Be­hind the lens

Bleak peaks

World of Animals - - What’s Inside... -

Tesni Ward ex­plains the chal­lenges of snap­ping grouse

Wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher Tesni Ward re­veals how she nav­i­gated the stun­ning Peak District in her

bid to snap some fa­mous grouse

One of the great­est chal­lenges with pho­tograph­ing wildlife in win­ter con­di­tions in the Peak District is ac­cess; every year we seem to see less and less snow, so when it does hit, it can eas­ily lead to nu­mer­ous road clo­sures, which makes it im­pos­si­ble at times to reach the sites higher up. Con­sis­tent and lengthy cold spells are re­quired to al­low the snow to hang around while the roads are cleared.

To­wards the end of 2017, the Peak District ex­pe­ri­enced some sub­stan­tial snow­fall on the higher el­e­va­tions, which stuck for three to four days be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing. While the roads were cleared within a day, the next chal­lenge was the per­sis­tent, low-ly­ing cloud that shrouded the ar­eas I wanted to ac­cess. On a par­tic­u­larly cold morn­ing, al­though such cloud was fore­cast all day, it was also windy. This meant there was the po­ten­tial for clear spells to blow over through­out the day.

Af­ter a 50-minute walk in ex­tremely poor vis­i­bil­ity, I even­tu­ally ar­rived at an area I knew well that has a notable pop­u­la­tion of red grouse. This would give me the best chance to pho­to­graph them if con­di­tions al­lowed, so I set­tled down in a shel­tered over­hang to wait.

It took a cou­ple of hours, but even­tu­ally the land­scape be­gan to brighten as the clouds rapidly cleared. The views were in­cred­i­ble, with a pris­tine blan­ket of white spread­ing as far as the eye could see. I took this op­por­tu­nity to search for wildlife among the nu­mer­ous groughs (nat­u­ral chan­nels found in peat moors) and hills, even­tu­ally find­ing a small covey of red grouse in the dis­tance. The op­por­tu­nity was short lived, with the wind bring­ing in the cloud cover again, but I was able to cap­ture the im­ages I had been hop­ing for.

Snow

Snow can pro­vide the best con­di­tions in which to pho­to­graph red grouse, as they are eas­ily seen and stand out from their white sur­round­ings. Try to pho­to­graph them in their nat­u­ral ter­rain in or­der to high­light the harsh habi­tat that they can sur­vive in.

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