Jonathan Smithies
Wildlife Photography

Ponies and dragonflies

Birds, particularly smaller passerines, are my primary passion in terms of what I most love to photograph. I really enjoy the challenge of photographing such incredibly beautiful and often skittish avian wildlife. I feel so connected to nature when outdoors, in the wild, with my camera. Somehow going out birding feels like stepping into another world. I get to leave the busy-ness of my own life behind for a few hours and experience the wonder of nature’s kingdom.

My most recent adventure took me to Westhay Moor Nature Reserve on the Somerset Levels. I was blown away by how beautiful it was. Glimmering lakes, woodland, narrow black waterways (apparently home to otters!), marshes and ferns in abundance. I love the smell of ferns! I think they remind me of childhood holidays in Scotland and the Lake District. Nature is so healing!

To my surprise, there was a distinct quietness on this particular afternoon, a void of music in the air, because there was so little birdsong! I saw a family of young long tailed tits, still wearing their fluffy juvenile feathered coats and growing into their adult plumage. Their chaotic chorus of high pitched calls was a welcome sound to break the silence, but equally quite frantic, and a bit unsettling compared to the beautiful melodies of a lone, territorial Robin or a Cetti’s warbler performing a grand soliloquy.

Speaking of which, here is a photograph of a Robin from earlier this year at RSPB Arne (my favourite place for birding adventures) and a Sedge warbler from my trip to RSPB Minsmere in June.

Instead of capturing photos of birds, on this trip I came across a number of very majestic Exmoor Ponies. These animals are said to be one of Britain’s oldest and native breed of ponies. There are only approximately 1000 Exmoor ponies left in the world, making them a protected endangered species.

Here are my best photos of these amazing ponies.

While walking through the ‘Mire’ I entered a picturesque marshy woodland, which I discovered was home to a large number of butterflies and dragonflies. A very large Monarch butterfly was too preoccupied with landing on me and my camera for me to get a good photograph, but I did manage to try my hand at some telephoto macro photography using my Canon 100-400mm II lens which has a closest focusing distance of less than 1 metre.

On my route back to the car, I managed to drop my camera and prime telephoto lens! This means I won’t be able to take any photos on any birding adventures for a while. While my equipment is being repaired, I decided to take advantage of the silver lined opportunity to go birding with just my binoculars and make a renewed effort to learn more about the behaviour of the birds that I so love to photograph.

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About the Author

About me

Jonathan Smithies is a British wildlife photographer currently living in Bristol. He has a passion for photographing birds and enjoys travelling throughout the UK and abroad.