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Mark Hamblin’s best UK wildlife locations

EXCLUSIVE! Mark Hamblin’s best UK wildlife locations

By PA News Team

Magazine News

16 August 2012 14:37

The British Isles is a veritable hotbed of relatively accessible wildlife all year round. Top wildlife pro Mark Hamblin shares his favourite locations…

Your expert
Mark Hamblin
Mark is an experience wildlife photographer based in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. He’s currently working on several long-term conservation projects, including Tooth & Claw and 2020Vision. Click here to find out more.

The hard part of shooting wildlife is getting close to your subject, and even with a long telephoto lens it’s surprising just how close you have to be to get frame-filling images. So rather than chase wildlife aimlessly around the countryside only to see it disappear over the horizon, it’s far better to head to locations where the wildlife is more accessible and easier to approach. Urban and suburban areas where wildlife has become accustomed to people are great for photography and many species can often be tempted to within range by providing suitable food. There is also a whole range of wildlife reserves dotted around the country and many of these have purpose-built hides from where you can watch and photograph wildlife.
As is often the case, knowledge is king and good sites that were once closely guarded secrets among wildlife photographers are now common knowledge, largely as a result of the rapid exchange of information on the internet. This is a great way to discover potential locations, but there have been instances in recent years where overenthusiastic photographers, and indeed some irresponsible individuals, have put undue pressure and stress onto wildlife. So this needs to be borne in mind when visiting any location and it’s vital to always put the welfare of the animal first. However, there are a number of well-managed locations around the country where it’s possible to get fantastic close-up encounters of a range of species. Here are four suggestions of where to go in search of wildlife this autumn…

Gigrin Farm
Why go? Gigrin Farm is without doubt the best place in the UK to photograph red kites. Chris Powell has been feeding the kites and buzzards here every day for the past 20 years and the farm now attracts several hundred birds each afternoon. The birds are fed every day at 2pm and there are several hides situated close to the action from where you can get frame-filling flight shots with a telephoto lens. The light is ideal in the afternoon, but because the birds are against the sky it’s best if it’s blue. There are two dedicated photography hides, which cost £10-15 each. Booking is recommended.

Getting there Gigrin Farm is just south of Rhayader, Powys on the A470. It is well signposted on the right-hand side soon after you leave the town. The farm opens at 1pm. There are toilets, a picnic area and shop, which serves hot drinks in winter.
Map: OS Explorer 200 Grid ref: SN980677 Nearest postcode: LD6 5BL

Richmond Park
Why go? Richmond Park holds good populations of both red and fallow deer that are well accustomed to people and are very approachable as a result. The red deer have their annual rut during September and October, making this a great time to visit for action shots of the large stags roaring and fighting. An early morning visit is often the most rewarding, as the deer are most active at this time, but early evening can be equally productive. Keep an eye on the weather, as still, cool nights will often produce ethereal misty conditions, allowing you to create some beautiful atmospheric images.

Getting there There are a number of entrances into the park. Richmond Gate is on the west side and provides good access. Approach from Richmond town centre on the B321, or from the south leave the A307 at Star and Garter Hill. There’s parking at Pembroke Lodge in the park.
Map: OS Explorer 161 Grid ref: TQ184737 Nearest postcode: TW10 5HS

Snettisham RSPB Reserve
Why go? The RSPB Reserve near Snettisham lies on The Wash, a vast area of mudflats on the North Norfolk coast that attracts thousands of migratory and over-wintering wading birds and wildfowl each autumn. Species such as red knot, oystercatcher, dunlin and grey plover form huge flocks as they are pushed off their feeding grounds by the incoming tide providing wonderful opportunities for flight shots. From the hides overlooking the roost site you can shoot pattern shots of tightly packed groups as they jostle for position. Plan your visit to coincide with an early morning high tide for the best light.

Getting there Snettisham RSPB Reserve is clearly signposted down Beach Road from the A149 Snettisham and Dersingham bypass. Continue down Beach Road for about 1.5 miles, and the reserve car park is signposted on your left.
Map: OS Explorer 250 Grid ref: TF650328 Nearest postcode: PE31 1RA

Martin Mere
Why go? Martin Mere is a Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Reserve in Lancashire, and hosts large numbers of wildfowl from late autumn though until March. There are several hides located around the reserve, but the best hide for photography is the Swan Link hide overlooking the main mere. Whooper swans, geese and ducks are all within range from here and are best photographed during the morning when the sun is coming from behind the hide. Sunset can also be very evocative and it’s possible to get some dramatic silhouettes of birds in flight. The Greater Manchester hide is also worth checking out for flocks of pink-footed geese.

Getting there Martin Mere WWT is best accessed from the A59 north of Ormskirk. Heading north through Burscough Bridge cross a railway bridge and then turn immediately left. The WWT car park is about 2 miles further on the left hand side. The reserve is open from 9.30am to 5pm.
Map: OS Explorer 285 Grid ref: SD428143 Nearest postcode: L40 0TA

Mark’s favourite world location is… Svalbard! This remote Arctic Archipelago off the far north of Norway is home to spectacular wildlife, including polar bear, seals and ten of thousands of seabirds. It is a truly wild place, largely unspoilt by the hands of Man and unquestionably one of the best wildlife experiences on the planet. Go there if you can!