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Wildlife Photo of the Week
I paint from photographs and video of wildlife I take in the field. I spend so long photographing and filming wild subjects that I get to know their individual characters. Each week I select a photo of the week to shares these stories with you. Often I have a great story of how the animal or bird I have photographed behaved and so where appropriate I have linked to this for you to read about in more depth.
I’ll be updating this post every week with the latest pictures at the top. Feel free to scroll down and see previous week’s photographs – why not pick your own favourite and tell my why you like it in the comment box below?
Wildlife Photo of the Week | July 13th | Otter
At one time you had to get up very early or stay out until night-fall to see an otter in the wild. But these characterful creatures are thankfully now widespread in Yorkshire’s rivers so it isn’t as difficult to see one. Look out for a long trace of bubbles in water – a sure sign that an otter is making its way under the surface. I photographed this one as a study for a new painting. Read about where you can see otters here:
Wildlife Photo of the Week | July 9th | Fox Cubs
Now is the best time to see fox cubs as vixens begin to leave them on their own to go out hunting. Fox families will abandon the earths where the cubs were raised but adopt a new area above ground where the cubs now play and are fed. In a few weeks’ time these cubs will be ready to accompany their parents on hunting expeditions. Click here to read more about what I learned during a week I spent watching a vixen and her cubs in a suburban garden.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | July 2nd | Tawny Owlets
These tawny owlets have left their nests and are gathered on nearby branches where they continue to fed by their parents as part of a developmental stage known as ‘branching’. I photographed them as a study for a new exhibition of paintings of woodland wildlife showing at my gallery in Thixendale, North Yorkshire, until July 8th. Click here to see the finished painting and to read more about my exhibition.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | June 25 | Roe Doe
Look out for roe deer suckling their young on the edge of woods now. This shy species will venture out of its woodland habitat to graze in grassy meadows in summertime. I photographed this pair as a study for a new collection of paintings of woodland wildlife on show at my gallery in Thixendale until July 8th. Take a look at my paintings here and read about how I have also watched the graceful courting rituals of roe deers:
Wildlife Photo of the Week | June 17 | Badger Boar
Since it is Father’s Day today I thought I would post a photograph of a badger boar who is a father many times over. I’ve been visiting a badger sett every night for many years now and I feel as though the members are all old friends whose portraits I paint often. Read more about this old boar’s character here.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | June 8th | Stoat
A stoat pauses momentarily to look over its shoulder at three wasps approaching. The wasps are attracted to the smell of the meat on the stoat’s kill, which is just out of sight on the other side of this branch. Stoats are difficult to watch in the wild. They are so lithe, small and fast that all most people see of one is a glimpse as they disappear into undergrowth. I have devoted years to studying a family of stoats in my garden. Read about my findings here:
Widlife Photo of the Week | June 1st | Common Blue Butterfly
Butterflies are important indicators of biodiversity. Their fragility makes them quick to react to change, so when scientists spot a butterfly species in decline, the population drop serves as a serious warning for our environment. Tomorrow is Butterfly Awareness Day. Above is a common blue I photographed on the Yorkshire Wolds. Click here to read about how I turned my garden into a wildlife haven where insects and butterflies thrive.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | May 26th | Puffin
Tomorrow is the start of the Yorkshire Puffin Festival at Flamborough. Don’t miss the chance to see these comical-looking birds as they gather on the cliffs to breed. Having been at sea for seven months, they mass together in noisy, sociable groups. Competition for nest sites are fierce and sometimes fights break out as they dig out burrows from the chalk face to nest in. It won’t be long before the eggs hatch and tiny pufflings emerge. Click here to read about my experiences watching a colony in the wild and find out where to go to see them.
Wildlife Photo of the week | May 18th | Badger Cub
Now is a good time to spot badgers as the evenings grow longer and they begin to emerge in daylight. The cubs are now between three to four months old. The recent warm weather will have encouraged these youngsters to emerge from their underground setts for the first time since they were born in the cold of winter. It is possible now to watch them as they explore the ground above their setts and play with other badger cubs. Click here to read my blog post on how to spot these adorable cubs in the wild and why shouldn’t miss them.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | May 11th | Hedgehog
They once roamed Britain alongside sabre tooth tigers and woolly mammoths, but now hedgehogs face extinction. Hedgehog populations have dropped by 30pc in urban areas and the situation is even worse in the countryside, where populations have declined by at least half. For Hedgehog Awareness Week this week gardeners are being asked to help out in a number of ways, from avoiding the use of slug pellets to creating ‘hedgehog highways’ . Follow this link to find out how you can become a ‘hedgehog hero’ and help save the humble hedgehog from extinction.
The hedgehog photographed above is a hog that I rescued from my garden. Read about how it became a model for a new painting and see the finished picture here
Wildlife Photo of the Week | May 3rd | Robin on Le Tour
This week the Tour de Yorkshire sweeps through the county and as everyone catches the cycling fever I thought I’d share this photograph of a robin inspecting the handlebars of a resting bike for nesting possibilities. Robins like to build their nests close to human activity in the hope that their young will be safe from predators and often nest in garden sheds or walking boots. Click here to Read about the time I had robins nesting in the front grill of my Landcruiser.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | April 27th | Black Grouse
Now is the time to see black grouse courting on the Yorkshire Dales’ moors. Their curious courting display, known as a lek, is spellbinding – if at times a little comical. The males charge around with their curiously-curved tails fanned and erect, wings spread and drooped, whilst making a loud continuous bubbling sound. Every now and then, they jump in the air and call out. It makes them look a bit like remote-controlled toys on the blink. Meanwhile females strut nonchalantly through the commotion, occasionally fanning their tail feathers and flirting with the males. Read about my trip to see a lek on the Yorkshire Moors and see the paintings the sighting inspired here.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | April 20th | Curlew
The sound of a curlew ringing out across the Yorkshire Wolds and Moors is unmistakable. For some it signifies the onset of spring in Yorkshire. These waders come in from the coastal mud flats each spring and remain to raise their young over the summer months. The males circle the valleys, surveying their new territory and calling with a crescendo of notes as they rise steeply into the air with rapid wing beats before gracefully gliding back down with quivering wings. The sound of this haunting call inspired two of my paintings. Click here to see them and read the story behind the inspiration.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | April 13th | Leveret
Look out for young hares, known as leverets, hidden in long grass or shrubbery now. But if you find a lone leveret, leave it where it is. Its mother will have hidden it there deliberately to keep it safe from predators. She will be along to feed it after dark. Leverets are born in a ‘forme’ or scrape dug into long grass. They are just eight centimetres long at birth and have a coat of long, silky fur. The adult female only suckles her young once a day and her visits are so brief that it is very rare to see the two together. It is said that in medieval times people were so unaccustomed to seeing a hare with its young they thought the lone leverets that they found out in the fields had appeared there by magic. Read about the time I was lucky enough to watch this secret relationship between a hare and her leveret and see the paintings inspired by the experience here:
Wildlife Photo of the Week | April 6th | Kingfisher
As heavy showers flooded the countryside this week, birds struggled to keep dry. This bedraggled kingfisher is preening to restore its plumage after being caught in a deluge. Kingfishers produce a waterproofing substance from a gland just above their tail feathers. They rub their beaks against the gland and then spread the waterproof coating all over so that they can keep their feathers dry when diving in to water to fish. These jewel-like birds have begun courting now. Look out for pairs near riverbanks and streams. If you see a pair it is worth watching what happens. Kingfishers have to overcome a natural dislike of one another’s company in order to come together to mate. Read more about this curious courtship here.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | March 30th | Frog Choirs
Listen out for frogs as they begin to spawn now. Large ‘choirs’ of males congregate in ponds croaking loudly to attract a female. Females are attracted by the loudest and longest croaking and the noise can fill a night sky. Once a female, attracted by the sound, enters the water she is surrounded by males trying to grasp her. This tangle of frogs amassed in the water can look alarming. A successful male will latch onto a female’s back and try to kick away his competitors. He will stay like this until she releases her eggs. Once the eggs are fertilised the frogs disperse to resume their solitary lives. I photographed the above frog in my garden pond. Curiously it is being pursued by a toad, not a frog!
Wildlife Photo of the Week | March 23rd | Short Eared Owls Head Home
On the move: Migrant short eared owls are now gathering up in groups along the east coast ready to leave our shores. These beautiful owls fly to Britain from Scandinavia each winter to escape the cold. We also have a resident population of these owls, but just now you are more likely to see more of them as the migrant birds group together waiting for the temperatures to warm up and a good tail wind to make it back. Short eared owls crepuscular, which means that they hunt at dawn and dusk. Read my blog post about the time I watched a dramatic battle between a short eared owl and a kestrel.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | March 16th |Heron arriving at a Heronry
Look out for herons balancing atop their communal nest sites, or heronries, at this time of year. Herons are one of the earliest birds to nest and the sight of these normally elegant one-metre tall birds swaying precariously in the upper branches of trees is quite something. The trees look as though they can barely support them! Herons get together in groups of up to 100 at the same heronry each year. Some heronries can date back 40 or 50 years and can vary in size from just four or five nests to 200. The herons make a great spectacle seen together in these large groups, squabbling over nests and courting, all sporting their very best breeding plumage with the males showing red bills. But it’s not easy to photograph a heronry since they are usually so high up and in inaccessible places. Read about the time I tried, and failed, to watch a herony in Scotland here:
Wildlife Photo of the Week | March 9th | Yellow Hammer
Look out for yellow hammers on fields and hedgerows now. These brightly coloured birds stand out against the brown and umber grasses of a winter landscape. But they are far from abundant. They feature on the RSPB red list of endangered species and just now survival is even more of a challenge. Their winter food stocks of seeds are severely depleted and the insects that they depend on during the summer have not yet emerged. I photographed this bird just as the cold snap that hit the UK last week was abating. It was trying to find seeds on a strip of conservation planted by the farmer whose land abutts my garden. Sadly this crop has now been stripped bare. I have been leaving seeds on the ground nearby to help this flock survive. Read my blog post on how this particular conservation strip drew in a bounty of rare birds to my garden last year.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | March 2nd | Snow Hares
This week the UK has been hit by a bitterly cold weather front from Siberian Russia known as the ‘Beast from the East’. It has been so severe the roads to my gallery have been blocked by six foot high snow drifts. The last time we had snow like this was in 2010. Although there was more snow then, the winds this time are far harsher. I have been out in the blizzards filming wildlife with a camera crew from Tigress Productions, who make films for BBC The One Show, following the story of how creatures cope in these conditions. We followed a group of hares across a snow field, but this photograph was taken in a blizzard back in 2010, when conditions were also arctic. Read the story about it here
Wildlife Photo of the Week | February 23rd | Fox Vixen
Fox vixens become increasingly secretive at this time of year as they prepare for the birth of their cubs in mid-March. They start clearing out potential den sites under sheds, and re-opening old holes in banks and on areas of waste ground to select a safe space in which to give birth. They are harder to spot at this time. I photograped this one in Dalby Forest. She was already feeding cubs and had been scavanging amongst the picnic bins all day. She was soaking wet after being caught in a heavy downpour. Read my blog post of the experience here:
Wildlife Photo of the Week | February 16th | Robin Nests
This week is National Nest Box Week, a British Trust for Ornithology initiative to increase available nesting sites for birds by encouraging people to put up bird boxes in their gardens. Many bird species choose to bring up their broods in gardens where food supplies are consistent and where the proximity to humans makes them feel safe from predators. Robins are notorious for choosing unusual spots to bring up their chicks. Gardeners around the country have found robin nests in their spare tyres, garden sheds or even walking boots. I once had them nesting in my car grill and had to ground my car until the chicks fledged. Read the full story and see the paintings it inspired here:
Wildlife Photo of the Week | February 9th| Long-tailed tit
With pink-tinged plumage and tiny, fluffy bodies, long-tailed tits are one of the UK’s prettiest, and cutest, garden birds. They tend to flock together in excitable, chattering groups of about 20 birds and are easy to spot because of the way they rock back and forth using their oversized tails to balance. Look out for them this month as they scour hedgerows and garden sheds for nesting materials. They are one of the UK’s earliest birds to breed and can be seen now preparing to weave their intricate nests. These remarkable structures are made with spiders web which expands to accommodate their broods as they grow. Read more about how they do this on my blog post here.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | February 3rd: |Great Crested Grebe
Look out for great crested grebe performing their unusual courtship dance now. Pairs rise out of the water, and almost run along its surface towards one another. They pause inches away from each other and shake their heads from side to side mirroring each other’s actions perfectly before dropping down. This elaborate dance is quite spectacular, especially since grebes are such elegant water birds. Read my blog post on this elaborate courtship dance here. They have ornate head plumes which in the past were a mixed blessing since they were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s for these feathers. Now populations are healthy and you find them on most large lakes and even on ornamental ponds.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | January 26th| Robin on a Car Wing Mirror
Tomorrow is the start of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, the world’s largest garden wildlife survey. Now in its 39th year, the event involves UK residents devoting one hour this weekend (27th, 28th and 29th January) counting the number of birds in their garden. Last year more than half a million people took part in this national census and the results were used to give the RSPB a picture of the geographical distribution of different garden bird species and how they are coping . This year the RSPB are also asking people to record any other wildlife they spot during the hour, including badger, fox, grey squirrel, red squirrel, muntjac deer, roe deer, frog and toad. I like to take part each year with my two young daughters. I’ve been teaching them how to identify different species by their song. Read about the time I spent teaching them the basics here. Or follow this link to learn my top tips on how to identify birds by their song.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | January 19th | Tawny Owl in Snow
Tawny owls sleep during the day in the shelter of natural hollows inside tree trunks. Occasionally you can spot them dozing at the entrances high in the tree canopy, but they are hard to spot since they sit so still. Choosing a suitable tree hollow to rest in is important at this time of year, since these birds of prey are already preparing for the breeding season and a sheltered hollow usually also makes a good nesting site. But competition is rife and at this time of year you often get tawnys fighting jackdaws, barn owls and even kestrels for the best sites. I’ve discovered that battles over nest boxes begin as early as October, click here to read my blog post on this and see my video footage of some alarming battles between birds of prey.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | January 12th | Dipper
This week I’ve been thinking about dippers and how amazing they are. Dippers are named for the way that they constantly bob, up and down, whilst perched. They can make around 60 of these ‘dips’ a minute. But what makes them really exceptional is that they walk underwater. Using their feet to hold onto stones at the bottom of streams, they push their wings out to hold them steady against the current as they hunt for small fish and invertebrates. Their bodies are specially adapted for this purpose and although they don’t have webbed- feet and rarely dive, they use well-developed wing muscles, eyes that function under water, and flaps over their nostrils to prevent water rushing in, to just walk into water to feed. Look out for them alongside rivers and streams even in towns and cities. I photographed this one by a river in Wales.
Wildlife Photo of the Week | January 6th |Blackbird in Snow.
Happy New Year! I feel that this shot of a black bird foraging in a flurry of snow expressed the mood this week. After a fresh fall of snow here in Thixendale I watched the birds in the garden feeding in a frenzy. Garden birds need to eat nearly a third of their body weight every day just to keep alive in the winter. On cold days they tend to be very active as they search for food. Gardeners help to sustain Britain’s garden bird populations through the winter by putting out food for them. Read my post on how different bird species battle the cold by clicking here. And read a second post on how they cope with the night cold here.Author: Robert E Fuller