Category Archives: Wildlife photography

rutting season - red deer stag in Richmond Park

Red Deer in Richmond Park

The red deer rutting season is here again!

Every Autumn Richmond Park attracts an influx of photographers who want an opportunity to photograph the red deer in rut. It is easy to understand why. The deer are not really afraid of people so photographers can approach them, to within the reach of a long lens.

Health and safety!

Although the red deer in Richmond Park do allow people to approach them there is always an element of risk. These deer are large and powerful animals, and they can cover large distances very quickly. In the rutting season the stags can be dangerous, and while they do not naturally target humans, they do sometimes attack people who approach too closely.

So it is best to be cautious and keep a safe distance away. The park authorities recommend keeping at least 50m away. But that 50m can quickly disappear when your back is turned!

I recommend that if you want to photograph the red deer in the rutting season, you should always be very aware of your surroundings. These deer can cover ground very quickly are are free to roam in the park wherever they wish.

Subtle family relationships among red deer

I am not an expert on red deer. But what immediately becomes obvious if you spend any time watching them in Richmond Park is that they have a complex social structure. And when you bear in mind that individual deer have lived among the other deer here all their lives, it stands to reason that they all know each other as individuals.

If you want to quickly find out a bit more about red deer this is a good link.

I do not want to anthropomorphise, but many times I have seen what give the impression of real affection between the deer. I have seen it between females and stags, and between individual adult females too. I have previously noted that the relationship of stags with their “harems” seems to be far more subtle than many programs on the telly would suggest.

A pictorial “cautionary tale”

These photographs were taken on 27 September 2019. It may be relevant that the rut is still in it’s early days. The stags aren’t going at things “hammer and tongs” yet.

This story starts with a stag and his “harem”.  Here he is doing some bellowing…

photo of red deer stag in Richmond Park and licking the air…Red deer stag licking the air - rutting season in Richmond Park
What follows is my interpretation, which should be taken with some caution. The stag reacts to some other stags who have been strutting and bellowing (off stage camera left) for some time and he has been provoked into sorting them out. So he leaves his females and walks towards the other stags who are approximately 150 meters away.

On the way he pauses to pound his antlers in the ground and do some urine spraying. Isn’t it good that men don’t behave like this?

red deer stag - rutting behaviour in Richmond Park
He continues on his way…

photo of red deer stag in Richmond Park

I notice that his route seems to be heading directly towards this (photo below) although it is difficult to tell because of the distance between us.

photo of photogapher in Richmond Park. Better look out!
Surprise!

Now what was I saying about the need to be very aware of your environment? But I don’t believe this photographer was in any real danger. The stag has only one thing on his mind, and that is the other stags whose behaviour has been provoking him.
Red deer are not usually aggressive to humans even in the rutting season

I am not the only interested onlooker. Note the presence of flies around the head. These are pretty well constantly buzzing around the deers’ heads;photo of beautiful young red deer stags in Richmond Park
This (below) is my final photo of the first stag. He then goes off to strut up and down with the other stags who attracted his attention in the first place.

red deer bellowing
But meanwhile… look who is approaching all the females that he left behind!
wild red deer stag in Richmond Park
This dude has a serious set of antlers, and he “takes up residency” with the females the other stag just left behind. So “whose” females are they? I suspect he is a very eligible stag because very soon a whole new gaggle of additional females come sauntering over to join him! I can hear them giggling from here.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that the females are not “owned” by any of the stags. They appear to have a lot of freedom to come and go as they please. This surprised me at first because it contrasts with an impression I got from watching wild life documentaries on the telly.

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

I do not know what the next two photos mean. She looks so tiny compared to him. Has there been some kind of misunderstanding?

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

 

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

 

Red deer stag doing his wolf impression

Now he is doing his wolf impression. Very good too.

Red deer stag doing his wolf impression
beautiful red deer stag
Technical information

Just for people who are interested;
Camera: Olympus OMD EM-1 Mk II
Lens:  M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm IS PRO

I am not a professional wild life photographer and I only take wild life photos as a hobby. I bought this combination of camera and lens specifically to provide me with a professional quality long lens. I could not justify the ‘cost’ (in all senses of the word) of buying a professional long telephoto lens for my Nikons. (I use the Nikons and professional Nikon lenses for most of my commercial, family and baby photography).

The advantage of the Olympus kit is that the 300mm lens on a micro four thirds body gives a magnification that is “equivalent” to a 600mm lens on a full frame body. At the same time this setup is a lot smaller and a lot lighter than a 600mm lens on a full frame body.

The disadvantage is that in my opinion the highest ISO at which the EM-1 MkII can take professional quality photos is 800. This opinion is shared by several other Olympus users I have spoken to, but perhaps not everyone.

Most of the above photos were taken at ISO 800.

Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park

Jackdaw with a deformed beak in Richmond Park

Photographing a strange jackdaw in Richmond Park

I am not a professional wildlife photographer, and I only take photos of wild life as a hobby. Regular followers of my blog will know I have a soft spot for jackdaws, and one of the places I like to photograph these cheeky rascals is in Richmond Park.

On a recent gorgeous early autumn day, I took a camera into the park to see what I would see. I was amused to see some jackdaws eating some vomit in the car park at Pembroke Lodge, and I took some photos. Which just goes to show that “one person’s meal is another person’s vomit”. Sorry about that, but this is wild life! (Those of us who have pets know they can get up to worse).

My first photo below shows a normal jackdaw, who appears to be healthy and in superb physical condition. All the other photos are of a jackdaw with a strange deformed beak. The upper mandible appears to be more or less normal, but the lower mandible is very long. I have seen this jackdaw before, but this is the first time I got a good look at it – and only because I had a camera with a long lens with me.

My daughter pointed out that the legs of this jackdaw also don’t look normal. Compare it’s legs to the legs of the normal jackdaw and see if you agree?

And finally, is it my imagination or does this jackdaw look more bedraggled? Is it perhaps not in full health?

Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Jackdaw in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park

 

Technical Information for photographers

Just in case any of my fellow phtoographers are curious, the camera is the Olympus OM-D Mark 2, and the lens is the Zuiko 300mm. All photographs were taken hand held.

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

Jackdaws and Red Deer in Richmond Park

What is the relationship between red deer and jackdaws?

I took these photos in Richmond Park, where red deer (Cervus elaphus) and jackdaws (Corvus monedula) are very common and easy to watch. Although it is very common to see jackdaws standing on the deer, I am not sure why they do this, although they certainly appear to be looking for something in the deers’ fur. A quick online search suggests the jackdaws are eating ticks and bugs, in which case they will be doing the deer a service. But do the deer know this? The deer certainly seem very tolerant of the birds, which clamber all over their heads and ears. No matter how often I see this behaviour it always amuses me, and it makes me feel good.

It has also been claimed that jackdaws pluck loose hair from the deer, and also loose velvet from growing antlers on the stags for nest material. Seems like a very reasonable suggestion, and it has probably been witnessed too.

Usually the deer hardly react to the jackdaws at all, but sometimes they do. The doe in these photographs only seemed to react when the jackdaw put all it’s weight on one ear. She didn’t shake her head to remove the bird, but moved her head just enough to make the jackdaw move.

If you do a quick google search you will find loads of other photos of jackdaws walking over red deer, and this is very common behaviour.

Soft spot for Jackdaws

I have always had a soft spot for jackdaws. Undoubtedly my personal fondness for these birds started as a boy, when for a few weeks a yound jackdaw became “tame”. It all started in a very hot dry summer, and my father investigated noises coming from our water tub. He discovered a young jackdaw, presumably drawn to the water, desperate for something to drink. The bird was not fully fledged, and was not yet a strong flyer – preferring to walk.

As an example, once one of our cats started heading for the bird, and rather than flying, it started walking towards me as fast as it could – looking a bit worried. Fortunately I reached the jackdaw before our cat did.

I loved animals and natural histroy when I was a boy, so it was bliss for me that the Jackdaw would sit on my shoulder for long periods of time. It was a strange sensation when the bird looked at me, because it stretched out it’s head, and looked “downwards” at me, perpendicular to the line of it’s beak. I realised that the angle of their eyes is perfectly adapted for looking below when they are flying, so when he (or she) wanted to give me a beady eye, he (or she) would turn his (or her) head so as to look at me with binocular vision, looking 90 degrees “downwards”.

Like many members of the crow family, Jackdaws are considered intelligent for beings with bird brains. They are also quite playful. I was also touched to read “males and females pair up in their first year of life, but they do not begin to breed for another year”.

Jacdaws “nibbling” eyelashes

The young jackdaw I befriended as a child like to “nibble” at my eyelashes. I don’t know how else to describe it, and it was quite unerving having that big hard beak immediately next to my eyes. But s/he did it with great care. This behaviour is reminiscent of the way they poke around on the faces of the deer, where they often seem to be looking for something near the deers’ eyes. I don’t think “my” jackdaw found any ticks or bugs around my eyes. What I am saying is that this kind of behaviour seems to be instinctive to jackdaws.

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

 

 

Technical photo info

I am not a professional wild life photographer, and I only take wild life photographs as a hobby.

Camera: Olympus OM-D EM-1 mark 2
Lens: Olympus M-Zuiko ED 300mm 1:4 IS PRO
F4, 1/125s, iso 400
Tripod mounted
Although in many respects this camera is a technical marvel, I am reluctant to use it at a higher iso than 800 because of the noise that starts creeping in.

 

Ring collared parakeet

Is this ring necked parakeet drunk?

Photographing parakeets

Have you ever watched someone who is very drunk walk? They tend to wobble and hold on to objects for support. I was out walking with my camera and saw something that reminded me of that. It was a ring necked parakeet walking along a branch.

So I took a few snaps. It seemed a good opportunity to test my 300mm Olympus lens.

I have always thought there is something “comical” about the faces (expressions?) of parrots. The ring necked parakeet is a beautiful bird. Even if it does make a lot of noise and is a pest to fruit gardeners.

By association… one of the sounds they make closely resembles the beep made by studio flash heads after recharging. I was walking through Richmond Park once, and wondered why there were so many flash units going off in the woods all round me.

Slideshow

But I digress.. I took a few photos of the parakeet and made a slideshow. I hope you enjoy it (1minute 47 seconds). (I have a license for the music). NB Once the video has started, you can right click and view the video at it’s proper size.

You may be wondering why I didn’t capture the bird’s behaviour with video?  I am a stills photographer, and haven’t gotten around to fiddling with video yet. On the good side of course, because these are a series of still images, one can tell that the parakeet really does walk with his beak. To be honest I am not certain if the parakeet actually grips something the first time. What do you think?

Am I following in the footsteps of the photographer Eadward Muybridge? It was he who famously used photography to investigate whether all four feet of a galloping horse are ever all  off the ground at the same time. (I thank fellow photographer Chris for reminding me about Eadward Muybridge at a recent “PortraitX” photo shoot. He also told me that Eadward Muybridge came from my home town, which is Kingston upon Thames). But I am just fooling – what I am doing is not really comparable to that.ring collared parakeet ring collared parakeet ring collared parakeet

 

 

 

Technical

The photos were taken using the Olympus OMD EM-1 mark 2 fitted with the 300mm Zuiko lens. This camera is a “micro four thirds” camera, so the magnification of the 300mm lens (at the focus distance) is the same as a 600mm lens on a full frame camera. This means wobble is an issue. These photos were taken using a tripod. Settings were F5.6, 1/160s, iso 400. I have found that noise starts to become a problem even at an iso of 800 using this camera. This means that if you want to keep the iso below 800, one does not have a lot of leeway when it comes to deciding what shutter speed and aperture to use. I was surprised to see so much movement blur in the parakeets feet at a shutter speed of 1/160s! I guess although the body moves slowly along the branch, at moments his wee feet move with lightning speed.

Caveat

I am not a professional wildlife photographer, and I only take wildlife photos as a hobby. The main reason I invested in the Olympus camera system was to get hold of a professional quality long zoom without having to buy, or lug around, a huge zoom for a full frame camera.