Cairngorm Break: Day 1 Crested Tits

Driving from the Midlands to Inverness is a pretty epic journey….. even doing it in 2 stints, which is what Pete Walkden and I did last night and this morning… but believe me, it is worth it. I absolutely love the Cairngorms… it is a very special place, totally incredible landscapes and truly wonderful wildlife to photograph. We are staying with Andy and Lyndsey Howard .. check out Andy’s amazing photos at www.andyhoward .co.uk

We met Andy and headed straight to photograph Crested Tits. When Pete and I last came up to this area in February, it was the first time I had seen these birds and very quickly, I fell in love! I think part of it is that I photograph their garden relatives so much in my own garden, I feel that I sort of know them. They behave like a rather boisterous blue tit and but their great crests give them a punk-like appearance and make them very expressive! They are really great characters and offer endless possibilities for shots.

This private site is stunning… beautiful natural Caledonian Pine woodland. The colours are phenomenal… a moss and lichen rich landscape, with the lichen hanging like candy floss from perches….all very conducive to getting great shots! The only problem is that Crested tits are incredible quick! They are barely still for more than a second and flit from one place to another, meaning you have to be quick!

I have recently bought a Canon 7D MrkII, so was keen to give it a good trial up in Scotland for these 4 days. Having only had a quick ‘go’ with it in the garden over the weekend, today was going to be a brilliant place to put it through its paces. The light was not very good, so the ISO capabilities meant I was able to achieve a high shutter speed, in a way that would have been impossible with the 7D… many of the shots you see here were shot at ISO 4000-5000 to achieve 1/500 sec. You really need a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement of these high-speed acrobats.

I have not uploaded any of these properly, so these screen shots are pretty much unprocessed and straight out of the camera and, being screen shots, they are not as sharp as the original image,  but will give you a flavour of what I achieved today. I am really pleased with some of these shots and can’t wait to get them on my PC at home and process them properly.

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I also set the Bushnell up on a perch and tried to get some close-up footage of them but they alighted for only  few seconds at a time and I am not sure how much I captured. I left the trail cam up at the site as we set it up on a fallen log where we found some Pine marten scat!!! We put some peanuts and honey on the log and have our fingers crossed for some cool footage! 

A fantastic first day… there is just SO much to photograph up here, I just know that coming home on Sunday, we will be planning our next trip up!