Its that time of year to look back and reflect on what I’ve seen and photographed. No trips abroad this year, and I largely visited places I have been many times before, but I certainly found some new things and improved my shots of others.
The year started, as it often does with me, inside with a photo aquarium. The Pygmy backswimmers Plea minutissima were plentiful in the pond, so I got some out to try and get better shots, with some success.
My bird feeders were nice and busy on cold days. I had a visit from a greater spotted woodpecker, but it constantly moved and the light was poor, so my quest to get a decent shot of one continued. I did have some success at getting a blue tit in flight though.
While on Sheppey I also visited a top spot for short eared owls, with the bonus of meeting the top photographer Jules Cox again. The owl performed 1 great pass as we used our cars as a hide, but didn’t come back after some idiot pulled up between us and jumped out his car and walked around!
I have wanted some decent frog and toad images for a while, so after a tip off from a friend in March, I headed to some ponds in a woodland. In one pond there were toads and frogs breeding and this exhausted female dragged her self out right in front of me with a male on board and a second one (not visible holding onto her legs. She was so close I got out my fisheye lens and got this shot.
The local fox was about all winter, but I could not get close, so was baffled when a couple of other photographers were getting shots of it very close up. I was even starting to doubt my own abilities! Sadly it turned out they were feeding it, leaving it vulnerable to attack from dogs and idiots who like harming animals in this public park, and sometimes they were feeding it right next to a road (which while it has a 10mph limit and not busy, does have idiots roaring along it) All efforts (being spoke to by wardens, signs being put up etc.) to convince them to stop have sadly fallen on deaf ears. To be clear I am not saying you should never feed/bait wildlife, but in this location it is endangering the foxes.
I did in the end manage a shot (without food) by waiting until just before dusk when the park was pretty much empty and lying on the grass next to some cover to obscure me near his usual route. He walked towards me and briefly stopped when he realised I was there/what I was. Its a bit of a crop but I like it.
In April I helped with a number of newt surveys and we found a great diving beetle Dytiscus marginalis, which despite being the commonest of the 6 Dytiscus sp., I had never really photographed them before.
In mid April a couple of adders were seen, at least 1 male and female. The male was persistently trying to court the female who seemed disinterested. I was able to observe them on and off for a few days before they moved off to their summer hunting grounds. Before they did I got a few shots of them in situ with my 300mm tele. This shot is one I’ve wanted for a long time.
Scorpionflies are one of the signs that spring has really got going and one of my favourite species. Due to their flighty nature they are not the easiest species to phootgraph and I hadn’t got a shot I was really happy with till this year
In the last week of June I decided to switch from Pentax to Nikon. Except I didn’t, I switched to Olympus! I immediately felt the benefit when I shortly after went for a walk around RSPB Rainham Marshes and the extra reach meant I got this singing male reed bunting.
Back in Essex soon afterwards I was surveying an RSPB reserve for scarce emerald damselfly. There were good numbers I’m glad to say, but also many other odonata species. Black tailed skimmer are hard to photograph well as they tend to sit on the ground. This one not only perched on a rush with a clean background, but put its head up too!
Due to issues mentioned above, I didn’t really spend much time photographing foxes this year (after the previous photo). I did come across him standing in the car park on a quiet evening, and got this using all 600mm of reach (and cropping).
In August I went to meet up with my friends Dave, Stu and Gill for the weekend. August 12th we were up on the North York Moors driving through grouse moor country. Thankfully the glorious twelfth was being celebrated elsewhere so when we finally found some wildlife in the heather monoculture it stayed put. It was very pretty to see the pink carpet, but there was little else other than red grouse.
The tadpoles had been leaving my pond as froglets in summer, but I didn’t really com across any with the camera until August, when I tried out the Auto stack feature on my Olympus EM1 Mark II and was pleased with the results.
In early September I went looking for hornet robberflies at Thursley Common. I saw 2 all day and neither posed well, but I got loads of beewolf photos, like this one. It is I will (eventually) blog about at a later date.
At the start of December the woodpecker came back to my feeders. The first visit I was set up for small birds and coulnt fit it all in, the next visit it was too far away as I had my short lens on. The third time I was ready!
And finally, just before Christmas, one more species I’ve been trying photograph for years. Water mites behave like little wind up toys, never stop beating their 8 legs as they contantly swim, and at only a few mm across this makes it very hard to get a shot. Well I found 2 that seemed happy to just crawl around, makes getting a shot much, much easier.
If you made it to the end of what I laughingly refer to as a ‘summary’ of my wildlife photography year, well done.
And happy New Year!
If you have your own best of/top 10 etc of 2017, leave a link in the comments and I’ll compile a list.