Sunday, 15 September 2013

Wildlife in the Wind and Rain

The change from summer to autumn has not been subtle this year. Over the course of the last week we've gone from warm, sunny summery days to ... well, today! As always, please click on the images to see them properly.

I can't imagine why no-one was sitting on that bench...

Still, bad weather can make for some cool conditions to take photographs in. A lot of wildlife won't come out when the weather is really bad, but one of the nice things about photographing coastal and marine wildlife is that a little bit of wind and rain doesn't tend to faze them very much!

Breaking waves hammering the seawall at Troon.

So despite the forecast, today we headed south of Glasgow to check out the beaches at Troon (one of my regular spots), Irvine and Ardrossan and see what we could spot. The tides shouldn't have been that great for getting close to the birds (it was low water around lunchtime), but the horrible weather had forced plenty of them high up the shore so we had some nice opportunities. Along the shore we had turnstones and redshanks:

Turnstone on the beach at Troon

Redshank on the shore

I was hoping to find eider ducks sheltering from the weather at the harbour, but they were apparently elsewhere today. There were eight grey seals hanging around though:

Grey seals in the fishing harbour

Of course, it was at this point in proceedings that my trusty 7D + 300mm F4L + 1.4x T.C. combination reached the limits of its weather-sealing abilities and stopped working. No screen, no autofocus, no buttons... Oops. Fortunately a towel dry and a few minutes on the car heater seemed to fix it so hopefully there's no lasting damage. At least it was freshwater for a change too! Of course, that wasn't the only thing I did to the camera today...

After Troon we headed further up the coast to Irvine just in time for the sun to break through for a few minutes.

The beach at Irvine

Having spotted a couple of eider ducks, I decided to test my new walking shoes and climb down the seawall to get down to the beach for a closer view. Neither the boots nor the photo worked particularly well unfortunately and I have a couple of rather large new dents in the camera (and my arm). It still works though, so happy days!

Another couple of war wounds to add to the collection. I suspect I'll never, ever be able to sell this camera second hand. Ever. 

The eider duck photos turned out to be pretty boring in the end, but fortunately a curlew came to the rescue and stood in the sea spray and sunshine for a little while:

A curlew in the waves

After this set I decided I'd left enough blood and camera metal on the shore at Irvine for one day and we headed back to Glasgow via Ardrossan and Largs past some more promising looking beaches which I will check out next time I have a free day.

So all in all it was a pretty successful day out really! Nothing broken, nothing (very) flooded and a few decent photos to show for it. I might wrap the camera in a plastic bag next time right enough.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Photos from Inverary

I'm back! If you're wondering where I've been, read on. If you just want to see some photos from Inverary, you can skip most of this and head straight down to the images!

So if you've been following this blog at all, you've probably noticed that things here have somewhat ground to a halt over the last three months and I have to admit it's entirely PhD-related. I'm coming up to the end of my 3rd year just now, and courtesy of a (really important) conference in June followed by two months working flat-out in an attempt to meet a self-imposed, unrealistic and unnecessary deadline, my stress levels have been creeping progressively higher for a while now. It's been more or less entirely self-inflicted too, but it's meant that I've not been going out to do the things that I find relaxing (like photography) because I've been feeling too guilty about not working. But then the stress gets higher and your work gets worse and all in all, it's a pretty bad place to be. It's fine when it's short-term, but not so great in the long run. I'm sure pretty much everyone has been there at some point.

Last week got to the point where the workplan clearly wasn't working, so I binned my deadline and went back to working the way that works for me (no Gannt charts!) and instantly felt better. This was also pretty much the point I noticed how crap the last 2-3 months have been, and when I also learned that if I don't want to go out with my camera to photograph wild things because of work, I'm probably working too much!

Anyway, this weekend I got the camera back out for wildlife for the first time since my last research cruise in April(!) and we headed up to Inverary (west coast of Scotland) for a day out with the dog. Since it was an an unusually sunny day the town was pretty busy, but there were still a few birds rummaging around the flats at low water when the dog wasn't charging around! I didn't get anything amazing, but here are a few of the better shots:

There were a LOT of jackdaws on the beach, which is a little unusual - most of the times I've been up that way it's been hooded crows everywhere.

These two had a brief fight over a patch of seaweed, which was over in about 5 seconds!

The bright sun didn't make for ideal shooting conditions without a polariser, but allowed for some nice silhouette shots. These are three redshanks and an oystercatcher feeding below the tide line.
Redshanks feeding along the shore.

Until the dog couldn't wait any longer to play in the sea and came to see what I was doing!

Most of the trips our dog gets to the seaside happen when I'm out to take photographs, so it was a pretty awesome day out for him too! Sonny's a rescue dog from the cat & dog home in Glasgow and can be pretty reactive around other dogs, so finding a quiet spot to let him off the lead and play is great!

Of course, if I'm taking photos I'm not the one who has to dog-sit. I'm not sure if Kevin had quite as good a day as Sonny and I did!

Heading home via the Loch Fyne brewery, we spotted this small herd of red deer on the hillside too.

So that was our trip out! I'm fully intending to do this more often from now on, so with a bit of luck the blog posts will pick back up again over the next few weeks. Until then, don't forget you can keep up to date with my news and various happenings in the marine world via my facebook page at