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Forest of Dean

Jewells of the Forest

I could quite easily make a home in the Forest of Dean. It’s such a magical place, home to elusive species like Hawfinch, Firecrest, Nightjar, Willow Tit, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and the only population of Wild Boar in Wales. Today’s trip was forced after two weeks of ill health, of which I still haven’t fully recovered, but I refused to be stuck indoors any longer with this beautiful weather we’ve been having. I’ve planned to scan a spot that showed a lot of Boar activity two months ago, in the hope that I would find some new born piglets. Their stripes on a piglet (also called humbugs) are perfect camouflage in the forest and their preferred nesting spot in thick bracken makes them pretty invisible. If it wasn’t for the large Mother making a racket to warn me off, I wouldn’t have even spotted the piglets. It all happened so fast and this was after 4-5 hours of walking but I think I made the most of the opportunity as best as I could with the gear I had available.

Moving on to the Adder! As if the Boar wasn’t enough to make my day, if you’ve read previous blogs you’ll know how much time I’ve spent yomping around local heathland looking for Adder, that and I lost a very expensive pair of sunglasses while searching for said Adder. I gave in though, and travelled to a known ‘hotspot’ pun intended, in the Forest of Dean, only to find not 1, but 3! basking in the midday sun. They all appear to be males and were much smaller than I was expecting.. probably why I’ve never seen one before.

Forest of Dean Firsts

Back-tracking a little here, as Craig and I also went to the Forest of Dean on Thursday last week in search of a few of forest mammals. Ideally we would have loved to have seen Wild Boar, and all seemed on target! as we were just about to give up when Craig spotted a Boar 'Sleeping'... Getting all excited we approached slowly as it was a sub-adult male, tusks and all! but the closer we got, the soon realised that it wasn't sleeping, and it was actually dead :'(. Not sure the cause of death, but it wasn't that far from a main road, so likely hit by a car and stumbled into the woodland injured. I won't post the pictures, it was quite graphic. 

The day was saved however! As another first for both of us came soon after, in the form of a Muntjac Deer :D

I've only ever had 1 other brief sighting of a Muntjac but I've never got to photograph one before. If you haven't seen one before, it's not that they're not common, it's just they are so small, as so easy to miss. (About the size of a small-medium sized Dog). They aren't native to the Uk, but they're well established, and personally, a welcomed addition to the Uk Deer population. 

Muntjac Deer

Muntjac Deer

Arriving home, I spent an hour along the Avon Llwyd to see how our Dippers are getting on, as they're usually quite early breeders, so most will be sitting on eggs already. 
This looked promising with territories well established, males singing around the nesting sites and even the Grey Wagtails are getting broody and won't be far behind I'm sure. 

Forest of Dean

Day's trip at the Dean in some beautiful weather today. Spent most of the day at Cannop Ponds and the water was very busy. I spent a lot of time chatting to the locals too about wildlife. Met a guy called Ray Buckley also who is a local wildlife photographer, I've seen his photographs before online and he's captured some fantastic forest photos of the dear and wild boar. I've personally not seen one for a long time so was glad to be told of a place nearby where I might find some. I stumbled upon a loan pregnant female that was feeding on acorns in quite a busy area. She wasn't at all phased by people as you can see, the image was taken at 300mm and I found it hard to fit her all in half the time as she was too close. While chatting about her to the locals in the car park, I was approached by an angry man who went out of his way to shout at everyone for getting too close and that "wild boar are the worse thing to have ever happened to the forest". While I can understand his frustration and concern about the increasing numbers of wild boar, I didn't appreciate being shouted at from the off, without any reason to say such things, simply the fact that I was holding a camera, he Assumed I'd be getting too close. I suspect his anger is being aimed at photographers because of the few minority of photographers that have been visiting this area, feeding the wild boar in order to get closer shots. Personally I don't agree with feeding them as their tolerance to people will inevitably result in those individuals getting shot. It's certainly a controversial subject and I'm sure a wildlife TV series will be about soon about the ongoing problems that residence are having in the Forest of Dean. I hope you enjoy my photographs from today. 

Summer around the corner?

With all this mild weather, I'm reminded of spring and summer activities. Here is a photograph taken in the Forest of Dean right from the car park at Symonds Yat Rock. Beautiful Silver-washed Fritillaries! My first ever Fritillary Butterfly and still one of my favourites.