Every now and then I decide on the spur of the moment to go off on some mad photographic adventure like driving through the night to catch gannets at Sunrise then driving back home again, a 450 mile round trip.
But on this particular occasion I would really push my limits.
I have always been fascinated by birds of prey, wether it’s the Buzzards circling high up on the thermals, the Kestrel hovering by the road side, or even the Sparrow-hawk taking smaller birds from the garden.
Most UK birds of prey rely on either roadkill or smaller birds and small mammals for their food – but their is one bird of prey that stands out from the rest, notably because it’s diet consists solely of fish – the Osprey.
Whilst not indigenous to the UK, since the 1950’s some birds have been migrating to parts of Scotland to breed, in fact, almost every year since 1959 a pair have bred successfully at a site in the Scottish Highlands. Only recently have Ospreys started to nest in England, most notably at Rutland Water.
It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings and can weight up to 4.6 lbs (2.1kg) – to see this size of bird plummet into a freshwater lake and rise up carrying a Salmon is pretty spectacular!
I just knew I had to go on a journey
The only site within the UK that you can reliably see these magnificent birds of prey is at a location in the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands. So I planned my journey. Because of filming and shooting other commitments I could only be away two days, so, I decided to drive up the night before my shoot, from Wiltshire to the Cairngorms and stay in a local B&B. Ospreys are very wary of humans (as with most wild birds/animals) and at this location you have to be in a hide long before the birds come fishing.
It was June and the birds start fishing at first light, so I had to be at the location and ready to shoot by 4.30am at the latest.
I was totally unprepared for the site of these large birds plummeting from the sky vertically and descending below the water line – they did it time and time again, not every time catching a fish. It was breathtaking.
The birds only fish until they have caught enough food – and so this spectacular sight was over within the hour.
Reviewing the images on the back of my SLR screen I see I had captured a lot of water, but few actual Osprey – I was too disappointed though when I saw these images.
It was a long drive back down South and more than once I am sure I dozed off, but thankfully I made it back.
A split second before this shot the Osprey was totally submerged under water.
The same bird flying back to the nest to feed its young
This is the hide I was shooting from. Small lightweight and packs up real nicely
Best – Colin