Cairngorms MNHP 2018 - Osprey Hides Part 1 & Cairngorm Mountain

Apologies, this one is a little late. Day 7 was a long one.

19 hours in total that started with a 3am alarm and a mountain hike... understandably we fell slightly behind schedule with other tasks in hand, i.e. the blog.

So, from the start... We had to be in the osprey hides before sunrise (4:30), so we got up this morning at 3am. Neil, Claire, Me, Rose, Lewis and Evie were scheduled to be in the hides today, the other half of the group tomorrow in order to maximise our combined chances of seeing the ospreys. 

As you can see below, by the time the sun rose spirits were high and we were full of optimism. We had been briefed by the rangers and had been told that if we moved our lenses before the bird hit the water then we could spook it and potentially cause it to bail on it's dive. So, we had to wait for the moment that the osprey dived before we framed up and tried to quickly get our focusing right at which point we might have a second or two before the bird flew out of shot. 

However, the ospreys did not play ball... Rumour has it was that they had feasted the evening before which could explain their reluctancy to dive in the morning. It didn't take long for the hide to become a cold sleepy place for us all.

Joe Gray - instagram.com/josegrayclickclick

We sat (quietly for the most part) in our hide from 4:30am - 9:30am. At which point Craig, the hide ranger at Rothiemurchus (whom Evie might have developed a slight crush on) told us that any hope for morning activity was gone. He invited us to go back at 4:30pm after the site closed to hopefully see the birds come in for an evening feed. We left slightly disheartened after having invested so much hope, effort and a little money into potentially seeing the ospreys. 

From there we got picked up by the rest of the squad, we went into Aviemore for a cooked breakfast and coffee before heading to Cairngorm mountain.

We hiked up Cairngorm as a team, once we reached the bowl the group fragmented, ready for everybody to work on their own thing.

Joe Gray - instagram.com/josegrayclickclick - Shot on DJI P4P

Rose and Neil worked on some combo 360º and classic tracking rail timelapse. Neil set up his tracking rail over a stream which would gradually reveal the peak above the bowl. Rose set her GoPro Fusion camera up on top of Neil's DSLR so it would create a similar timelapse but in 360º. 

George set up anther timelapse further into the bowl, as did Evie. 

www.georgelambertphotography.com

The rest of the squad hiked right up into the bowl where we scrambled across boulders and even found ptarmigan. As most of the snow on the mountain had melted by this time of year the ptarmigan had also begun to change out of their white winter plumage and begun to settle into their brown speckled summer colours. It was incredible to see the way that the ptarmigan's colouration almost perfectly matched its surroundings. They adapt across the seasons, in the winter the bird is almost pure white to blend into the snow, in the summer it is white and speckled brown much like the exposed earth and rocks of the mountain and in the autumn it becomes speckled grey as the landscape dulls. 

We spent 5 hours or so on the mountain in total before we had to race back down to get back to the osprey hides for 4:30.

As we had returned after the site had closed this time we had no ranger telling us over the radio where the birds where. So Neil stepped up and stood between the hides with his binoculars and kept a keen eye out for any movement in the sky, ready to dive back into the hide and hopefully get some shots too.

It wasn't long before three separate birds came in for a look around the area, but soon dispersed again. Neil saw one return and we all got ready, but nothing could have quite prepared us for the moment when the first osprey landed in the water in front of us. There was an excited panic as we hoped that we managed to get a photo in the blink of an eye that the bird was there. I think its safe to say that most of us slightly missed the mark on the first dive. But fortunately, it was unsuccessful and we got another opportunity within a minute or so after we had adjusted out settings to compensate for the bright but beautiful evening light. Over the next few hours we were treated to a total of 6 dives and 3 successful catches. From those dives we all got shots that we were happy with and memories that I don't think we'll ever forget.

I'll leave this one with some osprey shots from Evie, Claire and myself.

Hope you've enjoyed reading, X.

Joseph Gray