My parents relocated to Blairgowrie in 2020, a wonderful part of the world for wildlife so when I had the chance to conduct a workshop in the area in July I decided to combine it with a trip to see the family and do some photography.
The day after I arrived my parents and I visited the Penny Hedge wildlife photography hide, a mere 20 miles outside Blairgowrie. I’d heard good things and seen some lovely images of the red squirrels and pine martens Mark and Sue Johnson are lucky enough to have visiting their garden. I had therefore been keen to visit for some time.
The hide is in the garden so only a short walk from the car and it faced a large clearing with woods off to the left. Mark & Sue are both photographers themselves so it is set up perfectly with some photogenic perches and a soft background. Inside the hide was a table covered in a vast array of different food stuffs to feed the hungry beasties – peanuts, sunflower hearts, grapes, soaked raisins… lucky animals! But we weren’t forgotten about either as Sue had baked us a beautiful lemon drizzle cake – delicious.
The hide has tripod plates so you only need your tripod head which saves carrying too much. Lens-wise anything up to 500mm for the daytime wildlife is fine. In the evening if you stay for the pine martens 300mm is the absolute max – I used my 70-200mm f2.8 which was perfect.
Squirrels were in and out all day. Beautiful squirrels! Quite a few different ones and they seemed to get along with each other much better than mine do.
There is a jump too if you fancy a go at photographing the squirrels mid-air. It’s good fun although personally I don’t get a whole lot of satisfaction out of this kind of image as it’s relatively easy to do if you know how and have the right equipment. However, I was pleased with this shot.
Late in the afternoon we had a visit from a squirrel kitten. So adorable. Liked grapes apparently!
During the day we also had non-stop action from a variety of birds including chaffinches, blackbirds, robins, great spotted woodpeckers, siskins and a pair of redpoll.
Late, very late, in the evening one of the resident pine martens visited. Fortunately there’s a light at the hide so photographs were just about do-able with a f2.8 lens. It would have been lovely to see in daylight, but… they were the first martens I’ve seen this year so it really was just wonderful to enjoy them. I was back again a few nights later for another shot at the martens – they arrived exactly the same time typically, so these images are from the 2 sessions.
On an aside, I can heartily recommend Topaz Denoise AI for images with noise. It’s amazing! All these marten images were run through it using the basic option of AI Clear. I run denoise on the full size image before I resize for social etc and it pretty much strips out all the noise in the image.
Having had very little in the way of mountain hare encounters at my usual spot this summer I went looking for them one day. I wasn’t 100% sure exactly where to go, but found a few. So good to see!
There were quite a few red grouse too, many with youngsters.
I spent an enjoyable few hours at RSPB Loch Leven sitting in one of their hides. Big excitement was a female marsh harrier – we were so busy watching out for her we completely missed an osprey fishing – doh! The area in front of the hide was full of tufted ducks – I’ve never seen so many. One of my favourite ducks though, so lovely to see & some youngsters too.
We did, however witness a gull taking one of the ducklings and later on another (or maybe the same one) swooping down for a moorhen chick seconds after the proud parents appeared with their two youngsters. There was a fairly large colony of breeding black headed gulls too making a whole lot of noise.
Having missed the osprey at Loch Leven I went looking for one the following day and found a family at a nearby loch.
And, at another location, distant marsh harrier and lapwing.
One of my main reasons for going to Blairgowrie when I did was to do an “Introduction to Wildlife Photography” workshop. I normally conduct these in my garden and local area, but my client was staying in Perthshire so it seemed like a good excuse to visit! We spent the day at the Nature Nuts hide about 30 minutes from Blairgowrie. I’ve been a couple of times before, but Bob has since turned his hide to face in a different direction so the light is now better. He gets plenty of wildlife visiting so it’s a great place to do a workshop. Lens length up to 300mm best for this hide. No room for tripods, but space for beanbags. You park right next to the hide so bring as much gear as you like.
This was my favourite of the red squirrels. He still had the most awesome tufts even although it was mid-July. And, being July, they, like his tail, had turned golden.
At one point he took a time out and flopped on a nearby branch. His little paw kept twitching and he struggled to keep his eyes open.
The hide has a reflection pool which was quite fun, especially when squirrels entered it to reach hazelnuts.
So all in all it was a great trip. I was also able to enjoy watching red squirrels bounce around my parent’s garden!
I’ve been pretty busy back home in the Scottish Highlands too, and will write about that very soon. My new cabin “The Drey Inchberry” is now open for bookings. Check the website for availability and rates. I’ll leave you with a photo of my lovely wood-carved sign, based on an image taken at RSPB Loch Leven so there is a tentative connection to this blog!