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Close to Home (Nature on your Doorstep)

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

Barn Owl, photographed at Suffolk Wildlife Trust's fenland reserve, Redgrave and Lopham Fen. My local patch.

Time is what is needed when watching wildlife. Time to spend checking places, watching for the birds and animals that call a place their home. Time to spend watching their habits, learning behaviour, what conditions they favour, and at what time of day they are most active.

Time invested in repeatedly visiting an area is a good way to build up a picture of the wildlife activity, and experience the comings and goings of the inhabitants. It is an approach that can lead to close encounters and superb nature watching opportunities.

Male Pheasant. Photographed in Fersfield, Norfolk.

It is a good idea to find an area close to home to explore. A local nature reserve, quiet country lanes and fields, or even your back garden. I spend much of the time I have available within a five-mile radius of my home, exploring the fenlands, woodlands, meadows and fields that make up the Waveney Valley in South Norfolk.

By doing this I am gradually acquiring a bank of knowledge of which species are around, at what time of year I am most likely to find them, which areas of habitat they prefer, and at what time of day I’m most likely to encounter them.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that I can find wildlife instantly, and more often than not I will come home frustrated having seen virtually nothing. However, I must add that time spent outdoors is rarely what I would class as wasted time.

Redgrave and Lopham Fen, my local patch.

One of the ways I like to explore is by simply walking around my local patch, and for this I usually choose a lighter camera and lens set up, in my case a Canon 5D mk IV and 100-400mm lens. This is an approach that can work well, but there are a couple of things that need to be noted.

Firstly, any wildlife can see or hear you long before you can see it and so it needs to be done quietly and slowly. For a photographer, this usually means alone. I also recommend wearing clothing that blends in with your surroundings. The benefits are that you are mobile and can react to chance encounters, and move relatively quickly to wildlife that has been spotted through binoculars.

Little Owl. Photographed in Bressingham, Norfolk.

My best encounters have come from finding a good spot and staying put, waiting for the wildlife to come to me. I make myself as comfortable as possible (flask of tea and snack at the ready), hiding against (or in) vegetation, or I use a lightweight throw over camouflage cover.

Brown Hare. Photographed in fields behind my home. Bressingham, Norfolk.

I’ve had deer come within a few feet, and barn owls that have flown over my head, so close I could feel the displaced air from their wingbeats. I prefer to use my 500mm lens on a tripod, with the zoom lens for back up, when doing this.

Roe Deer Buck. Photographed on fields at the rear of my home, Bressingham, Norfolk.

Of course, you don’t need professional gear. What you do need is patience, persistence, a bit of background research on the species you most wish to see, quietness, a pair of binoculars, and a good deal of luck.

Of course, time is what most of us lack. So, in my next blog post I will discuss the pros and cons of wildlife hide rental.

Grey Heron, photographed on the field at the rear of my home, Bressingham, Norfolk.

Wildlife Watching Supplies is a great British company to buy all the gear for some serious nature watching!

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