At last spring has started to appear, tadpoles are wriggling, bumblebees buzzing and just to keep the clichés rolling . . . the birds are singing. Sharp sunshine between the showers can give striking light and the early leaves and catkins are hanging with clusters of glistening dew. It’s a time to feel the life and fill your photos with its freshness, there is apprehension afoot before the mad days of May let loose the riot of full on spring. I’m going to be ‘snaking’ this month, getting down and dirty, face to face with adders and grass snakes as the sun warms them but the cool air keeps them from being too fast to flee.
Song Post Sitters
Many species of bird use regular song posts to deliver their performances and this can be a great asset as you can completely predict where they are going to perch. And if their chosen podium isn’t too pretty don’t fear to replace it with a carefully chosen and aesthetically pleasing one of your own. Set up the hide and set your alarm . . . early!
Brimstones et al
Butterflies will be on the wing and there is nothing more striking than a male Brimstone burning yellow over the sparsely greened hedgerow. Orange Tips will be hanging around the Lady’s Smock and the delightful Holly Blues will be flickering in the sunspots around the Ivy. Without a wealth of flowers for them to feed on they can be difficult to tie down – you’ll need your stalking shoes on.
Foxes have a den with cubs by now and this is great news because for a few weeks they are tied to a spot by their growing cubs. Find one that’s active, footprints and food remains outside, and either 1) get a big telephoto on the job, 2) build a hide and learn to be Mr/Mrs Superstealth, or 3) get them used to you so you can take a few liberties. And pre-visit the den to remove those nasty twigs that are otherwise sure to cross their noses in your shot.
Flower Fest 1
Some real British beauties have burst their bud by now but you’ll have to track them down . Pasque flowers are a wonderful fluffy mauve petalled species which grow on short grasslands, snakes head fritillaries smother a few Wiltshire wet meadows and early purple orchid add excitement to woodland paths preparing you for the real plant pin-ups of June. Remember; strong sunshine is not a real asset for plant photography and rain can be a bonus.
Flower Fest 2
Woodland floors can be carpeted white by wood anemones and ramsons before the canopy closes overhead and in soft light it’s a real fairytale landscape. Get low, lie right down, use a bean bag and experiment with slow exposures and points of focus to ‘white up’ the scene so it appears as your eye sees it. In the south its almost . . . bluebell time, but more of that next month.
Don't Forget Your Doorstep
Not everything wonderful lives or grows in or on nature reserves or National Parks. Your garden or local park or ‘wasteland’ is full of potential subjects. One of my most simple successes is a snap of a dandelion on the lawn and you’ll have blue tits and blackbirds going berserk feeding their young right outside your window. Don’t let familiarity breed contempt – make your neighbours photo-stars.
Gorse will be glowing in some places and its prickly spread of yellow can make a great component to a landscape shot or a background to a subject, and standing amongst it, breathing in the coconut scent is a good place to be. In the south-ish its also Dartford warblerville and if you’re not put off by their scruffy plumes they are a seemingly perennial favourite subject.
The cubs are born in February and will be taking their first sniff of fresh air at the end of the month and of course . . . they look very cute. Daylight emergences are rare or localised but these animals very rapidly acclimate to flash, the trouble is making it look nice, not just blacking out everything.
Water courses will be coming alive now and a walk along a stream is sure to throw up some springtime subjects for you. Marsh marigolds couldn’t be any yellower and if its really warm the first damselflies will be wafting about. Look out for grass snakes too, sunning themselves on the bank sides.
They’re back, the seabirds have had enough of being in dull winter plumage and hanging out in the middle of the sea and they’ve homed for their favourite nesting cliffs where they are busy bickering about who gets the best nesting place. Its early days in terms of this spectacle but if you cant wait or fancy a recce then get on yer bike.