2016 03 - Wildlife

17th March 2016
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
17th March 2016
Images By Steve Drinkall

Wildlife and Wild Places

Steve Drinkall from Sheffield gave a rather different talk about Wildlife and Wild Places. He began by looking at the remoteness of some of the Scottish island locations he loves. He visits regularly to practice his photography and pursue his obsession with otters.

We began in Mull, which we learned is a great place to see otters. Our UK otters are river otters which hunt in the sea and which need to return to fresh water to wash off the salt from their coats. This can provide photo opportunities, as can their habit of returning to the shoreline to eat anything larger than their frequent snacks of butterfish.

Mull is also excellent for viewing two species of eagle - the golden eagle and the largest bird in the British Isles, the white tailed sea eagle, which will take prey as large as a baby seal. Steve had gone to considerable lengths to see and photograph both species. The organisers of a boat tour are licensed to throw small amounts of fish to the sea eagles to entice them within range of their photographer passengers. Steve has taken this trip twice with a view to getting the perfect shot and plans to try again this year. The sea eagles were an impressive sight with their approximately nine foot wing span earning them the nick name 'flying barn doors'.
Leaving Mull with a glorious sunset, we moved to Islay where we saw different species of birds, including coughs, which Steve told us are now rare, with only some 500 birds in the country. Member Tony Roberts observed that they are also represented on the coat of arms of Retford.

On Islay we saw more mammals such as red deer, Highland cattle, wild goats, hares and rabbits. With many species providing prey, buzzards are plentiful. The landscape features eight distilleries situated right on the shore - and more otters.

This low-lying island is windswept and battered by the wild Atlantic, creating habitat for flowering species of coastal plant life which made attractive photos. Some properties on the island are picturesque and interesting, being arranged around tiny harbours. We heard they were purpose built fishing communities, but as fishing has declined they have now become tourist accommodation and the harbours full of fishing boats are now full of seals.

Our third port of call was the Shetland Islands - the northernmost British islands which lie closer to Norway and the Arctic Circle than to London. This is another place where otters can be seen, and one where Steve had his most moving wildlife encounter. He showed us in a sequence of photos how he had seen an otter come to shore with a fish, noisily consume it and then come to within fifteen feet and look at him as it headed back to the sea.

Here we saw puffins and gannets such as many members saw last year at close quarters in the Farne Islands. We also saw the dramatic coastline and the vast gannet colony which can be found there, with the birds cramming every ledge.

Finally Steve showed another collection of images from Mull, concluding with a delightful dolphin encounter on another boat trip.