Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Sometimes You’re Lucky, Sometimes You're Not…

A couple of visits to a local wood in the last six weeks had shown success in numerous Fox sightings but little in the way of photo opportunities, so I thought I’d give it another go.  At first there seemed little happening, no Foxes and not even the usual plentiful deer's. The lack of anything made me turn off a little and less observant when, then of course it happened – I walked upon a Fox.  I don’t know if it was lying in the shade or had just come out of some undergrowth but we both got a shock as we were only metres away from each other when I saw it shoot away.  I was kicking myself for not paying attention to my surroundings though it was well camouflaged in its brown/grey coat against the dark surroundings.

A little further trekking and I came across  a part of the woodland that had been cleared and replanted.  Not somewhere I was expecting to see anything out in the open but to my right a Fox was casually trotting along.  I tried to track it in my lens but couldn’t focus properly due to most of it being hidden behind the various logs.  As it was moving away from me I resigned myself to another lost opportunity when suddenly it made a ninety degree change in direction and sprinted almost in my direction, jumping the logs like a horse in a steeple race.  It stopped, looked back and I could then see why it did this. There was someone sitting on a log, back to us, photographing something in the trees and seemingly oblivious to what was happening behind him.


Above – leaping the felled logs, I wasn’t able to get a focus lock for a decent shot.  Below – Looking back I could see the reason for its actions.


The Fox hadn’t seen me but continued it’s original journey away from me.  Later I met up with the same guy and he said that the Fox returned and came so close by that he was able to get some good images of it.  Typical, I’m trying to be stealthy and not get seen and can’t get a photo chance, he’s out in plain sight and the Fox comes up to him!  Clearly I’ve been doing this all wrong.  Minutes later and another sighting, though only very brief.


Later on, coming out of the woods into an open patch I could see a Fox.  It wasn’t moving in any direction in particular but I decided to back up to a position I thought I could photograph it perfectly if it decided to follow the path.  I’d no sooner set my camera up and looked through the viewfinder when the Fox appeared, stopped, looked briefly at me and decided it didn’t like what is saw and went back.  Another Fox rear end for my photo collection!


Four sightings and nothing to show for it, I decided to turn my attention to the trusty old Roe Deer.  I’d already seen a couple of them and decided to sit quietly somewhere and wait.  It wasn’t long before the first was spotted, in the distance moving in my direction but then decided to change and move away into the undergrowth.  I was just getting up when behind me another deer, a little closer.  It hadn’t seen me and amazingly, it started to run in my direction, followed by another.  It ran straight to a holly bush less than ten metres in front of me.  I had my netting over me and had a clear view of either side of the holly bush and waited in anticipation of what was going to be a great image. 

A minute later, five, ten.  Where could they have gone?  I quietly got up and cautiously approached the bush looking around and, nothing.  They’d vanished!  They should have continued in their general direction but instead must have exactly tracked in the opposite direct, keeping the holly bush between them and me. Sneaky.  They couldn’t have seen me and there was no wind to blow my scent around.  Just plain bad luck…again!

I decided to stick it out a bit longer, though the mosquitoes where by now, feasting on me, somehow even getting under (or through) my clothing.  Another deer in the distance, same place as the original one and very slowly working its way in my general direction.  It stopped behind some trees so I took the opportunity to move closer, unfortunately I had to stop in an open space though still had my netting over me.  Very slowly it mover around me, never approaching an open spot where I could get a clear photo opportunity of it.  Eventually when it did it had it’s head down as it browsed in the ferns.

I’ve been using my camera in silent mode now for shooting mammals such as deer.  Having in normal mode has the advantage of the shutter sound stopping the animal in its tracks, giving me the chance to photograph them while motionless.  The down side is another photograph taken and the noise starts becoming more alarming to the animal.  Roe Deer, although quite timid animals are also curious and will often stop and stare at something they’re not quite sure of. 

While this male deer moved with it’s head down in the ferns, I tried clicking my fingers.  A sound that had a similar impact of the shutter but I only had to do it once and could then take photos on silent mode without much disturbance.


The image above wasn’t the best – too dark and still too many plants in the way, so I continued to follow it moving around me.  Eventually it go closer and closer until it came to another reasonably open space and better light.   To track it I had to twist my body as I couldn’t move completely as I was still in the open and even under my ‘mobile hide’ the movement would have been obvious, so I was very uncomfortable, and the effects of numerous mosquito bites were taking it’s toll.  I had noticed while moving towards me it regularly stopped to have a scratch and it wasn’t until I got the images home and up onto the computer screen that I noticed all of the mosquitos around it.  Looks like I wasn’t the only one struggling.


Below – an enlargement of part of the photograph above, showing the mosquitos around the deer's head.


Just before it went behind a tree and out of sight, I clicked my fingers again and got it’s attention.  It stopped and stared at this green blob in the middle of the woodland floor, which couldn’t help but move due to a combination of biting insects and cramp.  The final touch was getting a text message on my mobile – forgot to switch it off!  Now, clicking fingers or even shutter sounds could be construed as something ‘natural’ sounding with a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but a music tune playing?  The deer wasn’t having any of this and beat a hasty retreat, barking as it went.


I decided it just wasn’t going to be my day and decided to call time. 


At this time of the year the woodland floor is covered in ferns making Roe Deer hard to see and Foxes, almost impossible.  Above is an example of what is seen from our height and the ferns are not fully grown yet.  Below is take at the kind of height a Fox would experience.  Not surprising they can be hard to see unless using a path or crossing an open space.  The advantage is that with all this cover they are more likely to come out in daylight hours, though at this time of year they also have cubs to feed.