Friday, 31 August 2012

Survey Results

I have updated my dedicated snake blog "Snakes in the Forest of Dean" after conducting a full survey at a new and unique site. Like me, you will be amazed at what we found!
With photographs of course!

Check it out here - Survey Results


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Badger Cull; Poaching and Lots More

Sorry I have not posted for a while; been busy with house renovations and work. 

Lots going on in the Forest of Dean to take up my spare time though and I have listed everything (with photographs) below. It has taken me a few hours to put this post together, so please take the time to read through as there is some very important stuff below.

Please do not forget to click on the links and support whatever you can as our wildlife depends on people like us. Thanks, Rob.

As most of you are aware, along with a friend (Scott Passmore) I recently founded GlosARG and we are delighted to inform you that we have our first patrons.

Patron 1 - Zara Boland (better known as Zara the Vet)
Zara is known for her media vet work and is a regular feature on Channel 5, the BBC and Sky TV. She is also the founder and Director of Vet Voice.  

Patron 2 - Sean McCormack
Sean is a veterinary surgeon and has worked with domestic and exotic animals after finishing University. During vet school Sean completed Canine Behaviour and Zoo Medicine elective modules. Over the years he has kept and bred a huge variety of reptiles and amphibians. 

We welcome both patrons and thank them for their support.

Talking of reptiles lets look at some adders, which I photographed this year while surveying. 
This female gained me my first ever "explore" on Flickr and in case you are wondering, yes I was really that close.
She was not very old, probably around 2 or 3 years and like many snakes of this age, she was extremely inquisitive. She was basking on a log and I managed to get my camera on the end so I was shooting straight up the log at her. She watched me for a while before deciding to come down and check me out.
When this happens it is truly amazing as they show no aggression at all, they just come down, taste the air and stare straight into the lens. Photographed using the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens.
Juvenile Adder (Vipera berus)

Here is mum in the same area, except basking on a different log. The mature snakes are not easy to get close to as they are more wary, so I never try and get up close with them.
Mature Female Adder (Vipera berus)

Now onto a very important and distressing situation. The proposed badger cull!
I understand that bTB (Bovine Tuberculosis) is a debilitating disease and that it must be tackled, however, I strongly disagree that by eradicating the badger it will stop this disease. Yes it will reduce the numbers of infected cattle, but as this is not a cure I believe that an alternative must be considered.
Over the years DEFRA has spent millions on a vaccine, yet they have chosen to shelve it and go ahead with the culling of 70% of badgers in the Westcountry.
The startling realisation is that if they go ahead and kill 70% of badgers in the proposed areas, it is fact that this will reduce bTB by just 16%! Hundreds, if not thousands of badgers will be slaughtered and yet we will still be left with this disease, why? because other animals (mammals) can also carry and transmit this disease. Mice, rats, deer, fox and wild boar; they can all carry bTB and they are all capable of entering farmland.
I wrote to MP Jim Paice in 2010 expressing my concerns and I asked him to clarify numerous questions regarding farming practices, testing and the movement of cattle in known bTB hot spots. I received a 6 page reply in 2011 where he answered all of my questions, although indirectly.

Badgers will be targeted illegally and it has already started! - Story Here

If you would like to help, please visit the following links

Brain May's Save Me (Yes, that Brian May)  
Brian is due to visit the Forest of Dean very soon to talk and express his concerns.

Please also support GABS (Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting)

Playful Badger in the Forest of Dean
If you admit to having a problem, you then have no option but to deal with it and sadly the seriousness of poaching in the Forest of Dean is being played down by the people who are supposed to be managing and caring for our forest "and the wildlife!"
Evidence of poaching can be found all over the forest, yet it is still not being taken seriously. Yes, the Police have asked for information regarding a recent incident, but who is going to grass on a poacher with a shotgun, or high powered rifle?
To see the aftermath, left behind after these butchers have been to work is gut wrenching and it has to stop. The most recent incident involved a 18 month old male wild boar, which had been shot in the jaw and then slowly bled to death in the forest. This is inhumane animal cruelty and the people responsible must be stopped.
The Police are asking for information regarding a 4x4 seen at Forest Hills Golf Club in the Forest of Dean last week. Apparently the occupants were shooting at wild boar from the vehicle. 
Open your eyes people, this is public land, used by dog walkers and golfers. If this carries on someone is going to die!!!

Below are some photographs taken deep in the forest where no public access is allowed. The Forestry Commission have said that they do not use this track, so whoever made these tracks were in the forest without permission.
It goes without saying that we obviously reported the location to the FC, yet so far nothing has been done to try and stop them, whoever they are. They are here regularly as the mess is getting worse on a weekly basis.

If you would like to help, please visit Friends of the Boar.



Moving on from the sorry state our country has become under the new so called Government, here are a few photographs from recent months.

Red Fox 
This young fox knew something was there, but as he couldn't see me it made him inquisitive. He walked to within a few metres before he smelt me and legged it. He did come back though, so I obviously don't smell that bad?

Curious Fox

Red Kite
A portrait of a red kite. The key is to position yourself with the sun hitting just one side of the face. Through the naked eye you will still see the entire face, but by dropping the exposure it will highlight just the areas where the sun is hitting.

Thoughts of a Kite!

Three years ago I photographed this chap and ever since I have wondered if I would ever see him again. As the years passed I resigned myself to the thought that he must have been either culled or poached. However, after more than three hours in one location on Tuesday and with a very sore bum he walked out in front of me.
Moments like these are truly magical and will stay with me forever.

Ghost of the Forest

And Finally - Lightning

Nature is all around us, all the time, but on occasions it unleashes something quite spectacular. Lightning is awesome to watch and photograph as you capture details, which can never be seen through the naked eye.
The shots below have been taken over a few years.

It doesn't have to be big, to be impressive!

The lightning in this shot has illuminated to mist forming over the forest

Over in an instance, yet the intensity of the light is overwhelming 


Monday, 6 August 2012

Disease to Devastate Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean could soon lose all of its 700,000 larch trees due to a devastating disease. Phytophthora ramorum is an airborne spore, which is carried on the wind and this disease has already infected 36,000 larch trees in the Dean. It is worrying as if the decision is taken to fell all larch in the Dean, it will equate to 880 hectares, or 2.174 acres and this will leave large areas of the forest like a war zone.
One thing however, which we have to be thankful for is the fact that the people undertaking the work will be experts and professional when it comes to Forestry Management.
I am sure we can rely on the Forestry Commission to halt the spread of this disease and we must give them our support as if the decision is taken to fell all larch, it will be a tough decision to make.

If we do lose the larch our wildlife will be affected and one species that will take the brunt of it is the goshawk as this bird favours larch when nest building.
Mature larch are very tall with very few branches low down and this gives the gos a perfect habitat to hunt
Up until recent years the goshawk was on the red list for endangered species in the UK. Their numbers were at critical levels and in some cases they were extinct from many parts of the UK. The reason their numbers plummeted was due to persecution and it is very sad that this time a more natural disaster could have a massive impact on this species in the Forest of Dean once again.
Goshawk build numerous massive nests and they will then rotate between nests year after year, so if the trees come down the nests will come down with them.
This bird will nest in other trees such as conifers and only time will tell what impact the felling of the larch will have on Britain's most persecuted bird.  

Goshawk nest high up in Larch Tree

Closer view of same nest. Photographed from ground level

Female Goshawk

Click Here for Full Story