Summer Grouse

I am very fortunate to live just an hour away from the Yorkshire Dales National Park which is at its beautiful best in late summer when the heather is in full bloom.

This wild habitat supports a wide variety of flora and fauna but perhaps the most iconic is the red grouse. I have visited these upland moors each summer for several years now hoping to capture the grouse amongst the flowering heather. I had built up a nice portfolio of images but felt some shots were missing or could be improved upon. As with most of my subjects, I see the grouse as a long term project and believe the more time you put in the better the results in the end. I also like to get to a location for sunrise as this often produces the best light, especially on sunny days.

The red grouse is endemic to the British Isles and is herbivorous feeding mainly on the shoots, seeds and flowers of heather. It is considered a game bird and many are killed during the shooting season which traditionally starts on August 12. Unfortunately this coincides with the heather bloom which peaks towards the end of August and this can be restrictive if you go on the wrong day. The shot below shows the male bird with the bright red comb over his eye.

Due to unsettled weather and other commitments I was only able to visit once this summer and wanted to make some photographs of grouse in the wonderful pink heather that had carpeted the landscape. These birds can be quite approachable especially when shooting from your car, the image below was captured in this way, using a beanbag to support my gear.

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I prefer to get down in the heather with the grouse as you can create pictures with a more intimate feel and better subject isolation as the foreground and background are thrown out of focus.

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The lower you get the softer and dreamier the image becomes and this can look nice with a more dynamic composition.

© Simon Roy Photography 2017

Two Little Owls

During the summer of 2014 I started working with a lovely pair of wild Little owls. I was aware the owls were nesting on farmland close to where I live and that they were often seen during daylight hours. I decided to build a rough hide and placed some natural looking perches near to the old oak tree where the birds nest. After a while the owls began to use the perches as a vantage point for hunting and surveying their territory.

By mid summer the adult owls had bred successfully and there were two healthy and very loud owlets around the hide and perches. I started to place food near by hoping that the parents would use the perches to feed the juvenile owls and although this didn’t happen I did get some nice shots of individual birds.

Over the winter I constructed a more substantial hide and by late spring both adult owls were, once again, visiting the area to feed. I decided to use wider perches in the hope that I might get both adults in at the same time; this is harder than it sounds! I spent one or two sessions a week in the hide and made some lovely images of the male bird as he gathered food for the female, who was now busy in the nest.

It wasn’t until mid summer that the female started showing again, at this stage I was sure there were owlets in the nest as both adults collected food and returned to the tree. I continued to change the perches as the barley in the field behind turned from green to a pastel yellow. Then came the chance I had hoped for, as one of the adults joined the other on the old gate post I had set up. Shot through wild flowers with the summer barley beyond, the two owls interacted for just a few magical moments.

The adult owls regularly visited the feeding area through the summer and into autumn but unfortunately the owlets never appeared. One afternoon, in late summer, I noticed two adult Barn owls flying to and from the nest site; being chased off by the adult Little owls. I believe the Barn owls may have predated the owlets!

© Simon Roy Photography 2015