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.

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Classic Nuthatch pose – both landscape and portrait

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Blue Tit

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The idyllic and loveable Robin

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Another Blue Tit pose

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A not so glamorous Brown Rat

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A Great Spotted Woodpecker makes an appearance

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As does a Magpie

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And another Rat

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It’s a ‘Tree Rat’

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Not welcomed by the Woodpecker

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And so beats a hasty retreat

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Making sure it’s gone

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Back to normal

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