During the extremely cold weather of early 2018 the high hills of the Peak District were transformed into a magical winter wonderland. The chance to see mountain hares in their natural environment awaited those able to tackle a taxing hike through sometimes waist deep snow. The hares spend the day bathing in the winter sun, sheltering from the wind on the south side of the snow covered groughs. It’s near-impossible to approach stealthily in such conditions and not wanting to disturb the hare, I crawled as close as I could with my profile hidden by a snow drift. Slowly and carefully I raised my camera over the top to get this shot.
This is taken at my favourite Barn Owl location in North Norfolk. The owl was using the wire to observe movements in the field below and would return frequently to this spot. In mid summer, the late afternoon sun was still strong and illuminated both the owl and the barbed wire, leaving the background dark due to the shade of thick woodland.
Most of my images are created as the result of hours of patient observation, usually uncomfortable, with many trips returning empty handed. Not so for this image. I was visiting Switzerland intending to climb, but after days of miserable rain any chance of climbing had disintegrated and the usually stunning vistas were hidden in grey cloud. I decided to go for a drive through the mountain passes anyway. The fox crossed the road in front of me, and quite taken by it, I pulled over. I grabbed my camera from the back seat and fired off a few shots as it paused to look straight at me. The entire encounter lasted only a few seconds but it is one of my favourite images.
This is my local kingfisher. His territory extends over a few of the dams and ponds along the Porter brook in Sheffield. It's a popular walk through Sheffield's parks so he is quite tolerant of company. In fact, he's quite a local celebrity amongst the nature lovers in the area.
I've gotten to know several individual characters that live on the high moors of the Peak District. Some are very wary of humans, and others are more tolerant. It's always a pleasure to observe an animal so relaxed in my presense that it ignores me. This one spent a good half an hour cleaning it's ears and having the odd nibble of grass.
I'm told that my home patch in west Sheffield is home to the largest population of urban Tawny Owls in the UK. I love hearing the "hoo hoo-ing" every night. This little one had gone on a little daytime adventure away from the nest. At this age, moving around consists of hopping and ungainly flapping for balance which draws attention, so it had settled down for a quiet sleep until nightfall. Mummy Tawny owl was keeping an eye on it from above.
Approaching mountain hares through heavy snow is not an easy business. They are fast and nimble, whereas I frequently found my feet crashing through the waist deep snow into the bogs below. Nevertheless, I had high hopes that if I could find Bruno, he'd allow me to photograph him. Bruno is always eating, and every time he had his head down nibbling I was able to slide a little closer.
I set up a remote camera amongst the flowers to capture this. The malachite sunbird was very shy; wary of both humans and the other boistrous birds competing for the nectar. From my position hidden inside, I didn't have a direct line of sight to the camera, but I could tell when to trigger the shots when I heard the distinct and shy "peep peep" of the sunbird.
I had stopped for a break during a long drive through the Cederberg wilderness area in South Africa. While I sat in the shade of the ancient cederberg trees I noticed this handsome lizard scampering across the hot rocks. As I reached for my camera, he stopped still long enough for a portrait.
Mountain hares have large, heavily furred back paws which are perfectly adapted to difficult, snowy terrain and enable them to accelerate away from predators. They are reputed to be able to reach speeds of 45 mph. Walking the high hills of the Peak District, often my only sighting of a hare will be it’s backside as it speeds away. They will tend to sit tight, relying on superb camouflage until I’m almost on top of them and then race out of the blocks.
I must have looked an odd sight, to a mountain hare, as I slid slowly sideways down the muddy bank. I'm glad to say that the only sign that I had disturbed her was the sceptical look she gave me.
During the heavy snow in early 2018 I ventured out to the Derwent reservoir as the roads are relatively low and likely to be clear. This clever robin was sheltering from the falling snow in the wheel arch of a Landrover Defender.
During the heavy snow storms of March 2018 I walked out to my local park to check on the wildlife. The kingfisher was restricted to fishing in two small areas as the rest of his ponds were frozen over, but he was catching plenty of fish nonetheless.
Every now and then, you experience a wildlife encounter that takes your breath away. Long Eared Owls are rarely seen during daylight hours but in the early summer they start hunting in the early evening in order to feed their hungry chicks. I'd settled myself down on a stile on the edge of this owl's patch hoping that he would hunt near me. It was hot and humid with no wind and I'm covered from head to toe to keep the midges off. Then, suddenly, not one, but two long eared owls hunting the same patch. Both mum and dad were taking their kills back to a noisy youngster. And then it got better! The male perched only a few meters away and took a long look at me with those wonderful orange eyes.
This is a young long eared owl, still reliant on it's parents and sporting the odd fluffy feather, but starting to look like a proper grown up owl. I'd been watching this family grow up for the last few weeks and I knew that it was likely I'd find them in this patch of scrubby woodland. Not wanting to influence their behaviour, I arrived well before sunset and settled down against a tree trunk. For a good hour and a half I could hear the owlets squeaking and flapping around from branch to branch. They were getting closer to me, but it was getting very dark. And then, for a few seconds, the oldest youngster, in silhouette against the dusky sky, right in front of me. A successful and enjoyable evening.
There is little wonder that the kingfisher is one of our best loved birds. It's always a joy when you see a flash of their blue and red colouring.
Long Eared Owls are rarely seen during daylight hours. Three young fledglings were taking their first flights and were bumbling around over a large area just before dusk. While they were having fun exploring they were keeping their parents busy by squeaking for food constantly. They have a distinct "squeaky gate" call which made this one easy to locate.
RSBP Bempton Cliffs is home to the UK's largest mainland gannet colony. The number of birds breeding here is significant to their global population.
A heron lurking in the shadows in my local park.
During the worst of the snowfall brought by the 2018 “Beast from the East” storms I ventured to my local park with a tub of bird feed to check on the birdlife. Most of the ponds were frozen over and the kingfisher was limited to only a couple of hunting spots. He continued to hunt throughout the blizzard, for the most part keeping his composure. Better than me - by this point I had a small snow drift forming in my lense hood.
I took this during the early snow in December. At this time, mountain hares are mid-transition to their white winter coats. I found this one amongst the bracken and snow below a gritstone edge in the Peak District. The mottled brown and white coat blended perfectly with this terrain and I only spotted it when it moved for a stretch. As I approached, it hunkered down, motionless and watching me. They will tend to sit tight, relying on camouflage and only sprinting off if completely necessary. I managed to take this shot and then slowly retreated to leave the hare in peace.
In early summer the fields in the Peak District are alive with small birds feeding their young families. This meadow pipit had filled it's beak with grubs and insects and was calling for it's young to come out for lunch.
Mountain hares do not burrow like rabbits but they will use natural shelters formed by the steep peat groughs on the moors. I regularly find this hare in the same location and I can see why. She is out of sight, sheltered from the elements, and has a choice of escape routes. Most Peak District hares are not comfortable being approached but here she feels so secure that she allows me within a few metres. I am humbled that this picture was shortlisted in the portraits category of the British Wildlife Photography Awards (BWPA) 2018. The winning images are of tremendous quality and I recommend you check them out : https://www.bwpawards.org/winners2018
When I see this image, I hear silence. The soft silence of a covering of fresh fluffly snow and giant snowflakes still falling. This was taken while walking around the Ladybower reservoir in Derbyshire. It's a great place for birdlife, especially when a low level walk is mandated by the weather!
Hares are among several species that will eat their own faeces in order to allow tough plant materials to be digested by passing through the digestive tract twice. ...And this is what Gordon here was doing to pass the time during a particularly soggy day.
Addo Elephant park on the south coast of South Africa covers 630 square miles and is home to over 600 elephants. Lions have also be reintroduced to the area. Lions will generally be active during the night and will sleep during the day. We were lucky enough to spot this male and his brother as they slept in the shade of a camelthorn tree. As dusk approached, he sat up to take in his surroundings.
Sunbirds have evolved in parallel with hummingbirds to solve the same problem in slightly different ways. They both have long beaks for extracting nectar but while the hummingbird hovers at a flower, the sunbird will grip the stem below the flower head to access the nectar. This is a "Malachite" Sunbird which refers to the irridescent blue-green colouring.
The Fiscal Shrike is also sometimes named jackie hangman or butcher bird due to its habit of impaling its prey on acacia thorns or barbed wire spikes to store the food for later consumption. Shrikes are very territorial and competition for territories was intense. This was taken during a climbing trip to the Cederberg Wilderness Area on the western cape of South Africa.
As unseasonal hot temperatures persisted in the Western Cape of South Africa, these Aloe flower spikes were prime territory and fiercely fought over by dozens of weaver birds. Too hot to sit outside in the sun, I positioned my camera in the flower bed, covered with a tea towel in an attempt to stop it overheating, and retreated to the shade to control it with my iPad.
First the mother duck appeared out of the undergrowth and slid into the lake. And then, plop! plop! plop! she's followed by 6 tiny ducklings. There was a single yellow one that caught my eye, exploring the water lillies.
Mountain hares will moult in autumn to exchange mottled brown for white in anticipation of a covering of snow over winter. If the snow arrives late this can leave them vulnerable to predation as they stand out bright white against the vegetation.
This is a greater spotted woodpecker mum feeding her young. There were at least 2 youngsters in the nest but the hole was only big enough for one at a time to poke it's head out. Adult woodpeckers will return to ancesteral trees year after year, hollowing out a fresh hole each time.
This was taken in mid-winter in the Peak District. The hares will choose their day-time resting spots carefully to soak up any rays of sunshine during the short days. I found Isla asleep, out of the wind on the south facing side of a grough. She opened one eye as I approached but soon went back to snoozing.
A kingfisher catching the last rays of the evening light.
Stormy weather in the Peak District hadn't calmed the tension between the large stags on Big Moor. With bruised skies and bruised egos aplenty, this large male had just chased off competition from a youngster.
I have a soft spot for owls so I was delighted to come across this young Tawny Owl on a walk around my local woods. It had been quietly asleep during the day and with the light fading had started to survey the awkward, flapping route it was going to take back up to the nest in the branches above.
I’ve found bad weather to be a great time to photograph wildlife. They seem to be focused on surviving the conditions and less aware of me. Plus, if I wanted to photograph these hardy little creatures, I needed to be out in the same appalling weather as them. That’s what I told myself as I trudged across the boggy moorland of the Peak District, in thick mist, hardly able to see my nose let alone any hares. I’d been visiting these hares frequently over the winter so I knew their favourite spots to shelter. Sure enough, peering through the mist I could see a soggy white mass of bedraggled fur, bright against the green moss.
The coat of the red squirrel can vary from black to red, with this one appearing very dark. I came across a group of a dozen or so whilst hiking in the swiss alps. You could tell it was a favourite spot for them by the sheer number of stripped pine cones scattered on the forest floor.
A young stag, trotting persistently after a lone female red deer on White Edge, Peak District.