Those of you who have followed me for a while will know that I am more well known for my African Wildlife Photography, in particular Kenya.
The last 2 years are the first time since 2000 that I have no been in Kenya at least once.
Covid stopped me from travelling, but it also reignited my passion for photography and forced me to explore my local area and beautiful Scotland where I have lived for the last few years.
The following is my Top 15 Photography Moments from 2021 in descending order.
Number 15 – Stonechats. Isle of Mull.
I had noticed the stone chats a few times whilst driving past looking for otters. On this particular day we had just done a whale watching trip and had some time to spare. So I stopped on the side of the road and spent what I thought was half an hour photographing these beautiful birds, but turned out to be nearly 2 hours. A great and very enjoyable experience with some good images.
Number 14 – Coots. Hogganfield Loch.
I visited Hogganfield Loch over the spring this year, pretty much every weekend. Coots are often a species that are over looked as they are quite common, however over a period of several weeks I was able to capture quite a few images of the Coot with young chicks. It was really fascinating to observe their behaviour and document these chicks growing up.
Number 13 – Red Kites. Argaty
This was my third attempt at photographing these amazing birds, the first 2 times the weather was terrible. This time the weather and the light at times was brilliant. Because I had visited previously, I knew how the birds flew and when they would be likely to come down for food. So I had a plan of what images I wanted to get. I know I can still get better and have lots of ideas for next year. So will definitely go back again.
Number 12 – Cuckoo. Isle of Mull
I had photographed cuckoos on my first trip to Mull this year in May. But I had always wanted to get the juvenile cuckoo being fed by its adoptive parent. In August I wasn’t particularly looking for cuckoos and thought I had missed the chance this year, but whilst on a walk I came across this juvenile cuckoo and spent a good hour with it and finally captured an image of it being fed by a meadow pipit. In terms of image quality, it is not the best, but in terms of wildlife moments, it makes it in to the Top 15.
Number 11 – Short Eared Owls. Isle of Mull
I was very lucky this year with Short Eared Owl sightings on Mull. I was able to photograph them virtually every evening ion May and then again in July/August. They were in the same location each time and it really was a great opportunity to capture some images of this awesome bird hunting and flying around.
Number 10 – Dipper. Isle of Mull
I had seen Dippers before but never photographed them. I was advised of where I may be able to see some. I tried one afternoon and managed to get a couple of images, But the Dipper didn’t stay for long. I decided to try again very early one morning. After laying, on some uncomfortable rocks nearly in the river for half an hour, the dipper appeared and this time I spent over half hour being able to photograph it in various different locations and observed various different types of behaviour. An awesome wild experience.
Number 9 – Red Deer. Glen Coe
I had always wanted to photograph the red deer rut. But always for whatever reason was too late. This year at the beginning of October I left Glasgow at 5am and travelled North. Almost as soon as I got to my chosen location it started pouring with rain. I managed to capture a few images, in poor light but I managed to get a few nice images with the beautiful autumn colours. I will definitely do it again in 2022 and spend longer rather than just one very early morning.
Number 8 – White Tailed Eagle. Isle of Mull
You can’t really visit Mull and not do a boat trip with Mull Charters. Martin and his team are amazing and always get you in the best places to get you some amazing opportunities to photograph these incredible birds. I had been on the trip a few times before, but this trip we had 7 dives from different birds and I was able to capture some of the best images so far. I would recommend this to anyone.
Number 7 – Puffins. Isle of Lunga
I photographed the puffins twice this year once in May and once in July. I was able to capture some unique images at different times of the year with different backgrounds and landscapes. Puffins are such amazing birds to photograph, 4 hours with them is never enough and there are always images to be captured. I always do the Big Bird Trip with Turus Mara and would highly recommend it to anyone.
Number 6 – Bullfinches. Hogganfield Loch
A good friend of mine – Derek introduced me to this amazing place. On the outskirts of Glasgow, it has an amazing diversity of bird life. On this particular day we had walked around the loch and hadn’t really seen anything that outstanding, and then not far from the car park we came across these Bull Finches eating the dandelion seeds. Bullfinches are not that easily photographed, and this was quite a unique image to capture.
Number 5 – Ospreys. Aviemore
I had always wanted to photograph the Ospreys in Aviemore. I have done a separate blog post on this. However I will reiterate how challenging they are. I went in June which was probably a bit early in the season. But just watching these incredible birds fishing is a great experience. I got some images that I am pleased with but will definitely go back again.
Number 4 – Red Squirrels. Argaty
I had seen some [posts from Argaty on their studio hide and the jumping red squirrels. I had always wanted to give this a go. However on the particular day in October that I went to photograph these amazing animals. The weather was awful and the light terrible. I managed to get a sequence of shots that were all taken at 12,500+ISO. It was a very challenging assignment, the images are not the best quality but the experience was definitely one of the best of 2021.
Number 3 – Great Crested Grebes. Hogganfield Loch
I spent many great mornings at Hogganfield photographing the Great Crested Grebes. I was fortunate in March to be able to capture the courtship images, but over the whole spring/summer period I spent so much time with these amazing birds and after being away on Mull, I rushed to the loch to capture images of the chicks. A brilliant experience and a highlight of 2021
Number 2 – Kingfishers. Barons Haugh
This is really how my 2021 began. I live close to a local Nature Reserve and my New Years Resolution was to take more images. The first weekend in January I went to my local reserve and met Derek (mentioned earlier) in one of the hides. There was a kingfisher frequenting the area around the hide and the first 6 weeks of the year were spent trying to capture images of this amazing bird. I guess this was really the inspiration for all of the other experiences that I had and the images that I took in 2021.
Number 1 – Otters. Isle of Mull
I photographed my first otter in 2017 on my honeymoon in Mull. The images were not as good as I had hoped. I had been back to Mull a few times since, but just couldn’t find/photograph otters. Then in October 2020 I finally took my first decent image of an otter. This was largely due to people that I met on the island who are now friends – Brian Boyes and Andrew Tomison. Both freely gave advice and explained otter behaviour in detail and introduced me to the best places to see otters. Brian helped me with the field craft that you need. When I was considering my Top 12 Photographic Experiences for 2021, I thought that some of my “firsts” would be at number 1. But I kept coming back to the otters and the reason why they are number 1 for 2021 is due to 2 families of otters that I encountered in July/August. I like getting up early and was out every morning at 5am and virtually every morning I found the 2 families of otters on the same loch, one day I would see one family and the next the other. But the highlight was my last morning on Mull. I had the mother and 2 pups to myself for hours, a lot of the time I didn’t take any images I just watched. It made me feel so privileged to spend this time with them. It is also a good link back to Kenya. I had spent many days photographing the same lion pride and really got to know the individuals and I guess this otter family was the closest I had got to it in the UK. Mull is a brilliant place to see otters and is world renown, however as more and more people visit it becomes increasingly difficult to spend this time alone with such an amazing animal. Mull is an incredible place for wildlife and especially otters, but as photographers we have a responsibility to educate people visiting the island so everyone can enjoy good sightings of them. I have written a previous blog post that covers a lot of these thoughts.
So they are my highlights from 2021. I could have featured many more. But what I do know is that the last year has given me back my passion for wildlife photography and has really opened my eyes to what Scotland offers as a wildlife destination.
I hope that 2022 will be as good. It is unlikely that I will travel abroad again next year due to covid. But there are so many awesome opportunities to explore here. I look forward to every second of it.
I would urge everyone to be aware of all the amazing wildlife that is around, they could be in your garden, your city or a local park…..There are images waiting for everyone….you just need to go out and find them !!!!