Today was one of those days when you see a flash of just about every animal you’ve wanted to see all your life, but you’re too dumbfounded to take a photograph. Here’s a short list of the natural wonders I witnessed today while walking part of the North Downs Way.
Having grown up in the country and never having seen a weasel, I was beginning to think they were a myth. I reached a tunnel under the M25 and had stopped to take a motion blur photograph of the cars and lorries racing across the top. I was very still for quite a while, trying to only blur the cars and not the rest of the photograph. Due to my stillness, the weasel must have thought I was a tree as he walked nonchalantly past my boots. I tried to move silently to photograph him, but he got spooked and bolted into the long grass. I looked for him for about ten minutes then gave up.
The Fox Cub
The M25 tunnel I’ve already mentioned marked the moment that I realised I’d been walking in the wrong direction for at least a mile. I didn’t mind, as if I’d gone the right way I’d never have seen the weasel. I headed back up hill, past a cock pheasant and his wife. As I photographed him, strutting into the woods I heard a rustle. Suddenly, a dusty brown fox cub came racing through the long grass towards the pheasant sending him flapping and squawking in a panic over the hedge and away. I had never seen a fox cub, and to see one getting some hunting practice in was magic. Again, I was too awe struck to operate a camera.
The Red Kite
I like to take photographs of landscapes as well as wildlife, meaning two lenses are essential. It just so happens that I almost always have the wrong lens on when I see something amazing. The weasel was too close for my long lens and this stunner of a red kite was too distant for my wide angle. I saw the kite as I was walking along a road, having once again taken the wrong path and gotten myself a bit lost. Although the kite was distant, it was the lowest I’d seen one before. It was taunting a pigeon, following it into the woodland and circling around it. Surely if it wanted to do a number on it, it could easily have done so. It seemed content with simply ‘messing’ with pigeon. Another great spectacle and nothing but words to show for it.
I don’t much like walking on roads, especially narrow country ones, as these attract a certain kind of hedge hugging, throttle loving joy rider, liable to flatten walkers. I decided to go off piste and into the wild, moving between trees and ducking under branches. This was a lot of fun and I felt intrepid, as though no one else had ever walked through this untamed woodland. Then, I found a fag packet on the floor and was brought back to earth. The problem with spotting wildlife in gnarly woods like these, is that without a path, walking is noisy. I crashed and snapped my way through the dense wood, getting caught on trees every few minutes and catapulting branches behind me. A deer obviously heard me coming from a way off and began to bound at an incredible speed through the trees. How he didn’t impale himself on a branch I don’t know. Anyway, safe to say I did not capture the moment with my camera… instead I frantically pointed it in his general direction, then realised I’d put the lens cap on to protect it from pinging branches.
Here are some photographs, however, that I did manage to take. The pheasant is indeed the one who almost lost his life, and his dignity to the fox cub.
It was, quite a day.
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