Sunday 25 April 2010

A few from around Tyneside

Visited various locations around my local patch on a warm and mostly sunny day to see what I could photograph and came up with a mélange of the following.

Kestrel hovering at St. Marys

Hovering Kestrel

Roe Deer grazing at Gosforth


Heron fishing


Plain old Pigeon


Male Mallard Duck




Saturday 17 April 2010

Spring has finally sprung…Part II

With the weather finally throwing together more and more decent days of almost summer like weather, I headed out with my camera.  With the approaching summer comes the lighter mornings which are a mixed blessings.  On the downside the morning ‘Golden hour’ is obviously getting earlier – this time isn’t only good for landscapes but it’s when a lot of wildlife are active, many nocturnal animals are finishing their ‘nightshift’ and returning to their day holdups.  The plus side is the light is better for photographing with long lenses.  At 8:30am, the woods were lit up by a sun that was already quite high in the sky, with sunrise being two and a half hours before.

By now, I should have learnt to have my camera ready as soon as I hit location as within five minutes of walking into the woods I heard a rustling coming towards me, then suddenly there was a Fox running in my direction out of nowhere which stopped in front of me about fifteen feet, sat down, panted a bit and looked around.  I froze  knowing it would at any moment see me standing there and get one hell of a fright  and be off a darn sight quicker than it came, but amazingly it didn’t look in my direction.  It stood up, looked around again – not in my direction – sniffed the ground around it and then started walking away.

My camera was in my backpack and so I thought I would quietly get this off and take it out and with luck get a shot of it walking away, but before I could it came back again, still looking around but again not in my direction.  How could it possibly not see me standing there in the open!   It slowly walked passed, even closer than before, sniffing the ground and again I thought it was going to see me any moment – it didn't except it just continued up a wooded path.
I finally managed to get my pack off and camera out.  I new where the fox was going as thanks to all the tracks in the snow in winter I new where all their runs where so new where I might see it again and thanks to my newly acquired powers of invisibility, I might be able to get a photo of it this time. 

To be honest, I think even if I did have my camera ready, I wouldn’t have taken a photograph of it.  It was so close that  if it didn’t see me move it would have certainly have  heard the shutter and seeing a human so close to it would have given it a major fright and somehow this would have spoilt what felt like an amazing moment.  I’ve been close to Foxes before but I’ve always been hidden or concealed in some way.  The Fox would hear the shutter, look in my direction, but with their eye sight not being that acute, tend to just stare in my direction, not being able to make me out.  This Fox would have had to be blind not to know exactly what I was.  I follow my own set of  rules in photographing wildlife and one is to not  put any undue stress on the animals – no more than I would if I was a person simply walking through the woods – probably less so since I make little noise and keep still if I am spotted.

With my camera and lens now unpacked and ready I started out to a point I thought I would be able to see it walk down a long path, but before getting there, stumbled upon three Roe Deer.  My powers of invisibility must have warn off because they did see me, so I stopped still as did they and starred at me.  As with Foxes, Roe Deer don’t have great sight and so they tend to stare at you to see if you are a threat.  After a quick stand off, they continued on their way and with the Fox likely to be long gone, I continued on my way.IMG_5796

One thing I’m good at is walking quietly through the woods.  One thing I am not good at is concentrating  on what’s around me when I do, as I tend to start thinking about other things which is when I suddenly come face to face with some wildlife – I’ve done this twice with a Sparrowhawk on its kill, Foxes and today, on three occasions, with Deer.  If was paying more attention, I would have seen them earlier and managed to take a good photo, as I’ve often managed in the past. (See image right taken with a 300mm lens).

After seeing plenty but photographing little I decided to head for the wetlands area hoping to maybe see my first Kingfisher of the year.  No Kingfishers.  I wonder if the bad winter has taken its toll on them.  There was a few birds including the one below.  I’m not an expert on Ducks but I believe this below is a Garganey and quite rare in these parts.


The only other activity were a couple of Reed Buntings which were precariously perching to and from reeds that swayed and bent under their weight.  Unfortunately, later, I realised I had forgot to return the over exposure compensation I had set on my camera, which has caused these to look a bit ‘washed out’.

With the large amounts of snow and rain we’ve had this year, quite a few parts of this area were partly flooded which will mean it will probably be even worse than last year for Mosquitoes, so I will have to make the most of the comings months until the little blood sucking vampires hatch.  This should give me time to photography Fox cubs this year, something I’ve set myself to do in 2010.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Spring has finally sprung

Up early on what promised to be a rare sunny and mild day and arrived at location with high hopes of seeing a variety of wildlife.  I thought I'd try out my 500mm lens for the first time in a wooded environment to see how it would cope.  It wasn’t long before I saw three Roe Deer in the distance, unfortunately, there was a lot of trees and branches in between making it hard to get a clear shot of them and found my camera struggling to focus through this.

I tried to get closer to them but a Magpie making alarm calls behind me meant the Deer kept looking up in my direction and eventually they disappeared into a denser part of the wood.



Further along I caught a glimpse of a flash of red out of the corner of my eye which to my surprise, turned out to be a Red Squirrel scampering half way up a tree.  I was completely taken back by this, having not seen any Red Squirrels here for a few years, this being about the  last remaining refuge of them in the Tyneside area.  I remember years ago enjoying watching these Squirrels in most of the woods around here until the ‘tree rats’, err, I mean Grey Squirrels, took over and the Reds all but disappeared. 

I have to admit, there is something cute about the Reds, they also seem quite fearless and curious.  If you stumble across a Grey, they will scamper up a tree and halfway across the wood before you know it.  This one was on the ground when it saw me, then went part of the way up the tree, looked at me and then went a little further up where it then decided to scorn me for interrupting it, with a chattering noise.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

Even as I passed by, it still remained in the tree and just watched me as I went by.  I decided not to stay, and left it in peace.

Further along still I stumbled across another three Roe Deer which moved through into some high grass and again, struggled to focus on them, once more, I put it down to the foliage in between.  It wasn’t until I sat down to view what I had taken so far that I realised I had left my focusing on the ‘ring of fire’ as the last time I was out with the camera I was photographing birds in flight with which this focusing option is ideal – a single image with an uncluttered background – the exact opposite of what I had been trying to photograph now, doh!



As I approached the lake, I nearly stood on this little guy, a toad just sitting there in the sun, totally indifferent to me.  I managed to get down and close to get some eye to eye images.  A number of times I have heard of photographers finding a frog or toad and have moved it to a log or leaf to get a ‘better’ picture which I think is completely wrong.  No animal should be caused stress for the sake of a photograph.





At the lake itself it was very quite, just the usual Mallards, Coots and a pair of Swans.  Overhead, high up, was a Buzzard, sailing the thermals.  I also saw my first butterfly of the year – maybe summer is really on the way!



As it was getting late morning I figured I wasn’t going to see much of what I came to see, out and about anymore and was about to put my camera in by backpack when two Roe Deer crossed the path in front of me, the first saw me and moved quickly the second just looked at me as I stopped still so I managed to take a few images but hand held with the 500mm (not image stabiliser) at 1/250th – I didn’t think they would turn out.  I guess years of using none IS lenses has paid off.  He eventually trotted off indifferently.  

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After some four hours in and around the woods on a mild, sunny, spring morning, I had seen 13 Roe Deer, 3 Rabbits, 3 Red Squirrels two Toads, various birds including 3 Pheasants and the Buzzard.  What really made it feel like summer was not just the weather but the noise in the wood.  Every living creature seemed to be either showing off or competing, I even heard Tawny Owls at midday calling to each other.

For the final part of the day I headed to Far Pastures where a Heron has been a regular visitor recently.  Soon after arriving, so did the Heron.  I’m intrigued by Herons and admire their patience, though this one didn’t require much as there was no shortage of food for it in the small lake, finding small fish, newts and frogs.

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With the Heron flying off, I too decided to call it a day after nine hours, all in all not a bad day out and about.