Filming Wildlife – a normal day

Being a wildlife cameraman has its ups and its downs.  Filming wildlife can sometimes mean ‘not filming wildlife’.  Some days you can go out with all the best intentions and film absolutely nothing.  It is not unusual to film absolutely nothing, but there is usually something worth training the camera on even if it is not the animal in the script. That said, filming for the sake of it will probably be unpopular back at the production office.  A team that I frequently work with joke that I always manage to squeeze a shot of a mallard into the rushes somewhere.  Previous to that, just to make them laugh, I would blast off a few frames of a sheep… of which there are many in Wales.

Nuthatch relaxing on a dead branch

This morning I was sat in a wood trying to film grey squirrels doing something interesting in slow motion.  A combination of their behaviour and the habitat made for a morning that was not very productive.  The squirrels were sneaking down the trees to feed quietly on the ground, then sneaking back up again for their rest between meals.  There is so much foliage at this time of year that you can’t see them easily in the treetops, and even so, there was not much treetop movement happening.  There was hardly a breath of air so I was surrounded by small black biting insects for several hours.  Every now and then a mountain bike powered by on a nearby path, and being sat still I’m pretty sure I went unnoticed the whole time.  A nuthatch landed a short distance away on a dead branch.  The image above is a sort of lift from the footage: it clung to the branch for several minutes, preening, and what I can only describe as dozing.  After its rest it started tapping the branch then proceeded to work the branch up and down for food.

Bank voles scurried through the leaf litter

After a couple of hours of not very remarkable squirrel activity the bank voles woke up.  When I arrived I had scattered some peanuts across the leaf litter near to where I was hidden.  Bank voles tend to feed in fits and starts: they will feed frantically for a while then take a break.   They probably couldn’t believe their luck, finding so many nuts right on their doorstep.  Wherever I looked voles were tearing around the leaf litter and fallen branches.  They were gathering the nuts and taking them back to their hoards for future consumption.  Perhaps I had overdone it – they probably had enough to last them all through winter!  The one in the picture paused for 20 seconds of so to sample one of the nuts about 10 feet from me… then it was gone.

Four hours of watching and waiting was long enough.  I could have waited all day.  The law of diminishing returns said go home, which I did.  As it happened the cricket was on the radio, and it made for very good listening.