Spot the bird

  • January 11, 2015 5:38 pm

Wildlife photographers have a habit of showing only their very best work, which is of course understandable. It does leave aspiring wildlife photographers a little disillusioned or disappointed with their own efforts, because it’s a fact that for every amazing photo taken, there’s ten, twenty, or a hundred (or more!) ‘misses’. After all, we’re dealing with living beings which move, run or fly away, and refuse to look in the right direction. Sometimes, we go out to shoot, and come away totally empty handed, which is why patience and persistence is key to nature photography.

Today was nearly one of those days. Over on the fen this morning, bright but incredibly windy. In the shelter of the hedgerow, a twittering flock of small birds were feeding, Long-tailed tits, Blue and Great tits, a Robin, and several cryptically camouflaged little birds. Can you spot the bird in this photo?

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It’s a Treecreeper, fascinating little birds that creep up the trees, checking every crack and crevice for insects, using their curved needle like beak to extract their quarry and their long, stiff forked tail as a prop to help them cling to the bark. They are constantly in motion with tiny mouse like movements, making them extremely difficult to photograph. This one refused to look at the camera, but does nicely illustrate just how well camouflaged they are, and also my point about the frustrations of wildlife photography!

Walking on to see if I could spot the Bearded Reedlings, I was faced with a sea of swishing reeds, swaying violently in the swirling wind, and I knew it was unlikely I would see them. After an hour of waiting I heard a few pinging calls, but didn’t see the birds.

Heading back to the warmth of the hedge line, I spotted one of the Fieldfares perched so attempted a stealthy approach. Fieldfares are one of our wonderful winter visitors, a beautiful thrush species, they are closely associated with orchards, feeding on the fallen apples, and may also be seen feeding on berries in the hedges. On the fen they seem to pay close attention to the dry mole run riddled areas, perhaps taking advantage of the worms and insects bought to the surface here. This one was surprising tolerant and allowed me to photograph it as it sat in the hedge.

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Hello Deer

  • January 4, 2015 9:32 pm

I’ve had a few new visitors to my blog recently, so I just wanted give you a warm welcome to my website, and also to introduce my local patch, where I do a lot of my photography – Redgrave and Lopham Fen.

Redgrave and Lopham Fen is the largest remaining valley fen in England, and managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The reserve encompasses not just fenland, but woodland and heath too. It’s a peaceful haven for me, having lived in the area for around 20 years I’ve grown up here, walking the tracks that criss cross the reserve and watching the amazing wildlife. For the wildlife, this place is an oasis in the agricultural vastness of the surrounding fields. The river Waveney rises here, although there’s not much to see at it’s source, just a boggy area and flooded scrape patrolled by Grey Herons, and dabbled by Teal in winter.

There’s something to see year round, but winter is a favourite time to visit for me, the frost crystallised on the reeds and clear cold sky, and often I have this tranquil place to myself. This morning I paused to watch a group of Long-tailed tits foraging in the brambles, and when I walked a little further a movement ahead made me stop. It was a Roe deer, the youngster from the group of three I photographed earlier in the week, she was so close, and hadn’t yet noticed me. Carefully and quietly setting up the camera, I waited and watched, fully expecting her to sense me and bound away, but in the cold still air she couldn’t smell me, and maybe if I stay still she won’t see me. She turned, nibbling on bramble leaves, and focussing manually for quietness and the distracting branches, I took her picture.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, youngster in hedgerow, Norfolk, January, Winter

Roe deer have to be my favourite deer species, such elegance and grace, and such a privilege to observe one so closely. Amazingly the sound of the camera shutter didn’t spook her, and she started to move towards me. Just the other side of the brambles, just a few meters away. So close I could hear each dainty hoof-step on the frozen leaves layered on the ground. She passed by, and waiting until she had moved off, we went our separate ways.

The birds were very busy, and despite the fact it’s only January a pair of Blue tits were investigating a potential nest site. A tantalising glimpse of spring.

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The Bearded tits whizzed across the path, not pausing for a photo today, but as ever, lovely to see. Walking back, a reminder that it is still winter, a dried umbellifer sparkling with the frost.

Frosted plant, Norfolk, Winter, January

I noticed a Fieldfare paying close attention to a Molehill, and after a few moments I realised why – the mole was busy rearranging his home, pushing soil up to the surface and no doubt insects or worms too, hence the attraction to the Fieldfare. Short video here: Mole in the Molehill.

 

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To the Sea

  • January 2, 2015 10:20 pm

The coast in winter, the roar of the sea, beauty and ferocity. Wind whipped sea foam sparkling in the weak sun, the fizz of waves pouring over pebbles. A twittering from small birds dashing away from the rising tide. I visited the most easterly point in the UK, Ness Point in Lowestoft, in search of Purple Sandpipers. These little birds, darting around like clockwork toys between the rocks and waves are regular winter visitors to this area and I was keen to see them. After three visits I eventually managed a couple of images, but they are tricky birds to photograph, small and constantly moving.

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There were also some Turnstones around…

Turnstone, Arenaria interpres, perched on rock, Suffolk, Winter, December

But the Sandpipers were the stars, busying about feeding and preening, taking no notice of the human onlookers.

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Follow this link to see a video of the Purple Sandpipers…

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

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Roe deer day

  • December 29, 2014 1:46 pm

Beautiful morning out on the fen today. I love this place in the winter, the sparking white blue of the frost contrasts with the golden morning sun on the reeds, always stunning to see. It wasn’t long before I came across lots of Fieldfares, and a trio of Roe deer grazing in the field adjacent to the path. I settled down in the hedgerow to watch them, a real treat to observe them simply going about their business.

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Interestingly the buck has just one antler. They cast them at this time of year, so their new antlers can grow throughout the winter in preparation for the breeding season next year.

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And finally, those Bearded reedlings are still giving me the run around! I don’t mind though, it’s always a pleasure to watch these little birds, even if just for a brief moment, before they flit away through the reeds.

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Bountiful berries

  • December 20, 2014 4:43 pm

This year the local hedgerows are laden with berries, and we’ve had a sudden influx of Redwing. These pretty little birds, slightly smaller than a Song Thrush, with a handsome russet red flash under their wings migrate in from Scandinavia and Russia to spend the winter here. Last weekend they were busy feeding in the hedges along with the local Blackbirds.

Redwing, Turdus iliacus, perched in hawthorn hedge, berries, Norfolk, Winter

Blackbird, Turdus merula, male, on hawthorn berries, hedgerow, Norfolk, Winter

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Nearly but not quite

  • December 6, 2014 2:12 pm

Someone very wise once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It’s true, and that’s what we do as wildlife photographers. We visit the same spot again and again, hoping for that one moment when it all comes together. The light, the subject – we wait for that one moment. Well that’s what I’ve been doing for several weeks now. Waiting on the Fen, for a special subject. This morning was a beautiful frosty start to the day, the first thing I see slinking through the crystallised grass is a Fox, sleek and handsome he stares at me when I squeak, and then bounces away as I try to turn the camera towards him. The frozen ground crunches underfoot, and the first golden light pours over the glistening white frost. The hedge is full of chattering Fieldfares, a pair of Swans glide overhead and two of the resident Roe deer watch shyly as I walk by.

Great reedmace, Typha latifoli, Bulrush, frost, Winter, Suffolk, December

 

Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, covered in frost, Winter, December, Suffolk

 

I reach the spot and wait, an hour or maybe two goes by with nothing but the most fleeting of glimpses. I move on, and then there,  a movement. Two more, quite close, a flutter, a whistle, they flit on the top of the reeds, the birds I’ve been trying to photograph for weeks.

 

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Bearded tits. Not very well named really, they’re not a member of the tit family, and the male wears a rather dapper moustache rather than a beard. Anyway, they are special little birds, a regular, though elusive Winter visitor to the Fen. So here’s my nearly but not quite photo, they decided to perch momentarily on the same reed, meaning I couldn’t get both in focus, then they moved down into the reeds to feed, not allowing any other chances to get a clear view. Nearly, but not quite. I’ll keep trying!

 

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Painting the sky with birds

  • November 30, 2014 8:55 pm

The rush of air in wings, a thousand birds swirling through the sky in perfect synchrony. At this time of year you can witness one of natures most spectacular events as thousands of Starlings flock together to roost in safety. Across the country great clouds of birds gather at dusk, dancing through the sky together before pouring down into the roosting site. These murmurations occur in many different places, one of the most famous being Brighton Pier, but they also happen over reedbeds. There’s normally a small murmuration on the fen every year, so I set out to photograph it. I wasn’t particularly successful on this occasion sadly, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to go back soon.

Whilst I was there though, with the light fading fast, I turned my attention to the equally spectacular Rook and Jackdaw roost. The noise is the first thing that strikes you, the combined voices of hundreds of Rooks and Jackdaws becomes an overwhelming cacophony, as the birds swoop through the sky. Not in synchrony like the Starlings, much more a chaotic ballet as each birds searches for the perfect roosting spot. With the sun now below the horizon, the birds pour into the trees. With barely any light to shoot with I manually focus on the birds already in the trees and keep my finger on the shutter button. Each flying bird leaves a ghostly trail through the sky with such a slow shutter speed, and the camera captures the very last glimmer of light in the sky. After I take this image, a trembling hoot from one of the local Tawny Owls echoes out from the wood, and I know it’s time to head home.

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Now on Facebook!

  • November 23, 2014 5:18 pm

Just a quick note to say Dawn Monrose Nature Photography is now on Facebook!

Head over to https://www.facebook.com/DawnMonroseNaturePhotography and ‘like’ my page to keep up to date with all my latest adventures. I’ll still be sharing my photos and the story behind them here on the blog, so keep checking back here, or use the ‘Follow’ button in the bottom right corner of your screen to receive blog updates straight to your inbox.

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Autumn

  • October 20, 2014 8:09 pm

The golden season. Hedgerows heavy with fruits lead me to the earthy scented forest. Fungi, like this Fly Agaric push through the dark, damp soil. A Jay flies overhead with a beak full of acorns, and a Squirrel scampers up a tree to watch me walk by.

Fly agaric, Amanita muscaria, in woodland, October, Norfolk

Away from the forest into the open parkland now. Gnarled old trees stand steady, how many Autumns have they seen I wonder? A roar cuts through the mist, a Fallow deer buck lets forth a deep, powerful bellow, and waits for a reply.

Fallow deer, Dama dama, Buck under oak tree, Autumn, October, Suffolk

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Jiminy Cricket

  • October 4, 2014 6:18 pm

Down at the bottom of the garden there’s a chirping coming from the hedge, but it’s not a bird, it’s a Dark bush-cricket. He suns himself on a plant pot, before boinging back off to the hedge.

 

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