Archive for Wildlife Trusts

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

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Ospreys aplenty

Posted in Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Those of you who read my last post and followed my tweets will know that I recently set myself the challenge of bettering my previous attempts at photographing ospreys hunting. For this, I needed a reliable location where I knew ospreys would be literally queuing up to catch food for their newly-hatched chicks. There are a few locations on the continent renowned for giving photographers the chance to work close to the action but Scotland’s Rothiemurchus estate on the outskirts of Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park certainly ticks all of the boxes.

My first sighting of an osprey hunting was actually en route to Aviemore. Having stopped at the Scottish Wildlife Trust‘s Loch of the Lowes reserve near Dunkeld to see the resident female sitting on the nest, I couldn’t have been more than a couple of miles up the road before I found the male hunting along the River Tay. He must have gone down for fish five times in the time I watched him from my car, frustrated that I couldn’t find somewhere to pull over.

My frustrations were short-lived however and at first light the next morning I found myself frantically climbing into my hide with two ospreys scoping out the offerings of the Rothiemurchus lochs from above. Unfortunately, the changeable Scottish weather meant plenty of white cloud – nightmare conditions for photographing a predominantly black-and-white bird. When the sun did break through the clouds however, the light was fantastic and I often found my eyes wandering off to admire the Cairngorms reflecting proudly in the still waters rather than watching the skies for approaching ospreys.

My time at Rothiemurchus perhaps didn’t yield exactly what I had hoped for – the high quality shot of an osprey emerging from the water with a fish in its talons – although I must say that was through no fault of Speyside Wildlife and Rothiemurchus who between them provide what must be one of the UK’s top wildlife watching opportunities. Two ospreys carried off fish and there were several other failed plunges during my time by the lochs. Only two hunts happened within view however, and both were at quite a distance in dull morning light. That said, I think I can safely say that I have met my challenge and bettered the only shots of an osprey in my portfolio.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to test your photographic skills, then I couldn’t recommend a trip to Aviemore and Rothiemurchus more highly, particularly as the site plays a vital role in sustaining a healthy and renowned local population of these special birds of prey. Ospreys were extirpated from the UK by 1916 but now, almost a century later, it’s clear they’re safely established once again thanks to the hard work of organisations like the RSPB and people like Roy Dennis.

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The sea parrots of Skomer

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

I’m just back from a few days on Wales’ Pembrokeshire coast where I’ve been working to plug one of the holes in my UK portfolio. Puffins have always been conspicuous by their absence from my body of usable work so I headed to Skomer, a seabird paradise three miles off the west coast.

On what turned out to be the hottest few days of the year so far across much of the UK, I seemed to have picked the worst time to hit the road as wind and rain threatened to derail my plans and ruin my chances of getting the various shots I was after. Even though the sea mist rolled in, making it hard to track the birds in flight as the camera’s autofocus system struggled in the low light, I guess I can consider myself lucky that I didn’t get rained on and that I even made it onto the island at all. A number of seabird expeditions were cancelled in the days prior to my visit to Skomer due to bad weather and stormy seas.

The island is a national nature reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and is home to nearly half a million seabirds as well as short-eared owls, peregrine falcons and choughs, but it is probably best known for its colony of more than 10,000 puffins. This time of year, the air is full of adult birds flying like bullets from the sea to their burrows with mouthfuls of sandeels to feed their chicks…followed clumsily and aggressively by gulls looking for a free meal.

Between March and August is the best time to see these iconic parrots of the sea as they come ashore to breed in huge colonies. Seeing them in such large numbers in one place like Skomer makes it hard to believe that the puffin is listed as Amber Status in the UK but their numbers have fallen significantly across much of their European range. Terrestrial predators like cats, mink and rats remain a threat to breeding colonies and the species is susceptible to the affects of marine pollution and unsustainable fishing.

Growing in numbers

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2009 by Neil Aldridge

Around half of the world’s population of Grey Seals are found in the UK’s coastal waters. This highlights the importance of the colony at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire. Unlike most of the UK’s other animals, the Seals give birth in early winter and by the time the big males join the colony some weeks later, any photographer wanting to capture this peak of activity must be prepared to endure the throes of winter on this remote beach. If you ask many a photographer, this really can be one of the most rewarding times of year to work if you and your camera can endure the blizzards of sand and snow whipped up by winds billowing off the North Sea!

The threatening skies and changeable weather at this time of year creates an almost unrivaled mood in a photograph. At coastal sites like Donna Nook, a slightly longer shutter speed can also capture the effects of the strong winds.

Capturing the movement of the sand, rain and snow really does portray the harsh environment that these animals choose to bring up their tiny pups in.

But it’s not just the weather visiting photographers must be mindful of…it’s important to also remember that this is a breeding colony and disturbance to the seals should be kept to a minimum no matter how tempting a shot may be!

Perhaps it’s the protection of this site from above (no, I’m not referring to a divine influence – the RAF use the beach to practice bombing runs which don’t seem to bother the Seals one bit) but Grey Seal numbers have been steadily rising here in recent years…not unlike the number of visiting photographers.

It’s not hard to see why this Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust reserve has become so popular. The viewing experience for visitors is almost unrivaled in a country that so often falls short in providing its public with close encounters with iconic wildlife. The wide-eyed snow-white pups can be seen by visitors of all ages at their nursery in the dunes at the top of the beach just metres from the car park and entrance to the nature reserve.

The sheer number of Seals here in winter means a trek across the saltmarsh will reward more intrepid visitors with the chance to see the huge males chasing females and threatening and fighting with each other…just remember to wrap-up warm!

Balls Wood

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by Neil Aldridge

6 BallsWood NeilAldridge smallIt’s been far too long since my last post – mainly because I have been busy with research and a back-log of editing lately – so I naturally jumped at the opportunity to photograph this ancient Hertfordshire woodland for a client.

Balls Wood was under risk of sale and faced an uncertain future with major urban development nearby but it has been secured for future generations by the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. While the 145-acre site is particularly noted for its butterfly populations, it supports a diversity of species from cuckoos, buzzards and tawny owls to badgers, newts, frogs and many plants and insects.

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Balls Wood lies adjacent to Hertford Heath Nature Reserve and so the acquisition falls in line with a landscape-scale conservation approach, whereby the focus is on protecting larger conjoined areas rather than just smaller isolated sites.