Merry Christmas

Cold, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Taken today on Christmas Eve at Speech House Lake. I don't think we're going to get any snow tomorrow, but at least it'll still be white. Merry Christmas to everyone who visits this site (all 2 of you!).

Grace in the Forest

Grace in the Forest, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Enjoying a Christmas Eve walk in the snow.

Grace in the Forest

Grace, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Taking a break after a frantic run around, which explains the big mud splat on her back leg!

Badger close-up

Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

It's a clear day and the sun is shining for the first time in ages. And I'm stuck at home poorly. So I've been digging around some older photos and decided to upload these badger photos from back in August. They were taken at a sett in the Forest of Dean. It was pretty much pitch black - I've never been fortunate enough to see them in the daylight. This particular sett houses 4 badgers. Hopefully February will bring more. Badgers are capable of 'delayed implantation', which means the female can become fertilized in any month of the year, but can 'choose' to begin development of the baby badger at a later date according to food availability and weather, normally giving birth in February.


Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Another from the badger series taken in August this year. One of the entrances to the sett can be made out to the right of the tree trunks. I arrive at dusk and wait for night to fall - even with a torch, negotiating the forest at night can be very disorientating!

Stevie gets a nose tickle

This is Rob Ward meeting Stevie Wonder. You may remember Stevie from a couple of posts I made last month (click here for pics). He's a wild boar that has been given a home by Alastair from Severnwye Llama Trekking. Stevie is virtually blind, and as a result he stood no chance of survival in the wild. He couldn't even get a look in on his mothers milk as a youngster. Now two years old, he's continuing to do very well indeed in Alastair's care.
I went inside Stevie's pen with him for a bit, and Rob's fingers are still very much intact. Contrary to what you might have been lead to believe in the press, or from scaremongers, these are not savage beasts - just very much misunderstood. I'd have been far more cautious entering a pen containing a cow! That said though, they are large wild and powerful wild animals, and should not be approached in the wild (or have their noses tickled!)

This second image is the result of a bit of fun with Photoshop.

I've posted a number of wild boar (in the wild in the Forest of Dean) photos in the past too, which you can reach here. And do check out Rob's Forest of Dean Wildlife blog too - there are some first class photos on there :)

They live here too...

Take a look at these pictures. None of them are particularly great or they'd have been posted here before in much larger sizes. That's not the point of this post. The point is, this is not a fearsome or dangerous creature, if a few basic common sense rules are observed. Yet again, another dog has been injured by a wild boar in the Forest of Dean, and yet again, a dog owner's lack of understanding has resulted in a knee-jerk call for the killing of the boar.

In this case, the boar concerned is apparently a sow with dependant young. Killing it will mean only one thing for its family. This goes a long way to explain why the boar acted as it did. It's a trait common to all species - that of the instinct to survive and to protect the survival of it's offspring. A dog would do the same thing if a boar came bounding in to an area where it was caring for it's puppies. It's instinctive.

Wild boar will not attack unless provoked. I'm yet to hear a believable story of a boar attacking a human. When alarmed, a boar will make some incredible noises that could easily be construed as aggression. It will then generally run away. If you're lucky, it may even approach you for a better look (their eyesight is poor). Whilst taking these photos, and on many other occasions, I have not had any cause to fear for my safety. However, a determined dog could keep up with a fleeing wild boar, and to the dog, the piglets no doubt represent something perfect to play with/eat. This is provocation in every sense of the word, and we can't be outraged when a boar responds in the unfortunate way that it seems to have done on this occasion, much as we do have every sympathy for the suffering of the dog and the anguish of its owner.

The wild boar live here. Apart from a prolonged absence caused by man's hunting to extinction, they are back where they have always lived - they belong here.

I'm now a dog owner too. I hope one day to be able to let her off the lead in the Forest too. However, that will only be in areas where I know the chances of encountering wild boar are close to nil, and only then, when she has suitable recall control. Until then, she goes on the lead, and she goes to other places where she can safely run free.

This newspaper article, assuming it's accurate, makes it clear that the owner knew there were boar around. I'm a dog lover, so I'm truly sorry to hear what has happened, and I hope the dog makes a good recovery. However, this wasn't the fault of the boar, nor of the dog. Both were doing what comes naturally. We have very few creatures in this country where care needs to be taken for the safety of pets and ourselves - other countries have far greater, and far more real, dangerous creatures to deal with - they've adapted and learned to live with those creatures, and so should we. In this particular case, it's not actually much to learn to live with. Most people in the Forest have never seen a wild boar, and if it weren't for these stories in the media, they would barely know they were here. The Forest is still a safe place for people and dogs to be. There's every chance that public understanding of the boar in Britain is less now than it was in medieval times, and that needs to change if the wild boar are to stand any chance of long term survival here.
Thanks to Rob for the image of the newspaper article.

Teazels, Teazles, Teasels (?)

Teazels, Teazles, Teasels (?), originally uploaded by Ben909.

Teasels are easily identified with their prickly stem and leaves, and the inflorescence of purple, dark pink or lavender flowers that form a head on the end of the stem(s). The seeds are an important winter food resource for some birds.

Anarchy on the Severn

Anarchy on the Severn, originally uploaded by Ben909.

I'm not sure what motivated someone to daub this on one of the thousands of boulders that make up the tidal barrier on the banks of the Severn on the edge of the cow field... unless they were trying to start a bovine revolution perhaps.
Taken near Lydney, between the rain, which is getting boring now.

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Fallow Deer, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Bit of a quiet day in the forest today... spotted a few deer from a distance, this being the only capture I was able to manage.
Tried a zoom burst effect on this one, but not using the 'in camera' technique of zooming the lens during the exposure - deer aren't obliging enough to stand still for that! I'm not sure how well it works really, but I wanted to try it.

Orton in Autumn

Orton in Autumn, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

With storms predicted later most of these leaves left hanging will probably be gone tomorrow. Made from three exposures with a slight Orton effect.

White Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

I was very fortunate to see such a rare treat as this today. He was a very long way away and I wished I had a longer lens, but am still really pleased to have got this. Both images have been very heavily cropped.
The species has great variations in colour, with four main variants, "common", "menil", "melanistic" and "white" - a genuine colour variety and not a true albinistic which is extremely rare. The common form has a brown coat with white mottles that are most pronounced in summer with a much darker coat in the winter. The white is the lightest coloured, almost white; common and menil are darker, and melanistic is very dark, even black (easily confused with the Sika Deer).

Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes)

I only had about 2 seconds to react to this one as he crossed a very narrow opening in the long grass, and had unfortunately been struggling to manually focus on a close up little bird just beforehand. This was the best I could focus in the time available.
Unlike many canids, foxes are not usually pack animals. Typically, they live in small family groups, opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey (especially rodents). Using a pouncing technique practised from an early age, they are usually able to kill their prey quickly. Foxes also gather a wide variety of other foods ranging from grasshoppers to fruit and berries.

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

This photo was taken from a long way away and has been heavily cropped.
The Green Woodpecker spends much of its time feeding on ants on the ground and does not often 'drum' on trees like other woodpecker species. It is a shy bird but usually draws attention with its loud calls. A nest hole is excavated in a tree; four to six eggs are laid which hatch after 19–20 days.

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Fallow deer can be found in most counties in England and Wales, and there are large populations in pockets spread across Scotland. The species was introduced by the Normans and quickly became established in the wild in hunting forests and chases.

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Fallow deer are herbivores and graze all types of ground vegetation. They also browse shrub layers in a wood, and the growing shoots and leaves of holly and beech trees. Fallow deer inhabit woodland both for food and shelter.

Young Badger

Young Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Caught this shot as this young cub emerged from his set.

And for my next trick....

Caption competition, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Saw some fine stags today, and heard their calls resonating around the forest, but they were either too fast, or in too dark a situation to photograph. This picture has been brightened quite a bit - it was way too dark for good pictures - I mainly only uploaded it because I thought it was funny.

Last light at Woorgreen Lake

Last light at Woorgreen Lake, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Woorgreen Lake is fed via Foxes Bridge Bog, with the water levels being managed by a sluice. There are different habitats in the area, woodland, heath land, marsh and open mud areas; these support a variety of wildlife and plant species.
I saw a group of four deer and a large heron at the end of the evening, but it was too dark to photograph them.

Dusk over Woorgreen Lake

Dusk over Woorgreen Lake, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Woorgreen Lake is found in the heart of the Forest of Dean and is on land that was once used for open cast mining, this mining finished in 1981. The lake and surrounding area having quickly been inhabited by wildlife, now there is an abundance of flora and fauna to be found, being one of the best sites for dragonflies in the Forest of Dean.

Stevie the boar showing off his tusks

At two years or so old, Stevie is not yet at his full size, but he's already starting to show some nice tusks.

Meet Stevie Wonder, the wild boar

Meet Stevie Wonder, the wild boar, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This is Stevie Wonder. He's a 2 year old blind wild boar. He's lived in the Forest of Dean for a week so far. He was being picked on by the sounder (group) he was living with in the wild, and was clearly not going to survive for long. He's been kindly brought to the Forest of Dean and given a very good and caring home with the owner of Severnwye Llama Trekking.
Something tells me that Stevie will soon become something of a local celebrity!

Flaxley Cottages

Flaxley Cottages
Flaxley Cottages, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Taken from one of the higher spots in woods near Flaxley.

Flaxley Panorama

Flaxley Panorama, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This is something I've never tried before... it's a panorama stitched from 6 images in a 3x2 arrangement. I used too much vertical overlap, so the resulting image wasn't as tall as I'd hoped, but at least now I know it can be done. Already thinking about doing some huuuge stitches :)

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Spent the afternoon walking Grace (my dog) in the forest, but it wasn't the most photogenic of days really, and none of the deer wanted to pose for a shot today either. The intention here was to try to capture the squirrel 'in flight' between one tree and another, but it didn't quite work out that way in the end.

Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa)

I took this photo back in June, when I was observing the wild boar in the Forest on an almost nightly basis, which is what led to me getting so close to this chap. He kept a very close eye on me, as you can see, and I kept an equally close eye on him! You can see more pictures of this, and other boar, earlier on in this blog.

Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa)

Another photo from June this year.

Yet another badger pic!

Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This is the same badger as was previously posted. I managed a lot of photos that evening so don't be surprised to see more in the future :)


'Raw' - Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This is one side of a large cube. The cube is constructed from an entire oak tree, planted in the 1800's to provide timber for warships, and felled to reveal a glade in the woodland. Made by 2001, this cube is one of many sculptures dotted around the Forest of Dean


'Echo' - Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The wall of rocks in the foreground is actually an exact replica cast from the cliff face in the background. From the sides, it is completely smooth. Made in 2008, it is one of the pieces that currently make up the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail.


Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Another photo from the series I took while observing a badger set in the Forest.

Wild Boar, life and death

Wild Boar, life and death, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The image on the left is a wild boar nest. It consists of a shallow 'crater' scraped in to the soil, with a mound of vegetation placed on top. After a few days the sow will leave the nest with her young, and the vegetation collapses as it dries out.
In stark contrast, the image on the right illustrates how the Forestry Commission are capitalising on Defra's immunocontraceptive experiments by placing high seats near Defra's feeding hoppers. From these seats the rangers will shoot the wild boar.
The number of wild boar in the forest is believed to be a fraction of what it was last year, but the truth is that nobody really knows how many there are, which makes this policy of killing them all the more concerning. This current 'management' of the population could well lead to the inadvertant (or perhaps deliberate?) eradication of the wild boar once again.


Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This badger is the largest of three siblings living in this particular set.


Deer, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Taken today in the forest - a pretty gloomy but humid day. These spotted us before we spotted them so these were the best pics I could manage at long range.

Badger cubs

Badger cubs, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This picture was taken on the same evening as the previous photo on the blog. It was pretty difficult to get all three in the same shot - this was the best of the bunch.

Badger cub

Badger cub, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This is one of three badgers I was able to photograph this evening in the Forest. It would be about 6 months old. The mother didn't make an appearance but I can't complain. The little ones were great fun to watch.
Location withheld.

Beyond the Forest of Dean...

View to Ramsey Island, originally uploaded by Ben909.

I haven't uploaded so many pictures lately as many of my photographs lately have been taken elsewhere in Gloucestershire and beyond. The photos taken outside of the Forest of Dean are all visible at Flickr.

Easter Island

Easter Island (Forest of Dean), originally uploaded by Ben909.

One of a number of stone carvings in the Forest of Dean. This one overlooks a wide view as shown in the previous post.

Edge of the Forest

Edge of the Forest, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Looking north-east from the edge of the Forest of Dean, overlooking Mitcheldean in the centre foreground of the image. May Hill is behind that (with a small clump of trees on top), with the Malvern Hills and beyond in the distance.

Sunny silhouette

Sunny silhouette, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Probably not the most sensible thing to do, looking down your lens in to the sun, but I think it produces interesting effects. This one taken high up in the Forest.

Plump Hill

Plump Hill, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Near the Wilderness Centre at the top of Plump Hill.


Barn, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Near the Wilderness Centre at the top of Plump Hill, Forest of Dean


Duckling, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Taken on Newent Lake

Newent Lake

Newent Lake, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This end of the lake is a designated non-fishing area. The fish seemed to have wised up to this, as it was literally teeming with them here.

Newent Lake

Newent Lake, originally uploaded by Ben909.

It was pretty busy here today. This was taken from the only jetty that wasn't occupied by someone fishing.