I’ve been a busy, quite tired bee recently! April has gone by in a flash and no matter how long I spend at my desk, the length of my to-do list never seems to change. This month I’ve been hard at work on a few different projects which I can’t wait to share. Fortunately I still managed to squeeze in some much-needed nature time, so here are some of my recent highlights.
I was thrilled to have a second article accepted by Oceanographic magazine. In July last year I visited Troup Head near Aberdeen, which is home to a vast colony of gannets. Soon afterwards I met Tim Marshall, who first visited the site in 1988. Back then there were just four gannet nests – by 2013 numbers had reached 2885 occupied nests! I was so excited about seeing these gorgeous seabirds up close that I wrote a story about them, which is now published on Oceanographic’s website alongside my photos.
There’s been a running joke for a while that I have awful luck when it comes to seeing roe deer. For many people, in Scotland at least, roe deer seem to be ten a penny. They’re one of my favourite animals but for some reason my sightings are very rare – I’ve actually seen more crested tits than roe deer! As for photos they’ve been disastrous, either dark and noisy or almost indistinguishable behind a thousand branches.
So managing to photograph not just one buck but two simultaneously was an exceptional bit of luck for me. I’d been strolling along the river when the first buck appeared on the far side. Moments later a second buck joined him. It was intriguing how one still had all his antler velvet and the other had none. With the river between us they seemed comfortable grazing out in the open, giving me the clearest daytime views I’ve ever had of this gorgeous animal.
I shared my frankly miraculous encounter with a hare in my last post. That same morning, I also had a run-in with a very handsome male pheasant. I’ve heard pheasants call hundreds of times – that screeching grate echoes through open fields everywhere. But it was only the other day that I discovered what a pheasant does while it calls.
This male was foraging right next to my car window. Every so often he’d stand up straight and lift his head to release that banshee scream, scaring me half to death each time. After calling he would flap his wings, almost like he’d startled himself too. As I hadn’t taken the time to notice pheasants calling before, I hadn’t realised what an excellent opportunity to train my reflexes it was. I had great fun photographing these glamorous poses. Say what you like about pheasants but they’re suave looking birds!
I’ve saved the best wild encounter until last. In fact, I’d say it’s one of my most exciting bird encounters ever, and it happened only 200 metres from my front door. As I was having dinner I got an alert from a fellow photographer telling me there was a Slavonian grebe in the harbour!
Pasta forgotten, I raced down and lo and behold there it was. A harbour was the last place I thought I’d tick off my first Slavonian grebe. About the size of a moorhen, these birds are extremely rare in the UK. They can be seen on a few Scottish lochs but spend most of the year at sea. I felt incredibly lucky to have seen one at all, let alone a stone’s throw from home.
Keep an eye out for my next post, where I’ll be sharing photos from my first trip out of Moray this year. The day featured a trio of herons, a serenading grey wagtail and a mallard making a splash!