July 2017
August 2017 - Seabird cities

When rare opportunities present themselves, one shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. There are organised tours
to only three of the handful of islands in the Firth of Forth so I have been very lucky to be able to access others. Now uninhabited, these islands have become seabird colonies - some overrun by gulls with others favouring cliff-nesting specialists. The noise and activity is frantic as every bird vies for space, food and survival amongst the ruins of the wartime fortifications. However the views from the islands give a very different perspective of Edinburgh and Fife which only few experience, hence I always feel a sense of privilege when on the islands.

Cormorants can be hard to approach and easily spooked so being able to close in on a nesting colony was a real bonus. Using an abandoned pill box as a hide made for good photography and allowed me to appreciate the lovely patterns created by the wing feathers which seemed strangely reminiscent of reptile scales! Gulls, always on the scrounge to exploit any foraging opportunity, never strayed far from the cormorant’s nests; one was left with a real sense of what it takes to simply survive.

A boat trip to the Isle of May is always one of my summer highlights. Known for its puffins and arctic terns, one can’t fail to be enchanted by the mass of bird life on the island. Sadly it rained for the duration of the visit which forced me to reconsider some of the preconceived ideas i had for pictures. Nevertheless I managed images of puffins, terns, kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and shags in spite of the weather. The return trip took us round the cliffs of the island which towered vertically above us and teemed with seabirds. As the return leg of the boat trip closed in on Anstruther, a pod of around twenty five dolphins followed the boat to give us all an extraordinary treat! They would have been part of the Moray Firth population exploring waters further south and they rounded off our day nicely.

The Forth isles are also known for their seal populations and I joined one such excursion to count their numbers. One rarely sees them from the mainland but there is a significant number of grey seals in the Firth of Forth - and they’re all hauled out on the various islands and rocky outcrops. The seals were content to sunbathe undisturbed while we chugged by. Some common seals were found amongst the greys but they were far outnumbered. A glorious day made exposure tricky but I managed some shots and I took the chance to experiment with a little creativity.

Away from the Forth islands, I had an enjoyable evening photographing some of the smaller details in our local wood. This combines creativity with still life photography but can produce some effective and pleasing images. I became particularly interested in the sycamore seed pods which covered the ground and cried out to be photographed. This wood remains busy with fox, badger and roe deer which were all caught on the trail camera during the same night.

Meanwhile the roe deer rut was in full flow during July and these shy creatures sport beautiful russet-coloured coats. at this time of year. I was delighted to have photographed a doe hiding in long grass (which I posted on facebook) during a trip to the Cairngorms National Park. I also visited a nearby osprey nest and was pleased to see the adult pair flying around freely. This is a real success story as the nest blew down over the winter and was rebuilt in the spring by volunteers just in time for the birds to return and occupy it.

I am currently reviewing my website and making some minor changes. In the ‘Books’ section, there is now a gallery of images from ‘Forthshore: East Lothian’s Coastline” and i am shifting the focus of the Portfolio gallery into one that is habitat-based. This remains a 'work-in-progress' and I look forward to it evolving over the forthcoming months.