Welcome to my Wildlife Photography Blog

Written from Dartmoor National Park, Devon in England. It includes Wildlife Photography Hints and Tips, Exploits of My Nature Photography, My Wildlife Sightings and what's happening on my own Devon Nature Reserve.

Tawney Owls, New Garden setup, Lockdown Rules, Landscape photo and Reptiles on Dartmoor

June 04, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Greetings from a Wildlife Photographer on Dartmoor in Devon, England 

I hope you are all safe and well, and bearing up with what is going on with all this Covid 19 business.

In the last Wildlife Photography blog I told you about an incident that happened whilst I was driving home which involved a Tawney Owl. (www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2020/5/coronavirus-corvid-19-lockdown-period-keeping-busy-wildlife-photography-wise). This is not the first time this type of thing has happened to me. Quite a few years ago when I lived in Hampshire I was driving to work. The time was about 5am, I started work at 5:45am, and I was driving up hill when a Tawney Owl flew out of a wood on my right and “landed” on the bonnet of my car, I did not hit it, it just dropped onto my car! I immediately stopped; luckily I was driving slowly keeping a watch out for wildlife as I quite often saw either a Fox or Fallow Deer along this road. As I stopped the Tawney Owl slid forward and onto the road in front. I got out of the car and the Owl was standing on its feet but looked a bit wobbly. It was quite a small owl so I picked it up, keeping its talons out of harm’s way, walked to the side of the road and placed it there. I stood there watching it for a few minutes and it did not appear to be acting normally. Therefore I picked it up again and placed it in a large box in the boot of my car. I continued my drive to work and informed my boss what happened. After 9am I took the Owl to the Hawk Conservancy Trust at Weyhill just outside Andover (www.hawk-conservancy.org/) not far from where I worked. I told them what had happened and they gave the Owl a quick check over, all appeared to be OK, but they said they would keep it in for a couple of weeks just to make sure. Three weeks later a received a phone call from them stating that the Tawney Owl had been a bit underweight but is now fine and I could collect it so that it could be released near where the incident happened. That afternoon I picked it up and took it to a Forestry Commission wood which was at the top of the hill near where I had found it. I walked down a track, away from the road, and placed the box on the ground. I opened the top, stood back and after a couple of seconds out flew the Owl. It flew down the track a little bit and then up into a tree and it did look bigger than when I first saw it. It stayed there for a few minutes before flying into the wood. I can tell you there is no better feeling then seeing wildlife, which was “injured” recovering and being reintroduced into its natural home. I can fully understand what the people that work in animal / wildlife rehabilitation centres feel like when they care for the animals / wildlife and then let them go when they have got better. Fantastic.

At the beginning of the month I started redoing my Wildlife photography garden setup in our field. Over the winter months most of my hard work setting it up was ruined by the weather, as we had some quite strong winds, therefore I started rebuilding it again. The “stone wall” on my bench had fallen down and my camouflaged background had been ripped to pieces. The background was renewed as I have got lots of bits and pieces of this and it’s very diffused in my images anyway, so you can’t tell what it is. I put up the bird feeders again and will leave it like that so the birds will get used to it before I gradually introduce more to the setup. I visited it in the evening and from a distance I could see two birds on the sunflower hearts. I moved slightly closer and could see that they were a male and female Siskin, a bird I had not seen in my garden before.

Over the next couple of weeks I rebuilt the stone wall on to of our “park bench”. I cleared out the two drain pipes and stuck different branches in them and also covered up the fence in the background.

Just as I am writing this blog the government has changed to Lockdown rules. One of which is that you can go out using your car and go to an area to exercise all day. You can even go to a park, sit there, watch the day go by as long as you stick to the social distancing rules. With this in mind I will now go out onto Dartmoor with my camera and hope people will keep away. Then again there are not many people about on Dartmoor at the time I go out now, 5am.

For the last few weeks I have had an image in my mind that I want to take. Surprisingly this image is not a wildlife image, it is a landscape one. I got my inspiration from a digital magazine I found whilst on the internet. The image was taken not far from my home so I visited and reconnoitered the area and noted several positions where I could take a photo from. I did not want to position the legs of my tripod in the same three holes and take the same photograph as the other photographer has, I wanted the image to be my own. The image I want to take is of a sunset with Dartmoor tors strategically placed within. The sunsets recently have been good but not great. The reason for this is that with constant blue skies, that we have been having recently, there have been no clouds. The colour in the sky is there as the sun goes down but I want pink, red, orange, purple, yellow clouds to enhance the sky. All my camera equipment that I need is ready just to grab and go and I look around the sky each evening, at about 6pm, and wait for some favourable clouds, this is England so they will come. I know true landscape photographers would be out there, all set up, waiting for the light, but this does not appeal to me one bit. Like I’ve said before I can wait for ages for wildlife to appear to photograph it, but get so bored waiting for the light for a landscape shot. That’s why I take my hat off to landscape photographers who make the effort and are out there in all weathers waiting for a break in the clouds (I wish I could have some of these b***** clouds!) to get an image but go home most of the time with nothing. I’ll wait for some clouds at home but knowing my luck the blue skies will turn to grey! “Alert” as I am writing this, on the morning of 02/06/20 I can see clouds so you never know tonight might be the night, keep fingers crossed. (See Below)

Whilst out the other day with Murphy, my little dog, on his mid-day walk a Lizard ran across in front of us from one side of the path to the other. I ran towards it to find out what type it was but it disappeared in amongst the vegetation before I could see it properly. When I got home I did some research and found out that there are only three types of lizard in England, the Common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), the Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) and the Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis). I ruled out the Slow-worm straight away as this is a legless lizard and looks like a snake. I also ruled out a Sand lizard as this is bright green in colour and lives on sandy heathland, the one I saw was brown. Therefore it could only have been a Common lizard. I was quite chuffed as it is the first Common lizard I have seen in England. As I walk early in the morning I’m surprised by not seeing more of them basking in the sunshine to warm up before darting off to catch insects. There are several reptiles on Dartmoor including: - Grass snake (Natrix helvetica), Adder (Vipera berus), Common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) and the Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis). All are rare to spot but the only one to beware of is the adder as it’s the UK’s only venomous snake. I have only ever seen one on Dartmoor as they are not as numerous as once was. There are many walkers that despite years of hiking on the moors have never seen one so I was lucky. The snake was all coiled up in the middle of a track basking in the sunlight. I stayed with it for a while watching it and informing people walking along the track, especially those with dogs to put them on leads as a bite from an Adder can be fatal. These snakes are quite shy and tend to emerge only to bask in the sunlight. They like to live in woodland, moorland and heathland, so Dartmoor is the perfect spot for these reptiles. According to “Legendary Dartmoor” www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/adder_lore.htm they are called “long cripples” and on Dartmoor adders sting not bite! One of the Dartmoor beliefs is that if anything has been bitten by one it cannot recover until the snake is dead and another belief is that an adder can’t die until the sun goes down! If you see one please leave it alone as they are protected by law, The Wildlife and Countryside Act. Read more including several bite / sting cures on the website above.

Continuing on from my attempted landscape photograph there were great clouds until about 5pm and then they seemed to disappear and melded into one great thin grey blanket. I still kept my fingers crossed that it would break up and by 6:30pm there was just a thin band of this blanket. I grabbed my equipment and set off to the car park. I trudged up the tor which took me nearly an hour to get to the top which included a few stops on the way. WHY do you have to walk so far to get good landscape photos? Also how come I don’t notice all the walking when I am after wildlife! At the top I looked around and thought that as it was a bit breezy the cloud line (grey blanket) should move on and the great thin wispy clouds behind it should be in the right position in the sky when the sun sets. So I set up my tripod and camera and sat down to wait for the right time, or decisive moment as Henri Cartier-Bresson would say. (If you want more information use this link https://petapixel.com/2020/04/25/a-look-at-the-decisive-moment-by-henri-cartier-bresson/ or www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/dec/23/henri-cartier-bresson-the-decisive-moment-reissued-photography). As I sat there waiting the wind died down which made it quite pleasant but it was not going to move the grey blanket. An hour later I was joined by several sheep which I had to chase off as I did not want them in my image and I did not want the hassle of cloning them out of the image. Once I achieved this I returned to my vigil and whilst sat there I was joined by several Wheatears, if only I had brought my telephoto lens with me.


Another hour passed and the grey blanket was now right along the horizon where the sun was going to set. The thin wispy clouds were in the perfect position for my image but there was still no light. Three hours after I had set up my equipment I started packing up. All nature had given me was a very broken thin strip of red glow along the horizon. I walked back to the car contemplating that I hate waiting for the light for landscape photography, then again when the light is right you can get some great results. You’ve got to put the effort in to get good results and this relates to wildlife photography as well so I’ll be back. I put my leather jacket and sunglasses on thinking, where have I heard that phrase before?

Take care and stay safe.


If you like my blogs then please sign and leave a comment on my Guestbook page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/guestbook.html and Subscribe by pressing the RSS button at the bottom left of the page.

Also available are Digital Photography Tuition Including Post Processing Workflow, Dartmoor Bird & Wildlife Workshops and Talks (Please see the Workshops & Talks Tabs at the top of the website).

If you choose to stay at our Holiday Cottage / B&B www.acorn-lodge-dartmoor.co.uk at the time of the workshop then you will receive a discount on your tuition and accommodation. 


Coronavirus Covid 19, Lockdown period, Keeping busy Wildlife Photography wise,

May 09, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Greetings from a Wildlife Photographer on Dartmoor in Devon, England 

I hope you are all safe and well, and bearing up with what is going on. So, what have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this “Lockdown” period?

I had planned to visit two main areas to photograph wildlife on Dartmoor this year, a third was ready just in case I had to change my plans last minute due to some unforeseen circumstance like the Dartmoor rangers setting fire to one of the areas, which has happened before. I, and I doubt anybody else, could foresee what was going to happen when the coronavirus, covid 19, hit our planet. Therefore I have been catching up with all the jobs that needed doing, and some that didn’t, around the house and garden. My wife writes the list and we do the jobs together, but I can’t understand why the list never seems to end!

Wildlife photography wise I have finished all the post processing of my photos from 2016 and am well into my 2017 photos. As you know I leave the post processing of my photos for a while to get rid of the emotional tie I have with them. Normally it is six months to a year but I hate post processing and have left it a bit longer this time so this lockdown has given me the time to do a few images each day and I am slowly getting through them. I just hope it is over before I get to my 2020 images.

I have made several bird boxes from spare wood in my garage and have put them up in my garden and in our field. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they will be used either this year or next. My garden is not very big, but it is alive with birds, butterflies and other insects. It has a mixture of flowers, bushes, a couple of trees (one dead), a hedge and a host of other plants. OK the “host of other plants” are weeds like brambles, nettles etc. but these are needed and lots of wildlife use and eat them. A lot of gardens these days are too “clean” and void of wildlife so set aside an area in your garden, leave it and let it run riot, then watch the birds and insects flock to it. As the weather has been great on Dartmoor I go out into my garden, sit, watch, listen and learn. We have several nests within it including:- several Goldfinches, two Robins, at least two Blackbirds, a Songthrush, a Sparrow in a House Martins nest but it has now been taken back over by House Martins, a Chiff Chaff, a Willow Warbler, a Great Tit, a Blue Tit, a Dove, a Pigeon and for the first time a Blackcap. I noticed the Blackcap when he landed in the tree above me and started singing his beautiful song. The Chiff Chaff and Willow Warbler are sometimes in the same tree and I still can’t tell the difference between them until they start singing.

Chiff ChaffChiff Chaff

Chiff-Chaff (Dark coloured legs) 


Willow WarblerWillow Warbler

Willow Warbler (Light coloured legs)

We have a Greater Spotted Woodpecker’s nest in a tree just over the road and a Tawney Owl just up the road. We have other birds that visit the garden:- Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Magpies, Goldcrests, we did have two pairs of Bullfinches but they seem to have disappeared, maybe they went to Andy Brown’s (https://www.facebook.com/abphotosUK) garden, not far away, who will get some great photos of them on his garden setup. Recently we have had a male Sparrowhawk visit the garden looking for a meal and a Jay looking for a nest to raid. I hope they don’t get any birds from my garden but then again they have got chicks to feed as well.

When I am alone out in the garden there is one Robin and a Dunnock that come really close, well within a metre of me. They look for food or just stand there and sing. It’s a real privilege to watch and listen to them. But when Murphy is out with me then it is a different matter as he seems to think nothing else is allowed in the garden except us, little scamp!

My wife and I were lucky enough to have had some of our holidays before all this lockdown business started. For one of them we had driven up to the Isle of Mull in Scotland in our motorhome, to get my yearly wildlife photography fix in this country and were going to stay for seventeen days before moving on to other parts of the British Isles and then back home but after ten days we heard that the government wanted nobody to travel, a bit late, and we should stay at home. As we were in a field, on our own, in our motorhome and self-sufficient, we debated the issue. But as we were going on to main campsites later on we decided to make a few telephone calls. After the second call it became clear that the campsites were closing down and so we decided to leave and head for home. I can’t complain because at least we had a great few days up there with some very good weather.

Whilst at my favorite loch, I walked along the loch shore several times a day looking for Otters to photograph. The area was void of other humans and the peace and quiet was tremendous. I saw Red Deer, White Tailed Sea Eagles, Golden Eagles, Oystercatchers, Curlew, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, Lapwings and numerous waders but Otters were hard to locate. Eventually, after three days of looking I spotted the telltale signs of one hunting at the water’s edge. I waited until it dived and then I moved closer as I was using my Canon EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens which is a fantastic walkabout lens but obviously does not give me the same reach as my EF500mm f4 lens. Then again the EF100-400mm weighs more than 2000g less, that’s two bags of sugar! As I got closer I noticed something strange was happening. The Otter appeared to dive but was up straight away rather than disappearing for about ten to twenty seconds. I stayed put as I thought I had spooked it and it was checking to see what I was doing. But whilst watching the Otter it seemed more occupied with something that was happening further along the shoreline where a group of waders were splashing about at the water’s edge and after a while it resumed its normal hunting. When I was close enough I settled down behind a rock, watched and waited and after a while it came ashore, rubbing itself on the seaweed. It was only a few metres away from me and I struggled to keep my emotions in check as I really love these intimate moments with wildlife. After it had rolled around it climbed onto a rock, dropped off a little “sample”, looked around and then jumped back into the water. It swam out a little and then dived down into the water. This is where I lost it and was perplexed to wonder where it had gone. I know Otters can hold their breath for several minutes underwater but no matter where I looked I could not relocate it; therefore I called it a day and slowly walked back to the motorhome for tea.


Over the next few days the struggle to locate any Otters continued. I found plenty of evidence of their presence in the form of spraints but no actual sightings. It did not deter me looking as there was still plenty of other wildlife around but I wanted Otters as I find these animals absolutely delightful both to watch and to photograph.

The day before we left for home I finally located another Otter and once again I started the routine of getting closer each time it dived. It seemed to be catching a lot of fish just a couple of metres out from the shore in amongst the seaweed. Once I was in position I settled down to get some photographs but this Otter had other plans and started swimming along the shoreline. I waited a while to see if it came back but as it kept on going I started following it. After a few minutes it started hunting again and I closed in. Once again just as I settled down and got comfortable it started swimming along the shoreline, this “cat and mouse” chase game continued for a while but I persevered and was close enough when it stood half in the water and half out of it right next to a big rock. It looked around for a minute or so then swam behind the rock and disappeared. I waited and observed but once again this Otter disappeared like the other one. I even got up and looked behind the rock to see if it was sleeping there but to no avail, so frustrating. For the next few hours I walked up and down the loch again looking for it but to no avail, I would love to know where they go when Otters disappear like this. It’s very frustrating when you are only a few metres from one and they just dive and you miss them resurfacing, never mind there is always next time, hopefully! The next day we headed for home.


A couple of miles from our home, luckily I was driving slowly, then again you can’t do anything else but drive slowly on Devon’s roads with a motorhome, when we had a fantastic encounter. It was warm so our windows were fully open when we heard a commotion in the shape of a lot of squawking and wing flapping on our left. I stopped and immediately a large Tawney Owl flew out of the hedgerow in front of our windscreen followed by two Blackbirds chasing it. The Tawney Owl landed in a tree on the other side of the road with the Blackbirds near it but just out of its reach. I could not see anything in the Tawney Owls talons but I would assume it had either raided the Blackbirds nest or flew close to it and the Blackbirds were chasing it away. After about thirty seconds the Tawney Owl flew off with one of the Blackbirds following it. What made this encounter special was that it was in broad daylight being only about 1pm, which goes to prove that you never know what’s going to happen with nature involved.

Whilst out for my daily exercise, taking Murphy along for his walk, I have noticed that wildlife seems to be less “scared”, because there are less people and traffic about I would think. I know I go out early each day, six in the morning, but I have seen several Hares playing about on the open moor and different birds on the ground letting me get really close, less than a metre away, before they either fly off or just walk away. They are not even bothered with Murphy’s presence. The two main birds doing this are Skylarks and Yellowhammers. I know I can normally get close to Skylarks but Yellowhammers are a different matter. I don’t break the government’s rules by taking my camera with me but if I did all I would have to do is lay on the floor with my camera and 100-400mm lens and the bird would nearly fill my viewfinder. The other thing I have noticed that there seems to be more birds making nests in amongst the gaps in the stone walls. This might be because Dartmoor National Park have cut all the brambles, gorse and other vegetation in the area that I walk. The Skylarks and Meadow Pipits are still nesting on the ground which is a bit precarious as it is very open, but I’ve seen Stonechats, Wrens, Robins, Goldfinches, Chaffinches and several tits using the stone walls as nests. One bird that is back in this area at the moment is a Cuckoo which I have not seen here in four years. I would love to hope things would stay like this when “life” gets back to normal, whatever “normal” will be from now on, but I am a realist and know they won’t. Still it’s great while it lasts.

Take care and stay safe.


If you like my blogs then please sign and leave a comment on my Guestbook page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/guestbook.html and Subscribe by pressing the RSS button at the bottom left of the page.

Also available are Digital Photography Tuition Including Post Processing Workflow, Dartmoor Bird & Wildlife Workshops and Talks (Please see the Workshops & Talks Tabs at the top of the website).

If you choose to stay at our Holiday Cottage / B&B www.acorn-lodge-dartmoor.co.uk at the time of the workshop then you will receive a discount on your tuition and accommodation. 



Time, Talks, Trials of Photographing Cuckoos and Wildlife Photography Subjects for 2020

December 16, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Greetings from a Wildlife Photographer on Dartmoor in Devon, England

Christmas is fast approaching and not long behind it is the New Year. Oh my goodness, doesn’t time fly, does it seem to speed up the older we get or is that just me? I remember when I was at school and we used to get six weeks off in July and August. I would go on holiday and do everything I wanted to do and still have four weeks left! Then I started work and time, during the week, really dragged but the weekend time flew by. The sad thing about this is that I couldn’t wait for the weekend and I was wishing my life away. I then started shift work and once again I was wishing the work days were over so I could enjoy my “rest” days. This continued throughout my working life and I was longing for retirement. Now I am retired days seem to go by in a flash and there are never enough hours in a day to do what I want to do. Maybe we should change all this and “retire” when we are young and work when we are older, what do you think? Our politicians say we are living longer so if we start work at 50 according to them they should get 50 years out of us, instead of 40! We would also get our pension before we paid into it so that's a non starter! I bet you’re thinking why am I talking about this. Well a few months ago I informed you of a talk I was asked to do for a camera club president’s night. I was asked by the president of the club out of the blue. He viewed my website, liked my work and asked if I would give a talk. I was chuffed to be asked so I adjusted and updated a previous talk I gave a few years ago to another club. I got more nervous as the date got nearer but that has passed and it is now over two weeks since I gave that talk. It was well received and I had several people come up to me afterwards telling me that they really enjoyed it and I put the information across well. I was even asked by a person if the talk could be adjusted, some of the photography information taken out, to give the talk to a nature group which it could very easily. The talk was titled “The Needs of a Wildlife Photographer” and it is about what I think a wildlife photographer needs to have and do to carry out his or her wildlife photography and get good wildlife images. I have already started working on another talk titled “Dartmoor Wildlife” and it should be ready, hopefully, by the middle of next year. I say “hopefully” because I need some more images for the talk and this will be time and weather permitting. If you are interested in hiring me for a talk then please click on the “Talks Tab” at the top of my website for more information.

About three years ago I located a cuckoo on a certain part of the moor and I started formulating a plan to get a good image of it. For the first year I studied its movements and noticed that it consistently landed on top of a certain large bush. The bush was tall but not as tall as the trees it lands in and I would get a reasonable image of it. I therefore waited until it had migrated back to Africa and then started working out where I could place my photography hide to get the image. This necessitated in me pruning a gorse bush so my hide could be hidden. I waited until the month before the cuckoo returned to prune the gorse bush so that I would not have to do more pruning with the bird around. When the cuckoo returned to the area I placed my hide in position and would sit and wait whilst it was still dark. When it was daylight the cuckoo would consistently land on a single branch of the tall bush, accompanied by either a meadow pipit or a chaffinch harassing it. From my position this single branch was obscured by other branches and they would cover the cuckoo, especially across the eye. After several attempts I decided that I would slightly prune around this branch to give me a clearer view of the bird but this had to be done after the cuckoo had migrated. That September I slightly pruned these branches of the tall bush full of anticipation for the next year. This year the cuckoo returned to the area and I continued my vigil only to be disappointed because the bird did not land on that particular bush. Whether it was a different bird or it did not like my “pruning” I don’t know. The cut branches have now grown a bit and have got lichen on them so I will be back, time permitting, next year still keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to get an image.

Recently there are two jobs that I wanted to do this autumn. The first was to clear the huge fallen half tree / branch on our nature reserve - please read my past blog www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2018/11/retirement-our-nature-reserve-red-deer-and-my-ways-of-getting-closer-to-the-wildlife for more information, so that I could buy some trees from the woodland trust https://shop.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees and plant them in the clearing doing my bit to help the environment. I also want to plant some in our field now that we do not have a horse. The second job was to locate and photograph Redwing and Fieldfare to change the images on my Redwing and Fieldfare photography workshop page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/redwing-and-fieldfare-photography-workshop-1-day. Locating them was easy as there are a lot about and I know some of the places they frequent. But both the clearing of the half tree / branch and the photography side have been hampered with this consistent dull weather and rain. It is now well over two months I’ve been waiting and I have only cut up and cleared a few logs. The clearing is on a steep incline and without firm footing it is very dangerous especially when using a chainsaw. Even when it is dry it can be dangerous because the “ground” I’m standing on is just made up of loads of old fallen leaves. With one foot standing about a foot higher than the other one it is easy to slip. Don’t even ask about the photography. Time, as usual, is slipping away fast! See, time in involved with everything we do.

As usual I have picked a couple of subjects I would like to photograph next year. The first will be a cuckoo as discussed earlier. The second will be to find a bird that I have not photographed before. Whether it is a rarity or a bird not already in my portfolio like a different warbler or a ring ousel I don't mind. With this in mind I am going to limit myself to two or three areas of Dartmoor and concentrate on the wildlife within these areas. On the odd occasion I will be in other areas as I need some landscape images for my “Dartmoor Wildlife” talk but it will be a case that if the weather and light is the type I want to photograph that particular landscape in, then I will go there, if not then I will go to these other areas. 

Time once again is pressing so I will sign off for this year by wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.

P.S. Let’s hope for some dry weather soon.


If you like my blogs then please sign and leave a comment on my Guestbook page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/guestbook.html and Subscribe by pressing the RSS button at the bottom left of the page.

Also available are Digital Photography Tuition Including Post Processing Workflow, Dartmoor Bird & Wildlife Photography Workshops and Talks (Please see the Workshops & Talks Tabs at the top of the website).

If you choose to stay at our Holiday Cottage / B&B www.acorn-lodge-dartmoor.co.uk at the time of the workshop then you will receive a discount on your tuition and accommodation. 



The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and New 1 Day Wildlife Photography Workshops

November 10, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Before I get started this blog is not about the cape wearing Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, it is about wildlife photography, trust me!

The Ugly – A few years ago we used to have two collared doves in our garden. They used to sit on the telephone wire cooing, sitting next to, and cuddling, each other. That was until last year when Mr or Mrs sparrowhawk decided it wanted to eat one of them. All we found was a pile of feathers, a beak and a foot near a bush in the garden. The other dove stayed around the garden and in early spring of this year was joined by a partner. Things were getting on great with each other so they made a nest together in one of our trees and had two siblings. They grew up and we often saw all four of them sitting on the telephone wire with the juveniles demanding food or some other sort of attention. A couple of weeks ago we found another pile of feathers and a beak and one of the juveniles had become breakfast for Mr or Mrs sparrowhawk. The three doves seemed a bit nervous over the next few days and who can blame them! Then at the start of this week I found yet another pile of feathers just after coming back from taking Murphy for his first walk of the day. I don’t know which dove had been killed as I have not seen any of the others since. It’s really sad because they are such beautiful birds but I have always said that if you provide food for birds and encourage them to your garden you are only laying the table for a sparrowhawk.

The Bad – The other day I went out to photograph the red deer on Exmoor. I’ve run a few Red Deer Rut photography workshops this year and I wanted to take some images for myself. When I run a Red Deer Rut photography workshop I do not take my own camera equipment because I feel it is your day to take photographs and not mine. When I do my own photography I do not just want to photograph the red deer stags as the way I look at it, it takes two to tango and I am a wildlife photographer, and I want the whole occasion so I photograph the stags, hinds and the fawns or calf’s or kids depending on what you call them. I heard the presenters on Springwatch / Autumnwatch call them fawns one minute and then calf's the next! After a two hour drive to Exmoor, arriving at 7am, I was not pleased with the weather. It was thick fog, very windy and raining heavily. I don’t mind rain as it masks your scent and deadens any noise you make but I won’t find deer in thick fog and the deer are easily spooked when it is very windy. Still I was there and I was not going to give up, forever the optimist! I got dressed in my wet weather gear, collected my camera equipment and placed it in my backpack and set off. During the day the rain lessened and the fog thinned slightly but the strong wind remained. All day long I walked up hill and down dale all to no avail as the deer were very skittish and were running away even when I was hundreds of metres away from them. It was made even harder because I could not get downwind from the deer as the wind direction kept on changing. At the end of the day, about 4pm, I had to walk back to my car and due to exhaustion I was really struggling getting up the hill even though it was along the road. I was saved when a kind gent stopped in his Landrover Freelander and asked if I wanted a lift up the hill, which I enthusiastically, as much as I could, accepted. So I ended up back at my car, soaking wet inside and out, cold and absolutely knackered all to no avail because I hadn’t taken one photo, in fact I hadn’t even taken my camera out of my backpack! It’s all within the trials and tribulations of being a wildlife photographer.

The Good – A couple of days later I was back up to Exmoor for another try and this time the weather at 7am was broken cloud with sun/blue sky in between with hardly any wind. What wind there was, was bitterly cold but that didn’t bother me as walking would keep me warm and I could always put on more clothes when I stopped walking. I parked in the same place and set off downhill. After about ten minutes I saw a group of six golden plover circle me and land in amongst the bracken about a hundred metres away. I’ve seen groups of up to two hundred of these beautiful birds on Dartmoor but never got close to photograph them because the area where they landed on and stayed was so open. Just before they landed I dropped to the ground to reduce my height. I then slowly reduced the legs of my tripod to their minimum and over the next hour or so I crawled towards them ending up about fifteen metres away just peering through some of the bracken. I had angled myself downwind from them which meant that they were backlit. Some things to be aware with backlit subjects is 1, watch out from over burning the rim of the subject and 2, you have to slightly over expose the subject because otherwise you end up with a black blob as the subject. Use your histogram and adjust your exposure accordingly to get it right in camera. If you lighten the dark area in your RAW software all you do is introduce artefacts like digital noise to your image.

I slowly set up my camera and started taking images. One huge downside of using the high speed, 12 frames per second, motordrive on the Canon 1dx mk 1, like most DSLR’s, is that the mirror slaps sounds like a machine gun going off each time I press the shutter release and this alerts wildlife and they stop doing what they are doing to look at the direction of where the sound is coming from or they make off away from you. In other words it disturbs them and I hate disturbing wildlife especially just for a photograph. At this time of year there is a lot of migration going on and this might be the only food the birds could eat before moving on. This food or extra food could be the difference between life and death for them. This is one huge plus point with mirrorless cameras as they are silent when you press the shutter release and you can take images with the camera very close to wildlife without disturbing it. As I was so close to the golden plovers I changed the settings on my camera to shoot at a low motordrive speed of two frames per second rather than twelve. Doing this reduces the noise significantly and didn’t seem to disturb the plovers. The 1dx has a silent mode and it is a very quiet mode but the downside is that it only shoots a single frame each time you press the shutter release. This is not very good for wildlife photography because the wildlife can do any amount things when you take the image which you do not want to photograph like move its head for instance.

Golden PloverGolden PloverGolden Plover

For the next couple of hours I immersed myself with taking different images of the golden plovers including landscape images and portrait images. I started with non-action images before I moved onto action images of them eating and stretching their legs and wings. I waited until they did something before I pressed the shutter release. During this time the sun was moving round so I was getting more and more of the birds in good sunlight and therefore I had to reduce my exposure. The birds were moving closer to me, some less than 10 metres away, which I didn’t particularly want as a single bird was nearly filling the frame. They were so relaxed a couple of them had even closed their eyes and were going to sleep which made me feel really good inside because it showed that they were comfortable with my presence.

Golden Plover asleepGolden Plover asleepGolden Plover Asleep

During a slight break from shooting I noticed that about 12 red deer, hinds and fawns, had walked up the hill towards me and had settled down on a bank in the sunshine and out of the wind about 80 metres away from me. I was reluctant to leave the plovers to photograph the deer because I wanted a shot of a plover with an open beak. Half an hour later I got the shot I wanted, but I still stayed in position because I did not want to disturb the birds. I led back, closed my eyes and whilst the sun was warming me I listened to the red deer roaring, the golden plovers squawking and meadow pipits squeaking. More golden plovers flew overhead and all of a sudden the few beside me flew up to meet them. This was my queue to exit the scene and move closer to the hinds and fawns.

I crawled to within 30 metres of them, set up my camera and waited until they did something so I could get an action shot. After waiting over an hour I got fed up as they were doing nothing apart from eating and sleeping so I crawled away and when I was about 100 metres away from them I got up and carried on walking downhill. I looked back at the deer and although they saw me they weren’t too bothered as they stayed lying down.

Further downhill I located a red deer stag with several hinds, the herd was about 30 strong. I made my way closer to them, set up my camera and tripod behind a bush, so I remained in the shadow, and waited for them to get closer to me.

Red Deer ExmoorRed Deer ExmoorRed Deer Exmoor

There are several ways to get closer to wildlife and setting myself up a distance away and waiting for the wildlife to approach me is my favourite because the wildlife does not seem perturbed in the images I take whilst doing this. Also if I keep; downwind from the wildlife, perfectly still and within shadow the wildlife is not disturbed. One big downside of this method is that you rely on the wildlife moving closer to you and sometimes this does not work. As it happened the herd did move closer to me and I took a few shots before they moved off in another direction. This change in direction was not down to me but down to other people, photographers, that were trying to get closer to the herd. When I packed up, because the deer were moving away, and moved and it startled the other photographers because they had not seen me “lurking” in the bushes, which brought a smile to my face.

As it was nearly 4pm I walked back to my car pleased with what I had seen during the day but I would have to wait until I’ve seen my images on my computer monitor before I would be pleased them as they look totally different on the cameras rear LCD.

If you look under the workshops tab on my website you will notice that I have added 3 new one day wildlife photography workshops to the list. These include a Redwing and Fieldfare photography workshop (www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/redwing-and-fieldfare-photography-workshop-1-day ), a Dipper photography workshop (www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/dipper-photography-workshop-1-day ) and a Dartmoor pony’s photography workshop (www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/dartmoor-ponies-photography-workshop---1-day ). For more information on any of these then please click on these links or click on the link under the workshops tab.

If you like my blogs then please sign and leave a comment on my Guestbook page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/guestbook.html and Subscribe by pressing the RSS button at the bottom left of the page.

Also available are Digital Photography Tuition Including Post Processing Workflow, Dartmoor Bird & Wildlife Workshops and Talks (Please see the Workshops & Talks Tabs at the top of the website).

If you choose to stay at our Holiday Cottage / B&B www.acorn-lodge-dartmoor.co.uk at the time of the workshop then you will receive a discount on your tuition and accommodation. 


New ventures in the Field of Photography and Touring some of Scotland's Western Islands

August 25, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Greetings from a Wildlife Photographer on Dartmoor in Devon

Well it has been a while since my last blog. There was me thinking that I would have more time after I retired but it seems that I have a lot less time! I just cannot think HOW I fitted work into my heavy schedule. Having said that, I have been really busy doing lots more things. The good side of it is that the things I have been doing are for me and my family rather than for an employer, the downside of it is that I do not get paid for it. I have still had time for photography and am starting new ventures in this field. You will notice that I said photography and not wildlife photography and the reasons for this are that I have started being a “second” photographer at weddings and I have started taking more landscape photographs around Dartmoor National Park. The “second” photographer started when I helped a friend of mine at his wedding. He and his wife, well in fact quite a few guests as well, appeared to like my reportage style of wedding photography so much that they informed their professional wedding photographer, Jane Austin (www.romancephotography.co.uk/) that they wanted some of my photographs in their wedding portfolio. She agreed to this as long as I take my photos and she does the post processing, which suited me. Since then I have been her “second” for a few more weddings. It is hard work and I am really tired at the end of the day but I really enjoy it. None of the weddings have been the same due to weather, location, people etc. but my skills as a wildlife photographer brings something new to the party and I am learning a lot from her as well. The best thing about it is that due to our different styles of photography we really complement each other. Also all the brides and grooms and a lot of the guests have commented on our work ethic stating that we work so hard and are capturing some great images which is always nice to hear.

The landscapes started when I wanted to start a new project photographing Dartmoor’s stone crosses. It continued when I bought our motorhome as I’ve started writing articles for a motorhome magazine and they required some landscape photographs to go along with the article. It took me a few rewrites due to the way the editor wanted things done but I am having my first article published next year. The editor will let me know when and then I will let you know so that you can see/read it and tell me what you think. I still don’t enjoy waiting for the light for landscapes but it is the main factor that makes landscapes images great so I will have to persevere. 

Another new venture in this field is that I have been booked as a speaker to talk to a camera club about my wildlife photography which is happening near the end of November. (For details please click on the Talks Tab on my website) The president of the club likes my work and asked if I would give a talk at his club which I accepted. I had given a talk about my wildlife photography a few years ago to my camera club as a thank you for their help. It was warmly received and I had some great feedback from it, in fact the president of the club asked me if I wanted to be entered in the photography speaker lists for East Anglia but I declined this as I was moving down to Devon. The presentation I will give has been updated with new comments / photos and will last about 2 hours; I just hope I don’t get first night nerves.

After several hours, or should I say weeks, of ruminating, cogitating and deliberating, I finally finished planning our months ( last week in March and the first three weeks of April ) expedition to visit several of Scotland’s western islands in “Isla”, our motorhome. The islands we chose to include were Arran, Islay, Mull, Skye, Harris and Lewis in that order.

The journey up to Scotland would take us to Androssan where we would catch the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the Isle of Arran. We left Devon with the temperature at 14 degrees, sun shining and a bright blue sky and it was the shape of things to come. The ferry crossing to Brodick, the main town, on the Isle of Arran lasted just under an hour. Murphy enjoyed the trip as we had to sit in the “dog” area on the ferry and as there were several dogs on this crossing he wanted to meet and greet them all. The Isle of Arran is 20 miles/32 km long and up to 10 miles/ 16 km wide. Most of the population live on the coast which means that the rugged and mountainous interior is still in its wild condition, although there are several forests run by the Forestry Commission. The tallest mountain is Goatfell which rises up to 2,865 ft/ 874 m. Whilst driving through Brodick we looked across the bay and spotted Brodick Castle, associated with Robert the Bruce, standing majestically above the trees that surround it. There is a rumour that it was in Kings Cave, which is on the west coast, that he saw the spider repeatedly trying to make its web. Seeing this spider overcome its problems gave him the encouragement to do the same. For over 500 years it was occupied by the Dukes of Hamilton but was passed to the Duke of Montrose on the marriage of Lady Mary Douglas-Hamilton in 1906. In 1958 it was then passed to the National Trust for Scotland. Brodick has a few very good “local” shops but if you are into spending a day on retail therapy then this is not the place for you. After buying a few needy items from Wooley’s of Arran we continued on our way north. OK “Wooley’s” are bakers and the “needy” items were cakes and pies! We pulled into an area out of the town which was sited next to the sea to eat our “needy” items and watch seals lounging around on the rocks. Is it just me or do they remind you of a giant slug? Further on we came across a huge valley and spotted about twenty Red Deer on top of one of the mountains relaxing and eating in the sun. We continued to the ruins of Lochranza castle which is sited on the shore just before the ferry terminal. It dates back to the 16th century and is cared for by Historic Scotland. If you are lucky you might see Red Deer in the water by the castle at dusk and Golden Eagles in the sky during the day. Otters also frequent this area but we did not see any. But on our way to the campsite we did see several Brown Hares on the fields and on the beach!

Brown HaresBrown HaresBrown Hares

The night passed very quietly apart from the snoring from Murphy! The next day we started exploring the south of the island from Shiskine to Blackwaterfoot, which is described as a small, chiefly modern-built, community with the Kinloch Hotel, a gallery, grocer, post office and a repair garage. What it does not mention is that it has a superb sandy beach. We stopped and while my wife walked Murphy and picked up driftwood along the beach I took photographs of the wildlife there which included Seals, Turnstones, Oystercatchers, Rock Pipits and Wheatears.


After spending a couple of hours here we continued and just before we entered Lagg I spotted a Pine Martin crossing the road. As these mammals are nocturnal something must have disturbed it and that something was a person who had just started strimming his grass. We stopped hoping to see it again but to no avail. Carrying on we spotted Ailsa Craig, an island just off the coast and at the entrance to the Firth of Clyde. It rises to a height of 1,114ft/338m and is all that remains of an ancient volcano. Today it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is home to over 70,000 breeding seabirds most of which are Gannets. Rats had wiped out all of the Puffins on the island but the RSPB removed them and now Puffins are thriving again on the island. Driving along Whiting Bay, we sighted Holy Island. You can catch a ferry to the Island from Lamlash, which is further along the coast towards Brodick. Dogs are not allowed on the island and it is only a summer service so we missed out on that trip.

The next morning we caught a ferry, from Lochranza to Claonaig on the Mull of Kintyre and then onto Kennacraig, to catch the next ferry to Port Askaig on Islay which took about 2.5 hours. Islay is the most southerly island of the Inner Hebrides and is about 25miles/ 40km wide and 16miles/25km long. The land area totals about 600km2. On arrival we were greeted with a dark grey sky, sleet and blustery winds. The west side of the island is reasonably flat mainly peat bog with hardly any trees or hedges. The mountains are on the east side of the island, the tallest being Beinn Bheigeir at 1611ft/491m. We drove to Machir Bay where we saw some Choughs which I tried to photograph but the wind was taking them so fast that I could not focus properly. I walked around the sand dunes and located some Brown Hares and Lapwings. We took Murphy for a walk along the stunning beach which we had all to ourselves. Then again walking along a beach with very strong winds and sleet is not everybody’s cup of tea, but Murphy enjoyed it. The night was very rough with the wind buffeting Isla every which way it could and we got very little sleep apart from Murphy. I did not realise how loud his snoring was!

The next morning I again tried to photograph the Choughs but again the weather hampered my attempt. The sun was shining again but it was still very windy so we visited RSPB Loch Gruinart which has a couple of hides and two walks, a moorland trail and a woodland trail. We walked the latter because we could look in both hides. Through the first, Taigh Deas, we saw Greylag and Barnacle geese. We also saw a Wren, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Lapwings, Redshank, quite a few Snipe and a distance view of a Golden Eagle. Through the second, Taigh Tuath, we had close-ups of more Snipe. You can get Cuckoos and Corncrakes on this site later in the year. After lunch we drove on to Kilnave Chapel and Kilnave Cross which was built in the 13/14th century and belonged to the parish of Kilchoman. In 1598 the battle of Traigh Gruinart took place between the MacDonalds of Islay and the MacLeans of Mull. After the battle the surviving MacLeans took refuge in Kilnave and they were locked in by the MacDonalds and burnt. We then drove to Kildalton Chapel which was also built in the 13/14th century but the cross is a Christian cross that was built in the 8th century. At dusk whilst walking Murphy along the road we saw two Fallow deer but it was too dark to photograph them.

Kilnave Chapel and CrossKilnave Chapel and CrossKilnave Chapel and Cross

The next day we were back to the sleet, temperature was down to 3 degrees and it was still very windy. During Murphy’s walk we came across two Red deer in the woods, a stag and a hind, sheltering from the weather. We headed to RSPB The Oa, on the south of the island, which has Red deer, Golden Eagles, Corncrakes, later in the year, and Choughs. When we arrived the sleet was so thick visibility was down to only a few metres. We waited an hour or so to see if it improved but as it didn’t we decided to drive towards Post Askaig. Along this route just after Ballygrant there is the Finlaggan Centre which is the ancient seat of the Lords of the Isles. 1500 years ago Islay was the centre of the Argyll/Ulster kingdom of Dal Riata and was a major staging post for Irish Christian missionaries. This kingdom was from the north tip of Lewis to the south of Ulster including most of the west of the Scottish mainland. It was owned by the MacDonalds but was taken by the Campbells when the MacDonalds were plotting with the English to take control of Scotland. The next morning we left Islay feeling disappointed as the island has some wonderful wildlife but the weather, while we were there, was horrendous and I could not tell you what the scenery was like.

The ferry took us back to Kennacraig and from there we drove to Oban to catch the ferry to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. This is one island I truly love and this is the third time we have visited it. The Isle of Mull has an area of 875 km2 and the highest mountain is Ben More at 3,169ft/966m. It is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides. The two things it is most renowned for are the coloured houses in Tobermory and its prolific wildlife. Looking on Facebook and talking/listening to other wildlife photographers gives me the opinion that everyone has a different “hot spot” on Mull for wildlife. Craignure Bay, Loch Don, Loch Spelve, Loch Na Keal, Calgary Bay, Carsaig Bay and Loch Scridain to name a few. The three main animals/birds photographers are after are Otters, White Tailed Sea Eagles and Golden Eagles. There is an abundant of other wildlife on Mull but these are the “big three”. As soon as the ferry docked I was off to “my” favourite Otter “hot spot” and as we were about half way around the loch I spotted a male Otter lounging on top of a rock just a few feet away from the waters edge. I parked up, took my camera and that was the last time my wife saw me for a few hours. Later whilst walking Murphy around the loch we saw Red deer over on the other side and then whilst walking back to Isla saw a White Tailed Sea Eagle flying over the loch.

Whilst driving along a minor road to Dervaig we spotted what we think is a Wildcat. I excitedly jumped out and took some photos of it and will send them off to somebody that knows for it to be checked. Talking to some people about our sighting I got mixed reviews, some say yes and others no. What do you think?

Wild Cat?Wild Cat?Scottish Wild Cat?

 Further along my wife spotted a Golden Eagle perched on a boulder. After a while some crows started harassing it and it took flight flying right over our heads. We carried on to Calgary bay which is on the North West of the Island. Calgary Bay is a really nice sandy beach with rocky edges. Several people, including my wife and me, have seen Otters amongst these rocks but none were seen today. About half way along the road from Dervaig to Salen is a little road on your right which takes you to a small port which you need to take if you want to catch a ferry to Ulva, a small island off the west coast of Mull. It is also the port that you need if you want to catch the boat to see White Tailed Sea Eagles taking fish off the loch, Mull Charters ( www.mullcharters.com/ ). From here we drove to Craignure Bay, to our campsite which is situated on the shore and gives it uninterrupted views of the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe across to the Scottish mainland.

Touring the south of the island we drove to Knock where we stopped for a walk on the Benmore Estate, ( www.benmoreestate.co.uk ). You can walk up Ben More as it is on the estate but other activities can also be done here like pony trekking and mountain biking. Afterwards we drove along the south shores of Loch Na Keal looking for Otters with no luck. When you get to Balnahard the road turns inland, we looked down into the valley on the right and saw several Red deer. The views along the road to Loch Scridain are spectacular, Golden Eagles are sometimes viewed in this area. We arrived back on our campsite early because I wanted to try a get some images of Otters that frequent the area. I was extremely lucky because within 30 minutes I spotted a female otter with her two kits.


After taking several images of them playing, catching fish and eating I walked away to let them have some peace. Whilst we were eating our tea we saw a male Otter hunting, catching and eating just in front of our motorhome.

Back at my “hot spot” I walked along the shore looking for Otters whilst my wife relaxed and took care of Murphy and once again it was not long before I spotted one swimming along the shore edge. I took several photos of him before he turned around and started swimming the other way. At one point I sat down and just watched him hunting. During this time he exited the water and walked up the beach passing within 20 metres of me. The Otters eyesight is not great if you sit still, but its sense of smell is something else. It walked up under a metal pontoon and started rubbing itself on several things that were there. Then all of a sudden it dashed out and ran into the water to resume hunting passing even closer to me. These are moments I treasure as a wildlife photographer.


We caught the early ferry the next day as I had to drive to the Isle of Skye. The route I took veers left at Spean Bridge and there is a memorial to the commandos of World War 2. It is 17ft/5.2m high, and is of three bronze commandos, looking south towards the Nevis mountains, dressed in typical WWII uniforms. It is "In memory of the officers and men of the commandos who died in the Second World War 1939–1945. This country was their training ground." In 1942 the Commando Basic Training Centre was at Achnacarry Castle which is a few miles north of the monument but, Spean Bridge was the railway station they arrived at before marching to Achnacarry. In 1949 Scott Sutherland won a competition to design a memorial to the commandos and the bronze was cast by H H Martyn Ltd, of Cheltenham.

Commando StatueCommando Statue

As we drove along we came to the end of Loch Duich and spotted Eilean Donan Castle, ( www.eileandonancastle.com ), sticking out on its own little island near the edge of the Loch where two other Loch’s, Long and Alas meet. The castle is one of the most recognised and photographed in Scotland. It was built in the 13th century as a defensive measure for protecting the lands of Kintail against the Vikings. Over the centuries, the castle itself has expanded and contracted in size. In the 14th century the area of the castle was reduced to about a fifth of its original size. Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and, with his Clerk of Works Farquar Macrae, he restored the castle to its former glory which was finally completed in 1932. We could have taken the ferry from Malliag to Armadale but we wanted to see the 500 metres long Skye Bridge, which spans across Loch Alsh, and was opened in 1995. This bridge connects the Isle of Skye to Eilean Ban and another bridge connects Eilean Ban to the Scottish mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh. The Skye Bridge is stunning, well worth viewing, and is a great optical illusion as the motorhome in front of us seemed to be going over the edge or up into thin air!

We arrived at the Loch Greshornish campsite just before 2pm and were given a pitch just in front of the shore giving us an uninterrupted view of the loch. Settling down with our tea we were greeted to a terrific sunset. Skye is 50miles/80.5km long, 25miles/40km wide and is the largest of the Inner Hebrides. The population is just over 10,000 and the capital is Portree. The highest point is Sgùrr Alasdair in the Black Cuillin, the only series of alpine peaks in Britain, on the East of the island at 3,255ft/992m. Skye is famous for its scenery which takes your breath away and is a landscape photographers dream. Landscape and wildlife photography was out of the question due to time restraints. We set out early to explore as much of Skye as we could because National Geographic list it as the 4th best island in the world and we wanted to see why. We picked a circular route heading to the East coast, to Portree and returning to the campsite along the West coast. This route would only let us see about half of the centre of the island.

Portree Harbour SkyePortree Harbour SkyePortree Harbour, Skye

The scenery along the A863 is stunning especially the view of Loch Harport from just before Drynoch and around Gesto Bay. On the way back I drove to Stein where there is the oldest inn on Skye. It is an eighteenth-century inn that is nestled in a charming hamlet on the shores of the Sea of the Hebrides. We parked up and walked along the shore with my camera in hand hoping to photograph any wildlife but none was at hand except gulls and Oystercatchers in the distance.

We left early to catch the ferry from Uig to Tarbet on the Isle of Harris. Whilst at Uig I spotted a bit of wildlife in the shape of a Highland cow in a little fenced off area! We arrived on Harris after a very calm crossing and our first stop was to visit the Harris Tweed shops, one with goods, the other with material, for sale, at the port. The inhabitants of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra have woven this beautiful and intricate cloth by hand from time immemorial. But the beginning of the Harris Tweed industry began in 1846 when Lady Dunmore, widow of the landowner of Harris, the Earl of Dunmore, chose to have their clan tartan replicated by Harris weavers in tweed. The result was so good that she began to market the tweed to her well-off friends and because of her passionate work, sales and trade of the cloth, with merchants across the country, was rapidly established.

Harris and Lewis are part of the same island, Harris in the South and Lewis in the North and over 20,000 people populate this island. Driving out of the port we turned left and drove along the coast road to Rodel via “The Golden Road” stopping at Plocropol and Grosebay to visit more Harris Tweed shops. The road is very narrow but the scenery is stunning as it is mostly lunar-like rocky plateaus with lochs and rugged coastline interrupting it. At Rodel we returned towards Tarbet and along this road are some spectacular beaches which you could not better even if you were in the Caribbean. Because the sun was shining, the sea was azure and the sand was white we stopped at the beach in Borve to get some sand between our toes, if you come to Harris this is essential. The tranquil atmosphere was only enhanced by the gentle sounds of the rolling waves lapping at our feet. It was pure magic as we were the only people on the beach. After a couple of hours of the free “spa” treatment we carried on through Tarbet, into Lewis to Stornoway.

Beach on Isle of HarrisBeach on Isle of HarrisBeach on Isle of Harris

In Stornoway we noticed more wildlife in the shape of a wooden highland cow on the roadside and in the town there was some groovy art on some of the buildings and statues around the docks.

Highland Cow at StornowayHighland Cow at StornowayHighland Cow at Stornoway

After lunch we drove back to Tarbet to catch the ferry to Uig and start our long drive home. On the way we went to visit Lockerbie and pay our respects to the victims of the 1988 Pan Am 103 air disaster. It is not until you examine the area surrounding Lockerbie, on Google Earth, you notice that there is a lot of open ground around this town and is was such a pity that the death toll, of this act of terrorism, increased by 11 people from the town, to 270. The Garden of Remembrance lies just outside of Lockerbie along the A709 to Lochmaben road. It is beautiful but heart rendering especially when you see the 270 list of names. We also had time to visit the Eskrigg Reserve, a Wildlife Trust reserve ( www.lockerbie-wildlife-trust.co.uk/ ). There are some outstanding Wildlife Trust sites around the country and this is one of the top ones. It is run by Jim Rae, the reserve manager, who seems to have his camera with him at all times and is always keen to impart his knowledge of the reserve and its inhabitants if you wish to learn more about the area.

Red SquirrelRed SquirrelRed Squirrel


Scotland is a fabulous place to visit and although I love the place I would not visit in the summer months due to the dreaded midge. Apart from Islay, which did not show us her best side, I would love to go back to have more time to explore the islands. A couple of things we did notice through the whole trip was 1, there was hardly any water in the rivers in fact some had no water at all, who said it always rains in Scotland? 2, there was so much plastic on some of the beaches and inlets. Sifting through some of this plastic revealed that it was mostly from fishing trawlers: - net, line, buoys, polystyrene boxes etc. and not plastic bags from supermarkets but plastic bags from fishing bait. It’s really sad to see sights like this that you wonder about the health of this planet.

A last note to inform you that my photography workshop prices will be going up in the new year but if you book before January 1st then they will be at the old price, even if you book for next year.


If you like my blogs then please sign and leave a comment on my Guestbook page www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/guestbook.html and Subscribe by pressing the RSS button at the bottom left of the page.

Also available are Digital Photography Tuition Including Post Processing Workflow, Dartmoor Bird & Wildlife Workshops and Talks (Please see the Workshops & Talks Tabs at the top of the website).

If you choose to stay at our Holiday Cottage / B&B www.acorn-lodge-dartmoor.co.uk at the time of the workshop then you will receive a discount on your tuition and accommodation. 





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