Quiet Wanderings Reveal Wildlife At Dusk

by Paul Kirtley

The Frontier Bushcraft team often have some lovely wildlife encounters while out in the woods running courses. And so do the course participants - fallow deer walking past tarps at first light, fawns sitting silently amongst the bracken, badgers crashing out of the bushes onto a track, sparrowhawks swooping, vocal woodpeckers checking us out, foxes skulking on the outskirts of camp, a family of buzzards circling overhead, to name but a few of the recent occurrences. These encounters are often fleeting and we typically don't have a camera in our hands to record the moment. Last week I had the luxury of some free time in the woods at our Sussex course site. James was leading an Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course and I was camped nearby. I had made a point of bringing my DSLR camera with me. The intention was to have a quiet wander around the woods to see what I could see. But also have a camera at the ready. I was particularly interested in getting some photos of badgers and was planning to head out in the early evening and mooch around until dark. I put on some soft-soled boots, an old DPM smock, a floppy-rimmed jungle hat and some thin gloves to mask my hands. Armed with binos and my camera I headed out to see what I could see. Over a couple of evenings, I had some fantastic encounters. I wasn't being particularly sneaky or stealthy, just walking quietly and paying attention to the wind direction. This is something anyone could do. The photos below record some of my encounters over the two evenings I headed out...
Fallow doe looking at the camera

A fallow doe. I looking for badgers near where I'd seen them before but I heard a deer coming through the woods, then spotted her in the trees. She walked out from the trail on the left and I took a few photos. She picked up on the noise of my camera shutter and looked straight at me. It was then that I got this shot, which was the best of the lot. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Rabbit silhouetted

There are always lots of rabbits around. But it's fun to stalk as close as possible before they bolt. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Juvenile badger coming down a grassy track

A juvenile badger. I heard the distinctive sound of a badger foraging in the leaf litter. It was under cover of long bracken though. Then I heard another. Eventually two cubs emerged, snuffling amongst the leaves together. After a noisy fracas with an adult badger, this inquisitive fellow came down the track. It got so close my telephoto would no longer focus. A fantastic experience. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

A fallow deer buck stotting or pronking

A fallow buck 'pronking' or 'stotting' in a crop field at last light. You can clearly see he is a buck by his pizzle and the antlers starting to form. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

The latter part of the day at this time of year brings with it a lot of wildlife activity. With some quiet movement, you may well be surprised at what you see or how close you can manage to get.... Let us know about your own wildlife encounters below.
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Paul Kirtley is owner and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog as well as for various publications including The Bushcraft Journal and Bushcraft & Survival Skills Magazine.

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Callaghan

Hi Paul,

Some quality photos there. The wildlife does present itself nicely when you are outside, recently on one of our nights out a student asked, over breakfast, who had been shouting “Alf” early in the morning, there were a few chuckles when i let him know it was the deer barking!!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Andy,

Thanks, I’m glad you like the photos.

Thanks also for sharing your story about ‘Alf’ – it made me chuckle too 🙂

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Glen Nicholl

Hi Paul,

Great photos and looks like a beautiful location. It’s amazing how many animals present themselves if you’re quiet and patient enough. I was out looking for Sika to photograph one day and as I was standing leaning against a tree I heard this crunching sound, I slowly looked up to see a Red Squirrel sitting on a branch just above me happily eating away on a nut, that was the first time I’d seen one that close. Ten minutes later and a Sika Hind calf came wondering past, browsing on some shrubs as it did so. You don’t get many days like that, truly magical.

Cheers
Glen
PS I chuckled at “Alf” too lol

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Glen,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Magical indeed! 🙂

Cheers,

Paul

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Marco DL

Very beautiful photos Paul. I especially like the one of the badger because it glaringly shows how bushcraft crosses over to other areas of interest for me. You knew exactly where to focus, you had time to set up what is essentially a portrait; lighting, aperture etc. just right. Never in a million years could even the best photographer have caught that moment without intimate knowledge of the subject. Unless, that is, he could convince the badger to pose for him. Wildlife photography undoubtedly requires bushcraft. As for me I’m content just to catch a glimpse for now… But I have ambitions.
Ciao, Paul

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Marco,

It’s good to hear from you. I think you are right – good fieldcraft is part of bushcraft.

I’m glad you liked the photos.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Duane Yates

Hi Paul
Some magical moments captured there 🙂
Great pics thanks for sharing.

Take care
Duane

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks mate. I thought you’d appreciate them 🙂

Cheers,

Paul

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Elen Sentier

excellent stuff, Paul 🙂

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Elen 🙂

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Eric Yaffey

Hi Paul,

I would echo the comments above … beautiful photos. For me these qualify as works of art because of the high level of (bushcraft) skills involved in getting them. For me too they are scientific because they capture random specimens showing authentic behaviour in their home environment. I have seen wildlife photos that were set ups taken in the photographer’s living room with lots of foliage and clever lighting (one of a woodmouse springs to mind). Not the same! Thanks for sharing these. My favourite is the badger for all sorts of reasons.

I’ve never taken anything so beautiful except maybe trees. The best wildlife watching experiences I have ever had (so far) are 40 minutes spent overlooking a roe doe relaxing, thinking she was unseen in some bracken (her ears were moving all the time), and having a badger approach me to within a couple of metres (before haring off when it sensed me).

Eric

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Eric,

It’s good to hear from you again; also very kind of you to be so complimentary about my photos.

Your roe-watching experience sounds fantastic and I can certainly relate to the badger encounter because this is exactly what the youngster in my photo did. Only once down-wind of me did it realise I was there (or at least what I was) and then scampered off.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Nick

Hi Paul

As someone who is currently looking into purchasing some photography equipment specifically for wildlife images, can you tell me what equipment your currently using?

Thanks
Nick

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Nick,

It’s good to hear from you.

These shots were taken with my trusty Nikon D200 and the solid Nikon AF VR NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED lens.

The latter is a bit of an old design now (12-13 years old) but still works well. The focusing is somewhat slow, however. All my other lenses are AF-S lenses.

Nikon have introduced an AF-S 80-400mm lens recently.

Also the D200 is no longer made but you can still get hold of them. A very reliable camera. Currently the nearest equivalent in production is the D300s (which is also DX format). A full format camera of a similar body size is the D800.

I hope this helps Nick. Please just ask if you have further questions.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Liam Gadd

Awesome pictures, as mentioned already it takes real skill to take pictures like that, It must have been a great day as however great the pictures are nothing compares to actuallly being there seeing it, seeing them move and nose about…

I did try this weekend gone to get some pictures of the wildlife, but my camera is not great and neither was my sneaking 🙂 and I’m a rubbish photographer :/
However I did see them and that was special. Thanks for sharing your pictures. I hope one day I can capture such beautiful moments to share with family and friends.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Liam.

I enjoyed seeing what you’d been up to in your Facebook pics.

Cheers,

Paul

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Dave Howard

Hi Paul,
What lovely photos, thanks for sharing. It must have taken patience and very good field-craft to get them. Growing up on a farm I was fascinated with wildlife. There was a badger sett on the edge of the woodland, and i used to love watching the activities of the clan, especially when the cubs began to venture out . Another amazing thing was watching the Peregrin falcons swooping down on the freshly cut hay fields and catching their dinner
all the best, Dave.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Good memories Dave. I’m glad you liked these photos. Yes, being quiet, patient, and wearing mute colours goes a long way to helping you blend in with the rest of nature. Badger cubs are always fun to watch 🙂

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

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