Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, from the Forest of Dean!

2011 is going to bring some challenges where our wildlife and forests are concerned in the UK, but this doesn't mean we should stop fighting to protect every living thing out there. If anything, it will make me work harder to make sure they will always have a safe home and lead a free life.
It is power and greed, which wants to destroy our beautiful ancient forests, but as the majority, we can stop them!


Monday, 20 December 2010

Help the Birds this Winter!

Did my duty and gave the birds a feast yesterday. One thing I did notice was the absence of quite a few different species from my usual feeding site.

No Bluetits
No Dunnocks
No Grey Wagtails
No Pied Wagtails
No Long Tailed Tits
No Great Spotted Woodpeckers
And only a couple of Great Tits and Chaffinches

There were plenty of robins, cole tits, nuthatches and blackbirds, but I was a bit concerned at the absence of the other birds as this area has "always" shown a great abundance of birds and a wide variety of different species.


Friday, 17 December 2010

The Forest of Dean is NOT FOR SALE!

Living in the Forest of Dean my whole life has been incredible. My childhood memories of building tree camps and walking around the forest finding snakes, while learning about all our other wildlife could never be topped.
Every day I grow fonder of this place and could not imagine living anywhere else. Away from my family, the forest and wildlife is my passion, my reason for living.

I would like to ask everyone who is reading this to support the fight to save the Forest of Dean from being sold into private ownership.
The FoD is one of Britain's most ancient forests and because of its unique, ancient and varied habitats, it also supports wildlife, which is also unique.
Bircham Wood near Coleford in the Forest of Dean has already been sold. Hunting and harvesting rights were included in the sale and this is bad news for the forest and our wildlife!
Once the wildlife has been shot and the trees chopped down, we could see this beautiful part of the forest left as a baron wasteland, or even worse, developed for housing etc.
There is not one part of the forest, which is safe!

I can't and don't want to imagine what the FoD would look like without its forest, but one thing I do know.....

It would then be called just "The Dean!"

We are going to need more than just a giant if we are to stop these insane proposals, so please help us be showing your support, today!


HOOF on Facebook

HOOF Official Website

Forest of Dean on Wikipedia

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Badger Cull!

The Government is consulting until 8 December 2010 on a policy to control bovine TB (bTB) based on licensing the culling of badgers in specific areas in England. Gloucestershire is one of the counties where the incidence of bovine TB in cattle is particularly high.
Please help oppose the proposed badger cull.



Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I have started a new blog, dedicated to one species that is and always will be close to my heart. The snake.
We have two snakes in the Forest of Dean and both are native. They are the grass snake (Natrix natrix) and the adder (Vipera berus).

The adder is Britain's only venomous snake and this, accompanied by all the scare stories that have been around since time began, has given the snake a bad reputation.
Some people fear them, some people even kill them on sight, but this is down to ignorance and a lack of education because no animal deserves to die just because the TV has told us that they can be dangerous!

I love the snake for its shy secret life, its stealth and above all its beauty!

I hope you like my blog and please recommend it to your friends. Thanks.



Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Grass Snake

The photographs below show a clutch of 18 hatched Grass Snake eggs, plus the skin from the female who layed them.
Going by the size of the skin she was a very big snake. I have sloughed skins from 120cm snakes and this skin was considerably bigger!

As the young snakes hatch, they use a small egg tooth to cut through the leathery egg casing. They lose this tooth not long after they have hatched.

Hole where young snake has broken through.

Close up of mature female skin. Top scales - Mid body section.


Sloughed skin complete with eye scales.

Top scales.

Close up of belly scales.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Fallow Deer Rut - Ward's Wildlife

Below is a link to my most recent wildlife column article, in colour with photographs. Page 33.
This will be available until 27/10/2010.
I have also pasted the text below if you want to read it after this date.

Ward's Wildlife

Forest Lords in Battle!

Standing at an impressive 200cm in full antler, the fallow buck is our largest mammal in the Forest of Dean and during the month of October, it is the best time to hear and witness the rut, where they battle each other for the right to mate!
They will parallel walk before engaging each other – This involves walking next to each other until one turns to face the other. When this happens, the other buck will quickly turn and with all their strength, they lock antlers.
It is then down to strength and stamina as they force each other backwards into submission.
However, strength and stamina is not the only way of winning a fight! A well placed antler or a slip from the other buck can cause serious injury and even death!
If you are out walking in the forest you may hear the bucks calling from their stands. A deer stand can be identified by the severe thrashing of the nearby trees and also bare ground where they have scraped away the grass. The stands are also the buck’s territorial markers and as they patrol their territory, they call from each stand to herd and protect they’re doe’s.
The doe’s give birth in June after a gestation period of nearly 8 months, so they don’t get much of a break!
This is a time of year, rain or shine when I love getting out there before sunrise. The call of a fallow buck sounds like a mixture of a lion’s roar and a loud belch. Walking into the dark forest with these noises all around can be a bit spooky, but I get a buzz from the anticipation of what I might capture!
Once in the middle of the forest, I find a good location with clear views all around, not forgetting to select a location with a good solid tree that I can rest against.
I quickly erect a makeshift hide from dead branches and cammo netting to conceal myself and sit perfectly still and quiet.
You can sit there for hours without a decent view of a single deer, but a lot of patience and persistence is required if you want to get a decent photograph without disturbing them.
You cannot predict where a fight will happen and even though I have been photographing the rut for many years now, I have not managed to get a decent photograph of one. Maybe this will be my year!

Please remember – our forest is home to our wildlife and as we are supposedly intelligent human beings, we must put all the wildlife first and not disturb it, especially when they are mating.

Note: Please take extra care when driving the forests roads. The deer are more active at this time of year, especially during the early morning and late evening when the light is poor.
Road conditions can make it harder to stop and there are too many incidents on our roads involving our wildlife.
Take it easy and look after yourself as well as our wildlife!


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Urban Wildlife? - Forest of Dean

Bit of a stink being kicked up in the local press (again) regarding the rootings and mess left behind from the boars, pictured below at an Industrial Estate in Cinderford.

So, a bit of grass has been turned over and then the screams start for the blood of the wild boar!

I was kneeling down in between these animals to get some of my pics and one even gave me a nudge to say get out of the way and off my worm.
1. If it isn't the Rooting its the....
2. "What if I were a child!"
3. Then we have the "I was charged for nearly a mile!" Yeah OK!
4. And not forgetting the "They are going to cause a serious accident on our roads!"

I haven't finished yet!

1. I will now ask everyone who reads this and drives around the forest over the next 4 months to look at the road verges for litter and rubbish, after the vegetation dies back.
Litter everywhere, fly tipped tyres etc, yet some are more concerned about some grass being turned over, which "will" grow back!
But then, the wild boar don't talk back and can't defend themselves, can they?

2. Scaremongering is and always will be the lowest form of persecution as it can turn a nation, even the majority of the worlds population against a species. We only have to look at the snake and shark to see what can happen!
It has always been present and always will be. There is an animal in our forest, which has the capability of killing a child within minuets and we take it there ourselves! Woof woof!

3. Wild boar can reach speeds of 20 mph, if not more in a very short distance. How fast can a average human run? If these were indeed charges with intent to attack like it has been claimed, then I'm afraid these people would not have outrun a wild boar. Now here we have a different type of pig - A Porkie, or maybe just a few that do not understand the wild boar, or wildlife in general!

4. We have always had free roaming sheep in the forest, some of which, during the winter months lick the salt from the middle of the road and don't even move when you blast your horn!
We have roe, fallow and muntjac deer all over the forest and these animals can be seen frequently on the road verges in the evening, early morning and through the night.
So, why is it acceptable to target and persecute the wild boar when they pose no more a threat than the sheep and the deer?

PS: And why do people keep referring to wildlife enthusiasts as animal lovers! Yes, I love all animals, but when someone uses this term as a means of trying to belittle their passion while slating wildlife, then it becomes offensive.
Unless there is someone who can stand up and say that they hate all animals and wildlife, then we are all animal lovers!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Slow Down for Wild Boar and Deer

The leaves are changing colour, the fungi is looking magnificent, snakes are heading for hibernation and the fallow deer are rutting!
It may be cold and wet out there, but who can say this time of year is boring?

However, there a few things to be aware of! - During the months of October and November the fallow deer mate. This is called the rut and the bucks will patrol their territory, herding and protecting their doe's.
While walking you can hear them calling from their stands and if you are lucky, you can sometimes hear the clash of antlers as they engage in battle!

There has been some recent reports of dog and boar incidents in the forest and although none have been fatal, its still not nice to see a dog injured and the owners shook up.
The rut could be forcing the boars from the deeper parts, to the edges of the forest, and this is where they will come into contact with humans (and dogs) more frequently.
Please be alert at all times when walking in the forest and if you feel uneasy, keep your dog on a lead and close to you until you are in an area where you are sure you will not come across any boars.
Prevention is better than the cure!
Some boars get alarmed by the presence of dogs, especially if they have young nearby, and/or if the dog is barking. You can't stop your dog barking, but common sense "should" tell you to go another way if you spot them. Why take the risk?

Dogs should always be under control in our forest and only the other day, after someone told me that they were supposedly charged by a wild boar, I was faced with a comment from them saying "what if I was a child?"
My answer to this is simple - Forget the boars, I would be more concerned with all the dogs running around off lead. They pose a greater risk to children than any of our wildlife critters!

This time of year also poses a greater risk of collision with a deer (and now boar) while driving.
Poor light during the early morning and late evening is when you must be extra vigilant as both the boar and the deer move around considerably at this time.
Hitting one of these animals in your car, or on your motorbike can be devastating for all concerned!
The animal will almost certainly die, probably after a very long and excruciating time, but your car will also sustain untold damage and imagine a mature fallow deer buck smashing into your windscreen!
I don't have to explain what would happen if a motorcycle hit one of these animals...

There are too many incidents on our roads at this time of year, involving our wildlife, so please take it easy and look after yourself as well as our wildlife!


Thursday, 30 September 2010

Base Camp Eden - The Adventure

My article has now been published, so here is the link to my diary of our weekend at Base Camp Eden!
This on-line version will only be available for 1 week, so I have pasted the article below, in case you want to read it after it expires.

The article is on page 32.

I have also included a link for the Eden Website...

Base Camp Eden - Newspaper article

Eden Inspires

Here is my article, now read it, be inspired and tune into Eden!

Base Camp Eden - Forest of Dean 2010

It was midday when we arrived at the first ever Base Camp Eden, the journey was painstakingly long from Cinderford, but it was worth it as we pulled into Beanhill Farm at Alvington.
We were the first family to arrive and were greeted by at least 6 organisers and of course the film crew. I could see Ben Fogle standing outside the large tent and he looked down and nodded. It was very surreal, knowing that we would be spending the next two days with Ben and a film crew in the place, which we call home.
My two daughters Alice 15, Louise 12 and my wife Nicky were a little camera shy at first, but we all soon learnt to ignore them and to just have fun.
After the other families arrived, Ben introduced us all to Base Camp and what we could expect over the next two days. We were then ushered into the large tent where we had lunch. Everything was relaxed and perfect, right down to the smallest detail.
We set off for New Fancy for some falconry, put on by the International Centre for Birds of Prey at Newent, before heading off to Puzzle Wood!
I had no idea who had been lined up as our guides and it was another surreal moment to find that a friend (Pete Ralph) was giving the tour around Puzzle Wood.
Pete's knowledge of the Forest of Dean is overwhelming and it made the tour very special.
Piling back into our convoy on Land Rovers, we headed back to Base Camp.
There was a banquet for dinner, with a whole spit-roasted pig (not wild boar!), a huge fish pie and all the vegetables you could eat!
As we sat down I left a small space to my left. As soon as Ben walked in, I made the space slightly bigger and he picked it! I can tell ya, eating some carrots while listening to Ben Fogle recite the time when he rowed the Atlantic is something you gotta try!
That was not all the reciting he did! After dinner we walked out to a massive camp fire with Ash tree stumps to sit on. Ben recited his whole life and I mean his whole life! A lot of people took an awful amount of inspiration from Ben that evening, including me. He is a genuine nice guy who is approachable and Saturday evening was the highlight of the trip for me.
After questions we had a treat! Chocolate covered scorpions, ants and mealworms! The scorpions tasted like chocolate peanuts, but the ants were a bit tangy!!!
It was a 06.30am wake up call, so we then headed for bed. They had erected some Mongolian Yurts for us to sleep in and they were absolutely fantastic. As a family we have always been keen campers, but after sleeping in a Yurt, none of us will ever look on a tent in the same way again!

Full English breakfast at 07.30am, then off for Bush Craft in the forest with a local man called Alan Cree. I have lived in the forest all my life and thought I was good at building hides for wildlife photography, but Alan taught us all how to build the perfect shelter, how to light fires without matches and how to survive if you have no food and water.
It was a pleasure to meet and learn from this extraordinary gentleman and if there is anyone who would like to learn survival skills, I would recommend him to everyone.
We then headed to Symonds Yat Viewpoint where a very extravagant packed lunch was waiting! We strolled up to the viewpoint where we were greeted by Forestry Commission Ranger, Neil Sollis and his wife. They were to be our guides for the rest of the day.
Sadly this is where Ben had to say goodbye, so I quickly took the opportunity to get a "few more snaps" of him with my daughters before we headed off to Symonds Yat East for some canoeing!
After a quick lesson of how not to capsize, we headed off towards the rapids! This was one amazing experience and I was lucky that along with my eldest daughter Alice, we were the second to venture down the rapids and luckily we made it down without capsizing!
With a better view from the bottom we were watching everyone else come through. My wife Nicky with my youngest daughter Louise did a pirouette half way down and I thought they were gonners, but somehow they managed to stay dry"ish". Then all of a sudden we saw the person on the front of one boat fly out and go head first into the river. Then the person on the back flew over the side! I promised I wouldn't say anything, but I must say Neil, you are quite a good swimmer!
We were now all cold and wet, but it made the walk back to the canoe centre even more enjoyable as Neil talked about the forest and the wildlife.

After TV interviews, we headed back to Base Camp Eden for the last time, collected our gear and then set off on our long excruciating journey back to Cinderford.
If I had been given the choice of where the first ever Base Camp Eden was to be held, I would have chosen the Forest of Dean. This place is just amazing, from the nature to the wildlife, we have it all here, right on our doorstep and I can't wait to get back out there!


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Base Camp Eden 2010 - With Ben Fogle!

What a weekend we have had! After winning a photo/conservation competition, my family and I spent the whole weekend with Ben Fogle and a film crew, filming the first ever Base Camp Eden!
The setting was the Royal Forest of Dean, where I live and even though we know the forest like the back of our hands, it did not take away any of the excitement and the weekend will be one, which we will all remember for the rest of our lives.

I have already written a full page article for my Wildlife and Nature Column that will be coming out later today. I will upload this feature tomorrow to give you an insight into what we all got up to on this amazing weekend.

Ben Fogle is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet and I thank him and everyone else behind the scenes for everything they did, to make this adventure very special.

TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle hosted the first Base Camp Eden in the Forest of Dean this weekend. For more information visit

Eden Website

Some pics from the weekend!


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Peregrine Falcon Poisoned - Forest of Dean

The results from tests on a dead peregrine falcon, found in June this year have revealed that it had been poisoned.
It is rare that I get upset to the extent that people make me swear, but these people are Assholes!

Click below for full story.


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Wet, but Wonderful

Here is a link to my latest wildlife column - "Wet, but Wonderful".


If you have trouble with this link here it is in print.....

Wet, but Wonderful!

Well, it’s that time of year again! The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are starting to drop.
It may be miserable and cold out there, but there is a surprising amount of activity going on where our wildlife is concerned. Fallow deer are gathering for the rut, which commences in late September, our reptiles are preparing for hibernation and the lesser horseshoe bats are preparing to mate in the autumn.
There is always something going on in the forest and the fallow deer rut is a great opportunity to get some awe-inspiring views of this beautiful mammal. I will cover this and show some of my unique photographs in October, when the rut is in full swing.
I survey the Dean for the adder and grass snake every year, and this is a time when I feel slightly sad that I will not be seeing them for another 5 months.
I understand that some people have phobias and that some believe the scare stories regarding snakes, but I have helped certain people overcome their fears.
I am not an adrenaline junkie and I always put the wildlife first, but to be inches away from our only venomous snake, without being in any danger is a massive buzz and it is one species I will always have a massive passion for.
On one occasion, I found a 15cm juvenile adder (pictured) that was tucked under a small leaf. She was very hard to spot, but with her eye in the shade of the leaf so her vision was not impaired from the bright sunlight, she could see me just fine!
I started to photograph and film her when I heard a noise next to my right ear. I turned my head slowly and saw a mature male adder looking me right in the eye!
He was approx 60cm away, so I had no choice but to keep my eye on him in case he decided to come closer.
I have worked with these snakes long enough to read their body language and this male was either just being inquisitive or I was lying on his favourite basking spot!
I turned towards him with the video camera and started filming him as he slowly moved away. A couple more snaps of the juvenile and I moved away to let them bask in peace.
I would never advise “anyone” to try and get this close to the adder for it is venomous and an allergic reaction to its venom can be very serious. The problem is that you will not know if you are allergic to the venom until you “are” bitten!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

My Reply

Again, a few comments regarding the wild boars, so I have decided to reply with another post as my comments were rather long.

They have been cage trapping them Adrian as well as shooting them, but it is not proving effective enough. They say they need more people on the ground.
What I am worried about is that they may hire hunters to help and this could be bad news as we could then start seeing orphaned hoglets.
If a feeding sow is killed and there are no other feeding sows in the sounder, the little ones will starve to death as they are dependant on their mums milk for up to 4mths.
And I expect this news has already spread, so the poachers will be out in force. Again shooting anything that moves, regardless of whether it is feeding young or no.

Wolves: Hah, I would love to hear the cries then. The people around here would probably make up a new nursery rhyme about how you will be eaten if you venture into the woods!
Seriously though, the Forest of Dean is not big enough (42 square miles) to re-introduce wolves.
After the boars have eaten a few thousand people, then the time will be right to introduce them!

Close the area to people who don't like wildlife: Now that's the best answer I have heard in a very long time. You know, there are dozens of other places around here where the wildlife haters can walk their dogs, without seeing anything larger than a rabbit, but they won't, why? They are not prepared to change their routine or their habits for the sake of our wildlife.
I know quite a few people who walk their dogs in the forest. Some of them hate the boars, yet still let their dogs run around off-lead. Others love seeing them, but keep their dogs on a retractable lead so they can easily pull them back.
Can you see a trend here? I call it respect and without it there will always be problems for some.

The recent death of the greyhound was sad, but this type of dog likes to chase things and should not be off the lead where wildlife is. Whether it slipped the lead or no, this dog was out of control – either that or the owner didn’t bother calling it back.
It's OK for a dog to chase and sometimes injure wildlife, but when wildlife chases and injures a dog, the owner kicks up holy hell!


Friday, 20 August 2010

Wild Boar Cull

The Forestry Commission has issued a press release today. They are apparently struggling to keep the boar numbers down to their agreed level.

Just a thought, but the Commission (Kevin Stannard?) has estimated that the boar’s numbers need to be reduced from 300 to 90. Surely the revenue made from the culling of 210 wild boars would pay for extra manpower, which is being blamed for them falling short of their targets.
Do you think this cull is too high, or do their numbers need to be kept this low for safety and management purposes?
Your comments will be appreciated.

Click HERE for article.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Wildlife Management

You will find a link below to my latest wildlife column. This colour on-line edition will only be available for one week, so I have copied the text below also.

Wildlife Management

The vast majority of our wildlife is capable of sustaining and managing itself. However, we now live in a world where deforestation and loss of habitat is making life very hard for a great number of our wildlife species.
Wildlife management takes many forms, but the one that has to be the most unpopular with animal lovers and with people who do not understand the importance of it has to be the culling of certain species.
Personally I don’t like this word as it gives the impression that an entire species is going to be wiped out. The term wildlife management instead of cull is more appropriate IMO.
Up until the 12th century, wolves roamed much of Britain without much of a threat from man and they helped with the natural process of predation. Edward the First ordered the extermination of the wolf in 1281 and by the late 16th to the early 17th century they were extinct from British soil. This may seem like a long time, but it has been reported that there were around 10,000 wolves in Britain at their peak and the mature breeding females from 10,000 wolves would have produced a lot of offspring every year!
The extinction of this animal in Britain left other animals like the deer with no natural predators. As a result, Scotland now has a problem with red deer and as the area is so vast, culling is proving inadequate. Talks are still continuing on the reintroduction of wolves to help with this problem.

In the Forest and Wye Valley, fallow and muntjac deer have one fawn per year, per doe whereas roe deer doe’s have two, usually of different sexes. The management of this species is easier when compared with a species that is capable of producing multiple offspring. Wild boar sows typically have between 3 and 8 young per sow, per year in the wild and although uncommon they can sometimes have two litters per year.
From these statistics alone, I don’t have to explain how this species could breed out of control if not managed.
I talked briefly about balance in my last article and this is a good example of how balance works, but also how it can be damaged. If we eradicate a predator, we must take over the management of the prey species or they will over populate and the consequences can be unimaginable. The species would become weak from lack of food and disease would then spread quickly throughout that species. In turn the disease could easily be transmitted to our other wildlife and even domestic animals.
No animal lover likes the thought of our wildlife being shot, but we must think logically and support the management of our wildlife.
One more thought. It is a long way off, but even if the wild boars become accepted in the Forest and Wye Valley, their numbers would still need to be controlled every year.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Perseids Meteor Shower

On the 12th August, I photographed the Perseids meteor shower. This meteor shower happens once a year, but this was the first time I had a go at photographing it.
I pointed my camera in one area and left it there for over 3hrs, taking one photograph every 30 seconds.
There were big ones shooting by overhead, out of my cameras field of view, but I just left it pointing in the same place. I treated it like photographing wildlife, you can chase around trying to get the ultimate shot, when all you have to do is stay in one place and wait for it to come to you.

Photographed over the Forest of Dean at 23:49 on 12.08.2010.

Camera settings used....

Focal Length: 18mm
Manual Exposure
Manual Focus
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
A/V: f/3.5
ISO: 1600

This is the typical faint streak we normally see. Small particles burning up through our atmosphere.

This was a biggy! When this meteor came burning through our atmosphere it lit up like a white fireball, which lasted around two seconds, hence the light generated.
My patience had paid off as it happened right where my camera was pointing. I have photographed lightning before and I felt the same feeling from this as I do when a big bolt of lightning explodes in front of my camera.
You can sit there all night and not capture this, so I was well chuffed.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Fallow Deer

Here are a couple of fallow deer I bumped into earlier. It was raining, but that didn't seem to bother them and I was lucky that they were not bothered about my presence either!
None of the images have been cropped, but the light levels were low and I bumped the ISO up to 6400, hence a bit of noise!

Melanistic Fallow Doe - (Dama dama)

Melanistic Fallow Doe - (Dama dama)

Common Fallow Doe - (Dama dama)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Few Birds and a Snake!

Click Images for Larger Size

Juvenile Robin

Female Adder

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Juvenile Female)




Friday, 23 July 2010

Silver-washed Fritillary Butterfly

Don't know how rare these are in the Forest of Dean, but it is the first time I have seen one. Excuse the quality, taken with my camcorder.

Silver-washed Fritillary Butterfly


Thursday, 22 July 2010

More on the Wild Boar

Due to some of the comments below, I have decided to write some more, where the wild boars are concerned.

A few dogs have been injured and some have been killed since the boars arrived, but this has been with dogs off lead, approaching the boar.
The Forestry Commission are managing them, but this will never be enough for some and too much for others. Some want an outright cull because the boars don't fit in with their nanny state, while others want them left alone to breed out of control. Neither of the above is the right answer, the boars need to be managed to a healthy sustainable level and this will take a while to get right.

I can understand how a person must feel if they lose their dog to the wild boar and I can also understand the hatred, which must follow. However, as I have always said, the forest is home to thousands of wild animals that have “themselves” been terrorised by dogs, off lead, for decades.
Nobody gives a damn about this and the only reason why our wildlife is persecuted in the way that it is, is because they have no voice, they can't defend themselves. Well they couldn't until now that is!
There are certain people that see the forest as a playground for their dog. I have never seen it this way and it’s about time that these people started to respect the forest and see it for what it is. Home to our wildlife.

We should and always will be able to walk dogs in the forest, but if we choose to let them run wild, then the risk of injury and death of our pet is down to us. Its like taking your dog for a walk down the street on a lead away from the traffic, or letting it wander around off lead where it could run into the road and be killed by a car. Who is to blame, the dog, the car, or the owner?
Hundreds of dogs are killed by adders every year in the UK. This reptile is also hated by many and has also been persecuted in the past, but even though they are hated like the wild boar, they are protected and accepted. Why, because they have always been here.
People forget that the wild boars are a native species like the adder, but as they have been away for so long people are not prepared to accept them as it means they will have to change “their” ways to enable them to fit in. They are not prepared to do this, so this is why the wild boar will never be accepted.

Other countries live alongside far more dangerous animals than the wild boar and they manage. Why, because they have a healthy respect for them, something, which is sadly lacking in the Forest of Dean.

Your comments are always welcome. If you disagree with my views then please tell me as I am open to all sorts of constructive criticism.


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Wild Boar - Latest - Newspaper Article

Below is a link to an on-line article I wrote for my local newspaper, regarding the wild boar.
The on-line edition will only be available for one week, so I have pasted the article below also, for future reading.
Your comments will be appreciated and please feel free to say what you want, without being insulting of course, as I value all opinions.

The article is on page 10.


Ward’s Wild Life

Rob Ward has been photographing wildlife in the Forest for years. His views are based on that long experience.

Header: They’re just saying back off. End of story.

Sub-header: Can we co-exist in the Forest? Probably not!

SOME of the recent reports of charges and attacks by the boar just don’t quite add up and I would like to address this. I am not calling anyone a liar or disputing their concerns but this is now a very controversial animal and the whole facts need to be given, not exaggerated and they need to be precise.

Firtly, the recent report by the cyclists said that they were apparently charged by a male boar. They said that the boar started charging from about 30 yards away and that they had to pick up and carry their bikes to a fence and throw them over then obviously climb over the fence themselves.
I have seen wild boar run and believe me they are fast, getting up to speeds of 25mph in very short distances. If the two people on bikes were that close and if the boar really did charge them, they must have been on top of the fence or they must be Olympic-quality sprinters because if this was a charge, the boar would have reached them in seconds.
Secondly, the dog, which was butted at Boys Grave recently. If these boars wanted to hurt this dog, the husky would have either been gored or even killed. The boar butted him, this was the boars way of saying go away! This was not an ambush and, in my opinion, it certainly wasn’t an attack. The owner had the dog on a lead and was able to pull him away.
If wild boar hate all dogs and attack every time they see one, why didn’t they do it on this occasion? If they wanted to hurt that dog then they would have - end of.
Wild boar have approached me on numerous occasions in the past. On two separate occasions I have had a sow (with piglets) run towards me. Once I was on my own (I have it on video) and once with a friend, (I have pictures). So I can understand how it can be frightening for people who have not experienced it before. But remember, wild boar have poor eyesight. They can see you, but they need to get close to see exactly what you are.
They can only distinguish blue from the three primary colours and if they have dependant young, their first instinct is to protect and chase away a possible threat.
In my experiences as soon as they identify us as human they will stop and then move away with their young. Never, in more than 50 sightings have I ever been charged.
During the severe snow of January 2010, with a friend I tracked down a sounder of between eight and 10 wild boar. We were off the main path and it was very hard getting around with the amount of snow. We spotted them rooting under a group of trees after about 10 minutes of searching, so we decided to get as close as possible. With my video camera I moved to within 10 metres before one of them spotted us. Within seconds of seeing us they ran about three metres and then stopped, looked back and ran again, this time disappearing.
If you have a dog with you, then it is a different ball game. They don’t see a domesticated friendly dog, they see either a hunting dog or a wolf. Their natural instinct has taught them not to run from these animals but to stand and fight to protect themselves and their young. They are very good at it too.
Will an unprovoked wild boar charge and attack a human? Yes, I believe it is possible as they are wild animals and anything is possible, but looking at statistics from around the globe, it is extremely rare.
Hunters from other European countries have maimed wild boar with a poor shot and subsequently been attacked, sometimes even killed. However, this is a different scenario as the boar becomes a wounded animal which is capable of defending itself, so an attack is inevitable in these circumstances.
Can we co-exist with the wild boar in the Forest of Dean in the 21st century? No, probably not as history has a habit of repeating itself. Its only a matter of time before the wild boar are once again extinct from our forests and just a memory. Not hunted to extinction like they were in the 17th century, not chosen by nature, but eradicated through our intolerance of change and our inability to learn and adjust.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Buzzard & the Buck

First, we have a buzzard. This is now our most commonly seen bird of prey in Britain.
This was a big old bird that was taking a nap in a tree when I found it. Look at the size of the talons, pretty impressive!

It then took flight, but went the wrong way! Never mind, still nice to see up close.

Next we have a poor young fallow deer buck. He was being eaten alive by flies and midges. I know exactly how he felt as they were everywhere, in my ears and eyes.

His ears didn't stop flicking, trying to keep the flies at bay. As you can see, the flies were out in mass! I wish I could flick my ears.

It got so bad that he decided to just shut his eyes while munching on the buttercups.