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!!   

 

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March 14, 2012

Close.. But not close enough!

A few days ago I left early in the morning but there wasn’t much going on to photograph. When I was about to give up I passed a meadow where 3 hares where playing.. ehm, well it is spring! .. around. I stopped the car and got out for a low level shot. Right at that time they decided that it was time for a rest.. Tsss..

After a while one of them walked off towards a ditch where it disappeared in the reeds. Moments later I heard a big splash! I looked up just in time to see the hare crawl out on the other side, dripping wet. Guess the ditch was just a little too wide. But I figured that when one would try and jump the ditch, more could follow! So I quickly moved to the ditch and just waited.

It took about half an hour (I had forgotten my coat and 7 degrees in just a sweater nearly made me abandon the whole plan) but sure enough another hare approached the ditch and disappeared in the reeds. When it came out on the water side it hid behind some reed stems so it was impossible to get focus.. Aagh! Until it took 3 leaps towards me to find the shortest way to the other side and jumped!!!

And like his mate, also this time, the ditch turned out to be just a little bit too wide. Hilarious!

I put the whole series together in a sort of sequence. Hope you’ll like it as much as I did.

September 11, 2011

Surprise Party

Yesterday afternoon I was working when I all of a sudden heard a bird calling outside. It sounded all too familiar: Kingfisher! Although we have visiting Kingfishers every now and again it still is a rare guests as we live in a forest area and there are not that many nesting possibilities around. Two years ago, we’ve had a Kingfisher emptying our pond for a week, but since then it still is an exception when I hear or see one.

But this time she had landed on a branch over the pond and started scanning the water for fish. As there are a lot of fish in the pond I knew that it would mean that she was probably going to stay around for a while. The next 10 minutes were frantic. The moment she flew off for a moment I sprinted to the shed, got out my hide, threw it on the terrace that is next to the pond, got a little chair, my tripod, camera. Sprinted off to the neares patch of forest where I knew Hans had been busy cutting off branches. Dragged a huge one to the pond and just hung it just over the water surface. Took a dive in the hide, zipped it up and exhaled again 🙂

It only took a few minutes and there was the familiar sound again. To my great thrill it flew straight at the new branch, right in front of my camera. It took her only a minute before she took a dive into the pond and fished out her first little fish. It was a shame that it was cloudy and already quite late, so the possible shutterspeeds weren’t fast enough to capture her smashing the fish on the branch, but still got some really nice shots.

She kept on fishing and in the first hour she caught herself 5 fish before she landed on a tiny little branch just above the water and started to clean her feathers. By that time I thought I heared the call again but dismissed it as imagination as I didn’t see her call. When I looked back at the pictures I took later on, the surprise was complete when it turned out there were two different ones! Talk about a surprise party!! Both juvenile females. I really hope they’ll return but I haven’t seen them again ever since.

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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