Archive for Beavers

Bears, Bald Eagles, Beavers and boats in BC…

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Since I wrote about collecting an award and presenting a talk at the International Conservation Photography Awards in Seattle in June, I have been based further north in Canada photographing the wildlife of Vancouver Island. I came with plans of capturing images of bears, eagles and whales but, barring the research I had done beforehand, little first-hand knowledge of how I was going to guarantee access to the opportunities I needed.

In my experience, social media is all well and good but face-to-face networking is essential to succeeding as a professional photographer. That being my weapon of choice, I turned up in Seattle ready to absorb the advice and tips any ICPAwards winners and judges would be willing to part with. Through his personal efforts to gain protection for Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth forests with the Ancient Forest Alliance, fellow winning photographer TJ Watt pointed me in the direction of his home town – Port Renfrew.

Port Renfrew turned out to be way more than just a starting point and a location to find big old trees. The location of the town away from the busy east coast of the island makes it a quiet spot to seek out the wildlife that thrives in and around the port. Hikes into the forest to photograph the groves of giant red cedar and Douglas fir trees were sandwiched by early morning shoots at the rockpools of Botanical Beach and sessions staking-out a local lake to photograph beavers. I hadn’t packed in preparation to sit half-submerged in a mosquito-infested swamp waiting for nocturnal aquatic rodents to wake up but it wasn’t an opportunity I was going to let pass. After the lakeside fishermen finally slipped off home, the beavers rewarded my efforts and came to feed right in front of me.

Just when I thought that crouching in a swampy reedbed for four hours deciding whether to pee or not to pee was going to be the most uncomfortable shoot of the trip…a friendly fisherman called Doug showed up. Doug’s invitation to join him on his boat to photograph bald eagles hunting from the cliffs north of Port Renfrew was too good an opportunity to pass up – even for a photographer with no sea legs. The swells of the Pacific made sure I moved regularly between a doubled-over position on the edge of the boat and a prostrate position on the floor of the cabin – all of which made me even more satisfied with the shots I managed to fire off as the hunting birds came overhead.

Earlier this week, the wilder north of the island called me away from Port Renfrew with promises of cetaceans, bears and otters…and it did not disappoint. My first afternoon outside Telegraph Cove delivered my first real opportunity to photograph a black bear. This first opportunity was quickly followed by a second as a mother brought her two cubs out to feed in the late evening light.

As things often go, it wasn’t even bears that I was in Telegraph Cove to find and the next morning I was seeking out orcas and humpback whales with Stubbs Island. This whale watching operator came highly recommended and I’m proud to pass on that recommendation. Despite the resident orcas going AWOL, close (very close) sightings of humpback whales, flat-calm waters and an excellent guided experience made for a great morning on the Johnstone Strait.

In my short time remaining on Vancouver Island I’ll be concentrating on finding and photographing grizzly bears and heading into the forests in an attempt to capture evocative scenes showing the effects of logging and deforestation on the island. Hopefully my time in the forests will also give me the chance to find and photograph some more of the island’s forest species too. Safe travels…

See more on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

Ripples in the reeds

Posted in European Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

‘Beaver!’ Remek’s outstretched arm pointed to a shady patch in the shallows under some river-side vegetation. My usually sharp eyes struggled to find anything vaguely animal-like in the dark waters. A sudden loud splash signalled where the young beaver had grown tired of my ineptitude and disappeared beneath the surface, slapping his tail in disgust as he went.

I was on the Emajogi, a river in southern Estonia, with wildlife filmmaker and photographer Remek Meel. Having watched, researched, filmed and photographed beavers in his native Estonia for almost all of his life, Remek has become the country’s beaver specialist. It is these years of experience of looking for beavers that makes Remek able to locate them simply by looking for what he calls ‘strange ripples’ coming from within reeds or from under overhanging vegetation. Perhaps that’s where I was going wrong – I was looking for mud-brown creatures against a mud-brown, shadowy backdrop in the fading light just before sunset.

As we went on and I had slipped into Remek’s method, it became easier to spot them. We were picking them out at such a rate that we eventually lost count once we passed the mark of Remek’s record for an evening’s Beaver watching. It was at this point that it became clear just how healthy the Beaver population has become in Estonia. Beavers were once ruthlessly hunted in Europe and by the start of the 20th Century had disappeared from all but a handful of waterways in Germany, France, Norway and Belarus. Reintroduction programmes and the introduction of protection measures have seen them make a remarkable comeback across the continent though. The UK is following suite now too with breeding, monitoring and reintroduction projects developing across the country, such as the one at the renowned Aigas Field Centre in the Scottish Highlands.

The close viewing opportunities and Remek’s infectious enthusiasm for these semi-aquatic mammals make spending a day on the Emajogi River with him an absolute must for any wildlife watcher or photographer visiting Estonia. A selection of Remek’s work can be seen on his Nature Observer website but to be shown how to look for those ripples in the reeds yourself, contact Estonian Nature Tours directly.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com