If you’re retired like me, you’ll know that this later phase of life has its ups and its downs. Usually you’ll be a little bit older and therefore a bit slower and, maybe, you’ll have picked up an ailment or two along the way. And, ask anyone, retirement isn’t all its cracked up to be. For instance, there’s no paid annual leave and you have to be sick in your own time. However, you do get to go to bed when you want and get up when you want, and, if you’re flagging after a long, lazy, lunch you can have a power nap without being blasted by the boss.
We had quite a few scorchers in July and on one such morning, I woke up at 4.30am. I lay there quietly for a while but sleep was proving elusive so I donned my shorts and t-shirt, grabbed my camera and drove to that area where the windmills are above Birdsedge. Just past the Sovereign crossroads, I spotted a long brush disappearing into a hedgerow. There was a very convenient left turn so I took it, parked up and peeked over the hedge. There in the field, two beautiful young foxes were enjoying the early morning sun, one doing a little half-hearted hunting, the other basking lazily in the grass. Popping my shutter setting to silent mode, I got a few nice pics before they were scared off by something and slinked back into the undergrowth.
As I drove towards the windmills, a little owl was sitting on a roadside post, silhouetted by the low sun, and a little further on, 200+ lapwing resting in a field. Meadow pipits and skylarks cavorted on the walls and a mile or so further down the road, I found what I was looking for – brown hares. These fascinating animals are always good for a picture with their long, black tipped, ears, larger bodies and long, muscular, back legs setting them aside from their rabbit cousins. They can be photogenic even when they’re hunkered down grazing on the grass but hang about a bit and you can often see some interesting action. Those back legs will propel them to 45 mph in pretty quick time.
I found two together and they made for some half reasonable shots but, just as I was thinking about moving on, an intruder arrived and the action began. Manic chasing ensued and, with my camera poking out of the car window, it was a bit difficult keeping track of them. Nevertheless, I ended up with some very acceptable pictures and already felt justified in my early rise.
By around 7.30am the sun was getting a bit high in the sky so it was time for home. I’d just turned back towards the Sovereign when I spotted two young stoats playing in the middle of the road. This was beyond my wildest expectations. Since there was no traffic, I positioned the car across the road and started photographing their playtime.
At this time of year, most of our breeding birds are done nesting and it’s a bit more difficult to find good photographic opportunities among our feathered friends. These animals are active all year round and, now, the youngsters are just finding their freedom and independence. Getting a nice group of images from three of my favourite UK mammals was, definitely, a good result.
I was back home by 8am and started to download my images but I didn’t complete the process. I was like a nodding dog and had no option but to shoot off back to bed for an hour.
So, what’s the point of this story? Well, first, early morning is a fantastic time to be out and about and there’s wildlife to see that you might have difficulty spotting later in the day, much of it hunting or feeding at the first opportunity after a night’s rest. It’s very quiet and provided you pick a good day, the light can be amazing. And, there are all kinds of great spots to get involved with nature. The ‘off the beaten track’ roads are generally quiet and you can coast around slowly, keeping an eye out for a shape or colour that’s different, or a movement that attracts your attention. You can often stay in your car and use it as a hide. Animals are usually more accepting of a vehicle than a human shape.
So, there’s every chance of a great wildlife experience at the crack of dawn and when you get home and are a bit weary from your adventure, just go back to bed…