Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

June 18, 2012

A dreamday..

Filed under: 2012,June — Hennie van Heerden @ 11:33 am
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When I entered Holland’s dune area last friday, it rained cats and dogs. At first I tried to ignore that but when it became clear that also the animals took shelter and didn’t show I gave in and waited it out under a tree. Was quite a challenge to keep the raindrops out of my coffee!

Hmm, when I had known I wouldn’t have gotten up at 4AM but could have stayed in my oh so warm and comfortable bed!

At about midday, the weather cleared up and with the sun also the animals showed themselves a bit more. But it wasn’t after lunch that the first fox showed itself. A young male was making an appearance and modelled like a pro in front of the waving grass and the flowering Sorrel. Beautiful setting! After a while it suddenly dashed off and soon became clear why. A beautiful adult female came in sight. She has taken over the territory of the old male that unfortunately died last february and defends it with a vengeance. No wonder the young male ran for it.

After spending quite some time with the beautiful female, I slowly headed back. I knew of a fox earth along the route but when I had checked it earlier that day it seemed abandoned. I really don’t know what made me check that den again; call it a hunch, but I did. I actually already passed it but something made me decide to turn back and have another look. And what a great hunch it was!!

When I carefully approached I saw something moving just outside the den; fox!! And not one but two! Mom and her beautiful baby were playing together in full view. I sat myself down and for the next 3 hours or so I filled every single memory card I had with me. I know I must have breathed in between shots but I can’t remember 🙂

Wat a fantastic encounter! For years I have been hoping for a fox kit in front of my lens and yes, I especially went to the Dunes to find one, but I never could have imagined to find this wonderful scene!!   

 

February 13, 2012

A Day at the Dunes

The “Amsterdamse Waterleiding Duinen”, in short AWD certainly belongs to my favorite Dutch areas for photography. Not only because of the abundant foxes and fallow deer, although I must admit they are the most spectacular inhabitants of this nature reserve, but also because of the magnificent landscapes and the many birds. The AWD has got it all; dunes, forests, water in the form of numerous canals, (AWD provides drinking water for the city of Amsterdam) vast heather and grass fields.

When I entered the reserve last week a thick fog rose from the many canals. The Swans, ducks and geese where hardly visible, but what an atmosphere. Beautiful! Soon the fog blanket evaporated and the area bathed in golden morning light. Can’t help myself but everytime I’m there, I feel happy. The area is so beautiful there is a surprise around every corner, however small sometimes.

It was still very cold, around -10 to -12 C and the AWD was covered in snow. After an hour or so we decided to sit down alongside one of the canals and get some of the tea we brought with us. But as always, when you sit still, nature finds you! The tea was soon forgotten when we discovered dozens of snipes, fouraging on the banks so what other choice did we have than go down in the snow and shoot our heart out! 🙂 Actually, we were so busy crawling up to the Snipes that we hadn’t noticed another visitor who was checking us out from behind a couple of reed stems.. Fox!! And we weren’t at all close to the area where the foxes are known to be approachable. The snow covered bank of the canal made for a perfect setting for this beauty and while the teacup was melting a hole in the snow down we went again on our stomachs. Funny how you don’t feel the cold at such moments at all!

She didn’t stay long but allowed us quite a few shots before she went. When afterwards we turned around to save the meanwhile stonecold tea, we were in for another surprise. Apparently her young was checking on mom what she was up to and meanwhile ‘guarded’ our gear that was, in the haste, scattered all around. Wow.. two foxes in our first hour in the dunes!!

The young fox was quite skittish and didn’t come close which was actually good so I could use the 500mm, a lens I prefer because of the nice blurry backgrounds. Also this one didn’t stay very long but I think I got some wonderful shots, especially with the snowy banks as background.

When the adrenaline of the fox encounters had worn off a bit we got on our way again. Like I said, around every corner there are little surprises. Woodcocks flying off when you practically stand on them (never time enough to capture them!), a Bittern and Whooper Swans flying over, Mergansers, Tufted Ducks, and Kingfishers on the canals.

After another hour we again sat down for the next attempt to get some tea down and yes, you guessed it; another fox paid us a visit 🙂 When some other photographers discovered us, soon she went on her way again but not without our memory cards still buffering!!

Later that day we saw two more foxes but in our hearts we knew that we never would get the setting there like we had had earlier. Sure we shot but the winning photographs of the day were the three earlier foxes! What a glorious day!!

When we slowly made our way back, it’s always quite a hike, we encounter yet one other female fox, an older one. I remember I saw here only once before last year. She completed the score of 6 foxes in one day! Can you imagine that the first couple of times I went to the AWD I couldn’t find even one, despite the 20-odd km I walked, cris-crossing the reserve.

We walked back along the canals with fallow deer as company. A Swan couple swam towards us, like two proud flagships, silently floating by. Can you imagine that I left the reserve with a big smile on my face?!

June 7, 2011

A dream of a day…

Filed under: 2011,June — Hennie van Heerden @ 3:11 pm
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Last sunday I got up at 4.30 and went to the Veluwezoom, a National Park here in the Eastern Part of Holland. By many people this park is considered the baby sister of ‘De Hoge Veluwe’, a much larger neighboring National Park. But although de Hoge Veluwe is unequalled in Red Deer rutting season – the sightings there are awesome – in all other seasons I prefer de Veluwezoom. It’s got beautiful landscapes and it harbors a lot of animals and birds.

So this morning I was at the Park at 5 in the morning. The sky was dark and threatening and you could see a thunderstorm building up. My expectations were not very high when I arrived but still, after 5 minutes I saw Wild Boar in the dark forest, foraging for food. Not a bad start at all, but impossible to capture as it was way too dark, certainly this deep in the forest. But.. I tried anyway and raised ISO to an incredible 3200 which gave me just enough shutterspeed to capture the little piggies. And with that, all has been said as even in my display I could see that it wasn’t much.

But.. on I went and after just some 500m I spotted another Wild Boar, but this time underneath the bushes, next to an open field. I just parked the car in the middle of the road (there wasn’t anyone else crazy enough to visit the park in this weather anyway :-)) and waited. And out she came, but she wasn’t alone!! To my great excitement she had little piglets with her!! So never mind the high iso…. Shoot!!!! They ran up on the open field and I just knew it would be next to impossible to capture the movement in this kind of light. But one (just one) came out alright. Besides the shot, I was really thrilled to see the little family.

Only 500m further I stopped to see if there would be birds around as this was an area where I had seen lots of Yellowhammers and Linnets before. Nope, no such luck but something else drew my attention. A huge Wild Boar was standing in the bushes just alongside from where I had stopped. So sure, I tried to photograph her. Until I saw movement just next to her and a baby Boar showed (for a second) its cute little head. What a surprise!! So far it had been incredible despite the gathering clouds above my head. The storm was building and you could feel the electric tension in the air. Maybe that’s why all the animals were out, foraging while they still could..

My spirits rose as did my expectations. Often, when a day starts right, it will remain right! So off I went with good hopes. A little further down the road a little bird welcomed the day with a song and I stopped to capture it. From the corner of my eye I all of a sudded saw the bushes alongside the road move.. I looked, and out came the cutest little baby fox I had ever seen!! Which isn’t difficult as I’ve never seen one before in my entire life! I thought my heart would stop just there and then. Quickly pointed the camera and started shooting as if my life depended on it. But the baby wasn’t going to pose as after just a second it got up and walked straight towards me. Way too close for the lens…. Frustration!!!!! Well anyway, I got it and no matter the noise in the shot, I’m ever soooo happy with it! As with the experience of finally seeing my first baby fox!

After I sent several text messages (YAAAAYYYYYY, I got a baby fox) the beebs waking up hubby and some shooting buddies (sorry guys! just couldn’t resist!) I went on, my heart still pounding.. It was only a mile further down the road when I spotted a Roe Deer foe, up to her knees in heather and kind of nervously looking around. I again stopped the car and waited.  When I saw why she was so nervous my heart did another summersalt…. A Baby Deer was jumping high over the heather to get to her. It was just a second later that I realized that there were in fact 2 fawns!! God, what a day…
The little ones had spotted me and ran to mamma; all legs and no brains. Mom stood perfectly still and waited for the little fawns to reach her before she led them out into the field. But she was nervously trotting around while the fawns panicked and jumped all over the place. I figured they wanted to cross the road to reach the safer forest, so no matter how dearly I wanted the shots, I moved the car to make way. When I looked back I saw the three of them running off into the forest.. Couldn’t help it but I actually had tears in my eyes…

I continued my drive but my head was brimming.. When a trio of Red Deer came in sight, I just couldn’t believe my luck anymore….

For the past 2 days I’ve been up at 4.30 again to see if I could get a shot of all of this young life again, but nothing. Absolutely nothing. A Deer here and there, but nothing exciting. But I’ll keep on trying!!

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