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Wildlife Photography in the Summertime

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

There was a time when I thought of summer as a quiet time for wildlife photography, and in many ways it is. It’s too hot to get out with the camera, the harsh sunlight is far from ideal, birds are less active after a long breeding season (and are looking a little shabby too), and many fields are still full of crops to be harvested, all these factors making it tricky to spot mammals.

However, there are more opportunities out there than I thought, and here are a few recommendations to keep you busy with your camera during the long summer days.

Book a session at an osprey photography hide. I did this at Horn Mill in Rutland in early July, and it was good fun. To get the most out of it I would recommend booking several sessions together to give yourself the best chance of capturing that illusive special moment. The season runs until the end of August, after which the birds will begin migrating back to Africa for the winter. If you’re lucky enough to be in Scotland, then Rothiemurcus is the ultimate osprey experience. It’s somewhere I intend to go to next year.

opsrey, bird of prey, water, wings, monochrome
Osprey 28 struggling to become airborne once more.

You could also have a go in the pond hide run by Tom Robinson at Wildlife Photography Hides, Bourne, Lincolnshire. An overnight stay might produce otter, heron or tawny owls. This can also be followed by staying on to photograph the very reliable and friendly kingfisher! It is tough going staying up all night, but it’s a unique experience that can produce special images.

moorhens, wildlife photography hides, water, breeding, reflection, flash photography
A pair of moorhens visited in the early hours, this is the moment just before they mated

My favourite bird, the barn owl, is busy feeding youngsters at the moment, and they have big appetites. Explore your local nature reserves, rough pastures, field margins and meadows from early afternoon onwards. It is your best chance of seeing these beautiful birds in daylight, and if you’re really quiet, they are so intent on finding a juicy vole that they will fly very close.

barn owl, owls, birds, feathers
Barn owl, photographed at a local wildlife sanctuary. Another option for an enjoyable day of photography

In fact, there are lots of young birds around at the moment, including young buzzards. These can be heard mewing persistently begging to be fed. Follow the sound and you will find the bird. In fact, I can hear one from my window as I write my blog post.

If you love moths, then these warm summer nights are perfect. Put out your moth trap and check it early the next morning, and if you’re careful then you can place them amongst pleasing foliage to photograph them. They can in fact be placed in special containers and kept in the fridge for a short while, which doesn’t harm them but does temper their activity just enough for them to be carefully placed in a favourable photographic situation. However, please set them free deep in cover to protect them from marauding robins.

Hide photography can be prohibitively expensive and out of reach for many without a car or access to decent public transport. Therefore, the best resource most of us have is much closer to home, our gardens.

Any garden with wildlife friendly plants, no matter how big or small, will attract bees, bugs and butterflies. I often spend an hour or so wandering through my tiny Norfolk garden searching for inspiration, and it rarely disappoints. For example, I recently discovered a pure white ghost spider ominously perched on a flower head waiting for its next victim. I prefer to go in the garden in the late afternoon or early evening when the sun is getting low and the light is much softer, and I’ll often try to experiment with backlighting to give a more dramatic effect.

campion, wildflower, red, pink, sunset, setting sun, silhouette
Pink campion, photographed just as the sun was setting.

I still prefer spring, autumn and winter photography, but there are opportunities out there in summer, and I hope that my suggestions will provide a few ideas and inspire you to make the most of the time you have with your camera.


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