Cairngorms 2014: Day 5

The forecast had not looked good for today. We were greeted by dark skies, drizzle and fog! Two siskins on the feeder I brought with me was great to see, but although we have had distant views of red squirrels in the woods around the cottage, we have not seen any in the garden as of yet.

We decided to head back to Loch Garten, as it is close by and hope that the skies would clear and we would have enough light to photograph a few Crested tits, if they appeared. We set up a few branches and put some food out and waited. The light was poor and the drizzle persisted. The Crested tits did make occasional appearances, but to put it into context, it is invariably an hour wait for a 8 second appearance! They literally just suddenly appear, flit from one branch to another as we desperately try to follow it and squeeze enough shutter speed out of our cameras! One difference in my shooting style this holiday, is that Pete has convinced me to start shooting in Manual and take control of my camera more, forcing it to do what I want it to do. I usually shoot in AV mode, but in poor light, it is difficult to get a high enough shutter speed. Shooting in manual means you set the F-stop and the shutter speed, and shooting in RAW, you can bring up and adjust levels in processing. It is quite a big jump to start shooting in Manual as you have to make all the decisions for your camera and that means constantly assessing the situation and adjusting accordingly. It is difficult to start with, but I can already see myself getting better at it and the results I get from the camera are definitely better.

Today, I was also using my Dad’s 300mm 2.8 lens. This lens lets in loads of light, meaning I could shoot at a higher shutter speed than I can with my 100-400mm. Here are a couple of the Crested tits from their very brief appearances!…

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We were also treated to some very close-up views of a tree creeper, ‘creeping’ up a tree right in front of us! I have never seen one of these so close before and they looked fabulous on the textured bark, as they probed around the crevices for food…

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By far the most dominant species in these areas are the Coal tits and Chaffinches… there are absolutely LOADS of them and I must admit, some of the male Chaffinches looked resplendent today! I couldn’t resist a few shots of these handsome chaps!

The light was not improving, and the Crested tit visits were very few and far between, so we decided to head back to Burghead Harbour and see what else was about there. We stopped off at Findhorn Harbour first, but could not see much around there. When we arrived at Burghead, we could see the lovely Eiders, Long-tailed ducks, Mergansers and Diver were still there. The light conditions were very different to when we were there before… much darker and flatter. The advantage of this is that the whites on the Eiders and Long-tailed ducks are less likely to be over-exposed, but it is difficult to make sure the blacks are not too dark ! Here are a few shots… these are pretty much unprocessed, as I will process these when back at my PC. These are screen captures from my CF card…

The female Merganser was still around and came quite close to us….

We saw a few brief views of the seals last time, but today, they were really performing! There were two young ones who interacted quite a lot together today, playing and rolling around! They also caught several fish whilst we watched and then fought to keep them away from the gulls! The fish they were catching appeared to be quite large flat fish… I am not sure what type they are, but they were soon shredded and any remnants were snatched by the gulls! The seals would often pop up quite close to us and watch us, probably trying to figure out what on earth we were doing! 

The Black -backed gulls were very vigilant, constantly watching the Eiders and the Ducks, as well as the seals. As soon as any of them caught anything, the gulls were in there, trying to steal the goodies! This gull was successful in stealing a large piece of fish from one of the seals…. one even had a large starfish at one point! These images are a bit dark, but I will process them at home and hopefully they will look ok… I like the one with the starfish in mid-air!

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Many don’t like the gulls, but I find them quite fascinating… I think they are attractive birds and the juvenile’s plumage is really quite attractive! I took a couple of shots of these gulls posing on the fishing boats…

There was also a small Pipit hopping around on the boats… I think it is a Rock pipit…

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We finally gave up when the persistent drizzle refused to lift. Despite the weather, I was pleased with the images I had captured, particularly the seals, who I really enjoyed watching today!