Entries Tagged ‘Animal Behaviour’:

Amazing Watervole

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Wildlife on Sep.06, 2011

I have often said on previous blog pages covering many different subjects and places, you just never know what you’ll see when working with wildlife. And this one sentence couldn’t be further from the truth on a recent outing photographing Watervoles at a site within the beautiful Peak District, Derbyshire. This little creature lives a peaceful life on our riverbanks up and down the UK, often going unnoticed by passersby, but should you go to close or spook this animal you’ll be greeted in most parts by a loud “PLOP” as the vole makes a quick dash for safety by diving straight into the water and away to safety.

I am very fortunate to have found over the years several good sites in which these animals live and breed in. Watervoles are one of my favourite mammals, with their enduring character and cuteness, making them a lovely subject to watch and also photograph. They are legally protected in Britain and sadly their numbers continue to plummet. Due to its small size and the fact that it lives both on land and in the water, Watervoles are prey to numerous predators wherever they appear to live.

Mink, Weasels, Foxes along with Adders are the most common predators on dry land, with Owls and other birds Of prey hunting them from the air. Large fish such as Pike are known to hunt these mammals also. Their vast reduction in numbers in recent years however is not just caused by this high level of predation, the loss of much of their natural habitats has had a much more drastic effect along with the destruction of bank side vegetation, and pollution playing a vital part of their declining number on our shores.

I have been very lucky over the years in finding sites when I’m out and about, often there looking for another subject, when suddenly I’ll see gnawed nuts, shredded bark and cut grass leaves, all clear indicators of their presence around me at these new sites. One such site I have been watching for some time now, in-between my one to ones/workshops and other projects, I have captured them going about their lives along this very healthy river system in a beautiful and secluded part of the UK.

They share this space with a family of Little Grebes and I managed to captured the fully grown fledgling floating effortless on the dead calm water here, learning the skills his parents had taught him over the last several weeks.

On this day in question I got into place at dawn, settling into place, there was little wind, as Watervoles have an incredible sense of smell. I stay as low as is possible and become part of the riverbank, hiding away using the natural cover afforded to me from the reeds and bank side vegetation always mindful not to disturb these animals with my presence. I never enter the water around where they live or breed as I personally feel that this is a step to close, the welfare of any animal comes before any photograph, something you must be aware of with every living animal you photograph.

Much of the time when you are waiting for a wild animal to turn up you never know where, how or if your chosen subject will turn up so during this period I always become tuned into my environment, listening and watching for anything that indicates life, movement and the possibility of a different image or a new site or subject appearing. This approach is time consuming but greatly rewarding when you witness or see something for the first time, or even learn a bit more about your subject or that of any other living creature that may show up during your time at a certain place.

Without warning though I heard a slight rushling noise coming from deep inside the reeds as I witnessed the tops of the broad reeds moving, like someone was passing through underneath them if that makes sense. The next thing I saw was a Watervole climbing out on a very narrow branch and trying to reach some leaves at the end.  I just could’nt believe what I was seeing here.

Using his tail and hand as he balanced himself at the same time slowly and carefully moving along the branch, a few times pausing in an act to just steady himself. I didn’t know what to do first, laugh or stop and ask myself was I really seeing this, a wild animal doing a behaviour I’d never seen or even heard of before.

As the Watervole neared the leaves he would gather one and just casually sit there, suspended above the water beneath him and eat a few more before climbing back down to firm ground and a place you are normally accustom to seeing Watervoles live and feed in and around.

I feel privileged to have seen this behaviour on this day, really underlining you just never know what will happen as you watch wildlife and by being ready with your camera, constantly watching your subject you will, with luck be able to capture such events that would be hard to explain outside of a set-up image.  Not long after this he carried on feeding on the ground, a little out of shot, then disappearing into the dense undergrowth, where I didn’t see him again that day.

I’ll be going back soon hoping to see this pair and over the summer months my Watervole workshops have helped many of my clients not only to see this wonderful mammal in the wild but they have been able to take some wonderful images also. If you would like more information on these days then please click here and scroll down to the bottom of my workshops/photo tours page.

I had a lovely surprise over the weekend with one of my favourite Spring Tides at Norfolk images published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the image can be seen above and the link here. It was taken on one of the Spring Tides that really start in earnest on the lead up to Christmas now. I focused inside the flock as half of the birds, which are called Knot, started to take off, leaving a queuing system on the ground as the other Knots waited to join them by taking off and returning to the mudflats of the wash in Norfolk.

If you would like to witness this amazing event, I run one to ones/workshops there concentrating on these spectacular days in the morning, then throughout the rest of the day we visit many other amazing sites around the North Norfolk coastline, finishing at one of my Barn Owl site there capping off a wonderful day of wildlife photography, for more details please see my link here many thanks.

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Down By The River-Kingfisher

Filed in Wildlife on Oct.02, 2010

I count myself very lucky in life to have seen and still see the wonderful moments in the natural world over the last thirty years of being an observer, a young birdwatcher in the YOC and now a wildlife photographer.  So over the last two months on a private stretch of the river Trent near my Staffordshire home I have had a wonderful time just sitting, hidden from view under a camouflaged hide by the river, watching the river go by with the odd fleeting glimpse of the Kingfisher. Gracing me with their presence every so often and to be honest when you least expect it.

A perfect example was the other day while I was trying to make myself a cup of coffee in a tiny one man hide, that only just fits in my 6f 2 inch frame, with my long lens and camera plus bag and provisions filling the hide like the back of a removal van, there is little or no room ‘to swing a cat’ as the saying goes.  The Kingfisher showed up right in front of me!  It took almost 10 minutes of the slowest movement possible to put things down and reach for my camera to capture the female who had just landed on a reedmace I had positioned in front of my hide.  Her tell tail signs of  tiny claw marks showing in the reedmace giving me vital clues of her previous presence on this particular place, while watching the river go by.

She has taken over this part of the river at the moment and with her orange part of her under bill growing everyday, she is developing before my very eyes.  It is lovely to watch her put those incredible fishing skills taught by her parents to great use..  Over the last few weeks though her parents, further down the river, have tried several times to move her and a male on and at times its so sad to watch as the male fledgling still at times begging for food in the face of real force from their once loving parents to move them off this already taken stretch of the river Trent, nature is beautiful but at times very cruel.

I briefly managed to capture this to the right of my hide, as the fledgling was being chased by the adult bird, she took solice in thick, natural vegetation along the riverbank, stood her ground almost in an act of defiance and defended herself by having a go back at her mother.  Amazing behaviour to witness and one that I hope will stand her in good stead for the future trails and tribulations that will be in store for her.

This stretch of the river Trent at the moment is lined with a thick and dense tree line, reflecting its colour onto the surface of the water with a jade-green colouring at the same time not allowing much light to penetrate the base of the riverbed. There is lots of other activity alongside my hide, Mallards  and a family of Yellow Wagtails keep me on my toes in the absenceof the Kingfisher as their call does in some parts resemble that of the Kingfisher, with a high pitched call,  piecing through the ever present noise of the flowing freshwater.  Constantly on the move, feeding, cleaning themselves as they seem never to stop for a moment.

I have mentioned in a previous post of this unique place, where an old bridge has fallen into the river and forms the back drop to my images. I am hoping to try and photograph over the coming weeks the Kingfishers  and how they pass through this area, using the old blue bricks as perches and fish from them all the time as thousands of gallons of water pass by.  It really is a story within a story for me and one I hope lasts  for a good while because I have really become very fond of these Kingfishers, more so this fiery female who brightens up my day down by the river ever time I see her.

I plan on turning this into a local on going project where hopefully I will be able to capture the breeding adults behaviours and courtships throughout the year in this private and unvisited area of the river Trent where I have had so much joy working on this from scratch, watching and setting up my hide, only to have to move it to a different place several times a week at first, due to the Kingfisher’s having no set pattern.  I knew that these Kingfishers hadn’t even been seen before on this private piece of land let alone photographed.  I feel very privileged and grateful to have come across these amazing birds where I hope to capture them going about their lives as I have done over the last two months.  A real labour of love for me where I will update my blog on my future adventures down by the river, many thanks.

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Animal Behaviour

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Wildlife on Mar.20, 2010

From the beginning,before the first glimmerings of civilization man has studied animal behaviour.It has been an essential part of the struggle for survival,with our remote ancestors relying on hunting and gathering:hunting large animals and gathering insects and shellfish as well as berries,nuts and roots.The success of this way of life must have lain in acquiring a knowledge,often intimate,of the habits and behaviour’s of many animals.Primitive man had to know where he was most likely to find particular animals,and in what seasons.Watching and learning the more intimate and private lives of their prey to gain a better knowledge,their spears and arrows only effective over a range of about twenty meters so they had to get close to their prey that was aware that man was a predator.

To achieve this,the hunters had to make themselves familiar with the habits of their quarry,its tracks,its waterholes,its favourite foods and whether it would stand its ground to defend its young all key behaviours and where mans interest of animal behaviour began.I have always been fascinated in animal behaviour,getting close and just watching the different behaviour,and getting as close to the subject as I could,with fluid movement almost like a cat stalking a bird.as the eye is very good at detecting movement,with the slower you are the less the subject will see you.Capturing some interest through behaviour can transform an image in my eyes,giving the person an insight into the subjects private world

Last Light

Artic tern

The are so many forms of animal behaviours from eating and drinking,hunting,territorial to hierarchical among their societies,courtship,and displays.I plan over time to go through the various main behaviours in wildlife,where I will illustrate and explain the specific behaviour the subject goes through alongside the time of year when a lot of the animal world behaves differently dependant on what season we are in.

As Spring is upon us now the main animal behaviour you will witness at this time of the year all revolves around courtship;territory,mating etc,where nearly all animals have a place to live,a home,if you like.They do not wander at will and the expression ‘as free as a bird’ is misleading,each animal normally spends its life in a certain area where it feeds,sleeps and rears its young.The form of living space varies throughout the animal kingdom and,for each species is intimately related to its way of life.At this time of year where a good territory can be the successful key in attracting a mate,where the male can advertise to the world his willingness to mate with displays and song from the security of his territory,occasionally having to fight off other males in pursuit of keeping what he has.

Displaying Dipper

Fighting Puffins

The female makes a tour of the territory and accepts the advances of the male of her choice and the start of their courtship begins where the pair have formed a partnership,and go onto building a nest and rearing their young.The aim of every male animal is to find one or sometimes,several females with which to mate with.It can be said that the whole point in life,at least in biological terms,is to leave as many descendants as possible and,according to Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’ by natural selection,the best and most vigorous animals beget the most offspring.In other words, the survival of the fittest individuals must breed well and pass on the characteristics that made them so fit to the next generation.

The methods employed by a species to ensure this happening are called the ‘Reprodctive Strategy’ As far as the females are concerned,this means laying as many eggs or bearing as many young as possible,and for the male it means ensuring that he fathers the maximum progeny.The result of an act of mating is a fertilized egg,this not only contains the germ of a new individual,but is furnished with a food store that supplies energy for development and eventually a young animal emerges.

Moorhen Chick

Parental care then takes over where the young are fed,protected,kept clean and warm,even helped to learn to fend for themselves.While mammals have evolved live birth and the feeding of the young with milk produced in the mothers body,birds have retained the egg-laying habit of their reptilian ancestors.In my next chapter on ‘Animal Behaviour’ I will go through ‘Raising The Family’-parental care,teaching young etc hopefully helping you to understand animal behaviour better.

Shag Portrait


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