My son and I had a week in Scotland, with high expectations travelling in his motorhome.
the plan was for him to do several mountain walks, whilst mine was to photograph Ospreys diving for fish my thoughts were to get that essential shot of the osprey with its prey and lots of water droplets all around, yes its a cliche shot but I wanted it and had it on my to do list, or as its called at my age a bucket list. Also I wanted several other iconic shots for example the Crested tit, Azure hawker, and chequered skipper.
We started at Fort William after parking overnight alongside Loch Lomond just north of Glasgow. we had some oustounding views from the window and a short walk along the shore, was called for.
I noticed a pair of Red Breasted mergansers in the distance, with a friendly cooperative Common Sandpiper quite close on the rocks.
Next morning after topping up the tank we drove up to Fort William where my son LEE had previously booked us up for three nights, the weather on the drive up had been superb but today ( day 2) it changed to over cast and chilly 17c or there about. this theme for the weather was to stay for the rest of the week not reaching 17c again until the drive home and we passed Glasgow. Most days were about 13-15c. The odd five minutes or so of sunny spells was very rare, Well this is Scotland for the brave, had I been more inclined for landscape photography I would of been in my element I hadn't even brought any filters or warm clothing.
My camera gear that I took with me was to be solely Olympus, consisting of my EM1mk2 EM5mk2 300 pro 40-150 pro and 12-100pro. I was intending to minimise my gear and weight. No tripod of any description, this was all a gamble I was a little concerned, and bottled out at the last minute with my son Lee at the door of the house so I just packed the Canon gear just in case! this uncertainty was proven to be false in the end because the canon gear did not see the light of day. all photos as usual were Olympus and hand held.
The campsite at Fort William was surrounded by mountains and would have been even more attractive but a great deal of the mountains were obscured by cloud. In the afternoon we drove to the nature reserve of ault muir. this site is only accessible down a single track lane approximately six miles long. On arrival it was overcast with drizzle and 15c so we were on a hiding to nothing, and thats how it was!
Returning to site we we had dinner in the restaurant / pub and made plans for the following day myself I would return to the reserve, whilst Lee decided to abandon his overnight sleepover on the mountain cutting short his walkabout by one day, which proved to be very prudent in the end. In the morning I dropped Lee off near the start of his walk and I then returned to the butterfly reserve. On arrival at the reserve I made myself a quick cuppa before taking on this reserve again, I looked up this reserve before leaving home there had been reports of both Chequered Skipper and Azure Hawker in previous years (2015-2016) and was only a little confident of finding my targets. The weather was awful to say the least overcast and cool again with drizzle still only 15c, after several hours I managed lots of moths mainly the chimney sweeper, with one Dragonfly deep in the undergrowth a newly emerged Golden Ringed Dragonfly. With all the strands of grass and vegetation around it I left it alone. The rain although now light was incessant so I returned to the motorhome to dry out with a sandwich and another cuppa. It was getting on in time by then when I received a call from Lee it had got worse on the mountain could I pick him up at about 1700hrs at the ski lift centre just outside of Fort William instead of the previous pick up point. well with plenty of time on my hands I had another cuppa and left for the rendezvous. It was an easy find I was about an hour early so therefore strolled around for a bit in a lay-by close to the ski lifts. mission completed (pick up) so we both headed back to camp still A little damp and both tired.
We both ate in the van that evening, both closely monitoring the weather predictions for both Fort William and Aviemore, which was our next destination but that was to be a day later, a plan emerged to leave Fort William the next morning which was a full day early. We were effectively losing one nights fees on the campsite though we thought it justifiable. the morning arrived we had breakfast filled and emptied the different water Tanks and were on our way. we took in Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor and mount Buachaille etive Mo"nr by way of the A82. at most viewpoints there were lots of tourists so I think the Autumn winter Spring visits might be less crowded, Luckily lee has done this area before so was well acquainted with the viewpoints on the way. when we arrived at the three sisters viewpoint there was even a Scotsman in full regalia playing the pipes (busking) and with a full coach of either chinese or Japanese he was doing well! (apologies if the spelling is wrong)
Arriving in Aviemore we parked up behind Tesco and restocked the fridge/freezer. I phoned Gordon who was in charge of the Osprey hide luckily he was on site and invited me over to check the venue out, I explained that the two days I had booked looked to be awful weather and he agreed I could turn up in the morning as that was to be the best weather for the rest of the week.
The hide is set so that the viewing windows are level with the water but set back far enough to feel safe the lake/pond is surprisingly small and was hand dug by Gordon the land is owned by the local hotel, which gordon leases. My first impressions were not good but gordon has had 20-30 years experience of Osprey hides elsewhere until he built his own! the meeting time was 0400hrs in the morning allowing enough time to set up your camera gear. as explained earlier I was using my Olympus EM1mk2. and 300 f4 pro lens which gave me an equivalent 600mm f4 light wise. no tripod all hand held. there were 3 other guys in the hide using Canon and Nikon with 1Dx cameras and the Nikon chap was using the d500. all with long lenses and tripods. The weather was changeable with the odd sunny spell, In less than 30 mins Ospreys were all around us but we only got 4 positive dives apparently there were at times up to five Ospreys circling. Gordon was away near the car park in his car reporting frequently on a two way radio. My son Lee had gone to the top of a nearby mountain with binoculars and confirmed later that indeed the Ospreys were there in Numbers. the down side was they were chasing each other. The first two dives were early on with bad light although I managed a stream of shots they are a little dark, however the Ospreys were successful. The following dives were interspersed with aborted dives but the two dives that were completed but without actually getting a fish, the early morning light was fantastic at that time for the two completed dives. with the following weeks forecast as overcast for the mornings I cancelled my second day in the hide. I am not a hundred percent sure why we had a few aborted dives whether it was the amount of male Ospreys arguing or the racket of the other 3 cameras firing away and making quite a racket. Costs for the hide for the end of June £140 for the morning 0400hrs to 0800hrs for the first day and £110 for second or subsequent days. Money well spent. Yes I think so.
I did a trip to the RSPB site at Loch Garten whilst in the area even though the Osprey chicks had died, the centre was quite empty, although my main purpose to to photograph a crested Tit if I could find One there more numerous in the winter apparently. but after a while Lee found some on a stroll round the Loch. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED although only couple were seen they were in amongst a flock of Coal Tits. The best I could do odonata wise was a few large Red Damselflies the weather was that poor! cold winds and a temperature of about 14c.
Back at Aviemore we parked up for the night at another campsite and by pure luck whilst walking through the woods which had a small stream running into the loch we found a family of Dippers whilst taking in the surrounding area so over our evening meal it was decided that I would drop of lee in the morning to do his hike up another mountain and I would park up in the roadside a little nearer our sitings of the Dippers. I found the Dippers quite easily although they were not together I was informed by a ranger that the Parents had 3 offspring and that they were currently all fishing different parts of the stream and my observations confirmed this I spent a 6-7hours taking photos of one of the juveniles who was very confiding during these observations twice there was a territorial dispute with two other siblings and to be sure all my photos seem to be of the same individual?
This was a brief overview of our trip. Due to the not so good weather it was decided that we leave later that afternoon/evening for our long drive back. which we did arriving home in the early hours, thus cutting our trip short by a day. Scotland is absolutely lovely the Midges were not to bad, but remember the weather probably helped this? please don't be afraid to drop me a message if you want more information of our Scottish adventure.