Bluebell season is usually a very busy time of year for me with dog portrait commissions in particular being a popular choice of many and I have to say it's not an unpleasant thing to do as a photographer - spending hours immersed in an ancient woodland surrounded by canines and their owners.

I love ancient woodlands, although they are few and far between now in the UK, there are plenty of fragments still around as flagged up by those hardy species such as the bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and wild garlic (Allium ursinum) too, yum, yum. Whilst not being able to range far and wide to some of the more well known bluebell hotspots. I've been playing in my own remnants of ancient woodland locally. Actually, I prefer these as they are undisturbed and if you sit quietly all manner of wildlife comes to you.

I spent a magical evening just a couple of days ago doing just that. Sat amongst the emerging bluebell spikes on a dry mattress of leaves and twigs I just sat and watched and listened. This is the greatest skill of any naturalist or wildlife photographer. It's funny, so many people say to me that they wouldn't have the patience for wildlife photography but I have absolutely no issue with it. I do have great patience I know but it also is not a chore to do something that you simply love.

I love figuring out what's what in a wild location, whether its where the lions are heading on the savannah or where the nests of local birds are, the routes of badgers and the hide outs of foxes, they give me such a kick. I love wild tracking and would love to learn more about bushcraft. It's an innate thing, to notice everything around you. When I was working in wildlife conservation and surveying the same patch day in, day out over a number of years, it was obvious when anything changed in the local habitat. Whether someone had been there who shouldn't or a individual animal was missing from their usual hang outs at that time of year. I made friends with the locals, a friendly hare I knew and a baby roe deer both used to appear at the sound of my 4x4 entering the field and come running!

My most magical bluebell moment however has simply got to be in a small copse called Fisher's Hanging in Hampshire. It was there in the first week of May whilst doing bird surveys early one morning that it happened. It was a dull, dreary and cold, dank morning with one of those mists that soaks you if you stay out in it too long. I was on the look out as I was passing through the copse for my local doe and her buck who liked to hang around in the valley. I had my young cocker with me at the time sat at my heel. Then I saw her and oh my god the doe was giving birth! She didn't flinch and quietly with sides heaving gave birth to a steaming, wet baby in a haze of purple bluebells! To cap it all, the buck was in attendance and watched from some 20 feet away all the time - when baby was safely in the world - he casually sauntered off into the mist. WOW! WOW! WOW! What a total and utter privilege to have witnessed that! A total once in a life time experience, it still gives me goose pimples to think of it now.

And you know what? I didn't even have a camera with me! I don't ever regret that though, one of the greatest skills of a wildlife photographer is to know when to put the camera down and just soak up the experience. I'm glad there was no camera that day because those pictures are solely in my head and I will be able to replay them forever.

13th April 2020

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