20 February 2014
All images © Penny Dixie LRPS
You can’t really go to the Cairngorms without attempting to photograph Crested Tits. These jaunty little birds are quite common in the coniferous forests of Europe but in Britain, they really are only found in the ancient Caledonian pine forests of Scotland. They are seed and insect eaters but in the winter are readily attracted to peanut feeding stations in the pine woods. They are extremely fast moving and a real challenge to capture with a sharp eye and with their striking crests standing up.
I spent a couple of days standing in boggy ground photographing ‘cresties’ in the pine forests again this year… and I’ll almost undoubtedly go back next year too. It’s a fantastic privilege to stand amongst these ancient trees and look at the snowy caps of the mountains in the background. The only sounds come from the birds calling and squabbling at the feeders until of course, a 'crestie' is heard announcing her imminent arrival. Any photographers there then hunch over their cameras and hope that the crestie will land on a beautiful perch and not go straight onto the peanut feeder. They are so fast! The silence of the pine forest is then either disturbed by the rapid fire of the shutter buttons or the frustrated groan of any assembled photographers. It's not easy... and if it was, we probably wouldn't do it, would we?
The other classic Cairngorm photography target involves spending time with red squirrels. These endearing little creatures are so much prettier than their grey cousins. In winter, they have thick dark coats with noticeably larger ear tufts. They are unbelievably cute and really irresistible. Unfortunately, they don’t stay still for long. They are on a mission to eat or cache the hazelnuts that are put out for them at feeding stations.
I managed to snatch a few portraits this year but the light wasn't wonderful so I will doubtless be back. I have been wanting to add images of red squirrels in the snow to my portfolio for a few years now. Maybe next year?
See more of Penny's work on her website