Forest of Dean - Not For Sale

The Forest of Dean is under threat as never before. Government plans to sell it off will limit access and destroy centuries of tradition. The mixed broad-leaf and conifer woodlands, so well managed by the Forestry Commission as an amenity for all, will be ruined. Please visit the Hands Off Our Forest campaign's web site and show your support by signing the petitions and attending the rally at Speech House on January 3rd. Please also visit 38degrees and sign the petition there. The local tory MP and cabinet minister's website is unavailable at the moment, presumably because it was full of promises to preserve the forest - something that is completely at odds with his new-found stance. You can read about him at this page though, and email him here. It's not just a local problem either - it's not just the Forest of Dean that's being proposed to be sold - it's ALL our forests.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Just wanted to wish a merry Christmas to everyone who takes the time to look at my photos. Thank you all for your very kind comments and support this year - it really is appreciated.

Another badger

Another badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Here's another badger I photographed in the forest earlier this year. Next year I hope to get some more interesting shots of them... all my close-up pictures are a little bit 'samey'.

Autumn Light

Autumn Light, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Once again this year I didn't manage to get the shots of the fallow rut that I wanted, but other sights were seen, and other photos taken, and I can't complain. And there's always next year :)

Fallow Deer, Forest of Dean

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

Took this one in the forest at the weekend. She kept walking towards me to within about 12 feet or so, but a good hiding place and a favourable breeze meant she didn't detect me. There's a nice looking buck around there too which is what I was really hoping to capture.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar, originally uploaded by Ben909.

After 2-3 months of not seeing any wild boar, I've had 4 separate sightings in the last couple of weeks. This one is a pretty large male I photographed last Sunday. Those tusks should be a lot more visible in another year or so.

Autumn Fallow Deer

Autumn Fallow Deer, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This isn't quite what I set out to photograph, but I'm quite pleased with it. It's pretty much the peak of the rutting season for the fallow deer. Their belching calls are echoing through the forest, and the deer are all very active.


Heron, originally uploaded by Ben909.

I don't usually photograph birds, but this heron was perched almost on the side of the road and I couldn't resist pulling over. I used the car window for a tripod and failed to get as close or as crisp as I wanted, but after a slight crop and a black and white conversion, it's not so bad.

Young Wild Boar, Forest of Dean

Young Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

After a couple of months of being unable to catch up with any wild boar, I found some this week whilst walking the dog. It was too dark for pictures even if I'd had the camera with me, but they're always a joy to see. (This photo of a youngster was taken in August).
If anyone's interested in seeing the wild boar in the Forest of Dean, they will be on TV tomorrow, at 8pm on ITV1 on 'Wild Britain with Ray Mears', along with other wildlife of the forest.
"That’s something very few people in Britain have seen. It’s an animal that really should be in our landscape but the challenge will be for us to learn to live alongside it because I think we’re going to see a lot more of these animals in the future." – Ray Mears.

Adders, Nadders & The Nasal Shift

Adders, Nadders & The Nasal Shift, originally uploaded by Ben909.
After a week of pink evening skies and atmospheric mists, and some very active fallow deer whilst walking the dog, I was looking forward to capturing similar scenes this weekend, swapping the dog for the camera. Typically with wildlife photography, it didn't go to plan. No doubt if I'd left the camera at home and taken the dog instead, it would have been different. So here's an adder I prepared earlier.
There is a small but well known group of words in English in which the combination with the indefinite article led to the shifting of the nasal from the article to the noun itself. Thus a nadder became known as an adder, and a napron became an apron. These words are listed in etymological dictionaries but with no comment on the reasons for movement of the nasal.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

It seems about time to post another wild boar picture, living wild and free in the Forest of Dean. I haven't managed to find any for a while but I've got my eye on a few locations. Still plenty in the archive though :)

Awre Sunset

Awre Sunset, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This was taken back in April, on the River Severn, Awre.

Wish them luck

Wish them luck, originally uploaded by Ben909.
I'll try to refrain from having a rant here, as most of those reading will already know what my opinion is. The government has set out plans to license farmers in England to shoot badgers on their land. There is a school of thought that suggests a cull may worsen the problem though. As usual, science has little influence over policy. Fortunately, I don't expect any of the badgers I photograph to be affected by this, as they're all dwelling at various setts deep in the Forest, away from any livestock and farms.


Blue?bells, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This was taken back in May, when the forest floor was covered in bluebells. Not that you can really see them in infra-red! I just wondered what it would look like, and thought it made a change from the usual.

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This shot shows a sow with one of her young - there are 5 others out of shot. The youngsters have almost lost their stripes and are now a reddish colour. I love the eyebrows on the wild boar - the silver hair on this one really shows them off :)

Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes)

Red Fox, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The high vegetation of the forest is making spotting wildlife tricky at the moment, so this was a bit of good fortune. I'm hoping to get some better fox shots soon.

Badger, Forest of Dean

Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This is a badger I first photographed last year. The sett appears to consist of one less badger this year (only 3 now). The eyes may look a little unnatural - they had a horrible case of 'green-eye' (the badger equivalent of human 'red-eye') from the flash. I've done the best I can to correct them. There's another blurry badger in the background. At one point, a fox walked through too, but in the darkness I originally mistook it for another badger. Shame, as it would have been nice to get a fox and a badger in the same shot.

Wild Boar Sow (video), Forest of Dean

Wild Boar Sow, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This was taken last night. I took a number of photos, but the light was really poor under the tree canopy in the twilight, so I reached for the phone to try a bit of video. This is a small sow, probably parenting for the first time, accompanied by her six young (not in this video).
Top tip: Do not stand on a wasps nest that has just been unearthed by a wild boar, wearing trainers and cut-off trousers. I wondered what the weird humming noise was until my ankle was on fire with stings. I think the boar then probably wondered what the hopping, cursing human was all about too. It made the drive home 'interesting' too.


Buttercups, originally uploaded by Ben909.

A fallow doe in the Forest of Dean, munching on some buttercups.

Wild Boar Suckling, Forest of Dean

This is one of the shots that was on Springwatch that I haven't got round to uploading until now. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing of shots I guess, but it's not something you see every day, and not something I expect to see so close up again any time soon. Here's the TV clip again.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This was taken last month at dusk. I'd spotted a group from some distance away, just as they were waking up for the night. After feeding the little ones they started to head off to where they were going, and I was spotted. This sow wasn't very pleased - note the swishing tail. This is the last photo from that evening as I respectfully walked away at that point. The coat of this boar is making the transition from the reddish brown colour of a juvenile boar to the black colour of the adult.

Badger Cub

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

This was taken on Thursday night in the Forest. It's one of at least six cubs that share a sett with at least two adults. The cubs emerged before the adults. The adults didn't hang about, heading off in to the Forest as soon as they came above ground, but I was able to spend a couple of hours watching the cubs.

New Toy

New Toy, originally uploaded by Ben909.

I've acquired a new toy :) It's a 35mm 'stealth' cam. I'll attach it to a tree somewhere in the forest and see what it captures. It's triggered by motion and has a reasonably powerful flash. It's not going to take any quality pictures, but it'll be fun to find out what it sees. I've got to find a suitable location first, and I don't know how long it will take for the film to fill, but expect some grainy date-stamped pictures some time soon :)

A new look!

This blog has been running for a year and 2 months, and I thought it was about time it had a fresh look. I wouldn't be surprised if I tinker a bit more with it (or maybe even completely change it again!), but for now I think this will do. In the time the blog has been running, my photography has improved quite a bit, so if you're new to the blog, stick with the more recent posts ;) As always, a wider range of my photos from beyond the Forest of Dean can be seen on my Flickr pages.
Finally, if anyone is reading this from my Tumblr pages, please note that I'll probably shut it down soon - it's best to use this address instead. The whole idea of Tumblr's aggregation of multiple sources is great, but I've found the pulls from Flickr to be too unreliable. My Tumblr site was always intended to be completely automated and for a while it worked perfectly, but lately too many of the items in the Flickr RSS just aren't coming through.

Wild Boar remastered (as seen on tv!)

It was a real treat for me to have some of my boar photos featured on Springwatch last night - my thanks to the BBC for wanting to show them. One photo provoked some discussion amongst the presenters about photoshop, and whether or not photos like this should be photoshopped. Personally, as far as wildlife photography is concerned, I tend to do little more than a bit of noise reduction and exposure correction where needed, and try to make the best of the situation around me when I shoot. It's not really practical to compose exactly as you might like when it comes to wild boar. I love all that Photoshop can do, despite my lack of ability with it, but I tend to reserve it for non-wildlife subjects. However, I thought I'd have a go at Chris Packham's suggestion of removing the offending blade of grass. I'm not sure if I've done a very good job, but it only took 10 minutes. I guess it doesn't particularly alter the 'honesty' of the picture as it is just a single blade :)

Here's a recording of the segment of the show....

Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa)

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Another shot from last month. The piglets are born with characteristic brown and yellow stripes. These are lost at 3-4 months, in place of a reddish coat, which is eventually replaced by an almost black coat.


Badger, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

It looks like the badger could well be on course to end up as the first victims of the new Tory (coalition) government. "Ministers are preparing to order targeted badger culls in England in a move that will delight farmers who believe it the prime factor in the spread of TB through their dairy herds – and enrage many animal welfare groups" (Link)... Are vaccinations really so difficult?
This photo is from last years archives.

Wild Boar Piglet

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

It was such a treat to be able to get so close to the boar on this occasion, but on occasion the inquisitive youngsters got a little too close for comfort (and for focussing!). They don't pose a risk in themselves of course, but that convenient black background is actually mummy boar, and she's quite big :)

55 at the 7

55 at the 7, originally uploaded by Ben909.

55 seconds at the River Severn. The Severn is the longest of the rivers in the UK and has the greatest water flow, and the greatest tidal range. And probably the most mud too. This was taken back in February this year.

Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa)

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

These two spent a minute or so chasing each other round and round the tree, playing rough and tumble.

Wild Boar, Learning From Mum

Wild Boar, Learning From Mum, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The boar are fully weaned by 3 or 4 months. Until then, they have plenty time to practice foraging for their own food. It was particularly nice to see these two rooting around side by side. The youngsters are deceptively strong, and are capable of getting almost as 'stuck in' as the grown-ups.

Wild Boar, Standing Proud

Wild Boar, Standing Proud, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This was taken at the same time as the previously posted shots. I was able to track them down again this evening, a couple of miles or so away from last time. They were much harder to get shots of tonight, but I still managed a few that I'm pleased with. I'll post a few more from the previous encounter first :)

Grace in the bluebells

Grace in the bluebells, originally uploaded by Ben909.

I think I may have missed the bluebells at their best - Many of them seemed a little tired and wilted today. Then again there were plenty that didn't appear to have opened yet too. Grace didn't seem to care :)

Slow Water

Slow Water, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Another shot taken from one of the rock shelves in the River Severn as the tide was turning, with Sharpness on the horizon.
242 seconds, F18, ISO100

Wild Boar

Wild Boar - Feeding Time, originally uploaded by Ben909.

As far as the little ones were concerned, it was always feeding time, but here the two sows led down on the grass, almost touching noses with each other, as ten thirsty mouths got stuck in. I've got to admit I'm still smiling about capturing this :)

Wild Boar Piglet

Wild Boar Piglet, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The little piglet seemed popular before, so here's another one. It's amazing to think it what it will grow in to in the near future. The sows must have been exhausted. They've been looking after 10 of these for the past 3 or 4 weeks, and they're full of energy and constantly hungry. This shot was taken during a brief respite from playing, fighting, digging, suckling, running around, and generally enjoying life.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Here's one of the two proud Mums. Wild Boar are very elusive animals, and notoriously difficult to see. This will sound incredibly hypocritical in the context of these photos, but they shouldn't be approached, particularly when with their young. You can't outrun a wild boar! I've been watching the boar for about two years, and getting good natural shots of them exhibiting some of the behaviour I've captured has long been a goal of mine. A large number of the shots won't be going on Flickr, and all have been drastically reduced in size. I know a lot of people don't share my enthusiasm for the boar... I'll try to chuck in some non-boar photos soon :)

Wild Boar Feeding

Wild Boar Feeding, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

One of the big challenges with photographing wild boar is capturing their natural behaviour. Most of their senses are superb, meaning that most of the time they'll be aware of you before you are of them. This is why so many of my past boar shots have shown the boar looking straight at me. Behaviour doesn't come much more natural than this - it was an absolute privilage to be able to see and photograph this scene. The piglets are about 3 or 4 weeks old, and will continue to suckle for a while yet. They're not picky about who they suckle from either - this is two litters and two mothers, but when it comes to feeding, neither the sows nor the piglets pay too much attention to whose mum is whose.

Wild Boar Piglet

Wild Boar Piglet, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Bingo! It's taken plenty of effort, but finally I've got a series of wild boar piglet shots I think I can be happy with. In fact, today I managed to watch behaviour (and photograph much of it) that I never imagined I'd be lucky enough to see.
This little chap is part of a sounder consisting of ten piglets and two sows. I posted a photo of one of those sows on April 22nd. There's a 50% chance that the black blob in the background of this shot is her. I've been on the trail of this group since, and today the effort paid off, more so than I could have wished for in fact. Long time followers of my blog will be used to my wild boar ramblings by now, and will be prepared for the slew of boar photos that will no doubt follow. In advance of me milking this, I apologise...

Common Lizard

Common Lizard, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The viviparous lizard or common lizard is a Eurasian lizard. It lives farther north than any other reptile species, and most populations are viviparous (giving birth to live young), rather than laying eggs as most other lizards do. The viviparous lizard feeds on invertebrates, mostly small insects. It shakes larger prey in its jaws before chewing it and swallowing it whole. In early spring, late autumn, and cool summer days it basks in the sun to reach its optimum body temperature.
wikipedia info

River Severn at Awre

River Severn at Awre, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Another shot from February. Taken from the banks of the River Severn at Awre.
30 seconds, F14, ISO100, ND110

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean

Wild Boar, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Finally, I got to see some of this years piglets! :) Unfortunately, they were so small they barely show up on any of the photos, but they were a treat to see. (click on the photo for a poor photo of one).
Unlike the non-native fallow deer who are currently enjoying the benefits of a closed season on shooting, the native (albeit long extinct until recent years) wild boar do not enjoy this luxury. Whilst they are busy trying to look after their young, the Forestry Commission is continuing to shoot them. In the past two weeks I've found plenty evidence that the boar are being shot at this important time. There seems to still be a policy of reducing the population, even though the population is very much unknown.
This photo shows one of the sows. The sounder consisted of two sows and something like 8-10 piglets. There's almost certainly one behind the tree or the grass in this shot, but they're so small that most of the time they were hidden. This particular sow is shown here trotting towards the camera for a closer look at what's going on (poor eyesight). Soon afterwards, she turned back to the group and headed off.

Volcanic Sunset

Volcanic Sunset, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This was taken last night on the banks of the River Severn at Awre. Britain remains a no-fly zone as the tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the ash cloud could jam aircraft engines, as has happened in previous incidents of planes flying into plumes of volcanic ash. The last eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano system that is creating the problems was on 20 March, when a 0.5km-long fissure opened up on the eastern side of the glacier at the Fimmvoerduhals Pass.
The cone shaped baskets in this picture are placed in putcher frames to catch salmon.

Piercefield View

Piercefield View, originally uploaded by Ben909.

This was taken from grounds of the old Piercefield House estate in Monmouthshire, looking towards the Severn Bridge, just visible in the distance.
69 secs, F10, ISO100, R72

Wild Boar - A Revisted Encounter

Wild Boar - A Revisted Encounter, originally uploaded by Ben909.

I've never double-posted before, but I was looking back and decided that the processing on this was overdone last time. Considering the effort I went to to get this shot I thought it was worth revisiting it. It was shot in pitch black somewhere in the middle of the Forest of Dean and was the culmination of a lot of time and patience spent observing the boar in that area last year. One of the first things a wild boar will want to do when it wakes up for the evening is to have a good wallow. They'll then rub much of the mud off again on a nearby tree trunk, but not all of it as you can see here! I think this version looks more natural - just a slight amount of 'fill light' in Photoshop to bring out a bit more detail. My last sighting was 3 or 4 days ago. I was getting concerned about the lack of evidence of young boar this year, but am finally getting reports of sightings. It shouldn't be long until I can catch up with them :)

Slow-worm, Forest of Dean

Slow-worm, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

I've set myself the ambitious goal of trying to photograph some fox cubs in the forest, on one of their first forays in to the open... trouble is knowing where to find them, and which holes they're in! Two nights so far without success, although I have seen a vixen, and had an encounter with a large wild boar last night. So the fluffy fox cubs will have to make way for the time being. It's a slow-worm picture today instead:)
Anguis fragilis, or slow worm, slow-worm, slowworm, blindworm or blind worm, is a limbless reptile native to Eurasia.
Slow-worms are semi-fossorial (burrowing) lizards spending much of the time hiding underneath objects. The skin of the varieties of slow-worm is smooth with scales that do not overlap one another. Like many other lizards, slow-worms autotomize, meaning that they have the ability to shed their tails in order to escape predators. The tail regrows, but remains smaller.

Common Lizard

Common Lizard, Forest of Dean, originally uploaded by Ben909.

The viviparous lizard or common lizard is a Eurasian lizard. It lives farther north than any other reptile species, and most populations are viviparous (giving birth to live young), rather than laying eggs as most other lizards do. The viviparous lizard feeds on invertebrates, mostly small insects. It shakes larger prey in its jaws before chewing it and swallowing it whole. In early spring, late autumn, and cool summer days it basks in the sun to reach its optimum body temperature.

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Typical bank holiday weather today, so to escape the rain I headed underground to explore a disused iron mine in the forest near my house, accompanied by friends. This was my first ever attempt at any form of light-painting, and I'm quite pleased with the result. Not sure I'd want to venture in to this blackness on my own though!
63 seconds, F8, ISO100, light painted

Dangerous Structure

Dangerous Structure, originally uploaded by Ben909.

Piercefield House is a largely ruined neo-classical mansion designed by Sir John Soane, located near Chepstow in Monmouthshire.
This is essentially one of the out-buildings. The main property is to the left of this picture, but security fencing prevented me getting any reasonable pictures. The main property is actually in a worse condition that this, and is currently up for sale with an asking price of £2,000,000.