Sunday, 30 September 2012

New Website - Check it Out!

My new website is now up and running, check it out here -http://www.robwardwildlifephotography.co.uk/#
Massive thanks to Scott Passmore for his time, building this site for me.
http://www.facebook.com/scottkpassmore?fref=ts

Don't worry, I will still keep this blog updated with all things wildlife related in the Forest of Dean.

Rob

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Help Save the Wild Boar

Wild Boar Cull Has Started


When does wildlife require management? This is one question that offers much debate, especially when it is a cute, lovable critter like the badger.
Well, over 100,000 signatures so far on the "Stop the Badger Cull" petition and a massive thank you to everyone that has taken the time to sign and share this e-petition.

Now, lets move onto another species, the Wild Boar. This animal is being culled in the Forest of Dean as we speak and for what reason? None, except to keep the minority happy and to probably meet the demanding meat quotas!
The estimation of wild boar numbers in the Forest of Dean varies wildly from 200 to 650, so from this, how can Forestry Commission Rangers (be ordered) to shoot this animal when there is no proof of realistic numbers?
It is often reported in the press that these animals are prolific breeders that can have multiple births per-year and have as many as 18 piglets per-sow. This is untrue and these wild statements are from people who keep or have kept domestic pigs in the past.
Domestic pigs can have large litters and can produce more than one litter per-year. The reason for this is they have their food supplied and usually have shelter. In short they have a luxurious lifestyle when compared to "wild" wild boar, which have to find all their own food and have to rough it, "every night", rain, sleet and snow!
A wild boar sow has a gestation period of 4 months; she then has to suckle and wean her young, which takes a further 3 months. For a "wild" wild boar sow to raise 18 piglets, recover and then do it all again in one year is near on impossible and the people making these wild claims should stop and realise their mistake.
 

The Forestry Commission claim there are between 600 and 650 wild boar in the Forest of Dean

Friends of the Boar claim there are between 200 and 250

So who is right and how have they come up with these figures?

Over the last year the Forestry Commission has used their rangers to log boar sightings. These sightings were mapped and then shown to Friends of the Boar.
One thing that became evident was that "ALL" sightings were logged and from this, we suspect that as many as 50% or more could  have been duplicates of boar already recorded. 
The result was a total number of between 600 & 650. Huh! Well what is it FC, 600 or 650?

Friends of the Boar also conducted a survey over the last 12 months, but unlike the FC we used local people, visitors and of course our own eyes on the ground. We dismissed all sightings sent in from the same areas where boar had already been recorded as they were probably duplicates.
After more than 100 individuals sent in their results, we were left with a number of 200.

We understand that this is an underestimate, so lets say there are, "were" 250 boar at the end of August 2012. Take into account natural deaths, poaching, RTA's and legal shooting by private landowners and the real number could be as low as 200.


The Forestry Commission announced they are to cull 100 wild boar from 1st September 2012 to 1st January 2013 and if the numbers are as low as we suspect, this could mean that after the FC has finished their cull there could be as little as 100 wild boar left in the Forest of Dean.
This is not wildlife management and it certainly isn't wildlife conservation, especially as they, the FC have also announced that 400 wild boar is an acceptable number for the Forest of Dean!

In 2011 the Forestry Commission conducted a night time census, to show the public that there were indeed hundreds of wild boar roaming our woods. After 3 months the census was binned. Why? They only found a small handful of boar and were left humiliated. It wasn't long after that they announced that they were suspending the cull for a whole 12 months, so that the boars numbers could recover.
With the boar numbers being so low (under 100) it would take more than 12 months for them to stabilise and this is why this cull must be stopped - NOW!

Wild Boar Census Announced

Oops! 16 wild boar found, when the FC estimated there were 350

With 100 boar to be shot over the coming few months, we will once again see this animal struggle to survive. It will promote stress throughout the remaining sounders (groups), which can lead to disease such as TB.

The boar have been roaming wild in the Forest of Dean for more than 8 years now and I would like to ask the question; when are they going to stop using excuses such as... 
"They are dangerous" 
"They root up our road verges"
"They eat children"
"They chase and kill dogs"
"They will eat all of our bluebells"

Guess what? Our bluebells are still here and to date, no child has been eaten. 
Yes, in the past dogs have died and that is unfortunate. I own a dog myself and I "can" imagine how they feel / felt when this happened. However, since Friends of the Boar have pushed and pushed education out there for members of the public and visitors, incidents between boar and dogs has dropped dramatically.

As for this animal being dangerous, how do we define the word dangerous where the wild boar is concerned?
1. It Bites?
3. It can Gore you?

1. Fox's can bite, badgers can bite, squirrels can bite, adders can bite but more to the point DOGS CAN AND DO BITE! 
The adder is our only venomous snake in Britain and if bitten, even the healthiest adult human can die if they suffer an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock and they do not receive medical assistance. If a child is bitten it can be extremely serious.

2. Yes boar can bite like the dog and snake. They can also gore, but they aren't the only animal in our forest capable of this. Fallow deer can gore and kill with their antlers.

Does the above sound like scaremongering? If you have answered yes, then look at what is being said about the boar. To date no one has been gored or bitten by this animal. We live along side many other wildlife species that are capable of injuring us, yet we do not give them a second thought. Why? No one has been seriously injured by one, that's why, the same as the boar.
I wonder how long it will take for people to fully accept them as a true native, British species?

PLEASE CLICK THE LINKS BELOW FOR E-PETITIONS               

PLEASE SHARE WHEREVER YOU CAN




Many thanks from the wildlife in the Forest of Dean for your help and support.
 


A sow and her piglet, photographed in 2012


One the hit list; wild boar and badger

Rob

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Why Aren't We Vaccinating Cattle?


Why Aren't We Vaccinating Cattle?
Bovine TB – Time for a Rethink

Thanks to Sally for providing this Document and Link.

It is chronic and debilitating, it puts farmers out of business and destroys livelihoods. Are we talking about the disease, or the policy to control it?
Under the current UK policy, cattle are tested at regular intervals for exposure to Bovine TB. Those that fail the test are slaughtered and severe restrictions on cattle movement are placed on the farm. This is the ‘test and cull’ regime. It costs taxpayers £100million a year and has a devastating impact on farmers.
Test and cull requires regular and stressful handling of cattle which compromises both animal welfare and human safety. Compensation does not always cover the value of individual culled animals, and does not cover the consequences of movement restrictions or the loss of critical breeding stock. Even DEFRA describes the diagnostic skin test for Bovine TB as ‘imperfect’ in its ability to correctly identify animals that have been exposed to Bovine TB.
The test and cull policy, we are told, is there to protect human health, animal welfare and to meet our international (EU) commitments. Is it worth the cost?
Human Health: In the UK, human infection with the bacterium responsible for Bovine TB (Mycobacterium bovis) is almost non-existent because milk is pasteurised milk and meat is cooked. So negligible is the risk that cattle slaughtered under the test and cull policy, and those found at abattoirs to be infected, are sold for human consumption. Most of the very few cases of Bovine TB in humans were initially contracted in other countries or before the pasteurisation of milk became the norm.
Animal Health: Infected cattle have little probability of developing the disease and seldom show symptoms during their (often short) economic lives. Bovine TB can remain dormant in an animal for many years or indefinitely. If an animal reacts to the skin test this does not mean that it will go on to develop symptoms, be infectious, or become ill. There are other diseases of cattle that pose a more serious risk to human and animal health yet are not even notifiable. Many are simply vaccinated against.
International Commitments: UK policy is ultimately driven by the EU which requires member states to eradicate Bovine TB. It lays down the means to be used, and does not allow cattle vaccination. Since the BSE ban was lifted, the annual value of live cattle exports from the UK has never exceeded £3.3million.
What is devastating about Bovine TB is not the disease.
It is the test and cull policy.
As the Bovine TB Advisory Group concluded in its final report to Defra:
“Bovine TB has been a difficult and demanding problem for many years. There are reasons for believing that it can be controlled and finally eradicated but this will require a long-term commitment by all stakeholders and take at least 20 years.”
Can we afford the cost, and will farmers tolerate another 20 years of movement restrictions, inaccurate testing and compulsory cattle culling?
It has been pointed out that other countries with so-called wildlife reservoirs have achieved OTF status (Officially TB-free). However, they have done this by using the skin test as it was designed - as a herd test. If one animal fails the test, the whole herd is slaughtered and restocking is delayed. Officially TB-free status does not mean the disease has been eradicated, just that it has reached a low level – less than 0.5% of herds having breakdowns over a 5 year period. Even Officially TB-free countries have Bovine TB.
Would it not make sense to vaccinate cattle?
Vaccines can be used for two complementary purposes - to protect individuals or to protect populations. No vaccine provides complete immunity to individuals, just a measure of protection. If enough animals are vaccinated with a typical vaccine it is near impossible for an epidemic to occur – this is the principle of herd immunity.
According to DEFRA, a cattle vaccine against Bovine TB will be licensed this year (2012). However, current EU laws do not allow vaccination against Bovine TB. This is because BCG vaccination of cattle can interfere with the skin test, which is the recognised primary test for Bovine TB.
Defra state that they are working with the EU to change EU legislation on cattle vaccination, and on the use of the DIVA test which can differentiate between a vaccinated and an infected animal. They are working towards having the test certified for use at the end of 2012.
It is imperative that the obstacles to vaccinating cattle
against Bovine TB are removed as quickly as possible.
An EU derogation could be obtained to allow the UK to introduce a programme of cattle vaccination against
Bovine TB without further delay.
Contact your MP, MEP, and your Farming Union and ask that they make the vaccination of cattle against Bovine TB in the UK a priority.



More on bTB here: http://www.bovinetb.co.uk/




Rob



Wild Boar Cull Starting in Forest of Dean

In September 2011 the Forestry Commission agreed to suspend the cull of wild boar for 12 months. 

As the boar numbers were at a critically low level, this news was welcomed by many including Friends of the Boar.
The boar were able to breed, suckle, wean and live without the stress of being killed and this has seen a far more relaxed population of boar in the Forest of Dean.
However, for the last 12 months the boar have still been killed by poachers, RTA's, natural deaths and legal killing by landowners, reducing their numbers even further.
For the FC to suspend the cull of this animal for a whole year it has to tell you that they realised that this species had been over managed (culled) and that if they didn't give them a reprieve they could stand a real chance of being wiped out.
For the last 12 months Friends of the Boar have been actively recruiting volunteers to send in boar sightings online (confidentially). From all sightings gathered we then knocked off all duplicates from the same areas and we were left with 200 animals.
I understand that not all boar have been sighted and reported, but this is more respectable than the 650 animals estimated by the FC!

The FC have announced that they are to cull 100 wild boar in the Forest of Dean between now and January 2013. This is based on their estimation of 650 boar present at this time.
Now, just imagine that they are wrong in their estimation (like previously) and that there are in fact only 300 boar present at this time. They cull 100, which leaves 200 and then after further RTA's, poaching and legal shooting takes its toll, we could once again be left with a critical level of boar in the Dean.
A recent statement from a newly formed boar panel was "Doing Nothing is not an Option;" this is not animal management, this is not wildlife conservation, this is animal cruelty and murder!

I will now touch on two points.

1. How have I come by the estimation of only 300 wild boar?
Friends of the Boar estimated boar numbers to be below 100, probably around 90 when the FC declared they were abandoning the cull for 12 months in September 2011.
From 90 animals, lets say 50 were sexually mature sows, which mated in the later part of 2011. Given that not all young survive and that a sow can have between 2 and 8 young per-birth, lets say that on average 4 young survived for each sow. This equates to 200 boar and coupled with the 90, this gives us a total of 290, rounded up to 300.

2. What does this mean to our boar?  
The answer to this is quite simple, but at the same time devastating!
Wild boar roam in close knit groups called sounders, except for sexually mature males, which only associate with a sounder during the breeding season. If the boar numbers are at a very low level like we have seen recently, this will dramatically reduce the chances of a male finding suitable females. This can and probably will result in inbreeding, resulting in a dirty gene pool. We have seen this recently with our declining adder populations and as a result we are seeing smaller and infertile snakes.
Given the dirty gene pool and stress endured from culling, this could also make the boar more susceptible to disease such as TB.

I feel the boar were not given time for their numbers to stabilise and I also think there is more to this than just "Having to do Something."
An e-petition is on the way. As soon as it is available it will be posted here and everywhere!

Viva! is already covering our cause here: http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/wild_boar/index.php

FotB Official Website here: http://www.friendsoftheboar.moonfruit.com/

FotB on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheBoar


On a positive note we can announce that we have three patrons.

1. Andy Rouse - http://www.andyrouse.co.uk/
2. Zara Boland - http://www.zarathevet.com/
3. Sarah Jane Honeywell - http://www.sarah-jane.biz/

We welcome all three to our cause and thank them immensely for their support!

This Piglet has been on a long journey. We can make the rest of it a lot easier for him!



Rob

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Thousands of Badgers to Die!

The Badger Trust has Lost its Appeal to Stop the Cull of Badgers in the West Country!

Below are links to online petitions; repeated at end of post.


The news many people and organisations have been dreading; the Badger Trust has lost its appeal to halt the cull of thousands of badgers across Gloucestershire and Somerset and Natural England is soon expected to issue licences to shoot free running badgers at night.

What happens now?

As this was an appeal, which was lost, the cull will commence this autumn unless a miracle happens. We have many powerful and knowledgeable people standing in the corner of the badger like Brian May, Sir David Attenborough and Simon King to name a few, but will this be enough?
I don't think so, but as a nation we, the people have the power to stop this from happening. If enough of us stand together then anything is possible. People power stopped the sell off of our woodland as hundreds of thousands of people stood together and said "NO!"

Does this shy, secretive and nocturnal animal not matter? We fought long and hard to protect our woodlands, yet only the minority is willing to stand up to protect an amazing creature, which calls our forests and countryside its home.

If we just sit back without caring, they will ravage our countryside and forests with development and death; destroying unique and diverse habitats on their way without giving a damn about the implications it will have on our eco-system.
Our children and grandchildren have to grow up in the world we leave behind, and it is up to "us" to make sure it is a good one.

It is fact that killing 70% of the badger population in the designated areas will reduce bTB in cattle by just 16%. And it will take 9 years to complete, so where is the logic in this insane proposal?

bTB must be tackled, but it must be tackled in a way that will see it eradicated throughout our countryside and forests. This disease can be carried by most mammals, including rodents, deer, fox and wild boar. All can and will enter farmland, so what are they going to do, kill all deer, fox, boar, mice and rats after they have finished with the badger?
To target one species is discrimination, unjust and will only end in failure at the cost of two counties losing a valuable asset to our eco-system.

The cull will see trained marksmen shooting free running badgers at night with high powered rifles and the bullets have the capability of travelling up to three miles. If this sounds insane to you, that's because it is and to top it off there will be no information as to when and where the shoots are to take place. So watch yourself if you use public footpaths at night, as you may find yourself on the receiving end on a missile, which will pass straight through you; killing you.
Night time cull trials have been tested in the past and in one incident a marksman tragically killed his grandson!

One reason why scientists have spoken out against this cull is because of the Perturbation Effect. 

What is the Perturbation Effect? Badgers live in social groups and when disrupted or if the badgers feel their life is in danger, they will flee the sett in search of safer ground. If any of the fleeing badgers are indeed infected with bTB, they will carry and transmit the disease over a wider area. 
See links below for full details.




What is the alternative to culling? Vaccination!
DEFRA has spent years and millions of pounds developing a vaccine, yet they have shelved it in favour of a cull. 
Click the link below for Fera's Badger Vaccine Deployment Project. http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/wildlife/ecologyManagement/bvdp/

Many believe that by vaccinating both badgers and cattle, it will help eradicate this disease and lets be honest, the human race itself is vaccinated against multiple diseases and we did this without a mass cull of human beings; unless you count the many wars we have seen!
First we must get this disease under control, once under control we can work towards eradicating it. By killing just one species will not help us reach this goal and this is why we must all stand up to help stop this cull.


If you disagree with the badger cull and want to help, please click on the links below and sign the petitions. Many thanks.






And if you don't believe me, you can hear it from the experts! 

In 2010 I wrote to my local MP regarding my concerns over the proposed badger cull and what measures were in place and being implemented to help stop the progression of bTB. He then forwarded my letter onto Jim Paice.
Jim Paice replied to me in 2011 through my local MP with a 6 page reply. Please see below.  









PLEASE DON'T SHOOT ME








Rob

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

Rob

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.


GlosARG
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) http://www.zarathevet.com/.
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)


BADGER CULL
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
                                           
POACHING
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 

Rob

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

Rob

Monday, 23 July 2012

Wildlife Everywhere!

Had a cracking day in the forest on Sunday with a good friend Scott Passmore. Spent 6hrs in a hide and managed to see fallow deer, red fox, buzzard, lizard and great spotted woodpeckers before heading out into the forest to try and track down some wild boar.
Didn't find any boar as the bracken and grass was just too high, but did see a goshawk, loads of butterflies and moths, and also 20+ deer, although one had seen better days!!!

Ten hour shift searching for wildlife and finding loads, so a very productive day. All photograph below are of wild animals, seen in the Forest of Dean on Sunday 22.07.2012.

Hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.



Not great for photography and pretty hard going on foot, but I love exploring areas like this!


Forest of Dean




Enormous Ant Hills!



At Least 15 Speckled Wood Browns (I Think?)



Cinnabar Moths Crowding a Thistle Flower



Sneaky Red Fox




Fallow Buck in Velvet


Roe Buck Skull, Complete with Antlers


Rob


Friday, 13 July 2012

GlosARG

We are off and running with our new group; GlosARG!

Gloucestershire Amphibian and Reptile Group has been set up for the conservation of all our native reptiles and amphibians throughout Gloucestershire.
We are an affiliated group of ARG UK.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

If you would like to get involved, please contact us through one of the links below. We have a website, Facebook and Twitter pages, so you can easily get hold of us.
The feeling you get from knowing you have done something to conserve wildlife can not be beaten, so please get involved. It is fun, interesting and educational.
Get the kids involved and give them a passion, which will carry them well through life. What a feeling it would be to see your own children pass this gift onto your grandchildren!

We have only been running for a few weeks and in this time we have already discovered a "new" Great Crested Newt colony in the Forest of Dean.
These newts are endangered and protected by European law, so we couldn't have hoped for a better start!

You can reach us through the following links below.

GlosARG Website
Facebook
Twitter

ARG UK

Thank you in advance.

Rob

Sunday, 8 July 2012

GlosARG and Some Bucks!

GlosARG


If you are not already aware, along with a good friend Scott Passmore I have founded Gloucestershire's very own Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Group. This group is only a couple of weeks old yet we have already discovered a new colony of Great Crested Newts living in an old, secluded pond deep in the Forest of Dean.
A great start to our new venture and we hope for many more discoveries in the years to come.

If you live in the Gloucestershire area and want to help us by becoming involved. Please visit our website, Facebook page or even Twitter. You can contact us on all of these pages and we will be delighted to sign you up!
I have been finding, surveying and managing areas for the adder and grass snake for years. In turn this helps other reptiles and amphibians in the area. I have a wealth of experience and I would be delighted to pass this on to the right people so that together, we can make Gloucestershire a recognised place where Reptile and Amphibian Conservation is concerned.

See links under adder pic.

Female Adder

____________________________________________________

Now for Some Deer


These two chaps (Fallow Deer Bucks) were having a lazy stroll through the foxgloves and the more I observed them, the more I noticed some peculiar behaviour.
When fallow deer breed the buck will bite the back of the doe, like what you can see in the photograph below, so either this chap was getting a little frisky, or he was just getting some practice in for the big day?   
Their antlers are still in the early stages of growth and are covered in velvet at this time of the year, but over the next couple of months the antlers you see here will grow to a massive size and during the month of September they will rub the velvet off on trees surrounding their breeding territory.
If you look at the two front points of the antler, which are growing out to protect the eyes during a fight you will notice that they are quite long. This indicates that when fully grown, these two chaps will have some pretty impressive palmate antlers.
They may look firm friends now, but come September/October, they will be bitter rivals and will even fight for the right to mate with the doe's in this area.
As long as they do not move to a different part of the forest, I will do my best to find and photograph these two chaps as their antlers grow and the rutting season commences. 



Rob

Saturday, 30 June 2012

"New" Gloucestershire ARG

With a friend I have started a new amphibian and reptile conservation group in the Forest of dean, Gloucestershire.
This group is called GlosARG and we are an affiliated group of ARG UK.

Our aim is to.....

Raise awareness
Recruit volunteers
Survey Gloucestershire
Manage existing habitats
Create new habitats
Achieve protection status on existing and new habitats
See Gloucestershire recognised as a special place for Herptile Conservation

This isn't going to happen overnight and it isn't going to be easy, but with our passion, focus and some much needed help, I am sure we can achieve our goals.
Until now Gloucestershire did not have a ARG group, so Scott and I decided to change this and show the world the wonders of this special place.
Please contact me if you would like to help. We will be organising walks, talks as well as teaching volunteers how to survey all the magnificent amphibians and reptiles we have in Gloucestershire.

ARG Website

Follow us on...
Twitter
Facebook


As well as many other species, these are just some of the amphibians and reptiles we will be surveying and looking after throughout Gloucestershire.


Great Crested Newt



Adder



Grass Snake



Common Lizard



Toads


Frogs


Rob

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Swans and 7 Cygnets - Video

In 2010 on a local pond, two swans successfully reared 7 cygnets. I filmed them over a two hour period and you can see the end result here.
If you like swans, especially cygnets then you will love this as it is truly mesmerising and beautiful.


Sorry about the quality, but I had to convert from MPEG2 to AVI as the file was too large in MPEG format.



video

Rob

Friday, 15 June 2012

Adder Kiss!

Do you like snakes? If yes then this video is a must see for you.

I have included information throughout, but here is a brief description of events.

I always take my Canon SLR and video camera while surveying as I like to record my sightings in this way as well as by notes. On this occasion I decided to film this male adder as he was preparing to slough (shed his skin) and when they are in this state, it is easier to get close up footage. However, what I didn't anticipate is that he would actually approach me and as I was lying on the ground, supporting my camera with my elbows on the ground, I had to make a hasty retreat!

Basically his vision was impaired and he probably picked up on the heat coming from my camera and my hands.
Anyway, watch the video  and let me know what you think.



video


Rob

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Ward's Wildlife Scrapped

If you live in the Forest of Dean / Wye Valley area then you will probably get the Forest and Wye Valley Review newspaper.
For over a year I have been writing a column called Ward's Wildlife for this newspaper, highlighting wildlife in the area, while also highlighting any issues surrounding it. I have also used this column to help generate volunteers for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust; once recruiting more than a dozen new volunteers with just one feature.
The new editor, Mark Elson has taken the decision to scrap this column, much to my disgust as he "failed" to tell his readers that it was "his" decision to scrap it, not mine.

I now have no way of letting people know that it was not my decision to stop writing for this newspaper, so if you read this and know anyone who enjoyed this column, please let them know that I am still out there doing my thing and if they wish to see my column reinstated, they can contact the person responsible at this email address.
Mark Elson:  revieweditor@tindlenews.co.uk 

Anyway, enough of that as I have some photographs to show you from the last couple of weeks, walking around the forest. With all this heat and with my usual trick of finding myself in the middle of the forest with no water and severe dehydration, it's a wonder I made it back out!


A couple of wild boars

This little one has come a long way just to have his photograph taken!














Then mum came up for a portrait. However, she didn't look her best!




















A couple of birds

I love photographing jays and love their striking colours.













Canada goslings having a rest.














Hare today, gone in a flash!

The rare one

This is a very rare Great Crested Newt and I found a breeding colony in a pond, deep in the forest. Fantastic and great news for these very rare and protected amphibians.