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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mountain Hares

Ever since I saw  some pictures of mountain hares or blue hares as they are sometimes known,  I,d always wanted the challenge to photograph these fantastic looking animals!I figured that now,as we were about to approach December,they would be  about to moult into their winter attire.They are usually to be found in altitudes above 500metres,with the peak district of Derbyshire, offering me the best chance of success.With one eye on the weather,and conditions seeming favourable, I decided last Mon, was worthy of a recce to the pennines, were I,d heard that good numbers of hares had been reported in the past.
On arriving at the destination,low cloud was still covering the hill tops,my heart sank,as I am no mountaineer, and the last thing I wanted was to get lost in the misty conditions.I was once caught out unexpectedly, on Pendle hill whilst photographing Dotterel and I didn,t enjoy the experience one bit. I had to sit it out until conditions had improved,but it was a very unnerving experience,to say the least!

Anyway,after a few cups of coffee, whilst sat in the car, the mist started to lift,  and I togged up, ready for the climb ahead.The area that I was heading for, was a good 45 min walk  and my spirits were high in anticipation, that I would connect with a few of these blue mountain hares.With there not being any snow about at present,the hares should be relatively easy to spot,up against the grassy/peaty moorland .After only 10 mins of walking, I spooked one that had been led up against a peat hag and managed my usual shot of the hare departing at a good speed of knots...Ah well it looked that I was at least in the right area!
Scanning with the binoculars, I picked up another hare, at a distance of about 300yds away...,this one had spotted me and was sat bolt upright watching my every move.
Continuing the climb, I came across another hare,squatting hard up against a peat bank, this one allowed me to get reasonably close to it, before I backed off,leaving it in peace. I was feeling quite confident now of  obtaining some reasonable images ,plus  a big bonus, was that the moorland was full of gullies,dips,and  bankings, which I could use as cover, in order to keep myself concealed from the hares.
I noticed immediately, that some of the hares were in different stages of moult,some being a very light shade,some still dark and others in between, which would make for a pleasing array of images.
These animals were introduced to the peak district to supplement the sportsmen of the day and they frequent heather clad moorland,which is more suited for grouse.They are reputedly known for carrying a tick, that also affects the grouse and therefore are now persecuted terribly, on the managed heather moors.In the Lammermuir hills in Scotland, hundreds of hares are reputedly shot every season!

Carrying on ahead, I found another hare, a very light individual,  hunkered up against this peat bank,which afforded it shelter from the elements.I had purposely kitted myself out in my full goretex, waterproofs,  which from previous experience,had made crawling through the wet mossy terrain that little bit more bearable!The moss and damp heather acts like a sponge here and you would soon end up sodden without them on!
This really dark individual never batted an eyelid that I was there,but I did crawl 20 yds commando style to capture the moment!
The shots above and below, were of 2 hares that were among a rocky outcrop.They were only a few metres apart. Again I spotted them from quite a distance and used the banks and hollows to gain ground on them.I particularly like the hare below with its contrasting moult!
It decided that he,d had enough of me and quickly about turned, making for the higher ground!
I believe that they breed in march through to August and can have about 4 litters of 2 to 5 kits, with the female being slightly bigger than the male.Throughout the morning I must have seen about 14 different hares, some close and some distant.Once I got my eye in, I could usually find one laid up somewhere amongst the tussocks and peat hags,.....What a different story it would be when the snow is on the moor,which leads me nicely on to my next trip to the pennines,hopefully to photograph these stunning animals in their natural winter environment!

A big thank you as ever for looking in on my blog and I hope to bring you more tales of our wonderful fauna in the not to distant future!!!!!!!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Salmon run

It was that time of year again,when numerous salmon try to reach their spawning grounds in the higher reaches of their native rivers.On one of my local rivers,this entails a journey of about 65 miles from the coast!Many obstacles lie in their path throughout this arduous journey!They are helped on their way by the environment agency,who have installed numerous fish ladders ,so that the salmon can navigate more easily, the more difficult parts of the river.However there is no such ladder at this particular location and the salmon have to rely on water levels and brute strength to proceed on their journey.

The effects of a dry summer can be seen on the coloration of a lot of these salmon.With there being little rain throughout the summer months,the fish have been holed up in the deeper pools of the river,waiting for the water levels to rise.Many a salmon angler has cursed the weather and lack of rain this last season,with poor catches of fish being the norm!These days my rods are rarely used and I like to catch the fish on the camera now,a lot less stressful for the salmon,but quite a challenge for the photographer.

I know that if conditions are right, I should be in with a chance of a few images of the leaping salmon.A good few hrs were spent at the fosse, with relatively good numbers of salmon and sea trout moving through.Quite a few fish managed to scale the fosse whilst I was there,with the rest continually trying against the strong flow.Driven on by the urge to breed,I,m sure they will have achieved their aim!

I hope that you enjoy some of the images that I managed to capture last month on my now annual recce,and thanks again for taking the time to drop by!!
                            Plenty of water was in the river to aid the salmon on their way!

  Many attempts were thwarted by the sheer volume of water coming down the river!
            It didn,t keep the fish from trying though.
              A leap of about 3 metres is needed to get over the sill of the river!
       Two at once this time!
         A nice hen fish of about 10 pound,it could even be a sea trout!
                One of the many very coloured up fish!
            Again a nice duo try their luck!
                   Almost there!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Liverpool Bay/ Gannets and dolphins

Everybody had a go at catching the mackerel,myself included!

Back in July,I was given the opportunity to spend a day out on a boat, photographing Gannets and hopefully a few other species of seabirds around and out from Liverpool bay.In total there were 7 of us including my good friend Brian Rafferty!This was the second trip that I`d been on aboard the vessel Discovery,which was a purpose built 33ft blyth catamaran with all the latest electronic equipment on board.The skipper was gary flint with over 35 yrs boating experience.Usually she is chartered for fishing trips, but providing there are enough people,gary will gladly accommodate photographers and nature lovers alike!. www.discoverycharters.co.uk Its always a worry when you book a charter for the day, as it is always very weather dependent.Today though was just fine, with a light breeze and a few showers forecast.

We had plenty of time to aquaint ourselves with the other photographers on board, as it would take us 45/60 mins to reach the area where Gary had previously seen good numbers of Gannets before.We intended fishing for mackerel,which we would then throw out for the Gannets to feed on,also Richard had prepared a concoction of oily pellets to entice other seabirds into the area too.

Catching the mackerel.
With plenty of mackerel being thrown overboard,the Gannets were soon onto them.
Not easy to capture as they plunged from over 60 ft up!

A few juveniles got in on the act too!
Hardly a splash was made as the birds plunged arrow like after the fish.
A real bonus to the trip was a pod of about 30 bottle nosed dolphins, who were also here to feed on the  abundant mackerel shoals!
In all the time Gary as been out with the boat,he said that he has never experienced such close encounters with the dolphins as today!
They really did perform for the cameras,this one came for a really close look at us.
Directly under the bow of the boat,just feet away!
Perfect conditions for watching the dolphins, with hardly a breath of wind!
Fill your boots Brian!
A truly amazing experience.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Grouse in the Dales

Just before the grouse season started in August,I decided to take a run over to the dales, to see if I could capture a few images of these moorland birds.The heather was well on its way to being in bloom and it would make for an enjoyable day.

Heather is the staple food source for red grouse and this summer there seemed to be a bumper crop.

Like most species the red grouse is in decline,due to loss of habitat,over 40% of heather moorland has been lost to overgrazing and commercial forestry.Up here in the Yorkshire Dales the moorland is managed by large estates so that the Grouse can flourish and provide sport for the shooting fraternity!

This party were feeding on the young shoots of the heather.

Soon these heather clad moors will be ringing with the sounds of the shotgun as shooting syndicates take up position on the hillsides!

It was quite challenging trying to get close to the Grouse.I found the best way was to sit and wait and eventually a few birds would come within range.Any sudden movements and they were airbourne with an explosion of wings and the familiar ¬go back go back go back call!

There were plenty of youngsters amongst the heather,hardly surprising really,due to the excellent weather we had throughout spring and summer!

A pair of Buzzard were riding the thermals and constantly kept patrolling the ridges,no doubt they take young grouse ,much to the annoyance of the keepers.I`m surprised I actually saw them there with it being a managed moor,these must have been the lucky ones dont you think!
It really was worth the effort to go over to the dales and be in the company of the Grouse.I just wonder how many of those same birds are left now as November approaches!

Thanks again for dropping by and now that I`m back on the blooging theme after a short lay off.more of my escapades in the country will follow shortly!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Croasdale Fell

With the clocks going back just lately,I thought it timely to reflect on the wonderful Summer that we had.I was out and about in the Bowland fells quite a bit,sometimes alone,and other times with good friend and excellent photographer Brian Rafferty!We chanced upon this male Ring Ouzel on one of our outings and managed a few shots between us!
I returned alone,a few days later and set up my stall in the hide,well hidden amongst the heather.Ring ouzel are not the commonest of birds and usually see you coming,before you see them.
He was frequenting a little ravine where I`d seen these birds on previous visits.It was classic Ring Ouzel territory with heather clad banks.
A favorite perch was a dead tree half way up the gulley and he would regularly visit and belt out his song.These mountain blackbirds are iconic to the terrain here and it was a pleasure to soak up the atmosphere on this fine summers day.
On the return journey down the lanes,a Tawny Owl had taken up position in an old barn and from the car allowed a good photo opportunity.
Another bonus was the Little Owl in his usual area,eyeing me up nervously!
Bowland is such a great place to visit and I cant wait for Spring to come around again so I can return to this fantastic area that I have on my doorstep!Hope you enjoyed going back a few months and more blogs will be posted shortly!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Trip up to the Farne Isles

About 6 weeks ago I embarked on a trip to Northumberland on the east coast.I was heading for the Farne isles, a small cluster of islands acccessed by boat from Seahouses.I left early morning and was walking around the little fishing port by  8.30am.

Plenty of Eider duck were around the harbour,most had small broods of duckling with them,a nice way to start the day!

It was the vast seabird colonies that I`d come to see and photograph,and as usual, Puffins were one of the first birds that I encountered.Many had youngsters deep within their burrows and the adults were kept busy fetching sandeels for them to eat!As the Puffin landed with a beakfull of eels, they had to run the gauntlet of black headed gulls trying to relieve them of their catch.

Arctic tern were breeding everywhere and each nest was marked with a pebble and a number.

It was challenging trying to capture the puffin returning to their burrows with beaks laden with sandeels!

Not the best light to work with,but a few decent images were obtained!

Bit of a comical bird don`t you think!

I believe that it had been a great year for sandeels and the puffins were taking full advantage!

Sandwich Tern also breed on the islands,albeit in much smaller numbers than their cousins!

These too were busy feeding chicks!

Another breeding bird was the Shag,which was to be found along the cliff edges amongst the many kittiwakes and guillemot!

On the journey around the islands were many Atlantic seals,who had hauled themselves onto the large rocks to rest.They wern`t at all fazed by the boats going near to them!!