Reconnaissance, Otters, Dippers, Wagtails and Goldfinches

October 02, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Each week I really look forward to my "mini-break" from work. My 3 day weekend is when I hope to spend at least one day out with my Camera and I try to make it the Friday because there are less people out and about that can bother me, although its no guarantee. Please don't get me wrong because I like meeting and talking to people but when you are all camouflaged up, have been sitting still and quietly for a while waiting for the wildlife to appear you do not want someone coming up to you asking what are you doing. With the gear I am in and the camera, lens and tripod on show it is obvious what I am doing. This person is usually wearing bright clothing with at least one dog and appears to think you are deaf as they shout when speaking to you. This has happened to me on numerous occasions and I must admit I am getting more and more irritated the more times it happens. At present I am only getting one day a week to enjoy my hobby and it gets spoilt by other people through ignorance or on purpose. When they finally go away I know I have got about another 40 minutes or more of waiting for wildlife to appear. On one occasion I was in my hide trying to photograph a Barn Owl that I had seen several times but not close enough to photograph. The Barn Owl usually appeared about 4pm so I set up my hide at 2pm and waited. About 3:15pm a man turned up and for the next 45 minutes he walked up and down behind and to the sides of my hide. He wore a bright red jacket and grey trousers. He did not appear to be going away so I pulled back one of my hide curtains and asked him as politely as I could, with gritted teeth, to go away. He then stated that he was wondering what I was photographing. I informed him of the Barn Owl and also, because he was there in his bright clothing and creating a lot of movement due to his walking around, it might not appear. He took the hint and walked off. I then noticed that he was carrying a pair of very expensive binoculars and scope, I wonder what he would have done if I had bothered him whilst he was watching wildlife! I settled back to wait for the owl to appear and within 30 minutes a woman with 2 dogs walked up to my hide to ask what I was photographing. I replied "obviously nothing today" and started packing up.

In the evenings after work I have started going out and about on reconnaissance for wildlife locations, now that most of the tourists have gone back home. Sometimes I take my dog, kept on the lead so it does not scare the wildlife and sometimes I'm on my own. I believe this is one of the most important jobs a wildlife photographer has to carry out. A wildlife photographer has to locate the wildlife and then think of ways that they are going to photograph it. It's not as easy as you think because wildlife does not always stick to set routines. You should walk paths that are near to you because this should guarantee you actually walking them; walk them regularly and at different times of the day. If you see a fox at a certain time on a certain footpath does not mean it will be there at that time on the footpath the next day, so you have to visit areas several times to know what is about and regular and not just passing through. There are ways of getting help and one of the biggest ways is getting information from other people especially farmers, landowners etc. that have seen wildlife. Listen to what they say but do not take it for granted, check the area out yourself, if you can and are allowed in the area. To enable you to do this you have to be able to read a map, preferably a 1:50,000 OS map as it has all the footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way on it. If there are no rights of way where you want to photograph then go and ask the landowner for permission to go on their land. As long as you are sensible and explain what you want to photograph then most Landowners will give you permission especially if you give them some of the photos you take in return. Giving them a photo proves what you are doing and it gives the landowner something he/she can show to their friends. Once you have settled on an area then you have to set up your equipment so that you get the angle of the light you want and the kind of background the wildlife will be against. The background is up to you but there is an App that can help you with the light, The Photographers Ephemeris. This App is superb for Landscape photographers but it also helps wildlife photographers and I use it all the time. At the moment I am reconnoitring the river Tamar because I want photos of Otters. I saw a wild Otter when I was on Mull and I got such a buzz from it that I want more. I know the river has them and several people have told me they have seen them but when I dig deeper they have only seen them from a distance. I want to get closer to get good photos of them and not a dot on the horizon. I will keep you informed of my progress.

Whilst walking the river Tamar I have spotted several Dippers Cinclus cinclus. These are beautiful birds and one that I have not photographed yet. I have already noted a couple of positions on the river where I could photograph them from but there are a lot of trees on the banks and the river is shaded quite a bit where these positions are. I will give them a try but I think I might have to look elsewhere. Other birds I've noticed are Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea and Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava. The Greys were on the rocks in the river and the Yellows were in the fields on the other side of the river. According to my bird book, "The Complete Birdwatchers Guide" by John Gooders, the Yellows should not be in this county. The book was written in 1989 and a lot, in relation to nature, has changed over the last few years. I have photographs of Greys but not of Yellows, watch this space.

How come whenever you do not have your camera with you, you see something you should photograph? Whilst I was at work the other day I noticed a "charm" of around 50 juvenile Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis flying around. They flew around my car and settled on the grass within easy 500mm lens reach. As I watched them, all I could think about is I wish I had my camera. I do take my camera to most places but not to work.


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