A 10-year record of British wildlife

When we asked you for your friendly neighbourhood wildlife pictures we never could have imagined that one of the team would get in touch to say that he had more than 11,000 photographs.

But Brian Johnson, Technical Trainer for the Property Team, did just that!

Often our neighbourhood wildlife goes unseen but whilst working from home we’ve all noticed our extraordinary local animal and bird life. Well, Brian is way ahead of us. With motion capture cameras and night vision technology for the past decade he has been photographing the animals and birds that live right under our noses.

Nothing more than curiosity got Brian started. He lives less than three minutes’ walk from Heaton Park and the Reservoir in North Manchester and knew a fox was coming into the garden but did not know how.

At night Brian sets up his camera in his enclosed back garden facing the shed or the kitchen window. The animals are attracted by the food that he puts out nearby.

He says: “It is a pure thrill to see the animals and help them food wise as best I can. Also dispelling the myth that foxes are merciless killers! They are very timid.”

The night time camera sometimes takes more than 400 photographs!

Brian says: “What I do is easy as it only requires putting the camera out each night, bringing it in in the morning and downloading the photos.

“I particularly like wild birds but don’t use the night camera for them. I use my other cameras and this requires more skill, patience and silence or else they fly off before being photographed. They don’t pose for you!

“Before lockdown, I used to go into Heaton Park every Sunday morning over the winter months for about three hours to photograph and video all the different birds. I have a ‘rare’ photograph of a Coal Tit eating a peanut out of my hand, which took a lot of patience. Other birds got used to me as well and Great Tits would eat out of my hand and Jays would catch monkey nuts in mid-flight, if thrown high enough to give them time to fly off the branch and swoop down. My favourite garden bird is the male Black Bird and truly wild birds like the Jay or Peregrine Falcon.”

For anyone who would like to start photographing the comings and goings of life in their garden, Brian recommends a good camera that captures on ‘motion’ and preferably in colour. His current camera is a Hawke 14MP nature camera and his previous ones were ‘Wingscapes’ from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). He has been a member of the RSPB for more than 30 years.

Brian does not get too attached to the wildlife that comes to his garden and he definitely doesn’t name them. Brian says: “You can’t get too attached in case they get killed rather than die naturally. Hedgehogs tend to get squashed and foxes run over by cars. Lockdown has certainly helped alleviate this problem as I definitely have four visiting hedgehogs now and three foxes. There could be more coming at different times and escaping the camera.”

We set Brian the impossible task of picking out some of his favourite photographs and captioning them. It is really time consuming and Brian managed to take a look back through about half of the collection.

He said: “The enclosed are a fraction of those falling into this category. I have some even better ones but it is a question of time finding them!”

So, hopefully we’ll have some more of Brian’s photography in the next issue of the newsletter.

The ‘Krays’ of Prestwich

At home with the Goldfinches

Social distancing at meal times… Drat!

Mine… ALL mine!

Damien Fox 666!

OK – let’s share.

Mum told me to eat every last bit.

Mornin’ folks!