It's another year and for something like the sixth or seventh time running, I took the long pilgrimage back up to the Isle of Skye with my family. Every year I set myself small challenges to advance on from the previous year. This trip was no different, but the challenges had certainly changed. My perspective of how to present the wildlife and landscapes I come across is beginning to change. I am still a perfectionist and strive to create better images, but I am slowly finding that there are other ways to help delve into the stories behind the subject. This year I found myself filming alongside my still photographs a lot more. I will be cutting these moving images together and presenting them soon. My other objective was to look further and discover any conservation secrets to uncover through my lens. This is something I am constantly aware of, but something that is likely to be saved for when I am not on a family holiday. However, I did discover one such project which I hope to explore in the future.
One day we ventured off into Waterloo, near Broadford to explore a part of the coastline we had not seen before. Luck was on my side as I crept along the rocky shore to try to get close to a less-than-accommodating Grey Heron, when I caught a glimpse of something moving on the rocks closer to the edge of the water. A Common/Harbour Seal was basking on the rock by the water and had not yet spotted me only half a dozen metres away, hidden behind the very rock it had chosen to rest on. I took a few test shots and adjusted my settings, knowing I would only get a few attempts before slowly peeking above the rock and framing the charismatic seal in my viewfinder. Inevitably, after a few frames the seal slunk away into the water. I took my chance and ran to the waters edge to get down as low as possible, knowing that the seal would likely surface in the water not too far away. After a few seconds it surfaced a little further out and then dived: I waited. Suddenly it appeared merely a few metres from where I lay. I had always wanted to be this close to a seal; one of our smaller gentle giants of the sea. The next day I revisited the same spot just after the sun had come up and was treated to a beautifully calm sea and a group of seals basking out on a rock close to the shoreline.
Of course the huge benefit of visiting Skye is the unbelievable scenery: mountains, lochs and breath-taking skyscapes. I don't see myself as a landscape photographer, but I equally find it impossible not to attempt to capture the beautiful landscapes that following wildlife exposes you to. They certainly come hand-in-hand and inevitably a few landscape shots will always find their way onto my hard drive.
One day I had a fascinating walk around Trumpan and Stein on the North West coast of Skye. I met a young lass crofting the local fields, who told me about an incredible conservation project currently being carried out. The entire area of grassland and fields in the images below are all closed off to the public as special conservation areas. Around the coast the seals are free to bask in the sun in peace, seabirds are able to nest safely on the cliffs, waders are free to roam the coasts for food, and highland cattle graze on the meadows without interruption. But what I found most fascinating was that the fields are being left by crofters to grow for much longer than is usually done. This is in an attempt to bring back the elusive corncrake! - an incredible bird that is usually heard and not seen, but has wavered in numbers in many parts of the country. Working with the RSPB, the local crofters will not mow the fields till late August allowing the corncrakes to have their second broods. They will then mow from the centre of the field outwards to force the birds to the safety of the field edges. It was fantastic to gain a small insight into such an incredible piece of active conservation.
Of course as well as the incredible landscape, I had my fair share of my favourite bird sub-species: the wading bird. Broadford Bay is an absolute haven for flocks of Oystercatchers, Dunlin and Ringed Plover; with hundreds of migratory birds visiting to feed. It is always a pleasure to see what this stretch of bay has to offer and I always see something new - this year I found more Black Tailed and Bar Tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Sanderling.
And of course the seabirds showed well too...
Looking to the future...
I am going to keep maintaining my blog as much as work allows me and will endeavourer to upload more videos too as I explore new avenues of storytelling and giving nature a voice. Next year I hope to have a few more adventures planned including a trip to the Norfolk Coast, hopefully go searching for Eagles on the Isle of Mull and maybe even return to the Isle of Skye for the seventh or eighth time consecutively!