Sunday, 22 January 2012

Gairloch January 2012 2

The end of our week in Gairloch had classic winter weather – chilly, clear and therefore excellent light. As the weather in NW Scotland is often not forcasted very well and is also changeable you need to grasp every opportunity, even more so when there is only about seven hours of daylight.

On one of the good days we did the circular walk (from the excellent WalkHighlands website. There is a link on the Websites list on the right) around Loch Kernsary which is south east of Poolewe. This is an easy six miles though I think it is best done clockwise as the last few miles are on hard farm track or tarmac.

Very quickly after the start you are in open moorland with a good view back towards Loch Ewe. This is the first view of Loch Kernsary stretching away to the south east with mountains of the Letterewe Forest as a background.

Walking by the loch side, either on open hillside or through birch wood, is typical of a lot highland Scotland but in the distance is the farm of Kernsary. Such areas are not unusual but it is always a little surprising to find these areas of woods and grassy fields.


We had a rest close to Kernsary and were fortunate to see a sea eagle flying over the loch. My wife took the opportunity of doing a quick watercolour of the view down the loch.

Although the walk back towards Poolewe is a bit more difficult on the feet than the walk out there are some good views. This is looking southwards down the Inveran river with Beinn Dearg in the distance.

An already excellent day ended with another view of an otter swimming and catching a fish in Loch Ewe.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Gairloch January 2012 1

Just spent an excellent week in Gairloch; Scotland never fails to provide a memorable experience.

Soon after we arrived so did the rain and gales. About 25 hours later the rain stopped and the rest of the week was much better with cold, clear, sunny days and frosty nights.

As we are members of the NTS we usually visit Inverewe Gardens when we are in Gairloch. Even in winter Inverewe is worth a visit and predictably very quiet. We met only six people and two of those worked there.

Inverewe Gardens are spectacularly good in themselves, but being on a peninsular in Loch Ewe the gardens have, or are close to, a number of different habitats – woodland, muddy shore, rocky shore, open sea, moorland and mountain and this is reflected in the wildlife seen.

A hide which overlooks the the loch is always open and can be used without going into the gardens usually has a good range of sightings.

The wildlife highlight for us while in the gardens was seeing two otters swimming in the loch and coming out on to the seaweed covered rocks in the photo.


Two other shots from a good day in the Gardens.


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Islay 1

Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, so far south that much of the island is further south than Glasgow or Edinburgh. You can fly into Islay but that limits what you can take and the ferry from Kennacraig is a relaxing way to take in some of the views.

The Paps of Jura

Arrival at Port Askaig

We visited Islay in October last year with two friends and were based at Portnahaven on the south west tip of the island.

This is the view from the front of the house towards Orsay and the Rhinns of Islay Lighthouse built by Robert Stevenson in 1825.

This was the second time we had visited Islay and on both occasions we were surprised by the number of birds you could see very easily from just driving around, eg goldfinch, buzzard, chough, hen harrier, redshank, gannet, eider, raven - a lazy bird watcher's paradise.

The mild climate, even in winter, means it has a large number of resident birds and its location in line with westerly winds means it has many migrant visitors. From the front of the house we saw well over 20 species including a peregrine pursuing a small wader. The speed and turning of the wader was amazing, but to see a bird as big as a peregrine mirror the wader for close to two minutes was one of the best birding views. Although I would have liked to have seen the falcon succeed, I was a bit relieved to see the wader escape.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


As a youngster I had taken some photos with my Mum's camera but the first camera that was mine was a Halina 35X -

- a 35mm fully manual camera with a f3.5 - f16, 45mm lens with a fastest shutter speed of 1/200s. Looking back I'm surprised I ever manged to get any decent shots with it as, for a good while, I based the exposure on the information sheet provided with 35mm films. However it worked and kept me going for a few years.

I moved to an SLR with a Zenit E and on to Practica, Pentax Spotmatic, Pentax KX. This series of cameras took me from '70s to the early '00s.

My photography stopped for a few years until I decided to get a Panasonic FZ28 a little over two years ago. This is an excellent bridge camera and some of the photos (for example, the two photos in the first post) on here were taken with this camera. Although the FZ28 is a great camera I felt I wanted more of what I had with the older 35mm SLRs, so I looked at a number of DSLRs.

I eventually settled on a Pentax K5 for a number of reasons -

the backwards compatibility that means all Pentax K mount lenses from about 1975 onwards can be used, though some or all of the auto functions may be lost,

the in-camera image stabilisation which means any lens is image stabilised,

the wide dynamic range,

the weather sealing, and

I had a few K mount lenses from the late '70s and '80s.

I don't know the reason for the current lack of prominence of Pentax - they were very early with introduction of TTL metering, one the first manufacuters to have automatic exposure and in the mid '60s were producing more cameras than all their rivals combined. Now it is unusual to hear anything other than Canon or Nikon.

I've have owned the K5 for a few months now and it is a very easy to use camera that can produce excellent quality photos (I'm talking about the camera here, not my abilities). I'm experimenting with the old lenses I haven't used for about 30 years. This one is from a local pond taken with a 70-210mm Sigma lens I bought in about 1980.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Hello and introduction

Hello, this is my first blog.

My main interests are walking, photography and the natural world - mainly birds but really anything. Sometimes one of these interests takes precedence but as my main interests in photgraphy are landscape and wildlife most of the time they are combined.

I don't have a long lens so my wildlife photos are fairly limited but that allows more time for landscapes which is probably the area of photography that I enjoy the most.

We have been lucky enough to spend many holidays in Scotland and eventually bought a house in the north west about eight years ago and we spend as much time there as we can. As the house is close to the coast we get some great views and sunsets. These two are from February and November 2010.