I have often said on previous blog pages covering many different subjects and places, you just never know what you’ll see when working with wildlife. And this one sentence couldn’t be further from the truth on a recent outing photographing Watervoles at a site within the beautiful Peak District, Derbyshire. This little creature lives a peaceful life on our riverbanks up and down the UK, often going unnoticed by passersby, but should you go to close or spook this animal you’ll be greeted in most parts by a loud “PLOP” as the vole makes a quick dash for safety by diving straight into the water and away to safety.
I am very fortunate to have found over the years several good sites in which these animals live and breed in. Watervoles are one of my favourite mammals, with their enduring character and cuteness, making them a lovely subject to watch and also photograph. They are legally protected in Britain and sadly their numbers continue to plummet. Due to its small size and the fact that it lives both on land and in the water, Watervoles are prey to numerous predators wherever they appear to live.
Mink, Weasels, Foxes along with Adders are the most common predators on dry land, with Owls and other birds Of prey hunting them from the air. Large fish such as Pike are known to hunt these mammals also. Their vast reduction in numbers in recent years however is not just caused by this high level of predation, the loss of much of their natural habitats has had a much more drastic effect along with the destruction of bank side vegetation, and pollution playing a vital part of their declining number on our shores.
I have been very lucky over the years in finding sites when I’m out and about, often there looking for another subject, when suddenly I’ll see gnawed nuts, shredded bark and cut grass leaves, all clear indicators of their presence around me at these new sites. One such site I have been watching for some time now, in-between my one to ones/workshops and other projects, I have captured them going about their lives along this very healthy river system in a beautiful and secluded part of the UK.
They share this space with a family of Little Grebes and I managed to captured the fully grown fledgling floating effortless on the dead calm water here, learning the skills his parents had taught him over the last several weeks.
On this day in question I got into place at dawn, settling into place, there was little wind, as Watervoles have an incredible sense of smell. I stay as low as is possible and become part of the riverbank, hiding away using the natural cover afforded to me from the reeds and bank side vegetation always mindful not to disturb these animals with my presence. I never enter the water around where they live or breed as I personally feel that this is a step to close, the welfare of any animal comes before any photograph, something you must be aware of with every living animal you photograph.
Much of the time when you are waiting for a wild animal to turn up you never know where, how or if your chosen subject will turn up so during this period I always become tuned into my environment, listening and watching for anything that indicates life, movement and the possibility of a different image or a new site or subject appearing. This approach is time consuming but greatly rewarding when you witness or see something for the first time, or even learn a bit more about your subject or that of any other living creature that may show up during your time at a certain place.
Without warning though I heard a slight rushling noise coming from deep inside the reeds as I witnessed the tops of the broad reeds moving, like someone was passing through underneath them if that makes sense. The next thing I saw was a Watervole climbing out on a very narrow branch and trying to reach some leaves at the end. I just could’nt believe what I was seeing here.
Using his tail and hand as he balanced himself at the same time slowly and carefully moving along the branch, a few times pausing in an act to just steady himself. I didn’t know what to do first, laugh or stop and ask myself was I really seeing this, a wild animal doing a behaviour I’d never seen or even heard of before.
As the Watervole neared the leaves he would gather one and just casually sit there, suspended above the water beneath him and eat a few more before climbing back down to firm ground and a place you are normally accustom to seeing Watervoles live and feed in and around.
I feel privileged to have seen this behaviour on this day, really underlining you just never know what will happen as you watch wildlife and by being ready with your camera, constantly watching your subject you will, with luck be able to capture such events that would be hard to explain outside of a set-up image. Not long after this he carried on feeding on the ground, a little out of shot, then disappearing into the dense undergrowth, where I didn’t see him again that day.
I’ll be going back soon hoping to see this pair and over the summer months my Watervole workshops have helped many of my clients not only to see this wonderful mammal in the wild but they have been able to take some wonderful images also. If you would like more information on these days then please click here and scroll down to the bottom of my workshops/photo tours page.
I had a lovely surprise over the weekend with one of my favourite Spring Tides at Norfolk images published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the image can be seen above and the link here. It was taken on one of the Spring Tides that really start in earnest on the lead up to Christmas now. I focused inside the flock as half of the birds, which are called Knot, started to take off, leaving a queuing system on the ground as the other Knots waited to join them by taking off and returning to the mudflats of the wash in Norfolk.
If you would like to witness this amazing event, I run one to ones/workshops there concentrating on these spectacular days in the morning, then throughout the rest of the day we visit many other amazing sites around the North Norfolk coastline, finishing at one of my Barn Owl site there capping off a wonderful day of wildlife photography, for more details please see my link here many thanks.