Asked to describe winter in the Scottish Highlands one would expect folk to talk about the snow, frost and cold days. 2022, not so much… it’s all about the wind and mild, almost spring like conditions. All very frustrating for a wildlife photographer!
It’s not all bad though! I’m going to begin with the most exciting thing that’s happened this year so far – I found my very own pair of crested tits! Of all the little birds, cresties are one of my favourites to photograph. They have such wonderful, grumpy, personalities and, of course, those fantastic crests. I’ve been searching for them in various locations and eventually came up trumps. Two days after I put a nut feeder up, I went back to have a look and there one was! I’ve been up a fair few times since and never failed to see them, even on mild days. This is excellent as, aside from my love of the cresties, I can now offer both guided and unguided crested tit photography sessions until they disappear to breed sometime in March.
It’s early days but here are a few of the images I’ve taken so far of the cresties. It’s a totally natural setting, no props, just the trees in the wood.
There are quite a few other birds in the wood too – here we have wren, treecreeper, blue tit, coal tit, long-tailed tit and goldcrest.
There are at least two red squirrels and my trail cam has spotted roe deer, badger and red fox. There must be pine marten too! Here’s a little video featuring some of those:
We did have a couple of very brief wintery spells in November and then early January and I managed to spend them with the red squirrels in the white stuff. I love squirrels in snow!
I also spent a morning with clients down in the Cairngorms during a “Squirrel Therapy” workshop – it was stunning as everything was coated in a thick hoar frost. I really wished I had time to get out with the landscape lens that day.
The snow lasted a little longer at Tollie Red Kites as it’s higher up than my house. The absolute best conditions to photograph the kites is when there’s snow on the ground and the sun is shining. Weather like that really shows off their beautiful plumage.
There was another beautiful, although snow-less day at Tollie in January.
The buzzards make regular appearances which are always great to see too.
There are also lots of little birds about too. If you arrive early, or stick around after the feed they are worth spending some time with.
I’m now offering a birds in flight workshop which we’ll do at Tollie if possible. It’s a chance to practice photographing the birds in the sky – there are plenty of gulls to photograph as well. We’ll find the best settings for your camera and talk about the technique required. A long lens is necessary.
I spent Christmas and New Year in Perthshire with family. Lovely to see them all but the weather was, for the most part, awful for photography as it was very misty. I managed to find a couple of mountain hares which was fab as I’ve really missed them. They didn’t look particularly comfortable though so I didn’t stay for long.
I also spent time watching a kestrel hunting for prey on moorland. Quite distant so not easy to photograph but great to see. Coincidentally I spotted my first local kestrel this morning as I was walking the dog in the field in front of my house. No camera to hand, and so windy I’d never have been able to hold it steady.
Glenshee was looking good with some patches of snow. All melted soon after though as we had the warmest new year on record!
My parents have at least four red squirrels in and out of their garden all day. Such a joy to look out the window and see them. I spent a couple of days lying on the grass in the pouring rain photographing them. Adorable!
So that’s been my winter so far. I’m hoping winter-proper turns up very soon as I’d love for my clients to photograph our wildlife in snow. I have a very busy February ahead, but if you’re interested in a workshop in March onwards, or would like to come and stay in The Drey please do get in touch.
Finally, I was asked to write a second article for NatureTTL, an online nature photography magazine. This was a challenge but hopefully it’ll be of help to some of you.