I spent New Year with my girlfriend and her close friends in South Devon and on the last full day, the two of use headed up to Dartmoor on what was a dark and damp day. We took a wet walk out to Wistman’s Wood which lived up to its spooky reputation.
The old gnarly trees and moss-covered rocks really do give the place a brooding atmosphere which was made all the more sinister by the dark winter day on which we visited.
I haven’t won Wildlife Photographer of the Year but I have won my first photography competition – in fact the first competition I have entered.
For the majority of my foreign wildlife trips I use Naturetrek, probably the best wildlife tour company around. Annually they have a photography competition for either individual photographs or collections taken on their trips, and in 2019 I have won the Image of the Year!
The photograph was taken on the “Poland’s Mammals: In search of the Eurasian Lynx” trip I went on in February last year. In the snowy wintery conditions we spent six days searching for wildlife in the hills of the Bieszczady National Park in the very south-east of the county, close to the Ukranian border. One afternoon we saw the fresh carcass of a wolf-killed red deer as we drove along a road. We moved about 100m away and waited to see if the wolves would return to finish their meal. Unfortunately, they didn’t and as the night began to draw in, we had to return to our accommodation. In the morning, we returned to the spot and within just a short distance we found two more wolf kills. When Jan, the tour leader, offered the chance to get out of the van and walk down the slope to inspect the first kill, I jumped at the opportunity, forgetting my camera, which Jan picked up and brought down to me.
The carcass was out in the open but surrounded on one side by thick undergrowth. As we inspected what was left of the deer, small birds started appearing and hopping around the carcass. Eventually they started feeding from within the ribcage. At first, there were only coal tits but after a while the high-pitched chattering of crested tits could be heard approaching and two or three appeared and also started feeding.
The ribcage and spine formed a perfect but macabre frame around the tits as they fed and I took loads of shots. The winning image isn’t actually my personal favourite of those I took but seems to have been appreciated the most by the judges. This is the winning image.
I’m not a big one for city breaks or doing touristy things with the crowds but yesterday I popped down to London for the day to do a few things I’ve been wanting to for ages. First I went to the Imperial War Museum, then on to HMS Belfast, a trip on a boat down the Thames between Tower Bridge and Westminster, and then a long walk back to Euston, via Parliament Square, Horse Guards and Covent Garden.
The Imperial War Museum was the main reason I went down to London and I must say that the World War One exhibition is excellent and Holocaust exhibition something everyone should see.
I went out for a short cycle this afternoon and it was absolutely freezing, despite the clear skies and bright sun. Despite living in the area for the best part of 40 years and cycling around it for more than 25 of them, I still keep finding new roads that I’ve never been down before. Today I found a single-track road and bridleway that connect two of my most frequently used routes – I need to start looking at maps more!
While I was out, I took this photo – I love the patterns in the mud made by the tractor tyres…
Well, that’s another year coming to a close and one I’ve tried to fill as much as possible with nature, conservation, trips away and exercise. This is my constant aim and looking back I think I’ve achieved that; it’s been pretty full on, particularly from late winter through to the middle of summer.
The highlight has got to be the trip to Botswana; probably one of the most memorable experiences of my life which had so many moments to cherish. Added to this must be my two stays on Ramsey Island and the two trips Sweden. However, there were also a whole host of other things that make 2017 one of my best years yet.
5 countries – Scotland, Wales, Sweden, South Africa, Botswana
6 osprey protection shifts
8 bird surveys
9 counties stayed overnight in
35 days volunteering – Crewe and Nantwich Conservation Volunteers and RSPB
35 species of mammal seen including 22 new ones
61 nights away
68 blog posts
206 miles run
300 birds seen including 144 new ones
314 sessions of exercise
2,659 miles cycled
plus some whisky and quite a lot of cheese!
Here’s some photo highlights:
However, while much of 2017 has brought so many positive and happy memories, there were also some less happy times, particularly two bereavements which will always mark out the year – hopefully 2018 will be without such things.
With a load more snow falling this morning, I went for a walk around Wybunbury Moss. Starting, as usual, at the church yard and then walked anti-clockwise around the outside of the Moss, the usual views were transformed by the conditions. With snow still in the air, deep, dark cloud overhead and a real chill to a keen wind, the scenes were perfect for black & white images…
Instead of getting on with some work first thing this morning (it is Saturday after all), I decided to go for a local wander from my doorstep in the nice snowy conditions. I have to say that the countryside around my house isn’t the most picturesque but with light covering of snow it looked much more lovely than usual…
After wandering around the outside of the Cathedral on a few nights over the past few years, I finally managed to get inside today. It truly is a spectacularly impressive building – one of the great treasures of the county. Here’s a few snaps…