Archive for woodland

Signs of spring

Posted in Conservation, European Wildlife, Photography, Take Action, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Despite a bitter winter in western Europe, the dry start to 2011 has meant that many typical signs of spring are appearing early in the UK. Looking back, the impressive ‘supermoon’ that appeared in the night sky on the northern hemisphere spring equinox should have been a clear indicator that this year’s season of growth was going to be something special.

Spring means different things to different people. For some, it’s the return of swallows from Africa. For others, it’s the burst of colour as bluebells carpet our woodland. Whatever your favourite sign of spring may be, in our changing climate it is more important than ever to record these moments to map how our wildlife is adapting or being affected. If you are out and about in the UK and you’re seeing butterflies or hearing cuckoos then you can help build a picture of spring by logging what you’re seeing via the VisitWoods website.

For me, spring came alive in Suffolk over the Easter weekend as I was fortunate to hear my first booming bittern. The males of this red status bird only make this far-carrying call in the spring but the rarity of the species in the UK means that few people get to hear it. I also tracked down and saw my first cuckoo of the year after following its distinctive call. Hobby falcons skillfully catching dragonflies overhead and adders basking in the sun were unexpected but equally compelling.

After the cold and dark winter, the vibrant colours of spring are just as evocative to our senses as the sounds, smells and antics across the country. The brilliant yellow of gorse and the breathtaking blue of carpets of bluebells have inspired me to find, enjoy and photograph (in that order) as many signs of spring as possible. I’ll be adding images to the dedicated Signs of Spring portfolio on my main website as I go, so be sure to check it out.

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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.

1 BallsWood NeilAldridge small2

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.

Spring is in the air!

Posted in UK Wildlife with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by Neil Aldridge

Pheasant among bluebellsI’ve been lucky enough over the last few days to spend some time in the company of two of the UK’s most iconic and colourful woodland species, the bluebell and the pheasant. The local woods here in Hertfordshire are carpeted in blue flowers and the air is ringing with the harsh two-note call of the male game bird, both announcing in their own way that spring is well and truly here.

But photographing the two in harmony was my ultimate aim. I wanted to capture the pheasant in a sunbeam, standing tall and calling skywards then finishing his display with a flutter of iridescent wings while surrounded by bluebells.

I missed the boat last year having been overseas throughout spring and I’m determined to make hay while the sun shines or, more to the point, make photographs while the bluebells are in flower.

pheasants displaying

It’s not just these two species that make spring in a British woodland so vibrant though. As I moved slowly and quietly throughout the woods, a red kite skimmed the tree tops searching for food, buzzards called and displayed to each other above me, tawny owls called throughout the day and a deer almost didn’t see me as it came bounding through the undergrowth.

neil in woodland

It sounds cliched I know but I couldn’t recommend it higher – before it’s too late, find your nearest bluebell wood, take a short walk and find somewhere to sit quietly to open your eyes and ears.