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.
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.
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 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 ...
Over the last few weeks, around Naturetrek's offices, we have had a pair of Mallard Ducks as regular visitors. They are keeping close to the mill, trying to avoid a marauding group of bachelor male Drakes. The lone Drake has been desperately trying to block the advances of these rogue males but he has not been entirely successful. After days of stressful combat with the bachelor group, the pair are spening lots of time resting as close as they can get to the safety of the mill.
At times the lone Drake seemed to be completely exhausted at times but on this occasion he decided to try and fight off advances of another male. He was successful and both he and the female were left in peace for the rest of the afternoon.
Above, you can see the female hiding in the growing reeds. Her partner was not too far away and he was keeping a watchful eye on her. Perhaps this was a tactic to try and keep the bachelor away, by laying low. Below, this was one of the Bachelor group who was pushed off the female by the lone Drake. It seemed this individual was not prepared to fight for his conquest.
Last night as I left the office I went for a quick stroll along the main river channel, when I saw some movement in the long grass. I looked up to see a male Roe Deer bounding across the water meadow, leaping over grass tussocks and the smaller river channels. He eventually came to a stop to have a quick look at me, before making another leap across a river channel and heading off towards a small copse of woodland.
It was only when the deer stopped that I noticed he had a slightly odd pair of antlers. His left antler was growing in an unusual manner, it certainly wasn't growing symmetrically to the other. This is the second Roe Deer Buck I have seen with an odd antler in the last year, and at first I thought they might be the same individual, although it is very difficult to tell.
The other night I went for a walk around the paddock and saw a brown lump in the grass, by the fence line. As I approached, this deer shot out into the wheat field behind my house and posed nicely as I snapped away. I watched him for 10 minutes or so and then let him get on his way.
Last night I decided to have a go at photographing my local Barn Owl. I have tried many times before and each time I have failed, last night was no exception. Whilst waiting for the owl (which never did show up) I heard some squeaking noises and to my astonishment two Roe Deer fauns where within 3 metres of me. 35cm at the shoulder, they were tiny, and I have to say it was quite an emotional experience. What a privilege it was and a wildlife moment that is definitely in my top 3.