Photographing wildlife during lockdown
A Badger Trust guest article from James Miller
My name is James Miller, and I’m an 18-year-old wildlife filmmaker and campaigner. My favourite animal is probably the same as yours - the badger. In fact, badgers first got me into both film-making and campaigning. When I was 13 I made a short documentary about them for a competition, and not long after started to help campaign against the cull. Since then, I’ve become far more involved in the conservation sector, making short films showcasing local wildlife, and lobbying to try to drive political change to protect it.
As I’m sure you can imagine, all campaigning has come to a standstill out of respect for the government’s need to focus on the Coronavirus crisis. That, combined with the cancellation of my A level exams, has meant that both of the priorities I’d set this year aside for have gone out the window. So I’ve been left with rather a lot of free time, which I’m filling with hobbies that have taken the back seat for the last few years.
One of those is photography. Living rurally and being unable to drive, my photography has mostly been limited to my local patch anyway, so this lockdown hasn’t been too limiting. At this time of year, I’m spoilt for choice, with Adders and Dartford Warblers on the heath, and Badgers, Foxes and Nightjars all emerging in the evenings. All being well, by the end of Spring, I will have gathered enough footage to make some short films about many of them too.
With such beautiful weather, and walks limited to only one a day, I’m also spending a lot more time than usual in the garden with my macro lens. It remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever received and has opened up a whole new world that I never paid much attention to before.
Take this as an example. This is a Ruby-Tailed Wasp, and they have lived on the front wall of my house for the whole thirteen years I’ve been here. But until a couple of years ago, I only ever registered them unconsciously, dismissing them as ‘small shiny flies’. Now, thanks to macro, they follow the badger as my second favourite animal.
It took me even longer to realise that some of the bees in our garden had green eyes! I’m not kidding here, and no Photoshop involved, I promise. It’s just one of those exquisite tiny details in nature you don’t see until you look closely.
I’m currently making a short film about Crab Spiders. They’re certainly not everyone’s cup of tea – and I don’t blame the arachnophobes on this one - but they are fascinating. They spin no web but instead sit inside flowers waiting for insects to land, before grabbing them with their long outstretched arms. Oh – and get this - some species can change colour to match the flower they sit on!
One final invertebrate I’d like to show you is the Jumping Spider. We have many species of them here in the UK, each with a similar body plan but different colourations. I think they’re a great ambassador to people who aren’t spider fans; they are undeniably rather cute, and eat all the more menacing spiders.
Again, they’re really interesting creatures when you know a little bit about them. They have a fantastic vision, seeing in more colours than we do and using an entirely different method of depth perception to most other animals. They’re very intelligent for invertebrates, planning routes to prey in advance and showing a conspicuous curiosity of humans.
Perhaps their most distinctive feature, and the one that gives the family its name, is their jumping ability – they can leap 10-50 times their bodylength!
So if you’re stuck at home right now, and are fortunate enough to have a garden, why not see who shares it with you? In my opinion, there are few more captivating ways to spend your time in lockdown.