Monday 26 August 2019

Who's Stalking Who?

I haven’t been out much this summer, but couldn’t resist what might be a last gasp spell of warm weather this bank holiday weekend.  I thought I’d try my luck with Foxes again although at this time of year the cubs dispersed, so making it less likely to see a Fox than it was a couple of months ago.  Luck have it, after a couple of hours a Fox made an appearance in the distance. 

I spent the next hour moving from one position to another trying to get into a place where I would get a perfect view point but each time I did, it proved that moving was a mistake as had I stayed put, I would have previously had the perfect view.  Finally, after nearly deciding to give, on seeing the Fox moving towards the spot I’d just moved from, I rushed back, though not hopeful of getting back there in time.

After around a 100 metre sprint, with a heavy 500mm lens plus camera and equipment, I got back at the spot where it was almost certainly going to pass by.  I was sure it would have already passed and my unstealthily heavy breathing as I tried to catch my breath, would probably scare it away anyway.  No sooner that I got there, it appeared and caught sight of me but instead of running off, it actually started to slowly walk towards me, as if stalking me and had an intense stare – very unnerving!  After a minute staring at me it disappeared before quickly reappearing and after another stare, was off.

Sunday 7 July 2019

The Fox & Rabbit II

It’s not often  I will go back to a successful shoot at a location in the hope of replicating the success again as it rarely turns out that way, but at this time of year it’s a great time to see and photograph foxes as this years young haven’t left for their own territories so you have a number of foxes in one place some of which haven’t yet learnt to fear humans.

With that in mind I returned to the same location as before.  Conditions were different.  Instead of dull, damp weather there was sunshine and, out of the wind at least, a little warmer.  However this time the wind was coming from a different location so my previous ideal position now had it coming from behind me, making me upwind from their location.  This and the lack of rabbits feeding may have been the reason that, after two hours, little was seen.

Eventually, the mobbing calls of a couple of magpies caught my attention so moved to a different location to see what the fuss was about.  The new place was more sheltered and what little wind there was now came towards me.  Unfortunately, for the first time in a number of years I was hit by a bad case of hay fever, maybe because of the lack of wind but it was very sudden and my eyes were itching like mad and starting to stream.

Just then a fox came out of nowhere and across my front.  At this point I could barely see never mind try and focus on a moving fox through long grass.  A couple of shots is all I managed, mostly out of focus or largely hidden by the vegetation.  The rabbits further out, although alert to its presence, didn’t seem overly concerned until, after initially disappearing from my view, it sprinted out out after them.  It was all over in seconds and again, I had nothing but blurry images due to the problems of trying to focus in the long grass.

With my hay fever moderately better, after a couple of anti-histamines, decided to go back to my previous location despite the problems with the wind direction and being colder at least I had a more open view and it was where I had the previous weeks success.  Again, after another hour and nothing happening it had to be my being upwind that was the issue and after, once again hearing the mobbing of the magpies, moved to investigate.

As I approached the noise I kept coming up to rabbits, frozen.  Normally they would be off in a flash with someone approaching them but they clearly they thought I was a lesser threat than presumably the fox or foxes ahead.  Each time I chose not to make, what must have been an already stressful time for them any worse, so gave them some space and went around them.  One rabbit I stumbled across, I was so close I couldn’t even focus that near so had to back away just to get a photograph.

Despite the obvious presence of foxes, I wasn’t able to get closer due to the ring of clearly fraught rabbits around the area, so returned back to my original location.

I know there is a lot of photographers who shoot wildlife to whom getting ‘the image’ is all important and I don’t think they realise the impact they might have.  I remember reading once how, for wildlife, it’s a day-to-day struggle for survival it it did make me think.  I don’t chase after wildlife and if I think my presence will cause unnecessary stress, I will back away without an image.

There has been so many times I have had close encounters with an animal, particularly foxes and deer, where I stumbled across them without their knowing of my presence.  But because I was so close, rather than ‘get the image’ and inevitably give the animal a shock, I have stayed quiet and let them pass without knowing I was there.  There is a certain satisfaction in being within metres of a wild animal, unaware of you and simply being able to watch it rather than it see you and run off.

Sunday 30 June 2019

The Fox & Rabbit

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog and I have been debating whether to continue with it.  Maybe blogs have gone out of style but I’m just not sure if the interest is out there anymore.  Many of the blogs I visit, are no longer updated and I don’t get many visits to mine.  Anyhow, with a few weeks off I have managed to get out and about so thought I would post something.

I was starting to regret not bringing warmer clothing, even gloves, after an hour of watching and photographing rabbits – not June weather (or maybe it is!).  Rabbits may not be thought of as the most exciting or glamorous animal, but I find them a little therapeutic and of course where there are rabbits there’s a chance of a fox.

After an initial wariness of my arrival they settled down an ignored my presence.  Around 40 minutes later the rabbits suddenly froze, bolted upright then scattered.  In the direction they were looking a fox appeared.  I didn’t have time to cover myself with my netting as the fox was looking directly at me.  As I turned to take a picture my camera just started shooting by itself, one frame after another.  By the time is stopped the fox was trotting off in the opposite direction and I had around eight frames of a completely out of focus fox looking right into the camera!  It did stop to look back at me giving me the chance to grab a couple of shots.  It seemed unwittingly, I had the horizontal shutter on the battery grip jammed up against a nearby obstacle.
It’s surprising how quickly everything returned back to normal and within minutes all the rabbits were out again, feeding and I was able to get a few interesting images.

One of the best ways to know if a predator such as a fox is about is the reaction of the wildlife.  Magpies in particular make a loud squaring noise and fly around as it mobs the predator.  A couple had been around all morning doing this but with the rabbits ignoring it.  On one occasion though they didn’t.  Whether it was a change in the ‘tone’ or because they could sense a fox, I don’t know but again, they were frozen upright and tense.

When I looked in the direction they were staring at, I saw another fox, again staring at me.  It didn’t stay long as it immediately back tracked and again everything settled to a relaxed atmosphere.

Another hour passed when there was a massive racket again coming from the Magpies.  This went on for sometime and I thought of moving position to find the cause of the noise – presumably a fox, but thought I may as well stay put.  Luckily I did as suddenly out of nowhere three foxes sprinted out at the rabbits I was watching.  It happened so quickly I barely had time to react and it was over in seconds.  I don’t know where two of the foxes went but there was one remaining around 14 metres away, perfectly posing for me.  This one didn’t seem particularly bothered by me, though I was relatively hidden.  It seemed more interested in the rabbits and after a couple of moments trotted off.

I was surprised to see, after walking past a thistle, just biting off the top part and eating it.  Probably not as fulfilling as a rabbit for it I guess.