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Shooting the locals

Stoat

Sometimes when you’re dodging the mad drivers who often use our lane as a race track, you could be forgiven for considering shooting the locals as a viable control option . There is no footpath and there are those, usually boy racers but not always, who never even dream that around that bend there may be something lurking in their path which will be difficult to avoid – a horse, a deer, a parked or broken-down vehicle, a pedestrian, a push chair etc etc. But, of course, we are all law-abiding citizens around here and wouldn’t dream of taking such extreme action.

Since the covid lockdown, however, shooting the locals in a photographic sense has been the only option available. I can sit in my garden and get some nice images of our regular garden birds but it is nice to have a little project with something a bit different. There are foxes all around this area but finding a den where I can be sure of some activity has proved problematic. My trailcam has picked up regular visits to a neighbour’s field but, despite sitting watching for a few hours, so far they’ve never appeared to me in daylight. Stoats are seen regularly in another neighbour’s garden but only when I’m not there. So, I’ve spent quite a few hours trying to shoot these particular locals without success. That is, until yesterday. On our daily walks we’ve seen a few young skylarks and a family of pied wagtails so, yesterday, I decided to carry a camera and zoom lens just in case.

Sometimes animals appear just when you’re not expecting them. We were sauntering through a local wood when we heard a screech from the ground very close by. We waited a few minutes and then the same screech alerted my wife to a stoat peeping out from under a stone. We stayed quite still. I switched my camera to silent shooting, the ISO jumped up in the darkness of the wood but, even in the poor light, we were rewarded by a few half decent shots. Two stoats, in fact, coming out of the wall, hunting in a nearby wood pile and pausing now and then for a portrait.

I still like to have a project, do my research and watch and wait for my subjects to come along to an environment I can control but this story does show that it pays to have a camera at hand for those occasions when, despite your preparation and planning, your quarry just pops up unexpectedly.

And, in case you’re interested, neither the skylarks nor the wagtails put in an appearance.

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