Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Twelve Months of 2012

As 2012 draws to a close and with the new year soon to be upon us, in true tradition I thought I would look back over the year using photographs that didn’t make it into my blog, mostly due to their being slight variations.  Too be honest, 2012 hasn’t been the best of years for me – personally or from a photographic point of view, so I’m not sad to see the back of it.  However, despite my often lacking motivation and it being officially the wettest year on record, there were some moments weather permitting.


This month carried off where the pervious month ended with lots of sights of wintering Short Eared Owls, although photo opportunities were difficult due to the very poor light and distance, being owls, they are just a great sight to watch hunting.  Unfortunately, probably due to the long periods of rain and flooding of many of the areas they used at the beginning of the year, their numbers have been greatly reduced and more dispersed this time.


Typical distances experienced.  Taken with a 500mm lens + converter


A lucky closer fly by


Although this month was milder than the same time the previous year, it still felt very much like winter – damp, dark and miserable and the usual growing activity of wildlife wasn’t there.  Usually a good time to see Roe Deer, I barely saw any never mind having any photographic opportunities.  It wasn’t just the woods that seemed quiet, the lakes, rivers and even beaches seemed devoid of activity.


The one guaranteed bird you will find on a lake – the trusty Swan


A Wigeon was about the most exotic bird around on this lake


March last year was a flurry of activity for me, not to mention an opportunity for one of my favourite photographic subjects – Rabbits.  But where were they? Not a bunny in sight.  Their warrens were abandoned and there were just a few sightings.  There had been plenty of young born the previous year, so what had happened?  Predication?, disease?, human intervention?  I may never know that one, but hopefully a visit this year will see their return.  One positive out of an another quiet month was the sighting of a Red Squirrel in a Tyneside Wood where they’re otherwise become extinct due in no small part by the Grey Squirrels push north.


Typical, quiet woodland scene for this month – still little sight of Roe Deer


Definitely a slow month with the weather changing little from the previous two months and temperatures rarely getting into double figures.  Again, normally my calendar would be taken up with photographing Roe Deer and the arrival of young Rabbits but the only mammal to cross my lens in this month was a Rat which came by as I waited in anticipation of photographing Foxes!


Brown Rat making an appearance whilst I quietly waited for bigger quarry


May was finally showing signs that nature was waking up despite the damp weather.  Courting birds, Dippers feeding their early fledglings and Grey Squirrels chasing away rivals.  This year I’d hoped to finally break my ‘duck’ and photograph Fox cubs, but a den found the previous year had been abandoned and Foxes seemed much more scarcer this year possibly linked to one of the main prey, Rabbits, also being rarer.


Inquisitive Grey Squirrel tempted my some of my pack lunch


Normally a bad time for wildlife with dawn arriving very early in the morning and dusk late at night, foliage hiding birds and mammals alike and any venturing out into many areas results in being sucked dry by mosquitoes.  However, it has now become the one time of year I look forward to and plan so that I can visit the Farne Island, timing it for just the end of June when the Puffins are madly feeding their chicks.  This year, the weather on the day was perfect and, despite the concerns on the islands that the wet weather would flood their nests, I was able to fill up a few cards with plenty of images as they seemed to have weathered..well, the weather. Though I was not able to, I keep hoping to get iconic image showing a close up of a Puffin with Sand Eels in its beak.  A tricky shot due to the problem that as quick as they land, they get ‘mugged’ by waiting gulls, so their landing is usually a case of flying straight into their dens and crash landing at the entrance.

Definitely the highlight of my year and a recommendation for anybody who can visit a Puffin colony.


Having a good scratch outside its nesting burrow


Off out to sea


Landing back at the nest without a catch


Recently, I’ve tended to have a calendar of events for certain times of the year, and in July I visit the Sand Martins along the banks of the River Tyne.  However, they tend to change their nest locations each year by moving a hundred yards or so up or down from the previous year.  This years location was not good from a photographic point of view as I couldn’t get a decent view point as I had managed in previous years.  Another nesting area is the gull colonies which make for a great opportunity to practice birds in flight camera techniques.


About the best views I managed of Sand Martins this year


A Gull nesting precariously on a cliff ledge


The lack of anything in August was more down to my motivation and dealing with personal problems and with the little time spent out, little success came of it.  I’d still hoped for some success with Foxes and Roe Deer but both remained elusive.


A very brief encounter with a Roe buck


September, normally I time for landscaping opportunities, unfortunately continued for me where August left off so there was a large gap in my blogs during this part of the year.


Autumn look


I made a concretive effort to get out in October, despite my morale being low.  This month brings its own opportunities as dawn is becoming later as to make it easier to get up and be on location by sunrise and it can still be reasonably mild at that time.  This makes it an ideal time for taking landscapes and a time of year I often take my camera, tripod and filters down to the coast.  Timing ideal conditions – weather, tides, etc, can be difficult and what should have been a partly cloudy start to the day and with a sunrise through broken clouds turned out to be completely overcast and foggy.  I wasn’t unhappy with this as it gives other photographic opportunities though not so much for the shoreline waders as it was simply too dull to take decent images.


The blue cast given by an early, foggy and overcast morning just before sunrise


A flock of waders flying through the dim, misty morning


Just before the fog lifted gave a different image opportunity of the much photographed St Marys Lighthouse


As part of my calendar at this time of year, my hopes are of photographing Kingfishers by areas of waters such as lakes or large ponds – better than the dark light of rivers.  Any earlier and the water is full of plant life or fallen leaves.  Any later and the water may be frozen or the Kingfishers have moved to wintering grounds.  Its one of the few times I will use a public hide, partly because I like the challenge and freedom of photographing wildlife ‘out in the field’ but also I prefer peace and quiet and my experience of many people who use the hides are of other photographers who have no patience, etiquette or genuine interest in the wildlife.  They simply drive straight to the hide dressed head to toe in camouflage and set their camera to as many frames per second they can squeeze out of their camera whilst talking to each other loudly and constantly. 

Anyway, one such visit didn’t have any success photographically though a Kingfisher was sighted but stayed in the distance much to the annoyance of two of the said photographers who seemed to be taking it very personally.  I was tempted to tell them that the areas the Kingfishers were perched was where they could fish because the water was free of fallen leaves – the areas closer to the hide were not.

Later that month success was had in open an clearing in woodland with a visit of a Woodpecker and in perfect conditions.  Normally I see them in dark areas of woodland, but this time I got lucky.  I also got lucky with a few more glimpses of Roe Deer which had been eluding me all year – one planned and one by chance.


Moorhen on a ‘Kingfisher perch’


An opportunity too good to miss with this woodpecker


Unusual sight of a Roe Deer in the middle of the day by a busy lane


Spurred on by the success of the previous month, I decided to head to Northumberland in the hope to see Red Squirrels, somewhere in the north east they can still be found in reasonable numbers.  After placing some food down and waiting quietly, it wasn’t long before the first arrival and I ended up spending the morning watching the single individual who seemed as curious of me as I was interested in it. 

In-between the exceptional wet spell we’ve had, I tried another sunrise photo session but this turned out brief due to condition of all four batteries of my recently unused 5D, despite seeming ok the night before after charging them.  For my last outing of the year, I guess that and the current poor weather conditions sums up 2012.


Red Squirrel checking me out


Taken minutes before the camera batteries packed in


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