Blog 2 - The New Forest and Lakeside Country Park

So this week I decided to visit my girlfriend in Winchester. Whilst over there we would take a trip to Lakeside country park and have a picnic. On the Monday, when she is back at University, I planned to get up before sunrise and head over to the New Forest for a day that would hopefully be filled with wildlife and photography.

Lakeside with India
So on the Sunday at around mid day me and my girlfriend India set off to the small council run country park called lakeside. It is in quite an urban setting but offers a few little gems (to be mentioned later in the blog).

A couple of years ago I when completing my Extended Diploma in Wildlife Conservation and Countryside Management I began to do a lot of voluntary work at Lakeside. Consequently,  when I returned it felt very nostalgic as we wandered around the edge of the two lakes on the site. It was also brilliant to see that the great work being done by the rangers there is still ongoing and that they seem to have had sizeable investment in recent months.

We stopped briefly for lunch on one of the many picnic benches at the site. At which point I unavoidably started to reminisce on times spent at lakeside, much to the amusement of India. This soon turned into a quick photo opportunity of course, resulting in this photograph.

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I don't usually add vignetting to an image, but I find that the more I experiment (even in ways that I wouldn't usually find appealing) the more I learn. Not long after this was taken we regrettably had to part ways for another week.

The New Forest
Another day and another adventure. Well, I say another day, by the time I saw the sun I had been up an hour and a half and I was in the new forest (about a 35 minute drive from where I stayed the night).

I had been looking forward to this trip for some time. I think mainly because since passing my driving test I have not yet put it to real use (in terms of getting to wildlife photography locations). That, and the fact that the new forest is full of some of the best wildlife Britain has to offer! You name it, there are deer, snakes, lizards, raptors, birds and who could forget the New Forest ponies!

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I arrived just before the sun rose  to a place called Janesmoor pond. I was trying my hand at some landscape photography as it was such a beautiful location and I was the only one there. I failed. Clearly this is an area of my photography that I really need to work on and practice. However, just before I left to try a new location I turned round to find that my failure had been watched by more than just one set of eyes.

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Frustratingly, this small herd of Fallow Deer soon swept effortlessly into the thick gorse bushes that dot the new forest landscape, where they spend most of the day. This meant I was unable to get an image that I was really happy with. But maybe next time.

As I moved onto my next location I realised I had mad a catastrophic error, one that could change the course of the rest of the day, ruin the entire weekend or possibly end the world! I had forgotten my lunch. This was bad, really bad.

I only had limited petrol which meant that I couldn't go back to pick it up and then return to the new forest. So from here on in it was a matter of reserving energy so I didn't get too hungry too quickly in order to make the most of my visit.

Unintentionally I found myself at a quite small car park called Broomy Walk car park. It had several well trodden paths meandering away to the open heath, with a couple then disappearing into a conifer woodland. With my lack of lunch in mind I chose the only path that seemed to lead into a small area of broadleaf woodland. Once in there I sat down in a patch of sun amongst the trees with a plan of letting the wildlife come to me, and it did.

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This nuthatch (one of two of my favourite woodland birds that I saw that day) was the first to visit. It seemed to pause and asses me as it held the nut in its mouth, before disappearing as quickly as it appeared. I waited for about another 35 minutes more before seeing one of my all time favourite birds. Can you spot it below ?

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This tree creeper is a fantastic little bird, and one that I have only ever seen when adopting the sit and wait technique I mentioned previously. They feed by flying to the bottom of a tree and working their way slowly up to the top picking at tiny bugs and grubs in between the bark as they go. This was a sighting that quite possibly made my day, even if it isn't all that rare. Soon after seeing it I was beaten by hunger and had to head back.

After lunch I still had most of the afternoon before I needed to head home to Bognor Regis. So I decided to pay lakeside one more visit, but this time with the purpose of photographing a particular animal that I had tried and failed to photograph many times before.

The Great Crested Grebe (one of the "little gems" I mentioned at the start of the blog) is an incredibly beautiful and graceful bird. One that in my time volunteering at Lakeside I had only even watched vanish beneath the surface of the water whenever I got close enough to photograph it. This time was different though I had slightly better camera equipment and knowledge, plus I had a lot of experience photographing birds on water. This being thanks to volunteering at the Wetland Wildfowl Trust in Arundel, West Sussex. These three factors are what I feel lead to the two shots shown below that I am very happy with, especially given years of failed attempts.

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New forest and lakeside weekend edited-1.jpg

I got these two images by picking a spot by the lake that was very busy and so the birds were quite used to seeing people there. Once positioned I lay flat on the ground so as to get the right perspective and used a low aperture to separate the subjects from the background. 

All in all a brilliant weekend, a lovely couple of days with my girlfriend and some exciting wildlife encounters. All made possible by the sometimes undervalued work of Britain's wildlife rangers, both in urban and rural places. I cant wait to visit again!