Red Squirrels are not that common in England due to predators, viruses and changes to the landscape that all pose threats to our native red squirrel. The introduction of the grey squirrel from America is the main reason behind the sharp decline, and one of the most devastating impacts of this is the squirrel pox virus. Grey Squirrels appear to have a natural immunity to this disease but they can be carriers, and if infected grey squirrels live alongside red squirrels they pass on this disease which can be devastating for the red squirrels.
Those hoping to see images of people dancing in a provocative way from my title then Im sorry to disappoint you in that sense. But I have something much more beautiful; the dance of the Black Grouse during their Lek from their breeding grounds in Finland that is both beautiful but at times can be violent.
With some of the mildest temperatures on record it’s been a funny couple of months with regard to wildlife. With daytime temperatures averaging around 16c it’s been really mild and warm and nature hasn’t really known what is happening. Some birds are calling and almost displaying behaviour that’s normally suited to the onset of spring.
I’m extremely honored to be asked once more by Nikon, Japan to be part of a new “Eyes of Nikon” project that is starting soon. Using the latest new lenses to capture the beauty of the natural world with my style of wildlife photography.
I have had the Linnet jacket from Country Innovation now for several weeks after being chosen as one of their test pilots. The following review is from the time I have spent in the field with this jacket so far. I hadn’t worn this make before due to having other brands that once you sort of buy into one brand you tend to stick with it. I’ve always knew of its quality through friends that go into the outdoors regularly with their binoculars and cameras and some ex army friends.
I have just spent the last two days attending the Hen Harrier Weekend and as I write I’m still slightly overhauled by all the passion and sheer bloody mindedness to save these truly stunning birds I encountered over these two days. This is the second year this event has run now set up by a man I have followed and read his blog and words for many years, Mark Avery. If you end up on his blog without an invite then you’re in trouble as he holds nothing back in his pursuit to see the right thing done for wildlife.
Over the last several weeks I have had many projects on the go, one such project has been watching a pair of beautiful Pied Flycatchers. These birds visit our shores during the spring and summer months from their wintering home of West Africa and live manly in woodland habitat. Their numbers are quite low and they are on the “amber” list of species by the RSPB meaning they aren’t rare but not common too.
I have wanted to photograph this species of bird in their woodland habitat for many years but I haven’t been lucky enough to find them. This year I had found a pair and they were nesting in a small nest box in a beautiful deciduous wood. These birds are beautiful and I was very lucky to have found a pair. They landed on a number of naturally occurring branches around this nestbox and I have composed them showing their home and these branches they are using with the following images.
Up until this point they were doing really well, both parents feeding and everything looked good. Then around lunch time the following day I was watching another part of the wood where they are hunting the flies when I heard a hissing kind of noise from where the nest box was.
I rushed over and saw the male bird hovering in front of the box and making a noise that I can only describe as an alarm call. Then in a flash something came from the nest box and ran down the front of the box. It was a Weasel with one of the chicks. It happened so quick that I didn’t really have time to do anything or to even think. I did manage to capture a few images of him making off with the chick as the male was hovering to see off the Weasel.
What happened over the next hour and a half after this first attack was that the same Weasel came back several times to get the rest of the chicks. But as soon as I saw him I made a loud hissing noise myself and other noises to warn him off. Sometimes he stopped at the base of the tree, others he was up and on top of the box. Each time he left with nothing and this went on for a while. After the first attack the parent birds returned but were jumpy when going to the box, they seemed to know what had happened and stayed back and didn’t return with any food for those hours after the attack.
I wanted to know what had happened inside the box but I had to stop myself from going to see and investigate because I didn’t want to disturb anything or leave my scent on the box and its not right to interfere with nature. I had done my best making sure that the Weasel didn’t get any more chicks during those many attempts. When I left there had been no sighting of the Weasel for several hours and I really hoped when I returned the following day that the chicks survived and the Weasel had moved on.
Nature is beautiful but at times very cruel I know this well but when you witness it for yourself it is upsetting and I can’t blame the Weasel for wanting to feed his family but as I say when you witness animals being killed by others its not nice and I had watched this pair of Flycatchers for a while now and then this happens.
The following day I returned just after dawn, I waited several hours and no return by any adult. Before opening the box I made the noise of the adult bird and gently tapped the outside of the box and there was no noise or calls from inside. At that point I lifted the lid wearing gloves. The Weasel had gone back when I left by the looks of things and had all of them, very sad. Nature is cruel but that’s the circle of life and I learned that very early in my life but it was a real shame.
I spent most of the morning searching the same wood for another pair as there are nest boxes put up for them. As I was looking I always listen to bird calls, they will always let you know what is around. I know the Pied Flycatchers well and I saw a lone male bird that kept coming to another box. Once at the entrance hole he’d paused and then flew off. I didn’t know if he was preparing his nest for inspection for a female or just looking for another nest box or there was already another female inside.
Then I heard ” Have you seen much?” and I turned around and a bloke was standing there, after a few words I recognized him and he me and we got talking as I had last seen him some five years back. I told him about the box that had lost its chicks and that I was watching this new box.
He informed me that a female was sitting on eggs in the box I was watching and that he was here to ring her. Keith is a member of British Trust for Ornithology and is a ringer in the Staffordshire moorlands area for them and has been for many years. He knew me and my work and passion and so he trusted me with this information and I watched him with great care place a small bag over the roof of the nestbox while blocking the entrance hole. Carefully then he removed the bag from the top of the box and inside was this beautiful female Pied Flycatcher.
I asked if I could take a few photos and it was no problem as Keith put the ring on, checked over the bird and once done he let her go. Soon after she was back in the nest. Amazing to be so close and what luck I’ve had at this site I said to myself. From losing a whole family of chicks to then being so close to one and knowing the BTO ringer for the area.
Another truly beautiful bird the Redstart, a pair are sharing the same deciduous wood as these Pied Flycatchers which is wonderful. They are nesting in a nearby old oak tree not far from the new flycatchers nest. I have watched them too over the last few weeks and now the chicks have fledged and I counted around eight in and around the tree tops.
I’m hoping to get a few images of these but they are providing a difficult little subject to get near because their parents have hidden them away and I don’t want to impact on their lives or their parents. The following images are of that Redstart family.
When you go out taking photos of a project or something you love please just stop, sit down and look around you. You will see some many living beings, so many different images all around you. I love to capture this within my work and all you have to do is think outside of the species you are there for and look further afield and you will see natures beauty all around you.
The following images show some of the other birds that share this amazing deciduous wood alongside these Pied Flycatchers.- Blackcap, Song Thrush, Wren, Great Tit. Also there are a few images of the insects that provide food for these birds, an arty photo of ferns.
Also there is an image of a Harvestman which are beautiful little creatures. Harvestmen don’t have a waist or separate abdomen like spiders as they are often mistaken for them. They are part of the Opiliones family which are fascinating. There are some close up images of Long-tailed Mayfly that are very common in this wood too that just looked stunning. The floor of the wood is littered with the Red Campion flower too the place is so beautiful and full of wildlife once you look around you.
I’m hoping to get some images of the Pied Flycatchers feeding their young as I think they have another week or so inside the nextbox. The Redstart chicks are all around the place, and getting a few images of these are harder as they are hidden away so I will not impact on their lives just for a photograph. Fingers crossed this new pair of Pied Flycatchers manage to rear their young successfully and I will be there to capture it I hope.
If I get lucky I will post the photographs in a future blog post just updating this wonderful project I have been doing. Finding your own subjects and photographing them over time is one of the best things as a wildlife photographer you can do. You learn so much more and you never truly know what you will encounter or see where you have to use your own skills and fieldcraft.
Working like this and taking images “as seen” on the ground and alongside nature is the truest form of wildlife photography in an industry full of set ups and pay as you go sites all producing the same images. I would really recommend working like you see here to anyone that whats to learn more about their own wildlife photography and their subjects, good luck and many thanks.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me with One to One bookings and Workshops. Its always really nice for me to go to places that I have had an historical connection with, and alot of the one day workshops I offer visit some of those places that I went to from my early teens. Looking back at times it was a form of coping with my late mums battle with cancer from the age of 12. Where I’d draw what I saw in the absence of a camera, learning so much about nature and those subjects that fascinated me and still do. .
I have a lot to thank nature for and I hope thats reflected in my work today. I’d often take a pencil and paper and just sit and watch Dippers, Water voles along the rivers of the Peak District. I’d get a bus pass and my mum would allow me to catch several buses at the same time packing me up with enough food to last me a week rather than the day. It was an amazing adventure I can always remember and I was very lucky.
With the onset of autumn arriving daily its a wonderful time to be out with your camera and I have really enjoyed meeting several clients over the last few weeks where I have taken them to those same spots I talk about and have very fond memories of.
Knowledge of places and more so animals is key for me and elements that have made my photography really what it is today in the absence of any formal photography lessons or course and help really. A great sense of passion and knowledge and you can’t go wrong as a wildlife photographer.
When I started as a professional wildlife photographer in October 2009 I built my business around some of these places where I take clients now. Nothing is ever promised as I don’t do baited, bird on perch workshops or change an animals behavior by my presence in order to get a certain image. I offer an experience and show what I use employing many different skills learnt from those younger days.
Fieldcraft is key and something I’ve seen talked about alot in recently years. Ive had a few different articles published on the subject which is one if not the strongest tool in any wildlife photographers box when dealing with wild animals in front of your camera.
For me it’s what made me who I am and shaped me and still does as a wildlife photographer. All the images on this post are from those One to Ones over the last several weeks . It was lovely to meet you all and I hope you learned more about your subjects at the same time improved your wildlife photography.
I’m often asked what bit of camera gear is the best.? What do you think of this make and model..? How did you get into wildlife photography..? How can I take images like you..?? Every time if they are in front of me, I touch my heart and point at my eye, meaning your image is created in your heart and projected through your eye. I often get a puzzled look, a look of confusion and awkwardness but them the reassuring smile replaces that puzzled look and people get me then and understand my point.
Passion, time-served knowledge, fieldcraft, love and respect for your subjects come way before any make and model of camera and this is something I always say and have done. Put this with my historical connections with wildlife and places I’m then able to see those image that I later capture with my camera. The best advice I can give to anyone in this time of I want it now and overnight is to spend time with nature, watch, look and learn then introduce your camera and slowly it should all come together.
Anything I have touched on here if you require more information on then please contact me here. Many thanks to all my clients again over the last month or so and I wish you all well with your photography.