Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

Winter has arrived at last

Blackbird-winter feeding

As usual at this time of year, I arrived at Tophill Low before dawn. Thank-goodness the road had been semi-cleared of the wet snow. Once on the footpath, the only tracks in the virgin snow were those that had been left by the animals and birds. It was quiet too, except for the bitter easterly breeze that rustled the remaining leaves and the dead reeds. The sun gradually rose above the partly frozen surface of the lake, but the curtains of clouds remained firmly shut and the winter landscape took on those familiar pastel shades.

I quickly set up my camera and long lens and waited some movement. I stared at the ice pattens on the surface of the lake; even daring to make a couple of quick exposures of grey and white surface.


The reserve appeared desolate and there was nothing showing on the icy-frozen surface of the lake. I could see a few tracks on the surface and I was hoping for a glimpse of the local fox. I’d seen fox tracks in the deep snow on my approach walk and I stopped several times to view the paw prints. I saw where the fox had stopped and scratched away the surface of the snow leaving a little bare patch of mud and grass. Well, I waited over seven hours in the freezing cold but the fox was obviously elsewhere.

Barn Owl-winter hunting

The local barn owl was active and more than made up for the fox’s shyness. Apart from a few hours rest between dawn and ten, it was hunting throughout the day. Always marvellous to watch, I was also conscious of the added difficulty that the snow had added to the availability of its staple prey.

Barn Owl flying over frozen lake

One of my favourite sounds of winter is the raucous chuckle of a group of Fieldfare. I sat and watched them take the hawthorn berries, much to the annoyance of the resident pair of blackbirds, who clearly did not want to share. The Fieldfares Latin name, Turdus pilaris appears to be quite fitting, certainly to a non-scholar such as myself.

Fieldfare on Hawthorn bush

Finally, just as I was about to leave in search of a nice warm bath, I saw some movement in the far distance and something was running across the surface of the ice. I clicked a couple of times but I couldn’t see to well and thought it was a common moorhen. When I got home and reviewed my images, I was delighted to see that it was a water rail.



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6 thoughts on “Winter has arrived at last

  1. Was it you who set off my car alarm at 5.30am then?! haha x

  2. Pingback: Frustrating day. | hullvalley

  3. Sheena Power on said:

    Hi Tony, I can’t find an email address for you so this seemed the best way of contacting you. Would it be possible to buy a print of this photo? – I saw it last year and just fell in love with it. I was hoping to buy a large print, say 16″ x 20″. I’m in Dublin, Ireland. best wishes, Sheena

    • Hi Sheena: Thank-you for you kind comments about my Barn Owl image. It’s one of my favourite too! A 16×20 print would be stretching the image a little too much. Even with a 500mm lens, you can’t (and shouldn’t) get too close and disturb their feeding patterns. I can let you have a 12X16 inch print if you like. If you drop me a line at: we can discuss price & postage etc. Kind Regards. —Tony McLean

  4. Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some

    guidance from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set
    up your own blog? I’m not

    very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating my own but

    I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Many thanks

    • Hi Roberto

      If I can do it anyone can! Google is your friend. I’m using WordPress at the moment. Just look it up and follow a few tutorials and you be blogging in no time! —Tony McLean

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