Photography in the Dog Days of Summer

Common blue butterfly perched on pink heather blossom

One of the things I chatted about on my recent BBC Norfolk radio appearance was the difficult light and the challenges it presents to photographers in high summer. But there is always something to shoot for….

By the time we reach August., though its still very hot and to us the height of summer, in the natural world the days are already drawing in and autumn is just around the corner. Its already getting a little easier to capture soft light in mornings and evenings and if you rise early after a clear night you might even find dew on the ground.

August is a great time to to visit our lowland heaths where the beautiful pink carpet of flowers is just coming into its own and can make a wonderful backdrop for close up photography.

Common blue butterfly perched on pink heather blossom
Common blue butterfly perched on pink heather blossom

 

Cross orbweaver spider against heather
Cross orbweaver spider against heather

 

August is a good month to spot late dragonflies as well as second brood and migrant butterflies. Most first generation butterflies are getting very tatty by now and make poor photographic subjects but some species have second broods that metamorphose into a second brood in late summer.

The late summer harvest means that hares, who have enjoyed the cover of the growing crops since spring become easier to spot hunkered down in the stubble of harvested fields.

Brown hares nestling amongst stubble
Pair of European Brown hares nestled in their form among crop stubble

Many birds are already preparing for their Autumn migrations and this month I’ve immensely enjoyed watching the fledgeling swallows and house martins practice their flight techniques and feeding up for their forthcoming long journey by swooping around my wildlife pond.

Swallow hunting insects over pond
Swallow hunting insects over pond

Meet the neighbours

Barn owl hunting over meadow in evening light, Norfolk wildlife

Its been quite a grey and leaden-skied February and my photography teaching has been keeping me busy. Back at our new ranch to be we have planning permission and are excited to see diggers and cement mixers arriving at the house. We’re also talking to a local landscape designer about turning the large plot into a wildlife garden complete with pond and meadow so things are looking promising.

Our new home to be is not far from the Nar Valley Way and I’ve been visiting it a fair bit to familiarise myself with my new neighbourhood. On the way home I spent a little time in a nearby meadow and saw a few of our new neighbours – a beautiful barn owl and brown hare…

Barn owl hunting over meadow in evening light, Norfolk wildlife

Alert brown hare in meadow, Norfolk wildlife

 

 

 

Farewell to Oxfordshire

Silhouetted brown hare at dusk

Well I had to move quite suddenly away from Oxfordshire to the county of Norfolk. This is a quick, belated post to say farewell to the county that brought me back to nature and introduced me to wildlife photography. I will miss the rolling open countryside and the shadow of the Ridgeway on my dog walks greatly. Although I only lived near South Oxfordshire’s chalkhill downland for four years, it became a true home for me and it will always have a place in my heart.

Silhouetted brown hare at dusk
Silhouetted brown hare at dusk

During some of my farewell walks in my favourite places I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of short-eared owls and a beautiful brown hare silhouetted against the skyline, so I leave Oxfordshire with those images as a beautiful memory.

 

Fox and Leveret

Red Fox In Rapeseed

June is the season for leverets. March may be the famous month for seeing the “mad March hares” boxing in courtship, but hares live in the arable fields surrounding the Ridgeway all year round. They raise their young in late spring into early summer.

During the day hares hunker down into their “forms”. Dawn and dusk are perfect times to watch them. One evening shortly before dusk I was crouched in a rapeseed field margin watching a young leveret. All of a sudden it reared up on its hindlegs, sniffed the air and dived off into the rapeseed crop.

A few moments later out of the bushes trotted a large dog fox. He paused just a brief moment, his head turned towards me. We exchanged looks, acknowledging each other’s presence, then he moved calmly onwards, following the scent of the leveret. On the way home I spotted a fresh trail of pigeon feathers, I like to think the leveret lived to fight another day…

Dog fox crossing field margin
Dog fox crossing field margin
Leveret on hind legs in rapeseed
Leveret on hind legs in rapeseed
Photos Of The Month June 2011 – Fox and Leveret in Rapeseed Field Margin
Taken: The Ridgeway, Oxfordshire