Archive for Birds of Prey

Ospreys aplenty

Posted in Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Those of you who read my last post and followed my tweets will know that I recently set myself the challenge of bettering my previous attempts at photographing ospreys hunting. For this, I needed a reliable location where I knew ospreys would be literally queuing up to catch food for their newly-hatched chicks. There are a few locations on the continent renowned for giving photographers the chance to work close to the action but Scotland’s Rothiemurchus estate on the outskirts of Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park certainly ticks all of the boxes.

My first sighting of an osprey hunting was actually en route to Aviemore. Having stopped at the Scottish Wildlife Trust‘s Loch of the Lowes reserve near Dunkeld to see the resident female sitting on the nest, I couldn’t have been more than a couple of miles up the road before I found the male hunting along the River Tay. He must have gone down for fish five times in the time I watched him from my car, frustrated that I couldn’t find somewhere to pull over.

My frustrations were short-lived however and at first light the next morning I found myself frantically climbing into my hide with two ospreys scoping out the offerings of the Rothiemurchus lochs from above. Unfortunately, the changeable Scottish weather meant plenty of white cloud – nightmare conditions for photographing a predominantly black-and-white bird. When the sun did break through the clouds however, the light was fantastic and I often found my eyes wandering off to admire the Cairngorms reflecting proudly in the still waters rather than watching the skies for approaching ospreys.

My time at Rothiemurchus perhaps didn’t yield exactly what I had hoped for – the high quality shot of an osprey emerging from the water with a fish in its talons – although I must say that was through no fault of Speyside Wildlife and Rothiemurchus who between them provide what must be one of the UK’s top wildlife watching opportunities. Two ospreys carried off fish and there were several other failed plunges during my time by the lochs. Only two hunts happened within view however, and both were at quite a distance in dull morning light. That said, I think I can safely say that I have met my challenge and bettered the only shots of an osprey in my portfolio.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to test your photographic skills, then I couldn’t recommend a trip to Aviemore and Rothiemurchus more highly, particularly as the site plays a vital role in sustaining a healthy and renowned local population of these special birds of prey. Ospreys were extirpated from the UK by 1916 but now, almost a century later, it’s clear they’re safely established once again thanks to the hard work of organisations like the RSPB and people like Roy Dennis.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Peregrine Falcons

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by Neil Aldridge

I have been photographing this pair of peregrine falcons for the last 4 years but I don’t think I’ve been treated to such an acrobatic flying display in perfect conditions quite like what I enjoyed last week.

Just after I had set myself up in a carefully-chosen position, both birds came back to the nest carrying food. Shortly after, the female took off again carrying the remains of a bird in her huge talons. She climbed higher and higher and then without warning, dropped the food, tucked herself into a stoop and followed it towards the cliffs below.

Now, you’re probably asking why I don’t have better pictures but following the fastest animal in the world with a lens equivalent to a 728mm (400mm plus a 1.4x teleconverter on a 1.3x crop camera body) is just about manageable when soaring but such erratic flight takes a true master and, I must admit, my technique hasn’t been kept up to scratch. Still, it was good practice for my forthcoming trip to Scotland and it has whet my appetite for a return to the site once the chicks have fledged.

Peregrines have become a symbol of conservation success since their recovery from persecution and pesticide poisoning, which peaked in the 1960’s. Their tendency to nest on high-rise buildings in towns and cities across the UK has also helped to engage a large sector of the UK’s urban public by showing that you don’t have to travel into the countryside to find awe-inspiring wildlife.