Sunday, February 21, 2016

Summer Foxes

With the weather continuing to be grim, its a good time to catch up with the perennial backlog of images needing processing. It is always nice to go back to a set of images you took a few months ago as not only does it re-stir the happy memories of the moment but inevitably you find a few surprise photos. This week I have been working through some fox images from a couple of sessions last summer in a friends back garden.

My good friend Steve has a wide variety of wildlife visiting his garden that includes for the last few years a pair of buzzards and foxes. Often the key to having a garden full of wildlife is to keep a constant supply of food and water available.  For the last couple of years when Steve and his family have headed off on holiday I have offered to visit to keep the food supply going and also this give opportunity for a quick photo session or two.

The garden includes an acre of oak woodland on a slope and close to the house falls away in a couple of terraces with the lower area being were the foxes are regularly fed and also come in to clear up spillages, particularly peanuts, from the various bird feeders. Steve has built a small hide down there for photography.

So I turned up for the first visit with a couple of jumbo tins of dog food for the foxes. Having checked all the bird feeders were topped up, I scattered the dog food around the lower lawn. The strong smell of fresh tinned dog food should draw the foxes in quickly. I went to go in the hide to find it full or garden furniture in temporary storage so quickly needed a plan B. Fortunately in my car I had my rarely used ghillie suit which putting on quickly transformed me into a bush. I found a suitable place to lie down, at some distance on the terrace above the lower fed area and waited. I decided given that I only had the ghillie suit to, and not wanting to potentially alarm the foxes, to sit further back and use thequiet and movements we 600mm lens. This would have the added benefit of reducing the angle from my slightly raised position. I had to keep very quiet and move very slowly so as not disturb them. Fortunately the wind was in my face blowing any scent away from them. They knew something was there, from the click of the camera shutter,  but couldn't work out what it was but this had the benefit of having a lot of the foxes look straight at me.

I did not have to wait long and a grey squirrel dashing up a tree and alarm calling with its rapid flicking tail announced the arrival of the foxes. There was a total of seven foxes visiting at that time, 2 adults, 2 of last years young and 3 of this years cubs. Over to the right hand side from where I was lying there was some low shrubs on the edge of the woodland and a various obvious fox sized path going into the undergrowth and as expected that is where the first fox appeared.

Over the next hour or so a number of different foxes appeared in front of me with the vixen being the most active. They are such beautiful animals and always special to have one in front of the camera. Later in the week I made another early evening visit going through the same procedure. During both visits the dog fox only appeared once briefly and seem to be suffering with an eye infection which I am happy to say he now seems to be fully recovered from. So I will finish off by saying thanks to Steve for the opportunity of spending some time with his foxes.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Great Northern Junior

Firstly big apologies for the lack of recent blog updates, it has been a very busy time for me with all kinds of things going on in the background.

The winter weather continues to be very poor. This is certainly proving to be one of the worst winters for weather and light that I can remember. The weekends when I tend to do most of my photography have either been plagues with dark grey skies or strong winds or both. As I look out the window now this is exactly what I am seeing. My shutter finger is getting very itchy.

A couple of weeks back I did manage to catch a few moments of rare sunlight at the end of the afternoon and headed up to the local marine lake before the sun disappeared to have a quick session with the long-staying young Great Northern Diver. I love photographing all divers and still have one on the list to do which is the Black-throated variety, which is a stunningly beautiful bird. Something I hope to try rectify in the not so distant future but will probably require a summer trip up to Scandinavia.

The young Great Northern Diver has been resident on the marine lake for many weeks, happily munching its way through the crab population. As with many long staying birds in very public places this one has become very accustomed to people, however has developed a tendency when surfacing or feeding to always be facing away from the perimeter footpath. So you always have to wait for it to turn before taking any photographs after which it usually shortly disappears underwater again. This is not the easiest lake to photograph birds as it covers a large area. However, it does have the benefit that around the majority of the lake it is easy to get close to water level on the surrounding path. Fortunately during my visit the bird decided to go foraging close to the footpath on the right side of the lake for the light direction.

Since visiting the bird its colouration has changed and it seems to be starting to develop a dark collar as it starts to slip towards the conversion into summer plumage. No doubt it will have long since departed before the conversion is complete. Unfortunately during my brief visit it was proving very unsuccessful in capturing crabs as I was hoping to get some feeding photos. However, the soft low winter light was wonderful and some very close encounters with the bird were had. Always such a joy to be in close proximity to one of these birds.

As a bit of extra news, I have recently booked this year's overseas trip and will be returning to the Varanger Peninsula in Arctic Norway at the beginning of June. Excited by the prospects of getting some ruff in breeding plumage back in front of the camera.


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