Photo (animated gif): a husky called Nik. Just animated it a few times so it doesn’t annoy you too much! I tried to upload it elsewhere but it doesn’t animate when uploaded to some other sites. Not sure why but I’ll just post it here instead. To see the animation, open the post (click on the heading, “A husky called Nik”) and then click on the picture.
Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category
Decided to go on a quick holiday to the Highlands; it was a fairly last minute decision but I hoped to do some skiing, walking, visit family and photograph red squirrels, ptarmigan, mountain hare, red deer and reindeer. I managed all but the last 3 and that was due to the fact that almost a metre of snow fell on the day I arrived meaning they were inaccessible! I had planned my stay so as to have a good chance of photographing both the conjunction of Mercury and Jupiter (smallest and largest planets in our solar system) and the larget full Moon in almost two decades – quite a long list of objectives for a week; which explains why it’s taken me a while to get through the few thousand images I took whilst away!
The heavy snowfall on the day I arrived meant I had to change my accommodation and also made for an interesting first day photographing red squirrels – it snowed quite a bit more during that day, which was perfect as it provided an opportunity I hadn’t dared hope for – red squirrels in falling snow; hope you like them and I’ll put full set of images over on Austin Taylor Photography soon. Whilst out that day I also caught a few birds but added quite a few more over the next few days including long-tailed tit, snow bunting, siskin, greenfinch, great spotted woodpecker and pheasant, to name a few. Unfortunately no images of bearded tit, though I heard them and saw a few flitting about at dusk one day in Glenmore Forest.
I was lucky with the weather for my astronomical targets too, I had clear skies on the nights of the planetary conjunction and was lucky with the huge full moon; after being cloudy all day the skies cleared (painfully slowly) just before midnight to reveal the full moon.
Finally, I had a day and a half skiing and a good morning’s walk into the Northern Corries, carefully tracing the path crunched in by mountaineers before me for, either side, the snow was waist deep! That day’s walk was made all the more splendid by the wall-to-wall blue sky and sunshine though I was disappointed to see only the tracks in the snow of mountain hare and ptarmigan. Although I didn’t see any mountain hare I was lucky enough to see a pair of ptarmigan the following day whilst skiing and was able to catch a couple of “record shots” to add to my haul of holiday snaps. Overall a great week with a higher degree of success than I perhaps deserved given that I had done hardly any planning ahead!
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.