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Photographers in Residence: their favourite photos from the year

31 January 2022

Our talented Photographers in Residence have captured many stunning photographs over the past year that we’ve regularly shared on Facebook and featured in our Naturehood 2022 wildlife calendar.  But we wanted to know which of those were their favourite and the stories behind them.

Nathan Benstead

For Nathan, it’s all about the little things, magnified:

I have taken a lot of images while I have been a Photographer in Residence but my favourites were of many different species of beetle. As I specialise in macro photography of fungi and insects, I am always very happy when I get to photograph them for Naturehood!

Helen Burton

Helen’s favourite involved finally seeing a local elusive mammal:

My favourite photographs for Naturehood were always the ‘challenges’. An almost ridiculously difficult weekly theme, which I would greet with an astonished, “that’s impossible!” It would simmer in my mind for a bit, then I’d start asking questions and googling for answers.

Often, I’d turn to my trusty iNaturalist app to find out if there were any local sightings, ask around on local wildlife Facebook groups, or talk to my neighbours. The grapevine was always so helpful: the stoat down the road (I failed to find that one!), the exact spot to hear a nightingale, the location of the few juniper bushes across two counties, or finding a key captive European polecat breeding facility close by, which both allowed me to get a beautiful photo and re-ignited my conservationist heart.

All of these challenges led to great photos, but my favourite is possibly the least spectacular. Barely a ripple on the water, but it took three days and 43km of walking to find; a water vole. They used to be common, but the combination of invasive predators and habitat loss brought them to the brink of extinction in this country.

Thanks to several fantastic reintroduction programmes, the population is now starting to show signs of improvement. Selsey, where I live, is stronghold for water voles. It is a low-lying agricultural area, with many miles of ditches and waterways, perfect for this famously beleaguered rodent. Despite this, I have never managed to see one, so I thought; this is it! I am going to find a water vole!

Taking the challenge very seriously, I decided to camp near to Chichester canal for a couple of nights, and spent my days walking up and down and roundabout the canal. I had done my research; checking out sightings on iNaturalist and Atlas of Sussex Mammals to give myself some ‘target’ areas to concentrate on.

Despite this preparation, I saw nothing. Well, I did have many glorious encounters with foxes, deer, bats, and birds, just no water voles. On my final walk down the canal, early enough that it was deserted and just lightly bathed in weak morning sunlight, I was feeling despondent. Despite trying so hard, I had failed.

I trudged up the towpath, rather too deep in my own head than is comfortable, mentally beating myself up for my many failings. Suddenly, the water parted up ahead, pulling me unexpectedly back into the world.

I panicked and fumbled with my camera, bringing it up at the same time as I realised what I was looking at: my first water vole. Silently crossing the water with the characteristic high rump swim. The light reflected off the ripples leaving a silver wake. The world, and my mind, went entirely silent. And my camera went ‘click’.

Jane Scott

For Jane, it was an autumnal encounter with a cheeky visitor to her bird feeders:

My favourite is the squirrel image that got featured on Facebook in November.  We have a tree near to where we park the car, on which I hang the bird feeders.  A cheeky squirrel often visits and, on this occasion, I had sat in the car ever so quietly with the window down, camera in hand waiting to see who visited the feeder.  

The squirrel appeared and sat on one of the branches, he was very cheeky and I loved how the image turned out with details of the fading leaves clear in the foreground and the background nicely blurred.  It was a well framed image and I was delighted that it worked for Naturehood’s squirrel spotlight that week.

 

Find out what it’s like to be a Naturehood Photographer in our blog, where our photographers share their experiences.

 

 

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Unless otherwise credited, all illustrations © Chris Shields, and all wildlife photographs © Steven Falk
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