This has probably been one of the worst winters to date for photography that I can remember. A constant stream of storms and wet weather have rolled in on the Atlantic 'conveyor belt' and an unusual jet stream alignment has resulted in unseasonably warm temperatures. Some trees are even in blossom in December! Many places just a short distance to the north of here have suffered the brunt of this weather and my thoughts go out to those communities who have been subject to repeated flooding which must be a dreadful experience.
I don't mind photographing wildlife in bad weather as it can produce some very atmospheric images but there needs to be some light and that is where this winter has really failed. There has been a almost constant presence of thick grey cloud above. The few moments of brightness seem to have coincided with when I have been otherwise occupied. I have managed a couple of moments to coordinate having the camera in hand with those rare moments when the sun has broke through and thought I would share a few photos from these sessions with you.
The first of these are from my long running corvid flight project. Being close to home it means I can respond quickly to getting there when the sun appears. The low winter sun means that there is a very limited window of light at the location, due to long shadows cast by trees. Always fun to photograph these birds. The challenge with the magpies is to try and catch the back view of the tail in the right light such that it shows off the full rainbow range of colours. The photographs below are a small selection taken from this project since September.
I have a couple of marine lakes close to home on the Wirral. The most reliable for turning up an interesting bird is the large lake at West Kirby on the north-west corner of the peninsula. It has been a few years since a Great Northern Diver took up temporary residence on the lake and this winter saw a juvenile bird arrive. A brief moment of sun saw me out next to the lake which is always a challenge for photography merely as a result of its large size. It was good to catch up with this young diver having spent some time with the adults in Iceland this year. After some patient waiting and moving while the bird was submerged, I was eventually rewarded with a close encounter and just in time before the sun disappeared below a bank of clouds gathering over the hills in North Wales.
This winter has seen a big influx of Short-eared owls into the UK. I assume this is a reflection of a poor year for voles, their main prey, or very successful breeding year in Europe. Its always a pleasure to photograph these daylight hunting owls and watching them quarter the fields in search of prey. They usually stay until around March when they start heading back up to high altitudes to breed. So hopefully if the weather is kind there is still plenty of time to photograph them in the New Year.
This will be my last blog post for this year. Thanks for all your support through 2015 and I will wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Wildlife filled 2016.