An Autumn scene from the Forest of Dean.
This shot was taken during the fallow deer rut in the Forest of Dean. I have a tendency with my wildlife shots to try to get as close to the subject as I can. Quite often though, I think it makes for a better picture to show the wildlife in the context of the surroundings and habitat in which it lives... which is also a long winded way of trying to cover the fact that I alerted these deer long before I could get any nearer to them.
As many will know, I've spent a few years watching and photographing the wild boar of the Forest of Dean. In all that time it's been an exciting, interesting, challenging and rewarding experience. I have more boar pictures than I'll ever get round to putting online, yet still I continue for that special shot... until recently. Frankly, I haven't wanted to. Whilst the boar have been gaining a lot of good publicity, with regard to a much needed closed season and a management policy founded on the basis of conservation rather than politics, something else has been happening.
People have been coming to the forest from far and wide, and no doubt from nearby too, hoping to see the boar. Simultaneously, people have been feeding the boar, and to such an extent that I know of at least 4 groups that are now tame. Having spent years watching an elusive, mostly nocturnal, secretive and mysterious creature as unobtrusively as I could, I now see them in car parks, lay-bys, road-sides, illuminated by the headlights of a line of cars, while adults clap to get them to look in their direction for a picture, throw food at them, hand-feed them, or in daylight with children approaching them with their mobile phones.
It's upsetting to see so many years of re-establishment being undone so quickly. Yet these people intend no harm - many of them have had a once in a lifetime experience, It's hard to criticise people for pulling over and having a look - who wouldn't stop to see a species they've never seen before? But the ultimate consequence of all of this is that these tame boar will be shot by the F.C. I have little doubt that many of the boar described have already been shot, and if they haven't they probably soon will be. Through no fault of their own, they've lost their 'wild', and you could argue that removing them from the population is the best thing to do at this stage. But it shouldn't have got to this stage - people must stop feeding the boar. By all means go in to the forest and try to track them down - you'll have a great time and a truly special experience. But for the sake of their very chances of a continued existence in the forest, the feeding needs to stop.
Whilst the F.C's current boar management policy has led to an ever-decreasing average age of boar in the forest, leading to inexperienced sows raising their young, they are now having to contend with artificial temptations that are chisseling away at their instincts for survival. In other words, when the time comes, they'll probably queue up to be shot. Fortunately there are still wild wild boar in the forest, but let's keep them that way.
May Hill, shot in infrared.
The Hill used to be known as Yartleton Hill, but may have been renamed because of the May Day activities there. The top of the hill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
This shot was from July. I've got more wild boar photos than I could put online, but I'll continue to put some select pictures online now and then. I liked the colour and dappled light on this one.
Here's a cutting from the local newspaper...
We visited the Levity III luminarium today, which is currently visiting Lydney. It's basically a large maze of colour, curves and geometry... architects-of-air.com/.
If any local visitors to this blog can find the time to visit before it leaves, I recommend you do.
Levity III is inspired by the beauty of natural geometry and by Islamic architecture. It features winding passages of small domes inspired by repetitious forms found in the bazaards of Iran.
I finally committed to getting my old 450D converted for IR. This is just a test shot really, so that I could experience the novelty of shooting a living, moving thing in IR (I'm used to exposures of several minutes when shooting IR). The coverted camera is not a replacement to shooting IR through a filter - I'll still be doing that too. The conversion uses a stronger filter than I'm used to (colour will be very limited - this hasn't been converted to b/w), and should make for some interesting shots once I've got to grips with it. This was taken at 1/60 sec at ISO100.
This is another species I'd been really keen on capturing this year. Whilst I haven't really managed quite what I wanted, I'm still pleased. These are the hardest deer to see in the Forest of Dean, partly because they're so small, and also because they don't exist in any great number here. This was captured a couple of evenings ago. I'm really hoping to improve on this shot some time. I could hardly believe my eyes this evening when I saw one of these chasing a fox! I was in no position to get a picture though, so had to make do with just watching.
I've been noticing the evenings drawing in a bit, so I've been having a bit of a panic regarding various ongoing wildlife projects, and had little time for Flickr or much else. I think some of it will just have to wait until next year. One thing I really wanted to capture this year was fox cubs. Those plans were spoiled a month or so ago, and I'd all but given up for this year. However, a turn of fortune has resulted in this, hopefully the first of more to come. I photographed this cub at about 9.30 in the evening, hand-held at 1/25 sec, F5.6, ISO3200. I'm hoping next time that I'll manage an earlier shot, and next year, I will get those tiny cub pictures I've been after :)
This is a series of exerpts from a much larger amount of video that I shot this month. However, the video is 6 minutes long, and this is just 90 seconds. The full 6 minutes is available on youtube here. I've reduced the video resolution from 1920 x 1080 to 720 x 576 to give my slow connection a chance!
This shot is one of a series from perhaps the most exciting, and at times heart-pounding, wild boar encounter I've had yet. They were on a hillside completely covered in fern, in many places way above my head. It was all very 'Jurassic Park' with ferns shaking and moving all over the place (there are youngsters about too), and very few actual glimpses of the boar. In order to get any visibility I ended up lying down under the fern canopy after this shot, from where I managed a lot more shots. I have a huge respect for these elusive creatures, and fell in love with them the very first time I found them. I also got quite a few minutes of HD video, which might also find its way on to the blog.
and here's the clip that was shown a year ago...
Another attempt at video, this time on a tiny wood mouse. Wood mice inhabit forests, grasslands, and cultivated fields. Almost entirely nocturnal and terrestrial, wood mice burrow extensively, build nests of plants and live in buildings during harsh seasons. While foraging, wood mice pick up and distribute visually conspicuous objects, such as leaves and twigs, which they then use as landmarks during exploration.
All according to Wikipedia, of course.
This was taken a couple of weeks ago. He appeared right at the end of the track as a mere speck, and I hit the deck under an overhanging gorse bush, hoping it would continue along the track. There was time to rattle off a few shots, but it heard the shutter and then spotted a tiny bit of movement, and ran.
I shot this a couple of evenings ago. The camera-work is pretty shaky. All these boar in the video are maybe two to three months or so old, still stripy and pretty small. The parent sow is further away out of shot throughout the video. When the piglets get my scent they run in her direction at the end. I definitely need some practice at shooting steady video!
This is a pretty rare sight in the Forest of Dean, so I was pleased to see it today. The shot has been quite heavily cropped. If I'd made an attempt to get closer, it would have bolted. I got a number of shots of it, but the rest are fairly 'samey'. I'm hoping this bodes well for the weekend, as it's been a pretty quiet week as far as the wildlife is concerned.
I'd finished taking some photos of this wild boar last night, and decided to try the video function of the new camera while it munched on something it had unearthed. Considering the poor light, and my complete inability to operate the video properly, it wasn't too bad for a first go. It's only a few seconds long as my CF card was full!
This shot (taken in March) is dedicated to two determined friends who travelled 100+ miles today with the hope of seeing wild boar with me. We found two sounders (much to my relief!), and despite being pretty close to both groups, the views weren't great and pretty short (sorry guys). At least there was time for a few snaps and it was a great day to be out. Plenty photographers in the forest today, and it was scorching.
There's at least two more piglets in the background on this picture. The two mothers were nearby, right of shot, with the less adventurous youngsters.
I'm still kicking myself about this shot. I messed up. I'd taken a few shots of the adder as he basked motionless in the sun. Then just as I finished and moved back a little, he did a huge yawn, revealing those fangs. By the time I'd found him again in the viewfinder he'd started to close his mouth (it was wider than this!), and my aperture setting was inadequate. One of those shots that look great on the little preview on the camera, but result in disappointment as soon as they're reviewed later.
I can't think of a title. I must have no end of photos called 'Fallow Deer'. At least this one's a bit different. It's one of a small herd that was grazing on a long clearing for the power lines in the forest.
Another shot from this encounter with the newest arrivals to the Forest of Dean. You can just about make out another young one in the background rooting the forest floor, and another one trying to muscle in at the corner in the foreground. There were two sows present - more pictures soon :)
Saw two or three adders today, but mostly they didn't want to pose for pictures. Managed to get this one though, and a couple of very close ones. Always tricky to get a clear view of them without grass and stuff in the way. Found a grass-snake yesterday too, but again, no picture :(
It's taken me two or three weeks to find them, but I've finally found my first wild boar piglets of this year! I got quite a lot of pictures of them, along with the parent sows. It's that time of year again, and I've still got tons of shots from last year that I haven't uploaded!
This was shot late last night in the Forest of Dean (Plump Hill). It was done with 103 x 30 second exposures, so shows just under an hour's worth of the Earth's rotation. A torch was used to illuminate the foreground in the final exposure. If it weren't for the frost that was forming throughout the shoot, the weather was perfect with not a cloud in the sky.
This decision affects all of the forests included in the consultation, which is great news - not just the Forest of Dean. On a local level though, full credit to the HOOF team for their unrelenting effort - that was a first class campaign.
It was the Wyedean Rally in the Forest of Dean yesterday. It always brings a lot of spectators in to the forest, but it's not my sort of thing really. We only saw a few of the cars and a small herd of traumatised deer.
1/15 sec, ISO 100, F8
This is the same boar as pictured in my previous upload. I spent quite some time with him, and on occasion I pushed my luck a bit too much. This picture was taken just before a charge - not quite what you want when you're squatted down with a camera stuck to your face! Boar do not charge unprovoked - I really was a little too close. The charge was only a warning, or a 'dummy' charge, stopping short a couple of metres or so. Didn't stop me from taking cover behind the nearest tree trunk though! This is definitely how not to go about watching wild boar :) We parted company on much better terms - I recorded some video of him putting himself back to bed later on, and will get that uploaded soon.
Sometimes I'm not always as stealthy (or as sensible!) as I should be when photographing our wildlife. I found this male wild boar asleep last weekend. I took a few snaps as I quietly approached, until finally I saw his eye flick open in the viewfinder. A split second after this shot he was on his feet and ran away in the other direction. This was not the end of this encounter though by a long way... I'll share some more photos soon :)
A young wild boar suckles the milk from its mother in the Forest of Dean.
The government has released the details of its public consultation on the sale of our forests. In summary, the proposal is that 'heritage' forests (eg Forest of Dean, New Forest) are handed to charities (though which, and what happens when the money runs out remains unclear, and the law will still be changed to enable a future sell-off without further recourse to Parliament), other forests to be sold to 'the community and civil society' ('cos we've all got bags of money to spare at the moment right?), and commercial forests to be sold to big business. Already the least forested country in Europe, this government won't be happy until it's all off-limits and in the hands of their tory mates.
Hands Off Our Forest - The Forest of Dean campaign.
The national petition - now over 310,000 signatures and growing.
Every day the pressure mounts on David Cameron and his government to ditch the undemocratic and widely hated Public Bodies Bill. In the last few days a YouGov poll, numerous national press articles and letters signed by the powerful and famous all say the same thing - we want to keep our forests as they are!
Following up from my post of the 23rd December, these were taken at a local demonstration in the Forest of Dean yesterday. (BBC News)
The Forest of Dean is under threat as never before. Government plans to sell it off will limit access and destroy centuries of tradition. The mixed broad-leaf and conifer woodlands, so well managed by the Forestry Commission as an amenity for all, will be ruined. Please visit the Hands Off Our Forest campaign's web site and show your support by signing the petitions. Please also visit 38degrees and sign the petition there. The website of the local tory MP and cabinet minister (Mark Harper) is unavailable at the moment, presumably because it was full of promises to preserve the forest - something that is completely at odds with his new-found stance. He's very much in favour of selling off the forest - no doubt propelling his political career further. He refused to attend today, nor to send a representative. You can read about him at this page though, and email him here. It's not just a local problem either - it's not just the Forest of Dean that's being proposed to be sold - it's ALL our forests.
Wishing everyone a very happy new year.