As a relative novice in the wildlife photography field I am always looking for interesting places to go and see something different. I recently picked up a book, 100 Great Wildlife Experiences, What to See and Where by James D. Fair.
The book covers most of the UK, from way up in the north of the Shetland Islands to the very tip of Cornwall in the south. Now as I live in Aberdeen, in the North East of Scotland, naturally the first thing I did was to have a look at the map page to see what was listed for my area. Unfortunately, there were no listings at all for the Grampian region and I would have to travel into the western Cairngorms to get to the nearest location in the book. Of course, this not too much of a problem, as I already know where a lot of the more interesting wildlife sites are locally, so I didn't really need to find any here anyway. However, it is a shame that anybody referring to the book and thinking of coming to this part of the world might think that we don't have much to see...
Anyway, the main thing for me was that the book gives me some ideas on wildlife I would like to photograph and has some good (if not exclusive) suggestions on where might be best to see them. Covering everything from wildflower through insects, plenty of birds and on to a good selection of mammals and sea-life.
Each of the "experiences" is laid out over a two page spread (except the final top ten which get four pages). It is ranked on the following categories Family Friendly, Budget Friendly and Amateur Friendly. There is also a suggestion as to the best time of years to visit the sites. The main article usually recounts something of the authors experiences on his visit to the named site. This can be very useful as some of the sites are clearly not that easy to find, or may require some preparation before your visit. Personally I would also have liked a little more information about each species being visited on each page, but that is not really the aim of the book.
Each entry also features a "Do It Yourself" section which gives the directions on how to find the location that the author visited and also, usually suggestions on other sites that should be good for spotting the same bird or animal. For example, on the Feeding Red Kites page the site featured is in Wales (Bwlch Nant yr Arian). It also mentions four other sites where Red Kite feeding takes place, and several areas where Kites might also be seen. I have already visited a couple of these areas and got some good photos at Argaty Red Kites, in central Scotland.
On the Bottlenosed Dolphins page, I would dispute the authors comment that there are only four places to reliably see them in the UK. Certainly over the last few years at the Torry Battery, just outside Aberdeen Habour Bottenosed Dolphins make a regular appearance, so much so that the RSPB put on Dolphin watching sessions every weekend throughout the spring and summer. If fact the RSPB Dolphinwatch website states that it is the most reliable spot in Scotland, and one of the best places in Europe to see them.
Anyway, not to be overly picky, the book is a great guide for those (much like myself ) who are fairly new to wildlife spotting and need a bit of help find places to start. Even if you decide to visit a different site to those recommended in the book, it is worth reading the entry, to get some tips on what to look for.
The book is well written, and reading it straight through from beginning to end, as I have done was very enjoyable. I will be keeping the book close by, from now on, and when I am planning days out or holidays it will certainly be consulted, to see which sites will be in the areas I am visiting.
I did find a few annoying typos here and there, but that doesn't detract from the book, and I would highly recommend picking it up, if you are looking for some ideas for wildlife sites to visit in the UK.
The book can be purchased straight from the publisher, Pen and Sword, HERE.