Time, Talks, Trials of Photographing Cuckoos and Wildlife Photography Subjects for 2020

December 16, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Greetings from a Wildlife Photographer on Dartmoor in Devon, England

Christmas is fast approaching and not long behind it is the New Year. Oh my goodness, doesn’t time fly, does it seem to speed up the older we get or is that just me? I remember when I was at school and we used to get six weeks off in July and August. I would go on holiday and do everything I wanted to do and still have four weeks left! Then I started work and time, during the week, really dragged but the weekend time flew by. The sad thing about this is that I couldn’t wait for the weekend and I was wishing my life away. I then started shift work and once again I was wishing the work days were over so I could enjoy my “rest” days. This continued throughout my working life and I was longing for retirement. Now I am retired days seem to go by in a flash and there are never enough hours in a day to do what I want to do. Maybe we should change all this and “retire” when we are young and work when we are older, what do you think? Our politicians say we are living longer so if we start work at 50 according to them they should get 50 years out of us, instead of 40! We would also get our pension before we paid into it so that's a non starter! I bet you’re thinking why am I talking about this. Well a few months ago I informed you of a talk I was asked to do for a camera club president’s night. I was asked by the president of the club out of the blue. He viewed my website, liked my work and asked if I would give a talk. I was chuffed to be asked so I adjusted and updated a previous talk I gave a few years ago to another club. I got more nervous as the date got nearer but that has passed and it is now over two weeks since I gave that talk. It was well received and I had several people come up to me afterwards telling me that they really enjoyed it and I put the information across well. I was even asked by a person if the talk could be adjusted, some of the photography information taken out, to give the talk to a nature group which it could very easily. The talk was titled “The Needs of a Wildlife Photographer” and it is about what I think a wildlife photographer needs to have and do to carry out his or her wildlife photography and get good wildlife images. I have already started working on another talk titled “Dartmoor Wildlife” and it should be ready, hopefully, by the middle of next year. I say “hopefully” because I need some more images for the talk and this will be time and weather permitting. If you are interested in hiring me for a talk then please click on the “Talks Tab” at the top of my website for more information.

About three years ago I located a cuckoo on a certain part of the moor and I started formulating a plan to get a good image of it. For the first year I studied its movements and noticed that it consistently landed on top of a certain large bush. The bush was tall but not as tall as the trees it lands in and I would get a reasonable image of it. I therefore waited until it had migrated back to Africa and then started working out where I could place my photography hide to get the image. This necessitated in me pruning a gorse bush so my hide could be hidden. I waited until the month before the cuckoo returned to prune the gorse bush so that I would not have to do more pruning with the bird around. When the cuckoo returned to the area I placed my hide in position and would sit and wait whilst it was still dark. When it was daylight the cuckoo would consistently land on a single branch of the tall bush, accompanied by either a meadow pipit or a chaffinch harassing it. From my position this single branch was obscured by other branches and they would cover the cuckoo, especially across the eye. After several attempts I decided that I would slightly prune around this branch to give me a clearer view of the bird but this had to be done after the cuckoo had migrated. That September I slightly pruned these branches of the tall bush full of anticipation for the next year. This year the cuckoo returned to the area and I continued my vigil only to be disappointed because the bird did not land on that particular bush. Whether it was a different bird or it did not like my “pruning” I don’t know. The cut branches have now grown a bit and have got lichen on them so I will be back, time permitting, next year still keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to get an image.

Recently there are two jobs that I wanted to do this autumn. The first was to clear the huge fallen half tree / branch on our nature reserve - please read my past blog www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2018/11/retirement-our-nature-reserve-red-deer-and-my-ways-of-getting-closer-to-the-wildlife for more information, so that I could buy some trees from the woodland trust https://shop.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees and plant them in the clearing doing my bit to help the environment. I also want to plant some in our field now that we do not have a horse. The second job was to locate and photograph Redwing and Fieldfare to change the images on my Redwing and Fieldfare photography workshop page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/redwing-and-fieldfare-photography-workshop-1-day. Locating them was easy as there are a lot about and I know some of the places they frequent. But both the clearing of the half tree / branch and the photography side have been hampered with this consistent dull weather and rain. It is now well over two months I’ve been waiting and I have only cut up and cleared a few logs. The clearing is on a steep incline and without firm footing it is very dangerous especially when using a chainsaw. Even when it is dry it can be dangerous because the “ground” I’m standing on is just made up of loads of old fallen leaves. With one foot standing about a foot higher than the other one it is easy to slip. Don’t even ask about the photography. Time, as usual, is slipping away fast! See, time in involved with everything we do.

As usual I have picked a couple of subjects I would like to photograph next year. The first will be a cuckoo as discussed earlier. The second will be to find a bird that I have not photographed before. Whether it is a rarity or a bird not already in my portfolio like a different warbler or a ring ousel I don't mind. With this in mind I am going to limit myself to two or three areas of Dartmoor and concentrate on the wildlife within these areas. On the odd occasion I will be in other areas as I need some landscape images for my “Dartmoor Wildlife” talk but it will be a case that if the weather and light is the type I want to photograph that particular landscape in, then I will go there, if not then I will go to these other areas. 

Time once again is pressing so I will sign off for this year by wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.

P.S. Let’s hope for some dry weather soon.


If you like my blogs then please sign and leave a comment on my Guestbook page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/guestbook.html and Subscribe by pressing the RSS button at the bottom left of the page.

Also available are Digital Photography Tuition Including Post Processing Workflow, Dartmoor Bird & Wildlife Photography Workshops and Talks (Please see the Workshops & Talks Tabs at the top of the website).

If you choose to stay at our Holiday Cottage / B&B www.acorn-lodge-dartmoor.co.uk at the time of the workshop then you will receive a discount on your tuition and accommodation. 




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