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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On Safari

  • September 30, 2013 9:26 pm

The 4×4 bounces along the rough rutted track, rounding a corner we spot the herd. 150 animals strong, they move through the pale dry grass and dust drifts in the air as one individual shakes out its coat. Ear’s flick away flies, a mother calls gently to it’s calf, there’s a roar in the distance. Where am I?

Not where you’d expect, I’m on safari with the RSPB, in deepest, darkest… Suffolk.

A Red deer safari in fact, a short bumpy ride away from the wonderful Minsmere reserve, in an area as close to ‘re-wilded’ as we’re prepared to go in this country. The Red deer here are wild, a feral population with it’s origins linked to the Thetford Forest animals, they are left to their own devices. At this time of year, all across the country the rut is taking place with the stags gathering harems of hinds, and defending them aggressively. As our largest native land mammal, this is an impressive sight.

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In one group, two young stags spar, carefully testing each others strength, locking antlers and pushing and shoving.

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The alpha male is an impressive beast, his red coat darkened by wallowing in mud. He sticks out his tongue, tasting the air for the scent of any females in season.

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He throws his head back and roars, a deep reverberating bellow that can only truly be appreciated in person, no recording can fully capture the depth and resonance of this primaeval sound. Silence as he waits for the distant reply.

We visit the watering hole and wallow, and watch the hinds drinking and the younger stags wallowing and coating their antlers with mud. Suddenly a large stag strides though and trots purposefully up the bank towards us, there’s a moment of tension in the air as he stares at us, he’s a powerful looking beast and we wonder about his intention. He hesitates, and moves away towards the treeline. It’s only when I look at the photo afterwards I realise he’s missing an eye, a horrific injury, presumably from a previous rutting battle.

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If you want to go on a deer safari with the RSPB, you can find more details here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-350001

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Bearded Tits

  • November 18, 2012 2:32 pm

Out in search of the Bearded tits again this morning. It was a frosty start and the fen was shrouded in mist. I walked along past the oaks, not a good year for acorns it seems and consequently there are very few Jay’s around. A small mottled brown bird darts silently out of a tree to a cacophony of alarm calls. He perches on a branch ahead and bobs up and down – a Little Owl, he turns and glides away through the trees. Rounding the corner I come face to face with a Roe deer buck, for a few tense seconds we stare at each other. Then he barks and bounds away into the fen. As I walk through the area of cut fen two Snipe rocket out of the low vegetation, they are so well camouflaged I never see them before they see me. A few steps more and a trio more whisk away into the sky.

I set up in the same place as last week, but it’s quiet and again, I can’t help wondering if they’ve moved on. I hear some distant ‘pings’ in the reedbed behind me, was that an answering call to the reeds in front? I wait. There’s a group of three flitting around, but they’re distant and seem skittish. There’s a lot of Carrion Crow activity this morning, maybe that’s why they’re being extra shy today.

They pop up for a moment, then fly off together. Time for another long wait. An hour later, they flit over the reeds towards me, one flies high above to join it’s comrades out in the fen behind me, but two, a male and female remain.

 

The male poses for a couple of shots before they fly off together. A frustrating morning for me, though I didn’t come away empty handed, better luck next week!

 

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Autumn Fen

  • November 11, 2012 1:56 pm

A stunning morning on the Fen, a crisp frosty start and delicious golden light. The Konik ponies look so at home here, they were warming up in the sun at the edge of the wood.

On in search of the Bearded Tits, but all was quiet in the reedbed. I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed, but that’s wildlife for you. I guess they’ve moved on, or maybe they’re out somewhere on the open fen. I decide to stick around for a while just in case, and amuse myself with a little art photography.

Created simply by panning the camera vertically during the exposure, the end result is always a surprise. This technique seems to work really well with the reeds and really captures the lovely warm light.

Wandering on a little further, a movement in the reeds catches my eye – a tiny Wren flitting around the stems. Then something else flutters, a glimpse of Autumn coloured feathers and a striking black stripe, it can only be – the Bearded Tits!

I manage one shot before he pings away into the reeds with the others. A long wait later, and there they are again. This time perched in the open on stems of Reedmace further down the path. *Please stay there, please stay there*! I hurry along the path towards them, as close as I dare, and to my surprise they stay.

 

I guessed around 6 in total, males and females together. They are such charismatic little birds and it’s such a treat to have them here. The photography is getting better (the above shot is approx 50% full frame), but there’s still a long way to go, I really hope they stick around this winter.

Walking back happy, a trio of Roe does prance across the path and the woodland looks stunning in it’s Autumnal splender. Down in the wet wood a Buzzard launches itself from a tree as I approach, surprising both me and the local Carrion crows, who mob and chase it away. I’ve not seen one so close around here before, they certainly see to be getting more common. A piece of dead branch shaken loose by the Buzzard’s hasty take off thuds down beside the tree, time for home and a cuppa.

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