What I failed to mention in last week’s blog, because I did not have the time, is that I have broken my little toe. I could make up some cock and bull story about how I was out in the field after this rare bird and I fell over or that whilst coppicing my land / nature reserve a branch fell on my foot. But none of these things happened. The truth is that after having a shower in my en-suite I was walking over to the other side of my bedroom to switch on the light and I kicked the bed! It hurt like hell and as it was still hurting when I walked, 3 days later, I decided that I had better go and have it checked out. The nurse said it looks broken but it is not worth going for an x-ray to confirm it because the treatment is the same as for a sprain / bruise. For the next 4 weeks I must assume the position of lay back and think of England! (not a position I’m used to), in other words I am not allowed to walk on uneven ground, I must lay down and raise my foot above my heart!!! This nurse obviously does not know what I enjoy doing most. It is Spring time, the time when a lot happens in nature for a wildlife photographer, so me just sitting down for 4 weeks is just not going to happen.
Whilst out walking, OK hobbling, the dog on Dartmoor I use this time to see what is about and areas I can set up a hide or snuggle in and blend myself into the countryside using camouflage clothing. For the past couple of weeks I have been looking out for Wheatears and the Cuckoo. There is still no sight or sound of the cuckoo even though it was here this time last year. But I’m glad to say that the wheatears have returned and I will be trying to photograph them at the weekend. I went out early yesterday, Friday, because the weather forecast said that it would be a sunny start but quickly cloud over and remain overcast for the rest of the day. I was standing in the middle of several gorse bushes waiting for the light surrounded by singing Yellowhammers, Chaffinches and Wrens. The sun rose and it clouded over within a couple of seconds and was never seen again that day. I stayed out until 10am hoping for some good light for photography but it never happened. The birds sang but as soon as it clouded over the wrens and chaffinches disappeared. I got some photos of a yellowhammer singing it’s usual “a little bit of bread with no cheese” song but it was in a tree and the sky behind it was grey, not my favourite.
Wildlife Photography Hotspots
Recently I have heard people talk about wildlife photography hotspots so to begin, what is a wildlife photography hotspot?
Well before I answer that question let’s look at the possibilities.
Is it an area that you can guarantee getting photographs of certain wildlife? If it is then please don’t believe the hype because there is nowhere you can 100% guarantee to get photographs of wildlife. Wildlife does its own thing and you cannot guarantee it will be there at a certain place at a certain time. People will tell you that if you want photos of White Tailed Sea Eagles then go to the Isle of Mull, book yourself a trip with Mull Charters (http://www.mullcharters.com/) and you will get photos of them. Wrong, the weather might not be suitable so the boat does not go out but even if it does go out, talking to some of the crew, sometimes the Eagles do not show. It might be a rare occurrence but it might just be the day you go. (Please do not let this put you off this trip because it’s a great one and the crew are very helpful) Exmoor is a great place for Red Deer but even here you are not guaranteed photographs of them. (Please click on this link to read what happened to me http://www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2015/10/wildlife-photography-and-exmoor-adventures) You could go to a zoo or a wildlife park and you will still not be guaranteed to see and photograph all the animals. I remember as a kid going to a wildlife park and a zoo expecting to see all the animals but due to this wonderful English weather a lot of them would not come out of their shelters (who can blame them). So if you cannot see the wildlife when it is in a 12’ x 12’ cage what hope do you have of seeing wildlife when they have the whole of the British Isles, over 60 million acres according to Ellie Harrison of Countryfile, to roam around in?
Is it an area you are guaranteed getting photographs of any wildlife? Again, like I’ve said above, you cannot 100% guarantee to see any wildlife let alone be in a position to photograph it.
Is it an area that you are guaranteed to see any wildlife with a possibility of photographing it? Well if you work hard enough you can see wildlife anywhere in the country whether it is in your garden, in our towns and cities or in the countryside. If you came to my garden and stayed a while you will see Chaffinches, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Dunnocks, Robins, Wrens, Goldcrests, House Martins, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Rooks, Crows, Buzzards, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpeckers, Blue Tits, Tawny Owls, Great Tits, Jays, Coal Tits to name a few, but this would be the same for any garden where the owner feeds the birds. I tried to photograph the jays over a three day period and I had no joy because they disappeared for about a week, just over my photography period. I used to live at a location where I used to feed Foxes and Badgers. I say feed but a handful of dog food for the foxes and peanuts for the badgers each night was all it was but it was enough for them to visit nearly every night before they went foraging. But even this could not be guaranteed because I invited a few friends around one night to see them and they did not turn up, very frustrating.
OK then is it an area you are likely to see a certain bit of wildlife with the possibility of photographing it? If it’s this then take heed. Andrew Marshall has just brought out what looks like a very helpful book “Photographing Wildlife in the UK” ISBN: 978-0-9929051-2-5 (http://www.fotovue.com/) and it contains 70 of the best, according to him, locations for wildlife photography in the UK. It stated that it would be published at the end of March. I have not seen or read the whole book I’ve just looked at a preview of it which included 10 of the 70 locations. Out of the 10 I agreed with all of them because I have been there and either photographed or seen the wildlife he talks about. This got me thinking so I Googled “Wildlife Photography Hotspots” and it came back with nearly 100,000 results. I started looking at several of the websites and noticed that one photographer said the Shetland Isles are the best for Otters whilst another said the Isle of Mull is best and a third said Devon (where are they!!!). One photographer said the Farne Islands are the best for Puffins, another Shetland Isles and another Skomer Island. One site said Falmouth, Cornwall for Dolphins and another said Scotland. Ten top wildlife photographers gave ten different answers for a wildlife photography hotspot.(http://www.discoverwildlife.com/wildlife-nature-photography/10-top-uk-locations-wildlife-photography) So trawling through these results I ended up with the answer.
Well what is a wildlife photography hotspot? It is a spot or area where the photographer has been a few times, enjoyed himself or herself and got good photos of certain wildlife. In other words they have enjoyed that experience. These hotspots will be different for everybody, just like the google results have shown. I, like a lot of people, including Andrew Marshall, think Lackford Lakes (http://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/lackfordlakes) near Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk is a fantastic place for Kingfishers but I know one photographer who would not be seen dead there because he had, because he has moved to Scotland now, Kingfishers in his garden and had an area on his local river where they resided so these were his wildlife photography hotspots.