03.30 - 19.00 hrs March 1st 2015
Red Squirrels - North Yorkshire
The many hours of sitting out in the elements during the winter has finally caught up with me, I have been suffering from a bad cold (AKA Man Flu !) for the past few days and I'm feeling quite poorly. A few months ago I had made plans to drive up to North Yorkshire to photograph wild Red Squirrels. It's a 450 mile round trip and as the day approached, the worse I felt and the more reluctant I was to go.
I finally made my mind up last minute to go, I packed a big camera bag up, unsure of what I would really need once there, and left home at 3.30 AM. At that time of the morning the roads where clear, I arrived at the North Yorkshire National Park at around 07.30 hrs and continued to drive on the small windy roads through the most remote and stunning landscape.
I had arranged to meet a guy called Simon Phillpotts who would then take me to the area where wild Red Squirrels are regularly seen. We transferred the camera equipment from my car to his Land Rover and he then drove the final 15 minutes off road up a tiny track high up in the hills. From here, we had a 10 minute walk across some reasonably difficult terrain, which wasn't made easy with tripods and camera gear. Simon explained that they have had a lot of rain here recently, the ground was saturated and was under a few inches of water just a couple of days before I had arrived.
We finally arrived at a small, dimly lit pine wood, the weather was already poor, very grey and a mist was starting roll down from the surrounding hills. I knew it would be a challenge to get some images in the poor light available, but it is what it is, and you can only work with what you have.
I didn't want to get the standard Red Squirrel on a log image but wanted something different from today. I set the camera up near some water, low to the ground so the camera lens was just a couple of centimetres above the surface of the water. Simon had come prepared with chestnuts and we scattered a few around and waited as quietly as possible. It was cold, my man flu was still playing havoc and I didn't feel in the best of spirits, but once the Red Squirrels showed up, it was an absolute joy to watch.
Reflections...a rare moment of stillness.
Jumping Red with chestnut in mouth!
I was a little worried that I would travel all this way this morning to find the squirrels where a 'no show', or the weather would put them off from showing up. The Reds ended up putting on a pretty good show, scampering in and collecting a chestnut before scampering back into the darkness of the pine forest to bury their loot, returning moments later to repeat the process.
This continued for several hours before the weather took a turn for the worse, bitterly cold rain and wind set in and the little light I did have, finally disappeared. I took this opportunity to pack everything up, wet, cold, and covered in mud, it had been an exceptional day and well worth the long journey up here. I trekked back up to the Land Rover which seemed really hard work and Simon took me back to my car for the long drive home.
A slide show of some of the images from the day.
08.00 - 13.30 hrs March 14th 2015
Back on the stream ...
I have been visiting the Kingfisher hide over regular periods during the last two weeks, but visual sightings have been very far and few between. It's an odd time of year for the Kingfishers, mating pairs are still too bond and territories/boundaries are still yet undecided. I have been speaking with a couple of wildlife photographer friends from around the UK and they are experiencing similar patterns.
I believe I have mapped the Kingfishers territory it is currently using, and it's large, much bigger than I originally thought, which brings with it many difficulties to successfully photograph them. I have a few ideas for the coming months, so hopefully this will produce more regular images.
Meanwhile, whilst the Kingfishers are giving me the run-a-round, I have been concentrating capturing one of the many red foxes we have around Gravenhurst village. Late March is peak cubbing season, the Vixen will be 'denned down' and it will be the dog fox that will be required to bring in regular food. This is a busy and stressful time for the male fox, March and April is the peak time for people to report of pet rabbits or guinea pigs being taken from gardens, this being an easy option for the fox which will soon have many mouths to feed.
The fox cubs will not be above ground until April, so I am hoping this year to capture a few images of the fox clubs. The cubs were very nervous last year and proved to be a better match for me, always just out of reach of the camera lens....very frustrating !
Foxes use a well established network of tracks and paths for navigating their territory, so at the right time of day, well camouflaged and with a little luck on your side, you can sometimes watch the fox going about its business.