London! Tales of Tigers and Talks

I know it seems odd I’ve never been to London before…BUT I grew up in Spain, so never really had the opportunity to go before- and I can tell you, in the words of Patsy, it was ABFAB! I saw the advert to go and see all of my wildlife film heroes, Doug Allan, Steve Backshall, Steve Leonard, Martin Hughes-Game and Lucy Cooke at the Lyric theatre, Shaftsbury Avenue, London on the 15th December. Train tickets were ridiculously cheap (£12 Leeds>London Kings Cross, London>Leeds £9), so I went for it! I couldn’t wait to go to London’s ZSL zoo either, I’ve been growing up seeing all these wonderful places on television and in the news- that it was thrilling to be heading there for the first time. The train journey was very comfortable itself, straight and direct and I got there at 1pm. So I headed off alone into the urban jungle, not knowing where on earth anything was. Even the bus I tried to catch wouldn’t let me pay in cash (WHAT?), only some weird oyster card, so the lovely conductor let me stay on for a bit…then the long trek to ZSL. I eventually got there by 2pm. The little canal along the way was lovely, a small Chinese restaurant was perched along its banks IMG_7539IMG_7897 The zoo was relatively quiet, but then again being a Monday, it would be! So much to see in so little time, I had so little time- less than two hours till it closed! First off- Gorillas. None about, all having dinner. TIGER TERRITORY! Very excited, lovingly recreated habitat, and the mother and two cubs were having a lie about. I hope the photos do these stunning Sumatran species justice- they were truly majestic and it was a special moment to be so close to such a superbly adapted predator. I took many different shots, hope you like them! Taken with Canon 600D, Tamron 70-300mm. IMG_7622 IMG_7646 IMG_7627 IMG_7643 IMG_7592 IMG_7596Fast asleep….  IMG_7608 IMG_7557 IMG_7544 This rather noisy Malayan Tapir had a right old good time calling for food, think its keepers heard it after a moments tantrum. Yes, a Tapier tantrum! Then I went off to the stunning aviary containing a plethora of bird species, truly stunning specimens of southern Africa. One bird that resembled a shoe bill was collecting nest material, lovely to see a bit of natural behaviour. IMG_7694 IMG_7692

Of course there was the “keystone” zoo species that every collection has, the mischievous meerkats and yellow mongoose which were enjoying a little thermal light as the natural light started to fade. The reptile house was equally as exciting, with a variety of constrictors and venomous species alike- my all-time favourite being this Rhino Snake consuming an unwitting mouse. The amphibians in the retile house (yes, that’s a bit weird!), were also fascinating and beautiful, like little jewelled darting flecks that were occupied with catching any conceivable small round thing that moved in their tanks. It’s truly tragic that such resplendent creatures that were the first tetrapods that led to the evolution of the amniotes, and us, are under threat from extinction from the chytrid fungus. Work is being done at ZSL by scientists (and Post Docs!) to work out how to halter this deadly killer.

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On a brighter note, I went to explore some more and came across this sagious looking Galapagos Tortoise having a drink, he seemed to take an age to slurp what seemed a cup-full of water, but hey, he’s in no hurry. This Komodo Dragon wasn’t very impressed by the peering eyes of the visitors, or perhaps it was the cold. IMG_7650 IMG_7663-001 IMG_7666-001 At the far side of the zoo was the especially stunning bird house, with a whole host of incredibly rare tropical species, impossible to take any clear shots, as the “jungle steam” fogged up my lens pretty bad! But the gorgeous feathers and sounds that filled the air were worth it. Along the back were some rather cute Adelie penguins having a dip, and 3 large pelicans that also had resplendent plumage. This one posed nicely for the camera! Flamingos also adorned the little pond.  I then went back round under the tunnel to go to the “Out of Africa” section, and saw some of my favourite ungulates in the world- giraffes! They were busy chomping away on vegetation. The Flamingos were stunning, and the sun was beginning to set casting a dappled orange glow on their pink plumage. IMG_7727 IMG_7741 IMG_7749 IMG_7744IMG_7816 IMG_7815 Pygmy hippos were lounging about into their warm pools too. The Rainforest section really was tropical, with the fog and steam effects accurately recreating a steam forest. Thee-toed sloths (a mother and baby) clung on browsing on fruit whilst the Tamrins swung above our heads. Unfortunately this meant its was downright impossible to get a photo! The Dark World of course was home to my research topic of study! BATS! These were Yingpterchiroptera– the Old world fruit bats which zipped around clicking their tongues (Yangochiroptera echolocate) and enjoying the fruit. The insanely CUTE Potto also lounged about, but was hidden from sight. The “Happy families section” included a not so happy but adorable Asian short clawed otters and Grey Heron. Looked like the heron wasn’t pleased with the otters eating its food…and the otters seemed to take an interest in my camera- thinking it a threat! IMG_7871 IMG_7851

Then I left the Zoo wanting to go to the Natural History Museum…but would have cost me £40+ in taxi fares to get there and back to the theatre…so London Covent gardens it was! Saw the lovely Paddington outside the Royal Opera House. It was such a vibrant city, here are just a few of the photos! Picadilly and Trafalgar square as stunning.The buses were really ODD THOUGH I must say, how can you NOT be allowed to pay cash? IMG_7952 IMG_7914 IMG_7916 IMG_7905IMG_7958 IMG_7903 IMG_7976 IMG_7969 Trafalgar Square with the national Gallery in the background!IMG_7964-001 IMG_7962 IMG_7971 The theatre was a right pain to find, but after much walking and running and asking annoyed Londoners, I found it..HALLLELHUIIIAA! IMG_7993 IMG_7990 IMG_7978 IMG_7959 The talk was BRILLIANT! I even got Steve Backshall to sign my book and he walked right in front of me ahha! Was a fantastic end to an exciting day! I got the 11:30 train back to Leeds, so was exhausted by the time I got back at 3am…then would have a photography job the next day! I will be back for more though London…NHM here I come after the exams! IMG_8009 IMG_8007 IMG_7998

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Into the Mist: Day 1 of Deer shoot

6am wake up calls come very easily to me in the UK, mainly because the sun percolates through my curtains at that time, and partly down to the noisy customers that happen to be buying todays newspaper from the shop beneath us. But today I had even more of a reason- Deer filming!

Here is a short clip of the deer I got the week before, couldn’t resist this little fawn!

Here is the shot of the two male Red Deer having a par at each other…nothing too serious as it is late in the rutting season, so are winding down from their predominantly active season. Filmed with basic SLR (Canon 600D) and VERY basic £25 Tamron 70-300mm lens, so pardon the quality and jerkiness and lack of editing YET!

Harewood Park Start: Harewood Church Lane Distance: 5 miles Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale and Washburn Valley

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We started near the church and headed down towards the stank and Carr wood, neat the road where the der tend to browse.

As part of the brilliant new YouTube Channel, Ecosapien, I work as a camerawoman to help get some of the story shots for the team to edit into one of the weekly episodes that David Bodenham broadcasts out. I am so grateful to be able to help out with something so exciting- the combination of stunning images with factual information targeted towards 13-25 year olds. Some more filming this Thursday so can’t wait! We parked up in a small neighbourhood (and yes we did check for a “Residents only” sign!) some way away from the deer park. Loaded up with a Manfretto Tripod, Canon 600D and Tamron 70-300mm I headed off with David to see if we could catch a glimpse of these beautiful British mammals. It was one of the most misty days I had come across being in England, and it was incredibly difficult to locate them at first. We headed down the side of the road to see if they had congregated by the roadside farmland, but with no luck. Back through the moss, thicket and ferns. It was truly magical walking through the forest that was so still. Quiet. Damp. Cool… The trees were playing tricks on my mind. Surely that tree was a deer? David assured me it wasn’t. I even had my contact lenses in at the time. I am certainly glad I had layered up correctly, the air was damp but very cold as well. Always put a thermal top underneath your clothes (sorry, love that Shakira song!) Then at the other side past the cattle grid we had more luck. The stalking began… This next stage of setting up your camera and trying out different lenses was really good fun for me. I have used my DSLR in lots of filming before but not at the adequate settings- aperture 5.6, 1080P 50f, ISO 200, white balance Auto. try it on your Canon model! We got a couple of establishing shots of the trees in the mist, just to highlight to the audience what the day was actually like! Then we saw the emblematic shape of antlers in the distance that soon enough melted away again in the depths of the mist. I could only hear the clashing and clanking of the antlers echoing through the mist as I crawled ever closer on the dew laded moss. It was thrilling. First Day Of Autumn In Richmond Park...LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMB The next part of the shoot involved a lot more crawling. And yes, I got soaked but this is what you do to get the shot! it was so very worth it in the end after many failed attempts to get decent and clear shots. Never had getting soaked been so much fun! We stalked them all the way to the very same field that we had originally walked to, and for the very first time- I saw so males rutting! This is the best time of year to see deer rut (the mating season). The rutting month varies between species, but mostly it is during the autumn. You see the stags using their antlers in fearsome trials of strength during the rut (a Middle English word meaning ‘to roar’), and an enraged or injured stag can quite often be a dangerous animal. The episode is about the impact of the over browsing as Deer can have a huge impact on forestry operations. They cause extensive damage to young trees, either by stripping the leaves in the spring or by eating bark in winter or rubbing the velvet off their antlers in the summer. All of these actions can kill young trees. Many areas have to be deer-fenced to protect the trees until they are large enough to survive being browsed. Also, having no natural predators in the UK, deer numbers can become very high. For these reasons they are culled in many places. In another episode we will be talking about the reintroduction of wolves back to the UK, and I will be writing another feature soon! wolf-82e30 We had been able to find a small ditch as the side of the field that enabled us to get closer to them- we got some cracking shots of the males fighting it out in front of the females. With two stags, a third tried to join in! The males were pumped up, and also sniffing out the females. Brilliant day, I would highly recommend visiting Harewood to see them, and it is very much worth getting up early for.

You of course can actually if you go out of leeds on the A61 you will reach a large set of gates into the rear of Harewood. Then turn left and you can park there. If you go across the road, through the gates & turn left down a wooded path follow the path until it comes out through a wood gate back onto the main road turn left pass the main entrance and then take the next turn left on this road for 1/4 of a mile (no cars allowed) .You should see them on the right as the road drops down rather than get damp and mossy (but that’s the fun part!) You can also start from the village centre, parking at the village hall in Church Lane. The estate village of Harewood sits outside the entrance to Harewood House, one of Yorkshire’s premier stately homes. Other features include the Harewood Arms and the remains of a castle which we walked past on our trip down. h