Wildlife Cameraman Blog

Category Archives: Wildlife Cameraman Diary

wildlife cameraman private eye

wildlife cameraman private eye

When you had your careers advice chat at school were you disappointed? I was, because the adviser told me that there was no such job as ‘naturalist’. How things have changed, and for the better. It’s so different now, and I wonder what they’d have thought if I’d said I wanted to be a wildlife cameraman private eye?

wildlife cameraman private eye
arboreal, omnivorous, mildly irritating

the curtain twitched

A coniferous forest in Scotland, I think that’s a good place to film red squirrels. Here I am sitting in a car in Anglesey and thinking of wilder places. I’m breaking the tedium by listening to Pop Master on Radio 2 with Ken Bruce. I haven’t seen a squirrel for several hours and the curtains are starting to twitch. This is a respectable neighbourhood with leaf blowers and litter by Sainsburys, and I feel watched. The hand of a wealthy pensioner twitches a curtain to look at the stranger in the camouflaged hat and she calls neighbourhood watch. I knew I should never have ditched the SAAB. Affronted by my thoughts the windows of the little C4 steam up even more.

wildlife cameraman private eye

nothing happened… absolutely nothing

Time ticks on, and despite me answering an obscure question about Showaddywaddy my spirits remain low. A man shuffles down his drive to blow leaves from his lawn onto the street and pretends he isn’t writing down my car number. Thanks mate, I mumble, red squirrels just love the sound of a leaf blower.

“Have you seen anything Gra?” The 2 way radio disturbs an abstract reverie involving beach volleyball players and radio microphones. There’s another car down the street containing the rest of the crew and I count my blessings. That car must be like an ice hockey changing room by now and when the wind’s in the right direction I’m sure I can smell it. “No,” I reply honestly, and I smear away the condensation to check there are no squirrels sitting on the bonnet.

another hour and another

The radio messages come thicker and faster as our communication, like the leaves, head for the gutter. I hear, “There’s more chance of seeing a red squirrel at a pencil museum,” before the battery goes flat, and it’s just as well, because I was devoid of a witty riposte. Suddenly my heart jumps and I make ready to man the camera. I can see something with a bushy tail creeping along behind the cotoneaster. But it’s a false alarm; I’ve been duped by an immensely fat tabby and I now hate cats even more.

maybe another time

As the hours drag I resign myself to the prospect of not seeing a red squirrel cavorting on this particular suburban street today. Somebody raps on the car window and I see a very refined looking lady holding a tray of fine china cups and shortbread biscuits. Bless her: I am the object of someone’s pity. If it had been the police I would not have been in the least surprised, and perhaps a little relieved that police on the street actually do exist in these times of austerity. The lady is lovely, and the shortbread biscuits, imbued with a hint of lemon, are just fine. Soon the whole crew is huddled around, lamenting our lack of success with the philosophy of, ‘Maybe another time.’ That’s the end of my time as a wildlife cameraman private eye, for today at least, so roll on the next time, and the next…

For more information about red squirrels have a look here and ponder on the injustice of having vulgaris in your scientific name.

dark wet miserable brilliant

dark wet miserable brilliant

Being a wildlife cameraman isn’t all fun, but usually there is positive to be had. That’s why I’ve called this ‘dark wet miserable brilliant.’

dark wet miserable brilliant
Respect the lens – not!

One day in early December we set out to film a couple more sequences in our city life series. The forecast said ‘dark wet miserable brilliant.’ OK, it didn’t say brilliant, but that’s how it turned out. We spent a few minutes filming a mistle thrush defending berries on very large hawthorn bushes, then it started to pour down and we dived for shelter. The we headed for location two, a little underwhelmed by the day so far.

pied wagtails

We have a running joke within our crew about the most boring birds to film, but where would we be without those birds? Sometimes, and I imagine this is a typical wildlife cameraman thing, I stand around longing for something to film. Herring gull, meadow pipit, carrion crow, grey wagtail and pied wagtail all fit into our ‘desperation’ group. But where would we be without them. I like these birds! On this occasion we had actually gone out there to film pied wagtails. For more information about pied wagtails.

sony A7s

I have to be honest, I’m not a great fan of using stills form cameras for video, but they can come into their own. We reached location two just as the sun waved goodbye to the metropolis of downtown Newport. That’s that’s what I want to do whenever I’m in Newport, wave goodbye to it. Sorry, only joking, sort of. The lighting we were now enjoying came from streetlights, car headlights, shop facades, Christmas decorations and the beaming faces of native Newport people. It was a bit dark to be fair.

the arrival

Dark wet miserable brilliant. This is where we get to the brilliant bit. Apart from being the best selling album of 1997 ‘the arrival’ was something that our crew awaited with eager anticipation. Wildlife cameraman. director, presenter and sound recordist, all standing on the side of the road in Newport waiting for the little grey birds to arrive. Yes, it was a waiting game, but the researcher knew it was worth the wait. One by one the pied wagtails flew in to perch on the buildings around Friar’s Walk, coming in from all directions.

As their numbers increased a peregrine shot across, trying its luck. Then, in waves, they flew down from the buildings to roost in some birch trees right in the middle of a traffic island. We filmed them fly past buses full of commuters heading home, oblivious to what was happening just a few feet away. Headlights played across these fragile little creatures as they settled down to roost. Finally they tucked their heads back for a night in this most unlikely place.

Brilliant.

listen to the future generation

listen to the future generation

“listen to the future generation” –  that’s the title of a film we produced recently, and here it is, released. I don’t work only as a wildlife cameraman. Sometimes our company makes corporate videos, and sometimes those videos are about nature conservation. This one is about a potentially devastating plan for a new motorway in South East Wales.

campaign against the levels motorway

I hope that the campaign and efforts to stop irreparable damage to a precious area near our home are successful. Politicians have a lot to answer for, and it’s not just the present generation that they have to serve; they should look ahead too. They need to listen to the future generation, but will they.

little egret - listen to the future generation
little egret at GWT Magor Marsh Reserve

To learn more about the details of the campaign against the proposed motorway please take a look at these links and sign up to their campaigns.

The CALM website
The Wildlife Trusts

detailed information

I have taken the following from a press release by the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway. This is just the first paragraph and I encourage anyone with an interest to read the whole release here.

CALM endorses the Transport Fit for Future Generations report. The Campaign Against the Levels Motorway supports the sustainable – and lawful – alternatives to the M4 Black Route published today by Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner.

Rob Hepworth, Chair of CALM states, “We welcome today’s report by the Commissioner. It gives the most convincing overall case ever produced against a motorway bypass severing the Gwent Levels. CALM asks every Welsh citizen to read it with an open mind – then
decide if you want your taxes used to build it instead of cheaper and healthier alternatives. Surely we need a full Metro system and new infrastructure for cyclists and walkers.”
He concludes, “The question is no longer about the feasibility of the Black Route. It is the wrong choice. CALM calls on the Wales Government to face up to that reality and embrace new solutions for the South Wales transport corridor. An urgent task for the next First Minister is to choose a better plan in line with the Commissioner’s report.”

the video

You can also watch the video here:

Listen to the Future Generation on Gwent Wildlife Trust’s YouTube Channel

Listen to the Future Generation on Graham Horder – Wildlife Cameraman YouTube Channel

Great spotted woodpecker drumming sequel

Great spotted woodpecker drumming sequel Great spotted woodpecker drumming sequel: well, here’s the shot. I’m still not happy though. Ask any wildlife cameraman and you will rarely find that they are totally happy with anything they shoot. The shot could always be, ‘Just a little bit closer; if only there was no heat haze.’ And… Continue Reading

Great spotted woodpeckers drumming

Great spotted woodpeckers drumming Great spotted woodpeckers drumming is a great sound. They’ll start drumming as early as February and carry on through April. No doubt people have recorded drumming in other months too. You can read about great spotted woodpeckers here. Last year I went out to have a go at woodpeckers drumming. I’m… Continue Reading

Unique wildlife behaviour

Unique wildlife behaviour Unique wildlife behaviour and the filming thereof can take many forms. As a wildlife cameraman it is always exciting to be presented with the challenge of filming something a bit different. Okay, wouldn’t be all love to head off and film snow leopards; they’re fantastic animals. Or how about tigers in Siberia?… Continue Reading