Outer Hebrides: Day One

Setting off at first light we went in search of images, first stop Snipe Gallinago gallingo with no luck we drove to the known habitat of Short eared owls Asio flames and to our luck one flew along side us and another perched on a lichen covered fence; perfect… that is until holly lent over to shoot out the drivers window and lent on the horn! Note to all Owls do not like being beeped at! Short eared owls like many others are nocturnal and crepuscular meaning they can be seen at dusk and dawn but luckily for us they are often seen hunting during the day. After we stopped laughing we carried on and decided to try and track down the Snowy owl and to my joy we found her! As stunning as you would imagine! The last pair of snowy owls to breed in the UK was on Shetland in 1975 and although they can turn up anywhere in the UK, but mostly found in Scandinavia and Greenland. To my disappointment I could not get a nice image due to the fact many would see this as ‘disturbing’ such a rare bird so we set off back to the Snipe. On the way we found nine day old lapwing chicks and the rest of our team photographing some Red deer. Eventually we found our subject, a beautiful male positioned on a post which we managed to steal half an hour of his time in which he pruned, called and posed for us, all of which were shot from inside the car whilst I alternated with position and between a 500 and 400mm on a Canon 7D but once he had enough he hopped into the air and flew away. This amazing bird is so camouflaged with its patterned plumage and mottled brown underparts that they are hard to find, made up of short legs, tail and elongated beak they probe the soft ground for invertebrates. Males and females are typically the same whilst the females hold a larger beak, but whilst they are incubating at this time we will only be seeing the males as they perch on nearby posts ‘drumming’ to mark territory.
Whilst the sun began to rise we ventured back to decide what to do next, wading birds on the beach was out of the question due to such strong sunlight but we took a walk along the coastline and I decided to focus on macro and abstract shots including this tiny white crab which I am yet to identify, after which we set off in search of the owls and Snipe once more under different lighting conditions. The owl we found was difficult and I only achieved distant shots but I worked to combine it within its landscape whilst the Snipe was easier to capture but I want to experiment more to get different shots. We spent a short time trying to photograph Rabbits Lepus curpaeums a simpler subject or so we thought! Watching them scatter into their holes we separated and waited under cover outside these holes, many of which never emerged again, whilst a few babies were far more confidant I still did not receive any shots I am proud of whilst I captured a variety of different bird species on the journey and the joy of finding a Stonechat Saxicola torquata nest with chicks.

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