Best of 2012

Its been an interesting year of wildlife and photography for me. I’ve probably not seen or photographed as much as last year, but what I’ve seen and standard of my photos I reckon has improved.

The first notable photograph was taken at Centre Parcs in late January, where I photographed a sparrowhawk for the first time and even witnessed it take a blue tit, which was rather impressive to see. The best photo form the set is probably this one of it locked on target. It wasn’t the best setting, in the brambles but best I’ve managed so far.
sparrowhawk look up 2

Less spectacular, but still new was this woodworm beetle which I also photographed in January.
woodworm beetle adult 4

Snow in February led to a number of waders on the grass at Reculver, where I got my best shots of dunlin,
dunlin

and golden plover.
golden plover on cliff sigam 150-500mm

A trip to Wildwood lead to this nice beaver shot.
beaver with ice on its nose 2

And at Rainham I finally got a decent view and some photos of a bearded reedling/tit.
bearded tit male 5

In March I did some pond creature photography at Rainham Marshes and finally got a passable shot of a leech, in this case a duck leech.
duck leech 3 edited

And at Oare Marshes I got my best shots of a black tailed godwit.
Black tailed godwit Limosa limosa

But March was marked by the trip of the year, when I finally got to go to the Cairngorms. On the journey up I saw my first red grouse.
red grouse on stone 3

When there me and Dave met up with the wonderful Pauline and Ian (see their site here for some jaw dropping images Pauline and Ian’s Zenfolio). They effectively were our guides and boy did they deliver!

Capercaillie
capercaillie close up 2

capercaillie

Ptarmigan
ptarmigan 500mm canon 4

Crested tit
crested tit

Mountain hare
mountain hare 2

And loads of other stuff like divers, goldeneye, black grouse, red squirrel, red kite, osprey…..a wonderful week in Scotland!

April was er, well, a wash out. A look back through my photos from April 2012 and all I can find is a sorry looking bluebell and a soggy rabbit from a flooded Minsmere, where, as it alwyas does when I go there, it rained!
rabbit kit portrait

That said on the 1st April, before the deluge of rain, I had a nice walk around Rainham Marshes (I went there more than ever this year) and got my best ever common lizard photos.
Common lizard on reeds Zootoca vivipara 2

May‘s weather was not much better in the UK, but I had 2 weeks in Kefalonia, Greece.

The wildlife highlight was this loggerhead turtle.
Loggerhead turtle in Argostoli Lagoon 5

But I saw loads more, but I haven’t posted yet, other than the .

May was not a complete wash out in the UK. I had some success with my Aquarium photography of pond creatures:

Great diving beetle larva.
Great diving beetle Dytiscus Larva close up uncropped 4

Lesser diving beetle larva.
Lesser diving beetle larva Acilius eating Backswimmer Notonecta nymph 9

Scarce emerald damselfly nymph
Scarce emerald damselfly nymph head on 2

June was pretty good for pond creatures too with this great silver water beetle larva eating a snail.
great silver water beetle larva eating wandering pond snail curled edited

Another trip to Rainham lead to some more nice common lizard images.
common lizard close up 4

Including this nice 2 tailed individual!
2 tailed common lizard 2

The annual trip to Thursley was the least productive yet, photographically speaking, but I did see some wing clapping nightjars, my first redstart and a wood mouse posed briefly.
wood mouse in grass 3

July was pretty wet too, but their were some sunny days, one of which I popped over to Elmley Marshes early morning and was rewarded with some hares feeding and one air boxing.
brown hare

As I watched the hares I kept hearing a weird call which turned out to be my first ever quail!
quail

The rain messed up and delayed a lot of insect flight periods and having missed the Duke of Burgandy butterflies, I headed to Blean wood for the heath fritillarys, which normally would have all gone a week before, but I still found a few, one which posed for a close up.
heath fritillary butterfly close up

One of the top finds was in my house, a spitting spider!
Spitting spider_-4

I had to call off my trip to the New Forest as the rain would have flooded the campsite! A few day trips, including a wet day in London made up for it, where I got this photo of a soggy heron
Grey heron in the rain 7

In July the scarce emerald damselflies finally emerged, a month later than last year.
scarce emerald backlit

I got a decent photo of an egg laying emperor dragonfly.
Emperor dragonfly egg laying portrait

But highlight of the month and rivalling the capercaillie (no seriously!) for the year, was an animal I’ve been after for years: a water stick insect!
Water Stick Insect - Ranatra linearis close up head on

Another nice pond photo was this darter nymph.
darter dragonfly nymph

At the start of August I headed down to the New Forest and finally got a southern blue damsefly, a new species for me.
Southern blue damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale close up 3

But that was not the odonata highlight of the year for me. On the 8 August a very blue dragonfly flew past and I knew what it was, a southern migrant hawker, This species first appeared in the UK properly in 2010 and a few were seen in 2011, but 2012 was a good year for them.
Southern migrant hawker Aeshna affinis

I posted it on my blog and on a few sightings pages and a few folks came down to visit! Not surprising when you see the colour!
southern migrant hawker 2

I spent the rest of the month recoding my sightings and observations, which I will finish writing up soon! I also got my best migrant hawker shots this year.
migrant hawker Aeshna mixta in flight 4

In September on a trip round North Kent I found my first UK Great green bush cricket and velvet ant.
large velvet ant - Mutilla europaea 3

I got my best ever adder pic.
adder

And photographed a striped emperor dragonfly nymph.
Striped emperor dragonfly nymph 2

In October I got my best photo yet of wood ants.
wood ants Formica rufa best

A trip to Richmond park resulted in a nice set of mandarin duck photos.
mandarin duck male 2

And my first truly rutting deer
fallow deer bucks rutting

November was notable only for my trip up to Yorkshire, where I got my first ever purple sandpipers.
Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima-8

My best oystercatchers.
Oystercatcher feeding 4

And saw some leaping salmon.
salmon leaping-5

I did also get a nice landscape
view

December was rather unproductive, the only photos I took really were of backswimmer in a pond creature photography session.
Small Backswimmer Notonecta viridis 2

Overall a rather good year, with a slow end, but things will hopefully pick up in 2013. I have a number of trips planned, so hopefully I see and photograph some nice stuff and I have a camera trap arriving tomorrow, so with some luck that will give me some nice footage of wildlife at night.

Happy new year and may you 2013 be full of wildlife!