Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Iconic Robin

Famed for it’s appearance on Christmas cards and for its pluckiness, the European Robin has to be my favourite song bird.  Whenever I’m out taking photographs of birds I can almost guarantee it will show up.  How often have I been out for the day, took out something to eat and out of nowhere a Robin will flutter in, looking for any scraps.  As a child helping out in my parents garden, digging or weeding, one of these would be quickly be in and around your feet, poking around the overturned earth looking for worms or various insects that had been exposed.  In winter when other birds are far more cautious, a Robin can be fed right out of your hand.   They definitely have a character of their own and seem to interact and look at you in a way other birds don’t.  Probably my most photographed bird simply through its regular appearance and willing to ‘pose’ for me.  These are a few from recent weeks.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

A bit of hit and miss

3:45am and I’m awake.  I had set the alarm for 5:30 for an early start with my planned visit of the weekend.  I could either try and go back to sleep and when the alarm wakes me I would probably feel really tired and unmotivated to get up, or I could just get up now and feel the effects of the lack of sleep later.  I choose the latter.  At least the forecast’s for sunny spells, although the brief mild weather is gone getting colder again.

Arriving on location by seven in the morning at my favourite woodland location, I planned to photograph Roe Deer.  I’ve been doing so here for about six years and have come to know the area well and, in particular, the habits of the small local population of the Deer that live here.  I have ‘my spot’ where I like to sit which is at an intersection of three routes used by the Roe coming in from their early feeding to their day time lay up.  There are two routes I can take to get there – the direct one which is usually uneventful or the longer one which is where the deer themselves follow or at least cross over in sections.  I decide on this route.  To make an analogy, it is like following a bus route.  The bus is only going every, say twenty minutes but stops every now and then.  Time it wrong and you might just always be behind (or ahead) of it and not see it.  Of course Roe deer are not a regular service (mind you nor are our local buses). 

If you are quiet, move slowly, and you're lucky with the timing, you might be able to come right up behind one or more of the deer who have stopped to feed on route.  Some of my best images were gained using this method and my small 300mm f4 lens.  Carrying a bigger lens as I was today, can be too slow and clumsy as you need to be quick and agile. 

It wasn’t long before I came across the first one but the recent strong winds had blown a lot of twigs and branches onto the woodland floor making stealth difficult, so it heard me before I saw it and, although wasn’t too alarmed by my presence, moved away.  Believing that was probably it for a while and because the part of the area I was moving into now I’d rarely seen any deer in the past, I sped up, taking less care.  Within a minute I stumbled across a male Roe who I hadn’t seen behind the tree ahead, metres away.  I don’t know who got the bigger fright!  Needless to say it ran off, making that barking sound that Roe do when alarmed. Magpies and then it seemed every other animal in a mile radius joined in the alarm chorus.  My ‘stealthiness’ was definitely blown.

No more sightings and I reached my planned location, made myself confortable and waited.  Because this was an intersection of three routes, I sat so that I could clearly see two of these either side of me with the third behind where they would cross by me either to my left or right.  With my back against a tree and netting draped over me I had to choose which direction set my camera up to point and I chose right.  After about fifty minutes I thought I had heard some noise behind me and turned to my left.  A big mistake as two Roe Deer were metres away and my movement alerted them to my presence and like my previous encounter both legged it.  Had I just stayed put and let them walk pass, I would have been in a better position to have photographed them.  Annoyed with myself, I decided to give up and move on.

Later I was able to photograph some smaller, but more obliging critters so the day wasn’t a total miss.


Classic Nuthatch pose – both landscape and portrait


Blue Tit


The idyllic and loveable Robin


Another Blue Tit pose


A not so glamorous Brown Rat


A Great Spotted Woodpecker makes an appearance


As does a Magpie


And another Rat


It’s a ‘Tree Rat’


Not welcomed by the Woodpecker


And so beats a hasty retreat


Making sure it’s gone


Back to normal


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Much of a Muchness

It’s been a while since I’ve seriously been out with my camera which has been reflected in this blog, but in the last few weeks I’ve finally managed to motivate myself to get out there.  The trouble is my expectations are sometimes too high when it comes to photographic success when maybe I should just be going out there to enjoy nature.  I went out twice over the weekend, the first time was without expectation – just to enjoy an almost spring like day – but also to do a bit of ‘reconnaissance’, checking over a few of the usual areas I visit.

One of those areas has brought me a lot of success in viewing and photographing Rabbits up close but in recent years they have dramatically disappeared which I had previously blogged.  I had hoped that this year was the year they had recovered but not only were there still no signs of life in the warrens I used to visit, but every warren in the whole area was now abandoned and there was no signs of any rabbits anywhere.

It’s been a bit of a mystery as to what has happened, disease being the likely culprit though which one I don’t know.  I didn’t see any signs when watching them last as it would be obvious if Myxomatosis.  It has coincided with the increased amount of dog walkers and the observed attacks on the Rabbits that I saw, along with the same happening to birds on the small lake there, which they are also now gone.  However, if this was a major problem, they would just be nocturnal, so the actual reasons may remain unknown – possibly a combination of both.

I took a few photos of the various warrens, but with my Nikon Coolpix, which I normally use for reference shots, was not working, I had to resort to a combination of IPod and phone, hence the poor quality.  The first two warren images were, three years ago, very active and now clearly abandoned.  The last one was elsewhere on the site and still being used up to last year.

For most, the disappearance of Rabbits would not be a problem – as they are largely viewed as pests, but I found them not only very photogenic, but also just interesting to watch and observe.  Of course, this has a knock on effect with predators, notably Foxes which have also seemed to have vanished from the area.  Hopefully Rabbit numbers will pick up again and they will return to this area.


Taken three years ago at the same location


Most recently abandoned warren


Activity Elsewhere

Various visits to woodland, shoreline and lakes produced little signs of activity, at least to photograph.  Only a lone Heron was seen, patiently stalking the reed beds, with success.  From what I saw, about 4 out of 5 strikes achieved a meal.  Photogenic as always, it spent most of the time hidden in the reeds but did venture into the open on occasion enabling me some shots of it ‘spearing’ its prey.


And then it was gone!