Sunday 18 July 2021

Thursday 8 July 2021

Mixed Bag–Mixed Fortune

Over the last month I have spent quite a bit of time getting up at ungodly hours, making the use of the early sunrises in the hope of photographing three specific animals.  Hares, Rabbits and Foxes.  It’s reminded me of just how much luck and timing and play a part of your success.

First time:  The Hares were abundant but mostly from afar or glimpses in the growing wheat fields and little chance of getting close to them and if I did, it was to see the back end of them as they sprinted away having saw me first.


On my way back, I spotted a lone Hare along the path between the field and the hedges.  Crouching down I expected it to pick up my presence as I was now upwind from it but to my surprise it started to come towards me.  I wasn’t expecting any close encounters, had not changed any camera settings and still had a tele converter attached.  Regardless, I fired away as it continued to come quite quickly towards me, not really confidence that my focusing with this lens converter combination would keep up.

Eventually it got so close I couldn’t focus on it and at the last minute, it caught on that I was there and did a quick turn around and that was that.  First example of being in the right place just at the right time, if unprepared.


Second time:  Up at the crack of dawn again, same place, around 30 minutes before sunrise and again, lots of Hares around.  Got my camera and lens out before realising I hadn’t packed my lens adaptor so I could attach my EF lens to my Canon R6.  Couldn’t believe how stupid I was.  I stayed on watched for a while but couldn’t really progress because each of the routes I would have gone were Hares so would have probably just have disturbed them.  Had I been able to use my camera I could have stayed put and just photographed them.
Third time:  The very next day at the same hour same place, and nothing.  Not a singe Hare to be seen.  What a complete difference 24 hours made.  I’m not experienced with Hares so wondered what the difference could be.  The only difference I could see was the weather.  The day previously was dull, and a little drizzle on this day it was quite foggy.  Could this have made the difference?
Having just my long lens with me, I took a few opportunistic images of what was about but soon the fog was burnt away and the light became too strong.  
Fourth time:  Different location and this time Foxes.  Every year recently, with the exception of last year, I go to this particular location with the almost guarantee of seeing at least a glimpse of a Fox in June.  Unfortunately after over four hours of waiting nothing showed, not a glance or even a sign.  Usually local Magpies will indicate the presence of Foxes by their reactions but they seemed completely relaxed.
The Rabbits were out and also quite relaxed too, further indications of the lack of Foxes though there were some well used tracks suggesting they must be still present within the area.  Maybe just not so frequent.

Fifth Time:  Different location again.  Chances of seeing Rabbits but in a more picturesque setting, Foxes and Roe Deer.  As soon as I reached the location, I saw a Deer running being chased by a dog - 4:30 in the morning!!  The dog didn't seem to have an owner but just randomly roaming around.  Not a good start especially as the dog didn't seem to be in a hurry to move off so I had to move to further along and hope it didn't follow.
This time last year Rabbits were everywhere if a little timid.  This time around I found very few.  I spent the next four hours or so, positioning myself at two different locations waiting for an opportunity.  The first, where I had so much success the previous year - nothing.  The second just a few glimpses and a couple of images in very low light (below).  There were Foxes around as I could hear one on the way up to the location and while set up and waiting, I could hear the Magpies going a bit mad over something that was around.
The temptation would be to go and investigate but due to the terrain, I was unlikely to see it before it saw me and better I stayed were I was where I had a good field of view and just maybe, it would come to me.

Sixth time: Back to the location for the Hares and a morning identical to the foggy morning where I had little success.  It was not looking good.
I first positioned myself at the same spot I first had the close encounter with a Hare as I had seen at least one here on a number of occasions and there was a dip on the path and a curve in the path so I had hoped that a Hare could come around that curve and not see me.  I waited an hour and half but with thoughts of the previous foggy morning and lack of sightings, I decided to move to another position further up which looked ideal as it was in a dip in the ground and a crossroads between the fields, the field edges and grassy areas.
Another hour of nothing I decided to stand up, stretch my legs and look around, thinking it was time to move on.  After a 360 look around when I looed back to where I had trained my camera, there was a Hare, perfectly posing in the exact picturesque spot!  Of course it saw me and headed in the opposite direction.
Waiting another 30 minutes and the path to my behind right another Hare was coming up behind me.  No chance of moving or it would have seen me so all I could do was to hope if would continue on its route.  Unfortunately it didn't.  Had I stayed in my original location, I would have been in a perfect position to see and photograph it.
A further 40 minutes of waiting, by this time I had positioned myself so I was lying down and camera and lens resting on my bag when, right out of the grass about three metres to my left came a Hare striding towards me!  It got to about touching distance and of course I didn't move, started to eat then must have suspected something as it then went back the way it came.  Not in a panic or hurry but must have not liked what it saw.
Even though clearly I had no chance of photographing it, it helped make up for the other two sightings.  There's something special about such a close encounter with such a wild animal.  I waited a further half hour where a Pheasant came out of the same location only must have seen me as all I heard was a panicked Pheasant suddenly shoot up into the air.  I don't know who got more of a fright.
Seventh time: Same location as my fifth time only now there was no stray dog.  This deer was walking across a patch of open ground.  Luckily I was still under cover of trees and bushes so it didn't see me and continued into the trees, presumably to rest up for the day.  After making sure it was gone, I got up and continued along the path when the the deer back tracked.  Now I was out in the open.

Crouching down and trying to hide behind my camera and lens, the deer could still see at least something.  It seemed very curious and even walked towards me.  Luckily my camera has a completely silent mode so wasn't disturbed by my taking photos.  Despite showing all the typical Roe Deer signs of being unsure, it eventually lost interest and continued on in the direction it originally came from.  
Again waiting until this time I was sure it was gone I moved on.  Just slightly further up it doubled back once again, only this time it saw me before I saw it, and it quickly moved off.  After reaching the spot I wanted to be and starting to set myself up, the Roe Deer must have yet again doubled back as it came up behind me.  I didn't see it but heard its barking alarm calls very loud just behind me.
Roe Deer High ISO


Other than this and a couple of vary wary Rabbits, it was otherwise very quiet.  I was able to get some brief video showing how wary the Rabbits were.  The video below is classic behaviour.

It just goes to show how much luck and timing is involved in wildlife photography.  You can know where to find wildlife but it's no guarantee of actually seeing them and especially of a close encounter.  It's all all about being in the right place and at the right time.  Had I been a few minutes earlier or later, I probably wouldn't have had that Hare coming towards me.  Had I not stood up for that single minute but kept my camera trained on the spot I had been doing so, then I would have got that image I was hoping for.
This so often has given me the dilemma of, when waiting at a spot with no sucess, do I move on or continue waiting.  So often I've got up and started to move on only to see the animal I was waiting for, appear.  Then again I've waited for hours at one location and maybe moving would put me with another ideal opportunity.