Autumn in Richmond Park
Richmond Park is one of the jewels in the Royal Parks' crown, a wildlife haven in the heart of one of Europe's largest conurbations. Red deer, little owls, badgers and even ring-necked parakeets. I spent numerous weekends journeying up the A3 early to photograph the red deer rut, meeting friends and enjoying the cool autumnal air - the photographic opportunities were excellent.
As you can see, the photographic highlights are not only limited to the red deer that call the park home. Above you can see an image of a jackdaw, arguably one of the UK's most beautiful corvids and a ring-necked parakeet (an introduced species from the Indian subcontinent).
The deer stags are well known for thrashing their antlers in the bracken, and other undergrowth, when they are pumped full of testosterone. In this case, he took it all a little far and then struggled to see where he was going. This individual stag was not one of the dominant males, and he will probably have to wait another year or two to reach his absolute prime.
As you can see from the images above, the red deer often stand proudly as the sun rises over the horizon, seemingly basking in the soft morning light.
It was a great few weeks enjoying the wilder side of London and as long as you avoid the crowds, you can expect to see some spectacular behaviour. Next year, if I get to lead my planned tours (if Covid allows), then I won't be able to photograph this annual spectacle.
Photographing birds is a speciality within the field of wildlife photography and it is a discipline which I am by no means an expert in. I specialise in photographing mammals, and that is what my equipment is focused towards, but every now and then I dabble in photographing our feathered friends. With a 300mm lens photographing any species of bird can be a challenge but sometimes it is important to broaden your horizons and go out of your comfort zone. So in Beachmere, Queensland I did just that.
Rainbow Lorikeets are one of the most colourful and common birds throughout Australia, they make superb photography subjects and I did my best to do them justice. Here are just a couple of images from lorikeets around the house we were staying in ...
It wasn't just the lorikeets that made great subjects around the area there always Blue-faced Honeyeaters around too. There was also a number of pairs of the superbly named, Willie Wagtail. These charismatic little birds were tricky to photograph due to their small stature and speedy movements.
Australian Pelicans are the giants of the sky around Beachmere, with their powerful long wings they cruise overhead or skim across the water before settling and searching for the fish they feed on. They are incredibly accomplished on the water too, more than happy to move silently across the water with their submerged feet paddling away.
Wading birds are incredibly common across Moreton Bay, which Beachmere is central to. Eastern Curlews are fabulous but incredibly shy and with a 300mm lens I sadly wasn't able to photograph them. However Masked Lapwings and Bar-tailed Godwit were also common and a little easier to approach. It wasn't until the last day that I cracked the technique to photograph them at so close distances so I only managed a few shots as the tide receded.
Lastly, and for me most spectacularly, I had incredibly close encounter. Sitting in the house one day I received a shout from my girlfriend that a large bird flew over her, she had been sunbathing on the beach at the bottom of the garden. I rushed out with my camera to see if I could spot whatever it was that had flown over. At first, it seemed as if the vast mudflats were empty, there was nothing in sight. After a minute or two I decided to head back in to the house, retreating from the blistering Australian sun, but at that moment I noticed a brown shape moving on one of the exposed pieces of mud. Looking through my lens, I instantly realised I had been too hasty and my girlfriend was right. I knew it was a bird of prey but without my binoculars I couldn't tell what. There was only one thing for it, to start crawling through the mud and the shallow pools and get closer.
As I got down to the high tide mark, I noticed that the bird was standing atop of an object but it was too far away to see what it was. I kept on shuffling closer, ever closer until I was within perhaps 25 metres. I thought that the bird must leave the mud as I started to make my way through a pool of water. It continued to feed, seemingly unconcerned by my presence with just the occasional glance in my direction. It seemed to realise I meant it no harm, and with my low profile I can't have looked much like a person. It was now that I could see it in incredibly clarity, the setting sun had turned the bird's plumage a beautiful golden-brown and the eyes positively glowed. It was a magical experience, an encounter with a raptor like no other I had ever had. I spent over an hour watching and photographing, all the while the bird was completely relaxed. It was only when the food item had been stripped clean (seemingly a bone that had been left high and dry with the falling tide) that it flew off down the beach. What was it I hear you ask ... a Whistling Kite of course!
Urban kangaroos, possibly my favourite subject to photograph in all of Australia, so far at least. Well, I might have become a little addicted, scratch that ... I am definitely addicted. There is nothing really in the world that compares to the kangaroos and the wallabies of Australasia, with their deer-like head, long muscular tail and their incredibly energy efficient motion. For me though, they are characterful and just utterly beautiful ... i don't needy any excuses to just keep photographing them.
All the images above were taken on one glorious evening, I was alone with the kangaroos and the lighting couldn't have been better. I went back the next day and had further luck ...
The female with the joey in her pouch was particularly obliging, you just can't describe how wonderful it is to be so close to these animals. Another fantastic evening with these charismatic marsupials and I have a feeling there might be another few to come before I leave the area.
Australia is rightly famed for its unique wildlife, the most iconic of these has got to be the kangaroo. On the Pacific coast, the species of kangaroo you will encounter is the Eastern Grey, this is a large mammal and one that you need to respect. Sadly, more often than not there seems to be some sort of conflict with the growing population and expanding towns and cities. This is certainly the case in the small towns to the north of Brisbane, both the small towns of Beachmere and Toorbul are home to Eastern Grey Kangaroos.
Beachmere is undergoing a new phase of development with large swathes of swampy bushland being drained and turned into now housing estates. It seems that there has been little evaluation of the environmental impacts and I came across a group of Kangaroos still trying to forage on a vast construction site.
Toorbul is a slightly different proposition to Beachmere, there seems to be little new development here but there is plenty of established housing. Here the kangaroos have made their homes among the parks and gardens of the local community and have little fear of people. It seems to be quite a harmonious situation but perhaps it isn't all as it quite seems. After an hour or so an absolute idiot came towards the small group of kangaroos on a mini motorbike and drove straight at them. All the kangaroos panicked with one poor youngster, who you can see in the portraits towards the bottom of this post, falling over right in front of me and desperately scrabbling to try and avoid the bike. It was horrific to see and really showed me the worst in humanity, the individual paused beforehand and purposefully accelerated towards them, seemingly proud of his vile act.
It was then that I decided to leave this group alone so not to stress them out any further than their ordeal with one selfish and bizarre individual.
Here is the poor young kangaroo that panicked as the motorcyclist approached, thankfully it was very calm and relaxed beforehand when I was watching it.
Port Macquarie - My Aussie Adventure
After our couple of nights in Port Stephens, it was time once more to move northwards along the eastern coast of Australia. Our next stop on this journey was Port Macquarie. Here we decided to stay close to Flynns Beach and make the most of the gorgeous coastline.
We arrived around lunch time and set up our tent under the shade of the gum trees, after which Vic was reading her book and happened to look up and see this little fella ...
In the afternoon we went for a little walk and enjoyed the wonderful beaches and seascapes.
The next day the Koala seemed to be a little elusive and we were struggling to spot it, eventually (with the help of a campsite member of staff) we spotted it high in a gum tree. We were luck to also have a regular influx of Rainbow Lorikeets. We then headed down to the coast to enjoy the colours and scenery at sunset.
After a wonderful evening, watching the world go by and photographing the rocky shore at the edge of the beach, we headed back to camp for the evening knowing that tomorrow we would be moving on again. This time to Coffs Harbour.
There was one last wildlife encounter before we left though and this time it was a really intimate experience with the Koala who climbed down the tree next to us and headed back up another tree. With a leap to a third tree it settled itself down and posed for a few images. Sadly, the leap was impossible to photography ... imagine a leaping Koala shot!
The Brown Rat
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.
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.
On Saturday I was round a friend's house, they have a small pond and it was swarming with Damselflies. As I happened to have my macro lens with me I decided to get some shots.
Firstly my attempts were in vain and I really struggled to get close enough to get any images at all. Any slight movement I made the resting Damselflies took off and found a new perch. The ones that were not perched were flying at high speed after their prey, small insects that were also flying around the pond.
I eventually worked out that if I stayed relatively still, as is often the way then the Damselflies would land by me, with small movements I did my very best to get the shots set up as I wanted.
Below are the shots that came out best.
Barn Owl and a Fox Cub
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 ...
On Saturday night my girlfriend and I decided to set out on a late night photography project. I was teaching Kristina about long exposures as well as getting some practise in myself. It has been a while since I have done any long exposure work and so I set myself the challenge to get some "interesting" wildlife shots.
We headed down to the River Nene and found a well lit spot and set up the cameras on the tripods. At 01.30 am, I was a little apprehensive about having such expensive camera gear out but I did not need to worry, all was quiet. My aim for the evening's photography was to try and capture some quirky images of the local Mute Swans, as they can gather in quite large groups here. These are a couple of the results:
I love the effect that the long shutter speed has had on these images, creating some really attractive scenes. The image above was so tricky, the bird in the foreground needed to stay almost completely still in order for the blur of its movement to be minimised. I waited for the birds in the background before attempting the shot. It did take me a few attempts before I got it right though. The large building in the background is a large distribution centre and created a very industrial backdrop, to what could almost be a rural river scene.
This time I decided to include some more of the Swans' urban surroundings. It was hard to get the composure here, to try and keep distractions to an absolute minimum and to still keep at least one bird sharp. Eventually one of the Swans stayed still for the whole 30 seconds and I got the shot I was after. A scene of urban wildlife in a slightly more creative manner. To top it all off a car drove by whilst the shutter was open and left the long streaky lines in the top left of the image.