Close to home for those of us in the United Kingdom, & not too far for our European friends, the fabulous wildlife of the Scottish Highlands in Winter offers opportunities to capture classic images of several different species, both in portrait style, but also within the environment.
Top of the list for anyone hoping to capture evocative images of the wildlife of the Scottish Highlands has to be the Red Squirrel.
Within the Caledonian forests, you will find the Red Squirrel darting from tree to tree & scampering across the ground in search of food. There are estimated to be only 160,000 red squirrels remaining in the UK, 75% of which are in Scotland. Loss of woodland in the past has caused difficulties for red squirrels, but Scottish forests are currently expanding.
Second, slightly harder to obtain images of due to the altitudes at which they live, the Mountain Hare, this species is renowned for turning white in winter to match their upland surroundings; this is just one part of how this creature has adapted to polar & mountainous habitats.
Also found at higher altitudes, & also a species that changes colour according to the season, the Ptarmigan; the ptarmigan is a medium-sized gamebird in the grouse family. In summer, it is a mixture of grey, brown & black above with white bellies & wings. In winter, it becomes white except for its tail & eye-patch, which remain black.
The red deer is Scotland’s largest deer. Males have large, branching antlers, increasing in size as they get older. Red deer are dark russet-brown, with a paler buff rump patch & a light tail. Red deer live on moorland & mountainsides, as well as grasslands near to woodland.
The Crested Tit is a species which you will only find within the Caledonian pine forest of the Scottish Highlands; they appear to be hyperactive birds, often appearing restless as they forage for food in the Scots pines & on the ground. Although they are less colourful than many of the other tit species, they have a striking crest on the top of their head which can be raised & folded back to varying lengths. Their black & white speckled forehead enhances this impressive feature. They also have a black, eyeliner style, mark through the eye & a thin black collar.
The red grouse is a medium-sized bird of the grouse family which is found in heather moorland in Great Britain & Ireland. It is usually classified as a subspecies of the willow ptarmigan. The red grouse is differentiated from the willow ptarmigan & rock ptarmigan by its plumage being reddish-brown, & not having a white winter plumage. The tail is black & the legs are white. There are white stripes on the underwing & red combs over the eye.
Our Dalmatian Pelican photography trips take place at Lake Kerkini, a premier location for birdwatchers & photographers. Mountain ranges protect three sides of the lake which provides a mild climate & an abundance of fish for over 300 species of birds, many of whom are migratory birds en route to the South East of Europe or Africa.
We time our tours to coincide with their breeding season which is when these charismatic birds look their best with their bright red pouches & crazy hair-dos.
The excitement & anticipation of our trip to photograph the Golden Eagles of the Swedish Winter was unbearable for all us including our guests! The expectations of photographing the wildlife & especially getting up close & personal with wild Golden Eagles in this beautiful snow-capped Swedish pine forest was going to be epic!
It all started with a trip around the M25 towards Heathrow where I met our first guest as we started our journey’s final destination to Skellefteå Airport in Sweden. I met our other guests for this trip at the Swedish airport as they were flying in from Hong Kong!
Earlier this year, Tony attended our Dalmatian Pelicans of Kerkini photography holiday. 2019 saw the return of snow & ice to the region so he faced some challenging weather conditions but thanks to our resourceful boatman, Tony came back with some stunning photos. He has very kindly sent in 12 beautiful images for us to share with you.
My experience of photographing the Ice Grizzlies of the Yukon could very easily read like one of those early childhood ‘what I did in my holidays’ essays. “I got up & then I got on a coach. I went to the airport & flew in a big plane to a place called Vancouver. I got into another, smaller plane & went to Whitehorse. It was snowy & cold. The next day I got in an even smaller plane & went to a place called Dawson City. It was a Sunday; everything was closed. I stayed in a hotel & then we got in a helicopter. Then we saw bears & a wolf. Then we came home”.
That’s pretty accurate, albeit over-simplistic. It’s quite an adventure getting to Bear Cave Mountain, but boy is it worth it. Dawson City is a fascinating mix of history & modern. Many old buildings date from the Gold Rush era, in varying states of upkeep, & the trappings of modern life, but with a very Northern twist. A seasonal city that serves the tourist industry as well as still supporting commercial gold extraction. It was post-season when we were there but it was still fascinating & the people are welcoming.
The next stage of the adventure is the helicopter ride — two hours over the starkly majestic tundra & mountains of the Northern Yukon. Challenging & inhospitable doesn’t even start to describe it. The approach to the camp is ‘interesting’. There’s no sign of where the camp is & the pilot just took us down to river level & landed on a shingle ‘beach’. Only then could we see the camp through the trees. Settling in didn’t take long. There are only four buildings & a ‘room with a view’ – more on this later – the main cabin, three two-person sleeping cabins & a loo.
The message from the very point of arrival was that this is grizzly bear country & everywhere was a potential viewing site – yes, even the camp. And that, I suppose, is the key to the success of this place. Respect the grizzly bears & their environment & they will reward you. The local guides, Phil & Ross, were quick to induct us into the required behaviour – slow, deliberate movement, no talking unless necessary, & then very quietly. The philosophy is to give the bears nothing – no encouragement, no reward, & no bad experiences of humans. It works.
We have been able to get some dates for a return to the Ice Bears of the Yukon, this is the photography holiday for the Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain – our original trip took place during 2018, & sold out instantly; demand for places at Grizzly Bear Photography at Bear Cave Mountain is very high as only around 24 people get to spend time at the location each year!
During late-January 2019, you are invited to join Alan & Boris on the Nemunas Delta for this 5-night Winter Eagle photography trip to Lithuania.
Spend four days in the dedicated photography hides located in the heart of the Nemunas Delta, taking photo opportunities with red fox & white-tailed sea eagle & many other species that visit the photography site.