A wildlife photographer journeys along the Ouse Valley Way

Written by Alice Hunter

Inspired by Paul Muir’s article on painting the Great Ouse, I recently took the opportunity to walk part of the Ouse Valley Way between the Offords and Little Paxton. It was a beautiful sunny day and spring was in the air. I was armed with my camera, a bottle of water, my trusty walking boots and a light waterproof; British weather is rarely to be trusted after all!

The first thing which struck me was the colour of the countryside, it had leapt into life over the past few weeks with increasing speed and the transformation from winter’s muted palette to the fresh green of new growth was evident all around me. Weeping willows trailed their fronds in the water and beneath, Celandines glowed golden. In sparse patches under the trees, Bluebells nodded in the gentle breeze and bumblebees investigated the dainty blooms of cowslips nestled in the grass.

Along with colour came sound; birdsong proliferated in the warm spring air. There were the familiar strains of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinch but new voices joined them, fresh from their long journeys back for the summer months. Blackcaps, Reed Warblers and Chiffchaffs added their songs to the chorus.

Overhead, Common Terns wheeled and swooped, occasionally diving for fish. A heron croaked and flew off down the river to find a new fishing spot. A gentle splash heralded a Great Crested Grebe surfacing from a dive.

Back on the shore the first blossoms of Hawthorn gleamed white in the hedge and a Peacock butterfly fed on the fading flowers of a Blackthorn bush. A fluttering of white with a flash of colour announced an Orange Tip flapping around at knee height, probably searching for some Jack-by-the-Hedge on which to lay its eggs.

On my way back, a patch of sandy soil drew my attention, literally humming with life as a small colony of miner bees went about their business. I sat for a breather and watched them a while as they popped in and out of their tiny nest holes. A shrill peep drew my attention back to the water and I looked up just in time to see a flash of brilliant blue zip past at high speed – a Kingfisher heading up river, the perfect conclusion to a wonderful day. Having discovered this great local walk I will undoubtedly be doing it again and as always my camera will be with me!

Alice Hunter is a wildlife photographer and writer, Wildlife photographer and writer. In addition to the wildlife that she loves, Alice also photographs landscapes from time to time and takes commissions for a wide range of subjects including pet portraits. She sells her images online as well as in a variety of local outlets.

Alice contributes to the Wildscreen Exchange initiative to help conservation charities raise awareness of their causes and enjoys working alongside the Wildlife Trusts both as a photographer and writer. She also co-leads photographic and wildlife-watching tours with Experience Nature and writes about her experiences on her blog. In her spare time she volunteers with the Great Fen Project to help engage visitors with the natural world.