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August 2014


Image of the Month




August 2014

If I was an Osprey and I had hungry chicks to feed, I'd go fishing at Rothiemurchus.  Having got a free morning, I phoned Neil McIntyre to see whether there was a chance of spending an early morning doing some Osprey photography.  The estate is a well-known honey-pot for photographers who want a chance to get close to the action and snatch a shot of an Osprey fishing.  Photographers book months ahead for this opportunity so I was really lucky with my last minute approach.   

Having got up at 'ridiculous o'clock', we arrived at the meeting place in the pitch dark, and trekked round to the hides to set up. The dark night gave way to a really drizzly, foggy, misty, yukky sort of morning with not a breath of wind! 

The hides are at water level with a narrow gap to post a long lens through.  You can hardly see the sky at all to see if an Osprey is about to arrive.  If it's a windy day, it's possible to guess which direction an Osprey might come from and certainly, which direction it will take off in but, with no wind at all, it's anybody's guess.  The sense of anticipation is overwhelming.  Your heart beats more loudly by the second if somebody spots a bird and the excitement when an Osprey turns up is palpable.

The first Osprey arrived just after 05:30 and it was still really dark and misty  Not ideal for photography to say the least but the 1DX is a remarkable camera.  I needed a shutter speed of 1/1000th to have any chance of a sharp shot and the ISO had to go up to 4000.  A bit of magic with some processing revealed some colour that my eye certainly didn't see at all in the murk.  

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We didn't have the best of luck with the Ospreys but it's amazing what else turns up outside a hide if you're still and quiet!

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Eventually, patience was rewarded with the arrival of a 3rd Osprey but it flew so close to the hide that I didn't manage to get the whole bird in the frame or, a decent shot...but that's the very nature of nature photography and that's also what makes it so addictive. I now 'need' to go back to do better.  4 out of 10 for effort.

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After the excitement and challenge of attempting to photograph fishing Ospreys, I spent 2 happy days sitting in a hide on the bank of the River Feshie waiting for an Osprey to come along for a free meal.   Once again, long hours of patient waiting are required.  My mind wanders off during these waiting periods and then I check and re-check my camera settings and gaze around the sky, rehearsing the moment when an Osprey will glide magnificently into view and I will capture this arrival, perfectly. 

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Inevitably, whatever the creature I'm waiting for, it always seems to turn up when I'm not quite ready, usually when I'm snapping a random tree in the landscape that's taken my eye or something.  On both days that I was in the hide, when the Osprey had finished, it flew off and then doubled back for another quick check just to make sure that it had eaten every last scrap of food. Osprey talons are truly formidable and what with those and its exceptional beak, it makes short work of a large trout.

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The first day in the hide gave opportunities to photograph the Osprey in showers of rain but with some nice light, whereas the second day in a different hide was not only wet, but it was also very, very windy.  The rain pooled on the roof of the hide and threatened to come through in a deluge but I was considerably drier and less wind-swept than the poor Osprey.  Mind you, I don't think it cared!   Two days later, the hide was washed away when the Feshie burst its banks and flooded.
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The other diversion during these few days in Scotland was trying to track down and photograph Red Grouse.  If I was a grouse, I would keep my head down too in case some mindless idiot took out a gun and shot me.  All the stories about the grouse being so tame that they were easy to photograph didn't really come true and we went up and down the road looking for the tiny shy birds pecking out the tops of the heather flowers.  Sometimes it was easier to open the car window and listen out for their tell-tale call.  Such pretty little birds.... I'll be back.  But I won't shoot you.
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