Sunday, 22 December 2013

Top Ten Wildlife Experiences of 2013

Top Ten Wildlife Experiences 2013

So 2013 has been a fantastic year for wildlife for me with a varied amount of wildlife both above and below the water. It has also been the first year where I've felt more confident in becoming a professional wildlife photographer as I've started to make a career out of it (full time).

Here's my countdown to my favourite encounters of the year.

10. Adder - Norfolk

Spring saw me visiting fellow wildlife photographer Josh Jaggard and together in some Norfolk woodland we went in search of an often misunderstood, stunning reptile the Adder. After an hour's searching and some field craft skills we picked up in the South West we found a few adders with this one being a gem to photograph.

9. Great Crested Newt Survey - Derbyshire

I'm always keen to work with conservation groups and when I asked EMEC if I could go out and get images of Great Crested Newts they were happy to take me, which is something I couldn't legally do alone. A good number of newts were found and this was my first good look at the newts- a lot bigger than I thought they would be!

8. BBC Summer of Wildlife

The BBC ran the campaign all summer of getting people out and about with nature which I was involved with, doing talks for London Wetland Centre and giving tips and advice at Birmingham, Nottingham and Derby. I also did radio interviews and filmed for Springwatch and appeared in Urban Jungle.

7. Badgers (No Bodger) - Cairngorms National Park

With senseless culls happening, I really wanted to see a badger this year and while after Pine Martin I had my first proper sighting of one munching down peanuts from one of Speyside Wildlife Hides, something I'd recommend to anyone wanting to see highland mammals.

6. Eels & Salmon - Hampshire

Salmon have been a species I've wanted to work with for a while and when the Environment Agency asked me to do some work for them on the Rivers Itchen & Test (two of the finest examples of chalk streams in the country) I jumped at the chance. They proved to be one of the hardest subjects I've ever worked with, being very spooky, not like the eel which despite being in decline I found in good numbers in both rivers and not overly bothered by my presence.

5. Nottingham City - Peregrines Falcon Chicks

Though I don't pretend to be the world's most enthusiastic birder, there are some species you just have to appreciate. The peregrine falcon has gone from being on the brink of being wiped out in this country to now being in most cities and in Nottingham city centre I got to encounter these little chaps. I took a few images of the ringing and the chicks for the Wildlife Trust.

4. Smooth Snakes - Dorset

Reptiles are my favourite subject to photograph and work with but my home county is rather poor for them so I travelled down to Dorset to see if I could find the rarest one of all: the smooth snake. I actually have a licence to survey smooth snakes which means I can take images while doing it, which you aren't allowed to do without such a licence. Unlike adders they are not venomous but constrict their prey which is mainly made of other reptiles, even other smooth snakes.

3. Kingfishers - It's a secret!

I think you're not a wildlife photographer until you get your token kingfisher shot so after years of on-off searching, I decided to spend a few days seeing if I could get an image of one. I put a stick out and waited in the water with a hide (no buckets of minnows like some unethical photographers will use, fish have feelings too!).
To my surprise, two kingfishers landed fairly quickly. The young one on the left is a chick (you can tell by the blue strip down its back which they lose when older, and male kingfishers have a black beak so can be sexed fairly easy if they stay still for you).

2. Arctic Charr - Cumbria

Certainly one of the rarer species I've worked with this year, the Arctic Charr is an Ice Age relic which used to run like salmon to the sea but, during the last Ice Age, got left behind in glacial lakes so only a handful of waters have them, mainly in Scotland and Cumbria. I went out with the Environment Agency hoping to get some stills and little bit of video. They have been falling in number so the EA net them and take eggs to hatch on and restock.

1. Grey Seals & Eiders - Farne Islands

Well, it had to be the dog mermaids didn't it? Scuba diving with grey seals was amazing, with them nibbling my fins and one curious pup having a go at my camera! Nothing aggressive, just working out what I am. The animals that stole the show for me though was the eider. I've always loved waterfowl and these guys are just amazing with their cooing call and bright plumage. It was a treat to find so many in the harbour and find them quite tame even taking food from locals.

2014 has a few things in store for me with plans to make three small wildlife films on water voles, marsh frogs and a mystery species! I'll be going back to the Farnes this time for birds underwater and of course I'll be trying to film every freshwater fish as you do!


  1. Great photos, Jack! We love your capture of the Badger at our hide and hope you'll be back for the Pine Marten sometime :)

    1. hoping to come again in march really enjoyed the hide pretty much saw everything else but a pine martin!