If you’re walking through the woods thinking you are alone with nature, take care because that untidy bush or the shadowy bit under a tree could be a wildlife photographer dressed in camouflage gear. In truth, if you were at the Countryside Regeneration Trust’s Bere Marsh Farm in Dorset, it could be photographer Alan Wicks!

Local volunteer and skilled snapper, Alan, is so good at blending in with his surroundings there are a few occasions when passers-by have been in touching distance of his telephoto lens, but not spotted him at all.

Alan’s chameleon-like abilities have helped him get close to the wildlife he loves to photograph, and all manner of insects, birds and mammals have been captured by his lens in the Dorset countryside. During Spring, his camouflage outfits were given an airing to record the comings and goings at a great spotted woodpecker nest in Ham Down Copse.

Great spotted woodpecker love nothing better than nesting in old rotting trees, and with just a small entrance visible, finding a nesting site is something of a challenge. The nest was first spotted by another Bere Marsh volunteer, Rik McCoy, who carries out bird surveys in the area. With the location passed on, Alan was determined to sneak silently into position and watch any woodpecker action unfold.

During a four week period, Alan spent an impressive and dedicated 15 hours observing and occasionally taking a photo or two! The female Great Spotted Woodpecker does most of the egg-sitting, with both male and female foraging for food for their chicks.

His images have successfully captured the activity as the chicks grew larger on the abundant local insect life. When the mayfly hatched, the adults would appear with beaks jammed full of them, when they mayfly disappeared then green caterpillars were replaced as a favourite dish on the menu.

Standing quietly, with his camera on a tripod, waiting for a woodpecker visit in all manner of weather, Alan says he might sometimes get a bit damp, but he never gets bored on a stake out in the countryside.

“Even if nothing woodpecker-related happens over a three or four hour period, there is always something to observe,” he explains. “It’s not just about getting the photo – it’s about being close to nature. When you’re standing in one position for a long time with no other distractions, you notice every little thing that’s happening around you.”

Asked about the key to being a successful wildlife photographer Alan was quite clear in his response. “You have to be patient, and you must respect the wildlife you’re photographing. If at any point, you think you might be disturbing it, then you back off and leave it well alone.”

Shoot to win

Do you want to take part in the CRT’s photography competition and win a stay at the CRT’s fabulous five-bedroom, Turnastone Lodge in Herefordshire? Read about the three categories you can enter in our Farm Photography Competition here:

Enter today

Improve your photos

If you want to know how to get more from your camera then Alan Wicks is holding photography learning courses at Bere Marsh Farm. Go here for more info:

Find out more

By Andrew James, CRT PR & Policy Officer