A Few of my Favourite Things...


How do you decide what your favourite Nature photograph is (that you may have taken) ?  What do you think makes it a favourite?

 I was recently asked if I wanted to supply some images for BBC Springwatch to use on their Instagram page, with the brief being to provide ten of my favourites...  Well as I have a sizeable archive of nature photography - my 'diary' for the past few years, I had a bit of a task on my hands to choose!  That got me to thinking however, what makes and just how do you choose your favourites?

 For me, everytime I go walking with the camera, it's usually on a 'see what I shall see' basis; sometimes a lot, sometimes it's quiet, or I see and hear masses, but the subjects simply are not up for being photograhed.  I've lots of memories of special moments with wildlife - most recently, two brief encounters with a local female Sparrowhawk, with glimpses caught of her in flight as she is vocally sorting someone out on her patch - but those moments 'stick' in the memory - the weather, the light, the sounds of the other birds around, listening and peering at the trees to catch a glimpse, then the silly grin when she appears, on a sharp turning flight out of and back into the woods...  

 Nearly every nature image I have, I know when and where it was taken, can recall what else I saw, what sort of day I was having even; but what makes them special or favourites? I think, that it comes down to capturing a memory that can be shown and shared of what you have seen - whether it be one of our everyday  or one of our more glamourous and elusive species - behind those images there are also the memories of how and where, as well as the delight in being able to observe whatever the creature is - for me certainly, the bonus bit is always the photograph and being able to capture what I see (or I sometimes have an image in my head, which, through luck becomes a photograph) and then share that onwards...  

 Anyway, after quite a bit of deliberation, I narrowed my selection of favourites down to the following, here they are, together with the 'background' , in no particular order....

 Bittern  :

This was taken 3 years ago at Minsmere, on a joint Birthday trip in the April.  We sat in the Bittern hide and had views of this incredible bird as it worked it's way round the edge of the reeds for nearly an hour. All you could hear were camera shutters and if you glanced around the hide, there were lots of delighted faces! Prior to that, we'd only ever had the briefest of glimpses, so watching that afternoon, we had a huge treat.  There is something rather prehistoric about Bitterns, Egrets and Herons, but watching them hunt for food is a lesson in patience and concentration.  

Common Lizard

At the end of last year. I found a small Common Lizard colony on my 'local patch'  They are fascinating to watch and are great little characters.  This was taken earlier this year when they were starting to appear with warmer temperatures.  This character 'posed' for me for quite a while - I simply lurk quietly and patiently nearby and after a while, the Lizards get cautiously curious.  They are really hard to see now as their 'home' is well and truly overgrown, so looking forward to the autumn when I stand a good chance of seeing them out basking again.

Common Sandpiper :

We recently stayed  on the Isle of Mull and on one of the days we went for a stroll at Calgary.  Now on previous visits elsewhere in the UK, I'd only seen these at 'Hubble telescope' distances, so getting close views of these charismatic little birds was a real treat!  This character was foraging in the seaweed on the rocks and shows a perfect habitat for the bird as well as capturing the colours I'd been seeing all around the water's edge on the island. (I also have a few others in this 'series' not as clear, but capturing for me, the bird's foraging activity) A perfect combination!  

Comfrey Bee :

There is a patch of land nearby which forms a natural annexe to the woodland that I walk in, however it has now been cleared and houses are to be built on it.  Most of it was brambles, nettles and hogweed, however, here and there were patches of Comfrey, a real old fashioned plant.  I love seeing it's drooping bells which are so delicately coloured.  The local bees love it too, near to this patch was a bees' nest and they and others were taking full advantage of the blooms. This was taken on a very warm day, which was a bit breezy; it appealed because I simply loved the colours and watching the Bee just going about it's business.  

Secret Lives : Little Egret  :

Back in June, we spent a couple of days in Dunwich and after a very exciting and eventful previous couple of days (I'd met the BBC Springwatch  Digital Team, had a guided tour of how the programme is made courtesy of Laura Howard, been in the Unsprung audience, met Stephen Moss and been interviewed on the Red Button by Laurence Whitaker) early on the Friday morning, I decided that a little calm was in order!  I got up very early and went for a walk at one of my favourite locations, Dingle Marsh.  Tranquil and sublime!  The Egret had flown past me shortly before, but as I was walking back I could see it fishing through the reeds, oblivious to me. So I tried with the camera and this is what I got...  a favourite photo of a favourite bird, going about it's business, untroubled by me.


Secret Lives : Reed Warbler  :

We paid a visit to RSPB Lakenheath a while back and the reedbeds were full of singing Reed Warblers.  Try as I might, it was very hard to get a clear view of them, however I'd recently taken similar images of a Little Egret through the reeds and rather liked the 'I can see them, they can't see me' effect of their habitat.  So here's a peek at a Reed Warbler, singing away whilst on lookout, in it's own environment, seemingly unaware of the 'Umanbean onlookers. 

Short Eared Owl : 

I don't usually go out with the intention of seeing just one species, usually I simply go out and take pot luck, however, on this occasion, I was determind to see Short Eared Owls.  In late December I spent an afternoon at Burwell Fen and as the sun began to sink the owls came out. They are beautiful to watch and although I only managed a few decent photo's I was in very silly grin mode coming away afterwards.  I shall definitely be keeping a lookout for them this autumn. 

Skylark  :

This was also taken back in June on the early morning walk on Dingle Marsh.  I have found that the Skylarks there, there, if approached quietly and with care are quite confiding; I have had many an early morning serenade from them as well as beautifully close views.  I could see something moving around amongst the plants - they blend in very well and after a moment or two was able to pick the bird out quite easily.  With a bit of patience and stillness, I was able to get close views; this, along with some of the other Skylark images I have taken there over the years, always takes me back to one of my favourite places and some favourite nature moments. 

Wild Boar : 

I have a real soft spot for these magnificent native wild animals and whenever we go to the Forest of Dean endeavour to try and see them.  This was taken in April of this year when we spent a few days in the Forest, where we had some beautiful views of a few adults.  Whilst these are powerful  animals and must be treated with care and respect, we have never found them to be aggressive but instead cautiously curious.  This one appeared, looking a little bleary eyed, close to the edge of the track we were on and simply gazed calmly back at us for a while, before disappearing silently back into the undergrowth.  A magic moment captured. 

Harbour Seal  :

On our last morning on the Isle of Mull, we spotted a  'first' which was this very relaxed Harbour Seal, who was lounging on a large flat rock.  The rock was conveniently close to the shore and never having seen a Seal at such close quarters, the camera was grabbed and I fell out of the car to take advantage - he was posing so nicely it was rude not too!'   Whilst I was watching him, a large Gull landed at the 'tail' end of the rock.. The Seal paid no heed until the Gull decided to walk along behind him, finally appearing next the the Seal's head.  The look on the Seal's face was priceless - it didn't know whether to carry on watching me or whether to watch the Gull and was kind of briefly was trying to look two directions at once; fortunately, the Gull decided to take off, so the Seal continued a more relaxed lounge for a while!

Of course, everytime I go out, I have a 'new' favourite image however the  last two below are images which I 'had in my head and finally got on the camera' for a very long time, both special and favourites for very different reasons.  

Avocet  :  

 For a long time I've watched and photographed Avocets, however, have always wanted a nice 'clean' reflection one that I could make a monochrome version of.  Beyond noise / levels / crop tweaks, I do very little processing on my photo's, so had to wait for the opportunity to arise with an Avocet, to fit the scene in front of me to the image in my head...  

  Last June, on an overcast, drizzly and rather colourless Sunday morning, we sat in the Wildlife Lookout at Minsmere and an obliging Avocet slowly went past..


Sand Martins  :

 We have been to RSPB Minsmere on countless occasions and without fail, watch at the Sand Martins' wall mesmerized, as they fly, forage and return to the nest holes to feed youngsters or on other occasions whilst the adults work together to see off predators.  

 Over the past couple of summers, I have made numerous attempts at photographing them, however on our most recent trip  I finally managed a few images that I was happy with which captured a few different aspects of them going about their business - of youngsters on lookout for Mum or Dad's return, adults perched on the nest holes and some of the interactions when approaching the wrong front door!

 The  biggest 'wish' image of all though, an adult feeding youngsters....   

 So those are my (current) favourites, but what makes a favourite image for you?   






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