0415hrs. I know, it sounds horrendous, but it is after all, just a number on the clock face and once I’d convinced our group that this was the optimum time to photograph fishing ospreys, it didn’t seem nearly as painful.
After a short drive in the gloom we split into two different hides overlooking a small fish-filled pool on Rothiemurchus Estate near Aviemore. The water was flat, the air was still and so it remained for several hours of watching, waiting…and then waiting some more. At the end of the waiting we were rewarded with a brief otter sighting followed by two successive osprey dives. Minutes of methodical chimping, several ‘ooos’ and varied profanities revealed that results were mixed amongst the group. And so it is with this type of photography – it’s high octane, high risk and high rewards; it’s not easy but if you get it right, the images can be spectacular.
After a hearty breakfast and some time to relax, our group split again. This tour has one USP over its rivals: a private osprey site (sounds pretentious I know). Close to our base a pair of ospreys have bred for many years and this year have successfully added two more birds to the Scottish population. By siting a convenient perch far enough away from the nest to avoid disturbance but close enough for it to provide a handy ‘plucking post’ for the adult pair, our group were able to secure images that are simply not possible elsewhere. The hide is small, the chairs uncomfortable but the views are spectacular.
Leaving two members of our group marooned in the osprey hide, the rest of us ventured north in search of the most northerly bottlenose dolphins in the world. It seems incredible but just 20 minutes from Inverness city centre is Europe’s best shore-based dolphin watching site. In the background the traffic races over Kessock Bridge and the Easyjet flight lands at Inverness airport; in the foreground a large and very impressive marine predator leaps clear of the water just 20 metres away. It doesn’t happen every time but when it does, it’s adrenalin-fuelled wildlife photography at its best.
One of the biggest rewards from running photo tours over many years is seeing the images of long-standing guests improve beyond recognition. I’m not going to embarrass individuals but I hope the images in this post prove my point. Cheryl, Chris and David made up just half our group and each guest is to be congratulated on the images they secured.
And so our inaugural Fish Eaters photo tour comes to an end. We’ve had rain, wind and midges; we’ve had ospreys fishing, ospreys feeding and ospreys frustrating us by doing neither of those things; we’ve had dolphins leaping, dolphins lurching and dolphins out of focus, out of frame and ultimately, out of sight; we’ve had waterfalls, philosophical discussions, picnics on the beach and some rather nice flapjack with our coffee. And all in 3 days. Thanks to another great group and I’m looking forward to doing it all again this week (after a rest). If you fancy getting images like these and you enjoy shortbread, join us next year.