Wildlife conservationist and photographer Nick Upton made a welcome return visit to the club to give an update on some of the projects he is involved with and also a look at some of his latest projects. Since his last visit Nick has been given the Conservation Documentary Award at the Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 for his project on swifts and the work of the Bradford on Avon Swift Group.
Nick has for many years concentrated on film making and spent 20 years with the BBC on Wildlife projects, working alongside Sir David Attenborough on Trials for Life and contributing to Springwatch and other wildlife programmes. Nick follows a range of projects using his videos and photographs to help publicise the work of the various conservation organisations. Wildlife and conservation magazines regularly publish his articles and photographs.
The Beaver introduction programme Nick told us about on his last visit continues to do well with about 30 beavers established in several locations. Several club members have since been to photograph the beavers at their release site. The project to re-introduce pine martins has done well with them now breeding in Wales and the Great Crane project has seen the return of common cranes onto the Somerset levels and other areas in the South West.
Recently Nick has been following a project to re-introduce white storks back into Britain. The Cotswold Wildlife Park has been involved and Nick has been taking photographs of the storks breeding, raising chicks and then being released into the Knepp Estate in Sussex as part of their re-wilding project. Nick will continue to follow the progress as the storks begin to nest and breed in the area after a gap of some 600 years.
Nick showed photos he has taken at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary as they treat and re-habilitate the rescued Grey Seals whose numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years. Nick followed the volunteers as they treat the injuries often sustained from getting tangled in fishing nets and then when possible release them back to the sea.
Injured bats from over the UK are often cared for by the Devon Bat Rescue group and Nick has been taking photographs to publicise the good work they do. Using various techniques including infra-red Nick shows the fast flying bats catching insects.
Most of Nick’s work on conservation is here in the UK but recently he got involved in the work to help the endangered Siberian flying squirrel. Only a few are still to be found in the forests of Estonia where a scientist is studying their lifestyle and Nick was privileged to be able to photograph this very cute nocturnal mammal in it's natural habitat.
The second half of this presentation concentrated on local projects in the South West. Because of the 2020 lockdowns Nick was unable to travel as far as usual but took the opportunity to appreciate the local wildlife.
Nick's own garden gave him the chance to notice the abundance of unusual and rare insects to be found and was able to capture unusual behaviour never photographed before. Experimenting with remote cameras, floating camera housing for underwater shots and various lenses he was able to view the wide range of mammals, birds and insects that frequent his Wiltshire garden.
Local wildlife reserves brought him many photographic opportunities including Morgan’s Hill where he found many wild flowers and butterflies. Visiting Brown's Folly reserve, Nick observed mason bees using snail shells as nests.
A project being followed is the restoration of old dew ponds to encourage the return of great crested newts to the Pewsey Down. Photographs were shown of the work of the Sustainable Eel Group to restock rivers with the once numerous glass eels.
Always full of interesting stories, Nick gave members a fascinating evening and an insight into some of his latest projects. PM
images © Nick Upton