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Photographer Mike Brown shares knowledge of Irish wildlife with new online project for kids

'I’ve waited for 12 hours before and nothing turned up, other times you just get lucky — you have to have patience'
Veteran photographer Mike Brown.

Veteran photographer Mike Brown.

Jim Gallagher

Forget about African plains, South American jungles and Arctic tundra, there is enough wildlife in Ireland to keep the keenest of nature lovers happy.

So says veteran photographer Mike Brown who has spent the last 25 years snapping everything from tiny birds to rutting deer.

Now he is sharing his insider knowledge of the great outdoors with a new online project for children called For Our World.

The series of interactive learning adventures features animals in Dublin Zoo, photographed by Mike, with youngsters then encouraged to check out the wildlife and environment in their own neighbourhoods.

A giraffe photographed by Mike at Dublin Zoo as part of the For Our World project.

A giraffe photographed by Mike at Dublin Zoo as part of the For Our World project.

Interest in the natural world has rarely been stronger and Mike says naturalists like David Attenborough have done a magnificent job introducing the wonders of nature to people of all ages around the world.

"I've watched a lot of nature programs over the years - and still do - and the stuff Attenborough has put out over the years has been absolutely fantastic," he says.

"But even local stuff, like Springwatch and Autumnwatch on BBC, which focuses on things we have in the British Isles is great.

"There may not be herds of zebra being chased by lions but the local stuff is just as interesting. If you start watching it you will get hooked. They put little cameras in nest boxes and things like that so people can see the interaction live and it's really good stuff.

"Obviously, we can see slightly more incredible things on TV like polar bears in the Arctic, but the local wildlife is really just as interesting which is what I've always said.

"I've been to Africa and done a little bit of wildlife photography there, but funnily enough it's not something that interests me as much as what we have locally.

"We have plenty of wildlife in Ireland and it's just a question of finding it and then working out how to photograph it. It's nice when you do a bit of work on something and end up getting an interesting or beautiful picture."

Mike, who is based in West Cork and has published acclaimed books on Irish wildlife and nature, was invited to join For Our World by sponsors SSE Airtricity and Dublin Zoo.

And he jumped at the chance to bring the excitement of wildlife and conservation into Irish homes.

"I grew up in the company of my grandfather who was madly into nature and wildlife and taught me in the early days about butterflies, birds, flowers and insects," recalls Mike.

"His father had been a semi-professional photographer back in the early 1900s and his brother also became a semi-professional photographer.

"I discovered some of the great nature photographers of the 1980s and 1990s and it just interested me, so naturally I just went into that."

A red panda photographed by Mike at Dublin Zoo, featured as part of the For Our World project.

A red panda photographed by Mike at Dublin Zoo, featured as part of the For Our World project.

Patience and perseverance are key to getting the perfect shot, according to the renowned wildlife photographer.

"I love photographing foxes, particularly when the young are out at this time of the year, and I've spent hours hidden away waiting for them," he reveals.

"I might set up a hide a couple of weeks in advance if I know there's a female with a den.

"Then I go out very early in the morning and hope that the young foxes come out and perform for the camera.

"I've waited 12 hours before and I don't think anything turned up. You have to have patience and a bit of grit and determination.

"Other times things just happen and come to you. You get lucky. I have on occasion gone out to photograph one species, noticed something in a field when I drove by, thought, 'Wow, there is something happening there', got out and stalked my way up to whatever it was - a fox or a deer or something like that - and got a nice picture with no great effort.

"One thing I would say is I've learned a lot from talking to people at the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Although I had a good grounding in nature, when I got seriously into it they were very helpful in terms of locations and habitats and behaviour and things like that.

"All that information really helps when it comes to photographing different species without disturbing them, particularly in spring if something is nesting or has young."

Mike says his favourite subject to photograph is birds because of the different shapes they form.

A gorilla photographed by Mike at Dublin Zoo.

A gorilla photographed by Mike at Dublin Zoo.

He believes anyone can take a showstopping snap today thanks to high-tech camera phones and argues it may even be easier in the concrete jungle, where animals have become accustomed to people, than the countryside.

"The last time I was in Phoenix Park doing some work at the Zoo for SSE I took a little drive and there were runners with the deer in very close proximity taking no particular notice of them." he explains.

"Sometimes there is an advantage in going to places where animals have become used to people.

"If you go into a park in Dublin the birds won't be scared because they see people all the time.

"Likewise, I get a call every now and then to say there's an otter turning up somewhere in West Cork.

"It's used to the fishermen and the guys working on their boats and it doesn't take much notice of them.

"So it's actually worthwhile going to places like that and seeing the animals getting on with their business. It's not always about hiding out."

  • For Our World runs until the end of August, with new content added fortnightly. Visit for more

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