Publications

Articles and other publications featuring the work of Richard Nicoll.

University of Cambridge licenses Cuckoo image

The University of Cambridge has licensed an image of a Reed Warbler feeding a Cuckoo chick as a beam of sunlight catches its gape turning the Reed Warbler's head orange. The image is being used to publicise a Darwin lecture by Prof. Nick Davies titled "The reed warbler and the cuckoo: an escalating game of trickery and defence"



Telegraph and others publish Cuckoo image

The UK's Telegraph newspaper and others have published Richard Nicoll's image of a Cuckoo chick ejecting a Reed Warbler egg from the nest.



Telegraph

University of Cambridge

e Science News

IFL Science

Dutch Groei & Bloei Magazine licenses Blue Tit image


The Dutch magazine "Groei & Bloei" has licensed an image of a Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) eating Elder Berries (Sambucus nigra) for publication in the February 2016 edition.



National Trust publishes images in July 2015 News from the Fen

Images of a Cuckoo, Avocets and Great Crested Grebe with chicks have all been published by the National Trust in their "News from the Fen" newletter to accompany articles about biodiversity and the launch of Prof. Nick Davies's book "Cuckoo - Cheating by Nature".







Bloomsbury licences Cuckoo images for Cuckoo book written by Prof. Nick Davies FRS

Published today by Bloomsbury the book "Cuckoo - cheating by nature" by Prof. Nick Davies FRS contains 8 of Richard's images each showing a different aspect of Cuckoo and Reed Warbler behaviour.



“This amazing detective story by one of the country's greatest field naturalists is also a fascinating study that solves many of the puzzles surrounding this most extraordinary bird” – Sir David Attenborough

The book takes the reader on a journey of discovery from the very beginning of human inquiry into the strange behaviour of Cuckoos right up the the present day research that Nick and his colleagues have carried out to try and determine how the Cuckoo gets away with its behaviour. Intermingled with this fascinating research are the stories of the people and places that have contributed to our current understanding, most notably Wicken Fen where Nick has spent the last 30 years studying the Common Cuckoo and where Richard first met him.

Richard Nicoll said "Nick has been an inspiration to me ever since I first met him and I am thrilled to have some of my images included in this great book."

RPS Journal Publishes Short-eared Owl Image

The RPS Journal has published an image of a Short-eared Owl hovering alongside details of an RPS outing to Wicken Fen to be held on the 14th of February 2015.



Hen Harrier and Bearded Tit Images published in "News from the Fen"

The National Trust's Wicken Fen have published images of a Hen Harrier coming into roost on Sedge Fen and a male Bearded Tit in the November 2014 issue of their newsletter "News from the Fen".



Wildlife Trust's License images for 2015 Calendar & Christmas Card

The Royal Society of Wildlife Trust's have licensed an image of a Marsh Harrier landing in a reedbed (taken at the National Trust's Wicken Fen reserve) for their 2015 Calendar (November) along with an image of a hare running in the snow for a Christmas card.





Cambridge News prints Cuckoo & Hare Images

Richard Nicoll's images of a Cuckoo flying amongst the reeds at Wicken Fen and of a Hare running in the snow have been printed by the Cambridge News (printed on 2014-09-05) to help advertise the Ely Photographic Club annual exhibition held over the weekend.





Richard Nicoll quoted in RPS Journal

A news item talking about the new Nature definition agreed by the FIAP, PSA and RPS in the July 2014 issue of the RPS Journal features a quote from Richard Nicoll regarding his investigations into ineligible images in International Exhibitions.




Image Copyright 2014 Miles Whitworth. This image was especially created for the article. Can you spot where this image breaks the rules?

Iris Magazine publishes new article on suspect nature images in International
Exhibitions


Richard Nicoll has had a new article about investigations into suspect images in International Exhibitions published in the Royal Photographic Society Nature Group's magazine "The Iris". This article is a follow up from a previous one and updates readers on the size and scale of the problem, highlights just a few of the images and the awards they have won and finally gives a call for exhibition organisers and patronisers to do more to combat the problem.

You can download a pdf of the article here.

Cuckoo Image shown live on BBC Springwatch

Richard Nicoll's image of a Cuckoo with a caterpillar in its beak was shown live on the BBC's Springwatch programme (broadcast on 2014-05-29) to illustrate how a Cuckoo appears to mimic a Sparrowhawk as part of its evolutionary battle with its host species.



BBC Nature publishes Coot image as part of 100th "Picture of the Day" Video

Richard Nicoll's image of a Coot running across the water at Wicken Fen has been published by BBC Nature as part of a video to celebrate the publication of their 100th Picture of the Day. This is the 3rd of Richard's images chosen for this feature out of the hundred.







Cheating Nature?
An investigation into suspect images in an international exhibition

I looked through the winning images in the nature section of a recent exhibition circuit's CD, which had just dropped through the door, (although this was entirely at random) to see what had won awards and perhaps to gain some insight into why my images hadn’t done so well. With a couple of years experience of taking nature images and putting them into the exhibition circuit I am always wanting to learn from the best and wonder at how they were achieved. Can I aim for something like that, how on earth did they do it, was it luck or just massive amounts of patience, what are their secrets?
Some of these images always seem to stand out to me. You know the ones I mean with the chicks being fed by multiple parents flying in with prey to an isolated nest with nothing obstructing your view on a very dark background all miraculously in sharp focus and backlit.
There is one image or I should say type of image as I can find at least 4 almost identical versions all by authors with different names, doing the exhibition circuit. It is of a fish jumping out of the water just about to catch a dragonfly. Let me focus on one image of the two very similar ones accepted into this particular exhibition.
I first noticed this image and one of the others when they both won gold medals at the same exhibition. At first glance all I can say is “WOW” if only I could have taken that, it has action, it has hunter and hunted, its sharp where it needs to be, it has no real distractions, is it just too perfect? I decided to take a closer look and found several issues that make me very suspicious:
1. Although the fish’s tail arches away from the viewer the end of its tail enters the water nearer the viewer than the large splash near its middle. The perspective just seems wrong.
2. Where the fishes tail does “enter” the water there is no refraction and the tail continues on as if going through the same medium.
3. The end of the fish’s tail reappears on a bright band at the bottom of the image and yet supposedly it is pointing straight down into the water.
4. I would expect to see some sort of reflection in the water of the fish (even if distorted by the turbulence of the splash) I cannot see any.
5. There are duplicate water drops on the left and right hand sides of the image and there is a large water drop near the top of the splash in the middle which is duplicated overlapping its lower jaw (there is also no refraction of the jaw through the water drop).
I am left wondering how anyone could think this was not a composite.
Let me move onto another image which seems to me more obvious that it should not be allowed in a Nature section. This is an image of a group of Whooper Swans on partially frozen water in front of a dramatic landscape. The part of the image where the water meets the mountain scape looked suspicious to me so I performed a google search using the authors name and title. Hey presto I found another image with a similar name by an author of the same name with the same group of swans in the foreground (simply a mirror image of them) and a completely different landscape in the background! I checked this out further by flipping one image, resizing it and placing it over the other one and they match almost perfectly.
The next image shows an image of a raptor carrying another bird in its talons (the raptors foot is wrapped around the neck of the bird) and has won several awards including in the Exhibition I am looking through. Having done a fair bit of searching by now I thought I had seen something similar elsewhere so I did a bit of googling and found another image by an author with the same name. Now comparing each bird carrying the prey item they are almost identical down to the places in the wings where the feathers split and the tones of light coming through them seem to me to be identical I have doubts whether either image meets the rules for Nature sections.
I remembered seeing other images with the species of blue bird dangling from a raptor elsewhere (although there is no identification of the species in the title which is another subject in itself) and did some more googling, other images came up by an author with the same name and once again I found what appear to be duplicates apart from an amphibian in one birds beak and not in the other. The first image has definitely been entered in at least one Nature section but I could not find by googling if the second image has. At the very least this shows how skilled the author is at digital manipulation.
Now onto another image that won an award in the exhibition CD I looked through. The image is of two large birds of prey in mid air (nicely separated) with one carrying a fish and the other attempting to snatch it. The birds are flying against a cloudscape which is sharp. Now I could not see how the subjects in the foreground could be sharp and the cloudscape in the far distance could also be sharp without using a short lens with a small aperture. Fortunately there is exif data with this jpeg (which I know can be faked but why fake it so that it doesn’t match your scene?) and it states that the image was taken at f/6.3 with a 280mm lens @ 1/1600 sec on a Nikon D300. Even if the subjects were 50m away say the depth of field would shallow to have the clouds sharp also. This makes me very suspicious that this image is in fact a composite.
All the above images won awards in this particular exhibition circuit.
Now judges have a really hard job in national and international exhibitions with the number of images to view along with the short period of time they have to provide a score. But from the perspective of the people who are entering legitimate images into these exhibitions they would expect that the rules are being pro-actively enforced and that images are being judged in a consistent manner. I have been truly shocked at the number of suspect images I have found from looking at just one CD from one exhibition circuit. This issue should be getting a high profile within the worldwide organisations patronising exhibitions (FIAP, PSA, etc) as it discredits the whole system of patronage, makes a mockery of the awards and devalues distinctions that are given on the basis of exhibition acceptances.
So how could these apparent irregularities be combated more effectively?
1. It seems to me that the rules for Nature sections are not actually being enforced. They need to be or exhibitions should loose their patronage.
2. Perhaps along with the voting buttons for judges there should also be one for suspect images that should automatically flag images for closer review after the judging process is complete.
3. As a minimum entrants should have to provide RAW files (or if only a jpeg is available the psd or other intermediate files used for processing) for all their accepted entries if one of their images wins an award. I know that some exhibitions already do this and Wildlife Photographer of the Year has proved that this is a useful tool. I am aware that there are of course ways of creating RAW files artificially but at least this might act as some sort of deterrent.
4. All rejections for serious infringements of the rules should be made public. I came across one entrant who had plagiarised another’s work, was formally stripped of his medals and publicly shamed in an exhibition catalogue.
5. More of us need to ask awkward questions about suspect images of exhibition organisers. In fact someone said to me when researching this that organisers would welcome this as their job is so hard.
I am sure that others can come up with more suggestions.
It seems to me that there are potentially some reasons organisers may be reluctant to be more pro-active:
1. Its just too much effort given the volume of entries to enforce the rules properly.
2. This may reduce the volume of entries they get and hence reduce their potential income and the prestige associated with their exhibition.
3. Some of the entrants may have reputations in the photographic world that would be called into question by such analysis/rejections which may have legal consequences.
Another catalogue has just come in the post. And the Gold medal for the Nature section goes to... You guessed it, its one of those fish miraculously caught jumping from the water and about to catch a dragonfly! My next task is to tactfully write to the organisers.

This article first appeared in the RPS Nature Groups Iris magazine.

National Trust publishes Hen Harrier images on information poster

The National Trust at Wicken Fen have published some of Richard Nicoll's Hen Harrier images on the new poster to highlight this species and its association with the Fen. Hen Harrier's use Sedge Fen as a place to roost during the late autumn/winter months and can be seen in the early morning before sun rise or the late afternoon after sunset coming in to roost.


National Trust publishes wildlife images in Wicken Fen magazine

Richard Nicoll's images of some of the bird life at Wicken Fen, including some of the rarer species such as Great Egret and Bearded Reedling, have been published by the National Trust in the November 2013 issue of "News from the Fen".



Hobbies at Wicken Fen



The Hobby (Falco subuteo, http://blx1.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob3100.htm) is a spectacular aerial predator hunting both insects and other birds such as swallows and swifts. When they first migrate from their African wintering grounds (they arrive back in the UK around or just after the time that Cuckoos/Warblers do) they seem to eat insects, snatching them out of mid-air with their talons and eating them on the wing. I first came across them in the spring/autumn of 2011 at the RSPB's Lakenheath Fen Reserve in Suffolk (there have been reports of over 60 in the air at once during May). The Hobbies always seemed to be too far away or high up in the sky to get reasonable images and my attempts at photographing them resulted in very poor images.

The cool and wet spring conditions of 2012 produced far better opportunities for getting close to the subjects. The low temperatures meant that when there was an eruption of Mayflies they would be very sluggish (sometimes not even taking off) and remained close to the ground. This combined with the particular geography of the National Trust's Wicken Fen around Wicken Lode (in effect a narrow man made water course running between two rows of trees which were not very tall) allowed a much closer view of their hunting behaviour.

At least 12 Hobbies were seen at any one time hunting up and down the lode (this is the most anyone had seen at the one time at Wicken Fen according to Prof. Nick Davies who has been visiting Wicken to study Cuckoos for the last 30 years) The Hobbies would swoop from side to side landing in the trees when they wanted a rest. Black-headed Gulls were competing with the Hobbies to snatch the insects out of the air in their beaks. I had in my mind some of the images that I would like to get but could I get any that do justice to this natural spectacle?

I waited in a suitable spot on most afternoons for a few weeks (the Hobbies seemed to be more active then as more insects were flying in the warmer air) Using my bag hide as camouflage the Hobbies would fly so close I could have touched them. However there were quite a few other people around and maybe due to wanting to fuel up after their long migration they seemed to be less wary of humans than I would have expected. Trying to capture such fast moving subjects flying so close was not easy and it took many attempts to get something worthy of the subject. Could I get any decent images of these incredibly acrobatic hunters? I will let others decide on that.

National Trust Publishes images in Wicken Fen magazine

Richard Nicoll's images of a Marsh Harrier with prey and a Kingfisher have been published in the summer edition of the "News from the Fen" magazine.



BTO License Hobby image for Bird Atlas 2008-2011

The British Trust for Ornithology have licensed the Gold medal winning image of a Hobby just before it catches a Mayfly in its talons for their soon to be published Bird Atlas. The atlas documents the distribution and breeding of bird species throughout the UK and Ireland.



Hare Running Image Licensed for Christmas Card by Dorset Wildlife Trust

Richard Nicoll's image of a Brown Hare running through fresh snow with all four paws off the ground has been licensed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust for use in their range of Christmas cards for 2012. You can buy these cards through Richard's website.

The greeting in the cards reads "With All Good Wishes for Christmas and the New Year". They measure 210mm wide x 99mm deep, are printed on environmentally friendly card and come in packs of 10 cards. The price of £4.50 per pack includes postage and packing in the UK.



RPS Iris Magazine Publishes Short-eared Owl Article

The Royal Photographic Society's Nature Group magazine "The Iris" has published an article about Short-eared Owls by Richard Nicoll in its Winter issue. You can read the article here.


National Trust License Short-eared Owl Image for Regional Newsletter

Richard Nicoll's image of a Short-eared Owl in flight has been used by the National Trust's "Near You" newsletter going to around 220,000 members in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.



National Trust use Short-eared Owl Image at BirdFair 2012

Richard Nicoll's image of a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) flying directly towards the camera has been licensed by the National Trust for use on a poster at BirdFair 2012. This image was taken on Burwell Fen part of the National Trust's Wicken Fen reserve.



Cuckoo image published in AAAS Science Journal

Richard Nicoll's image of two male Cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) fighting in mid air has been licensed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and published in volume 337 of their prestigious journal Science on the 3rd August 2012. Many thanks to Dr. Rose Thorogood and Professor Nick Davies of Cambridge University for all their help.



RSPB License Swift Image for Press Release

Richard Nicoll's image of two swifts with the sun catching the undersides of their wings has been licensed by the RSPB for use in a press release highlighting the "disastrous" breeding season they have had this year. In addition this has also featured on the front page of the BBC News website.



BBC Springwatch shows Hobby image live

The BBC's Springwatch TV programme (broadcast on Thursday the 14th of June 2012) has shown an image of a Hobby in flight just about to catch a Mayfly in its talons. This spectacular image was taken by Richard Nicoll at the National Trusts Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire.


You can find more images of Hobbies in flight on Richard's Flickr photostream.

National Trust Publishes Article about Richard Nicoll's Photography

Wicken Fen National Trust property has licensed several images and published an article about Richard's photography in the spring edition of its Newsletter. The Newsletter is distributed to premises in the surrounding area of Cambridgeshire and available at the Wicken Fen visitor center.



Cambridge Evening News publishes Hen Harrier Image

The Cambridge Evening News has published a Hen Harrier image taken at Wicken Fen on the 8th of March 2011 as part of an article about these rare birds of prey in the edition published on 4th of February 2012.



Hen Harriers have been roosting on Wicken's Sedge Fen for many years during the winter months. They come in to roost just as it is starting to get dark and leave again shortly before the sun rises. At least 6 have been seen there this winter, including a male.

You can find more Hen Harrier images taken by Richard at Wicken Fen here.

Kestrel mobbing Short-eared Owl Image BBC Winterwatch Photo of the Day

BBC Winterwatch has chosen Richard's image of a Kestrel mobbing a Short-eared Owl as its photo of the day on 2011-12-09. This image was taken at the National Trust's Wicken Fen reserve:

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BBC Autumnwatch shows Short-eared Owl Image live

The BBCs Autumnwatch Unsprung programme featured a flight image of a Short-eared Owl flying directly towards the camera. This image was taken at the
National Trusts Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire.


Another image of a Short-eared Owl hunting has also been featured on the BBCs "red button" service.


BBC Autumnwatch Choose Short-eared Owl image as "Photo of the Day"

BBC Autumnwatch have chosen one of Richard's Short-eared Owl images as their "Photo of the Day" on Flickr.


This image was taken at the National Trusts Wicken Fen.

Wicken Fen Vision Blog features Owl Images

The blog of the Wicken Fen Vision Warden has featured links of images of Short Eared, Little and Barn Owls taken by Richard Nicoll.

See: http://wickenvision.blogspot.com/

The Short Eared Owls have just arrived having presumably migrated from the continent. They have been interacting with the resident Kestrels with some spectacular aerial displays. Well worth a visit.