On Location: Drumburgh Moss

For one of my final year university modules we have to do an On Location project. I have chosen to do mine on the pros and cons of grazing feral ponies on nature reserves and for this I am visiting Drumburgh Moss National Nature Reserve in Drumburgh, Cumbria where eight Exmoor ponies roam and graze.

I haven’t seen 5am for a while, but it sure is a tough wake up when it’s dark and cold out. I pushed through getting ready in record time to leave for the bus. Stepping outside I was greeted by a thick fog, covering me like a blanket along with the bitter cold. ‘Gee whizz’ I muttered. Setting off at a brisk walk, I soon warmed up admiring the fog as I went hoping it would stick around until sunrise.

I stepped off the bus at Drumburgh missing the warmth already; I set off down the lane. The droning of the cows drowned out the twitter of the birds I was straining to hear. Not only could I hear them making a racket the smell of cow was overpowering. As I reached the reserve entrance I glanced across a field, a thin layer of mist smothered the ground; the sky had become pink like a sea of cotton candy.

I decided before looking for the ponies, I would have a gander inside the fenced area of the nature reserve where the raised mire is. It was beautiful, from the reflections in the water to the mist rolling off and onto the vegetation to the sparkling water drops, the cob webs twinkled as the orange fireball rose. It was time to move on and get those foggy morning shots I so desired.

No sooner had I rounded the corner I could make out the ponies, clouded in the swirling vapour. As I approached they raised their heads high, their gaze watched my every move checking that I was not a predator. As I neared I started to snap away, the dew laden grass glittered. One watched and posed away, the other two disinterested carried on munching away. He became inquisitive by the noise of my camera and started to approach but in doing this, 4 horses charged out of a little wood behind me. I hadn’t even noticed they were there, only the other two on the opposite side of the path to me. On they cantered towards me, nostrils flared, snorting and prancing. ‘Oh boy, I don’t want to get caught up in this’ I thought. I backed away slowly, making sure I wasn’t going to be stuck in the middle of them, they stopped, observed and one brave pony approaches, a slight wild look in his eye. ‘Steadddy’ I murmured. His ears twitched, slowly he walks on. I moved my arm slightly; he jumps back, spins and runs. Snorting he tries again whilst two others fight just to the left of me, kicking and rearing at each other. This is not the position I want to be in. I edge to my right, slowly making way to give myself a good distance between them again. The inquisitive one follows me, I stop, he stops. Slowly I turn take some pictures, he breathes out, adding to the fog. Shoving his nose towards to the camera lens he sniffs it, deciding I am no threat, he wanders back to his herd. I stand and watch, behind me the golden light softly caressed the land.

The herd move around splitting into their groups of 4, a 3 and a lone one. I think to myself, now then if they would kindly like to stand over there in the golden light it would be beautiful, like the picture I hoped to achieve. What happened next was magical. One pony wandered straight past me, followed by another into the pale orange hue. I stood and gawped. I couldn’t believe it. I snapped away frantically not wanting to miss my chance, in the doing of this, I was joined by a pony stood at my side, looking on he sighed, and nudged me. When I didn’t respond to this he took to grabbing my camera bag between his teeth and pulling backwards, he soon lost interest when this didn’t get a response either and walking into the light.

I don’t know what it is with these ponies, but seemed to love starting a fight right in front of me. For the second time this day I had a pair squeal and rear up at each other. I left them all too it for about half an hour to look around the rest of the reserve before heading back, taking some more photos of the ponies to pass some time before heading to the bus.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday, I took over 700…..and have somehow got to pick ones out for the magazine article and for prints. Fun and games, but please let me know what you think :).

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Morning Meeting

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I went out for the foxes before heading back to university last weekend and also to play around with my new camera, spent with my summer savings :).

I went out the night before also and saw foxes, the following morning and evening again, where I saw a fox climb a tree to jump across the brook….

Anyway the above photo was taken from my morning walk and thanks to the silent shutter on my new camera the foxes don’t seem to be doing a runner as soon as they hear me clicking away! Hurray.

So as I reached the path at the bottom of my road, I looked both ways to check if any foxes were out and one was, so I crept up a little way and hid behind some bushes and along comes another fox to meet the one already there and they stand opposite each other and touch noses. Then they both turned and looked at me, and voilà we have the above picture.

Foxy Encounters

06/09/14

Last Friday I decided to get up at 4.15am to look for foxes like the summer before, only having luck once, on one of my outings last summer I wasn’t expecting much. Though I have borrowed a Canon 5D Mark 2 ii for the summer I hoped to achieve this at some point during the summer to get better pictures.

Already at 4.30am in the morning it was fairy sunny and warm, I stepped outside the door and heard a cuckoo calling in the forest quite close to my house. I thought mm maybe I should go to the forest instead…but I continued with my plan.

Walking silently and keeping my eyes and ears peeled I walked to the park, walking by the pond the geese and goslings swam over squeaking away. I continued and not long after a fox darted out in front of me, watched me hiding behind a pile of twigs, on hearing the camera shutter off ran the fox into the woods.

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I walked the same walk that I walked last year, I didn’t find any further along than the entrance to the park but I did see the two herons (which I haven’t seen for ages). As it was gone 5am and rather light, people heading for the train, dog walkers etc I turned around to head home. So there I am bim-bling along the path at the bottom of this road this fox is running towards me, I gasp and just stare wondering whether to fumble around with my camera or not, the fox soon saw me and diverted its path very quickly. I near a bench and wonder if I should hide somewhere and wait for the return of the fox. Whilst stood there contemplating what I should do, I heard a rustle looking up just across the stream is a fox leaping in the air trying to catch a blackbird! I managed to get a few snaps before the fox disappeared.267271

I walked home grinning away.

11/06/14

Again I awoke early this morning for the foxes, a bit groggy I went back bet thinking maybe I should just go back bed, suddenly wide awake I was like what am I thinking…

Grey Heron

Once outside on I walked to the park, same route as Friday came across the first fox of the morning same place as last time (Déjà vu?) but this time it had saw me before I saw him, so off he shot in a flash.  Saw the heron again by the second pond and heard the woodpeckers but no foxes here. Heading back the goslings and geese are going on their morning stroll, I passed them and saw a orange flash of a fox just across the road, It stopped looked at me, I thought that’d make a nice picture out the open…vrrromm car came =fox grunted and ran.IMG_1011IMG_1018

So there I am walking along this path again, being very quite camera is at the ready. I hear rustling from my right; I peer through a gap in the bushes and to my delight 4 fox cubs rolling around on the floor and play fighting with the parents watching over them, one on either side. I watched intruding on this moment with a big beam on my face. They soon moved on and so did I, to the clearing bit though only parent comes out into the open for a short spell.

The fox picture below made me chuckle, I didn’t realised I was being watched and when I noticed (the second time I walked past) I laughed to myself because of the fox peering out checking if I’d left. I was also being watched by a jay.

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This evening I headed into the forest for a walk hoping to come across a deer, fox or an owl. I didn’t have much luck here (especially getting attacked by flies). I decided to do a loop back home and walk through the park just in case there was a fox. Well let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed! At the clearing there they were, the fox family. I crouched down hiding behind the nettles and just watched the cubs rolling around again; a fox went to jump the creek but saw me and decided against it. The cubs went back into the thicket but one fox remained just lying on the floor, I photographed this one for awhile, he/she didn’t seem fazed with me at all. Soon fed up of the limelight the fox strolled off.IMG_1037IMG_1056

I walked up the path a bit and saw a fox playing on a chopped down tree trunk. I hid here for awhile until I couple walking their dog spotted the fox, well the dog saw the fox first and started yipping at it, and the fox shot off like lighting back into the undergrowth.IMG_1054IMG_1052

I must say during this evening encounter I got bit the hell out of by the flies, I have 15-20 bites all painful and itchy but I must say it’s worth it! And the funny looks I get off of people that see me crouching on the floor.

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Not all the pictures are amazing but hopefully will improve over the summer; I also took some short (shaky) film today which can be seen here: http://youtu.be/iJAQSwbmu_g

Finland: 22/04/14 – Day 6

Woke up this morning to wolves! It pottered around for a bit, disappeared came back, got chased off by a bear they came back once the bears had gone but then got chased off again. But we did get to see 2 wolves! It was amazing. I could still see them walking around the parameter of the swamp, staying the trees. The bears finished off the remains and also left.

We got picked up, went back to the centre and had breakfast, showered and packed ready to leave for the station to go to Rovaniemi.

The drive was nice, I love looking out the window at the scenery there really is lots of trees! We sat in the station and waited for the train (people cross the train tracks to get to the next platform, I thought this was quite bizarre!) The first train was nice so was the second it was a double decker which is a first I’ve seen for a train! The view was nice out the window, I’m not sure why but it reminds me of Canada (not that I have ever been, just watch tons of Heartland!). Finland have these cute little houses with panelling, mostly in the middle of nowhere. When we got off the train at Rovaniemi it was quite bitter, no snow, and didn’t looked like what I had imagined. We found the guesthouse and walked into town to find somewhere to eat for dinner.

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IMG_3015First sighting of Grey Wolf (Canis lupus)

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Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) and Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

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Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)IMG_3078

 

An early rise: The Sequel

Yesterday I decided to get up early again and search for the foxes. However I was out the house 15 minutes later than last week and didn’t see a fox at all down the park. I wandered around for quite a while and didn’t have much look. I did however see the two local herons on the same pond. As I started heading back I was thinking to myself ‘I haven’t even heard the woodpecker this morning’ and a few seconds later I heard the woodpecker. Happy I continued to walk back taking the path that lead to the local woods, as I was wondering if the deer would make an appearance this morning instead.

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Once I arrived in the woods I took my usual path, leading to wear I have seen the deer graze before. Whilst walking I drifted off into a world of my own I was thinking again ‘Mmm wonder if there is foxes and badgers in here two’ and as if to answer part of my question I saw a fox run out of the bushes where I last saw the deer (this would also answer my other question of the dead deer the dog keeps finding parts off to bury). Anyway once I reached the bottom of the path there was a sign saying ‘Warning forestry operations in process’. ‘Great’ I thought to myself that’s probably scared the deer off. I didn’t find the deer, I did however spot a buzzard which is the first time I’ve saw one near me and often wondered why I’ve never saw one.  I also heard the cuckoo and saw a chair in a tree(it was tempting to climb up and sit in it but I decided against it).

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I carried on walking meeting friendly dog walkers and walkers along the way. I decided to take a different path back as I had a visual idea in my head at where it would come out. The path then split off into 3 different ways, I explored the first two which came to dead ends but head loads of strange birds sounds but couldn’t see any of them. I then went back and continued my walk. About 40 minutes later I arrived home covered in fly bites.

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P.S believe it not I got scared by cats hiding in the bushes twice! Those darn kitties.

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An early rise

This morning I awoke to the sound of the dawn chorus under full swing, I chucked on some clothes set my camera up and was out the door at 4.30am with a rather suspicious dog looking at me as if to say ‘Excuse me, where do you think you’re going at this time of the morning young lady’. The reason for my awaking at this time, was to find the local foxes. I’ve seen foxes over the years just at the bottom on my road, just managing to catch a glimpse of them run off into the darkness.

So I set off at a brisk walk down the little path at the bottom of the street and walked in the direction of the park, I took the path that led down to the pond. Stood and looked at the geese and ducks (I kicked myself for doing this), I heard a loud rustle behind me and as I spun round I caught set of a little red bushy tail scurrying out a bush. I thought to myself ‘Typical that may well be the only fox I see this morning and I was too busy looking at the flipping geese which I look at all the time’. I walked back up the hill which lead to the main path and looked into the wooded area and there the fox was rolling round in the leaves. After taking a few pictures I glanced down at my camera and when I looked back up the fox had disappeared. I carried on walking spotting a great spotted woodpecker along the way.

About 15 minutes later whilst taking a picture of a blackbird I heard another loud rustle. I walked over a little bridge and hid behind some bushes and poked my head round the corner and there was another fox. There was a few moments of eye contact a quick snap and she fled. I turned round at this point only to find another fox sitting watching me and the other fox. I moved to a curb and put my 1.4x extender on the 300mm lens and set off again. I came across some squirrels which in actual fact I thought they were a cat stuck up a tree, when I looked up I was surprised. At this point I was seeing quite a few people walking to the station and walking their dogs, so I turned back the way I came. I was surprised once more to find another fox, much bigger than the others and not as flighty. The fox sat and I froze and looked and took some pictures. The foxed got up and started walking towards me, I was slightly shocked and looked for my nearest escape route, though I didn’t have to fear, he soon ran off up a path that led to some houses.

I couldn’t quite believe my luck this morning, I was thinking I’d be lucky to see one but 4. Wow. Seeing them in morning light, up close and not in the dark has made me realise how beautiful they actually are.
Anyway here are some pictures I took this morning, there not amazing but hey as far as first fox pictures go I wouldn’t say they are terrible. They can only get better right ?

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