I do like to get across the water to Brownsea Island every now and again. Not just for the sense of calm that you get as soon as you alight from the boat, but also because of the fantastic array of wildlife that calls it home.
I managed to get a couple of days sorted out recently – all very much work related of course. I did however have some time to kill before catching the boat back on both occasions, and as luck would have it I had my camera with me each time!
My first target species was Water Vole. There are a fair few resident on the Island, living in the carr and also around then wetland edges and pools. They are really hit or miss when it comes to seeing them. Some days they will happily sit and feed in the open, whilst on other days they will be just as happy to play a game of hide and seek! This was a hide and seek day, and they had a blast!
It didn’t take long to find them. Standing still and listening always works – you can hear them munching away on grass and reed stems from quite a distance. Seeing them was also easy enough, as they scuttled around amongst the stems. Photographing them? Not a chance! It was far too dark in the alder carr to get a fast enough shutter speed to catch them, and by the time the focus had got them they had moved on anyway!
Perseverance won the day though, and after an age of me sat on the boardwalk, having picked the spot where I imagined a water vole would appear, it all fell into place. Very briefly, but I was rewarded by a water vole scurying around for about 20 seconds while I snapped away as best I could in the dim light.
I was sort of pleased with the results, and didn’t have time left to wait around as the boat was leaving soon – I had to get back to the Office after all.
A week later and I was back. In the meantime I had asked my Twitter crowd (I’m @Spuddrs if you want to follow) to suggest a challenge for me to photograph. Polecat was the resounding winner but as I pointed out, I’d really like to have a challenge that was achievable inside 30 years or so! In the end we all settled on Red Squirrel. Bonus – I knew just the place! Brownsea has a population of a couple of hundred or so..
I was rather confident of getting a shot or two. Mainly because my day was to be spent training a new batworker whilst we carried out a bat box survey on the Reserve – so we’d be working in a private part of the Island. Bound to be plenty of squirrels around then.
Wrong! I think we saw one squirrels as we did our rounds. It scooted across the path ahead of us, straight up a pine and disappeared from view. The bat box checks went well though, finding colonies of Natterers, Brown long eared and Soprano pipistrelle.
By the time we had finished, I had literally one hour to spare before the boat left. Squirrel time! I headed off in search of them, gambling on heading towards the northern side of the Reserve. I used the same tactic as I do with water voles -listen.
Sure enough, the sound of bits of pine cone dropping from the canopy alerted me to a squirrel. High above me. At least he was, until he dropped the pine cone. It was rather comical to watch as he stared down after it, cursing away as it dropped to the ground. He continued muttering and cursing as he made his way down from his perch, into the bracken and off in search of his pine cone.
I rushed over and settled down to get a brilliant shot of him heading back up the tree with his prize. I waited. and waited.. Then I heard the familiar sound of falling bits of pine, coming from two trees away! There he was, sat in a fork and munching away. Thwarted by a squirrel!
Time was against me, so I had to head back -hoping that I’d be able to salvage something from the shots I’d taken. A bit of a game with another squirrel that refused to come out of the shade had me hoping that I might just get a decent shot.
Finally, just as I was about to head down to the main path I realised that another squirrel was busy amongst the leaf litter right next to me. I had minutes to spare, so fired off plenty of shots as this one posed for the camera – the complete opposite to the others!
So, that’s another challenge completed. Maybe I should have a look around for a polecat now? 😉