Well who expected 2020 to be like it has? It has been a year of change, uncertainty and anxiety for many, but the natural world goes on and I have tried to spend as much time as possible out photographing the roe deer once again.
I may have not been able to lead my overseas photography tours for Wildlife Worldwide, but I just love being in the field with wildlife and capturing images. I hope you enjoy looking through this year's imagery of my beloved roe deer.
This year I struggled to find any males to start with, instead focusing on a number of different females who had hidden their young around the estate I photograph on.
As summer intensified and the crops turned to the golden browns, the roe deer rut was in full swing and allowed me the opportunity to photograph roe bucks in their prime.
I am looking forward to 2021 to hopefully spend some time with the roe deer once again. They have become a big part of my life and probably what I am best known for within the UK.
For many years I have struggled to find a family of rural foxes which I was able to photograph. Most rural foxes, and rightly so, are very wary of people and I usually don't want to disturb them. This year though, I stuck gold when out cycling, I cam across a family of foxes sunbathing on a rural lane, so I decided to head back to photograph them.
Upon arriving at the site I couldn't see anything, but I decided to stick it out and I was richly rewarded ...
As you can see, even a rural road gets traffic. Each time a car appeared, all of the cubs jumped into the hedgerow, taking cover in their earth and keeping out of trouble. Sadly, only a few days after I took the photo above, I found the body of this cub hidden in the hedge. It had been hit by a car and purposefully placed out of sight, it was a devastating blow and I was unable to photograph the family again - rightly so, the remaining cubs were very wary. It just goes to show the fragility of the natural world and the massive negative impact humanity has on the natural world.
As those of you that follow my work regularly will know I spend my summers photographing a number of different species, but one I always return to is the roe deer. This species of deer (native to the UK) are particularly elusive, but are surely the most beautiful of species found here in the UK. I have spent many years perfecting my stalking and am very proud of the images I have been able to capture in the past.
This year I really feel that my work with the deer as at another level and I am really pleased with the results. The only downside is that after an incident I have been unable to run any workshops – my sincerest apologies to those that wanted to join me this year.
Anyway, I will now just let the images do the talking – I hope you enjoy them …
I hope you enjoyed looking through the above, I just wish I hadn't been driven away from the site for a period of time. Hopefully in 2020 I can offer the opportunity to come out with me once again.
I explore an area of the South Downs National Park which is rich in wildlife, with a wide variety of species. However, red fox are a species which are particularly hard to photograph in rural areas and here it is no different. I have been trying to find a fox den for years, but without any luck.
At the start of May I was walking down a track which is rarely used. The grass was already high and bending over the tyre marks, but there some fifty yards away was a fox cub. At first I thought the poor thing must have passed away, but as I crept up to where it was, I noticed it was breathing. I sat back and watched it shuffle a couple of times, trying to get comfortable and so I slowly made my approach.
To my astonishment, the fox cub stayed fast asleep, the ears didn’t even twitch as I crept ever closer. Eventually I was probably ten yards away and I just sat there watching. What an incredible privilege, what joy I had over the next fifteen moments or so.
Eventually the cub woke up, realised I was a potential threat and trotted off into the woods. I knew at this age the cub couldn’t be far from the den so I headed up into the woods and within minutes I had found the earth. I sat and waited by a nearby tree and was then treated to the following close encounter. I will never fully be able to comprehend the close approach of one of four fox cubs that evening, but it was an encounter that will stick with me for a long time.
I am really proud to work and lead trips for Wildlife Worldwide, one of the UK’s largest specialists in wildlife travel. What I particularly enjoy is that the office is set within an old barn in the charming village of Bishop’s Sutton, what’s more is we have a resident pair of barn owls.
Earlier on in the summer I spent a bit of time trying to photograph the owls. They are really easy to spot, but not so easy to photograph, particularly as there are quite a few buildings around. Anyway, here is a little taster of what I have been privileged enough to watch after finishing work in the evenings.
As many of you will know, I live on the edge of the South Downs National Park. This is the UK’s newest national park, a range of stunning hills and rolling farmland, and is home to staggering number of roe deer.
I have become pretty good at photographing roe deer and luckily for me, I can often see them right behind my own house. In mid-May I noticed a handsome buck as I arrived home from the office and spent around 40 minutes trying to work out my approach. The wind had been swirling and it was nearly impossible to get close enough as there was a real lack of cover.
Eventually, I was able to get within 20 yards and the deer ended up approaching me – the perfect scenario.
To start with the male deer was actually too close to photograph, his inquisitive nature meant he approached to within only a few yards. I stayed perfectly still, the deer alert to my presence watched me, but never tried to run. It slowly moved away and into the dense crop of oilseed.
As you can see, I was blessed with a very cooperative buck, standing beautifully in the yellow flowers of the oilseed crop. It wasn't the longest photography session, as the deer decided to slowly move away into the deepest part of the field, but I managed to capture some beautiful imagery in the short time I was there.
All of the images were taken on my 500mm lens, which is usually perfect for photographing roe deer.
Since the start of spring I have been out trying to photograph my local population of Roe Deer. I have heaps of practice with this lovely species but they can still be a tricky subject to photograph. They have truly incredible hearing and a superb sense of smell ... you only have to make the slightest mistake and the opportunity will have passed.
Recently I haven't had much luck as my valley has been having a swirling wind pattern. This means I have been unable to keep down wind of the deer and they smell me coming from a long way off.
Finally the long, warm evenings have given me the perfect opportunity to get out and about to search for the local buck. I know the field that he likes to rest during the day but the challenge is to get close enough and stay down wind.
After a few attempts I finally succeeded and had one of the best, and particularly close, encounters with this magnificent Roe Deer Buck.
It was a truly wonderful encounter and what made it all the better, was that the buck wasn't at all startled and when I was done, I was able to slip off and leave him in peace.
I will be turning a couple of these images into high-quality prints which will be available in my online store. Please let me know if you have a favourite.
I am always astounded at the lack of knowledge regarding local wildlife, this really hit me during the annual deer rut when I said I was going to the New Forest to photograph Red Deer. People didn't believe me, saying that there aren't any wild Red Deer in the south of the UK except for on Exmoor.
Well I was determined to show them that there are in fact Red Deer only a stones throw from Southampton and Bournemouth. I spent a couple of weekends searching for this native deer species and was in luck.
As I reached my usual patch for the Fallow Deer, I heard a deer barking, but this was no Fallow Deer buck. This was an altogether deeper sound that resonated through the trees. I headed to the edge of the woodland, where the sound came from, and to my delight there were two large stags strutting their stuff.
This was the scene I was presented with (above) and then spent the next two hours stalking the larger of the two stags and his group of females. I had to work hard and a constantly changing wind direction made life particularly difficult.
The Red Deer of the New Forest are quite transient but are only found in the South Western side of the forest, sadly their population is controlled to stop interbreeding with the introduced Sika Deer found near Beaulieu. I was extremely lucky to get this close to such large wild mammals in the UK but I would like to stress this series of images took over 3 hours to capture, with long periods of stalking required.
If you see any deer in the New Forest, please don't walk straight towards them, instead make sure the wind is in your favour and keep yourself hidden. It is usually best to let the wildlife come to you, be patient and above all just enjoy what you see.
As I am sure many of you are well aware, I am now back at home in the UK ... it all seems pretty surreal to be back in the real world! Not to fear, I hope to be travelling again soon and taking plenty of exciting images for you all.
Whilst I have been looking for work, I have of course been out and about with the camera. I thought I would head out and see any of the locals, who are they I hear you ask? No more wombats, kangaroos or even a Platypus, not in this neck of the woods anyway! Nothing too exciting you might think, well if you like deer then it is exciting enough. Roe Deer are always close by to my Hampshire home and so I went to one of my favourite spots to see if I could find any of my old subjects.
I didn't manage any shots of my trusty local doe but I did find a handsome young male ...
Sadly, the weather hasn't been overly cooperative since my return. In fact, it has been pretty terrible and it really hasn't given me the opportunity to make the most of the longer evenings.
In the last week I have changed my subject choice slightly, I am still photographing deer but I have to travel slightly further afield to the New Forest and Petworth Park. The Fallow Deer is actually an introduced species to the UK, thought to have been brought over from mainland Europe by the Normans. I personally think they are a welcome addition, a beautiful and rather majestic deer that loves the woodland habitats across the New Forest and elsewhere in the UK.
The image above is the only one taken in Petworth Park, sadly due to the area being popular with dog walkers the deer are constantly disturbed and rarely left in peace. I decided that I didn't want to add any further stress upon the large deer population and I haven't returned since.
All of the following images are taken of wild Fallow Deer which are in know way tame or habituated to people. I have spent around 16 hours collecting this mini-portfolio and I am looking to spend more time photographing the rut later in the year.
It is incredibly hard to get close to these amazing creatures, I have to be constantly paying attention to the wind direction, always ensuring that my scent is being blown away from the deer. As well as this I have to be aware of my silhouette, if you walk through the forest the deer will simply run, you must make sure that you move slowly and keep a low profile at all times. With a bit of luck, practice, behavioural knowledge and a lot of patience you can also get some lovely portraits.
Finally, here is my favourite image so far, I just love the composition as it shows the animal in its proper habitat, I even like the fact it is being pestered by a buzz of flies ...
I will be continuing to build a portfolio of images of both Fallow and Roe Deer over the coming months so keep an eye on the blog for any developments.
Now I know that the Brown Rat is not everyone's favourite animal but personally I think they have a bit of a bad reputation. Yes I realise they can carry disease and the last thing you want is a rat in your home but outside I think these rodents are characterful and extremely intelligent.
Recently, I have been photographing a family of Brown Rats and I have been mesmerised by their cheeky nature and their adaptability. They are opportunistic and make the most of any situation that goes their way and for that I admire them.
Anyway I hope the following images don't make you cringe but instead give a you a greater appreciation for this very successful little mammal.
The images above feature a youngster that was particularly brave and not particularly afraid of me. The rest of the images in this gallery feature the rat I believe is the mother ...
As you can see I got pretty close and they were really rather relaxed. I am now tempted to actually do a project on these fascinating rodents. So, stay tuned and see if I carry on following this unusual photographic subject.
The female Roe Deer that has been around over the last few weeks was definitely pregnant ... and you can see the images below as to how I know. It seems she is much more alert now then she was and I am wary about getting too close and spooking her. I would love to carry on photographing her and her fawn(s) over the summer, let's hope she sticks around allows me to her share her summer life.
I have also had a few rabbits around as I always do but they are never easy to photograph being particularly skittish.
So you can see that she had quite an impressive belly and that has certainly disappeared now. She looks sleek and actually much more healthy, she has shed her winter coat and now looks fine in her shorter summer coat.
The Rabbits are always close by and if you sit still for long enough, you are usually within twenty yards or so of a cute individual.
I will keep trying to photograph the Roe Deer for the next few months but for the moment she is proving to be rather elusive.
For the last few weeks there has been a lot of deer activity around my house and in particular the field behind my house has been a hub of activity. In fact, I have been trying to photograph the deer for a few weeks but haven't had much luck.
This unlucky streak really proved itself when one afternoon I crept up on a group of three different Roe Deer and I was all set up to get some great images. I had been laying in wait for around an hour, the deer were resting on the ground and I was anticipating that they would kick into activity as dusk approached. However it really wasn't to be as suddenly the three deer came leaping by me and I knew that was that! To my surprise I turned to see two men standing, around ten yards away, and when they spotted me they screamed for me to put up my hands. They were two armed response officers pointing their pistols at me as someone had called 999 reporting an armed man in the middle of a field. After discussing with Hampshire's finest Police Officers that I was merely photographing some deer, they let me return the 100 yards home.
Anyway after a bit of persistence and some very good sneaking around the same field I have finally managed to get some shots which I am pretty happy with. I got absolutely soaked and it really wasn't a warm day but it was worth every moment. I was only around 10 yards away from this Roe buck and he was completely at ease with me, in fact as I type this he is still feeding behind my house.
Enjoy the pictures!
So, first off I have to say sorry for being off the radar for the last few months. I have had a completely manic few months but could have a few really exciting things lined up for the future and particularly regarding my photography. Also the weather for 2 months or so was absolutely diabolical with a lot of flooding and real lack of photographic opportunities.
So where do I even begin ... well first off I got an image in to the final round of Wildlife Photographer of the Year! Sounds great, and it was but a complete nightmare followed ... I ended up having a catastrophic hard drive failure and that one image alone was one of about 50 images that were not back up. I know it is completely my fault and it is definitely a lesson learnt.
Now I know exactly what I need to do for next year and I can't wait to get cracking on some projects.
Anyway here is a random selection of images from the last few months when I have been able to go out with the camera.
So after a busy evening already photographing the Fox cubs, the Roe Deer that turned up at the Fox den decided to hang around for a wee while and I photographed it for a few minutes before it moved off. I decided to head up the hill towards the local footpath and then back home. When I got to the top of the hill I noticed a young Roe Buck as well as a Doe. The wind was in my favour and I was able to get incredibly close, which of course meant I managed to get some images.
I spent around 10 minutes getting closer and closer until the wind changed and the Doe got spooked, moments later the Buck moved off too.
So a really productive evening again, Ropley is really providing the goods right now.
After a lovely warm weekend I decided I had to make the most of the warm light on offer, as the sun started to set I headed out with my camera. I planned to go for a short walk and see what was about more than anything but I was in for quite an evening.
I set off across the seemingly endless, rolling crop fields, the wheat and the barley gently swaying in the breeze. The golden light creating the long shadows of a summer's evening and Yellowhammers singing from each and every part of the hedgerow. The odd Skylark singing its delightful song overhead and Swallows skimming across the crops as I made my way towards the hill top and the woods that lay upon it. It was there I startled a Roe Deer with an accidental snap of a twig beneath my boot, a big Buck that went bounding off into the distance. I moved down to the field boundary to then notice some movement upon a hay bale, to my amazment there were three Fox cubs, no more than 10 yards away! They weren't afraid of me as such but they did slink off.
So then I did my best to find them again, after nearly half an hour I thought that the opportunity had passed, and perhaps it was time to head back home. Then I saw that tell tale red coat and there they were, three Red Fox cubs (all nearly fully grown) all sat in a line.
So having been spoilt rotten with the foxes, even if it was at a bit of a distance, I then got an opportunity to photograph Roe Deer as two came down the field boundary straight towards me. But for now I will just leave you with one of the more simplistic shots as she munched on her preferred vegetation. Part 2 to this blog post will be up soon ...
A village just down the road from my company's office, a small and quaint little place called Cheriton, has a lovely village green which is currently occupied by 3 Mallard Duck families. One mother has 6 chicks, another has 5 but one seems to have around 20 ducklings. Truly amazing!!
So anyway, after work the other day I decided to head down there and see if I could get any shots of these cute little critters. I parked up, and headed towards the village green, within moments I was flat on my stomach with a duck family only a few metres away.
Before I knew it I had spent over an hour photographing them both in and out of the water as they fed, slept and explored. Anything this cute in nature, definitely deserves to be photographed.
Two sets of images for you this week. To start with the Barn Owl was out hunting again, over the water meadows at work. It is an amazing sight but slightly worrying seeing it out in the daylight again. On the Sunday I went round to see a friend and with the camera on standby I went to see whether I would have any luck photographing some Fox Cubs. Luckily for me one of the little devils was cooperative and rather inquisitive.
A lovely set of sightings for one weekend and I hope you like the photos ...
So the UK has been through a cold spell. The rest of the northern Europe would not even bat an eyelid but of course this is England and everything ground to a halt. I didn't really mind all that much, although I was snowed in I had my camera so out I went into the sub-zero temperatures.
The only downside was that I was actually dog sitting so I couldn't go out all day. I instead made do and just photographed the garden birds, and there were lots of them.
In fact at one point there were over 50 individuals, ranging from the Wood Pigeon and the Great-spotted Woodpecker to the tiny Wren.
I just thought I would share a few of these images with you, I could post lots of similar ones of the same species but I thought these would give you all a taste of the couple of hours I spent in the cold. Actually it was -4, so it was a little nippy.
Anyway some more images will be coming soon, hopefully of some Barn Owls.
On an extremely cold winters day, with the air temperature barely above zero, I headed off into the countryside around where I live. I had no aim or target species, it was more of a "let's see what is about". So I went to a few spots in search of a few species that I really want to photograph at some point, those are Kingfisher, Water Rail & Water Vole again.
After a couple of hours I did find Kingfisher, but at distance and I also found Water Rail, but alas I could only hear it, there was absolutrly no sign of the Water Vole though ...
I decided to head into the small town of Alresford so I could check out the watercress beds that surround the town, and when I arrived there were a whole host of different species feeding amongst the crop. The most common of all the bird species was the Grey Wagtail with 4-5 individuals, but there were also Pied Wagtails, Robin, Blackbird, Wren, and Long-tailed Tits in the trees above.
To start with, the birds were a good 25 yards away and with a 300mm lens it is pretty tricky to get a subject that small sharp. I got a few that I thought worked quite well. This Grey Wagtail was full of character and watching them "wag" their way around the cress beds was intriguing. They were feeding quite frenetically but more often than not they seemed to be successful.
The image below, really sums up the personality of the Grey Wagtail for me. The pose shows their cheeky and inquisitive nature and you can see the scale of the feeding area compared to such a tiny creature. There are only a few beds here but I think they must provide an important feeding area for the local population of insectivorous birds.
I sat down on the edge of the beds, with my camera resting on my knees. I watched this individual for nearly half an hour firing off around 50 shots, being selective with the pose and the lighting. Eventually my patience was rewarded and the small, colourful character headed straight towards me. It was making its way across the Watercress when a dog walker came down the path, the bird stopped feeding and stood in this striking pose (below), alert to what could have been "a dangerous encounter". My little feathered friend was not deterred and it continued its wagging search straight towards me.
Whilst they are looking for food, as it isn't always immediately obvious, they occasionally upturn the leaves of the cress, hoping to find a tasty morsel of food. As I was photographing this, the shutter noise seemed to become apparent to the bird and it was then that I caught this pose, moments before it moved a few stems of the cress.
My favourite photo (below) was one of the last, the individual had come closer still and was continuing its advance until another dog walker came by. It then quickly made its exit, flying in its tell tale "sound wave" pattern, with a rise and a fall, before finding another feeding spot a hundred yards away.
The winter sun provided the perfect lighting, bringing out the bird's colours and giving its surroundings that rich healthy hue. The Watercress itself grows throughout the year with the waterflow constant and lightweight covers offer protection from the coldest night's frost. The unattended beds, such as this, provide one of the few insect rich feeding areas throughout the winter. I hope to go back their soon and find another position where I can get a lower point of view. What a beautiful winters day it was and I hope to see many more like it in the coming few months.
Back at the start of the summer, some of you might remember that I was lucky enoguh to have a Water Vole living right outside the office front door. After a summer of heavy rain, plenty of food and lots of waterways to explore this Water Vole disappeared. There was the odd occasion where one of my colleagues would hear the tell tale "plop" as it ducked underwater.
Now, much to my delight, it seems to be back in the mill stream enjoying the vegetation and perhaps even the small amount of shelter and warmth the old mill provides. So over a 20 minute spell I went out with my camera and got rather close, in fact at one point it was probably only 2 feet away from ... well my foot! I hope you like looking through the portraits.
The first image, below, was the furthest the Water Vole was away from me throughout the session. All of the images were shot at an Aperture of f/2.8 or f/3.5 which helps the vole stand out a little better from the vegetation. Ideally I would have loved to have been in the water to get the lowest angle possible, this might have to wait for another day.
I lost sight of the vole at one point as he went off under the mill, I assumed he was going to disappear so I moved to the edge of the mill stream only to realise he was actually coming round and ended up only a couple of feet away. I was absolutely amazed, the vole knew I was there and I made my movements very deliberate so as not to scare it off. I slowly moved backwards as I didn't want to be too close and once I got a couple of metres away I tried to get a couple of images. The image below was my favourite from the mini series of images.
The image below was by far my favourite of the short session. The Water Vole had been moving to and fro feeding on the surrounding vegetation and was repeatedly returning to this spot to nibble its salad. The light improved and the little fellow turned to look at me, perhaps wondering what the noise of the camera shutter was. I love the colour, the composition and of course the cute factor of this little chap!
A really wonderful way to spend 20 minutes on a cold morning. Winter is definitely coming, the nights are getting longer and longer and the cold is starting to bite. It makes you appreciate the slightest bit of decent weather and when you get an opportunity to photograph something as lovely as this small mammal, then you really have to make the most of it.