Sunday, 18 December 2011

BBC Filming on Poaching!

I filmed earlier today with BBC Points West on the poaching of dear and wild boar in the Forest of Dean.
You have one chance to watch it, tonight at 10pm on BBC1, but only if you receive Points West. Not available on BBC iPlayer!

Here is a link to the website article.
Link Here


Please Help the Birds this Winter!

With the harsh weather well and truly here, we must turn our thoughts to the vulnerable at this time of the year.
Firstly look after yourself, secondly look after your neighbour and last but not least, please spare a thought for our wildlife!

Our forest birds take a right battering, especially when the ground is frozen with ice and snow. Finding enough food and water to survive is tough for them and this is where we can help.
If you are unable to take the food into the forest, park or countryside, put some out in your garden; the birds will find it as they associate gardens as a good source for food as many of us already have feeders for them.
Break the ice on any water source you find and also take some fresh water out for them as it is so easy to forget that they need to drink as well as eat!
Wild bird peanuts and sunflower hearts are high in nutriance and also cheese is a good source of fat and calcium, which is essential for the birds survival.
To see a tiny bird struggling to find food is gutting, but when you see them taking advantage of the food you have taken out, the feeling is awesome and you go home knowing you have helped them survive.

I usually mix the seed and nuts together with grated cheese. You then have a lump of food, which can be pushed into crevices or just placed on a surface without falling to the ground and lost in the snow. Although bread does not have a good source of protein or fat, one or two slices will give your mix some consistency and help it to bond together.
Look for somewhere high up like a fallen tree or fence post and place the food on top of it, this will ensure the food will not be eaten by deer, wild boar, sheep and even dogs passing by.

Break up the bread into a bowl or kitchen sink with a little water.

Add the sunflower hearts.

Then the peanuts.

Grate the cheese over the top.

Then mix well.

However, this activity can cause severe bruising and swelling to your right eye, but there is a remedy. Cleaning the sink afterwards seems to stop this from happening!

You are now ready to take your food out to the birds. I usually take the food into the forest as there are not many cats out there, which could take advantage of the birds feasting on the food, but as mentioned earlier your garden is a good place if you are unable to get out.

Selecting your spot. If you know of an area where the birds are fed regularly, then this is ideal as the birds will not be far away and word will soon get out that fresh food has arrived!
If you don't know where to put the food, look for an area close to a car park as you can guarantee that this will almost certainly be a place where the birds hang out, hoping for tit bits from motorists.
Place your food on something raised from the ground, like a fallen tree, or fence post and then sit back and watch as the birds find it.

Here are some pics from over the years of the birds I have helped. I do this every year as many times as possible and it makes me feel good, knowing I have done something positive to help them.

A blue tit having spotted the food, sits on a branch nearby. He has fluffed up to help insulate himself from the freezing conditions.

A great tit also lands nearby.

A dunnock is first to land on the fallen tree.

Then a mistle thrush drops in.

Followed by a pied wagtail.

And then a grey wagtail.

Even a pigeon turns up!

It was great to see a tree creeper appear!

It wasn't long before the blackbirds arrived.



Then a long tailed tit!

And it wasn't long before the chaffinch arrived.

Then a robin, the perfect Christmas Card image!

And finally, the scene where it all happened.

So why not have a go yourself and see how many different birds you can help this winter!


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Bolt from the Black Stuff!

Rain, low light, foggy and cold; not ideal conditions for a wildlife photographer, but if the conditions were ideal all the time, it wouldn't be as challenging!

I am focusing this post on low light (or rather no light) long exposure photography. If you are thinking about trying this, or don't know how, I will give you some guidelines. It can be quite difficult to get it right, but patience and trial and error will pay off.
The first and most important piece of equipment you will need for this type of photography is a tripod and a solid surface to place it on as your camera has to be rock steady for up to a few minuets at a time.
You will also require a self timer function built into your camera or a remote release switch. This will eradicate any hand shake from pushing the shutter manually.

Here are some basic camera settings I usually use (without filters).

ISO: 100 - 200
Shutter Speed: Between 15 and 30 seconds
Manual Focus
A/V (Aperture Value): As low as possible (e.g. f/2.8)

Focusing can be tough, especially at night, so for example, if you want to photograph lightning, visit a spot where you have good views in the daytime and with your lens at its widest setting (e.g. 18mm) manually focus on the horizon, or on something in the distance. This way you will learn where your lens's sweet spot is and this will enable you to focus at night. Alternatively, pick a location where there are street lights etc in the distance. You can usually focus on them.


Photographing meteors is very difficult as they are not confined to one area like lightning; instead, they shoot across the whole sky. This is where your patience comes in as taking one photograph every 30 seconds for a few hours can cause the best of us to cave in. But if you are lucky enough to have your camera pointed at the right part of the sky when a meteor burns through our atmosphere, you will be glad you stuck it out.

Here is a shot of faint meteors from the famous meteor shower; Perseids. One is entering the frame top left and the other is entering from the right.

The long exposure causes the stars to blur, but the meteor tails remain sharp as the light from them disappears quickly.
Here is another pic where I captured an aeroplane as it moved across the sky. There is also a meteor coming in from the right, just above the aeroplane.

Then my luck changed as a meteor started to burn through our atmosphere right in front of me. It looked like a big star getting brighter and brighter, until it faded and burnt out. My camera was pointing directly at it, but I had to wait approx 20 seconds until it had finished taking the shot before I could take a look to see what I had captured!
When I looked I was gobsmacked! Not only did I have the entire meteor in frame, but it was also well exposed and the light was awesome!
Here it is, the best meteor shot I have and one I will struggle to better. This photograph was taken approx 3hrs after the previous two, this is the reason the sky is darker.


Although photographing lightning can be a tad dangerous when compared to meteors, it is awesome to witness as well as photograph. It makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Or is that a sign that you are about to be fried?
Photographing lightning is something I love doing, although the opportunities do not present themselves very often!
The same settings can be used, although lightning is usually brighter, so this is where trial and error comes in. You have to learn what settings are best for the conditions and your camera. This is something I can not tell you, as you have to learn this for yourself.

Here is a pic where I captured two bolts of fork lightning. They struck within 30 seconds of each other and the one on the left is over exposed as it struck first. My exposure was too long and as a result, too much light entered the camera, overexposing the lightning.

Here is another shot where it looks just like heaven has opened up to release it!

Sometimes the sky lights up, but it doesn't expel lightning. This is a truly awesome and beautiful sight as the sky changes from black to a golden red, brown and blue colour.

There is lightning that hits the ground and then shoots off like it has a mind of its own!

And even some, which seems to go up! This is called a tracker and I was lucky to capture this before the fork exploded from the cloud above!

Then, the one you have been waiting for; a MONSTER fork, which hits the ground too close for comfort and makes the electricity lines buzz overhead!
This was a true monster and if I was unlucky enough to have been struck, I would have been quick fried!

If you have any questions, email me at and I will do my best to answer them.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Look our for Hedghogs - They need our Help!

As the temperature drops, hedgehogs will start searching for a place to hibernate. However, underweight or sick hedgehogs will not survive the winter and as their numbers have decreased drastically over the years and are classed as an endangered species, we all need to keep our eyes open and be ready to help them.
I featured them in my latest wildlife column, so if you have any queries please read it here.
Ward's Wildlife

Also, here is a link to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society: (BHPS)

Cute baby hogs like this one will not survive hibernation during the winter, but we can help them!


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Red Deer Rut!

I dragged myself out of bed nice and early this morning to go in search of a beast, which has eluded me for quite some time. The Red Deer.
I got to the location at sunrise and what a sunrise it was...


I desperately wanted a stag silhouetted against this sky, but if they ain't there then there isn't a lot you can do about it.
After around 30min of walking up and down hills with a very heavy kit bag on my back I was starting to wonder if there were any in the area at all! As I approached the top of the last hill I could hear the familiar sound of red stags as they bellowed and finally I spotted them in the distance.

To be honest I didn't think I had a chance of getting near enough to grab a decent photo as they were so far away and in the open. However, like all wildlife, if you can't get to it then you have to wait for it to come to you.
I scanned the area and saw what looked like the ideal spot. However, it meant I would have to walk into the open to get to it, in clear view of the rutting deer! It was a nice spot behind a fallen dead tree and it looked to good an opportunity to miss, so I went for it.
They spotted me as I got to the tree and they stared right at me, but I was far enough away to not disturb them and they soon went on with their business, paying me no attention.

Now, in a better location and hidden behind the tree I was confident they would eventually come closer, and they did.
This fella was bellowing the loudest and judging by the size of his antlers, there wasn't another stag in the area to match him!

Watching this group, I saw two hinds start to square up to one another so I trained my camera on them just in case something happened. I was gobsmacked to see them rear up on their hind legs and box each other; just like hares!

Then I heard it; the clashing of antlers! I was on them like a shot, but they had separated!
They were two younger stags and were still squaring up so I stayed with them. Suddenly one turned to face the other and as soon as he did the other instinctively turned also. This photograph was taken at the precise moment of impact and you can see the one stag has both his hind legs off the ground as they smashed together!

I photographed this herd for a while and then decided to have a look around to see what else was about.
It wasn't long before I bumped into some fallow bucks resting, so I took the opportunity to grab a few shots of them.

I saw a nice group of scotch pines and decided that it would make a great photograph if I could find a deer in there, so I ventured in!
I had only walked around 5 metres when I heard a fallow roar nearby, so I took my heavy bag off my back and sat down by a tree to rest and hope that he was heading my way. I was scanning the area to my right, in the direction of the fallow when I heard a noise behind me.
I turned my head to find the biggest deer I have ever seen, on the edge of the woodland I had just entered! He was the size of a cow and had some pretty impressive antlers. I must admit, being this close to a massive red stag during the rut was something else, but I also knew I was on his patch so I had to be careful.

I tried to get into a better position and this is when he bellowed as loud as he could. Believe me, it was loud.
I took a couple of snaps (out of position) and then just lay there admiring him until he vanished down the hill back into the valley.

I was now fueled with adrenaline and with the red deer lying down resting, I knew this encounter was at an end.



Saturday, 22 October 2011

Two Kinds of Beasts!

Firstly, Blogger is playing up so sorry for the formatting at the bottom of this page and I have also been unable to comment for quite some time. I'm not ignoring you!

I spent a few hours selecting my location; this is always crucial as it can make all the difference with wildlife photography. I had no intention of photographing the deer on this day, it was all about preperation.
After selecting my spot (deep in the forest) I quickly built myself a hide from dead branches etc and then left the area.

This was the view from my hide, where hopefully I would capture some rutting and even a fight between two bucks; if I was lucky.

The following day I was sat in the hide at 7.30am with a cammo net draped over the front. It was cold, damp and again I was sat in a very uncomfortable position with a tree root sticking in my butt!
It's all about patience now, just staying very still and quiet while listening for any noises, which would tell me that a deer or another mammal was close by.
The buck was roaring nearby and the noise was getting closer, so I knew he was making his way towards me.
I saw him peering through some bracken, checking the area was safe. He was just to my left making his way to the clearing.

I was ready, the pain and the cold was gone, just my will remained, for him to stand in the clearing.
To put the work in and vision a shot; then to walk away with that shot is an achievement.
He got closer and was now on the edge of the clearing, just a few more steps and I could get the shot I was after.

He stood there for a few minuets and I could tell he was nervous. Had he picked up me scent? Doubtful as I had the wind in my face; it must be something else.
Then I heard it; loud talking in a forein language!
He was gone, disappeared into the forest and my teeth were grating as I had been only moments away from my goal.
I just sat there looking in the direction of the voices. The talking became louder and then I saw them; bucket toting fungi collectors!
They had no idea I was there even though they were no more than 5 metres away from me, but even worse they had no idea that they had just disturbed a rutting area. Either that, or they didn't care.
They moved out of sight, but not far, so my time had been wasted in this area. Thoroughly "%**+= off I decided to move about 250 metres to another location.

45min I had been sat in the second location when I heard a noise coming from behind me. It sounded heavy and could only be a mammal I thought as I sat there ready for whatever it was to walk past me.
This is what walked past me!

There were three of them in total and I knew it was useless to carry on. All my preperation had been wasted, all my time and effort gone in a flash.
I understand that the forest is for all to enjoy, but the forest is a big place and I couldn't believe that they chose the part I was camped out in.

I decided to get some fungi shots (before the three amigos collected it all). So I snapped on my macro lens and went fungi humting.

Here are some of the fungi I found with some MINI BEASTS!


They weren't the only Beasts that had been in the forest! I came across this; a half full fuel container, left behind from Forestry Opperations

And then this!!!!

Time to go home!