Winning Autumn Shot British Wildlife Photography Awards 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

I've won the British Seasons category of the British Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Very excited to announce that this week I won a prize in the highly esteemed 2016 British Wildlife Photography Awards for a series of photographs I took of weasels in my garden.

The four pictures, which follow a weasel family from the the first flowers of spring to late winter snows, won the British Seasons category and go on show in a travelling exhibition that opened on Monday at the Mall Galleries in London.

I've only just returned from opening night where I got to meet and admire the incredible work submitted by the other contestants.

The judges told me that they chose my pictures because it is so rare for anyone to get close up shots of weasels in the wild. 

Weasels are so small and lithe that it is very difficult to see more than a fleeting glimpse of them in the wild and very few close up portraits exist. Yet I took these in my own garden:

Spring: Most of the action took place outside my kitchen where I could photograph it through the window. The female cached its rodents in a mouse hole under a blossoming mound of pink saxifrage. Moments before I took the photograph she had been carrying a wood mouse to her nesting chamber when the male appeared. At nearly double her weight, she was rightly very wary of him and so she dropped her catch and watched him intently, pausing just long enough for me to photograph her against the bloom. 
Summer: Here the female is carrying one of her kits to a new location. The kits were just 17 days old and she carried them one by one with such a delicate grasp it was a touching to see. I had been watching her via a camera hidden inside her nest and as soon as I saw her start to pick up the kits I rushed to my camera to capture this rare moment. The photograph shows her struggle as she keeps a wary eye out for danger whilst manoeuvring this kit through the entrance hole to a new location.
Autumn: This photo is of one of the male kits in his first autumn. I took it just as he popped his head up through a pile of roots and leaves. Underneath the roots I had placed a feeding box. The kit was almost fully grown. Unfortunately its mother had been predated by a stoat. But luckily weasels mature fast and it was already fending for itself and took up the territory in my garden.

Winter: This photograph was taken from my kitchen window on a cold January day. I normally head outside as soon as it snows to capture wildlife against a white backdrop. But this year I was so absorbed with photographing the male weasel’s first winter I stayed at home, my eyes ever trained on my weasel surveillance screens and the windows looking out onto the weasel’s territory. I was struck by how pristine the tiny predator looked against the white. It was as though he had dressed for the occasion. His whiskers were perfectly symmetrical, his bib as clean as the surrounding snow.
My winning shots go on show in my gallery in Thixendale from this week and this beautiful book, see below, featuring all of this year's BWPA winners can be purchased online by following this link to my website. 

A sleek coffee table edition, it measures 27cm x 27cm and costs £25.

The story of how I got up close to these elusive predators was also featured this year on BBC's Springwatch. You can read the background to the tale of how I got close enough to a family of weasels to paint them by clicking here and, for all the latest on the weasels in the garden, click here.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A weekend with a very bold, very wet fox

I spent a very wet afternoon in Dalby Forest this month trying to make the most of a rare day off with my family. It reminded me of a similarly soggy July camping there two years ago when I spent a stormy afternoon tossing dog biscuits to a wild fox and admiring her as she caught them in the air like a pet dog.

I had gone there after a visitor to an exhibition at my gallery told me about fox that was so bold it regularly ran in front of cyclists like a ruthless Highwayman demanding food on one of the main bike trails from Dixon’s Hollow. I set off on the very next free Saturday I had, ready to camp there so that I could maximise my chances of seeing the fox.  It turned out to be the wettest weekends of the summer, but an amazing wildlife experience nonetheless.
I took my mountain bike with me so that I would blend in with the other cyclists. I asked several people if they knew about this brazen fox. One said it had grabbed some sausages off a lit barbeque, another that it raided open cars for food and a third said it had even eaten jelly babies out of his hand. Each tale placed the fox in different locations so I simply cycled round the whole area all day.
By 4pm I was getting disheartened. But then as I biked into the car park nearest to the Dalby Activity Centre I noticed a group of cyclists covered in mud by their van. Five metres away from them sat a fox looking at them intently, begging for tit bits.
I headed towards them and as I got my camera out I explained I had been looking for this fox all day. They told me, matter-of-factly, that it was always here at 4pm just as they finished their bike ride.
It was a vixen and I could see by her swollen teats that she was lactating. I suspected her cubs were somewhere nearby.

I had brought along some dog biscuits and threw a few to the vixen. She ran forward to pick them up and I began taking a series of photographs in quick succession. One of the group casually tossed a half-eaten sausage roll to the fox as they headed off. At last I was alone with the fox. I kept throwing her biscuits and photographing her in different poses. She ate a few and then I noticed she was gathering the food up in her mouth, probably to take to her cubs. I was keen to find them. If they were as tame as she was then I might get some great shots.
Mouth full, she headed off through the undergrowth which was too dense for me to follow on my bike.  I went the long way round, but she soon appeared on the track in front of me and crossed it heading along the edge of the cycle course. She ran along some of the obstacles, completing several jumps and balance beams. It was astonishing watching her weaving along the busy obstacle course before disappearing into the forest.
I didn’t fancy following her along this demanding route on my 20 year old bike, especially as I was carrying a tripod in one hand and a rucksack on my back full of heavy cameras.  I decided that my best tactic was to head back to the car park. I thought she would probably come back there since she knew I was handing out food. Sure enough, she was back within five minutes.
Again she gathered the dog biscuits into her mouth and headed back to her cubs. I raced round the wood to where I knew she would cross the track again and this time followed her a little further before circling back to the car park to feed her the next instalment.

Each time she disappeared in the direction of the cubs, I followed her a little further and then cycled back to the car park to meet her on her return trip. By continuing in this way I got a little closer to the cubs each time. Eventually I found them a good 600 yards away from where we had first started. I could hear a whickering sound and then I spotted two cubs peering very warily through some ferns at me. Not a bit like their mother.
It was getting late, so I backed away and headed back to the campsite. As I left I noticed the grass near the track at the bottom of the valley was flattened and realised that this was where the cubs probably played. I was pleased that I had now pinpointed the den site.

It rained so hard that night I barely slept and bitterly regretted my decision to camp. The ground was soggy, everything was damp and there was a drizzly mist in the air. I headed back to where I first saw the fox and parked up. Next I set off on my bike towards the den with my camera.
Sure enough there was the vixen going down the track in front of me. She turned to face me. I tried coaxing her towards me with dog biscuits but she was a much more wily fox now that she was near the den site and she didn’t respond.
Instead she turned and went away down the hill. Then all of a sudden she was ambushed by her three cubs. They were wagging their tails furiously and rushing round her, licking her muzzle. I tried creeping forward to get some photos but she barked an alarm call and the cubs instantly vanished into the forest.
She trotted off in the opposite direction, heading up a steep cycle track towards Adderstone Field. She crossed the field and I caught up with her at a children’s playground where she was checking the bins and BBQ areas. I gave her a few biscuits and again she headed off with them back to her cubs. I didn’t go near the cubs again. She clearly didn’t want me there.
Instead I followed her on and off for most of the morning. It was fascinating watching this wild animal negotiate cars, bike riders, dog-walkers largely unnoticed, and taking advantage of any opportunities to get food. People began to set up their BBQs, I noticed she was no longer interested in dog biscuits, but was after beef burgers and sausages instead.
Towards the end of the afternoon light showers turned into a heavy downpour. In a very short time all the day-trippers had suddenly packed up and headed home. It I felt as if I was the only person left in the whole forest. The fox seemed to realise this too because she was now happy to take dog biscuits from me again. After a while she headed back into the woods and I lost her. I was absolutely soaked and decided it was time to call it a day so I headed back to my bike, which I had left near the playground. But when I got there I found the vixen dragging around my camera bag around, which had some dog biscuits in. 

I gave her a few and she set off with them in her mouth again. I headed back to the car, and, just in case she was still about, lit the stove I had in the boot of the car and started to cook four sausages  - two for me and two for the fox.  While they were cooking, I started litter-picking.
I was amazed at how many discarded energy drinks bottles I found. After collecting four bags of rubbish my sausages were ready. And, not surprisingly, the fox was back, trying to work out how to get into my car.
I let her sausages cool whilst she sat and watched me eat mine. But then she got tired of waiting and began to forage about. She found a plastic bag with a sandwich inside in the bushes. I didn’t want her to take this plastic bag to her cubs so I ran a few steps towards her to scare her away from it.
She dropped the bag and I picked it up and placed it out of the way on the roof of my car.  I turned to get her the sausages – I wanted to make up to her for scaring her - but before I had turned back she had jumped up onto my car and was climbing up the bumper and spare wheel to get at the plastic bag. I shooed her off and gave her the sausages instead.
A thunderstorm was brewing and the wind began to whip around me. I was already wet through so I sat down on my folding chair with the rain lashing down to photograph the vixen at eye-level. She sat patiently in front of me waiting for more biscuits, as though she were a pet dog.
It was quite surreal. As dark clouds gathered overhead, pierced by occasional bolts of lightning and thunder, the fox came right up to me and jumped up to my knees with its front paws. It looked me in the eyes and started sniffing at my pockets for biscuits. Then she started tugging at the flap of my pocket and nearly pulled me off my chair.
It was a bit too close for comfort – and for photography - so I threw more biscuits, tossing them a little away from me. As I spun them into the air one at a time, she sat before me catching them in her mouth with the rain came down on her. It was quite an incredible experience.
I returned to the same spot again on my visit last week, wondering if I might catch up with that bold vixen or her cubs, but she is no longer around. I wonder what happened to her? Below is her portrait, which I painted on my return. 
Dalby Fox, painting by Robert E Fuller.

·       If you have any news of the Dixon’s Hollow fox, or of any interesting wildlife sightings, please let me know either by email mail@robertefuller.com or on twitter @RobertEFuller.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hiding from the wildlife: My top tips on camouflages and hides

I use hides a great deal. Once I am certain I know an animal or bird will appear in the same spot again and again – for instance if I've found a badger sett, fox den, or birds in a nest – I set about building a hide. I tend to make wooden hides as they are more stable and weather proof. Over the years I have developed my own designs and now build hides that are quick to put up and even have shelves and storage space for all my equipment. I spend a lot of time in them, so they need to be comfortable. My badger hide, for example, is insulated and has double glazed windows and a heater. It needs to be, I can spend up to four or five hours on a winter’s night in there.

Most of my hides measure roughly four foot square and six foot high with a main opening at the front and a sturdy shelf to bolt my tripod heads onto. I use up to three cameras at once so I don’t want tripods to get in the way. I like to be at eye level to my subjects, or just above them, and so if my subject is up high I use towers. I either make wooden towers or place a platform in a tree and use a scaffold to get up there.

Possibly the hide with the best view, I built this to watch buzzards in Snowdon, Wales
It can be frustrating being in a hide since you have a very limited view and if your subject is very sensitive you have to be extremely patient to wait for it to hone into view. Recently I’ve added a CCTV camera with a seven inch screen so that I have a wider view. I carry a battery pack to fuel this.
But I still rely heavily on my field craft. One of the first signs that a subject is close at hand is the noise of birds calling out in alarm, if I am studying a predator, or the sound of chicks calling their parents, if I am at a nest.

I use popup hides and canvas hides when I am travelling. And for mobile subjects like hares, deer or otters I use camouflage jackets and trousers to hide. I have a whole wardrobe of appropriate clothing, thick ones for winter and thin ones for summer. The summer gear often gets ripped on barbed wire or brambles but I find it invaluable because it scrunches up into tiny spaces so I can quickly put them over my normal clothes. It is important that I blend into the background. I sometimes use a wide piece of camouflage netting which I’ve attached to a T-shaped piece of wood so it hangs like a curtain. The central post and I tie this to my Wimbley head to create a one-sided mobile hide. It doesn’t work so well in a bramble patch or in strong winds but I have got some amazing results with it on still days.

Camouflage netting over a T-frame hides me and a camera in the field

The set up is very effective when viewed from the front

In snow, I’ve had some interesting times trying to blend into a white backdrop, including once donning a disposable DIY white suit and wearing a pillowcase on my head as a balaclava and white oven gloves on my hands to photograph hares. I even customised my tripod and camera with white covers. I've since invested in a snow white ski suit which is nice and warm.

I've taken some of my best photographs of hares whilst in my camouflage suit
Which I went on to develop into this painting.
Knowing when to be still and when it is OK to edge closer, or when to stop taking photographs, that is the key. This comes with experience. Only the other day I scared off a buzzard by flipping my 1:4 converters in my 200 to 400 lens. I’d been waiting five hours for it to appear! Birds of prey can see down your lens and even see the lens as it focuses. I’ve found they can even see my shutter moving.
At home I use my house as a giant hide. I have planted my garden with shrubs and hedging to provide plenty of cover and there are feeding stations and nest boxes throughout. I’ve positioned feeding boxes for stoats and weasels outside the kitchen window and feed birds of prey outside the living room window.

I also use plenty of hides in the garden. This year I made my ambitious hide yet, reached by an underground tunnel leading from my house. The idea for a tunnel arose after I became increasingly frustrated by the fact that if I spotted something I wanted to photograph outside the living room, it inevitably spotted me as I slunk out of the house and into the hide and disappeared before I got a shot.
The tunnel is made from a six-metre long three-foot wide drainage pipe. I use a trolley and pulley system to manoeuvre down its length. Now that I can slip into my tunnel and be in the hide undetected, I have been able to photograph the kestrels, tawny owls and even a family of weasels outside more easily.

I’ve also upgraded the hide. It is now very high tech with more than 20 wildlife cameras linked to five TV monitors showing me live images of all the wildlife activity in the garden at any one time. I really cannot miss any action whilst I’m in there!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Peregrine Action

York Minster Peregrine, painted by Robert E Fuller
The group that attended yesterday's gallery event to see peregrines at York Minster were treated to a spectacular show when three peregrines appeared in the skies above the medieval cathedral. My new gallery guide Jack Ashton-Booth, of the bird-watching group, York Peregrines, reported a fantastic display when an unknown female bird also appeared on the scene. "The peregrine pair that live on the ramparts of the minster didn't like this intruder one bit and so they flew straight at it, forcing it west out of their territory. It's very rare to see three together like this, in the four years I've been monitoring the peregrine pair that live here I've only seen three together a handful of times," he said.

Female Peregrine posing on the Minster during the tour
"We watched from the city walls where we had a fantastic view of the pair sitting either side of the North Tower. It was a fascinating event and was further enriched by two elderly members of the group who at one time worked on the minster, cleaning and repairing the stone. They brought an extra dimension to the experience when they described exactly how high each bird was perched - having actually worked at those dizzying heights themselves."
Male was perched on the opposite side of the North Gate

Jack is the latest member to join the team at my gallery in Thixendale. An experienced ornithologist, he has brought a wealth of expertise to our events. This weekend he led a total of four bird-watching tours, including a very successful kids walk to find young owls.
"This went down very well. We saw family of tawny owls, including the chicks, and then the children all came inside the gallery to dissect owl pellets. There was a birthday party group who were a particular pleasure to show the owls to as they were so enthusiastic."

Jack also led an event to learn how to recognise birdsong, in keeping with the theme of my latest exhibition of paintings of the songbirds of the Yorkshire Wolds. Attendees of 'Birds of Thixendale' reported hearing and seeing up to 40 different species on their walk on Saturday. If you haven't yet been to my exhibition it runs until July 3rd. The video below gives you a flavour of the paintings on show as well as a helpful introduction to learning birdsong.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Cocky Kestrel

I have been offering food to wild kestrels in my garden for many years now. It all started when I saw a young male kestrel in my garden, looking wet and bedraggled and hungry. Rain was forecast for a week and in sympathy I put a mouse on a fence post over an area of rough grass where I had often seen him perch. The mouse disappeared and the next day so did another. On the third day I watched him as he swooped down and took the mouse. I could not have imagined then this would become 10 year relationship and that I would come to know this wild falcon so well.

Over the years I have become very fond him – if feels to me like he is a wild pet – and I’ve even noticed that the feathers on his shoulders have gone a little grey lately. I call him Kes, after the captive kestrel in Ken Loach’s 1969 film. 
Kes flies into the garden for food every day and I can now whistle to let him know when I have put something out for him. He comes straight away and I am able to stay close to watch and photograph him. He and his long term partner, who I’ve of course named Mrs Kes, have become so used to me they frequently nest in the garden. Last year I started watching the pair even more closely. I placed cameras both inside and outside their nest box so that I could watch them 24:7. I then rigged monitors up in my studio, gallery, office and home so that I didn’t miss a single moment. The surveillance meant I was able to capture some magical moments, including when each of their eggs was laid and when their chicks hatched.

This spring started the same as other years. The male and female began by touring the garden and surrounding area, inspecting different nest sites. Thankfully all of these prospective sites were rigged with cameras so I even got an insight into this process too.The male would call his mate into a nest box and entice her in by offering her a tasty morsel; usually a dead vole or dead day old chicken’s chick provided by me – or, if he was really out to impress her, a lizard he had caught himself. As she entered the box he would repeatedly bow his whole body up and down, in a very comical fashion.
After a few weeks of watching her fuss over her different options, I was delighted when they chose one of the nest boxes I had put up in the garden. At the end of April, old Mrs Kes started to lay her eggs. She laid one every other day and started brooding when she had her third egg, before laying two more.

Then one day I saw a female kestrel sitting on the post where I put out food for Mr and Mrs Kes. I looked across at my TV monitors and there was Mrs Kes, as usual, sitting patiently on her eggs, so I knew this must be a new female. At first I didn’t think too much about it, since chicks from previous years sometimes come back. I had noticed that Mr Kes could be quite reluctant about chasing new females away from his territory, but he usually gave males short shrift.
Then I started to see a little more of this new young kestrel flying around the garden and sometimes even coming onto the post to feed. At the end of April, whilst Mrs Kes was still laying her clutch, this much younger female kestrel appeared in another nest box that I had cameras in. This one was made from an old ash stump and was just 100 yards away from old Mrs Kes’s nest box. In fact Mr and Mrs Kes had visited this nest box just two weeks earlier while they were prospecting for a suitable site. Mrs Kes had rejected it – possibly because both a barn owl and a pair of tawny owls were also considering it at the time. As I watched the monitor, a male kestrel joined the young female in the ash stump. Curious, I looked a little closer. Then I realised with surprise that this was, in fact, Mr Kes himself. Each kestrel is individual and I knew Mr Kes’s markings very well: the tell-tale grey tinge to the blue of the feathers on his shoulders was unmistakable.
The two females pictured side by side for comparison

Old Mr Kes had a ‘bit on the side’! He was clearly out to impress this young girlfriend because I then saw him offer her a lizard, which would have been amongst the choicest morsels he could have given.
Unfortunately, this relationship only lasted two weeks and then this younger kestrel disappeared. But then I noticed there was yet another female on the scene. I noticed this new one digging a nest scrape in the ash stump box. I could tell she was a new girlfriend by the markings on her tail feathers, which are quite distinct from those of the other young female. I suspect that this third female will have pushed the other young one out of the territory.
Before long I watched Mr Kes courting this new floozy. Again, he was out to impress and was feeding her choice morsels. But I noticed that despite his new relationship, old Mr Kes had not neglected his duties to long term partner Mrs Kes as she sat during the long dull days of incubation patiently keeping the eggs warm in the first nest box. I watched in amazement as he alternated between the two females, taking turns to help Mrs Kes incubate her five eggs and then flying 100 yards down the hill to keep up his courtship with the other female.

After 30 days of incubation Mrs Kes’ eggs began to hatch. And, the very next day the new girlfriend laid her first egg. Now, Mr Kes’ schedule was hotting up! Not only did he have to spend the day hunting for his new chicks, but he was also finding time take turns brooding his other bird’s eggs.
Visitors to my gallery have been enjoying seeing the two female kestrels with their growing chicks in their respective nests via the webcams when the visit Robert’s gallery in Thixendale. They may even spot a particularly harried looking male dropping by with a morsel of food before quickly flying off to hunt for more.
Pictures of all three kestrel girlfriends put together: notice the different markings on their tale feathers
I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for the situation he had got himself into. So I began to put more food out for him to take to his respective partners. Mrs Kes’ chicks are growing at an astonishing pace and the girlfriend’s chicks are due to hatch this week. I’m not sure how old Mr Kes will cope with all these mouths to feed but I admire him for the way he has coped so far. He has looked after both females admirably and gives equal time and effort to both. Kestrels in the UK feature on the RSPB’s amber warning list of species in decline. At least here on the Yorkshire Wolds, Kes is making his own particular contribution to restoring populations!

How could you not love a weasel?

This tiny weasel kit is just four weeks old and already it's a TV Star. The minute creature, which measures just 10cm and fits snugly in the palm of your hand, melted hearts when it appeared on BBC's Look North last week.
Traditionally despised as vermin, weasels are formidable predators. But this particular critter is turning the tide of opinion after appearing with me on the TV newsroom sofa.

I've been looking after him here at my home in Thixendale ever since a member of the public found him on a path on Walmgate Stray in York. He was only four weeks old and was barely moving - in contrast he barely keeps still now and I've named him Fidget, appropriately.
I'm glad I spent so long monitoring the wild weasels in my garden because it's given me a real insight into their early years. I knew, for instance, that Fidget would have already been eating meat when he arrived and so I didn't need to find a milk formula for him.

Weasels are usually seen as vermin and have been despised in our culture for centuries. I think most people who have the chance to see one up close and to observe it acting playfully will agree with me that the species are incredible survivors and when they realise just how tiny weasels are they might have more respect for their fearlessness. Perhaps Fidget might change the tide of opinion!
I've grown quite attached to him and in the first few days I woke up in the night to check up on him.
Weasels only live for a year in the wild and I'm undecided whether to release Fidget or whether it would be kinder to keep him since he's unlikely to be able to hunt with the ferocity he will need to survive in the wild.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Weasels in the Garden: Part II

I hope you enjoyed last night's film on BBC Springwatch. If you missed it click here to read my full story.

If you saw it you'll know it ended with a cliff hanger, with viewers unsure if the kits would manage to fend for themselves without their mother. She disappeared following a fight with a stoat in my garden. The story continues tonight on Springwatch so don't forget to tune in!

You'll be pleased to hear that at least five of last year’s kits survived to independence and two remained in the garden well in to the autumn. One of these was a male 'Mr Two Spots', who I named after the markings under his chin. These could only be seen when he stretched out his neck.

The following Spring, as the breeding season approached, I began to get anxious. I wanted a female to pair up with Mr Two Spots.

Not much is known about the courting behaviour of weasels and there was no knowing whether he would stay in the territory and lure a female in, or go off elsewhere to find a mate.
Then a female appeared on the scene. And it was literally love at first sight! The two weasels curled up in the nesting boxes in loved-up bliss, chittering affectionately together quite endearingly. Watch them here: 

Previous research suggests that weasels show intra-sexual territoriality – in other words that adult females exclude other females, and males exclude other males – but that the larger ranges of males include those of one or more females.

Two Spots and Teasel seemed inseparable – there was no chance at all that Two Spots could have had another female elsewhere. Indeed, in comparison with the brutal courtship I observed last year, between Mr Two Spots mother and his aggressive father, the tender relationship between Mr Two Spots and Teasel was remarkable. And it was Teasel who made all the advances, mounting and mock-mating Two Spots as he dozed and attempting to stir him to action.

Then, Two Spots seemed to experience a surge of testosterone. His testicles were huge! Purple and so swollen he could barely hold his tail down. His behaviour changed and the two lovers fought. Teasel was evicted and Two Spots’ newfound aggression kept her away from the feeding boxes. 

However, I was hopeful that having seen all the mating inside the nesting box that Teasel was pregnant and I held my breath for late May when I hoped she would be giving birth to kits inside one of the nesting chambers rigged with cameras.
And then both weasels disappeared. I thought I had lost them. Teasel eventually returned but there was no sign that she was pregnant. She was slim and lithe and very different from the weasel pregnancy I had observed the previous year with Mr Two Spot's mother, who couldn't make it in and out of the entrance holes to my boxes. Then on the very day Teasel was supposed to give birth a new male appeared on the scene. He was much bigger, with pale fur that was beginning to moult around the shoulders. I called him Caramac.
The first time he appeared on camera in the nest box, he met Teasel in the entrance tunnel and forced her back inside. He cornered her in the box, sunk his teeth into the scruff of her neck and proceeded to mate her for more than two hours in a protracted and violent coupling. This was much more aggressive that the tender approach of Mr Two Spots!

Scientific research has shown that weasels are induced ovulators – the act of mating stimulates the release of eggs from the ovary. Within weeks Teasel’s belly had swollen. She looked like a string with a very knot in it. You can almost see the kits moving inside her.

And now I am awaiting her due date of around 19th June with baited breath. I’m hoping she gives birth in one of my nesting boxes so that I can see the kits as they arrive. But even if she doesn’t she’s likely to move them at some point and I will get a chance to look in on the incredible process again.

If you are ever up in North Yorkshire - do call into my gallery at Thixendale (see www.robertefuller.com) where you can follow the action for yourselves in the live screens playing in my gallery! The next few months should be incredible.

Hope you enjoyed watching the episode.

About: The Weasel World that is my back garden!

Someone recently described my back garden as Weasel Big Brother. I call it Weasel Town myself, but the description is quite apt. Looking back, the tricks I used to photograph and film the weasels when I saw Mr Two Spot's mother for the very first time were quite archaic compared to the rig up I have now. Then, I relied on a mirror in the garden and a string attached to a piece of wood wired to the food I left the weasel - this set off a bell in my studio.

Of course I also used, and still do, the warnings let out by the song birds in my garden. Blackbirds are the best at sounding the alarm when a weasel is on the prowl.
But as the weasel sightings became more reliable I began to make some major alterations. I built weasel walkways along logs piles and hedges and even through scaffold pipes and hollow logs. I also built two drystone walls and in front of one I dug a reflection pool as an attractive foreground for my a new painting I’m planning.

And recently I’ve added a new hide connected to my living room via a tunnel so that I can move from one to the other without being spotted. The entire back garden is wired with cameras. In the corridor leading to the hide, I’ve mounted a large wooden box to the wall. It contains a cosy nest chamber, accessed from the outside at ground level. The chamber is lined with hay and lit with LEDs so I can film in full colour and HD, so illumination is essential.

And inside is a heat pad. Nothing but luxury for my weasels. After all I want to make sure the weasels stay here.