The Photographers Dilemma, Wildlife Sightings on Dartmoor and the River Tavy

June 09, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Before I start this weeks wildlife blog I just want you to know that I have a new Facebook page at  Please take a look at it and "Like" it if you do, it would be most appreciated, thank you.

I was out with my camera on Friday morning walking the part of Dartmoor in Devon where I had previously seen and heard a Cuckoo. The way I work this area is that I find a suitable place that I can sit that has bushes in bloom, green bushes and sticks, in front and to the side of me so it gives the birds a choice of where to land and it gives me different lighting angles and different perches for my photos. I have a bush to my back so I am partly hidden and I wait in the shade. After about 30 minutes, if nothing happens, I suffer from "The Photographers Dilemma" which is, do I stay and see if something happens or do I move on to another spot. It usually depends on what has happened within the 30 minutes. If I had a few close calls then I employ a tactic that I used to use in my days of beach fishing, this being I'll give it 10 minutes more. (Ah those were the days when I went to the beach and stood there getting my fishing tackle wet and feeding the crabs!!!!) If nothing happens within that 10 minutes then I'll move on, but sometimes nature just teases you and you give it another 10 minutes. At times I have just sat there because the light is so good and I am willing and praying that some wildlife appears just so I can take a photo and show it off in great light. Sometimes I have sat there for hours and nothing happens. Sometimes I move and, from my new position, I can see a bird perching on a bush where I had moved from. Sometimes I move to another position and I get some wildlife action right in front of me. There are so many permutations that sometimes I get it right and sometimes not (which is most of the time). This is where wildlife photographers have got to put the hours in, waiting, to get lucky. It is also slightly different if I am wearing camouflage clothing or if I am in a portable hide. By wearing camouflage clothing I can move easily from place to place but if I am in my portable hide, either my tent hide or my chair hide, then this presents problems of taking it down and erecting it elsewhere if I move. This morning I was lucky enough to get images of Linnets, a Yellowhammer, Meadow Pipits, a Chaffinch and a Wheatear. I also saw Stonechats, Skylarks, Reed Buntings and 6 Mistle Thrush all in a little group but once again no sight or sound of the cuckoo. I look with envy at the images of cuckoos on Facebook and I wish I could get one but to be honest I am not putting enough time in to get lucky, one morning a week is nowhere near enough time. I saw a programme on television the other day that showed people carrying out research of meadow pipits and stonechats on Dartmoor because their numbers are reducing. I have only lived on Dartmoor for two years and there appears more of these two species this year than last year in the areas I frequent with my camera!

I was out early on Saturday morning walking my dog, without my camera, down by the weir that is a couple of miles away from our house but is only just down the river Tavy from our nature reserve. I spotted a Dipper which is typical, no camera so I see a dipper. I have not seen one for a few weeks now so I just stood there and watched it for about 10 minutes or so. During this time I noticed a blue flash fly past me which I can only put down to being a Kingfisher. This is the first kingfisher I have seen in this area and I hope it won't be my last. After the 10 minutes I had to go because my dog was getting restless. I walked along the river Tavy and heard chicks squeaking in an oak tree so I look up and saw 5 Greater Spotted Woodpecker holes. Each hole was about 2 to 5 inches, 5 to 12 centimetres, apart which goes along with the information I know which is, that the greater spotted woodpecker makes a new nest every year. I will have to research this to find out why, when the old hole is so close by. (I have tried to google this with no luck so if anybody knows why please tell because I’d love to know.) On my way back to the car I noticed an adult Fox with a food parcel in its mouth trotting along the side of a wall. A little bit further along three little brown "Exocet missiles" shot out of a hole in the wall racing to greet it. The first fox cub grabbed the food parcel and then a chase ensued with all three cubs going round in circles, keeping to the shade of the wall and the overhanging trees, and bowling each other over as they turned. The cub, that had the food in its mouth at the start, still managed to keep hold of it and finally woofed it down. I know I have said it before but I love foxes and given the time I could watch them all day. The adult fox moved off as the cubs were not interested in it, job done now go and get us some more food. As it moved off it jumped over a large fallen tree and up onto a stone wall before disappearing from sight, such agility.

All the work on our nature reserve has come to a halt even rebuilding the stone wall has stopped. The main reason is because of the vegetation growth. The grass in the field is above my knees and I'm six foot tall. The sun has been shining for about 4 weeks now with only one rain shower in that time. The result of this is that there is hardly any water in the river Tavy apart from in the deep pools, although our stretch still looks good and it is full of fish. As the water level is so low at the moment I might try and move a few boulders into our stretch just to get a possible photo opportunity if the dipper or Grey Wagtail is around.


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