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. Over the last two weeks I have been to several different places throughout the UK with clients covering the Deer Rut, Red Squirrels and Short-eared Owl.
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 Deer activity around. With the Autumnal colours the Deer blend in so well within these habitats and their coats are beautiful to see, with clear markings throughout. All my clients got some amazing images from some great encounters over the last two weeks.
We had a mixed fortune with the weather after one of the wettest periods in autumn so far, but there is always an image to be taken I say not matter what the weather throws at you. Also over the last week or so I have visited my Red Squirrel site in the North west coastal region of the UK with clients booked in on my One to Ones. This whole area is managed by the wildlife trust who keeps an eye on the population of Red Squirrels that were almost wiped out 4 years ago.
Numbers are slowly increasing with the hard work and dedication of the local trust and volunteers. We visit this site in the morning and then head to one of my Short-eared owl sights in the afternoon as this is one of the many duel-One to Ones I run. The full list can be seen here. These places are all built off the back of my extensive knowledge on these areas and time served there.
Every living animal for me has their own spirit, their own character and I really try to capture that within my work and try and show and get clients who come with me to see differently and to engage in the bigger picture which in turns makes for better images I believe. Unplanned, unscripted in its truest form, watching wildlife and capturing those briefest of moments when you witness their unique behavior, this is priceless.
These days have only just started so if you want to book on or see what I offer then please click on the following link. I have many other one to ones and workshops that carry on throughout the Winter offering a real encounter with nature.
I do have a few spaces free due to a cancellation on my Tigers of India tour next April. I have been going to India since 2009 and working with the same guys year in and its an amazing trips where clients have some amazing images and times. To see this trip and past blog posts of what we got up to click on the following link and I hope you can join me next year, many thanks.
Over the last week I have revisited my Red Squirrel site in the North West coastal region of the UK. It was nice to be back as I hadn’t been back all year due to work. I managed to capture these most adorable mammals in better light, and capturing their cheeky nature. This whole area is managed by the wildlife trust who keeps an eye on the population of Red Squirrels that were almost wiped out 3 years ago. Numbers are slowly increasing with the hard work and dedication of the local trust and volunteers.
I make no secret on my website of my great passion and love for owls, they are so beautiful to watch as they go about their lives. From the days when I was made to wear my knitted woolly hat that my mum had made for me, before I ventured out. Owls have always fascinated me. I cannot put into words why I love this species of bird so much, I’ve grown up with them, consider them an integral part of my life.
Over the last four months there has been a great number of Short-eared Owls around the country, giving many people close encounters into their normally secret moorland lifestyles during the breeding season. Where there are Short-eared Owls you will often find Barn Owls sharing the same area and also many other raptors, none more so than at the Dee Estuary.
I have visited this area for many years and if you get lucky on your visit you can be treated to a bounty of raptors. The best days are at high tides where alot if not most of this reed bed and marshland can be covered with the approaching sea water. You can have some wonderful views of all these birds, but I have also been many times and seen very little. When things come together though its one of the best places to see all of these raptors in one given area.
In March’s issue of the Bird Watching magazine there are several pages of my images and wording describing this powerful event in nature’s calendar, one that often leaves me shocked and upset at the things I witness, but at the same time I realise this is Mother Nature at her best and worst all rolled into one.
If you would like to read the article then click here, and my thoughts are expressed in the text and through the images printed in one of my favourite magazines. I hope you enjoy the article. Thank you to the guys at the Bird Watching magazine for doing such a great job on the article and layout.
There is a real air of spring around at the moment among the UK countryside, with the odd spell of frost or even snow on the higher grounds, just to add to the confusion for nature. 2011 was one of the warmest years on record with lengthy periods of warm weather each month right up until the end of the year. In with the New Year and again those mild, warm temperatures seem to be still with us with little promise of the cold spells we’ve had in previous years.
On the ground nature is confused, the sudden warming temperatures for this time of year is playing a cruel game with nature, one minute warm the next an overnight frost. You can see and hear the birds singing to attract a mate, defending their territories with great cause. Dippers displaying and starting to gather nesting material, the countryside really feels like it should be much later than it really is due to the influence of the warmer weather.
Mother Nature is powerful though and animals and plants will overcome and survive. I believe as nothings is as powerful as nature. While being among wildlife you get the impression that you’ve missed something or they have, what I mean is by watching the behaviours of the wildlife its seems that winter has been by-passed and were heading straight into the season of spring. I really hope that the cold spells of weather that nature has endured in 2010 and 2011 wont now come along and catch the wildlife out as that would be one of the cruelest lessons in which to learn from. However, I fear that this could happen quite soon.
As each year passes and we hear that a warming record has been broken, or nearly broken again, it provides further evidence that unfortunately we are not just seeing a natural cycle of global warming, but instead humans are having an effect on the climate. I am not qualified on paper to start debating what is right or wrong I just know on the ground among wildlife things are changing and I do hope nature won’t be caught in between these warming temperatures and strange happening among the seasons.
Over the last three months though there has been one bird that seems to be doing really well within the warming temperatures and that is the beautiful Short-eared Owl that seems to have invaded many areas of the UK feeding on the bountiful supply of rodents. The internet is awash with brilliant images showing this often rarely seen owl outside of the breeding season. Recently I have spent back to back days there trying to capture different angles and images of these stunning owls.
Over that time the owls are late risers and rarely come out before the early afternoon but I go there at dawn and wait as you never know what may happen, as the site has other birds of prey. Fortune often rewards me and I was lucky enough to see a lone Shot-eared owl hunting in the morning light. I’d located an area in which these ground dwelling birds roost overnight and then just suddenly appear in the afternoon. I set my gear up overlooking this area, not to close to disturb them, placing my converter on my long lens as I waited.
Often the periods of waiting were greater than the time I’d see them but for me it’s just the enjoyment of being around wildlife. That’s enough for me anything else is always a bonus. I often say I could sell all my camera equipment tomorrow and still be happy sitting and watching with my binoculars.
I have witnessed them diving for prey, perched in the morning light, and hunting in the pouring rain, which is very rare to see. This is a costly exercise for owls as they don’t do well in rain. As I witnessed this it does pull on my heart strings as you just know that owl is hungry and gathering enough food to stay alive. It was tough viewing this.
I also have had some lovely encounters with a pair of Barn Owls that have lived in this area for some time now. They appear when they want to and unlike some Barn Owls I photograph in Norfolk they are rarely seen in the day. They don’t have any routine here and this Barn Owl came out as the sun was setting and gave the whole area a lovely warming glow and feel, which is a welcome relief if you have been there since before dawn. You have to use fieldcraft skills and patience when photographing owls as they sometimes fly past you, and in this case straight at me. Another amazing encounter as the sun was setting. I am really lucky to see and witness this.
Their hearing is one of the best in the animal kingdom so great care when you start to shoot is needed otherwise they will bank off from where they hear that noise, in this case the camera shutter, so hold your nerve and wait and then press when you’re happy. I’ve seen some wonderful behaviour in both the Short-eared owls and this pair of Barn Owls recently that I have tried to capture within these images.
After the success of my previous wildlife workshops with Calumet Photographic I have several others now lined up on their seminars page. Two dates for the amazing Spring/Summer Tides in Norfolk covering this event which has captivated me for many years and Sping Time on the Moors in the Peak District. For those that live in and around the capital, London, I will be doing a two day Beauty of Wildlife workshop at Calumets Drummond Street branch on April 14th and 15th. These workshops are open to all skill levels and backgrounds within wildlife photography.
The workshops are designed to give you the best opportunities to take the best images from your day in the field whatever nature throws up. To ensure that everyone’s needs are met the workshops are limited to 8 participants. You’ll be in good company, sharing your ideas, images and love of photography amongst the beauty of wildlife.
You’ll take your photography to the next level and in the process you’ll immerse yourself in your photography and I will be right there giving you a personal photography lesson. For more details click here to be taken to Calumets seminars page, then either click on the Drummond Street branch in London or the Manchester branch to see the full list of wildlife workshops that I am doing in conjunction Calumet Photographic.
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.
I have been photographing Short-eared Owls over the last couple of weeks at one of my sites on the North-West Coast of the UK where they migrant to in the winter months, it’s pre-dominantly a stronghold for Short-eared Owls during the non-breeding season and this time of year.Most Short-eared Owls are upland,pasture and moorland hunters,but during the colder months in these areas their prey becomes scarce so the birds move to areas where their food of voles,rodents and other small mammals is more abundant, hence why they are said to migrate during this period when really its just about surviving the colder months.
They favour coastal,marshland,reedbeds and rough grazing habitat during the winter months,often coming down to lower altitudes from their upland/moorland summer habitats. With the weather being so wet over the last few weeks the opportunities to see them, let alone photograph these most beautiful of the owl family have been very slim on the ground but I managed to capture some images.But over the next 2 months I hope to get some beautiful shots of these owls hunting like I did last year with the image below.
I love their faces with their ‘Disc-Like’ shape to it and those ‘Fierce’ looking eyes that for me make these a beautiful looking bird.They are one of the few owls that regularly hunt and appear in broad daylight,often visible at long range,listen out for the males call, a deep, booming sound – ‘boo-boo-boo-boo’ when you are looking for them.During this time of year they are very tollerate of other birds/owls and most of the time can be seen hunting together over the marshland here where numbers of 15,20+ have been counted in the past in this area alone,with one communal roost with a maximum of 28 owls in it.
I will keep my blog updated on my progress in capturing these birds ,weather permitting,but in the meantime when you go and visit marshland,coastal reedbeds etc just look out for these birds especially at this time of year and listen out for their calls and remember their eye sight is amazing so wear muted,camoflaged clothing to ensure you give yourself the best chance of seeing these beautiful birds and try to stay as still as possible.Good luck and if you would like any futher help and advice on these birds please contact me and I’ll do my best.