|‘Rewilding the UK’ and ‘Wiltshire's Wildlife Riches’||20 November 2018|
We were privileged this week to have the multi-award winning film maker and photographer, Nick Upton, visit the camera club to tell us about Rewilding the UK and Wiltshire’s Wildlife Treasures.
He introduced himself by saying that he has always been a naturalist and began his interest in photography in his teens. He likes to tell a story with his work and for many years concentrated on film making. He spent 20 years with the BBC on Wildlife projects, working alongside Sir David Attenborough on Trials for Life, and contributing to Springwatch, among other wildlife programmes.
He has also contributed many articles to organisations such as BBC Wildlife Magazine, Wiltshire Wildlife magazine and National Geographic, and picked up awards along the way, including British Wildlife Photographer of the Year and International Garden Photographer of the Year.
Nick said that he had been lucky enough to have privileged access to several important projects involved with the re-introduction of wild animals in various parts of the UK, including Cranes in Wiltshire, Water Voles and Harvest Mice in Cornwall, Beaver in Devon, and Pine Martins in Wales.
He started by talking about the Great Crane Project, which is a Europe-wide programme for cranes across Europe. He showed us images of 20,000 strong flocks of cranes over the Pyrenees and told us of his involvement with the breeding project at Slimbridge and the Somerset Levels. He explained that he likes to show human interaction with the wildlife, so there were images of volunteers (including himself) dressed as cranes guiding and feeding chicks.
Water Voles, decimated by American Mink, are being re-introduced through a captive breeding programme in North Cornwall. Nick showed us a series of images illustrating the process of re-introduction of voles and an associated project for Harvest Mice. He also told us that when capturing images of the released animals in the wild, he uses either a macro lens to capture close-ups or a wider angle lens using a close focus technique to show some context in the background. He often sets his camera up close to where he expects an animal to visit and uses a wireless remote shutter release to trigger the shot from distance. He used this technique to capture a shot of a Water Vole on a rock used as a latrine, although it took about 10 hours of waiting before the vole came and sat on the rock!
Nick has been extensively involved in a Beaver re-introduction at a secret location in South Devon. This project started naturally and it is still a mystery as to where the Beaver came from. Local residents were instrumental in ensuring that the project became official so that the animals could be monitored and in 2015 DEFRA trapped a number of beaver to give them health checks. Since then the project has gone from strength to strength and has shown how much beaver can benefit the environment, in particular through improving water management. Nick has been involved in providing a photographic record of the project from which he showed us a good sample of images. He has used a variety of approaches including using a camera converted to infra-red for night-time shots and the use of camera trap videos to view the beaver at night when gnawing trees and building dams. Sequences from these efforts have been shown on Springwatch.
The Pine Martin re-introduction started in Scotland where B&B accommodation is available specifically to show off the martins visiting feeding stations in the garden. In 2016, 60 pine martins were captured for eventual release in Wales. Nick showed us images of the process using infra-red cameras so that the animals did not get stressed. He also had some great images caught through his camera traps. Pine Martins have been shown not to harm the environment and have become popular as they hunt grey squirrels.
Clearly enthusiastic about these re-introduction projects, Nick was keen to stress how successful they had been and intimated that several further releases of these animals are planned in the coming years.
continue to 'Wiltshires Wildlife Riches' Images © Nick Upton From top - Common Cranes - Water Vole - Harvest Mouse.