Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bringing home the trash

When you think of a bird building its nest, you think of twigs, moss, leaves, maybe seaweed, but if you’re a residential bird that lives on a man made lake then you’ll take whatever is at hand (or beak).

Watching a couple of Great Crested Grebes building their nest and it was amazing to see how much rubbish, literally, they were using.  Various plastic bags, sweet and crisps and a various assortment of what was hard to identify was being used.  I can’t imagine any of the plastics would be of any practical use as the nest material would need to be insulating but it didn’t stop them finding and using them.  Where they found this man made ‘nesting material’ was also a bit of a surprise.  It was at the bottom of the lake which makes you wonder just how bad the lake is as on the surface it seems fine.

I suppose though, since birds take up residence there, it must ultimately be fine still, it does seem a bit strange to see a nest made up of Walker Crisps and Haribo sweet packets.

Great Crested Grebe

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Watching Roe, Watching Me

It’s been a while since my last post – work has occupied much of my time unfortunately and I’ve rarely been out in the last four months, but hopefully I will be back out and about.

My last few trips out have been visits to one of my favourite locations, especially now spring and the nicer weather has arrived.  It’s nice to see the various greenery, wild flowers and hearing, what at this time of year, is a deafening sound of song birds but the woods don’t feel really alive without the larger mammals there, especially deer and in the case of the woods in this part of the country, Roe Deer.  I believe they are the most common species of deer in this country and yet most people who have a stroll in their local woods will probably never see one, though they are there and their signs are everywhere.

For such a relatively large animal, they do a remarkable job of remaining hidden.  Even at this time of the year when the trees are missing their foliage and there is little to hide them in the way of ferns or long grass, they are still hard to see.  For me there are two ways to see them.  Find a time and location where they are and either sit still quietly (hidden) and wait, or walk quietly through the woods being very observant.  For my photography, I prefer the sit and wait approach though it can mean hours of waiting with no guarantee of success.  The following seven images were taken via this method.  Waiting at  a location I new they used and where the lighting was good enough to take good photographs.  Although the use of netting helped hide me and using quite mode on my camera, the deer still suspected something was up although they walked by, the shutter sound still made them stop and stare in my direction.

Roe Deer

Roe Deer

2 Roe Deer

Male Roe Deer

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Just after taking these last three images, I heard some rustling behind me, but because of my position, couldn’t turn around easily so kept still.  It is a little unnerving hearing that behind you whilst clearly getting closer.  Suddenly there was loud barking.  Clearly a male Roe Deer had come up behind me and must have been very close before being alerted by my presence.  It continued to bark whilst moving away and by the time I did turn around I couldn’t see him because of some undergrowth although he was still thrashing around, moving away for a while then coming closer again while all the time barking loudly.  After around twenty minutes he eventually left.

The remaining encounters were from those of walking around.  On two occasions I literally stumbled across them – one that was resting in the undergrowth the other I just didn’t see until the last moment.  Other times I saw them in the distance and then hoped they would walk to a location that was open so I could get a good image, but they weren’t being very cooperative and were walking the wrong way, always too far away or there was a branch or something distracting in the way.

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Above is the typical kind of scene I was coming across.  It looks empty and bare and yet the deer were there, you just had to look carefully.  Often I would look and in the distance see one or more deer in the distance looking right at me, watching me.  Below is a patch of woodland with no obvious signs of there being any deer, yet there are two of them watching.  The main scene was taking from my phone held on top of my long lens whist the two inserts are taken of at least two deer that I could see.  If you look carefully, one of them (right insert) can be seen but not the other which is much more hidden.

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Monday, 18 July 2016

All’s Quiet

After a bit more of an interesting recent month, it’s back down to ‘normal’.  I decided rather than plan anything inparticular recently, I would just go out and enjoy the day though I did hope on the two of the ocassions I did go out, that I might photograph some Roe Deer.  Unlike my sucess with the Foxes, I spent some three hours searching for a sight of a Roe but nothing, just a few tracks.  Large parts of the woodland were covered with a thick undergrowth, particularly ferns but still, I would have expected more.

As I was giving up I walked passed what I thought was a ray of sunshine shinning off a tree stump but after a few steps further, thought it might be a deer so walked back a  little.  There in the distance was a Roe staring right at me.  Their eyesight isn’t great, better at picking up on movement so I just stood still and waited, and waited, and waited and still it stared without flinching.  It was a case of who was going to move first which luckily it did first.  As it move off I thought I might be able to set up my camera at a location I thought it might pass by – a small clearing which, if I was correct, it would have to cross.  So this is what I did and waited.  After around 30 minutes I figured it must have gone in a different direction so got up and started to move away when I saw to my left barely five metres away, the Roe Deer followed by a little fawn.  How I didn’t see it before or it me while I was just standing there, I don’t know, but all I could do was watch it pass.  Any movement and it surely would see me and I didn’t want to scare it.  Strike on photo opportunity.

My second visit to the same woods proved equally futile and again I made my way back stopping at a clearing to enjoy the morning sun and the view.  After about a minute I noticed a male Roe, again about five metres in front of me just starting at me.  How did I not see it before and why did it not run off before?  Had it been there all that time or had it walked into view before noticing me?  It was another case of who could outstare the longest which again, I managed and it quietly walked into the undergrowth.

It’s amazing how an animal the size of a Roe Deer can just blend into the surrondings.  Admittedly, on both these occassions I had ‘turned off’ and lost concentration, having given up on seeing anything, but still!

Fox, Roe Deer tracks

Above – Roe Deer (left) and Fox (right) tracks together

Below – The type of countryside visited in recent weeks from woodland to grassy fields

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Another visit to the spot I photographed Foxes in early July, though the grass was even longer than before so when I did eventually see a Fox if was barely visable.  I could hear alot of alarm calls from a Blackbird so I know it was around in the area, I just couldn’t see it.

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A few shots from woodland areas of Grey Squirrels, Pheasants and a Jay.

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Within the wetland areas I tried a fancy slow shutter speed shot of a Tern hovering.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t face towards me which would have help make the shot.

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The final image was a macro attempt.  Strictly not macro though as it was taken with a 300mm lens and cropped.  I do have a 105mm true macro lens but I find this type of photography a completely different challange from what I normally do.  There’s no way I could have got close enough to this Dragonfly with a 105 lens.  Even at over 2 metres distance with the 300mm, I had to patiently ‘stalk’ it and this was taken at close to the lenses minumum focusing distance.  I think maybe why I’ve never really taken up this type of photography is because, to get the best results you need sunshine and low or zero winds, not at plentiful supply in this part of the world. On this occassion I didn’t have the latter and only some of the former.

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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Sleeping Fox

There’s often a story behind the taking of any photograph, especially with wildlife and on this occasion this was no different.  Having tried on numerous occasions in the last six months to photograph Foxes, without luck, it was seemingly just another attempt.  They can be surprisingly elusive, more typically nocturnal though at this time of year the cubs have been ‘kicked out’ of their home and so looking for their own territories.

Luck was on my side this time as I spotted a reddish brown clump of fur in a sea of greenery.  Already waist high in grass I just needed to cover my lens and top half with my trusty netting and settled for a wait, and wait I had to as after nearly 20 minutes of no movement I was starting to think the poor Fox may not be alive but a flicker of an ear proved otherwise.  Another 10 minutes or so and it woke up had a scratch, a quick look around, another scratch then back for a snooze.

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After I momentarily looked away then back the Fox, which had barely moved in 40 minutes, had got up and was disappearing into the long grass.  I thought that was probably the last I would see of it – there would be no point in trying to follow it, but was just the slim chance I could work my way around the direction it was taking where I could move quickly without being noticed, and maybe catch up with it further along.

I found a spot with a clearing and barely had time to set my camera up and haul my scrim netting over when it came right into the spot I had hoped it would.  I would like to say this was skill on my behalf but wildlife photograph and watching is made up largely of luck.  The Fox could have gone in any direction including doubling back or in the thick undergrowth, I could have just as easily not seen it, but here it was and not only that but in that one spot it then proceeded to take another nap!

The differences in the look of the images was due to the continuing change between dull and cloudy one minute to bright sunshine the next.  Due to the long grass obscuring a clear view, focusing had to be done manually.  Despite this many of the images came out a bit fuzzy although on a couple of shots it worked in my favour by giving the image a centre of focus.

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I had my camera set to ‘silent’ mode, though not completely silent it was enough not to disturb the Fox which slumbered but for the occasional stretch, yawn or glance around especially when a couple of Magpies made a noise presumably due to the this predator being in the area.

After over half an hour, being in some discomfort having not have time to ‘set up’, a combination of cramp and flies, I decided to quietly move away, leaving the still sleeping Fox none the wiser I was even there.  Moving slowly away with my netting now off, to my left in plane sight, was another Fox just staring at me.  With the very narrow sight of view I had under my netting and just seeing through the camera’s viewfinder, I hadn’t seen this one.  I don’t know if it had just came into sight as I moved away or if it had always been there but I barely got off a few shots knowing I had been well and truly spotted, before it was quickly off.  I’m guessing this second Fox explains why the Magpies were making so much noise earlier.

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I figured the other Fox, probably a sibling, would now also be alerted to my presence and be off but it was still asleep.  With legs now stretched I decided to stay another few minutes which was all it was before this other one woke up and started to have a look about, where it spotted something in the grass and before I knew it, had pounced and swallowed whatever it was, whole.  It then vanished into the long grass.

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As I left the way I had came, a final look back and noticed one of the Foxes watching me leave.  I thought it made a nice composition peering at me in a sea of grass.

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