NATURE

All images ©ericweight 2015

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Saturday’s foray to the farm lit a fire which has been smouldering rather grudgingly of late. Spring is in the air and we had walked straight onto the hares which had been so elusive last year. Cropping patterns and/or disturbance levels may have changed again bringing them back from the far side of the hill to more familiar ground. Whatever the reason I am happy again, I love hares.

Lawrence is a good person to go out in the field with. He is quiet, still, and very successful. Success that he feels has been achieved by becoming more mobile; stalking his subjects rather than waylaying them from a hide. By reducing his kit, refining his camouflage and approach, he is able to react more quickly to changing situations. If hares are active in the far corner of the field, he can, when the time is right re-locate and be ready when they return.

Proof of the validity of his approach landed in my e-mail box on Saturday evening. Visiting one of his hides to top up the feeders after leaving the farm, he was able to just drop into cover and take some stunning images of a fox from just 4 metres away.

I have decided to follow his example. I have the hide and the feeders in place should the weather turn nasty or I fancy trying some wide angle work with the pheasants. In the meantime I shall be sitting in ditches again at spots where I have seen activity on previous visits.

Today was my first attempt. A small rucksack containing flask, spares, secateurs and a bag hide on my back and the 300 f2.8 with the 1.4 tc in place would have to supply all my needs for a whole afternoon. I must say it worked very well.

In four hours, I had hares within 15 feet of me, saw a fox being escorted from the big field by a pair of hares, a peregrine put up a flock of golden plover from beyond the hedge and the lapwings were putting on a stunning aerobatic display above me. On Saturday we spent more time struggling to get the odd distant pheasant. The motto is go to your subjects, don’t expect them to seek you out.

 

There are refinements I can make. I need quieter clothing, I hate the bag hide but could get used to it if I can just stop it falling over my face and the viewfinder at crucial moments and I am desperate to come up with some kind of mobile backrest. It’s amazing just how uncomfortable a tree trunk becomes after twenty minutes. If I am not comfortable, I fidget and that costs me more shots than anything else.

I think that the biggest lesson though was that carrying too much gear makes you lazy, carrying too much camera equipment puts unnecessary  doubt in one’s mind, leading to indecision and missed chances. One lens, one option every time. If the subject is close, fill the frame, if it is distant do the scenery and environment shots. No possibility of finding the hares too close or too far away. All of one’s focus is on the subject which is where it always should be. It was very liberating.

By the way, that little drama with the fox is something that I have witnessed four times now; twice with hares and twice with pheasants. On each occasion, the fox was very interested right up until the prey made eye contact and made it aware that they knew he was there.

On this occasion, one of the hares actually ran a long way towards the fox, stopping maybe five yards away. There is no way that a fit hare is going to be caught by a fox, they know it, he knows it and consequently a truce is declared. Maybe it is not so obvious with the pheasants, but a pheasant is a big strong bird and a face full of beating wings may well be more trouble than it is worth unless Charlie is very hungry.

This is why I love wildlife photography and the great outdoors. There is a little drama going on everywhere you look, if you look. Most don’t.

So I got some hare shots, I watched the sun go down and felt the cold creep across the fields before I packed, happy and eager to return. Those hares are clearly gathering for the mating season. Every field has one or two in it and they meet up here and there in threes and fours. I should be unbelievably happy to catch them boxing. I have seen such things many times, but never with a camera to hand so the badgers may have to wait a little longer while I make my annual effort.

My nature