Always take your camera with you...

by David Drage September. 13, 2019 272 views

Last weekend I had to take a run out to the Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve, on the eastern edge of the Cairngorm National Park, to collect my son and a couple of his friends after they completed a 28km hike and camp for their Duke of Edinburgh award. Doing the normal "dad taxi" thing it would have been easy to just jump in the car, get out there for the appointed collection time and then run them home. However, it was a fine weekend and I was not particularly busy, so I decided to go out there about an hour before they were due and take a bit of a walk myself. Now, obviously, that gave me the excuse to take my camera with me. I had visited Glen Tanar many years ago, before I got back into photography, at the time I borrowed a DSLR and managed to snatch the photo below.

Knockie Bridge, Glen Tanar

Knockie Bridge, Glen Tanar

I had always liked that photo, so a chance to get back out there, now that I have a better idea of what I am doing seemed too good to miss...

Unfortunately, with only an hour I didn't really have much time to find a good subject and work it. So I had to content myself with getting a bit of exercise and using the opportunity to scout out the area for future visits.

When you park you have to cross a bridge to get to the visitor centre and then gain access to the main reserve. The bridge itself is fairly attractive, having quite a high arch, over what is, at least in summer, a very sedate little river. It was the middle of the day, which can make finding good light a little tricky, but it was an easy area to get to and worth noting for future reference.

Bridge of Tanar, Glen Tanar Estate.

Bridge of Tanar, Glen Tanar Estate.

As I walked, I passed the site of my original photo of the Knockie Bridge. Now there is a barbed-wire fence that restricts access to the side of the river, so I was unable to repeat the shot I got on my first visit. Also, being on a very limited schedule, I was finding that I didn't really have time to explore much of the reserve. At this point, I switched from my 10-24mm lens and put on the 70-300mm instead. If I was not going to have any time for the landscape, maybe I could catch some wildlife instead...

I didn't expect to see anything amazing as I walked along the gravel track, however, when you are out in the Cairngorms it is always good to be prepared (to borrow the Scouts motto).

I walked out from the visitor centre for around half an hour and hadn't seen much more than the odd bumblebee, and possibly been buzzed once or twice by very fast-moving dragonflies. I tend to find that it takes me time to relax into being able to spot wildlife. Rarely, in the first part of a walk do I see anything, and then, just when I am on the verge of giving up, I start to spot all sorts of things. And so it happened again on this visit. I had reached my time limit for outward walking and turned to make my way back along the track, when I noticed, just in front of me, a small lizard scampering around. This is the first time I have seen a lizard in the wild in the UK (excluding the snake I saw a couple of months ago, see my Muir of Dinnet post).

Nw, I wasn't really prepared to see it and it was quite active, so I snatched quite a few out of focus and generally very poor photos. This one was about the best. Unfortunately, just as I was working out what I was doing, one of the rangers came along the track in his 4 wheel drive and I had to get out of the way. That was the last I saw of the lizard, it had scuttled away into the undergrowth.

Common Lizard, about 100mm long from head to tip of tail.

Common Lizard, about 100mm long from head to tip of tail.

Moving along, I started to spot plenty of insects even if they didn't settle long enough for a photo. One butterfly did land on a tree trunk long enough for me to get a couple of shots. I am always looking for new species (although I am also perfectly happy capturing photos of creatures I have seen regularly), and it is a special treat to capture an image of something I have never seen before. I will admit I rarely recognise a new species until I get back at the computer and can examine the photos. It turned out to be a Speckled Wood butterfly. Now all I need to do is capture a photo of one from it's back, showing the full glory of its wings.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Speckled Wood Butterfly

My final encounter on this, far to brief, walk was with a smallish dragonfly that was helpful enough to flit past me and then settle on the path in front of me. I haven't spent too much time hunting dragonflies, even though I am attracted to the idea of capturing images of them. I seem to be able to find and photograph damselflies reasonably successfully, but dragonflies seem to have eluded me.

This particular specimen appears to be a female or young male Black Darter Dragonfly. Not a great shot, but another species added to my growing collection. Now I can aim to improve on this photo, and I will have a better idea of what to look for.

Female or immature male Black Darter Dragonfly.

Female or immature male Black Darter Dragonfly.

I wouldn't say that I am particularly satisfied with any of the photos that I look on this little excursion, however, to add three new species to my list of finds certainly made it worthwhile taking my camera with me.

Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve is now near the top of my list of places I must revisit very soon.

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