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2023 - a year in focus - UK wildlife at home and away

Some years feature trips to far flung corners of the world, camera in hand and eyes peeled for exotic wildlife, 2022 was such a year and we have great plans afoot for 2024.

Not all wildlife photography happens only once you disembark a long haul flight; so as 2023 draws to a close I thought it would be good to look back at a year full of UK wildlife highlights, ranging from outside our back door, to the farthest reaches of distant isles in the north.

'Out of the darkness' - Fox at Harris Acres

2023 was not the absolute very best year for visits from our Fox family. This years cubs didn't materialise until so late that they weren't really 'cubs' anymore, however it was always a pleasure to watch the family when darkness fell - this being my favourite Fox image of the year.

2023 has been a particularly 'Owly' year, albeit that the usual mid-winter search for local visiting Short-eared Owls was a definite fail. In their place, the Cotswold Barn Owls, did their best to cheer us up and this next shot is probably my favourite from those chilly late afternoons.

The 2023 late winter skies featured our friendly neighbourhood Buzzard family, visited occasionally by recently arrived Red Kites, a pair of which have made it up the M40 from The Chilterns to set up a territory now overlapping with their raptor cousins, the occasional 'duel in the sky' could be seen as a result (below).

Winter wasn't finished without a final flourish of snow and some scrambling around to capture the scene - Muntjac and Fox the stars.

Once the snow had thawed and the evenings warmed a little, the Hedgehogs soon emerged from hibernation, hungry for the hedgehog-friendly food left for them to break their long fast!

Once spring was truly sprung we saw the return of this years undoubted individual wildlife Star of the Year - a second summer male Kestrel, who made himself at home in our wildflower meadow.

I had all spring and summer to try different ways to photograph his activity - here's a few of my favourites ...

Once the Hay was cut (and nearly two acres hand raked !!!) he took his leave - hopefully to reappear next spring - I still see him whizzing about in the skies above our house so I'm hopeful!

I've cut paths to be able to walk through the wildflower meadow, which seem to suit other local wildlife from time to time. We get Muntjac, huge Fallow Deer and lovely Roe Deer all through our small patch of woodland and then into the meadow. Here's my favourite shot of a couple of you Roe bucks making themselves at home.

Keeping his head down !

Having failed with Short eared Owls in the first few months of the year, a trek North to the Outer Hebrides saw a significant change of fortune. I've already published a separate blog covering that trip (for those interested to find it!), but here's a handful of my favourites for the 'away' rather than 'home' category this year.

Duelling Shorties

Arguably ... sighting of the trip was watching this poor Pipit surrogate parent, trying to feed it's huge parasitical juvenile Cuckoo, high up on a wire.

As the year drew towards a close, the autumn brought a real surprise, back home at Harris Acres.

I'd heard stories from people believing they had seen a Goshawk at the nearby Oversley Woods. Although this seemed unlikely at first, respected birders locally also saw a Gos' on their nearby patch and would you believe it, I caught a glimpse of something neither Buzzard or Sparrowhawk from the corner of my eye whilst doing the ironing!!

Camera always close to hand, I managed a few terrible shots - but what a complete joy - I'm not a list maker or twitch ticker, but who wouldn't celebrate the sight of a rare Goshawk in their own garden!

Terrible photo of a wonderful sight - juvenile Goshawk flies through my garden!

Short days and long dark nights bring the year to a close, but not before the thousands of visiting winter Thrushes arrive to strip the Hawthorn berries from their bare branches.

Their vast numbers attracted to focused interest of both hungry Sparrowhawks, and ...

... occasionally a ferocious and agile Peregrine Falcon.

How about this for a sight from your bedroom window ... the Peregrine had caught a Redwing (I think) and was having to take evasive measures from an indignant Sparrowhawk - what a dogfight!

The Sparrowhawk features in my last roll of the 2023 photographic dice ... popping in to bathe in our garden ponds as the year runs to a close.

So there we are.

No Masai Mara dawn golden light in 2023, but perhaps a golden sunset about as far North from home as its possible to go is a fitting last image for this year. Proof positive that great sights can be found right here in the UK - both home and away.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Dec 29, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Wow brilliant photos, I particularly love the Short Eared Owls.

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