October Red Deer Rut

Red deer stag approaching young buck

This year’s red deer rut photography was limited to a jeep safari at RSPB Minsmere and we kept our distance, but a few contextual black and white shots came out quite nicely. The first two tell the story of the less dominant stags and young bucks, who tend to avoid risking conflict during the rutting season. The third image is of the dominant stag interacting with a romantically minded hind in his harem.

Red deer stag approaching young buck
Red deer stag approaching young buck
Bellowing red deer stag and hind in the rut
Bellowing red deer stag and hind
Nervous young red deer bucks
Nervous young red deer bucks
Amorous red deer stag courting hind
Romantic red deer stag courting a hind

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

Red Kite Soaring

Red Kite Soaring

Red Kite Soaring
One of my favourite birds is the beautiful and graceful native red kite. I used to love watching one above my garden back in Oxfordshire but I now see them very rarely in Norfolk, so I recently took a short break to Wales to enjoy seeing them in flight at a feeding station. Sometimes known as a pirate of the sky, they are generally carrion scavengers with an important role in the ecosystem and take live prey far less frequently than is often thought.

They are agile flyers and will happily snatch other bird’s pickings and feed in mid air. Not all that long ago they were a species wrongly persecuted by farmers and estates to the brink of extinction but populations in Wales and the Chilterns have recovered thanks to a massive conservation and education effort. While they are far from common and poisoning remains a problem, their numbers appear to be rising in Norfolk as the recovery area population disperses and I hope soon to see these elegant birds of prey gracing our skies more frequently.

A Rude Awakening

common seal engulfed by white break on rising tide

As winter descends, many of our native wildlife species are busy mating and having young, not least our grey seals that are resident all around the British Isles’ coastline and have some large colonies on the East cost of England. When I walked out to one such colony a little before the busy grey seal mating and pupping season I came across a lone juvenile common seal. Common seals unlike the greys give birth in summer. The seal was asleep on the beach both aware of and totally unconcerned about my quiet presence. The high autumnal winds were blowing sand across the beach and the breakers were high – it was a bright breezy day. What he didn’t notice in his state of utter relaxation was the tide had turned and was now rising and was close to encroaching onto the sand shelf he’d been resting on. I was fortunate enough to capture the moment when the first wave washed over his head, which must have been quite a shock even with his insulating layers. He opened his eyes, then flopped his way up the beach closer to me then resumed his peaceful napping. common seal engulfed by white break on rising tide

Winter Arrives

Female Blackbird in Snow

Female Blackbird in Snow

Just as we were being lulled into the idea of a mild winter, the snow struck, and with a vengeance. In rural mid-Norfolk we’ve been experiencing night temperatures of minus 12 or so, making it extra tough for birds to survive. I put out extra food and make a point of melting the bird bath as its also  important that the birds are able to find fresh water to drink and keep clean, and salt puddles of melted snow water on the roads is not a good option.

This picture is one of one of about 7 blackbirds that visited the garden simultaneously. Many garden birds are highly territorial, so I was careful to spread the food out in patches  which helped keep squabbles to a minimum and save precious energy.

 

 

Royal Tern Feeding Fledgling

Royal tern feeding young wings outstretched
Royal tern feeding young wings outstretched
Royal tern feeding young wings outstretched

Sea birds are one of our favourite birdwatching species in Britain and in November I took a much needed trip to Fort Myers in Florida and spent a lot of time bird watching and of course photographing on Sanibel Island and in their famous Ding Darling Preserve.

My highlight from the trip was undoubtedly a day on Bunche Beach where a tern colony consisting of royal terns, sandwich terns and forster’s terns had all set up camp for winter.

Many of the birds were fledglings still being fed by their parents. It was great to see the hustle and bustle of the tern colony with individuals taking off and returning from their feeding trips.

One of the royal tern fledglings was floating on the water and from the corner of my eye I saw one of the adult  terns returning with a fish fly in towards him. The adult swooped in until his feet dipped in the water and transferred the fish into the hungry youngster’s gaping beak before lifting off again for another hunting expedition. It all happened in a few seconds and was incredible to watch.