The heaths and moors of the Peak District are an eerie exposure of peat covered moorland sitting about 600m (2000 ft) above sea level. Large wind carved eroded rocks sit among vast plateaus and rock formations supporting a healthy population of wild Red Deer.
With temperatures touching nearly 30c over the last 7 days little more proof is needed of the fact our weather is/has changed over the last two decades. And over the last two years I have noticed a warm April and May then the so called summer months of June, July and August seem never to reach their target with regards to temperatures and sunshine. During the summer months when I was in Mull the locals told me of a real wet May, washing away a lot of the birds’ nests, both ground nesting and higher nesting birds having water logged nests. Fast forward, the warmest September for many years, with the start of October being brought in with sun worshipers wearing swimwear around our coasts.
Many experts have their own ideas to what is causing this but there can be no more firmer proof than in the Polar Regions. Climate change is having a greater and faster impact on the Arctic than previously thought, air temperatures in the region have on average increased by about 5c over the last 100 years. Change to the way humans live their lives is needed, with population growth worldwide exceeding beyond space.
During the last 7 -10 days the number of items of clothing you apply when working outdoors in the cold at this time of year has slightly been put on hold, instead the summer order as I call it has remained way pass its purposed shelf life within the natural seasonal calendar. Visits to Norfolk were bathed in sunshine and felt more like a Spanish holiday resort.
Closer to home in the glorious sunshine I have been working on a few subjects, the Short Eared Owls have arrived, coming down from altitude to feed during the winter months around low lying moorland and marshland. I have been lucky enough to have some good sighting over the last couple of weeks of this beautiful owl within the habitat.
With the harvest now having been collected and gathered in by the farmers its left the fields slightly exposed, which helps when trying to find Brown Hares, as the low height affords these mammals no or little cover once they leave the safety of the hedgerows and small pockets of woodland they use as cover. I spent a couple of mornings, dressed head to toe in camo gear stalking, covered in sweat once the sun had risen due to the temperatures. A couple of lovely encounters here from the different days.
The deer rut is an event really just starting now around the country with Autumn upon us. I have already been out a couple of times, once with a client on a one to one and the other on my own, and its still not really started in great earnest, almost like the calm before the storm. This year I will, like last year visit the different places around the country, finishing in Scotland hoping to capture different images and angles to this wonderful event in the natural world. I am also hoping to do a short film for Phototraining4U covering my day from dawn till dusk on this event, so lots going on.
Hopefully over the next several weeks I am able to capture a few images of this event and post them at a later date. I am looking forward to meeting the folks who have booked onto my Beauty of Wildlife two day workshop in conjunction with Calumet Photographic. I will be presenting a few slide shows, talking about some key elements to wildlife photography, then going through peoples cameras and settings in readiness for day two out on the moors of the Peak District.
The second day we will be capturing the wildlife that live in this area, at the same time helping each person to improve their own wildlife photography. Learning fieldcraft in a wild environment, which is the only way people can truly see what skills are needed to approach an animal that’s not use to humans. I will update my blog after this event which I am really looking forward to.
I am just testing out some new and amazing slideshow software I have for talks and presentations and thought I’d share this first example with you. I’m still working on different things but it gives you a flavour of what I plan on doing, hope you enjoy this short film.
As the trees lose their leaves and the countryside is turned in to a mosaic of stunning colours, animals all around the country are feasting on the bounty of food that is plentiful now, from berries to horse chestnuts, the countryside is a wash with food. Birds starting to migrate to and from the UK with lots going on. My time has been completely absorbed with this beautiful season, autumn. One of the most spectacular events in the natural world during the month of October is the rutting of Red, Fallow and other species of Deer in and around our country. However, this year this event is behind within the timing of the seasons and well overdue where previously the rut would be in full swing now.
Over the last week I have been to several different places throughout the UK where there is a good population of both Red and Fallow Deer and the clear evidence was that among the posing and the gesturing things really hadn’t kicked off or so to speak, with the air thick with the very strong smell of each deer, with the males posturing to the other males in a show of strength in order to control and hold onto their females who are never that far away during this time, such is the competition to mate with them the moment they come into season by the ever present and opportunistic males that roam the land during the rut.
During my time at Bradgate Park, Leicester, which is one of the places I visit, the deer have been really slow to start their rut this year, so while I was waiting I started to photograph the Black-headed Gulls as you could hear them from miles away with the loud, screening calls. I composed this image in portrait mode and the shadow is formed by a large treeline to the left covering in parts this little brook that runs through Bradgate into darkness.
One of the places I visit in the UK has a really good woodland area and when you walk through these woods with their well established and majestic trees there is always a lot of actively around with youngsters and females darting all over the place, but then you can come across a male Red Deer, and upon first sighting, those few first seconds all things flash through your head as you are close to a large animal who is full of testosterone, eye contact cannot be averted as you watch him and he watches you. I always stop and start to retrace my steps for a moment as not wanting to disturb the animal first and foremost but also to diffuse the situation as I feel my heart doubles in speed.
The image below was just one of those precarious moments that I found myself in during the last week, where this large male Red Deer just appeared from no where, approaching from around this tree he stood there with a clear look of menace upon his face, firmly standing his ground where his posture and stance told me he was to be left alone. The moment you forget these animals are wild and highly aggressive during this rutting period is a moment you may live to regret should they attack. My advice is try to stay at a safe distance away from the animal and a safe distance is one where you don’t intrude into its personal space, if you do, back off slowly and leave them in peace.
With the Autumnal colours the Fallow Deer blend in so well within these habitats and their coats are beautiful to see, with clear markings throughout, as the two photos below clearly show with this male who had a stunningly beautiful coat for the ladies.
I was lucky enough to see a little action at one of the locations from a group of female Red Deer that were following around the dominant male most of the time with a younger female becoming a little boisterous, as I watched them through the viewfinder I could see their behaviour change and in a flash they both rose up and started to kick out at each other but as soon as this started it finished and I count myself very lucky to have witnessed and captured this brilliant behaviour among Red Deer females.
The male Red Deer pictured early went onto challenge the dominant stag, calling to each other, their primeval sounding roars echoing all around the place, the air changed as each male roared with the females choosing to sit around the dominant stag as he called out, matching each and every call from his competition, brilliant behaviour to watch.
Then in a flash they started to fight, twisting and turning each others neck with their massive antlers until one submits and by doing so he loses his females which in this case happened, a cruel world where only the strong survive as the saying goes.
A big thank you to all the people I met and that came to say hello over the weekend during the Great Peak District Fair in Buxton, with thousands of people coming through the doors it really was a great event. I was displaying my work and again it went down really well, so thanks for sales and workshops purchased. My Gift Vouchers sold really well as presents for Christmas where they come in a really nice black envelope and are sent signed and dated by myself. I have a place left on my Tigers trip and there are still some places left on my other Photo-Trips for next year, should you wish for more info on them then send me an email on my contact page and I’ll be happy to go through anything you wish to know.
For 2012 I have secured a sailing yacht and I have chartered this for this amazing 14 day trip around the coastline of Iceland for two days before heading north to Greenland for Polar Bears and many other animals that live in this breathtaking place. Living on broad this ex-racing yacht will enable us to see the amazing wildlife from the water, where we will then go ashore, exploring the different areas off the beaten track. Working with local expert guides in Greenland to photograph the Polar Bear, the trip is for 10 people and more information will be available very soon. Below is a few images taken on broad showing this breathtaking environment where Humpbacked Whales fish and will be high on our wish list.
This will be an exceptional and very unique trip that will capture nature from the sea and the land where the wildlife will be everywhere, more details very soon.