The High Road – Wild Scotland

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‘O’ ye’ll tak the high road and  I’ll tak the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye’

Well, less a road, more the train in my case.

I’m on the overnight sleeper from London to Aviemore and looking forward to a break. It feels like a break anyway.  A largely damp and miserable January and a couple of unexpected set backs have meant that the barn owl project has turned into hard work. It will be good to get away.

The weather is looking less than perfect with no snow forecast, but I’m getting used to not getting the weather you want. You just have to make the best of it. I’d be very lucky to get anything like the conditions I got last year (see my Deepest Winter gallery (http://www.julescoxphotography.co.uk/pages/wild-britain.php?gall_id=26).

My guide for the next three days is Scottish Wildlife Photographer Neil McIntyre, who I worked with last year also. Two hours after arriving in Aviemore I’m having great fun with Neil’s red squirrels. I’ve missed these guys. They have such endearing characters.

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Strike a pose! They look especially beautiful in winter with their striking ear tufts.

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Of course red squirrels look wonderful in the snow. I quite like  the warm  complimentary colours you get at this time of year also though. The advantage of going back to a location is that you have time to think about the opportunities for images. I was keen to explore some different (lower) angles.

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Neil’s reds are real characters and on a couple of occasions I looked down only to find one particularly handsome chap had climbed the leg of my tripod in the hope I might have something for him. Difficult to disappoint with those eyes looking at you. The trusting way they would  take an offered  nut from the palm of your hand is humbling giving you  a real connection with nature.

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It was a real wrench to leave the squirrels behind but need we must. And so it was on to another target species, Crested tit.

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Crested tits are special little birds. A species synonymous to the Cairngorms, whose importance to the region cannot be overstated. Their bridled face pattern and upstanding black and white crest that gives them their name make them particularly beautiful, striking birds. We had some very nice light for our afternoon session so concentrated on getting some backlit images showing off that proud and distinctive crest.

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The second day we headed up on to higher ground for the deer. Another location I’d been to before but made a bit of a mess of truth be told, not seeing the opportunities at the time. Hopefully I managed to do it a bit more justice on this occasion.

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There was  still some snow on the ground and as the afternoon wore on it began to get colder and we were rewarded with a snow flurry.

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For the last day it was time to try something new. Last year we had tried for mountain hare but got waylaid on route up to Neil’s site when I spotted a Scottish Wildcat hunting in the snow. This year there were no such distractions.

On the way up we encountered some interested passers by…

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Wild goats, descended from domestic livestock that have roamed the mountains and munroes  for many centuries.

The absence of snow had one advantage, meaning that the hares were a lot easier to spot. Bridging the gap between us and them is another thing entirely though. Fortunately though, in Neil I have a fantastic teacher.

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Neil’s stalking skills are superb, and following his advice (and doing exactly what I was told) we managed to do fantastically well, finding and photographing not one but five hares in total.

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This last image is probably my favourite of the session. I like the way the hare is sitting there amongst the high grass.

As we made our way back down I couldn’t help but stop and look over the landscape. The Scottish Highlands have a wild, untamed beauty to them that stirs the soul. A million miles away from the chaos and hectic lifestyle of urban living. I love it and although I am planning to return here in the next few weeks, I still wanted to make the most of the moment before thoughts turned to home.

Before heading home though, the landscape had one last surprise to serve up. As we drove back to Aviemore, Neil and I both looked to the mountains. The snow covered summits were beautifully lit, shrouded in mist, yielding a stunning panoramic view. So we stopped and got the cameras out again one last time. Neil said that he had never seen evening conditions like this. A fitting and memorable way to end the trip.

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Whilst in Scotland I also worked on another species, but will save that for a separate blog later in the year. For now though, it’s back to the Barn Owls, suitably refreshed.

A huge thank you to Neil as always for a cracking three days and to Scotland for providing such  inspiration.

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7 Responses to The High Road – Wild Scotland

  1. Absolutely beautiful. Having been house bound last seven days after a blizzards and almost daily snow this WAS a breath of fresh air. Thanks for sharing

  2. Chris Kayler says:

    Wow! Some great images in this post. The towering, snowy mountain over the landscape really makes an impact.

    And … OMG – that image of the squirrel doing the splits just about sums up everything I love about squirrels. Ear Tufts and ridiculous antics.

    Chris

  3. Mark hamblin says:

    Great set of images Jules. The landscape shots are most unusual and very effective. They look as though they were taken with a long lens? Cheers, Mark

    • jcoxfoto says:

      Cheers Mark :) 300mmm f2.8 Mark to get the compression I was after. Inspired by your landscape shots I think!

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