William Harvey

Wildlife & Nature Photography

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Seabirds of Scotland – Part 1

Coastal wildlife is something I’ve largely neglected from my photography in the past. Being from Surrey, it’s not exactly something that’s easy to come by on a daily basis. I’ve had vague plans for years to visit hotspots for sea birds,┬ásuch as Skomer or the Farnes, but have never managed to see them through. I’m currently travelling around the UK for work, and am trying to use that as an opportunity for my photography – a way to visit locations I’ve never been to before, and to hopefully photograph some wildlife I’ve never photographed before.

I’ve just come to the end of a month based in Edinburgh, and, given it very conveniently coincided with the beginning of the breeding season for many of the sea birds which nest on the coast and islands around the Firth of Forth, I decided to finally get some coastal photography done.

I’d made some plans in advance of locations I wanted to visit, but given it is not a part of the world I’ve ever visited before, and many of the species I wanted to photograph I’d never even seen before, let alone had in front of a camera, I was maybe not as prepared as I’d have liked. However, it turned out to be an incredibly inspiring month, and I have left having been utterly blown away by the beauty of many of the locations I visited, and the abundance and variety of wildlife I saw.

Eider ducks (Somateria mollissima) were a constant feature across all the locations I visited. Eiders are large, coastal ducks. They’re generally found close to the shore, and feed on molluscs such as mussels.

Common Eider | Somateria mollissima

Male Eider Duck | Somateria mollissima

Female Eider Duck | Somateria mollissima

Female Eider Duck | Somateria mollissima

Female Eider Duck | Somateria mollissima

Female Eider Duck | Somateria mollissima

Male and Female Eider Ducks | Somateria mollissima

Male and Female Eider Ducks | Somateria mollissima

Male Eider swimming | Somateria mollissima

Male Eider swimming | Somateria mollissima

Female Eider being pursued by males | Somateria mollissima

Female Eider being pursued by males | Somateria mollissima

Common Eider at rest | Somateria mollissima

Common Eider at rest | Somateria mollissima

 

A trip to the Isle of May produced a variety of subjects. Every inch of the Island seemed to be home to some kind of bird – the cliffs were lined with thousands of guillemots:

Guillemots on the cliffs of the Isle of May

Guillemots on the cliffs of the Isle of May

Guillemot

Guillemot | Uria aalge

Guillemot

Guillemot | Uria aalge

Guillemot

Guillemot | Uria aalge

In amongst the guillemots were also some razorbills – very similar in appearance to guillemots, the main difference being the larger, striped beak:

Razorbill

Razorbill| Alca torda

And Kittiwakes:

Kittiwake

Kittiwake | Rissa tridactyla

Herring and Yellow-Legged gulls were also present on the Island:

Herring Gulls

Herring Gulls | Larus argentatus

Yellow-Legged Gull

Yellow-Legged Gull | Larus michahellis

A brief, fierce hailstorm passed across the Island, giving way to sunshine, resulting in a striking rainbow:

Herring Gulls

Herring Gulls | Larus argentatus

The surface of the Island is covered in puffin burrows. The brief hailstorm seemed to drive most of the puffins into cover, but they gradually reappeared after the storm passed:

Puffins

Puffins | Fratercula arctica

Puffins

Puffins | Fratercula arctica

Puffin

Puffin | Fratercula arctica

Shags also nest on the Island:

Shag | Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Shag | Phalacrocorax aristotelis

The crossing to the Isle of May gave me a fairly distant view of one of the other Forth Islands, as well as some brief glimpses of some of it’s 150,000 feathered inhabitants, which will be the subject of Part II of this post

 

 

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About the author

William Harvey: Wildlife and nature photographer based in Surrey, England.


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