Photo Blog

I love observing nature and the changing seasons during my Norfolk countryside dog walks accompanied by my ever-faithful canine companion Starrydog. I especially enjoy taking photos of Norfolk butterflies, wildflowers and other flora and fauna that I happen across while exploring local nature reserves. Visit my Norfolk nature photo blog to keep up to date with my photographic adventures and enjoy my butterfly photos.

Royal Tern Feeding Fledgling

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.

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Red Deer Rut

Red Deer rut in the month of October, and there are many very accessible places you can witness this natural spectacle. I went for the first time with my husband John Stuart-Clarke to Bushy Park in London. The best time is at first light, before the park becomes busy with humans going about their daily activities. We arrived shortly before sunrise after a chilly clear night which had created a dense fog. As we walked into the park grounds visibility was only a few feet, and I started to hear the bellows of the rutting stags.

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The sound echoed in the fog and seemed to come from all sides. It was an eerie, atmospheric experience. Then gradually the fog thinned and I started to make out shadowy figures of the stags. As the mist cleared I witnessed more of the Stags' rutting behaviour -  staring and snarling, licking their lips, tossing their antlers in bracken and charging each other. Within couple of hoursthe sun had risen, the park was filling with people and all the action had subsided and the deer settled down to rest. As we left it was funny to think that these joggers, dog walkers and parents with prams were using the park totally oblivious to the drama that had unfolded at first light.

Note: Please take care if you decide to visit a deer park during the rutting season. Even in parks such as Richmond, Bushy or Bradgate, where they are semi-habituated to humans, deer become extremely aggressive at this time of year. Several people are killed each year trying to approach too close to rutting deer.

Please exercise caution and common sense at all times and bear in mind the following hints and tips for watching the deer rut safely without disturbing the animals:

Keep a respectful and healthy distance away at all times when observing deer and be watchful for any sign of response to your presence or disturbance.  Retreat calmly straight away if you find any deer starting to stare, pull back its lips or show teeth - they are warning you you're too close and they could charge. Always move slowly and steadily and avoid sudden, unpredictable movements. Keep your arms and tripods low. Never wave or try to attract their attention. Always avoid a deer's path and move out of its route if one approaches you. Be aware of you position in the herd and avoid getting between a stag and his hareem of females or a mother and young, which could trigger an attack. Never approach a deer directly, head on or or from behind -antlers are daunting but they can buck and kick too.

Photo of the Month October - Stag Silhouetted In Fog Taken: Bushy Park, London

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel On Mossy Tree

I was recently fortunate enough to visit Simon Phillpotts up in the Yorkshire Dales (find out more about Simon at www.wilddales.co.uk).

He’d been very busy building a new red squirrel hide and wanted to give it a test drive. It was getting to be the time of year when the squirrels were starting to get very busy squirreling away (forgive the pun) their nuts for winter.

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They didn’t stop around for long, and they’re harder to photograph than you might think, but I was lucky to catch this one doing a mission impossible impression.

Photo Of The Month September 2011 – Foraging Red Squirrel

Taken: The Yorkshire Dales

 

Southern Hawker

Male Southern Hawker Hovering

Its late summer and already the weather is feeling very autumnal. I recently visited one of my favourite secluded dragonfly haunts and found the southern hawkers and common darters still zooming about and dancing over the water.

Hawker dragonflies are a fearless and highly competitive dragonfly species. They spend most of their time in flight hunting out smaller insects as prey.

[singlepic id=22 w=600 h=400 float=right] They are also highly competitive. It's beautiful to watch them do acrobatic battles with other dragonflies above the water, quite often there are conflicts between several dragonflies at once, reminiscent of a battle of Britain dogfight.

Like most predators. hawker dragonflies are very curious by nature and quite often one would come right up to hover in front of me for a few seconds before "buzzing" me and zooming off again. This shot was quite a challenge - it was taken handheld using manual focusing on my 180mm macro lens.

 
Photo Of The Month August 2011 - Hovering Southern Hawker Dragonfly Taken: Sole Common Pond, West Berkshire

Poppies at Sunset

Poppies are one of Britain's most iconic flowers. I've been trying to develop my landscape and wildflower photography skills, at times its been an exercise in frustration.

[singlepic id=23 w=600 h=400 float=right]One evening I visited a poppy field near my village. Right at the end of twilight after a cloudy sunset the sky suddenly flooded for a brief few moments in vivid pinks and purples.

The vivid  colours were so fleeting I only managed to grab three or four shots before the sky faded into twilight .

 

Photo Of The Month July 2011 -Poppy Field At Dusk Taken: Letcombe Basset  Oxfordshire

Fox and Leveret

March may be famous for the "mad March hare" but June is the season for leverets.

You can actually observe "mad March hares" boxing anytime from January into late March when their courtship season comes to an end, but European brown hares live in arable fields surrounding the Ridgeway, South Oxfordshire and across the UK all year round.

After giving birth, Brown hares raise their young in late spring into early summer, but tend to be harder to see at this time of year as the crops have grown much higher, affording the younger hares protection from hunters and a plentiful food supply.

During the daytime hares usually hunker down into their "forms" to conceal themselves. 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 hind legs, 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'd like to think the leveret was lucky and lived to fight another day...

A young brown hare or leveret rears up on its hind legs, alert to approaching danger. The Ridgeway National Trail, South Oxfordshire

A large "dog" or male red fox crossing a field margin in search of prey on a hunting trip. The Ridgeway National Trail, South Oxfordshire