Friday, 7 September 2018

The Nikon has landed...initial thoughts.

I couldn’t resist pre-ordering Nikon’s new Superzoom camera the COOLPIX P1000 when it was announced back in July this year, and today it arrived!  I’ve been using the older P900 for the last couple of years and various ‘superzoom’ models before it. They suit my needs perfectly allowing me to photograph insects, plants and giving me the required reach to get decent bird photos and video too, all in one compact unit.

So what do you get for your money? Well here are my initial thoughts having only received it about a hour ago. The P1000 knocks it’s more modestly priced older sibling off the top spot as having the largest optical zoom currently available - 125 x compared to the P900’s 83 x offering. That's a 35mm equivalent of  having a 3000 mm lens at the top end of its magnification! This comes with a caveat’s heavier - 3.12 lbs compared to the P900 at 1.98 lbs. Now that will almost certainly put some people off but when you look at what you're getting for that weight, I don't think it's a huge price to pay. Your average 400 mm DSLR lens is going to weigh-in between 3 - 5 lbs on its own and you're getting a lot more reach with this camera. Besides, I often mount the P900 on a tripod as I often use it for filming, so for me the extra weight is no big deal. But how do the P900 and P1000 compare in the real world? Let’s take a look.

P900 at the top of the pic, P1000 below.
It's a monster! But feels surprisingly light and easy to handle.

It has a larger 77mm lens barrel compared to the 67mm P900

Don't be put off by it's size.

Despite being noticeably larger than the P900 it feels very comfortable in the hand. It also feels well built and solid. Anyone familiar with the control layout of the P900 will find a similar layout on the new camera making it easy to pick up and use straight out of the box.

Side by side comparison.

And from the rear...

The following images were all taken using the P900 and P1000 side-by-side with tripod support, auto ISO and auto white balance (I’ve always found the P900 auto white balance to have a slightly yellowish warm tone so keen to compare with the newer camera).

Greenfinch sitting on a tree top about 30 m away, taken on max optical zoom.
P900 left, P1000 on the right

P1000 racked up into digital zoom still gives a reasonable image.
When you think how far away the bird was, that's pretty good.

Another comparison of a wood pigeon on max optical zoom
P900 on the left, P1000 on the right

The P1000, like its predecessor, is clearly being marketed towards wildlife enthusiasts among others but instead of being buried in the main menu (as on the P900) the Birdwatching setting is now conveniently situated on the dial select knob, which is much quicker to access when required.

Fuschia flower on macro setting.
The P1000 reproduces pleasant, accurate colours,
which can of course be tweaked to your own
preferences in the menu.

What I particularly like is the fact that the P1000 shoots in RAW as well as JPEG, allowing you to export uncompressed image files to Photoshop or Lightroom and have more control to tweak and adjust the final photo.  The addition of a ring on the lens barrel also allows you manual control over things like ISO, white balance, EV stops and even manual focus.

Video comparison:



 I think you'll agree the quality, contrast and colour on the P1000 are far superior.

Add to this it's exceptional Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction and 4K video capabilities and you have one very special,  portable (though noticeably heavier) camera for birders and nature enthusiasts . I'll certainly be putting mine to the test in the coming months and look forward to sharing the results on this blog.

In short, if you liked the P900, you’re going to LOVE the P1000! Now I just need to find a case to fit it!

Monday, 3 September 2018


A couple of months back I finally decided that attracting the odd moth or two by leaving a light on in the bathroom, wasn't really cost effective (or worth the effort). Having borrowed a trap from Nigel Marven (with excellent results), I decided to purchase a compact twin actinic Skinner trap from Anglian Lepidoptera supplies. It's not as good as the MV trap my brother, mate Rich Heddington and myself used back in the early 80's but it's still pretty good.

I've only used the trap a few times in the last 6 weeks (mainly to avoid repeatedly catching the same individual moths time and time again), but the results have been good so far. My garden list at Whitestaunton is now on 75 species and that will certainly go a lot higher over the coming year or so.

Here are a few of my favourites from recent weeks.

Centre-barred Sallow

Lesser Swallow Prominent

White Ermine

Purple Bar

Sharp-angled Peacock

August Thorn

Dusky Thorn

Canary-shouldered Thorn

Iron Prominent
Chinese Character

Frosted Orange

Orange Swift

Small Blood-vein

Light Emerald


Setaceous Hebrew Character

Straw Dot

Black Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus humator 

At this time of the year the trap also attracts other things too. I've had quite a few European Hornets recently, including this one that was found sat close by one morning on a fence post.

Hornet, Whitestaunton
Vespula vulgaris

Vespula vulgaris

Yellow Dung Fly

With the warmer weather set to stay with us a little longer, I should be able to set the trap a few more times over the coming weeks.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Northern Bottlenose Whale...

Thank God my son loves going for walks along Seaton sea front!  This morning we arrived just as local birder Phil Abbott had found a large, dark object moving about on top of the water just off Beer Head. At first sight it appeared as though it may have been a large Leatherback Turtle but soon revealed itself to be something quite different.

As we struggled to get good clear views because of the distance, it showed just long enough for a few photos,the best of which are shown below.

Northern Bottlenose Whale, Seaton

Northern Bottlenose Whale, Seaton

It was in fact a Northern Bottlenose Whale!  It showed briefly but fairly frequently and we watched it over a 40 minute period before continuing with our walk. It was seen again several times over a two hour period before we left around 1 pm. I'm not entirely sure of their status but they are certainly not common around the UK coast and this was a great find by Phil.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Heading Home...

So our holiday in the Western Highlands was over. We had arranged to spend an extra day in Scotland rather than just driving back to Inverness airport and wanted spend that time revisiting some of our old haunts in the Central Highlands. After packing up and leaving Dornie behind us, we made our way towards Kingussie and Feshiebridge just to the south of Aviemore stopping at Darwin's Rest on the way.

May not look like much from the outside but this little cafe
serves fantastic coffee and cakes.

We didn't have too much time in the central Highlands but I was fortunate enough to catch up with a couple of Crested Tits and a short walk around Loch an Eilein produced more Scotch Argus and a single Dark Green Fritillary.

Loch an Eilein

Remnants of a castle on an island at Loch an Eilein

Dark Green Fritillary 

Tatty Scotch Argus - could get close to the mint ones.

Scotch Argus 
Crested Tit, Feshiebridge

Crested Tit, Loch Garten

Not a bad way to finish an excellent holiday. I'll definitely be returning to the west coast again soon.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Western Highlands part 4...White-tailed Eagles

We were nearly at the end of our trip to the west coast of Scotland and the unanimous opinion was that everyone wanted another boat trip to look for some wildlife (particularly me). We headed back onto Skye once more but this time ventured further north towards the town of Portree.

Having already Googled trips out of this town we had settled on Spindrift Boat Trips, who offered a dedicated 2 hour wildlife viewing excursion. After lunch in Portree, we made our way to the main pier behind the lifeboat station and boarded the boat. The weather was just about holding and the forecast rain had yet to appear, however the wind had picked up and it looked choppy outside of the harbour.

Portree Harbour looking towards the Island of Raasay in the distance.

This is a great area with potential to see lots of marine life.
It wasn't long before we saw our first White-tailed Eagle soaring above the sea cliffs just outside Portree Harbour, a younger bird and relatively close. Withing minutes it was joined by both adults to put on a spectacular show lasting over a quarter of an hour.

White-tailed Eagle, immature - Portree

White-tailed Eagle, immature - Portree
White-tailed Eagle, adult. Somewhat distant but I have the P900
We left them and headed across the water towards the Island of Raasay, which sits 1.7 miles off the eastern coast of Skye. This part of the trip was primarily to see Harbour Seals but I picked up a Bonxie and another adult White-tailed Eagle as we approached.

White-tailed Eagle, adult Raasay

Gannet, Raasay

On our way back to the cottage we made another quick stop at the hide in Kylerhea hoping for an otter. No otters but another beautiful Golden Eagle performed well as we dropped down off the mountain pass. What a fantastic day! The following day it was time to head home.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

The Western Highlands part 3...Golden Eagles...

Five days into our holiday on the Scottish west coast and I get the opportunity for a morning of  birding. I decided to head back onto Skye to look for more eagles.  After crossing the bridge I made a quick stop to photograph Hooded Crows on the green at Kyleakin.

The Skye Bridge from Kyleakin.

Hooded Crow, Kyleakin.

Hooded Crow, Kyleakin.

Hooded Crow, Kyleakin.

Then it was on to the RSPB Otter Hide at Kylerhea, which overlooks the narrow straights between Skye and the mainland. This narrow straight is served by the original Gleneld - Skye ferry. This place has White-tailed and Golden Eagles, Otters (no surprise there) and both Grey and Harbour seals. Today though...only Grey Seals and a flock of 32 Goosander.

One of the oldest vehicle ferries in Scotland.

Flock of Goosander, Kylerhea.

Large bull Grey Seal and his female entourage, Kylerhea.

I should mention at this point that I've been on the lookout for Otters all week and Pine Marten too. Despite being in probably the best areas for both of these species anywhere in the UK, it wasn't to be. I even took to performing night drives around many of the narrow, single track roads in the area to try and glimpse a Pine Marten but I continually drew a blank. Both have even been seen at our cottage in Dornie! We met locals who see them regularly. Persistent though I was (early morning walks and late night drives) they will just have to wait for my next visit.

After leaving Kylerhea I drove further along the coast to Torrin  (another site for Dark Red Helleborine), though the weather had taken a turn for the worse by then and it was raining steadily. After a much needed coffe stop at The Blue Shed, I drove around the Loch to look for a more sheltered spot to stop. After half-an-hour the rain had eased off. I got out of the car to look at some Common Butterwort that had finished flowering.

The Blue Shed cafe - best coffee all week.

Torrin, looking north into the mountains.

Common Butterwort leaves.
I then scanned the surrounding mountains and there it was, a Golden Eagle flying in front of the mountain at the end of the Loch about half a mile away! I saw it land on the mountain and then frustratingly lost it to view. I only had bins with me and by some miracle I managed to find it again, see if you can spot it.

Can you find  it?

Maxed out on the P900, now you can see it.

Eventually it took off again and was almost immediately joined by two others, what a fantastic sight to see, I couldn't believe my luck.  The original bird then glided straight towards me and passed within a few hundred meters.

I was ecstatic, I had waited all week to see one and then three came along at once!

Golden Eagle, Torrin.

Still distant at this point but you can see what it is.

Golden Eagle, Torrin

Golden Eagle, Torrin
No visit to the Highlands would be complete without one of these...

Rock Dove, Torrin

By the time I'd finished watching these magnificent birds it was time to rendezvous with the family again so I didn't get time to look for the Dark Red Helleborines, can't have everything. We finish the day with a visit to the local cinema. Not just any cinema though, this is the mobile cinema operated by Screen Machine.  It's a fold out articulated lorry trailer that converts to an 80 seat cinema and has all the comforts of the real thing - great fun!