Saturday 30 April 2011

A Mornings Walk

How often Out for a walk this morning making the most of my continuing time off and decent weather, I had no plans to see anything or take any particular photographs and so decided to travel ‘light’, packing a 400mm, 105mm macro and zoom wide angle lenses along with the camera.  Having been used to carrying around the 500mm lens, this seemed positively feather weight.

As it was early morning and overcast, I thought I could try taking some landscapes, something I haven’t done for a while apart from the odd chance one, but the sun came out making the light too harsh, so instead watched some Rabbits from a distance feeding in the tall grass.  Two them disappeared leaving just one by itself, which carried on feeding until nervously, bounding ten metres away then stopping and looking back.  I wasn’t really serious in taking photographs of them at such a distance and was just happy enjoying the sunshine and watching them, when suddenly a flash of reddish brown streaked towards the remaining one and chased it into some bushes – it was a Fox and I never even saw it coming!

Both it and the Rabbit disappeared into the undergrowth and it was over before I could train my lens onto the action.  I waited thinking the Fox was likely to return the same way as I had seen a Fox here before and knew its route.  I also felt the Rabbit would have probably been food for some cubs and didn’t really give much hope for its chances as it was heading away from the burrows when trying to escape and so had nowhere to go.  Ironically, 30 minutes before I was in a closer position, where had I remained, I would have had a front stand view of the incident.  A further

20 minutes and no sign of either so I went back to that previous vantage point hoping I might yet see the Fox returning.


Within minutes of being back in the position two Magpies were in the spot were Fox and Rabbit disappeared and both birds were making a typical warning sound so I new the Fox must still be around and so trained my lens where it might come out.  Normally I don’t like Magpies (from a photographers point) as when they make those warning sounds it ‘s usually because of me and I’m pretty sure other animals recognise these warnings too and so they are warned of my presence.  However, if I know it is not due to me then they can be a great help  for finding predators, having seen Foxes and Sparrowhawks before due to Magpies mobbing them.

This was one of those times as, out of the bushes, came the Fox.  Problem was I was upwind from it now and it must have got me scent of me almost straight away as it immediately looked in my direction, giving me barely a chance to focus and take one image, when it legged it across into some other bushes.  I don’t like to chase after wildlife, but even if I had done, I wouldn’t have had a chance of finding it in all that undergrowth and so decided to have a walk around and return later.  Had I been carrying around my camouflaged netting which I normally do, the Fox may not have been so spooked as at least I would have been hidden.


I returned back about and hour and a half later  to the position I first saw the Fox as this gave me the widest view point.  Within a short space of time I saw the unmistakable top half of a Fox in the tall grass going in the same direction it went when I spooked it.  Either it had come back during the time I had gone or this was a different one.  Once again I had picked the wrong spot though at least  I was downwind now.  I was starting to think packing ‘light’ was the wrong decision now – ironic since this was only the second time in over a year that I didn’t go out with the 500mm.  I managed to rattle off a few shots before it once more disappeared into the grass. 

In the photograph below, you can see the original bushes just above and beyond the top of the Fox, where it had originally chased the Rabbit into.


With the Fox gone I carried on walking around and nearly trod on this Toad.  I wonder how many of us actually look around us and at where we are walking when we are out in the wilds.


With the morning coming to an end and little else stirring, I thought I would try my hand at some bird in flight shots.  Something I’ve never really tried to do but with the a Mk IIn camera and Canon 400mm, renown for being ideal for photographing birds flying, I messed around with the different settings and practiced on anything that flew by.  My feeble attempts at the Swifts didn’t go too well.  It was hard enough just to keep them in the frame, never mind keep them in focus! 

Photographing Crows and Rooks, which are black and Seagull, which are white also gave a few technical problems due to exposure and so tried compensation and spot metering.  The bright sunshine at least help me keep a high shutter speed and stopping down the aperture for a greater depth of field.  I hope to dedicate a few days out over the coming months to trying more birds in flight with the 400mm.


Thursday 28 April 2011

A Week in Spring

With holidays taken to fill in the period between the extra long bank holidays, I’ve had an extra period of time off and with the weather also being settled, I’ve managed to get out quiet a bit and enjoy spring.  This is a selection of the photographs taken around the Tyneside area.


A misty start to the morning along the banks of the Tyne



Sandmartins checking out possible nest sites



Mallard chicks


A visit to the woods and the new undergrowth of ferns is everywhere.  Another month from now and these will be thick,  high barrier hiding much of the local wildlife such as Roe Deer.  The biting insects are also starting to make their appearance though not as prolific yet.




Peacock Butterfly


A Blackbird out in the early morning dew


Young Rabbits enjoying the sunshine


Warbler in full song


Male and female Roe Deer making the most of Spring food supply


Sunday 24 April 2011

Some more Bunnies


Looking around the wildlife photographic community, you don’t seem to see much in the way of Rabbits – not quite sure why as I think they are photogenic and certainly have a certain ‘cute’ factor about them.  This week I decided to re-visit a Rabbit warren I went to last week and again, with a lot of patience, managed to come away with some decent images as well as a bit of an insight into their lives.

I approached them in the same way as last week and sat in the same spot downwind and waited. This week, remembering how my arms ached somewhat after holding the 500 lens despite on the monopod, I decided to use my camera bag where lens and camera nicely balanced while I waited.

Again, it was around 30 minutes or so before the first head popped out of of one of the many burrows and again, it was one of the younger ones who spent about 15 minutes watching me, presumably, checking me out to see if I was a threat.  Eventually, after much noise twitching, it went about its way and started feeding.  An obviously older Rabbit that came out of another hole, didn’t seem so certain, obviously a bit more of a cautious veteran and after sniffing the air a few times decided to go back inside.

The image right shows my set up and on the right hand side of this photo, just before the clearing and  below the final tree you can see one of the Rabbits at the typical distance they were from me, although some, like the one below, was closer.  You can also see on the bottom right one of the many stinging nettles that were all around me, not to mention a few biting insects that are now appearing with the warm weather.  Click on the image for a larger view.


Sniffing the air to check if it’s safe


I wasn’t the only one bothered by the insects – you can see a few around its head

After a while, even the older Rabbits came out and , like the one below, chased away the younger ones for the best feeding spots - in this case some leaves from low branches which it was just able to reach.  One of the reasons I have been watching and photographing these Rabbits is because of the chances of Foxes paying a visit – at this time of year they will have hungry mouths to feed and these Rabbits, especially the inexperienced young ones, would be a large part of their diet.  I will likely continue to spend a few more weeks yet watching these Rabbits, who knows what other opportunities may arise, even if no Foxes don’t turn up it’s quite interesting just watching the Rabbits and their behaviour and of course, they’re great as a photographic challenge.


This little one seemed to enjoy itself by just running around

Sunday 17 April 2011

Early Easter Bunny

It’s been a while since I’ve tried photographing Rabbits so I thought I would have a go this weekend.  I’ve normally found them quite difficult to do so as they tend to be nervous and, since small, you need to get close to them to get a decent size image in the viewfinder.

I sat downwind at a distance, from a active warren and made myself reasonably comfortable (there were nettles everywhere).  It was around 30 minutes with just the occasional head popping up and checking me out – I didn’t try and hide myself, just kept a low profile – when they eventually came out, one at a time at first then suddenly there was around eight.  Looking at them they seemed to be quite young one which is why maybe they were willing to tolerate me so much as they wandered around, though they were still easily spooked, as on one occasion a Crow flew over and they darted back into the tunnels.

From a photographic point of view I found it quite difficult due to the lighting.  The Rabbits would move from bright sunshine giving me 1/2000 to shade at 1/320 and played havoc with the metering.  I also found after an hour and a half my arms were aching a bit with the weight of lens and camera although the end of the lens was largely resting between my knees I was still holding the bulk of the weight in an awkward position.