Whilst 2020 was not the year any of us would have wished for, despite the anxiety and the uncertainty there were a few positives about the periods of lockdown as we were no longer able to mix with friends and family and do many of the things we once took for granted. I like many sought solace in nature and gained an ever greater appreciation for my local patch, which became my place of happiness and solitude.
During the first lockdown in early spring the weather was simply glorious which certainly helped to brighten the mood for those of us lucky enough (and still able to) access the outdoors for our daily walks and even just enjoy a sunny afternoon in the garden. With only a little work from home to be done, I found myself with much more free time on my hands which I was able to dedicate to photography, and by immersing myself in the natural world I could forget about the stresses and strains of our new found isolation, even if just briefly.
Below are some of my personal favourite photos from both the lockdown and throughout the last twelve months, and why they are particularly memorable or significant to me.
- Close Encounters
When I heard about the appearance of an otter right on my own doorstep, I simply had to get out and try and see this creature for myself. After many days of frustrating waiting with not a single sighting, I finally got my reward. I enjoyed only a fleeting few seconds with the elusive otter with only a couple of usable photos to show for it, nevertheless the experience is certainly one of my true highlights of 2020.
During lockdown the natural world was largely left to it’s own devices. Lawns and green spaces were left unmowed and untended, allowing wildflowers to burst into bloom and thrive, in turn providing a vital habitat for numerous tiny creatures to enjoy. This new found abundance was a great opportunity to bring out the macro lens and discovering hidden worlds and their inhabitants, such as this striking plasterer bee.
Each year I strive to improve my photographic skills and if nothing else, the last year gave me plenty of time to practice! I am overall pretty happy with my achievements but there are a couple of images in particular which took some patience and persistence to capture successfully. The results are some of my proudest photos to date, such as this pair of mating house sparrows (shame about the distracting line in the background, but surrounded by brambles, there was little room for manouver!).
4. Lift off
Birds in flight were another of my subjects with room for improvement in 2020. Whilst some attempts were less successful than others, the local mallard ducks were ever present and willing participants. I am particularly pleased with this shot of a pair taking off in unison. There are more which I haven’t yet posted, but I will put these in a blog sometime soon…
The year both started and ended with many memorable visits to the starling roost as they performed their nightly dances in the skies. Perhaps my favourite of all the images captured during the various murmurations was this, an almost perfect heart in the sky comprised of several hundred starlings all moving as one. (This has not been heavily manipulated in photoshop, just a few adjustments made to colour and contrast with a tiny bit of spot correction to remove a few stray birds.)
A litter of 6 orphaned kittens landed in my lap towards the middle of the year, and proved quite the handful. I have hand reared kittens before but raising so many at once was a whole new challenge but also an incredibly rewarding experience, particularly when all went on to thrive and find loving forever homes. I couldn’t help documenting their journey and taking far too many adorable photos along the way!
At the height of lockdown, many were left with just their pets for company, and their loyalty and unconditional love became more important than ever before. With myself and my husband working from home, we had much more opportunity to spend quality time with our little dog Kaiya, who was more than happy with her extra walks and cuddle time. She even discovered that swimming can be fun… as long as your feet can still touch the bottom!
The start of 2020 started with a fond farewell as I left the Butterfly House to return to my previous job and the promise of bigger and better things. The Butterfly House, like all visitor attractions has suffered greatly from long periods of closure this year but I have been able to squeeze in a few nostalgic visits as restrictions eased, immersing myself in this miniature world of wonder. Fortunately this special little place is still clinging on to survival despite the many challenges it now faces. I can only hope it’s future is secure and it doesn’t become yet another victim of the pandemic…
9. The Promise of Summer
The house martins are one of my favourite birds to photograph, and their arrival each years signals the start of summer and the promise of brighter days ahead. This year was perhaps even more significant as with summer came a brief relaxing of restrictions and return to normality. Little did we know this wasn’t to last…
Did you discover a new passion for nature during the pandemic? Why not share your most memorable moments. #NatureTherapy
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2020
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