2021 in a nutshell....

December 21, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Welcome to my review of 2021 and the highlights for me from my photographic escapades during the past year!

At the beginning of 2021 the UK was in lockdown. Only short essential journeys were allowed which had an impact on my photography. This meant I had to stay local which wasn't all bad. There are a few good reserves a few miles from my home so that was the plan. Stay local and explore the area on my doorstep. We did have a bit of snow which always make for interesting images. I spent a lot of time at the RSPB reserve Otmoor. This is a large wetland area East of Oxford. Farmoor and Tring reservoirs are also great wildlife havens local to me that I also visited.

Great northern diver (Gavia immer)Great northern diver (Gavia immer)Great northern diver (Gavia immer)
Farmoor reservoir, Oxfordshire.
Great Northern diver spent most of the Winter on Farmoor reservoir, Oxon.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
RSPB Otmoor, Oxon.
Yellowhammer in the snow, RSPB Otmoor.

Great bustard (Otis tarda)Great bustard (Otis tarda)Great bustard (Otis tarda)
Letcombe Regis, Oxfordshire.
Great bustard. Another rare visitor to Oxfordshire.

As Winter slowly turned into Spring the migratory birds were starting to arrive in the UK. The first arrivals are usually the sand martins, yellow wagtails then the cuckoos. This year I managed to get my best cuckoo photographs which even pushed my patience to the limit! Not easy to get close to but I was eventually rewarded for my efforts.

Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Farmoor reservoir, Oxfordshire.

Cuckoo at Farmoor, Oxfordshire. One of my favourite images of 2021.

Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava)Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava)Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava)
Marsworth reservoir, Tring, Herts.
Yellow wagtails were in abundance at Tring reservoirs.

Eventually the lockdown rules began to ease so we could travel at our leisure. This new found freedom was hard to get used to again after months of lockdown. So I began travelling slightly further afield then I eventually braved the 4 hour drive to the East Yorkshire RSPB reserve of Bempton Cliffs. This is without a doubt my favourite place for wildlife. So much so I made three separate visits to this mecca for seabirds! Surprisingly the star of the first two visits were not the seabirds but the Barn owls! I see them a lot in Oxfordshire but not as close as these birds....and during the day! Normally dawn and dusk hunters!!

Barn owl (Tyto alba)Barn owl (Tyto alba)Barn owl (Tyto alba)
RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
Hunting Barn owl at Bempton Cliffs, East Yorks.

Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)
RSPB Bempton Cliffs.

Puffin collecting nesting material at RSPB Bempton Cliffs.

The highlight of the last visit to Bempton was the RSPB Puffin cruise from Bridlington. Seeing the amazing 400 foot cliffs from the sea and being amongst the thousands of seabirds is an experience not to be missed. I'm already planning next years boat trips! The finale was the feeding of the gannets. Watching thousands of gannets diving into the sea like arrows was mind blowing. I nearly forgot to take photographs it was that spectacular!!

Northern gannet (Morus bassanus)Northern gannet (Morus bassanus)Northern gannet (Morus bassanus)
RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
Feeding time for the gannets.

Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris)Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris)Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris)
RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
'Albie' the Black-browed albatross was a popular rare visitor to Bempton in 2021.

During early Summer I was invited down to Devon by my photography buddy Jodie. It was a great weekend in great company. The highlight was seeing the European beavers that have made the River Otter in South Devon their home. 

European beaver (Castor fiber)European beaver (Castor fiber)European beaver (Castor fiber)
Otterton, South Devon.
European Beaver from my visit to Devon.

As Summer came to an end it was time for the annual deer rut. For the past few years I have photographed the 'rut' in the London deer parks of Richmond and Bushy. This year I wanted a change of scenery so I headed north to Leicestershire, home of Bradgate Park. My first visit was a bit damp to say the least but you can turn awful weather into atmospheric images with a bit of creativity. Wildlife don't mind the weather as they spend their whole lives in it! I made several visits to Bradgate which has hills, rocky outcrops, rivers, lakes and ancient woodland. Perfect habitat which makes for natural looking images. I'm going to be visiting the park at various times of the year to see how the place looks, especially with a bit of snow! Fingers crossed we get some more!!

Red deer (Cervus elaphus)Red deer (Cervus elaphus)Red deer (Cervus elaphus)
Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.

A rainy day in Bradgate Park, Leics.

Fallow buck (Dama dama)Fallow buck (Dama dama)Fallow buck (Dama dama)
Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.
Fallow buck leaping over a wall. Bradgate park.

During Autumn the bird migration is in full swing with the Summer visitors heading back South. At this time it's worth checking local water sources as they will use these as stop off points on their long journey. There are quite a few reservoirs close my home and can attract the odd 'rarity'.

Purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima)Purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima)Purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
Farmoor reservoir, Oxon.
Purple sandpiper at Farmoor reservoir, Oxford. A rare visitor to Oxfordshire and I know it's not Purple!

Autumn seemed very late this year. When the leaves did eventually begin to change I headed to a couple of locations where the Autumn colours can be spectacular. Bushy park in London is quite good if you can get the grazing deer to stand in front of a colourful autumnal background! Patience and more patience is the key! 

Fallow buck (Dama dama)Fallow buck (Dama dama)Fallow buck (Dama dama)
Bushy Park, London.
Fallow buck with an autumnal backdrop in Bushy park.

Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Bushy Park, London.
Squirrels scampering in the leaf litter can make great seasonal images.

The hawk conservancy trust in Hampshire is a place I visit at least once a month and even more so during the Autumn. Finding a good spot where the birds will hopefully fly in front of the colourful trees is the goal here. I have been visiting the centre for many years now so I've learnt where the best viewing points are. Get there early!!

Siberian eagle owl (Bubo bubo sibiricus)Siberian eagle owl (Bubo bubo sibiricus)Siberian eagle owl (Bubo bubo sibiricus)
Hawk conservancy trust, Hants.
Eagle owl at the Hawk conservancy trust, Hampshire.

Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
Hawk conservancy trust, Hants.

Vulture with an autumnal backdrop.

Now we are in the depths of Winter I spend more time visiting the wetland centres of London, Arundel & Slimbridge for my photography fix. These places attract the ducks, geese and swans in large numbers. They will spend the Winter here as their breeding grounds in the far Northern hemisphere will be frozen. Also the vegetation and leaves in the UK will have died back so the wildlife is easier to see! It must be very hard to survive in Winter with not much natural food around. Thankfully many of us now feed the birds in our gardens and the local parks.

Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Pennington Flash, Leigh, Lancashire.

Kingfishers are easier to spot during the Winter months.

Bewick's swan (Cygnus bewickii)Bewick's swan (Cygnus bewickii)Bewick's swan (Cygnus bewickii)
WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.
Bewick's swans make the trip from Russia to the UK during Winter.

Well this comes to the end of my 2021 highlights. I'm sure there are many more but I didn't want to turn this blog into a novel!

I hope you all enjoyed my 'year in a nutshell' and I hope you all have a great 2022.

Thank you all for your support and kind comments.


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