It's time for a Lockdown Garden Safari update.
We tread ever deeper into social distancing isolation, with just our daily exercise, the odd trip to Tesco's and best of all the wildlife who come to visit to bring a splash of colour and the WILD world to brighten our lives.
Fortunately both the season and the weather have been relatively kind, allowing me to undertake a number of garden safari 'projects' to keep me amused, alongside the dozens of hours doing all the gardening and DIY jobs that have left the house and garden looking pretty spic and span!
As I covered in the last blog, not all of the wildlife at home projects necessarily yield the hoped for results, albeit the occasional successes seem to outweigh the disappointments, so let's have a look at both highs and lows over the last few weeks.
So I have bad news and unexpected good news.
The bad news is that Project Fox is still only yielding trail cam footage of our Foxy visitors as they steer well clear of this intrepid photographer when he is hidden in the pop up hide, waiting for them to appear (some video's follow below).
The good news is that my long cold wait for the Foxes to show, was warmed up by the appearance a lovely healthy looking Hedgehog, snuffling contentedly into sight.
I saw a friends trail cam picture of a Hedgehog garden visitor recently and remember remarking that I couldn't recall seeing one myself for over a decade, so this was a really welcome surprise.
My Greater Spotted Woodpecker project has been an interesting technical challenge. An old tree branch erected amidst the fruit trees in the garden itself, fat balls pushed into the cracks and regular visits from both male and female Woody's have been great to see.
I hatched a plan to try and capture them in a mid-air, pre-landing shot which proved to require lots of imagination in set-up and much patience with the many failed attempts.
Pre-focusing on a spot a few inches away from the post, with as fast a shutter speed as the light would allow and a remote shutter release to press when I saw them whizzing in towards the post meant so many missed chances and horribly fuzzy focused 'near misses', that I was becoming dispirited.
Eventually however, the wildlife photography stars aligned and I got a few shots that I'm 90% happy with, leaving the extra 10% as something I can pursue over the coming weeks.
I guess one of the creatures most associated with Spring, is the elusive and increasingly scarce sight and sound of the Cuckoo. Long distance migrants returning form sub-Saharan Africa, their numbers have declined alarmingly over the last 20 years, with migration route disruption, habitat loss and other mainly man made obstacles making their distinctive call something to be treasured when heard.
We are so lucky to have what seems to be a small number of Cuckoo's return every year to our garden, but primarily our woodland and wildflower meadow that forms part of our land.
This years male Cuckoos have been visiting in the near dark of early dawn, adding their calls to the dawn chorus, but at a time not helpful for either sleep or wildlife photography.
Finally a more familiar sounding call with a distinctive occasional 'croaky' last note was heard with the light more favourable mid morning.
Sure enough, this bird was soon seen flying between the two Ash tree perches he favoured in previous years allowing a few shots from the bedroom balcony as he whizzed through just above the tree line.
How about a few videos from the woodland trailcam next?
A few peanuts and a handful of grated cheese, seems to be a real wildlife crowd pleaser and whilst not all species are eating the offered supplementary food, other use the woodland paths for their daily exercise nonetheless.
First up is a Muntjac - but listen out for the Cuckoo calling in the background ...
Next, a (pesky) Fox happily sharing a meal with his Muntjac mate ..
A couple of Hares ...
... and finally, the remarkable tale of a 3 legged female Muntjac Deer that must have lost a leg in an accident or injury and has gone on to adapt successfully, even rearing a lovely young fawn last year.
My previous garden safari blog introduced my early attempts at 'Macro' photography (the art of the close up detail).
Here's a few more attempts, with some flora as well as (phobia warning here!) some fauna too.
The spider was hanging from a thread in a dark corner, but the detail revealed fills me with enthusiasm for what this new (to me) photographic technique might hold in the future.
So let's end this latest episode of my garden safari blog, with Fallow Deer, a handsome male Mallard finding contentment amongst the lawn bluebells and the elegant Jay, a shy and fleeting visitor to the Woodpecker post.
Stay safe and well everyone and I'm looking forward to when we can all get out to see the wildlife as well as enjoying their visits to our gardens.