Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

Archive for the tag ““Tophill Low” “Winter Wildlife U.K.” “Nikon D3” “Nikon 500 mm f/4G VR” “Red Fox” “Barn Owl” Winter “Roe Deer””

Spring, slowly turning into Summer

Fox - paddling pose

Firstly, please let me apologise for the long wait for my first blog-post of the year. I’ve been spending a lot of my free time preparing a self-published book of my black & white street images.

I have managed to get out with my camera most weekends and now that the daylight hours are at their longest, I’ve ventured out on the odd evening too. I plan ahead as best as I can and try to pick the days with a favourable weather forecast but animals and birds can be fickle creatures and I often return home ’empty-handed’.

I’ll save my readers a long boring summary of the year so far, except to say that it has been good one for my photography and I was extremely fortunate to photograph a rare Common Crane as it flew over Watton Nature Reserve on 12 June.

[As usual, please click on any picture to see a much larger version that will look great on your tablet or screen!)

Common Crane in flight

Curlew - dawn flight

Great Crested Grebe - Dawn Light

Black-headed Gull - dawn

Female Reed Bunting

Dawn goose

Roe deer buck - Spring evening

Another Dunnock with insect

Otter watching me

Fox with rabbit

Wren watching

Early morning Barn owl

Long-tailed tit singing

Lady Linnet

Cormorant landing during a thunderstorm

A Perched Kingfisher

<aGrey Heron evening light

Marsh Harrier hunting_2

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Dancing on ice

Well the thaw may be occurring, but the marshes and reservoirs at Tophill Low still remain frozen. I have just spent an enjoyable weekend photographing the wildlife in and around North Marsh. Saturday was a beautiful day; cold and very still. On arriving at the hide just after dawn, I was immediately rewarded by the presence of a fox as it strolled across the frozen lake Pheasants and Roe Deer were present too and the local raptors were also out in numbers. Martin Hodges turned up just after lunch and helped me identify several species including a Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a Common Buzzard.




The light was perfect and the fauna, very co-operative. I even got a glimpse of a Kingfisher as it hurtled by on its journey to find some unfrozen water.

Sunday was not quite so bright but still was a beautifully calm day with just a hint of a breeze from the north-west. I was captivated by the site of three Roe Deer as they made their way around the perimeter of the frozen lagoon. I didn’t believe that the ice would support their weight as they struggled to stay upright—shades of Bambi, the wobbly legged fawn, came to mind.




At around 9:30, a Bittern flew over the hide and I managed to get just one frame of it in flight as it headed south along the bank of the River Hull. During the afternoon, I was joined by fellow enthusiast Jonathan Roe from Beverley. Always nice to have good company on a very quiet weekend. Warden, Richard Hampshire was taking a small group (of one) around the reserve on a mammal hunt. His group disturbed three Roe Deer and they ran southwards along the top of the dyke. The light was fading fast but I did manage to get one rather impressionistic image of a deer as it ran at full speed through the snow.




Well, I’m migrating east to Hungary next weekend for a week—so this will be my last post until Christmas day. Hopefully, I will have a few Eagle photographs to share, if I make it back before the 25th.

Just in case, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and maybe Santa will bring you that new lens or camera. 😉


“Winter is an etching…”



Yesterday, the short drive from Driffield to Tophill Low was and exciting prelude to my day’s photography. The main road was clear but the three miles of road between Watton and the reserve required some ‘grit’ in more than one sense of the word. The pre-dawn glow gave the snow coloured fields a magical golden hue. Pity then that I had to concentrate on my driving.

The car park at Tophill Low was covered in about nine inches of snow. This made parking particularly difficult and I ground to a halt opposite the member’s hut. The usual ten minute stroll to the hide at North Marsh took a little longer than usual but the animal tracks in the snow were fascinating. I could distinguish fox (they’re easy as dogs are not allowed onto the reserve), deer and pheasant and wished I could translate the others too. I remember my mother buying me a pair of ‘pathfinder’ shoe when I was about seven. These had animal track embossed onto the soles of these shoes—I wish I had paid more attention.

The hide was cold but comforting. Everything was frozen, including the window mechanism. I unpacked my gear, sat down on the cold bench an prepared myself for a long wait. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the first red fox to appear. It strolled around the margins of the frozen lake looking for opportunities. I knew that the ‘click’ of my camera’s shutter would alert the fox so I waited until I had a clear view and more importantly, an interesting background before I pressed the shutter. The fox only stayed a few minutes before it wandered off towards the bank of the river Hull.


Thirty minutes later, two Roe Deer bounded across the top of the river bank at some speed. I had attached my 1.4 x tele-converter to my 500 mm lens in order to obtain some shots of the fox. However, the deer were actually too close with this combination and I didn’t have time to remove the T.C. No time to hesitate, so I fired of a sequence of five or six shots and hoped for the best.

Every thirty minutes or so, I left the hide and took a short walk in order to regain some feeling in my cold-numbed legs. During one such foray, I saw a hooded figure in the distance walking towards me. It turned out to be Richard Hampshire, the warden who had braved the weather and the long drive from Malton. Richard has a plastic bag containing the carcass of a rabbit that had been killed earlier by a stoat. His intention was to position the carcass near one of the reserves cameras and record use the rabbit as bait. Please see Richard’s blog for more information and some excellent pictures of a Stoat (and PG rated pictures of it’s prey).

An hour or so later, Mandy & her husband, Richard joined me in the hide. Mandy & Richard actually live on the reserve— a fact that always leaves me with feelings of great envy! We were all rewarded with sightings of a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk but unfortunately, they were a rather camera shy. A Barn Owl made a brief fly-past but by then, the light levels were quite poor and I had great difficulty obtaining a focus lock on the bird. When I reviewed the sequence on my computer monitor later that day, I discovered to my horror that the sequence was vastly over-exposed and I had to use all the magic of Photoshop to recover the details in the Owl’s plumage.


Once again, the pheasants provided much entertainment. I quite like this one of a hen pheasant running across the ice—both feet off the ground. (Could this be a flight shot?)


Many thanks to the warden, Richard who waited for me in the car park and ensured that I made it back to the main road in one piece.

Anyway, another memorable day. So, go on…brave the weather and see what’s happening in your local countryside. Just wrap up warm and stay safe.

A final reminder to all wildlife enthusiasts who would like to see my talk on ‘The Winter Wildlife of Japan.’ It’s definitely on in The Maple Room of The Bell Hotel in the centre of Driffield commencing at 7:30 pm tomorrow evening (Monday 6th December). Please come along and introduce yourself. Admission is free!


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