Thursday, 12 March 2015

Glorious Gloucestershire

With the Cotswolds providing me with a much needed fix for short-eared owl action, I have taken the chance to look around the area a bit more, and capture other wildlife too.

With shooting being such a popular "sport" around there, the fields are full of partridges and pheasants. The red-legged partridges are comical characters, with the way they hop over walls, sit and absorb the sun's warmth or turn tail and scuttle along at an amazing rate, when alarmed.

While images of them in fields are lovely, I have to say trying for shots of them on the Cotswolds stone walls is my favourite challenge, and isn't always easy. The birds are easily scared (not surprising when they're being shot at) and getting them on a wall, with the light just right can be a game of patience or pure fortune.

Same with the local buzzards, which seem to have a habit of flying off just as the lens locks on, though this one stayed put to show its appreciation of my photography, moments after this shot, decorating the surrounding grass with something rather unpleasant.

Encouraging to see are the amount of kestrels around too, often seen sat on posts, lines or hedges, watching for movement below, to swoop down upon.

There appears to be good numbers of brown hare around here too, but I will need to be up far earlier to catch them in action. The one day I did manage to arrive for dawn, the hares decided to have a lie in! None to be seen anywhere. I did get some lovely shots of roe deer at dusk, which sort of made up for it.

The county I have focused on here, so far is Gloucestershire, and I am barely scratching the surface of what is on offer. Heading west, I have also spent a few days in the Forest Of Dean. The boar have managed to evade me thus far (aside from one huge male some years back), but I have enjoyed some success with birds around there.

Hawfinches breed in this area and at this time of year can be seen feeding both in trees and on the ground. Yew trees are a favourite of theirs, so it can be a case of locating some and hoping, though local bird news sites can help narrow down possible sites.

Finding them is one thing, photographing them, or at least getting the chance to is something else. They are shy and tend to stick to the shadows beneath the tree, and seem to be the last to come down to feed, and the first to fly off at the first sign or sound of trouble. As such, when Joe Public or the local sheep aren't scaring them off, I have found that the silent mode of my new Canon 7D Mk2 has been a benefit, allowing me to shoot away and not frighten the birds with what resembles a machine gun.

Even then, they have an amazing ability to land with something in front of them, be it a strand of grass, a twig or be facing the wrong way. Stick at it though, and eventually some half-decent images can be had.

Whilst waiting, there are other species to be captured. There are numerous nuthatches around, constantly calling to each other and feeding on seed thrown down by folks probably keen on seeing the hawfinches!

And another shy bird can be seen making the most of free food, sneaking in when the magpies and crows aren't looking, to make off with a meal. Jays.

Then there are the flocks of crossbills. I have on many occasions visited the Wyre Forest for these, but never really had much luck. I even travelled up to Nottinghamshire once, to see the "guaranteed" flock that were drinking from a puddle daily. Except when I went, when they didn't show. So when I heard of some doing similar in the Forest Of Dean, I thought I'd have another go. This time, I was luckier, and enjoyed some fabulous views of a male and female drinking from a small puddle.

They are such vibrant birds, even managing to glow somewhat when in the shade of a tree.

But in the sunlight, they shine. Lovely birds.

With Spring around the corner, I will probably be distracted with other targets soon, so will be heading to other counties, though the lure and chance of seeing some boar might keep me going back. The hawfinches will soon vanish into the canopy and I haven't been to see the short-eared owls for a few weeks now. That said, I still have a mountain of unprocessed images of them to sort. So expect to see more on my Flickr stream for weeks to come.

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