And then there were two – Polar Bears

As part of our January trip to see the Siberian Husky Club‘s annual sled dog rally at Glenmore Forest Park near Aviemore we visited the Highland Wildlife Park to see the wonderful animals there. We’ve been before but hoped to see some animals we hadn’t seen on previous visits, notably the wolf, perhaps the lynx and the new Polar Bear, called Walker. Last time we visited there was quite a lot of snow on the ground, which gave my photos of the first Polar Bear at the Park, “Mercedes” an authentic looking environment. No such luck this time, though there had been a hard frost, which stayed all day and the pool was covered with thick ice – with the Highland environment, it looks reminiscent of tundra, if one ignores the trees and shrubs!

The Park is a wonderful place to see animals that most folk would not normally ever get to see as well as a few that are common in the Highlands, such as the Red deer. There are smaller enclosures in the walkabout area where Scottish wildcat and Red panda can be viewed but the large animals, such as European bison and Bactrian camel have large enclosures in the drive through area. Some of the animals might seem bored and, from looking at other visitors’ photos on the web, clearly exhibit repetitive behaviour, but the Park is part of a number of captive breeding programmes and, without such programmes, many of the animals would be extinct.

I particularly wanted to try out a fantastic new lens that I had hired – on previous visits I had found that some of the animals in the drive through area are just too far away for a decent photograph with my own kit so I dug deep and hired a 500mm super telephoto for the visit. I wasn’t disappointed by the results because it’s an absolutely amazing piece of equipment and was ideal for use in the car. I didn’t use it in the walk about area though because, at about 4.5kg including the camera, it’s just too heavy to carry easily. Also, the animals are that much closer in that area. The only exception was for the lynx, where I took most of the photos with the 500mm lens because the pair was at the back of their enclosure, which is fairly large.

So what were the highlights? Well, for me, getting good photos of the lynx has been an ambition for some time and I hadn’t been lucky enough to see these big cats on previous visits – and they are fantastic! I’m really pleased with the results and these shots alone make the lens hire worthwhile for me. Of course, it was great to see Walker, the new Polar bear and I got some good shots of him shaking water off, again with the 500mm, and I added to my collection of photos of Mercedes with a few really nice shots, though my favourite photo of her remains one I took last year in the snow. We were lucky this time to see the wolves – they had been hiding from us on our previous visits – this time they are in their new home, opened late last year. I’m always thrilled to see the Scottish wildcats, partly because they make such stunning portrait photos but mostly because they are one of the world’s rarest cats and the only wild cat in the UK. Another favourite is the Red panda – they are truly amazing. On our last visit they remained curled up in a ball high up on their platform and the time before that the light was so poor that I couldn’t get any decent photos. This time however, they were more obliging and the light was better too so I added to my collection of Red panda portraits, which includes some I took in China.

We didn’t see the Amur tigers this time or the snow monkeys – we simply ran out of time – but I wasn’t too disappointed because I’ve got good photos of them from previous visits and, hopefully, we’ll visit them another time.

So, what about the Polar bears? Folk have asked me if they’re getting on now; well, it’s hard for me to say anything about that because, when we were there, Mercedes was lounging about dozing at one end of the enclosure while Walker was having an argument (or playing a game) with a big blue barrel. In fact he seemed determined to bury it beneath the ice on the pool – though he hadn’t quite managed it by the time we moved on!

There are a few photos here; I’ve uploaded a rather larger set to my website.

One Response to “And then there were two – Polar Bears”

  1. Tweets that mention And then there were two – Polar Bears « Austin Taylor Photography Blog -- Says:

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