Following on from the ‘home tourism’ theme, I’ve been looking at how a budding wildlife photographer can find places to shoot wildlife close to home!
So – where to start? Well, within an hour’s drive from my house there are too many places to mention!
A few months ago Jonathan Bliss (Moonrhino) set up the Leeds Wildlife Flickr group and more recently we have been running some macro workshops called ‘bughunts’ – details of which can be found on the group or by following me (@BlackCat_Photos) or #bughunt on twitter .
These events basically involve a group of us getting together and shooting bugs! Working together means we can share techniques and even kit. Wealth warning: I borrowed some kit off Jonathan, which proved expensive as I then had to go and buy my own!
The first bughunt was at Brockadale nature reserve, bughunt#2 was at Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve and bughunt#3 was at Potterick Carr – and we are arranging bughunt#4 for as soon as possible.
This is my fave macro shot of a spider!
I’m personally terrified of spiders, so bughunts are always interesting with me around but I’m using photography as a way of trying to conquer this fear!
From big to small nature reserves can be found close to most major towns and cities and are run by a variety of organisations. Most have websites these days and these will indicate whether it’s a family friendly place, if there are cafe/toilet facilities and what you may expect to see there
Im from Leeds and my nearest reserve is Rodley Nature Reserve which is run on land leased from Yorkshire Water – and it’s totally free! Here you can see a great variety of water birds, wild birds, dragonflies, damselflies, frogs, toads and a huge variety of insects and butterflies – this year they even had some kestrels nesting and i was lucky enough to catch them all sunbathing on their porch!
Another great reserve just over 30mins from me is Fairburn which is an RSPB reserve over a much larger area, this reserve has a much greater variety of species – some recent sightings include egrets, spoonbills and hummingbird hawk moths. They also have a brilliant kingfisher screen here!
A great organisation to follow is The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Their flagship site, Potterick Carr, is wonderful – and only an hour away from me a huge reserve with lots of variety of insects and birds – including the elusive Bittern (which I still haven’t seen!)
Also well worth a visit is their Brockadale site where there is an amazing variety of insects and wild plants – if you go in early July you’ll see lots of Marbled White butterflies and hundreds of burnet moths
And even closer to home – Adel Dam which is situated at the back of Golden Acre Park which is another great place if you fancy feeding wild squirrels and birds! I have also found this the best place to spot Jays
So what if you fancy sea birds? Well why not take a trip over to Bempton Cliffs? Ok so its slightly over an hour away but well worth a trip! The best months to go are June and July where there is a huge colony of nesting birds including Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Fulmars and even a puffin or two if you are lucky!
See one of my favourite shots from the cliffs
And what if you fancy something a bit more exotic? People who know me know that i dont do zoos, and much prefer to see animals in a natural environment. However there are a couple of places that specialise more in conservation and aren’t simply animal collections. These include all the WWF centres. The closest is Martin Mere – at just over an hour away they have lots of exotic birds as well as some of the more familiar species.
les trois mousquetaires
Even wilder still?? Ok why not try The Yorkshire Wildlife Park here they have some lions and lionesses that were rescued from a Romanian zoo! And the park is set up well for photographers so you can shoot them without bars in the way; grrrr-eattt! [Editor’s note – I wrote that link title, sorry Emma!]
There are many, many other places i haven’t listed here, and some of the best shots can be taken in our own back gardens – literally!
I recommend you get involved with local wildlife bods by friending them on Facebook or following them on Twitter as this is a great way of finding out what animals/birds are where, seeing posted photos and hearing about events that may be going on at the different centres.
Emma is a regular attendee at Exposure Leeds events and can be found on Flickr and Twitter. All photos are © the author – all rights reserved.