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By kinharviephoto, Aug 20 2018 01:38PM

Every year I spend the last two weeks of July on Shetland working for Shetland Wildlife, guiding on their "Walk Shetland" tours. Whilst walking around the dramatic Shetland coastline is the main feature of the trip, watching and photographing the spectacular wildlife we see is just as important. One of the biggest draws for the people who join us is to see puffins and Shetland is a great place to do this.

Sumburgh Head is one of the first places we visit and there is plenty of puffin activity to watch. Many non breeding birds line the cliff tops, and they can be watched from just a few metres away. They are totally unconcerned about the peole watching them as they just get on with their daily activities just like this one engaged in a spot of preening.

Sumburgh Head can be a windy spot but this makes watching and photographing the puffins in flight just a little easier as they hang in the updrafts.

For the photographer it's worth spending a litle time here looking for that opportunity to capture something a little different.

However there are other wonderful places on Shetland to see puffins. The island of Noss is a spectacular National Nature Reserve and well worth a visit. If your travels take you to the northern most island in Shetland, Unst then a visit to Hermaness NNR is a must. A gentle walk across the reserve brings you to the spectacular cliff tops with gannetries, a view of Muckle Flugga, Britains most northerly point, and of course puffins. A little time spent wandering around pays dividends and you can find yourself a very photogenic backdrop for your puffin photography. This is one of my particular favourites.

If a week spent walking around this wonderful wildlife appeals thern why not join us next year on a Shetland Wildlife walking week. For more details click here.

By kinharviephoto, Aug 20 2018 12:31PM

Tuesday 24th July and I was in Shetland working for Hugh Harrop the owner of Shetland Wildlife. I was leading a 'Walk Shetland' group and we were over at Eshaness, a wonderfull cliff top walk on the north western side of Mainland Shetland. It was getting near lunch time when I received a message on my phone from Hugh ... "Phone asap". I knew that meant only one thing; there were orcas around and there was a chance that the walking group might get to see them.

I spoke to Hugh and learnt that a small fishing boat had found a pod of orcas, lead by the bull know as Busta and they were south of Eshaness but heading north. A quick discussion of how to proceed and as Hugh drove north from home we made our way back to the van and drove back to the village of Hillswick.

Hugh had arrived and was still in contact with the fishing boat. The orcas were just approaching Hillswick Bay and we hoped that they would turn in to the bay and start hunting. They didn't - we saw them at a distance and the group got some reasonable views through the 'scope that Hugh set up. The boat informed us that the orcas were moving south back out of Hillswick Bay and Hugh thought there was a good chance that they would then head west again and our best bet was to drive back up the road and overlook Sandwick Bay.

We got in to position and waited... and waited... and waited. By this time Nick McCaffery had joined us. Nick is another orca fanatic and uses drones to film them. He is exceptionally good at it and as the fishing boat was about to head away from the orcas, Nick sent out a drone to look for them. He not only found the orcas but also a group of sea kayakers who were right in amongst the orcas.

Finally we spotted them from the shore but once again they crossed the bay and disappeared out of sight. Back in to the vehicles and along to Braewick and the cafe. Watching from here we soon picked op the orcas and they did come a little closer but still showed no signs of hunting. Hugh then made a very good call. Based on past experience he thought that Busta would lead the pod on in to the next main bay at Tangwick and hunt there. So once again we set off in the vehicles, leaving the orcas behind and made the ten minute dash to Tangwick. Nick sent out the drone and was soon able to confirm that they were on the way. Initially it looked like they were going to continue west again but suddenly Busta veered in to the bay and the pod began to hunt.

We had all rushed down to the cliff edge and for the next twenty minutes were able to witness the orcas hunting seal only metres in front of us. Nick's drone videod them from above. Hugh and I were busy with our cameras and everybody wathced absolutley spell bound by the whole performance. Finally, having caught a seal - not really seen from land but Nick had filmed it - the pod moved away and it was time for me to drive the group up to the ferry in time for us to go North for a few days on Unst. We had a great time there but no one forgot the afternoon with the orcas.

By kinharviephoto, May 1 2016 11:07AM

I now have a hide set up on a plucking post and the sparrowhawk visiting our garden at the moment is using it reasonably regularly. In the image below you can see a couple of plucking areas and of course my hide in the background.

It's a very small canvas hide tucked in under a willow tree - not much room for the photographer. However the sparrowhawk has accepted it and as long as I am very careful about moving the camera he will continue to feed only a few feet in front of me. I feel very privileged to be allowed in to his world.

I have posted another image as April's 'Picture of the Month'.

By kinharviephoto, Apr 6 2016 01:28PM

I started to get some shots of it flying in as I learnt to predict its flight path. Most were either not sharp or I didn't manage to get the whole bird in the frame. Slowly however I started to have more success.

This image shows the bird approaching the feeders but too slow - all the small birds have scattered.

We did get a brief fall of snow and although I failed to get anything dramatic I did manage a simple portrait shot.

The final shot in this blog is a composite made in photoshop. It shows a single burst of shots takien at about 11 frames per second as the sparrowhawk came flying through the feeder.

I did manage to get some shots of it chasing its prey and finally one shot of it capturing a coal tit. However that image has gone off to a competition so I won't be posting it here until after the judging has finished!

By kinharviephoto, Apr 6 2016 01:14PM

During the time I was photographing the squirrels I realised that an immature sparrowhawk was visiting the garden on a regular basis. It was trying to catch the small birds frequenting my feeders. It wasn't all that successful to begin with so was returning almost evfery 30 minutes. Consequently I turned my attention to trying to photograph it in flight and - hopefully catching something.

Some success but facing the wrong way!

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