Wednesday, 29 December 2010

End of Another Year

With my being laid up with the Flu over the Christmas period, I’ve not managed to get out and about, but instead had a go at revamping the look of my blog.  It’s become traditional at this time of year that television channels create cheap programmes by re-hashing what’s happened over the year, so unashamedly, I bring you 2010 through my Camera.

It’s actually been a disappointing year for me, especially from a photographic point, with many of the opportunities and sights available to me in previous years, not happening this year.  This may have had something to do with the weather as the year started off colder and snowier than normal effecting the survival of many wildlife.  With temperatures below freezing, Grey Squirrels were more approachable and very photo generic.




As usual, the beginning of the year was slow but I did get my first opportunity of seeing and photographing Barn Owls, unfortunately these were lost when my hard drive crashed before I had backed them up and no future sightings of this beautiful owl were seen.

Around the same time I made my biggest photographic purchase – a Sigma 500mm lens.  A second hand copy came up at a bargain price and after initial doubts I took the plunge and haven’t looked back, it’s a great lens and does everything I could want of it going past my expectations.  Since then, lenses, even second hand, have gone up so I was lucky to get it when I did.  It’s opened up new opportunities for me allowing me to get that little bit closer to wildlife and yet not be too heavy that I can’t walk about with it.


A nice surprise in spring was to see Red Squirrels again on Tyneside.  It had been a few years since seeing them last as the Greys slowly move northwards replacing them.  Unfortunately, this was the only time I did see them this year with sights in Northumberland also becoming rarer.  It seems inventible that it will become extinct from mainland UK.


It felt like I spent the first half of the year waiting for summer or at least some decent warm, sunny weather.  With the end of May and beginning of June being promising and with ‘experts’ saying the last time we had as colder winter as we did was back in 1976 then if was followed by a hot summer, it seemed this might be a good year, but no sooner than the good weather came, it was gone again -  back to a ‘normal’ June.


Despite being a little cool and often overcast, I made the most of the days I could with the coast being especially productive despite the endless stream of dog walkers ignoring signs and the enjoyment of others.  Unlike other years previously, opportunities for photographing certain wildlife seemed scarce, particularly Foxes.  I had particularly hoped to get the iconic image of Fox cubs playing outside their den and had the previous year, found out a quiet location.  Unfortunately after spending many a mosquito ridden hour waiting, it was obvious that the den was no longer in use. However, one Fox encounter I did have was very memorable when one came up within close distant and, despite my being in plain sight, it didn’t see me and eventually went on it’s way.  It was one of those times where just watching was more important than trying to photograph wildlife as using my camera would have scared it away.


With the summers breading season well in swing came opportunity of photographing this years young including one of my favourite places along the river Tyne where Sand Martins nest.


While still waiting for summer to arrive, spring came!  With this came plenty of chances of colourful photographs and, for the first time this year I was finally able to photograph some Kingfishers.  The last and best time came a week before the big freeze when a Kingfisher unexpectedly came within metres of me, but unfortunately had my converter on and was almost too close making a good sharp, clean shot difficult, that and having a slow card in my camera which soon had the buffer filling up.


Winter came early this year, ending 2010 much as how it started with record low temperatures and amounts of snow.  I seem to be one of the few people around who actually has enjoyed the snow.  However, it’s easy to forget how bad this can be for the wildlife not used to these kind of conditions.  No doubt it will have a negative impact on the coming year, already owl sightings are down and no doubt Kingfisher numbers will suffer again.  Plans for the coming year?  I think I will spend more time with my landscape photography.  Wildlife wise I’m hoping to photograph Short Eared Owls if they make a come back as well as Little Owls and Barn Owls.  Foxes will be on top of my list as usual, especially cubs.


Hopefully, 2011 will bring new opportunities as well as a bit of good fortune. 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Momentary Respite

After over two weeks of snow, I got up early today to find most of it suddenly gone, just some compact icy parts which I had to navigate over without slipping and breaking my neck as I made my way in the dark down the street.  It seemed strange to be able to plant my feet on real terrafirma instead of snow.  It was almost a clear sky and a cool 3 degrees though still quite dark when I reached the coast and the sky was turning a beautiful orange colour as the sun started to rise.

I never get bored with watching the sun rise, there’s something special about it – the colours and you can actually see the sun rising.  With the view I had I thought I would set up my long lens and try and photograph the sun close up, something I have never tried before, obviously making sure I didn’t give my eyes some ‘laser treatment’.  As I waited for the big moment I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and swung my lens around just in time to see a Fox bounding across a patch of short grass into some bushes.  Unfortunately, my camera set up was for a small aperture in readiness for the bright sun and so I could only get a 1/40th of a second shot off in the gloom, before it disappeared.

Back to the sunrise, I was able to take a few images before the light became too strong, with the last perfect timing as some birds took to the air.


With the sun now well and truly up and the light improving I headed down to the waterline.  I wasn’t expecting much as I new the tide was going out which is not the best time to photograph shore birds as they will be moving away from you, however, after settling myself down a few Oystercatchers and Redshanks came into lens range.

After a while I headed back to where I had seen the Fox in the off chance it may return, and had a sandwich to eat which attracted a Robin.  I broke off some bits for it and left them close by which it soon came for though it was too close to photograph.  The Fox didn’t return not surprisingly.  Looks like I’m not going to get a decent shot of one this year.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Cold Snap Continues

There’s something about the woods in winter when there is snow on the ground, that I love. It seems more peaceful and quiet than normal, probably helped by being a ‘balmy’ –1 so nobody else seemed to share my enthusiasm for being out, but also there was no wind making it very silent but for some occasional bird sounds.  From a wildlife photographic point of view, it was not so good and even the enticement of the nuts and seeds I brought along wasn’t having the effect I was hoping for though I would normally stay a bit longer so the birds would get used to my presence, but I didn’t bring a ground sheet along to sit on so I was only able to stop in places for short periods of time before the damp cold forced the need to start moving again.

I stopped off at a couple of places I knew Roe Deer would cross on the way back to their daytime hold ups and on one occasion got lucky as two deer came out into the clearing and shooting my shutter was enough to stop one of these inquisitive deer to look my way and buy me time to frame and focus my shot before it indifferently moved on back into the trees.

Roe Deer

Despite the seemingly bareness of the woods, everywhere I looked there were tracks.  It’s not until you get a dusting of snow that you can really see the tail tell signs of just how much wildlife there really is living here though mostly nocturnal.  In many places there wasn’t a spot which didn’t have some type of animal track of some sort – mostly Foxes, Roe Deer and Rabbits – some obviously very recently, others older. 


This has definitely been the coldest and most prolonged snowy period in a long time, certainly since I have lived in the North East of England.  Having this amount of snow seems to have changed the landscape, where normally you can see clearly defined parts of the wood or countryside, the snow has covered much of this – fences, hedges, boundaries have all been whitened out making it seem bigger and unrecognisable.  Looking at the same spot in the above image normally at just about any other time of year, you would not see more than a couple of feet as it would be high reeds in marshy water.

Despite not seeing much wildlife if was a useful time out as I was able to find out what wildlife was around, where they normally travelled and their numbers, information I can put to good use during the rest of the year.