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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A Look Back at 2010

As the year draws to a close, it's time to take a look back at the trips I've taken and the wildlife I've seen.

In this review, I've tried to stick to using shots not previously posted, so most of the following has not been posted before.

January - March

Throughout 2010 I have made regular visits to a river in Lincolnshire near to Cath's parents, where a Barn Owl can, almost without fail, be seen hunting at dusk. I'll keep visiting in 2011!

Ardingly Reservoir is pretty reliable for Herons nesting in the early part of the year. I may visit Ardingly again in 2011 (it is not far from where I live), but RSPB Northward Hill apparently has over a hundred mating Heron pairs, so that will also be on my list for 2011.

In March I visited Poole for a few days, with a view to photographing red squirrels on Brownsea Island. As is often the case in the UK, the weather did not cooperate, and I only managed a few hours of photography, with the rest of the time being spent sitting out the rain in a Premier Inn.

This year, I've learned that wildlife photography in the UK can be pretty tough. You have to contend with:
  • the weather 
    • this makes it very difficult to plan around your day job. In the whole of January, February and March, for example, you may only get a few days of decent light, which also coincide with a weekend
  • the scarcity of wildlife 
    • outside Scotland at least, much of our wildlife appears in isolated pockets - to see a Red Squirrel for example, I need to either drive 1000 miles north, or go south and get on a boat to Brownsea or the Isle of Wight
  • the fact that most of the wildlife (especially birds) is: 
    • small (= big, expensive, heavy lens needed), 
    • skittish (ditto, and also some stealth and a lot of patience) and 
    • oftentimes nocturnal. 
Recently, in two weeks in Antigua, I managed to take more decent wildlife photos than I had taken in the preceding six months in the UK - and most of them were taken from the balcony of our chalet! From a balcony in Antigua I can photograph more wildlife than in, say, the whole of Surrey (where I live). Madness! 

April - June

In May to took a week off work and traveled to Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. At Wicken Fen I sought out Cuckoos. It was some time before one perched obligingly within camera range - but on the final day I took this:

From Wicken Fen I moved on to RSPB Minsmere on the east coast of Norfolk:

And later in May, I visited Stodmarsh. There are always Marsh Harriers to be seen at Stodmarsh, and this was the main purpose for the visit - but there are also Marsh Frogs!

July - September

In August, we visited Scotland. At Chanonry point on the Moray Firth, we saw dolphins approaching the shore.

On our first morning there, I spotted this gull hovering over the shingle, dropping shells from a height to crack them open.

This next shot was taken at the river in Lincolnshire where I often see a barn owl.

In September I visited a wildlife photography workshop run by Chris Weston. What a lovely chap he is (but I wish he would stop his workshops at Donna Nook). This particular workshop was held at Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent, where a variety of big cats are kept for captive breeding programs. We were shooting through cage walls but it didn't matter at all - to be able to get this close was something special.

October - December

In October I visited the other of the two islands in the south where there are red squirrels (the first being Brownsea). Generally, this is a better place to see the reds - simply because there is a larger population. On the other hand, the main site there, Parkhurst Forest, is infested with dog walkers. This really makes photographing here no fun at all. The squirrels keep away from the dogs, which means to photograph them you also need to stay away from the dogs. Easier said than done with that many dogs present!

I still need to find an ideal place to photograph these squirrels. Perhaps in 2011 I will try Formby, in the north west of England, where the population is said to be recovering again after being hit by a recent virus outbreak.

Most of my wildlife photography in the latter part of 2010 was done during our two weeks in Antigua. This came as a real surprise - I really did not anticipate the sheer numbers of Osprey, Lizards, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Mongeese, etc. that we'd see. I packed a few lenses for the trip on the off chance that I might visit a nature reserve - I'm really glad I did, and in the end there was really no need to go looking for a reserve!

This trip has really got me thinking that I need to get out of the UK more to see more wildlife. For various reasons, in 2011 this will not be possible - but from 2012 onwards, I hope to start taking trips to Africa and elsewhere.

This has been my first full year of wildlife photography - I think it has been a good year, and I hope you have enjoyed this review. Most of the trips I've mentioned have their own related posts, so to see more, take a look at my recent post list.

In the next post, I'll review my favorite images from the last year.


  1. Hi Nick, I live on the Isle of Wight and I can sympathise with your problems with dog walkers. The island, like the rest of the UK (especially the south) is too crowded and there's hardly anywhere to escape from Joe and Jane Public, their kids and their dogs and I feel frustrated a lot of the time about it.

    However, there is a place where Red Squirrels are both relatively tame and easy to photograph and that's Alverstone Mead NR near Sandown. There's a hide and the squirrels are used to people, in fact they will eat nuts from your hand!

    I have only recently found your blog but it's a good one and I'm looking forward to reading more. :)

  2. Hi Fay - thanks for your suggestion. I can see from your photos you managed to get a lot closer to the reds than I did, so I'll give it a go!