WILD BOARS ON THE VELUWE (NETHERLANDS)
Every year, after finishing up the grouse lekking season, I travel to the Netherlands to visit my family for a few weeks. Of course I always bring my camera gear along. Recently my parents moved to a town close to the Veluwe, a (for Dutch standard) large nature area. There is a lot of wildlife to be found in this area. One of the species I don't get to see here in Norway. This is the wild boar. During my recent stay I dedicated some evenings and early mornings to photographing this surprisingly interesting, amusing and in many occasions funny animal.
I really hoped to get some pictures of the wild boar in the oak forests. And the first evening my girlfriend and I went out, we got lucky quite fast. We spotted a large male on a field in the edge of the oak forest. We just got our cameras out, when he made his way towards us and passed us at a nice distance. Shortly after that, we spotted two other wild boars sleeping together. After they woke up, they stayed for some time around us in the oak forest. Giving us plenty of chances to photograph them.
A week later I went back by myself and it showed how lucky we were the first day. This time I went in the early morning. I saw plenty of wild boars, but it was very difficult to get any pictures of them. Not because I couldn't approach them, but because they had their heads in the vegetation the whole time. I had some wild boars standing in the most amazing settings, but never got to see more than their backs. I stayed for more than an hour with two wild boar, with getting only a couple of shots where their heads were visible. Of course I could have whistled or something like that, but that is not how I photograph. I don't interact with the wildlife.
After a mountain biker (who suddenly appeared out of nowhere and with the worst timing ever) had scared off the wild boars, I continued to an heather area. On my way, I came across a black roe deer.
Out on the heather land there were still many wild boars feeding. I managed to get myself within good distance to one of them. Here I learned how bad their eyesight actually is. Several times the animal looked up, stared right at me and then continued feeding. I didn't use any camouflage and was just sat kneeled down. So my upper body was sticking out of the vegetation. It was hard not to laugh when the wild boar looked up at me, with still food hanging out of his mouth, staring at me and then just continuing to chew.
A couple of days later I was back again in the early morning. I really hoped to get some shots of the wild boars under the beautiful oaks in the area. But all the animals were still in the open. I got very lucky with one animal which shortly passed in front of some smaller oaks. This turned out to be one of my favorite shots of this series. ...and not just because its funky punky hair style!
After this short encounter, I was left with the animals on the open field. I spotted one which seemed to be heading over to the forest, so I positioned myself with a good view to the forest. But the wild boar had different plans. It started to make its way directly towards me and in the end it was so close, that I didn't manage to fit the animal in the frame. Good fun, but not what I was looking for.
A bit further down the heather land I spotted another two wild boar which were slowely feeding towards the oak forest. Once again I positioned myself on a good distance and waited for the animals to pass under the oaks. I watched the animals for maybe 15 minutes and got shortly distracted. When I looked up again the animals were suddenly standing right next to me. ...staring at me, not sure what to make out of me.
They walked even a few steps closer and then suddenly got my smell. Full speed they took off and passed a bit further down from me into the forest.
A few days before I had to head back to Norway, I gave it another try. This time my good friend Marijn Heuts joined me. The wild boars were back again on the field next to the area with the most beautiful oaks. We watched the animals for about an hour or more. But again they didn't want to lift their heads out of the vegetation. Luckily a roe deer was so nice to pass rather close, which resulted in some nice shots.
The morning before I drove back to Norway, I had to give it one last try. It was an absolutely beautiful morning! A thin layer of fog hang above the ground and the sun softly filled the air with an orange glow. The animals were in the same place as the day before. Four of them this time. Three of them passed through the most beautiful light, without ever looking up. But the fourth one had other plans. This was a huge male and he slowly made its way towards me. Until that moment I never felt afraid of the wild boars, but in this occasion I could feel my heart beating in my throat. The animal came closer and closer and suddenly picked up my smell. It lifted up its head out of the vegetation and looked straight at me. I managed to get one picture before it (luckily) run off. My heart was still beating heavily for a couple of minutes after he run off. What an experience!
What a way to finish the trip! I'm very pleased with the pictures I managed to take during my stay. But I saw that there is good potential for much better pictures. So I guess I will have to spend some more time here next year, to get the shot I'm after of the animals in the oak forest.
And not to forget, I want to send out a big thank you to Fred and Jeroen who showed me this area last year!