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How to Find Places to Photograph Wildlife Near You

Do you struggle with finding places to photograph wildlife near you? Many wildlife photographers feel that there are not enough opportunities for capturing amazing wildlife photos near their homes. Having to travel far away to a good location for capturing wildlife mean that you won’t go out to shoot as often as you could.

In this article, we will answer the common question: “how to find places to photograph wildlife near me?” We begin by looking at different habitat types and then move on to a few tips on how to narrow down the search.

The Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) looking in the camera. It inhabits woodlands and parks, depending for food and nesting sites upon old trees.

This article extends our article on how to find great locations for photography, which is more general in the tips and advices.

Great Locations to Photograph Wildlife Near You

Let us begin with the most obvious places for finding wildlife near your home.

National Parks

If you have a national park as your neighbor you would likely not ask this question. However many are not fortunate enough to live in such a place. But how far is it to the nearest national park? Is it actually possible to go back and forth on a day trip, or perhaps with a single night accommodation? You will likely have a greater chance of coming across wildlife in a natural park compared to an ordinary forest because the animals are not limited by hunting. However, they might also be a little shyer as they are not used to humans

Protected Areas or Natural habitats

Protected areas are often overlooked by beginner wildlife photographers. However, they are protected for a reason. They are often brimming with wildlife, and protected areas are often scattered more evenly across a country than national parks. Often a natural habitat gets protected because a few species are in danger of disappearing from the area. However, there will likely be a lot of other animals as well.

fox pup

Forests

If you have a forest nearby you will likely be able to spot common wildlife like squirrels and woodpeckers there, and perhaps an occasional deer. Find an area that is not so often visited by humans, and sit quietly and observe. When everything is quiet the animals will come. Moving around will likely scare them away before you even see them. Getting up early will also increase your chances greatly.

Parks and Botanical Gardens

You can often find a smaller variety of wildlife near where you live, in parks and botanical gardens. Because of the number of people visiting, the wildlife that sticks around is often more habituated to people and not as shy. This gives you better opportunities for capturing a shot of them as you walk through the park.

Fallow Deers

Lakes

Freshwater lakes are natural wildlife magnets because they have what every animal needs. Water! And some species find their food in the water. Observe which type of animals are present, and next when they are most active.

Urban Wildlife

In outer urban areas, you can often find squirrels, raccoons, and other smaller animals. Again, you should probably set your alarm to getting up early, as they are usually most active, when humans are still sleeping.

Your Own Garden

Finally, unless you live in a big city, you can try attracting wildlife to your own garden, by enabling free passage in and out of the garden. I did that a year ago in my own garden with a few 12 by 12 cm openings underneath the fence in three or four places. This summer we had a hedgehog moving in and during fall, it had 5 hoglets running around her. A water basin will also attract both birds, damselflies, and dragonflies probably within the first season or two.

Feeding birds will attract local birds within a few days. So there are plenty of options to attract wildlife to your own garden.

Now we have looked at the different places, where you can look for wildlife near your home. However, besides the garden, the area is still too wide to search, and to avoid relying on luck too much there are some alternative approaches to narrow down the search even further.

How to Find Out Which Wildlife Lives Near You

Apps and websites

Nature nerds, like myself, tend to gather in communities online. Even though you are not actively participating you can still learn a lot from birds, mammals, or plant communities. They often have some sort of location and species database, where you can search for a specific animal, and get the approximate location where someone from the community spotted it. This helps you narrow down where in your local area to keep an eye out for foxes, owls, or herons, or whatever you hope to capture a great photo of. A location search will show you which kind of animals have been seen at this particular location.

If you live in a Non-English speaking country, I suggest that you try to find a species database in your own language. Even though there are global apps like eBird, or iNaturalist, which are great, you will likely find that apps and databases in your own language will have way more local reporting of found species than global databases.

Ask your Friends, Neighbours and other Locals

Remember to let your friends know about your interest in wildlife photography and have them tell you if they spot something of interest to you.

Often when I am out capturing a few shots in a park or nearby forest, a random bypasser will stop and small talk a bit. They often go out their way just to let me know that they just spotted a squirrel or some herons a couple of minutes before on their path. One time, a stranger who wanted to small talk a bit ended up telling me about a spot, where she had previously met other photographers taking photos of kingfishers. Being new to the area, this is a valuable tip for me.

Kingfisher

Join the Local Facebook Group

Try to do a search on Facebook for a local nature group or photography group. Often the image quality in these kinds of groups is not that great, but the images come from all corners of your local area, which can give you hints about where to find specific species.

Look for Signs of Wildlife and Map it

I tend to look at finding great places for wildlife photography near my home, as the first step in the research. After this, you also want to map out signs of animal presence, nests or dens, sit spots, and where you can place a hide. With birds, you might also want to take a note of the wind direction when the birds are present and in which direction they move or land. This allows you to position yourself better for the actual photo session.

map snippet with possible locations for animal presence.
A small map snippet of my own research with spots of possible fox dens and woodpecker nests. (Sorry, it is in Danish).

Concluding words

It takes time to find great spots for wildlife photography. Even after first discovering an area with wildlife present, it can take weeks or months until you find the perfect spot for a hide, or where birds tend to land. Finding that place they revisit again and again increases your chances of success by tenfold.

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