Today is the “Glorious Twelfth the day that marks the start of the grouse shooting season. To reach this point our uplands have been emptied of wildlife through illegal persecution. Leaving Red Grouse that will be forced from the ground by beaters, talking off in a blind panic and blasted out of the sky for sport by paid shooters.
Harrier Day 2017 was celebrated all over the country with ten events over the weekend marking this special day. Since the first Hen Harrier day back in 2014 this event has gone from strength to strength as the public have become more aware of the cruelty on our moorlands. The destructive nature of driven grouse shooting on the lead up to, during and after is killing so much wildlife and leaving us with a controlled, managed landscape that only benefits the landowners.
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.
With the weather in the UK still presenting wildlife with some very testing conditions I find nature always gives off her beauty whatever the weather. I will be sad to leave behind the Barn Owls that I’m currently working on. Hoping that on my return the UK wildlife won’t have had more rain and flooding to contend with. For me though rain or shine nature always shines and makes me smile whatever the weather.
I’m heading to one of Europe’s most mountainous countries, Slovakia, leading two trips for Tarta Photography. I will be photographing Brown Bears within the Carpathian Mountains so I’ll be a little quiet on my blog for the next two weeks. Really looking forward to the trip and meeting clients during this time, where I hope to bring you more on this amazing trip upon my return home.
I’ve had a few one to ones over the last several days amongst my own work, photographing Red Grouse, high up on the moors of the Peak District. Also Dippers, where some river levels have risen and the wildlife have either moved or drown, which is incredibly sad. On the days my clients booked we braved the weather reports and were treated with sunny but at times wet weather.
After rain there always comes wonderful and very usable light for photography so sometimes it’s just worth taking a chance, where fortune often favours the brave, and those weather fronts I like to study turn out wrong sometimes.
Some of the moors are just starting to show some colours now, in full bloom it can be just a carpet of soft purples covering vast areas, making a wonderful back drop to the grouse. I have a number of workshops during the best times, so if you’d like to join me, learn more about these iconic birds and at the same time learn fieldcraft and how best to approach these birds then click here to see these ever popular days I run.
Many thanks to my clients for your company, where the gamble paid off and everyone got some very nice images of their chosen subjects. The message here is work with what you have and the wet weather fronts can pass as quickly as they arrive, but wildlife will still have to feed to stay alive. For more information on my one to ones I run throughout the year and at the varoius locations I know well around the UK, then please click here to be taken to this page.
Dates for my talks in 2012/13 covering a wide variety of my work are filling up fast, so if your a camera club, organisation or chairty that would like to see beautiful images of wildlife, whats behind the images and my work then contact me for more details and rates, many thanks.
Spring time for me is the best time of year. Wildlife is everywhere and bird song fills the air, even more so over the last several days, waking up to several inches of thick snow on the moors of the Peak District. I thought this maybe an April fools too far. During the last ten days or so I have enjoyed the very warm temperatures of spring whilst in Norfolk and other places around the UK running my one to ones and also my own project work.
Great Crested Grebes, Brown Hares, Barn owls and many more species all settling down, starting to pair up and begin a family at this wonderful time of year. I had a one to one in Norfolk and really enjoyed showing my client around. We captured some wonderful images of Barn Owls, Brown Hares and waders during the day and Ben wrote a lovely blog post with some great images which can be seen by clicking here
“You couldn’t make it up if you tried” first came to mind, as I had two one to ones booked in to photograph Red Grouse on the moors, the heavens opened and inches of snow fell. Some roads in and out of Buxton where closed so it was really touch and go on whether the days went ahead. I made contact with both clients as a blanket of thick snow in early April really is unheard of. Also very worrying for the wildlife sitting on eggs and trying to breed/mate while the weather was plunged into freezing, wintery conditions.
Both of my Red Grouse one to one clients where great sports and both days went ahead as planned. The first day was a little tougher due to the snow being at its highest from the previous day’s downfall. We had to walk in places knee deep in snow as we ascended in darkness to where the grouse live and play out their lives among the higher regions of the Peak District.
Walking through thick snow with heavy kit bags does get you warm. Full credit to Steve though who knuckled down and was rewarded for his efforts with some amazing encounters of both male and female Red Grouse, the words “you only get out what you put in” ringing around the place as we sat down and drank our cups of tea some 600 meters up above sea level.
I always tell clients that the best way to see and in turn take your photographs is just sit and watch, read and listen to nature, she will tell you what’s around and what is happening. Never force anything and never go with a shopping list of shots you wish to capture. Adopt this approach along with care and respect for your subject and you get some wonderful moments into a wild animals life. On both days both clients did just so and had some lovely encounters with this iconic moorland bird that is so at home within this sometimes unforgiving habitat.
Rival males posing to each other and fighting over their females, trying their luck. We even witnessed a grouse having a snow bath. Cleaning his feathers among the deep snow. Animal behaviour is amazing to see and capture and I showed some key techniques and fieldcraft which enabled both clients to read a little more into what was happening, in turn resulting in lovely moments where we came close to these birds on so many occasions, peering into their world through their eyes. This always has a deep and long lasting impact on me, making that contact with nature is priceless.
The weather on both days started well but became foggy on the second day but again the grouse came close and carried on with their lives around us which was magic and true, real wildlife photography for me. Blending in, using what’s around you and just watching and working the land. Thank you Steve,Nigel also Ben for your company over the last several days and I wish you well in your photography.
An early start to photography the Red Grouse this week turned into a lovely close encounter with a family of these iconic moorland birds. I begin my ascent in the dark, where your visibility is lessened in the absence of any natural light, as the sun hadn’t risen above the horizon yet. Having lost your clear vision heightens your other senses, your ears become better at hearing, more in tune as I call it with the environment, your sense of smell increases, as every step you take is carefully placed. You pick out a prominent feature in the direction you are travelling and focus to the left or right of that subject and that’s how you see and navigate yourself in the dark.
Reaching the plateau the ascent levels out a little, it is a welcome sight and what greets you is miles, upon miles of rocky outcrops littering the moorland. Its home to specialized animals that have evolved and adapted to living in this hostile environment. They live through the most testing weather conditions that Mother Nature can through at them. On this day though the sun was rising over the valley below, slowly warming and filling the place with light. With that nature awakens, birds begin to call, distance calls, close calls echo around the place and for me it is truly the best time of the day as everything begins to wake up around you.
It’s one of the best times to photograph wildlife as the light is softer, less harsh and adds so much to an image. The wildlife can be more trusting at this time of day and you must never betray that trust in order to get an image. If you use your fieldcraft skills, watch and listen and respect the subject, they will settle once that trust is gained. You then can carry on always mindful of your advance and approach and the welfare of the subject. If the subject shows signs of distress, is defending their territory at your presence then you’ve gone to far.
Once the sun had come up, the colours of the moorland popped out, turning a black and white landscape into a colourful one, blooming with colours all warmed by the sun. I saw a few Grouse in the distance, their bubbling call so unique within the bird world. In the distance I saw a lone Mountain Hare, feeding in their brown summer coats. With the onset of winter these hares change to their white winter coats, which makes them almost invisible within this landscape. This is very important as there are many raptors that patrol these areas, so they have perfectly adapted to their habitat with the changing seasons and different weather, how wonderful nature is.
Between myself and the hare there was open ground, so I used the lay of the land to advance. The wind was in my favour, blowing away any slight noise as I placed my feet down on the ground, at the same time blowing my scent away. Hares have an amazing sense of smell and hearing so the pursuit of such animals is fruitless if your fieldcraft is poor and you don’t use what’s around you to your own advantage here in the Peak District.
Once I was happy, I managed to see two, as the other was hugging the ground feeding, I let a few shots off and they stood up on their hind legs to see. I stopped everything, turned myself into a low-lying bush, and this image below was that first contact I had with these two hares. They had heard my camera noise but just couldn’t make out where it was from, I took a few more slow, single shots and they settled and carried on feeding. While this was going on I could hear the distinctive calls of Red Grouse in the distance so I said goodbye to the Mountain Hare and advanced towards the calls.
I always try to move slowly, all the time watching and listening as I always say that nature will let you know what’s around you, she can also be your first indication that something is wrong as alarm calls can ring out at any time, letting other animals know there is danger around, more so you’ve been spotted, if so stop, go to ground and wait. I did that here behind this set of rocks when this Red Grouse came from nowhere. I watched, perfectly still, hoping my slight movement hadn’t disturbed this Grouse as I was really close.
I captured the bird yawning, it made no sound what so ever, unlike their call. Afterwards the grouse came from the protection of the rocks and picked away at the heather shoots. The light was amazing and lit up the colours of these beautiful birds really well, the background was the valley below, some 600m beneath me. With such close encounters involving a wild animal going about its life you feel your heart rate greatly increase, you go into auto mode, trusting the settings and routine you’ve practised many times before along with the element of luck on your side.
I stayed put among these large rocks and within no time a whole family of Red Grouse came out from cover. Mum, Dad, and several excitable youngsters. Mum and Dad were constantly on guard, watching for any sign of predators, then they’d disappear back to the safety of the stones and rocks.
I had a privileged ten minutes watching this family, the youngsters all happy to be out from cover, their tireless energy on show, up and down on these rocks, flapping and exercising their wings building strength and confidence. It was really funny to watch at the same time very enduring to witness. They all started to walk off, coming down from the high vantage points of the rocks, they slowly disappeared from view and that was the last I saw of that family.
A beautiful encounter among this stunning landscape, where you can see no one the whole time you are there, giving you a sense of true wilderness, something I love to be among, photographing the beautiful and stunning wildlife. Sometimes that beauty is hard for me to put into words. I hope this recent slideshow of a few beautiful moments I captured in the wild, put together and arranged alongside the tempo of this music will help.
As 2010 leaves us and a new year begins I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year and all the best in the four coming year. Now that the holiday period is over and the snow has melted in most areas it was nice to get out with the camera to blow the cob webs of Christmas off at the same time break in my new walking boots I had received as a present. A walk around the Peak District in better conditions than before Christmas was the perfect taster for the trips and workshops coming up.
I love the vast open moorland and the views on a clear winters day are just stunning, and as ever the Red Grouse where out in numbers calling, patrolling their territories in the morning light, always on the look out for a female. Beautiful birds I love spending time with watching and listening to their calls.
I am heading to Scotland soon, to photograph some of the animals that live in and around this area over several days working the land, watching, listening, looking for clues using my skills and fieldcraft to capture wildlife in this amazing part of the UK. If and when I can I will update my blog before heading home.
I have had some great interest in the Sumatran Orangutans trip in September so thank you to all those interested in this very different trip which is more remote and totally different then its neighbour Borneo. Also my trip to Greenland- Arctic Adventure 2012 is almost ready where I have chartered a whole ex-racing yacht to head up to Greenland and Turner Island to see and photograph Polar bears, Whales and so much more living and operating from this ex-round the world racing yacht during our 14 day trip. It will be an amazing adventure and something very different where the wildlife will not hear our approach, add to this a lower point of view almost level with the sea making for a perfect platform for wildlife photography.
I have one place left on my Tigers trip in May- Tigers Of India, witness this amazing animal in the wild, and just a quick reminder that I have 3 limited edition Tigers prints where 50% of the profit goes directly to helping Tigers around the world through the charity 21 Century Tiger who spend every penny raised on helping this amazing animal survive around the globe.
There are a few places left on my Masia Mara Migration trip also so if these or any of my other trips, one day workshops interest you then just contact me here for more details. Big thanks to all those who have booked and I look forward to meeting you all in the coming weeks and months and helping you improve your wildlife photography at the same time learning you more about the wildlife around you and how to capture the things you see, so all the best and many thanks
Spent a lovely day yesterday on a One To One with Gary Copeland,Derbyshire in the Peak District looking for Red Grouse,after a slight walk to one of 3 places I visit regularly we got into place and waited for this very shy bird to show up.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 Red Grouse. These iconic moorland birds make their home on these moors and are reliant on their camouflaged plumage to blend in to this habitat.The image below shows where we were and gives you an ideal of this habitat.
The image above is of the hard to capture/see female who looked in stunning condition,perched on these large rocks that litter this beautiful landscape, the weather was good to us in the morning but in the afternoon the weather changed and at 570m ( Altitude-meter in my watch) above sea level you get a real sense of the environment as you look to the sky and see the changing weather approaching.Neverless Gary and myself had a great day and I was pleased for gary as he managed some lovely images and learned alot about the Grouse,approach,what to look for etc.
I managed to capture a male Red Grouse up on a stone wall walking up and down, like something of the famous ‘Red Grouse Whisky’ advert where he is seen posing and performing,very funny to watch,seen below in this image
The Red Grouse is one of those beautiful birds that live a quiet and shy life,a very jumpy bird I have found over time and the secret is just simply to get into place with as little disturbance to the bird as possible and wearing camouflage clothing,make sure the wind is blowing towards you as this will take your scent away and just wait for them to show up,they often fly around alot and take some time to settle.I run Red Grouse In The Peaks workshops, where throughout the year I have certain dates where I take up to four people to the best site at that time of year or like Gary I can do a One To One at one of these site’s also. It’s all designed to get the best images for the client as I can and a better understanding of your chosen subject using my proven fieldcraft techniques and other simply tips I teach and showing people the beauty of nature.
And the male turned up just before we left and posed for us and I managed this portrait of this beautiful bird, a great day was had by all,thank you for your company Gary and a Merry Christmas.