Highland Diary

A Return to Gibraltar Point

August can be a quiet time for wildlife photography in the Highlands. With the breeding season over many birds are already on their way south and many insects and plants have had their day. With the weather forecast predicting a succession of Atlantic fronts moving through the north of Scotland for much of August we decided to head south to find better weather. The East of England looked to be a good bet for waders on early passage migration. The prospect of catching up with some Spoonbills was perhaps the main attraction. Following a number of sporadic breeding attempts in the 1990's in 2010 four...

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Tree Bumblebees and Saxon Wasps, new colonists in the Highlands

Tree bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum Late one afternoon in early July I wandered out of the house for some exercise. As I made my way up the road I casually observed the insects gathering nectar and pollen from the brambles  growing along the roadside.  I noted several butterfly species along with half a dozen species of bumble and cuckoo bees. My attention was drawn to a very distinctive bumblebee with a bright orange thorax and white tipped black abdomen which I recognised as a Tree bumblebee, a new species to the Highlands. Tree bumblebees have recently extended their range across Europe...

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Returning to Orkney

It was interesting to see how much had changed since we last visited the Orkney Isles in 2005. The roads are certainly a lot busier now, particularly around the neolithic sites of Skara Brae and Brodgar. Bird numbers too have changed. I don't recall seeing any feral Greylag geese during our last visit. Now there must be thousands resident, with many of the pairs having large broods of goslings in tow. The number of breeding waders compared to those on the Scottish mainland appear to be holding up well, particularly so the Curlews and Redshank in the southern isles. Unfortunately the same cannot...

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Around Morecambe Bay

    The area around Morecambe Bay in North-west England offers a range of photo opportunities that are a complete contrast to habitats and species that we experience here in the Highlands. As at many other wetland reserves in England the RSPB's Leighton Moss enables close encounters with species such as Avocet, Bittern and Marsh Harrier. When I started out as a photographer nearly fifty years ago all were so rare here in the UK that you had to travel abroad to stand a chance of photographing them. The reserve gets very busy during the day but early in the morning and late in the evening...

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April 2019

My photographic efforts over the past month have produced a rather eclectic set of images. I started off by heading up to Wester Ross to see an American duck, a Blue-winged Teal that had taken up residence on a small lochan. As with many species that have come from the other side of the Atlantic it was much more confiding than European birds of a similar ilk. I arrived early hoping to get some pictures before the inevitable arrival of hoards of birders that the news of such a rarity attracts these days. I had an hour and a half parked up on the side of the lochan using my vehicle as a hide. The duck...

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Islay Geese

A photography trip to the Isle of Islay at this time of year has become almost an annual pilgrimage. With a good weather forecast for the week, we booked the ferry. Last year we were unable to get over until the second week in April by which time many of the geese were  leaving. We daily observed skeins heading north and the flocks feeding in the fields were greatly reduced by the end of our week. This year at the end of February there were plenty of geese to be seen. Over the years the geese have become much more wary and difficult to photograph from a vehicle. Undoubtedly this is as a result...

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Celtic Rainforest Lichens

The 'Celtic Rainforest' is a name given to a rare temperate woodland habitat  restricted to the high rainfall areas that fringe the seaboard of Western Europe. Here in the north-west Highlands the growth of epiphytic lichens, bryophytes and ferns cover the trunks and branches of most trees growing within the semi-natural oak and hazel woodlands. The quiet days of winter are a good time to focus on lichens that are often at their most colourful in the damp and humid conditions.

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Wildlife Camera Trapping

Wildlife Camera Trapping

  During the course of the last couple of years I have been updating and refining my remote camera photography technique. There are an increasing number of triggering systems on the market. It is now quite feasible to leave a camera set up for weeks on end for it to be triggered into life day or night by anything breaking the beam. For myself I have stuck with Cognysis, an American firm, making robust and reliable triggering systems. Their Range IR infrared triggering system has been augmented by the next generation the Sabre, a pocket sized trigger which uses a LIDAR (light radar) sensor...

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Getting close to Golden Eagles

  Getting close enough to reliably get pictures of wild Golden Eagles is something that requires more than a little effort on the part of the photographer. Chance encounters out on the open hill are unpredictable and usually distant. More often than not you end up with a view of a bird against the sky gaining height and soaring out of sight over the top of the nearest hill. Last autumn I was approached by another wildlife photographer who was working on a project photographing Golden Eagles. I agreed to assist him in his quest. I took him to see a number of eyries where I had photographed...

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Limestone Country

At the end of May we made a trip over the border into England to see some of the rare plants that are to be found on the mountain limestone in Upper Teesedale and further south to Silverdale on the north Lancashire coast. The wind that constantly sweeps over the northern Pennines made macro work something of a challenge. However the plants themselves did not disappoint. Spring Gentians were the stars. They positively glowed in the short cropped turf.  A black bumblebee feeding on Mountain Pansy caused a bit of head scratching. With the books out at home it keyed out as a rare black form of the Heath...

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