Monday, 21 December 2009

Forest of Dean 21st December 2009

It snowed again during the night and this could mean only one thing? My friends would need feeding again!

While I was out there feeding the birds, a sparrow hawk came through, swiftly gliding as if on a blanket of warm air, not a sound, but very powerful.

For a moment I thought it was my fault, for attracting a large number of birds to one location? This is true, as the sparrow hawk will often use regular feeding locations as a source of food, but you have to weigh up the situation!

You feed up to and usually over 100 birds at one time, sometimes one will be taken by a bird of prey! This is unfortunate, but to lose one while helping over 100 to survive the winter has to be worth it?

Below is a video of a snow covered Forest of Dean, from one of our famous viewpoints, New Fancy View! With some birds and pics at the end.

Turn the volume up!


Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snow Birds - 20th December 2009

Woke up to snow this morning, but I knew it would not be around for long so I took a trip up to my favourite spot for photographing birds, near Speech House.
Birds find it harder to locate their natural food when the weather is severe, so by taking some seeds and nuts out with you, you are effectively helping them through the hard times, as well as enticing them closer so you can have a better view!

When you leave, you leave with a feeling that you have helped something to survive the hard times and if you have never felt this, "then I advise you to give it a go" because it is one of the best feelings you can have.
Great Tit



Great Spotted Woodpecker


If you like birds, click and watch the video below of them feeding in


Friday, 18 December 2009

Symonds Yat Rock - Viewpoint (video)

I took a trip down to Symonds Yat Rock viewpoint "early" this morning! It was sooooo cold that a crow froze solid in mid flight and flew straight into my eyeball, breaking his beak off!
Honest, here is the pic!

Click pic for larger view.

Anyway, enough of that. Here is a short video I put together from around 10 min of footage.

Turn the volume up!


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Birds of Prey

Here are a few pics of some Birds of Prey. Three are native and two are non-native to Britain! Do you know which is which?
Pics were taken at the International Centre for Birds of Prey at Newent, Gloucestershire.

White Tailed Sea Eagle.

Great Grey Owl.


Verraux Eagle.

Red Kite.


Monday, 14 December 2009

The Forest and it's Wildlife

Well we are supposed to have some snow this week? If we do I will be hoping to get out and photograph some wildlife!

Here are a couple from earlier this year when we had the bad snow in January. Taken at Speech House.

Robin in the snow

There is quite a lot going on here. They seem to like my seeds?
A female blackbird with male and female chaffinches.
A red kite.

The bluebells in 2009.

Finally, a male mandarin duck


Saturday, 12 December 2009

Birds in the Forest of Dean

A few from Friday 11th December. It was cold, but still good to be out.

What's down this hole, I wonder?

Let me see, I've got a longer neck!

Too late suckers, I already found it!

Mrs. Blackbird.

A Greenfinch.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Forest of Dean Visitors Guide 2010

The visitors guide is out now and I found myself looking at some familiar photographs throughout!
They have very kindly included some of my nature and wildlife photographs for 2010 and (without being big headed) it looks very cool indeed.

Look out for them, but in case you miss it, these are my pics used for 2010.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sad News

Very sad news!

To everyone who is not aware, a pure white fallow deer buck was filmed by a local guy and then a still was taken from the film and sent to the local Forester newspaper.
This would have been fine if the location had not been printed, but to say that he was filmed in the woods at ?????? ?????, kind of narrows down the vicinity in which he lives!
A national newspaper has picked up the story and is also using it! The problem now is that this deer will have a huge price on its head and there are too many people out there, which will hunt him and kill him for money.
I know the person who filmed him and he is a genuine nice person with a massive passion for our wildlife. He loves to go out filming our wildlife around the forest and would never intentionally do anything to harm it.
The editor responsible for printing its location in the Forester should have known better. It would have made no difference to the article if he had left the location out?
Very sad day, as this magnificent beast is only around 4 years old and probably won't see 5!

I could have gone public with my pics and video, could have made a lot of money also, but it would have been blood money and this is why I have never done it.

I have filmed him and photographed him many times and I have even posted his pics on here, but I have never given his location away.
The Forest of Dean covers over 42sq miles, so reporting a rare sighting does not jeopardise the subject’s safety unless you give the vicinity or exact location away.

I have said this before, in one of my recent posts... The media can be a great and effective tool in looking out for and protecting our wildlife, but it can also be the worse enemy any animal could possible have, if used in the wrong way.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Prince's Rainforests Project

A message from Briony Mathieson.

We are delighted to inform you that HRH The Prince of Wales will be making a keynote speech on December 15th 2009 at the opening ceremony of the High Level part of the UNFCCC Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

This is the first day of the second week of the conference, when the Heads of State and Ministers participate. This invitation reflects the impact of the pioneering work carried out by The Prince of Wales in the environmental arena over the last thirty five years, of which The Prince's Rainforests Project has been the most recent example.

The Prince will use this opportunity to highlight that the future of mankind can only be assured if a consensus is forged on how to integrate economic development with a real understanding of the ecological carrying capacity of the planet. This is the fundamental requirement of any solution to climate change and must be built on a public, private and NGO sector partnership. HRH will stress the urgent need to find a way to live as part of, rather then apart from, Nature.

A transcript of the speech will be available on our website later that day.

Briony Mathieson
The Prince's Rainforests Project

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Video and photographs taken in the Brecon Beacons, in January 2009.

Don't forget to - TURN THE VOLUME UP

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Evil Killers Lurking In The Forest

Due to the recent negativity (again), regarding the wild boar in the Forest of Dean, I thought I would show you this photo. What do you think?
Looks very scary yes, but I can assure you that I still have all my fingers and he was grunting with excitement. No threat whatsoever.

I am not saying that it is OK to approach wild boar, nor am I saying its OK to touch them. What I am saying is that from time to time, certain people have encounters with wild animals, some good and some not so good, but how many times have the boar attacked humans, in this country (or in the world), without good cause?
What I mean is that there are wild boar attacks on humans in countries where they hunt them. This is because the boar has been chased and scared half to death by a pack of dogs, which then savage it before the owner turns up trying to act all macho and man handle the boar in front of the camera, then they wonder why the boar has a go back and they get hurt.
These people see themselves as hero's and hard men, but in reality they are just attention seekers that get adrenaline rushes out of torturing and killing wild animals like the wild boar and deer.

Search YouTube, there are plenty of the sadistic, blood thirsty assholes on there, but if you do, be prepared to see some very nasty stuff and look closely at the video, as 99% of the time you can clearly see that the boar is just trying to get away and does not want confrontation.
Then do a search for un-provoked attacks on humans on the web and see what comes up! You will be surprised, as these animals do not attack for no reason.
If a dog threatens one then yes, the dog will get hurt, but if a dog also threatens a fallow buck during the rut, or an adder during the Spring/Summer, the dog will also get hurt, so to all the people who hate the boar just because they are worried about their dog, you are wrong to fear this creature just because you have a dog.

It is law that a person has to be in control of their dog while off lead in public areas, so if you are not in control, then you can't blame the boar, only yourself!

We must never forget that all animals in the wild and in captivity will protect their young, and they will usually do this, even if it means they will lose their own life in the process.
Does this sound familiar? It should do, as this is the same behaviour as us! We would also give our lives to protect our children, (well most of us anyway).

I am not a tree-hugger, nor am I any different to anybody else. I just have a passion for our wildlife and I will never ever sit back and ignore the scaremongering that is spread every single day regarding the wild boar. I have said from day one that the boar numbers will need managing, but this is obvious as if not, they will breed out of control. The fallow deer are managed in the same way.

The media can be used to highlight threats and environmental / conservation issues, for this it is a great tool, but used unwisely, it can be the worst enemy our wildlife has!

Thanks to Ben for taking this shot.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Wild Boar Family To Be Taken Out!

If you receive the FoD Review, then you would have probably read the article on the back page regarding the wild boar and dog incident?
What has shocked me is that Heather Lilley, a spokesperson for the Forestry Commission has openly commented that the unleashed dog responsible for disturbing the boar was injured by a sow protecting her young?
She then goes on to say that the boar would be taken out!
I take it she doesn't mean taken out of the forest and relocated? I think we all know that she means that the animal in question will be shot dead?!?
Just suppose that a Forestry Ranger did shoot this sow dead, what would happen to her young if they were not able to fend for themselves, would they be shot also? Lets face it, I don't think there are any boar shelters for homeless piglets around, is there?
What if the sow was shot dead and the piglets ran away! Is this not the ultimate in cruelty, to leave the offspring in the forest alone and unable to survive on their own? After all, wild boar piglets are not weaned until they are 12 weeks old!
I think this statement was not thought out and is very damaging for all concerned?

It doesn't matter, which side of the fence you sit on? This boar did nothing wrong and did nothing different than any other wild animal would have done. It is only that the boar are able to fend off dogs that the tables have turned.
How many times have dogs chased deer fawns through the forest, scaring them half to death, with the owners not giving a monkey's because they think their dog has more right in the forest because they are domesticated? Well sorry, but it doesn't!
It is unfortunate that the dog was injured, but going to the media just highlights the fact that there are dogs running around our forest, which are not being properly controlled by their owners?!?
Plus it also gives the anti wildlife scaremongers and armchair critics more fuel for their fire and believe me, there are plenty of them out there!

  • Wild boar are mainly nocturnal.

The gentleman was walking his dog at 06.30am, it would have been quite dark at this time and he used his torch to find his dog.

  • If the dog was on a lead.
It would not have been in the bushes, where it disturbed the sow and her young! I have no objection to walking a "safe" dog unleashed, but if it gets into a scrape, blame yourself, not the animal responsible for protecting its young as this is unfair and wrong!
  • Unleashed dogs.
Up until now, dogs have been able to run riot around our forest unleashed, scaring and attacking our wildlife without fear of anything. Most of these incidents go unreported as nobody is going to report their own dog for attacking a wild animal are they? Now there is an animal, which can stick up for itself and is not afraid of dogs, some people think they have no place in our forest? (See below)
  • The wild boar are native to Britain.

If people want to go down that route, the boar have more right to be here than the fallow deer have, as the fallow deer are not native! They were introduced by the Normans because they hunted the wild boar to extinction in the UK! They did try numerous reintroduction programmes, but guess what? They hunted them to extinction again and again before they could become re-established. So the wild boar does have a place in our forest, more so than you think.

What we must remember is that the forest is a wild place with wild animals. If you are worried about the boar and your dogs, keep them on a lead where you suspect there are boar and walk in the daytime when you can see your dog at all times. The owner of the injured dog states that this was not his first encounter and that the boar have been seen frequently in the area where his dog disturbed the boar.

I value all views, so all negative and positive comments appreciated, as always.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A Year Behind The Lens - 2009

This is my first year filming around the Forest of Dean. I have been photographing it for a long time, but I had never put a lot of time into filming, until this year.

As you can only upload 100MB of video to Blogger at one time, I had to be selective with my material and there is no music to my video as the sounds of the forest are far more superior to any music!

I hope you like what you see?

Monday, 16 November 2009

Animal Communication

Animals communicate just like humans, through being vocal. Most of the time we do not hear them, but I have isolated a few and then slowed them down in the following clip.
You will be surprised at the outcome!

PS: Bonus footage at the end.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Strike!

Rain and gales, not good weather for anything really!
As I can't get out and about with the cameras, I have decided to create something a little special from some old video footage.

Hope you like?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Photographing Snakes in the Forest of Dean

Well the weather is terrible for photography, so here is a video from earlier in the year, hope you like?

This is how you photograph snakes, you lye in the grass next to them and without shaking, push the shutter!

As you can see, the snake is not being disturbed and as long as we are quiet and calm he will be fine and will stay still long enough to allow us to get our photographs. I do not advise anyone without experience to try this, as this snake was not the only one in the vicinity and its always the one you don't see that gets ya!

The guy in the video is my nephew and fellow photographer, Paul Skelton and the snake is a male adder.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Male Adder Breathing

I filmed this male adder earlier in the year. He was on the other side of a wire fence, but that didn't stop me from getting a close up

Watch his nostrils flare while he is breathing.

Friday, 30 October 2009


As the cold weather bites, quite a few of our woodland critters will be nestling down for a long, deep sleep called hibernation.
Please find below, some facts about one of our main hibernating species, the snake. A much feared, yet misunderstood reptile.

Scientific names: Adder (Vipera berus) - Grass Snake (Natrix natrix).
Life span: Adder (up to 15 years) - Grass Snake (up to 25 years).
Mating: April (although never in two consecutive years). Both species.
Birth: August to early September. Both.
Young: Adder (up to 10 live young) - Grass Snake (up to 30 eggs).
Venomous: Adder (yes) - Grass Snake (no)
Active: Between February and October (depending on conditions). Both.

Fatal adder bite statistics on humans for the past 133 years.

Fatalities: Since 1876 there have been 14 fatalities caused by the adders bite in Britain, the last being a 5 year old girl.
The number of adder bites on humans, which requires hospitalisation is 200 per-year. This equates to around 1 in 300,000 people.

People who see adders are sometimes mistaken by their size as this snake is really quite small, when compared to the grass snake. Males usually grow to 60cm and females 75cm in length, the reason they look bigger is because they flatten their bodies to absorb the sun over a larger area, to warm up faster when basking and this gives the impression that they are twice as big as they really are.

The smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) is also a native snake to Britain, but it is only found in southern England.

Hope you enjoy the new video.


Fox In The Wild

OK, he was quite a long way away, but it is still nice to see these animals acting naturally in the wild. I have edited the clip, but I filmed him for approx 10min. He is a young dog fox, probably one of this years cubs?


Thursday, 29 October 2009

BBC Glos Wildlife Feature

Click the link below, it will take you to a new deer feature, which I have written for the BBC Gloucestershire website.
Knocked Autumnwatch off the top spot, lol.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fallow Bucks

Here are a few pics from my latest batch of fallow bucks, taken today in the forest.
(EDIT) I would just like to point out that I don't just walk into the forest and photograph deer like this. I sit, usually in very cramped, wet and cold places for up to 4hrs or more before I am rewarded with opportunities like these.
I am nursing a very sore back from my session today!

This melanistic fallow buck got a little frisky and jumped the fallen tree.

He then stood on the other side and looked out into the forest.

I have cropped this one. Common fallow buck.


Monday, 26 October 2009

Pics and Video From Today

Went walkabout earlier and found some more deer, although they didn't want to look at me today for some reason.
Must be my ninja skills?!

Can you see her? Click pic for larger view

I was tempted to jump on and hitch a ride!

My eldest daughter Alice was with me today, she is 14 years old and she sat in a cold, damp cramped environment for 3.5hrs and she was so quiet that these deer walked out no more than 20 feet in front of us.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Autumn in the Forest of Dean

I am reposting this video I created a while ago because it is about autumn and I love the record...
Forever Autumn by the Moody Blues...

Here are a couple of pics from the last few days...



Saturday, 24 October 2009

A Close Encounter

A close encounter with a large, mature fallow deer buck in the Forest of Dean, in October 2009.

Is this a true albino? Please comment...

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Another Fallow Buck

Another fallow buck, not as old as the last one, but still nice to see. Some doe's around also.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Fallow Buck

This is quite an impressive fallow deer buck with a few of his doe's in the Forest of Dean. Sorry about the shakey camera, no tripod today!

He is not that old, but he has some pretty impressive antlers already and I can't wait to see him in a few years time.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Water Voles

Are you doing your bit to help save our native species?
Through loss of habitat and the threat from mink, these mammals are in sharp decline and need our help to bring them back from the brink, or we will lose them from our Eco-system!
They have been killed in the past because people mistake them for rats.

The mink is a non native species, introduced from America and they are killing our native water voles, we saw this with the grey squirrel (another non native species introduced from America) and we did nothing to stop it, even after our native red squirrel was nearly wiped out. Now it is happening again.

Click Here To Help Save The Water Vole

Friday, 16 October 2009

Pics from BBC Points West

Well, I expect some will be looking for my pics featured on the TV last night, so here they are...

Fallow Doe (Dama dama)

Female Adder (Vipera berus)

Wild Boar (Sus scrofa)
White Fallow Buck (Dama dama)



Thursday, 15 October 2009

I'm a TV Star

Hi all,

Watch BBC Points West tonight 15.10.09 and the beloved Forest of Dean will be on, with yours truly expressing how much I love this place.
We stood in the rain for over three hours ruining some pretty expensive camera equipment, so I had better shine!

If it is not edited in time, it will be on Friday's show.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Forest Poems

A couple of poems as some of you liked my last one. This first one is simply called...
"The Forest of Dean" and if you haven't seen it, look at the first letter of each line. It spells out a wonderful place!

"The Forest of Dean"

From warm summer sun, to winters bite
Our seasons, a remarkable sight
Rivers winding and weaving away
Early morning, to end of day
Starlings flock, each others rock
Together they fly, I wonder why?

Otters playing, near the stream
Fade away to a distant dream

Done, my work will never be
Even if, they were all free
Ask yourself; is it worth the pain?
Never will it be for gain

This one is called "Too Macho"

The forestry paths, they look like a snake
Winding around, oh look there’s a drake
A newcomer ahead, oh no it’s a boar
They want them all dead; I find this the real bore!

Some say I am mad, to walk here alone
But after a while their voices just drone
As I walk at night, there is nothing to fear
But I do get a fright when I startle a deer!

From the wind in the trees
To a leaf on the breeze
I am really quite at ease

Some sit at home through the wind and the rain
Not me though, it’s never a pain
From tough winter snow, to autumn glow
The animals, they all know

I am at one, even after a fall
Sit there and listen, what is that call?
I love to roam and I never groan
For this place is my home

“Tree hugger”, huh, I’ve been called worse
Don’t they know, we all know how to curse!
Some think they’re too macho to do this thing
“But they just wear too much bling”!

To my friends and foe
Even the people I do not know
Do not judge me for what I do
For one day it will be you



Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Recent photographs

Here are some pics from the last couple of days.

I don't know what this bird is called! Maybe someone can help?

Red Eared Terrapin, or Red Slider. This is a alien species. Probably a discarded pet?

Grey Heron in the sun

Cormorant on a misty lake

Thanks for looking.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

BBC Made in England - Art from the Heart

As many of you reading this are probably aware, there is a literature festival being held over the next week at Cheltenham Town Hall.

The project I was involved in was organised and led by BBC Gloucestershire and the Arts Council England for Made in England.

I was one of 20 individuals selected from Gloucestershire to work with Marcus Moore and Ben Cavvana on a project called Art from the Heart, which saw each person select a place within the county that means a lot to them, photograph it from a unique perspective and write a poem about it.

I chose Woorgreen Lake in the Forest of Dean as this place means everything to me. As a boy I grew up around the forest and spent many weekends playing around this lake. As I grew older, my passion for wildlife and nature took over and Woorgreen Lake became my focal point for the forest.
There is another reason why this place means a lot to me. My parents introduced me to nature and wildlife at a very young age and if it were not for them, I may not be leading the life I am today. I have a great deal to thank them for and I will be forever grateful.

I will post links to the project and my photograph below, but here is my poem. It is supposed to symbolize how I can walk into our forest, stressed, angry and tired, but within a few moments I relax and become at one with nature and all my worries and stresses leave me.
I will always live in the Forest of Dean, I couldn't imagine my life without it and I want to thank Marcus and Ben for helping me share my passion.

Woorgreen Lake (Lost in Tranquillity)

As I Sit and watch with eyes glaring
Tensed and gnarled like an oak
The Buzzard soaring high “daring”
Looking through the water, I feel broke

I close my eyes and listen quietly
There are many places I have been
A passer by whispers politely
Asking what I have seen?

The walkers, the joggers, some think it’s a race
The beauty, it makes my heart ache
I could talk for hours about this place
From the snakes and the boar, to the deer and the drake

My inspiration and my rock (Woorgreen Lake)

In Pictures

Made in England - Art from the Heart

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Autumn is here

Here are some autumn pics from this year and previous years. All were taken in the Forest of Dean.