Archive for British Wildlife

Super Squirrels…

Posted in European Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

© Neil Aldridge

Okay so let’s get one thing clear – these aren’t actually flying squirrels, they’re red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). More specifically, they’re Scottish red squirrels. Most of my previous attempts to photograph these wonderfully iconic creatures have been fruitless, which makes me even happier with the resulting pictures from a recent trip to the Highlands.

© Neil Aldridge

If I’m honest, while planning this trip to Scotland I was visualising and hoping for snow…and lots of it. Yet, while neither myself nor fellow South African photographer Ben Cranke came away with the wintery images that we had prepared for (and I always try to plan my shots before a shoot), the show that the squirrels put on and the opportunities that we had to capture their antics were beyond our expectations.

© Neil Aldridge

Ben and I spent two days working a set-up in Glenfeshie (check out the Northshots website for info) in the Cairngorms National Park, moving between a hide by a drinking pool and a hide positioned on the edge of the forest. We managed to learn the habits of the squirrels pretty quickly and finally get the best jumping, drinking and feeding shots that the lighting conditions would allow. While we may have arrived in the middle of a strange mid-winter heatwave, the sun was still low in the sky and barely broke above the treeline, making me pretty glad I had the f2.8 capacity of my Canon 400mm and 70-200mm lenses. I was also quietly happy to see Ben struggling to autofocus in the low light with his much vaunted Nikon D4* (*Disclaimer: this may not have happened).

© Neil Aldridge

It’s neither a secret nor is it new news that red squirrels in the UK have been squeezed out of their natural range by non-native grey squirrels. Grey squirrels cause such damage to the UK’s native fauna and flora that they are listed in the IUCN international list of 100 most impactful invasive non-native species. They are not only larger and out-compete the native reds for resources but they also carry the parapox virus. While greys can carry the virus without being affected, reds are highly susceptible to it. Research shows that in areas where both species occur and where the virus is present, greys can displace the reds up to 20 times faster. This makes protecting red squirrel strongholds both more important and more difficult.

© Neil Aldridge

Having been won over by Glenfeshie’s super squirrels, we left the comfort of the hides behind and spent two days on the surrounding snow-capped mountains searching for ptarmigan. Check back soon to see how we got on looking for white birds in a white landscape in horizontal blizzards.

© Neil Aldridge

Check out more images & news at conservationphotojournalism.com

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Enough with the radio transmitter bashing…

Posted in Conservation, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

I’ve heard them called necklaces, nooses and ASBO’s (a reference to the electronic tags used to curb anti-social behaviour in the United Kingdom) but isn’t it time we learned to love the radio collar? These devices (which include tags for whales and harnesses for birds) have allowed researchers to record essential and surprising information about animal behaviour for years. Our understanding of the natural world would not be what it is without this technology yet many conservationists, wildlife lovers and photographers continue to turn their noses up at them. What I want to know is can the radio transmitter’s role in solving wildlife crime cases – as we saw recently recently in the case of an unfortunate Scottish golden eagle – help to convince the remaining detractors?

I would not have been able to capture the photographs in my African wild dog book Underdogs were it not for the radio collars worn by several wild dogs on various Southern African reserves. These endangered carnivores regularly cover such great distances that they were recently reclassified by the UN as a migratory species. The vital efforts of the researchers I worked alongside simply would not be possible without this technology. Without it, finding wild dogs would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Radio collars do not only allow researchers to track the movements of animals, they also allow researchers to find their study animals quickly for observation and other crucial work.

The introduction of GPS technology has both improved the efficiency of wildlife tracking and research as well as gifted us some mind-blowing insights into the movements of animals. We now know that African wild dogs disperse over distances greater than 450 kilometres to form new packs and that great white sharks will make the 11,000 kilometre migration between South African shores and the waters off Australia. The findings from research projects where GPS tracking has been utilised helps to broaden our thinking as conservationists and to inform protection policy both locally and collaboratively. The BirdLife Flyways Programme is a great example of how the mapping of migratory movements of species by using GPS technology can allow for a more evidence-based and targetted approach to conservation across borders and promote the safe passage of species.

One additional benefit of tracking technology that surprises many people (and one which I hope will help to convince those who continue to question the merits of this conservation lifeline) is the increased ability to prevent and solve wildlife crime. Radio tracking collars and transmitters can act as a deterrent to would-be persecutors. Although, sadly, a GPS collar was not a deterrent in the case of this magnificent free-roaming lion that was shot on a farm near South Africa’s border with Botswana in 2009, the signal from the collar did lead concerned researchers to the crime scene. In Scotland recently, RSPB staff were able to use GPS data to piece together the final movements of a golden eagle found with two broken legs. The data secured from the GPS transmitter worn by the young eagle, together with the results of the post-mortem, helped the RSPB to come to its conclusion that the eagle had been the victim of persecution.

The recorded persecution of golden eagles in Scotland is believed to be dropping. Surely it is now time to appreciate the role that technology – alongside relationship management, education, habitat restoration, control of invasive species and policy review – plays in such success stories? It could well be that you already recognise and appreciate all of the science but just can’t get the thought out of your mind that a wild dog wearing a collar looks too much like your dog at home. If that is the case, when you next catch Rover humping the sofa and find yourself driving Fido to the groomers, challenge yourself to consider your perception of what makes an animal wild. Think about the sheer number of creatures that are in decline and struggling to find their place in our developed world and ask yourself if the fitting of a radio transmitter that could help to save a species really makes an animal less wild and more like Rover.

What I hope, more than anything, is that you won’t settle on the fallacy that keeping all of nature looking pretty and picture perfect is somehow more important than improving our understanding of the natural world and our ability to conserve it.

If you do one thing…

Posted in Conservation, European Wildlife, Take Action, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Sign the e-petition to ask politicians to stop the cull of badgers. The petition needs at least 100,000 people to sign it before government will consider debating the issue in parliament. However, because the badger cull debate has already seen its fair share of u-turns and ignoring of scientific findings by authorities, those of us fighting the cull want to see as many signatures recorded as possible, making public opinion on the matter simply impossible to ignore.

I am going to assume that because you are on my blog, you are either my mother or you have at least some interest in wildlife and conservation. I am also going to assume that because you are still reading this piece, you find the issue surrounding the badger cull in Britain of interest. In which case, I will ask you again to please sign the e-petition.

If you’re still uncertain about what you’re signing and fear that you may be aligning yourself with extreme animal rights activists and an anti-farmer movement, fear not. The petition merely requests government employs an alternative approach to culling badgers in the control of TB in cattle. Vaccination is already a viable alternative but it is being developed even further with plans to make an oral vaccine for badgers widely available. Those of you that follow my work will recall my 2011 BBC Wildlife feature that highlighted vaccination as a viable alternative to culling. There is further information about all of the options and science on the Badger Trust website.

The UK has already extirpated a long list of animals, many of which were seen to be somehow incompatible with humans and our farming practices in particular. Don’t let the badger join the lynx, white-tailed eagle, osprey, wild boar and wolf. Sign the petition!

Tell better stories…

Posted in Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Exhibition, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Join me on the Canon stand at the British Birdfair for seminars on telling wildlife stories with your camera. Every day from Friday the 17th to Sunday the 19th of August I will be talking through the shots I have to get and the decisions I have to make to tell award-winning stories and keep my editors happy. Download the seminar schedule here

As a Canon photographer, I will be showing just why my equipment choice allows me to work on books and magazine features while thinking about my online audience at the same time. During the seminars I will be trying to convince you to photograph more than just pretty wildlife portraits.

Having just returned from promoting my new African wild dog book Underdogs and picking up an award in the International Conservation Photography Awards in the United States, I will be revealing the importance of being able to photograph wildlife, landscapes and people to pulling together a project that matters. You will also have the chance to ask me your questions on equipment, the industry and how I captured the work that I will be showing you.

This year’s Birdfair will also see me delivering a lecture on the Limpopo Valley on Sunday the 19th in marquee 2 and spending time on the Estonia Nature Tours stand to talk about my upcoming 2013 photo tour in partnership with leading Estonian photographer Remo Savisaar. See the tour itinerary here.

Remember that a signed copy of Underdogs is also available in the Birdfair auction. See you there…

Join me at the Rutland Birdfair…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, European Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

I’ll be at the British Birdfair in Rutland this August delivering a talk and promoting my 2013 photo tours. Join me in Lecture Marquee 2 at 2.30pm on Sunday the 19th of August where I will be talking about Africa’s wonderful Limpopo Valley and sharing my experiences of this true Land of Giants.

Over the course of the three days I will also be spending time on the Estonian Nature Tours stand talking about our 2013 photo tours to this exciting European location. We’re relaunching our tour for 2013 so come along and find out about photographing Estonia’s wildlife and wild places in the company of myself and leading Estonian photographer Remo Savisaar.

I have also donated a signed copy of my new book Underdogs to the Birdfair auction (lot 18). This is a great chance to get your hands on a copy of my new book and make sure your money supports international conservation efforts. To date, the Birdfair has raised nearly £2.5million for conservation efforts.

See you there…

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Happy Birthday to The Wildlife Trusts…

Posted in Conservation, European Wildlife, Take Action, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Last week, The Wildlife Trusts turned 100. I put together this collection of photographs in a small tribute to the tireless work of the 47 individual Wildlife Trusts taking place in woods, rivers, classrooms, meadows, reedbeds, farmland, roadside verges and coastal waters all across the UK.

The Wildlife Trusts has shaped the UK’s landscape by protecting nature for 100 years and it has influenced my work as a photojournalist. Find out more about the work of this fantastic movement at wildlifetrusts.org/100

Visit my main website at conservationphotojournalism.com

Enter the 2012 British Wildlife Photography Awards…

Posted in European Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

Don’t forget to enter the 2012 British Wildlife Photography Awards before the closing date for entries on the 12th of May. This year the twelve categories feature, for the first time in the competition’s four year life, a category dedicated solely to Britain’s woods and forests sponsored by VisitWoods. Why not use the VisitWoods website to find your nearest wood and shoot some late entries?

I’m looking forward to joining the excellent panel of judges and to helping recognise the talents of wildlife photographers practising in Britain and to celebrating the best of British wildlife.

Visit my main website at ConservationPhotojournalism.com