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.
Osprey emerging from the lake with Salmon
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