Friday, 29 January 2010

The Alien Planet

About 30min ago I was sat with a nice cold ale when I suddenly remembered that someone had told me to look out for the planet Mars tonight. They told me that it would be visible to the left of the full moon.

So out I went, in the snow and sure enough there it was shining away.
This pic is over exposed purposely to highlight Mars, which is on the left, I hope!

I think you know what this is!

Mars. I tried to get it sharp, but it was just that little bit too far away!!!

So I cropped it instead. Sorry about the pixels, but this is a 10MB file cropped to a couple of mm.


Fallow Doe

Tried my hardest to find some wild boar for you today folks, but the weather was against me and I failed.
Looking at it positively, a failure is one step closer to success, so it won't be long.

I did manage to spot a fallow doe before the skies turned grey and the sleet started to fall! I could see her grazing through some trees, she had the sun on her back.
Carefully and quietly I crept up as close as I could, until I was no more than 7 or 8 metres away.

There was a lot of bracken in the way and I was finding it hard to get a clear view. Then she spotted me!

As long as you are quiet and calm, fallow deer will stand and look at you for a while before running away, this is when you can get your shot.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

An hour in the Forest of Dean

Popped out while there was still enough light to get some pics and was surprised at what I saw in just an hour!
Captured everything except the one, which I really wanted. A sparrow hawk!
It was pretty cold out, close to freezing so I made sure I had some food for the birds, as I always do.

Great Spotted Woodpecker


Tree Creeper

The light levels were poor and I was struggling for shutter speed, so I decided to try and find some deer.
It wasn't long before I found some. I settled down and got the camera out. No good for images, but there was enough light to do some filming.
It was freezing and I couldn't feel my bum and feet from sitting in freezing, damp and cramped conditions. Just as I put the camera away, a sparrow hawk flew past and settled in a tree no more than 20 metres away.
I was like a fumbling idiot, trying to get the camera back out of the bag. Too late, I watched him glide away!
Next time, I'll av him!


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Forest of Dean Wild Boar

Wild boar were on the menu for me today, so I decided to go out and shoot a few. With my camera of course!
Before I ventured out I watched a programme on CH5 called Rogue Raiders. It was about the wild boar in Britain.
I won't go into detail, but the final conclusion was that we have more to fear from illegal poachers discharging firearms in our forest than we have from wild boar.

I didn't have to go far before I picked up on some tell tale signs that boar were or had been in the vicinity recently.
This looks messy, but given time it will settle back down and will actually help with the regeneration of the soil.
What happens when you dig your garden? You are turning the top soil. I am no gardener, but I do know that billions of gardeners worldwide don't do this to make the soil look pretty!
Think about it.

They have had a good root around this tree stump. Probably looking for acorns and worms etc.

How did I know the wild boar had been here recently? This is fresh, that's how.

This is a feeding station. Set up to monitor the wild boar. Property of DEFRA.

Didn't find one, not one. They were too elusive today! However, I did have another trip on the agenda!
Recently a wild boar piglet was rejected by her mum. Sad, but these things happen. Wild boar piglets are weaned at 3 months old and this girl is only a couple of weeks old, so she was very lucky to be found wandering around on her own.
Thankfully Alastair Fraser voluntarily offered to help by taking her in. Alastair already looks after a blind adult boar called Stevie Wonder at his farm near Alvington, so taking in a piglet was no bother to him.
Her name is Ella, she is very mischievous and very, very cute.

Having a sniff around.

I think she likes tomatoes!

Having a scratch.

Time for a nap!


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Feeding Wild Boar is Wrong

There were a few photographs and a write up in this weeks Forest of Dean Review newspaper showing wild boar, which had roamed into a residential area and were being fed by some locals.
It is bad enough feeding them mince pies, but this is just enticing them to come back and if this happens, in the end there will only be one loser.
I am as passionate about the wild boar as I am any animal in our forest and I am concerned that actions like these will just jeopardise the advice given and work being done to protect them. It will add more fuel to the already smouldering fire on whether the boars have a right to an existence in out forest today.

A few facts and guidelines below. These are common sense and have been given to protect us as well as the boar.

  1. Do not feed the boar
  2. Do not attempt to touch them
  3. If you hear or see them and you don't feel comfortable, walk in the opposite direction
  4. Stick to the Forestry Commission footpaths
  5. Keep your dog on a lead while in the forest

Here are the reasons why the above should be obeyed.

  1. If you feed the boar, they will identify humans and more importantly residential areas as a food source. This will have a devastating impact, as the Forestry Commission will have no option but to shoot them, as they will be seen as nuisance boar, when all they really want is food.
  2. Wild boar have self-sharpening tusks and it doesn't matter how friendly they look, one jerk of the head could result in "serious" injury. Then the boar will be labeled man-killers!
  3. I have had more encounters with boar in the Dean than I can remember and not once have I been in any danger whatsoever.
  4. If you are nervous about seeing them, stick to the forestry footpaths, the majority of my sightings have been deep in the forest.
  5. The law states that all dog owners must be in control of their dog at all times ( If your dog worries a wild boar and gets injured, then this is down to the owner, not the dog and not the wild boar.

I understand that it must be tempting to feed a wild animal in hard conditions like we have had recently, but this animal is a large mammal, not a bird.


Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Help The Birds This Winter

You are probably aware that our wild birds are struggling for food in this hard, severe winter weather.
The ground is so hard that they are finding it difficult to locate their normal food, like insects etc. It is times like these that we can make a massive difference to the lives of our feathered friends.
There are lots of ways you can help, but I find the following the best as it gives the birds lots of nutrients and the correct fats to help them through the cold days.
Its cold out there in the daytime, but imagine what it must be like at night!
I have photographed the process of mixing the correct food for the birds. See below.

Around 2 slices of bread in a little water. Bread bloats the birds and does not have many nutritional values for them, but it helps with the binding.

Next, a good helping of seed. You can use any type of bird seed, but I have used sunflower hearts here as the birds can just peck them up and swallow them straight down.

Then some nuts. They are high in oil and fat, but it is the fat the birds need to produce energy and they need as much of that as they can get.

The last of the ingredients is grated cheese. This is again high in energy and also helps with the binding process.

Get your hands in there and mix it all together until you have a big lump. It can be placed on the ground, in the bow of a tree branch or pushed into holes.

Don't forget to clean the sink afterwards and before you go out, or else you will end up with a sore eye and ear ache!!!

If you know a place where people feed the birds often, take the food to that site, it will be found immediately as the birds in that area will be used to food being taken out and will therefor be waiting.
Hang around and watch how many birds come down to feast on your free food. It will feel good, I promise you that.

No More Video's!


I was wrong! It looks like it was just a bug as the video's are now working fine and thanks to my mate Ben909 I didn't delete any. Phew!

Well it looks like Blogger has pulled the plug on Google Video!
This can only mean two things...

1. I can no longer share my video's with you on my blog.
2. I have a serious amount of editing to do, or my posts will have empty black boxes in them!

Why is it that when something is working fine, it is taken away?

I will carry on posting to my blog as normal, but with pics only.


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Forest of Dean Birds

Took a trip out to Speech House earlier today to see how things are, after the snow.
Had a quick look for some deer and wild boar before heading out to check on the birds. No deer or wild boar today, but plenty of birds.

Click on birds for larger view.




Great Spotted Woodpecker (female)


Cole Tit


Watch this video for some more birds, including a buzzard and also a insect, which I think is an inch worm?


Thursday, 14 January 2010

Forest of Dean Snow and Wild Boar

Wasn't going to venture out today, but my friend popped by with his 4x4 and this was all the encouragement I required to get my butt out the door.
We started off taking a look at some of our local lakes and ponds. All were virtually frozen solid, except for some clear areas near the shallows.

What shocked us, was the amount of "human" activity we could see on the ice. I am amazed that there are people still willing to risk their lives, especially after all the warnings!

Click images for lager size...

Lightmoor pond.

The following 4 are from Steam Mills Lake.

Two coots and a gull.

The water must be too cold!

We then moved on into the forest where we came across this print. Do you know what made it?
The print is facing forward, but look to the rear and you will see to indentations in the snow, at either side.
These were formed by dew claws, which can be found on various animals, including wild boar.
We decided to try out our tracking skills in the snow.

It wasn't long before we found our first one. Can you see her?

How about now?

Here they are. I only had my wide angle lens with me and this was taken at 55mm. Won't be making that mistake again!

However, I did take my video camera. Enjoy.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Hard Time For All Animals

On Tuesday 12th, I decided to pop out to feed and hopefully get some half decent pics of the birds at Speech House. Lucky I did as the snow came in that night and made it impossible for me to get out.
When I got out, there was a slight problem! The free grazing sheep in the area have wised up to people taking food out for the birds and they hide in the forest, waiting until you put the food out, then they emerge like ravenous vultures!

One steps out and does a bit of posing, just to distract you while the others pile into the bird food!

I was a bit annoyed at first, until I realised that there was no way of stopping them and that they must be extremely hungry to eat bird seed.
Especially as there were around 15 of them.

So I decided to find another spot, where they could not reach the food. I found one, just around the corner and luckily I still had enough food to see the birds alright.


Wild Boar Cull - What Cull!

There have been numerous reports that a green light has been given for a wild boar cull in the Forest of Dean this year.
This morning, it has been brought to my attention that these rumours are untrue and that the only measures being taken are...

The Commission are simply going to follow the FODDC and verderers recommendations to shoot or drive off any boar causing trouble if they get into conflict with communities.

The problem is that when you read an article from a local press source, you expect them to have some evidence before putting it to print! Here:

I have great admiration for the Forestry Commission and the work they do, but I think a transparent letter confirming what their short and long term plans are, where the wild boar are concerned would put a stop to all the gossip and rumours.


Monday, 11 January 2010

Archive Pics

I should be able to get out on Wednesday to capture the snow and also some wildlife this week, if I am lucky.
In the meantime, take a look at some photographs "I made earlier".

The first 4 have been altered using the selective colour technique.

Great Grey Owl

Female Adder

Red Kite


The next 3 are random photographs, which I have taken in the Forest of Dean over the years.


Female Adder
Note: You can see by the way her scales have stretched on her mid section that she has not long had a meal.

This is something that goes on in our gardens every year, but we hardly ever see it as they are too small.
An ant milking aphids!