Some of my photos from
Secret Mammals of Britain 2 day Workshop
Having spent many years studying and attempting to photograph British mammals I know first-hand exactly how difficult this can be as most of our native species are extremely secretive and some even nocturnal.
I am therefore thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to use a private wildlife collection in Devon as the setting for this 2 day workshop/safari. With over 16 years’ experience working with wildlife film makers and photographers the owner has created a series of purpose built photographic and film sets where we can photograph an excellent collection of captive British mammals. The aim of this two day workshop / safari is to provide an unparalleled opportunity to photograph a broad range of British mammals with relative ease and in highly realistic and landscaped surroundings. We will have unrestricted access to photograph most species including the rare European beaver in an 8 acre enclosure where they have cut down their own trees to dam the river.
As well as large mammals such as foxes, wild boar, muntjac deer, wildcat, pine martin, polecat, weasel, stoats we will photograph small mammals in specially designed sets. These will include species such as the rare water vole and equally rare water shrew as well as many species of mouse and rats.
The following are a selection of my photos from this venue.
Scottish wild cats are very rare indeed with an estimated 35 true wildcats left in the wild in the Autumn of 2012. They have been consistently persecuted in Scotland largely due to fears that they will prey on game and given their close ancestry with the domesticated cat readily interbreed. This centre has a wonderful pair of wildcats and in 2012 they had kittens. The first time I saw the kittens was in May when they were still quite small and mum was fiercely guarding them. Anyone who thinks a Scottish wild cat is just a large “tabby” would soon think again when confronted by a mother with something to protect !
The first set of photos below were taken in the enclosure where the kittens were born in a den amongst the low branches of a small fir tree.
The second set were taken 2 months later in July when the family were transferred to a much larger and beautifully landscaped enclosure. One of the real benefits of using this site is these large beautifully and appropriately landscaped enclosures. The wild cats are in a large – nearly ½ acre – enclosure with a large mound in the centre covered in bracken, small shrubs and trees and some really attractive log piles and large boulders.
—- Mum —-
The water shrew is our largest shrew although still only weighing 12 – 15 grammes. As its name suggests it lives almost entirely in wetland habitats, spending much of its time hunting for invertebrate prey, even swimming underwater to catch caddis fly and may fly larvae. They live in small burrows in the banks of streams and ponds and are extremely difficult to see let alone photograph in the wild.
The centre has a number and you can build or arrange "sets" in large shallow aquariums with pebbles or rocks, grass tussocks etc. They are extremely active with their long pointed nose constantly in motion. Fast shutter speeds and in some cases flash guns are required but you can certainly capture photos of this endearing little animal that would be impossible in the wild.
This centre has some superb locations for photographing otters. Two large clear ponds with plenty of pond side vegetation and logs leading down into the water for the otters to haul out on. At certain times of the year various natural pond plants add to the backdrop with otters swimming through them as they pursue food. All this offers truly natural and authentic backdrops for fantastic photos.
Polecats are amazing animals and very difficult to photograph in the wild. A number of collections keep these animals but none offer such naturalised settings as this one. The animals are housed in a large raised enclosure with natural heather, boulders etc. With the enclosures raised about 3 foot from the ground means you can photograph these charming animals at eye level with ease. Here you have animals at various different ages.
After an absence of approximately 700 years, wild boar are roaming and breeding in the British countryside once again! Some of these are planned and managed releases and some are escapes from farms. The population in Gloucestershire's Forest of Dean alone is thought to be around 100, but there are further groups on the Kent/Sussex border, in west Dorset and on Dartmoor.
This centre has a small group which whilst they are large animals in a very large natural enclosure are a real challenge to photograph although great fun to try.
The muntjac deer is an introduced species but has spread widely. It was thought to have been introduced to England by the Duke of Bedford about 1900 and through a series of escapes and deliberate releases together with prodigious breeding has established itself in most of Southern England.
The centre has a buck and 4 does. The buck is extremely tame (the eye photo was taken with a macro lens!) making for some great photos, the hinds are more secretive and more demanding to photograph. They are all housed in a very large natural enclosure which you can entre to take photographs as they are fed.
|Assorted other animals|
The centre has a selection of other animals including water voles, which it breeds for rerelease into the wild; most of the small mammals which can be photographed in special sets; weasels; pine martens; red squirrels; hedgehogs; edible dormice and is adding more all the time. All are housed in extremely natural sets or in the case of the small mammals cane be placed into sets you can design making for great photographs. A special attraction are their wild living beavers housed in a 8 acre enclosure where they have cut down trees to dam the river.
With all the animals you can enter the enclosures to take photos unhindered by wire mesh.
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