Our seasons are changing now from Summer into Autumn. The nights are drawing in and its a great time to be out with your camera, providing you with some of the most beautiful and intense colours of the year.
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Our seasons are changing now from Summer into Autumn. The nights are drawing in and its a great time to be out with your camera, providing you with some of the most beautiful and intense colours of the year.
The onset of spring cannot be denied now, with the warming temperatures, lighter evenings and the morning dawns becoming earlier. Spring is almost up on us, though there may be many false dawns before the days of frost and grey fog are behind us. Over the last week at many of the places I have visited alone and with clients there has been a real air of spring, with birds singing their hearts out, making the dawn corus truly deafening.
Spring is the best time for me, with nature coming into its own from months of dormant inactivity, where as each day passes changes are ever present, a truly beautiful time and one I encourage everyone to just sit somewhere and listen, watch as nature is unfolding.
Birds sing to attract a mate, showing off their pristine plumage where nothing is out of place or left to chance. Lighter morning and evenings add more opportunities for things to grow, bringing everything to life that lives. For me there is no better time to watch and photograph wildlife from wetlands, reed beds, lakes to rivers this time of year will provide marvelous wildlife watching opportunities where you will see different behaviors in wildlife not seen most of the year. The key time for me is when the clock goes back in a few weeks and we gain more light in the mornings and evenings, from this point on it only gets better in my eyes.
Spring is seen as a time of growth, renewal, of new life a wonderful time of year within nature’s calendar. The axis of the earth during Spring is increasing its tilt toward the sun and the length of daylight rapidly increases along with the temperatures the result being new life, growth and longer days.. Animals and birds begin breeding, building homes in readiness for their young.
Catching the season moving from winter into spring is a beautiful time of year. It’s a complete paradise to be among its beauty at this special time of year, witnessing the countryside awaken from its dormant winter state. The words spring and springtime bring thoughts of life, birth and regrowth to our countryside. A special time for wildlife, where all species are looking their best. The odd frosty night and cold morning thrown in to confuse and disorient the wildlife is always on the cards but one of the mildest winter s we’ve had is behind us all now I feel.
So make the most of this amazing time and get out into nature as much as you can over the next couple of months and you won’t be disappointed. Thank you to my clients who’ve attended my one to one wildlife photography days over the last couple of weeks. Where I have taken them to some of my favorite places around the UK witnessing the wildlife and also this wonderful change in the seasons, good luck to you all.
With the start of British Summer time upon us, there is a feeling of love in the countryside, animals displaying and showing off and saying ‘look at me’. This behaviour is mirrored in the human world also, in the hope to attract a female so their genes can continue upon breeding. With the clock going forward, the light will come up earlier in the morning and set later in the evening making those beautiful summer days last ages. Long gone now are those late starts as you wait for the sun to rise. I really look forward to the warmer months, the new life, animal behaviour and the many different and wonderful things you can witness within nature during our longest days of the year.
Here I took a wide angle of a lone male Marsh Harrier that was circling over our heads for some time, calling to the female who was hidden in the reeds. I wanted to convey the true beauty of that morning, with the low lying mist and Norfolk reed in the background. We then headed for cover where I show and teach clients how best to use what’s around you in order to disappear from view. The same male Marsh Harrier then dropped into the reeds in front of us all, where a mixture of watching the subject and following in camera resulted in us all capturing lovely images from that morning.
Camping out in the field, a small fire, favourite foods all packed away to maximise the space along with the many other items you carry as a wildlife photographer living in the field. I like to camp and be closer to the subject I am hoping to photograph, getting up for the light, spending those amazing first few hours of light engrossed in my work. After a long day I then like to head back to where I have made camp and start a small fire, get the little camping stove on, hot water,a strong sweet cup of tea, as I review the days events in camera. With so many things and subjects I am working on along with my one to ones and photo trips there is just not enough time in the day to get round to everything I wish to photograph, even with the extra light.
This week I have had a wonderful time with a lovely couple who travel the globe photographing wildlife. Sue & Rob from the UK. They booked me for two days to show them the beauty of Norfolk and all the places I know and have found during the many visits to this amazing county over many years. You always wish for the best weather for your clients in order for them to get the very best from the day(s) and the conditions during the two days, they could not have wished for better. A slight frost adding that little crunch under foot welcomed us on both days but the light and clear skies were what as a wildlife photographer you dream of. Many thanks to you both and I hope to see you on my Greenland or Tigers Trip next year.
Along with my Fox work, Brown Hares, Barn Owls and Dippers, I am also working on Great Crested Grebes, a bird I have loved for ages, their elegant pose, their beautiful marking and stunning plumage makes them one of the most handsome water dwelling birds in the UK in my eyes. They are the largest of the European Grebes and during the spring and summer they are such a striking bird, with their spectacular head, ruff and spiky head tuffs when they greet each other or display during courtship. Last year I photographed these birds at the same site but was unable to go back at the start of the breeding season due to commitments, so this year I’d hoped to capture them as they build their bond between each other and go through their amazing courtship dance where they dive for weed, surfacing with this in their bills and offer it to one another while sharply turning their heads back and forth.
Having spent some time there now, the lives of these amazing birds are played out before me, where they show real love and care for each other, when one goes out of sight the other calls in an attempt to locate its mate, such a strong bond which was so lovely to witness. I am using a hide on the shore to photograph this pair of Grebes; just on the water’s edge and not in the water as this disturbs the birds and other species of animals around too much. Getting there before the sun comes up, with the dawn chorus as my companion, each bird jockeying for their own patch, staking their clam to that bit of land. It’s such an amazing time of day and one you greatly benefit from for being among its beauty and peace.
The morning starts cold and sometimes there’s that morning mist lying low on the water adding an air of mystery to the place as you wonder what will come, always praying your chosen subject may just make a short and brief appearance for your morning efforts in getting into place.
Then a bird appears an unmistakable appearance, their head plumes held or raised aloft as they swim proudly on their way. The same head plumes compressed when the bird is alarmed or alerted to something, making their whole face area very streamline. Hours can pass with nothing, each bird fishing far and wide from each other, with the odd highly vocal call echoing around the lake. It’s a strong, rolling like call ‘crrra-ahrr’ repeated often and appearing very nasal in sound as the beak doesn’t really open during calling.
To witness their courtship weed dance was amazing and from know where the two birds would come together, something unseen triggering the need to display with each other in a moments flash. Swimming towards each other with great intent, and then rising up inches apart sharply turning their heads from side to side, climaxing in their penguin dance in which both birds raise their whole bodies upright from the water, breast to breast, just amazing to see.
The weed dance only happens a few times during the day and is so beautiful to see, poetry in motion as you witness each bird working to please the other in a real act of affection and love which for me was very touching to witness this very private and powerful moment.
This display is over as quickly as he begins in most cases, this pair are in the early days of courtship and building their nest, gathering twigs, and small branches and bringing them back to increase the size and shape of their nest. Occasionally they mate, only briefly at the moment but this will increase once the nest is finished. The male climbs onto the female, she flattens herself and a small call by the male advertises their brief period of mating before climbing off her.
In the coming weeks I do hope to capture those beautiful images you see with the Grebes chicks on the adults back, thumbing a lift around the lake while tucked under their wings. On some days I have stayed there until dusk some 16 hours almost in the hide, but with love in the air the place is alive with action and calls from other birds and surrounding wildlife so there’s really never a dull moment during the relentless waiting for the Grebes.
Whatever you choose to do good luck and remember the wildlife should always come before any photograph, with careful and respectful fieldcraft, the key with wildlife photography your efforts will be rewarded with those priceless and private moments you get into a wild animals life, capturing them with the camera just lets you record those times, all the best
Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a slight change in the weather, with brighter mornings and lighter evenings. It would seem spring is on its way and maybe upon us very soon. After a long period of poor weather, resulting in low light, it will be most welcomed, with my recent trips to Norfolk and my wildlife workshops at the beautiful Trentham Estate and working on the several projects I am doing in my own time the working conditions have been testing to say the least, but ingrained in me along with a deep love for wildlife is that motto of mine ‘that there is always an image to be had’, however big or small.
However good or bad weather, working with this mindset always rewards you, bringing out your flare and passion in changing conditions at the same time learning you more about how you view an image, pushing your own creative images and boundaries. I have been lucky on a few occasions though where I have been working on several different subjects, when the clouds broke and the area was bathed in warm sunshine. Warmth lifts the spirits and brings places to life and I really think spring now is almost upon us and its the best time of year for me, full of life, action and behaviour. A complete paradise to be among its beauty at this special time of year, witnessing the countryside awaken from its dormant winter state.
The mornings are a wash with bird song at the moment, all competing to be the most musical, filling the air as each bird stakes their claim on a certain patch of ground, among the beautiful songs at dawn one song in particualr symbolizes the British countryside and springtime more than any other call and that belongs to the beautiful male Blackbird. The call travels far, cutting through all other bird songs and is a mixture of different notes and pitches that once you hear its distinctive sound you will never forget the sound.
Spring is one of the four seasons, the period between winter and summer, and for me the words Spring and Springtime bring thoughts of life, birth and regrowth to our countryside. A special time for wildlife, where all species are looking their best, in tip top form hoping to attract the ladies and breed with. Behaviour within the animal world starts in spring, handsome males showing off, displaying to each other in an act of supremacy over the other, using what ever they can to win over the attentions of the females securing a mate for that year. With the lighter mornings and evenings wildlife becomes busy, more active giving greater opportunities to capture its beauty during springtime.
As our Winter visitors leave to go back home to breed the influx of our summer visitors start to slowly arrive to our shores making spring one of the best times in the calendar of nature. I maybe a little early still but from the work I’ve been doing over the last two weeks a change is in the air, alas the odd frostly night and cold morning thrown in to confuse and disorient the wildlife is always on the cards but on the whole winter is behind us all I feel.
The countryside becomes a wash with colours and new growth, a mesmerizing number of birds fill the lands. Flowers start to bloom, eventually carpeting the woodlands in a blue carpet of bluebells, one of the great sites of Britain. Many other flowers suddenly start to appear, muti-coloured and hugely varied in form and shape. A beautiful time of the year where that extra hour of light at either ends of dawn and dusk is very welcome and needed, making the days longer and warming the place for longer. It really is my favourite time of the year.
I have been working on many different subjects, building trust and patience with each species involving many hours waiting. I have two new Dipper sites and my workshops are as popular as ever, the Skomer workshops I do are being booked with the arrival of the “clowns of the sea” as I call them. Any day now the Puffins will arrive now spending 8 months of the year at sea and only 4 months on land, an amazing feat. I have always loved small in the frame images, showing the subjects habitat letting people see where the animal lives and how it conducts its life. The following two image are a male Wren and a male Dipper on the same stretch of river looking in top condition.
While photographing the Dippers at this new site I spent some time watching this male, who had found these logs all gathered together at the side of the river and used them to defend his territory from and sing. I saw him dive into the water and feed and he seemed to be acting differently so I turned on the video on my camera and began filming. About thirty seconds into the film he turned around and in a flash regurgitating a pellet. The contents of a bird’s pellet depend on its diet, but can include the exoskeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur etc, many birds do this to remove such pellets, I have rarely seen this though in Dippers and I was really lucky to have captured it with this short film.
Below I managed to photograph a male Kestrel hunting over marshland over the last few days which is among a large industrial estate, where I think they have started to make a nest, here I used the cover of the reeds to break my shape up at the same time hide my approach clearly showing the estate in the back ground. Something I plan on working on should these birds stay.
There is just so much going on now within the countryside so enjoy this magical time of year where for me there is just not enough time in the day to capture everything I plan working on, I am hoping to capture images from my time spent on the various different species over this beautiful time of year that spring is. This is not always possible though so for me just being there is enough, where I witness a window into a wild animals world.
For details on my workshops, one to ones and the photo trips I run then please contact me here or alternatively view the workshops page for full listings. The Sumatran Orangutans trips itinerary can now be viewed and booked here
All of my photo trips from one to ones right up to the bigger trips are designed and lead from the front by myself, where each trip is designed for wildlife photographers where I pride myself on working with the very best people on the ground and in the field giving that personal and private touch offering all clients the best service possible with smaller group sizes in most cases ensuring all my clients get my full expertise and guidance, learning more about the wildlife and the environment in which they live. Many thanks and good luck with the weather.
And before I go on page 90 of the March issues of the BBC Wildlife magazine you’ll see an advert for a range of clothing called 511 Tactical series, they want me to trail some of their clothing and equipment while on my travels here and abroad. Ray Mears himself an ex-soldier has been using this brilliant clothing for years.
The name “511” represents a gruelling climbing grade as listed in the Yosemite Decimal Grading System, and as a skilled climber myself I’m looking forward to using this clothing and equipment. I’ve spoken with their top UK guy and they are branching out from their American homeland and going for the ‘softer’ approach away from the guns and the body armour etc. They are looking to the outdoor market, walking, camping, survival market and climbing for which it was originally designed for and gets its name from.
I will be using their tactical pants –cotton, tactile Pro pants, tactical Pro long + short sleeved shirts all in green and browns,sand colours, their Rush 72 back pack complete with hydration pack idea for long walks with heavy kit which is the way I work while in the field. A place where you have to rely on your kit to make it just that bit more comfortable, I will update my blog and do a full field test and review when I’ve received the items of clothing and equipment. Their website can be viewed here.
The season of Autumn provides us with some of the most beautiful and intense colours within nature. Woodlands all over the UK are revealing their amazing colours of red, orange, yellow and gold. This happens when the trees start to withdraw their chlorophyll from their leaves revealing these vibrant pigments in the leaves giving this amazing and distinctive appearance during the season of Autumn.
Autumn is a great time to get out with your camera as the ground is laden with fruits and nuts forming a carpet of food. A very rich bounty in which all animal’s take advantage of this extra food source before the onset of Winter. Capturing behaviour in some animals during Autumn makes for some beautiful encounters with wildlife. The most commonly known one is the Deer Rut , which was very late this year, I have been to several places around the UK over the last month and seen some brilliant behaviour and great moments.
This time of year is also one of the best times to see and witness one of the most secret and shy birds within the bird world, the Jay, part of the Crow family. You only normally hear these birds in the tops of trees, but during the plentiful bounty on offer during Autumn you’ll see them on the ground feeding on the acorns and other nuts and fruits the trees shed at this time of year.
The changing seasons and the yearly life cycle of animals, plants and trees will enable you to photograph many different images throughout the year, which will tell the story of the changing weather and colours of the different habitats in which the wildlife live in. The season of Autumn for me is arguably one of the finest times of year to enjoy and view wildlife with a backdrop of amazing colours, while most summer birds have now gone. Vast numbers of new arrivals make up for their departure, with the likes of Fieldfares, Redwings, and various Geese and Ducks that spend the winter months with us.
One of my favorite winter visitor’s is the beautiful Whooper Swan that have started to arrive from Iceland along with the slightly smaller but equally beautiful Bewick Swan. When they have all arrived numbers can surpass more than 1,000 Whoopers in and around the various places I visit, one of the best is on the North West coast of the UK. So graceful and elegant for a large bird they truly are beautiful and amazing to watch in flight.
I have also been photographing a real comical and funny bird, always on the move and constantly calling as they climb and pose up and down trees with great finesse and ease, the Nuthatch. I wanted to try and capture a few different view points of these charismatic, iconic woodland birds with their bold mannerism’s. I waited out of site to where they were landing, hoping to capture their cheeky side within an image. The following two photos I feel demonstrate this, with the amazing colours of the autumnal woodland as the back drop. Very funny birds and just one of the many wonderful animals you can photograph now as they feed on this rich source of food nature provides them with during Autumn.
Autumn marks the transition from Summer into Winter and is a short season compared to the other three so make the most of it with the colourful foliage on offer, adding great impact to any photographs you take. With the cooler temperature’s you maybe lucky enough for some amazing sunsets as I was with this lone Kestrel hunting in the very last rays of light over marshland.
With so much happening now my best advice would be to just go out into nature and capture this amazing and visually beautiful time of year, your reward will be views of animals you may not be able to see during the other seasons of the year, at the same time witness these stunning colours.
The migrants that these shores attract along with the special winter wildlife we have, finally show up in good numbers from now onwards giving you a unique insight into their lives, some of the best for me are Short-eared Owls that come down from the mountains to feed at sea level during our winter months, Mountain Hares that change colour to pure white to avoid predators and blend in with their snow capped landscapes along with Ptarmigan and many more species of wildlife where the only downside is that it becomes colder but you get to put more layers on!!. Whatever you do you will not be disappointed with the beauty of mother nature.
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
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.
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.
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.