Sunday, 6 November 2011

Red Squirrels Revisited

After my previous and unexpected encounter with Red Squirrels earlier this week, I thought I would go out again this time with the intention of trying photographing them properly using more ideal equipment.  I new it was going to be a long shot – the chances of them being there again in such numbers (they’re normally rare around here) was slim, but I figured they were out in force because of the abundant food supply of Autumn Beech Nuts and so were stocking up for Winter so they might still be around.


Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t so good on arrival, it had been raining early morning and was still overcast and dull, so as I positioned myself in the same spot as before, set my camera at maximum ISO (6400) though, in the dark shelter of the woods, at best I was getting 1/200th of a second shutter speed at this stage – not ideal.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to see much, but within twenty minutes I spotted my first Red, down on the floor digging through the leave litter but too far away to bother trying to photograph.

SMP_3171One of the things I like about sitting in a quiet wood with nobody else about, particularly early morning, is just to listen to the various sounds around. Because of the recent rain, the wood canopy was still soaking and water was falling as if it was still raining, making a background noise as it hit the falling leaves on the ground.  This made it difficult to hear other noises as normal, though I could still hear various sounds – Blue and Great Tits, Magpies giving off warning calls, rustling in the tree tops and chattering from the Red Squirrels and over cautious Pidgins every now and then taking flight making a clatter with their wings.  Occasionally I would hear a more distinct ‘rustle’ which could only be made by a much larger animal.

I was positioned in a dipping slope and had my lens set up pointing towards where I expected to see the squirrels, but to my left a particular rustling got closer and closer when out of the corner of my eye about six metres away I could see a Roe Deer looking at me.  These are very curious animals, and with my back against a tree and netting over my lens, it probably wasn’t completely sure about me and I avoided looking directly towards it, hoping it would just ignore me, but a loud bark made it obvious that he was alerted to my presence and he quickly moved away for a short distance before again stopping to look back at me.  I was able to take a couple of pictures, though at 1/40th of a second, hand held with a 500mm lens they weren't very good.  He then vanished into the undergrowth, barking loudly as he went.

With only glimpses of the Reds and the light not improving, I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to be my day so just decided to have a wonder through the woods.  It’s interesting how, in a mixed type woodland, one part can be so completely different from another.  As I walked along I went from one part which was brightly coloured with the falling leaves, full of the sounds of song birds, to a part of the woods which became noticeably colder and completely without a sound – not even the water drops hitting the ground, it was a bit creepy though the reason for this, I’m sure was the lack of tree foliage which gave less cover for birds and being more open so more exposed and colder.

Eventually, as I approached a patch of woods similar to the one where I previously sat, I noticed a movement on the ground in the distance – I was in luck – another Red Squirrel.  I sat down from a distance and made myself confortable hoping it would eventually move closer.  Watching, it followed a typical pattern of finding food sometimes eating it on the ground but usually going up into a mid height branch it eat it and groom.


Although there were others around that I could see and hear, this was the only one on the ground or getting anywhere near to photograph.  It’s ironic that when I had my 300mm lens they were much closer.  Now that I had my 500mm they were much further away and I was in fact, getting a less closer shot than on the previous occasion despite having an actual magnification of double than before!  Being marginally brighter, it was still below what was needed to prevent camera shake and movement blur.  To add to this, whilst in the trees, the squirrel was moving between areas of darkness to bright back lit patches making exposure very difficult.  Most of my images were blurred, over or under exposed and not one was I completely happy with but they do help to illustrate the events the day.


1 comment:

  1. What lovely images Fraser, of a stunning creature. I really liked the last set too taken with the 300mm.