Some of the finest opportunities for photography in Britain are to be found in the Scottish Highlands and during this holiday we aim to photograph several charismatic mammal species that are rare or absent south of the Scottish border. In specific locations or from specialist hides we will photograph Red Squirrels, Crested Tit and Red Deer. On Dava Moor our target will be Red Grouse with its wonderfully colourful plumage which can look especially good photographed against a background of snow, and we'll journey to the Findhorn Valley to photograph another Scottish specialty, the Mountain Hare. We'll also visit the Moray Coast in search of wintering sea ducks and waders as well as ascend the slopes of Cairngorm in search of Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting.
Grade B – Moderate day walks. Photography of Mountain Hares and Ptarmigan in particular is on foot, and involves walking in mountains, including uphill sections and steep/rough terrain at time. The Ptarmigan excursion is up to a four mile round trip on foot with almost 1000 feet of elevation gain (the trail is good but at this time of year can sometimes be buried under snow!). Ptarmigan especially is a demanding species to find, so some effort will be required, though the results are extremely rewarding.
We travel by minibus most days, but will spend plenty of the time exploring on foot. Enjoyment of this tour, therefore, demands a reasonable level of fitness and an enjoyment of walking (or, the unfit should be prepared to feel tired at times!). All walks will be taken at a leisurely pace, and a built-in flexibility will take into account of the overall abilities of the group.
Some of the finest opportunities for mammal photography in Britain are to be found in the Scottish Highlands, where the mountains also support good populations of moorland and alpine birds that are difficult to photograph elsewhere. During this week long break, we will photograph several charismatic species that are rare or absent south of the Scottish border, such as Red Squirrel, Crested Tit, Mountain Hare and Ptarmigan, using a combination of hides and tracking on foot in the wild and rugged terrain.
We meet in Inverness then spend one night by the Moray coast before making our way south. On the first afternoon we will seek out the sheltered bays along the coast in search of wintering sea ducks, waders and divers, such as Long-tailed Duck and Goldeneye, before transferring to our first hotel where our photographer-leader will introduce the week. The next morning we will have a further chance to photograph the wildfowl in this area before we head inland.
En-route south we will stop for opportunities to photograph Red Grouse on the moors, prior to arriving at our base for the next 5 nights. From our comfortable hotel near Aviemore, we will be surrounded by superb scenery, with easy access to the Cairngorms and numerous wildlife viewing spots. Over the following days, we will visit specially constructed hides in order to photograph Red Squirrel and woodland locations for both Crested Tit and Red Deer. We will also enjoy excursions searching for Ptarmigan, Snow Buntings and Mountain Hare, mainly on foot. With stunning landscapes wherever we go, there will often be the opportunity to enjoy some landscape photography too.
On the last morning of the tour we will have a final opportunity to seek out the wildlife of this region before enjoying a last lunch together, which will give us a chance to review our images and reflect on a productive week of wildlife photography.
• Use specialist photography hides & tracking on foot
• Photograph Red Squirrel, Mountain Hare & Red Deer
• Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting & Crested Tit among special birds
• Spectacular snow-capped mountain scenery
• Led by a professional photographer
Sat 20th Feb - Fri 26th Feb 2021 - 2130€
We stay in a comfortable hotel near Aviemore, where all rooms have en-suite facilities.
All food is included in the price, except for lunch on the first day.
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Day 1 Arrive Inverness, transfer Aviemore
We will meet in Inverness at around lunchtime and transfer by minibus to Aviemore and our hotel for the next 5 nights. We begin this afternoon with an introductory presentation on the Cairngorms, the species we are hoping to find and the best techniques for photographing them. We will then travel to the RSPB’s famous wildlife reserve at Loch Garten for our first experience of the Caledonian pine forest and to photograph woodland birds coming to bait. Our expert photographer-leader will help with detailed guidance on camera set up and settings, to enable everyone to capture the best images possible. Then, as sunset approaches, we will use the light to bring to life the ancient trees of what is one of Britain’s very few true wildwoods.
Day 2 Photography Hides & Braemar
This morning we will divide into two groups of three for photography from specialist hides. The Red Squirrel hide is set in a clearing in the beautiful Caledonian pine forest, and is designed to enable images of these pretty and agile squirrels jumping, feeding and reflected in water. The Woodland Bird hide, meanwhile, is set in very open woodland with a stunning natural background and perches providing opportunities for a wide range of images. As well as portraits, this hide offers opportunity for flight and interaction images, with possible species including Crested Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Siskin, Redpoll, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker. In the afternoon, we travel by minibus to Braemar and Glenshee, on the east side of the Cairngorms. A key target will be to photograph Red Grouse with their wonderful coloured plumage, which can, with careful exposure, look especially good photographed against a background of snow. Red Grouse photography is best done along the roadside using the vehicle as a hide, and with luck we may also encounter herds of Red Deer. There will also be opportunities to photograph mountain landscapes along the route.
Day 3 Findhorn Valley
Today, we will journey to the Findhorn Valley to photograph another Scottish specialty, the Mountain Hare. Mountain Hares will just be starting to moult from their white winter to their darker summer coats, making them easier to find on the hillsides and especially good photographic subjects. A careful approach is needed but with luck and patience, we hope to be able to obtain some excellent images. Time permitting, we may choose to return to our hotel via Carrbridge, where we can photograph the ancient packhorse bridge that gives the village its name. After an early dinner, we aim to travel to Loch Morlich to photograph Cairngorm itself, across (and hopefully reflected in) the loch.
Day 4 Leks and Ptarmigan
This morning we will divide into two groups of three once again. Led by a local, experienced photographer, the first group will drive for around half an hour south-west towards Kingussie, to specially situated Black Grouse hides. Here, under the guidance of our local photographer, we aim to capture the stunning spectacle of an early morning Black Grouse lek. A very early start will be required to get into position before dawn, and we expect to be leaving our hotel at around 4am! Getting so close to these lekking birds is a rare privilege, and so our early start should be well rewarded. Those members of the group not visiting the lek will instead enjoy an early morning excursion with Robert for some landscape photography, most likely either along Loch Morlich or into the pine forest. After all returning to the hotel for a late breakfast, there will then be the opportunity to rest at the hotel. This time can be used for reviewing images, for talking a walk near the hotel or catching up on sleep after the early start. After lunch, we will set out on foot in search of Ptarmigan. Found high on the flanks of the Cairngorms around the spring snow line, a hike of about a mile with modest ascent is required to reach them. At this time of year the Ptarmigan are about to change from their white winter plumage to their mottled summer plumage. With patience, there is a good chance of photographing these iconic birds. Weather permitting, there will also be the opportunity to take great landscape shots of the high mountains.
Day 5 Leks and Pine Marten
This morning the groups will swap over so that the second group will visit the Black Grouse hides and the first can enjoy a well-deserved “lie-in”, before joining Robert for some morning landscape photography. On arriving back at the hotel, the rest of the day will be more relaxed. No activities have been scheduled for the rest of the morning in order to once again catch up on sleep, and spend some dedicated time reviewing our images prior to the next hide visits. This evening, we will have the use of a comfortable heated hide after dinner where we expect to watch and photograph Pine Martens, one of Britain’s most beautiful and elusive carnivores, along with Badgers. Flash is not allowed in this hide so photography will be using floodlights, requiring a tripod, cable release and high ISO setting.
Day 6 Photography Hides, return to Inverness
This morning we will return to the Red Squirrel and Woodland Bird photography hides, each group of three switching hides from the earlier in the week. Returning to our hotel for lunch, we will review and share our images with the group, before making the return journey to Inverness. We will aim to be back in the city in the late afternoon.
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