fascinating book reveals how research on birds has contributed more to our understanding of animal biology than the study of just about any other group of organisms.

I had seen the details of this book on the website but I have to say I took a deep breath when I opened up the parcel containing this stunning book. Its weighty heavy and amazing quality before you even turn the front cover.
I don’t normally review “quality of books”, but I really have to with this one, its just beautiful.
You have a large 10.5 x 8.5 inch heavy weight book, 1.75 inches thick containing 568 pages, 94 colour images and 60 half tones.
It has a gorgeous outer book dust cover thicker paper than you normally get, if you remove the paper dust cover you will find underneath a beautifully bound old fashioned cover. Those of you like me who still love our paperback books will adore this book.
I also have to mention the gold embossing, you have to admit this is gorgeous you really are holding a quality book in your hand. This is a book you will proudly display on your bookshelf and library for years to come or keep on the coffee table.
So back to the book itself; what actually is the book about if its not an ID book I hear you ask….well its a comprehensive extremely well researched history of ornithology and the key ornithologists that have made a difference to scientific research and biological science since Darwin.
There are approximately 10,000 species of birds on our planet and they have contributed more to the study of  zoology than almost any other group of animals.

Konishi et al 1989

The study of birds goes back to ancient Greece in the mid 1600s and it has been estimated that there has been no fewer than 380,000 ornithological publications since Darwin published The origin of species in 1859.
In the last few years ornithologists and their research have been increasing rapidly; with the onset of technology making Ornithology more scientific. The authors actually mention over 700 ornithologists and their individual involvements.
These 3 experienced authors have made this book a definitive leader in the science and research of modern ornithology all in one book; including fascinating information about the main pioneers involved in the historical ground breaking discoveries that changed whole fields of biology and its these that form the basis of this amazing book.
We are spoilt with beautifully illustrated chapter images.
I love the way the book just falls open with its own paper weight.

 Beautifully illustrated diagrams and timelines easily explain the scientists findings.

This image depicts just one of the many ground breaking tests that really add to this brilliant book. This image shows a captive woodpecker finch using a tool to get its food from containers. These experiments were conducted by Bob Bowman in 1965.

I absolutely love this book as Im fascinated about the advancement we have made and are making in avian biology and behavior. I have always watched and read almost anything I can find on birds over the years and I simply couldn’t put this book down as its such an original idea for a book.
I have to say its NOT just a book its a concise reference for anyone who loves birds; as it takes you through from Darwin to present day. If your a person who loves a more scientific look at birds you will really appreciate this book. If your a teacher or student, amateur and professional ornithologists you will also find something of interest here.
The book follows historical advancements and breakthroughs to debates and mistakes; written in such an entertaining engaging way; it even made me laugh in places. Its an addictive, inspiring read so anyone can enjoy this book you don’t need a degree to understand this; just a passion for birds.
Read from pigeon pingpong to indepth interviews about the people that made a marked difference to the science of ornithology. It was so interesting to know more about that person and how they came to have a passion for birds.
You wont find another book like this and this will be an invaluable record of the history of ornithology for many years to come.
Anyone who loves birds in anyway will really appreciate this stunning reference book, beautifully illustrated and bound with a perfect mix of history, ornithology and science and a fun human aspect to make you smile so you wont be able to put down.

You can buy your copy from Amazon UK

TIP; I must say too if you are planning to buy this book get the hardback not the kindle version if you can, you will NOT get the benefit of the stunning illustrations and photos let alone the amazing quality of the binding and stunning cover.

All my thanks goes to the lovely people of Princeton Press for sending me this amazing book for this review.
All my views and opinions are my own.

Swallow Dance

I bet you thought I was going to talk Butterflies, so Im I thought Id give you all a break…just for a little bit.

Every year we have the pleasure of watching the Swallows prepare for their long migration on our electric lines running right through our garden. But three weeks ago for the first time they arrived earlier spoiling us by bringing 2 families of chicks and feeding them on the wire and in the air.  We counted over 14 fledglings and it was an absolute pleasure to watch these being fed for about 8 days.

The parents were working their socks off feeding such a mountain of feathered fluffballs. It was clearly two families with 4 adults swooping in and out regularly most the day. Its incredible to watch such small birds work so hard, these little chicks kept all 4 parents on the go for hours on end.

But it felt quite an honour to be part of watching these beautiful chicks grow, feed and get stronger and better fliers. The noise above us was wonderful as the chicks started to get quite noisy. After several days though we did start to witness the parents knocking some chicks completely off the wires…poor things 😉 but we know it was to teach them to feed in the air despite how harsh it looks.

After about 6 days most chicks were feeding in the air and quite proficient fliers and within 10 days they were all gone again. Im hoping they come back to prepare for their migration in a few months time.

It was a really special to be a part of their lives just for that short space of time and cant wait for next year.

Coming soon on Natural Ramblings Butterflies inflight, darters, moths and horseflies.

Handsome Stranger – White Pheasant

Handsome Boy!

Handsome Boy!

I had to share with you one of the most handsome strangers Ive ever had in our garden.

Weve had the pleasure of pheasants in our garden for over 2 years now and Ive got to know them all individually each with their own little behavior traits.

So you can see my surprise and pleasure when we found this handsome fella wandering round the garden. He strutted with such confidence when he had arrived with the new “turkey boys” ; the scruffy new jeuveniles we get every year, not in full plumage, no tails and a little bit cocky but then running off at the slightest movement, squawking for their friends.

I absolutely love having the turkey boys every year they are so comical and adorable at the same time. With them this year came this handsome devil, quite a rare white male pheasant, but his not albino as he has some black flecks across his chest and his eyes are brown not red. I say rare but last year we did have a pair of white pheasants in the garden but only ever saw them for 1 day; so Im over the moon to see this little guy appear.

He stayed behind after his young turkeyboy friends had scarpered when they saw me, he watched our usual flock carefully at the sidelines near the hedge…incase he needed a quick getaway lol! After only a few minutes he showed absolutely no fear and mirrored my regular birds happily feeding at my feet.

Although he was slightly nervous and showed respect to my regular male by keeping his distance at the beginning.


As he got closer he tried to feed right next to him and got pecked as a warning to put him in his place, but then was allowed to eat nearby after about 20 minutes with no attack.


What was lovely to watch was this little guy shadowed our male; maybe like a father figure as he kept watching him closely, learning and almost mimiking his behavior, down to the way he walked, he stretched every time our male did, he followed him for nearly 2 hours around the garden, intermingling with the girls. The females however just blanked him, they didnt attack nor were they interested.

For me I was just blown away to have him so close and I will be doing a full post on him soon as it was a really special moment to share with these guys both emotionally and photographically.

Sadly after 3 hours he realised his own flock had left without him and became quite distressed calling for them; luckily several came to our gate where…. they called him and he was able to rejoin them.

A wonderful ending to the day and I hope to see again in the future.

Coming soon

More on this handsome white beauty.

My Pigeon Post




First stick

Do you think this is too small then?


I thought you may want to see something different than butterflies; although Ive still loads to show you of those; but for now I had to show you these piks I took today of my favorite female wood pigeon.

Earlier last month she had one chick, which sadly got attacked by my hoodlums of my local magpie family. We disturbed 2 adult magpies about to feast on approx 23 day old squab. I took the poor thing in, cleaned up the blood but we sadly lost her the next day.

So in a way it was nice to see Mum searching for sticks to either build or repair their nest, we have an electrical pole bringing us…er…electric…as we live in middle of nowhere so its always been the focus of attention of the birds…makes a great giant perch. Especially now the swallows have finished with it, they are giving the others a chance.


I loved the confused look on her face as she tried to move this stick around ontop of the electric pylon. I really hope shes not planning to nest up there; especially with the storms predicted for this week.


Now look what you made me do!

I had to laugh as this was the glare I got after she dropped her stick…yes of course it was my fault…eeep……if looks could kill.

But you will see from the images below Im a very long way from her…gulp…shes not a happy bunny is she?


This image is taken at the Lumix’s shortest 24mm, if you look closely you can just see the pigeon right in the middle at the top inbetween the wires.

 On another note I was pleasantly surprised at all these shots as I didnt have my trusty Canon  40D with my beloved 100-400mm lens, I just had my handy Panasonic Lumix TZ30.

These 2 images (one above, one below) were taken around 5.30am…yes I did say 5.30am…I had to say that again so I could believe it.

I couldnt sleep so I grabbed my camera and went for a wildlife mooch. You never know what you may find so early and it always feels so special that time of the morning. The wonderful fresh dewey smell of the trees and grasses. The dawn chorus was in full song and it was just beautiful, its not often I feel good enough that time to just up and go. I need to do more morning mooches.


This shot was taken at the same time but at the full 480mm, ok its not a masterpiece as as the sun wasnt quite up and it was still dark. But I was amazed to get such clarity at full extent in low light…well done Panasonic.

So fingers crossed she doesnt decide to build all the way up there; but of she does we will try to keep an eye on the family.

I look forward to some more interesting morning findings…yawn…..soo…sleepy….!


Coming soon for Natural Ramblings

Species spotlights on

The Peacock Butterfly,

Painted Lady,

Comma and the Small copper Butterflies.

For those scared of spiders…nice fluffy kittens…ok..maybe..not quite…

Species spotlight on the daddy longlegs spider with some fascinating behavioral video footage.

Thanks for stopping by



Blue tits and Butterflies

Well as you can see I do like my butterflies, but it wasnt planned to have butterflies on almost every post on Natural Ramblings; its just what Ive been able to capture over the last week or more.

All my 6 Buddleia bushes are almost in full bloom and thank goodness they are all staggered; meaning my beloved bugs get to have food and supplies for a bit longer.

Well as I mentioned weve had some gorgeous hot weather over the past few weeks up until the last few days when weve had some heavy storms and sadly some of the butterflies are looking a bit worse for wear.

These delicate insects struggle enough to get from catapillar to butterfly especially in my garden with approximately 8 great tit and blue tit fledgelings, Ive been watching the poor parents run ragged with mouthfuls of caterpillas…eeep, I cant even find these caterpillas to phptograph….I need to follow those parents with my camera 🙂

A few photos I managed to capture of my Bluetit fledglings, I had to smile at how chubby he is compared to Mum and Dad and his 2 siblings seen either side. Is it just me or does he remind you of Orville..”I wish I could fly”

(Please click for larger images)

So with loads of chicks to feed my sudden butterfly explosion is dwindling as I type, but how can I choose who I would rather live, I adore my birds and insects, it has to be a balance with nature and you can never choose. But I still have a sad fleeting moment when I see a mouthful of wriggling caterpillars being stuffed into that gaping mouth. But then an immediate aww his gonna be a chubby one when you see his cute yellow fluffy face.

(Please click for larger more detailed images)

Back to our bad storms we had a few days ago I was photographing the butterflies and found this poor ragged Tortoishell buttefly feeding…yes you guessed it…on my Buddliea… 🙂

The fascinating thing was about this injured Tortie was that as I watched him I started to notice the many Comma butterflies bombard the poor thing knocking him clean off the flower sprigs. They were either being territorial or they sensed a weaker butterfly. I had to flap so hard to get back up onto another flower but within seconds to be knocked off agaon. It took all my will power not to protect him. I had to watch painfully as he struggled to fly to his next flower…Sadly I feel he wont be with us much longer.

The Tortoishell Butterfly Nymphalis urticae is another popular UK butterfly with its distinct mosaic effect colouration and beautiful blue spots around the edging of its wings. If you want to attract this gorgeous bug to your garden, you should not only grow Buddleia and Sedum spectibile but let the nettles grow nearby as they larvae need their food too. Dont clear away all your nettles its a the larval foodplant of many butteflies and insects.

Comma Butterfly on Buddleia

Comma Butterfly on Buddleia

This is one of the evil culprits as beautiful as they are!

Take some time out in your day…to just watch…its great theraputic value for you to lose yourself and you get to see some fascinating things; you are always learning with wildlife however large or small.

Coming soon on Natural Ramblings more Bees, hatching ladybirds and Swallow fledglings….maybe a few more butterflies.

Thanks for coming by


Sizzling hot Summer of wonderful wildlife

Hi and welcome this is my first post and its been such a fantastic week of hot weather, the UK are finally getting the dream Summer we’ve been waiting for for years. Who needs to go abroad when you can get your tan in your back garden, on the beach or just enjoy the countryside.

I am no stranger to writing and have been published many times both with my writing and photography. But I now have the time to write my own blog about the wildlife I adore and hopefully capture too with my photography.

I have a fascination for macro and spent way too much money on macro photo gear as I love being able to show the beauty of the macro world.

I have had a wonderful few weeks of photography this month, the wildlife have been extremely obliging and happy to be on camera and I have managed to capture some gorgeous birds, plants and insects.

We are lucky enough to live deep in the countryside so Im able to watch the comings and goings of the local wild birds.


Back in May we had a lovely family of pheasants venture into our garden and happily stayed most the day, they’ve been here for two months…where we gradually got used to their individual characters.

I have really enjoyed studying their behaviour and have learnt alot about them and how they go about their lives. Im looking forward to writing a full post on pheasants and their behavior very soon as they really are fascinating birds to study. Plus I have managed to have the opportunity to capture some gorgeous photos of them along the way.

Sadly we lost a few females to illness and a few bird of prey attacks.  One poor female who had actually become quite tame and would often just wander in the kitchen, literally had a Sparrow-hawk  sit on her and start to eat her alive, it was disturbed and we found her severely injured by our back-door; where she had obviously tried to come in for safety. She was just so poorly she simply let me pick her up where she laid in my arms not stressed and allowed me to gently clean her up and she passed quietly a few hours later.  It was quite special as she was in complete trust of us.

I do want to point out I have my wildlife ruling that I live and let live and rarely intervene; but when something is injured especially fatally I try to make them as quiet and comfortable as possible so they pass without anymore unnecessary stress or pain.

We have several birds of prey that live in the surrounding fields next to us which I will introduce to you later, a Barn and Tawny owl, Marsh harrier, Red kite, but suspect number one was the Sparrow-hawk as I’d seen him around that morning.


I also love my plants and my Aliums have made it through the hot weather and are just bursting out of their cases.


I love how the last of the seed case is still wrapped round the new buds.

Arachnophobes Beware

 Anyone who knows me will tell you I will photograph any nature, I will even photograph spiders; and I even enjoy watching the numerous Daddy-long legs spiders we have in every room in the cottage. I adore their jiggy, spinny thing they do when they feel threatened, but I dont find their gangly looks that scary. We have even bought a spider catcher gadget (which Ill show you later) so I can get them out the house without hurting them; when there are just too many or they are above the bed, then they have to go. I cannot sleep thinking they may jiggy their way down on me in the nigh!

But I draw the line when its on me!!!


I was actually photographing some swallows and not really concentrating on what was in front of me; when I casually noticed something crawl over and under the peak of my baseball cap inches from my eyes. Always worrying about nature I still managed to curb my increasing panic being face to face with this bright green body and enormous legs waving at me inches from my eyes; and still take my hat off carefully without hurting him.

Im not one to normally panic with an eight legged fiend, I’m the one who get them out of the house carefully and would certainly NEVER kill them.

BUT this little guy was quite a force to be reckoned with, after waving his legs at me and actually lunging for me when I put the hat on the ground. Most people…ok…alot of girls would have run off screaming…no not me..I..was mad enough to go and grab my camera, that amazing green body was fluorescent in the sun and I had to share him with you all.

So sorry if you are haven’t seen my site before and I hope this hasn’t put you off coming back, I promise I will add an arachnophobia warning if I do this again, but believe me I dont want to see this little guy that close ever again. I made the mistake of looking close up on my PC…eeww!

Big mistake! Super scary, but magnificent at the same time!

green-spider2Let me introduce the Green orb weaver spider Araniella cucurbitina

So after finally extracting him off my hat and thoroughly checking there wasn’t anymore behind him and shaking myself like a mad thing, he just sat and glared at me from a bracken leaf…nice…do him a favour and that’s what you get huh!


I also love plants and my other half kindly bought me a poorly blueberry plant last year, yes I nurse plants back to health too  😉

So after alot of nurturing in my green house I have managed to get it back to life and we over 30 blueberries almost ready to scrum. They may last a day if I’m lucky as when my Other half finds out I’m sure Ill be catching him in the greenhouse. Maybe I need that green spider to guard the bush lol.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my wildlife snippets, I have alot more coming soon.

Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon.