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Showing posts from 2014

Photos of the Year: 2014

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I certainly manage to get about for someone reliant on public transport. With the heavyweight Canon 500mm and 300mm lenses on my back, I certainly have no need for a gym subscription. Trains to Crawley, Horsham and Arundel and buses along to coast road to Friston Forest and Beachy Head mean I am well served with opportunities to visit beautiful and interesting locations. 2014 began mild, wet and windy. We enjoyed good weather in spring and high temperatures over July, peaking at about 28°C. Autumn lasted from September to early December, with one day in late October reaching 23°C. Climate change and increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide mean that trees can remain in leaf far longer than they could in the past. Some parts of Friston Forest were still nearly 100% green on 20th November.
A friend recently commented that my work is more focussed and settled than it was a few years ago. Creative blocks are a thing of the past, because I've learned to accept the mood I am in, …

Brighton Starlings | November 2014

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Every autumn, starlings migrate to the British Isles to escape the harsh Scandinavian winter. Some of these birds (about 40,000) spend the winter in parks, gardens and farmland around Brighton and Hove. In late afternoon, they fly to Brighton Pier, where they gather in fluid-like murmurations, before roosting for the night underneath the pier structure. It is thought that starlings began using Brighton Pier (and formerly the West Pier) to roost after the Great Storm of 1987, when gusts of 115mph felled millions of trees across Sussex. 

Although no-one knows exactly why starlings form murmurations, it is thought to be a multi-purpose behaviour. Starlings benefit from safety in numbers and generate collective body heat to survive the night ahead. Each bird shadows seven of its neighbours, which accounts for why murmurations can rapidly change shape, speed and direction. Should a bird of prey attempt to intercept a murmuration, it will usually pass straight through, because it only takes …

Autumn in the Forest

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I have always loved woodlands. They are places of great emotional sanctuary. I can spend hours wandering through the trees and glades, in a dream-like state, forgoing every worry and responsibility back home. October 2014 began like summer. T-shirts in daytime, al-fresco dining and windows open late into the night. And then early on a Sunday morning, it all changed. I couldn't believe it. Beads of dew on the long grass had frozen solid following a calm, clear starry night. Thereafter, each day saw high winds and frequent torrential downpours, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Leaves blocked drains and early morning commuters found themselves stranded, as flash floods overwhelmed transport infrastructure.
A succession of heavy, thundery showers passed over the Arun Valley on an early October afternoon. The tree canopy swayed violently, as squalls cut through the tall slender beeches, opening up the woodland floor to debris and cold raindrops. It became so dark, at one point, th…

One's Fallow Men

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My visit to a forest on the High Weald in Sussex marked the end of a three month break from stalking deer. I saw 25 deer in total, including this pair of Fallow bucks, sporting a tan coat, cream underside and white spots. Their freshly created footprints and droppings were visible along a woodland path adjacent to where I spotted them moments later in a field. Unusually for this species, they spent about 20 seconds observing me, before running away; they would normally bolt on sight. When I think about it, not many people go out for a walk and enjoy the privilege of seeing this! 

Roe deer seem more abundant in the forest this year. Hopefully in the coming years, it will become a first choice location for Roe. Sometimes, one can wander through the forest and not see a single deer. This evening was one of those a rare occasions when my visit coincided with high levels of deer activity. With my enthusiasm for deer refreshed, I hope to spend more time during what remains of the summer, out…

The Colours of Summer

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June is surely the greenest month in the calendar. Perhaps it's just a bit too green for some. The coming of July resolves this, by adding just a hint of red and yellow into fields and pastures. Corn fields start to ripen and by August, the parched fields will have dispersed their seeds and begun to die back. Happily, there's still plenty of time to enjoy the countryside, as the sun continues to shine until 9.15pm and twilight lasts until 10.30.

2014 has been a terrible year for wild poppies in Sussex, but a potentially lucrative one for farmers. Favourable sowing weather in autumn 2013 lead to farmers using their arable land for wheat production. Summer 2014 will produce a bumper yield of grain. If you love the sight of poppies, then a wet autumn is your ally.  

After a mild winter and warm spring, the first Marbled White butterflies were on the wing by June 20th, a full 10 days earlier than normal. They can be found in meadows all over England and live for about 21 day…