A wildlife photographer from Oxfordshire has revealed his top pictures of 2022, as the year comes to a close.

Simon Booker, who lives in South Stoke, is a keen photographer who captures the extensive variety of wildlife and natural landscapes in Oxfordshire.

Mr Booker’s top snaps this year are very bird heavy and include a snowy owl, cormorant and sparrowhawk.

Check out his best pictures below:


Oxford Mail: JANUARY - Heavy Weight Visitor'- Snowy Owl , Massachusetts, USAJANUARY - Heavy Weight Visitor'- Snowy Owl , Massachusetts, USA (Image: Simon Booker)

During the first month of the year, Mr Booker flew to USA on business in January and got a hire car for one day to drive 60 miles in the hope of seeing a snowy owl.

Luckily - he did! He had to wait three hours in -7 degrees weather for the bird to fly overhead, as they tend to sit for hours sleeping.


Oxford Mail: FEBRUARY - 'Diver Down' - Skylark, South Stoke, OXONFEBRUARY - 'Diver Down' - Skylark, South Stoke, OXON (Image: Simon Booker)

Mr Booker said: "You always hear them, you often see them, you sometimes see them land - but you hardly ever get a picture on the ground."

He added that he "loves the light on this shot and the 'quiff'".

Mr Booker also pointed out that the skylark population fallen by 50 per cent in the last 20 years, which evidenced by the British Trust for Ornithology. 


Oxford Mail: MARCH - 'Puppy!' , South Stoke, OXONMARCH - 'Puppy!' , South Stoke, OXON (Image: Simon Booker)

March saw a big change in the Booker household with the arrival of an adorable new puppy. 

The fluffy tyke is described by Mr Booker as "cute, fun and grounding". 


Oxford Mail: APRIL - 'Hard Stare' - Peregrine, Marlow Church, BUCKSAPRIL - 'Hard Stare' - Peregrine, Marlow Church, BUCKS (Image: Simon Booker)

Mr Booker explained that in April heard there was a family of peregrines living on the steeple at Marlow. 

He took a wander over to the spot at the bank holiday to see if he could get a snap of one of the birds. 

Mr Booker said he spent two hours "straining skyward" while the bird sat and did not really do anything. 

Passersby asked him "What are you doing?" but - finally - after the long wait, the bird did a menacing stretch and he snapped this shot. 

This picture was a summary of 'patience 101' for the photographer. 


Oxford Mail: MAY - 'The Fullbrook Barn Owl' - Barn Owl, South Stoke Water Meadows, OxonMAY - 'The Fullbrook Barn Owl' - Barn Owl, South Stoke Water Meadows, Oxon (Image: Simon Booker)

This type of picture - a horizontal, in-flight 'head on' shot - is a favourite of Mr Booker's in relation to owls. 

"For this owl I was in a field up to my eyeballs in grass in full camouflage 9pm at night on a May evening. I suffered a stroke the next day. Had it been on this evening I guess I am not sure they would have found me for hours.

"This image has huge emotional significance for me and a reminder that I was given a second chance at life," he said. 


Oxford Mail: JUNE - 'A Parents Work is never Done' - Treecreeper, Checkendon Equestrian Centre, OXONJUNE - 'A Parents Work is never Done' - Treecreeper, Checkendon Equestrian Centre, OXON (Image: Simon Booker)

Following Mr Booker's stroke, he rehabilitated by walking in the woods at the equestrian centre when I could be driven.

While on a walk one day, he spotted movement and found a treecreeper feeding four chicks in the depths of the bark of a huge pine.

"Great lighting, crane fly in beak. I watched for 3o minutes", he said. 


Oxford Mail: JULY - 'Soar' - BUZZARD, South Stoke Water Meadows, OXONJULY - 'Soar' - BUZZARD, South Stoke Water Meadows, OXON (Image: Simon Booker)

Describing this photograph, Mr Booker said: "A stunning mid morning dog walk was punctuated by this buzzard.

"Normally buzzards are shy and veer off as soon as they see you.

"On this occasion however, it did a full fly-by and I got a sharp image at reasonably close range.

"Just vibrant and stunning image of a raptor that has been forced into 2nd place by the introduction of the bolder Red Kites."


Oxford Mail: AUGUST - 'Leap of Faith' - KINGFISHER , Withymead Nature Reserve, Goring on Thames, OXONAUGUST - 'Leap of Faith' - KINGFISHER , Withymead Nature Reserve, Goring on Thames, OXON (Image: Simon Booker)

This summery image of a kingfisher shows off how they are a "stunning piece of engineering design". 

To Mr Booker, these small, brightly coloured birds are "most beautiful of British birds". 


Oxford Mail: SEPTEMBER - 'Perch' - Stonechat, Greenham Common, Newbury BERKSHIRESEPTEMBER - 'Perch' - Stonechat, Greenham Common, Newbury BERKSHIRE (Image: Simon Booker)

Mr Booker said: "I followed the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildife Trust guide to visit a few different sites and saw Greenham.

"A place of so much conflict it is now a haven for wildlife and vast expanse of gorse and common nature.

"At 7am the stonechats were everywhere and this male watched from his perch and the colours are just wonderful. Berkshire at its best!"


Oxford Mail: OCTOBER - 'Soggy Sparrowhawk' - South Stoke, OXONOCTOBER - 'Soggy Sparrowhawk' - South Stoke, OXON (Image: Simon Booker)

During the four years Mr Booker has been undertaking 'serious photography' he said he has only seen these birds a few times and never got a decent photograph. 

However, in October he was by a lake and one flew in, sat on a post and then dived into the water out of view.

"I am not sure what breakfast was (fish or rodent), but the soaked sparrowhawk sat in trees for 45 minutes before heading out.

"I have a variety of shots, but this one shows those yellow eyes of death," he recalled. 


Oxford Mail: NOVEMBER - 'Catch of the Day' - Cormorant, Beetle and Wedge Pub, Moulsford, OXONNOVEMBER - 'Catch of the Day' - Cormorant, Beetle and Wedge Pub, Moulsford, OXON (Image: Simon Booker)

"You can plan what you like but sometimes you just need to seize the moment," Mr Booker said. 

As is the case with this photograph, he explained he was having lunch at the Beetle and Wedge pub when this cormorant resurfaced with a huge prize. 

Using a new camera, and a wealth of practice and he managed to get his shot. 


Oxford Mail: DECEMBER - Where Eagles Dare - Bald Eagle, Quabbin Reservoir, Massachusetts, USADECEMBER - Where Eagles Dare - Bald Eagle, Quabbin Reservoir, Massachusetts, USA (Image: Simon Booker)

The final photograph of the year features an iconic bald eagle. 

Mr Booker said: "They say 'we measure our lives not by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away'.

"Surely there is nothing that comes close to the iconic bald eagle and the freedom, spirit, power and peace it represents to every American.

"I set myself a goal of a picture of one in the wild, free and in a habitat typical of North America.

"I went to visit Quabbin reservoir in Western Massachusetts. Three hours in and I had seen one seagull and I started to doubt my research.

"As if by magic a few minutes later an eagle appeared from behind a pine tree and tracked across the lake some 50 yards away.

"Could all the hours of practice, research, hiking , technical skills development and investment in the best tools for the job deliver?

"You will be the judge of that not I, but I can say this was a truly magical and emotional moment for me.

"A bald eagle is 7 feet of imperious top of the food chain attitude!"


Read more from this author

This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing: sophie.perry@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

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