Entries in the ‘Animal Behaviour’

Chance Encounter

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Projects on Nov.16, 2023

The Red Fox, one of the most misunderstood and persecuted mammals in Britain. Living alongside us, often out of sight they have evolved to live in urban environments just as they do in their natural woodland habitat.
Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

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Red Squirrels

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Projects on Oct.28, 2021

I wanted to share some images of Red Squirrel’s from a site in England. This area is managed by the wildlife trust who keep an eye on this population that were almost wiped out several years ago due to the squirrel pox virus.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography

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Water Vole-A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Filed in Animal Behaviour on Apr.23, 2012

Water voles are one of my favourite mammals in the UK, with their plump bodies and enduring mannerisms.  Water voles are often mistaken for rats and the character called Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’, was actually a Water vole. There has been many remakes of this wonderful children’s book which was a firm favourite of mine.

While waiting to see one of these animals show up you can often feel you are among a real life set of the wind in the willows, with the many insects and small creatures all going about their lives around you, with the continuous flow of moving water.

I’m always very vigilant when I’m around rivers and streams, just in case you see any sign of these fellows around. They leave characteristic tracks in mud, close to the water, their forefoot has four toes which leaves a distinctive star shaped pattern, while the hind foot has five toes. A great way to tell if water voles are about is to look for the tell tale signs they leave, such as footprints, burrows and droppings. They are active during the daytime and particularly in the early evening.

If you sit quietly and patiently you may hear the characteristic ‘plop’ of a diving water vole and then be rewarded by seeing it make its way, doggy-paddle, across the river as it patrols the banks searching for food. Water voles are affected by poor water quality another major clue in locating them, if the water isn’t clean and healthy then you won’t find them there.

Over the last several weeks I have spent alot of time watching a couple of pairs at different locations within the rivers of the Peak District and witnessed some amazing and unseen behaviour. Last year I was amazed to see one vole climbing small trees to reach and feed on fresh leaves, sitting suspended above the water casally eating without a care in the world.

Water voles love to eat a wide range of vegetation, small fresh leaves and roots are their favourite but they will eat basically anything they can find. Recently I witnessed one vole eating holly leaves, nibbling around the sharp points consuming the juice centre parts then discarding the sharp bits aside.

Once the lower leaves on this tree had been eaten I then witnessed him climbing up, sometimes falling off to continue eating these holly leaves. At times it was so comical, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with laughter as this was behaviour I had never witnessed within Water voles before.

He would slowly climb up, in between the sharp points of the leaves to reach them, bite and begin chewing. A couple of times he’d get to where he was trying to reach a leaf, only to fall off, make a massive plop, swim a shore and continue on.

“Nearly there” I was saying while pinned to my cameras viewfinder capturing this sequence, with his eye just peeking through. At this stage I was glued to him just not knowing what would happen next. I’ve never laughed so much while watching wildlife before. And as I watched through my viewfinder I really hoped he understood I was laughing with him not at him.

Streamlining his body shape and fur in order to squeeze around the sharp edges of the holly leaves, as seen in the photo below. Almost halving his size in order to get up and past these sharp obstacles.

For every climb that he succeeded there were many that failed, where he fell and plunged into the water beneath him.

He would come to the surface and swim to the shore and carry on, occasionally having a quick look around to see if anyone had witnessed his fall. Almost like when you see a person fall over or if you trip or fall yourself, you bounce straight back up and carry on red faced , just checking around to see if anyone witnessed your fall. If they did, it just made the whole experience just that bit harder to bear. But such was the determination of this enduring fellow and the pull of these leaves he carried on for several minutes.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, so I do hope these photos really convey what might have taken me many more words to express. Where the power of visualization is key for me.  I still cannot believe what I witnessed and it clearly goes to show that no matter how long or how much you know about a subject, there will be always more to learn.

This is the beauty of wildlife photography, the fact I can show now what I witnessed rather than just trying to explain what magical wonders I saw that day.  By just watching and listening and taking in whats around you can often result in these wonderful moments I get chance to see whilst among nature.  This is the key to my work,  many thanks.

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Take Nothing For Granted

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Spring, Wildlife on Feb.12, 2012

What a difference a few weeks makes and always be careful what you wish for. In my last blog I was only just saying how mild it was for this time of year and how wildlife has almost started making a home in readiness to rear their young. Cold temperatures and snow with freezing fog and frost all mixed in over the last several days, giving nature the worst kind of wake up call.  You must never take anything for granted more so nature as this just may come back and bite you when you least expect it.

Grabbing my camera on one such day I captured a few images of the birds from my local park , looking for a different angle in which to capture the bird’s spirit.

Once the roads had cleared a little I did manage to visit the Peak District with Paul my client where we were hoping to see Red Grouse.  The snow was also a wonderful bonus, as it had fallen covering the whole area in a beautiful blanket of snow. Thank you Paul for being a great sport in such testing conditions when walking up to where the grouse were.

I have just spent a couple of days in Norfolk photographing a much loved event in nature’s calendar, the Spring Tides. I’ve written so much about these days and had articles published showing my images. It was nice to be back and witness this event over the last couple of days having not been to Norfolk since November due to work commitments. Little did I know what was waiting for me in Norfolk, as I set off for this event from my Staffordshire home in the early hours of the morning, with the weather changing constantly as I passed through the different counties on route to Nelsons County, Norfolk.

You park up and get dressed ready for any event the weather may throw at you.  Snettisham and the surrounding areas are open and very bleak where great care must be exercised in poor weather. Once in place depending on the tide times your normally greeted with a fanfare of calls, sometimes if your timings are spot on the sky can be awash with actively too as flocks seem to wiz by you, feet above your head, drowning you in a vast chorus of noise and calls as they whistle past.  It’s a truly remarkable feeling and one you just never tire of witnessing in whatever weather or conditions.

A mixture of different light conditions and weather gave me a chance to play around with compositions and shutter speeds, giving a different effect and feel to my images. The slow shutter speed images are something I have always loved to do when photographing wildlife.  I like to refer to this practise that I am so fond of within my work as capturing the animals but in slow motion. Freezing a moment in time, giving the image a sense of movement in the absence of any sound is what I hope to achieve by using this technique.

I mentioned their sound and if you could hear the noise generated by these birds during these spring tides it would mesmerize you, it’s so uplifting to hear.  A bird adding a different key or note, I always like to try and listen then listen again to hear those individual bird calls because if you view the flock as a whole it’s hard to make out which birds are there and which aren’t.

This part of Norfolk is always bleak and remote offering you a great platform in which to view this amazing spectacle. Different days offer different images for me, where I am always trying to capture something different, learning from the past visits here. On the whole it was a good few days with many lovely images, once the peace returns and the tide begins to retreat the waders start their return back to the mudflats. When it gets to this point there’s always the queue to leave and I go back to my transport for a warm drink and often to dry off.

There are several areas in Norfolk I have regularly visited over the years to watch and hopefully photograph Barn Owls, and I was lucky enough during my recent time there to have seen two pairs at two of the four locations I know of. The others maybe there but the weather may have played a part in them staying in rather than venturing out. Again as previously mentioned I am always looking to push my own photography when I am alone and not with clients. Seeing something different and then trying to capture that idea with my camera.

This is one of the main parts of photography that always excites me, as my arty streak in me comes out and working alongside your cameras abilities you can often capture something different. With the few sightings I witnessed of the Barn Owls I tried different compositions, manual focusing, and extreme positioning of the subject in the corners of my viewfinder, creating lots of blank and open spaces to the front of the main subject.

Norfolk’s also a great place to for Brown Hares and I came across a few during my time there, wonderful mammals to spend time with and watch.

Many different images from the various different weather conditions that I’ve endured and as I write this blog there are still areas of the country where snow is around, but in the coming week the temperatures are set to rise so maybe nature has seen the last of winter now but I don’t want to speak to soon as before. On a serious note I do hope wildlife hasn’t suffered to much during the recent cold spell and fingers crossed spring is just around the corner.

Tigers around the world need help, they are crucially endangered, with their numbers in the wild at a dangerous level. Upon first seeing these animals in the wild it reddened me speechless because of their amazing beauty. They cannot just be left to die out with just a few remaining in zoos and parks. A world devoid of wild Tigers would be a very sad place indeed.

Through 3 limited edition prints I raise money to help these beautiful animals, where 50% of the profits from the sale of these images goes directly to 21st Century Tiger. They spend every penny on saving this most beautiful of animals we have roaming the earth at present.  In several weeks I return to India once more hoping to share my passion for these animals with my clients booked onto my Tigers of India photo tour. Each one has a dream of seeing these animals and along with the brilliant guides I work with there I hope to show and help each person capture some wonderful images of this amazing animal.

I am donating one of my 2010 Year of the Tiger images as the first prize in a photography competition for another UK Tiger charity called TIGERS4EVER.org. It hopes to raise awareness of the plight of the Tiger in the wild. The print is only 1 of 100 ever printed and will be the first prize in this competition. Calumet UK  are very kindly supporting Tigers4Ever’s 11-16 age category photographic competition also with a 1st prize of £100 Calumet gift vouchers.

If you are interested in entering and helping this charity where all monies raises through this competition goes towards helping Tigers then please click on this link http://www.tigers4ever.org/ many thanks and the best of luck.

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