Thursday, 19 November 2015

A holt in a barn

Here in Shetland an otter 'holting up' in a man made structure is actually not all that uncommon. Anywhere with an old boat shed, barn or outhouse close to the shore can be an option to an otter seeking the comfort that such buildings offer. It seems to be that these provide what an otter seeks from any holt which in short is somewhere sheltered and dry and usually quiet and undisturbed that they can feel safe and a derelict old barn with the roof caved in was exactly the home this mother chose for her two cubs.

I'm leading an otter itinerary this week for a cameraman which is going really well. In a quest to shoot otters from a more unusual perspective I went to check out an old barn otters often use, which they still are. Anyway, I was sharing the experience of this little assignment from a a couple of winters back and so I had the thought to post about it.

It was actually a tip off that led me to this family. A good friend of ours Julie Thomson told me of an otter she'd seen crossing the road in exactly the same place on her way to work twice in one week, as she drove along a shoreside road carrying a peerie fish. I knew this only meant one thing- she must have young cubs close by and I knew there was an old barn she'd used before. Investigating the following day, it was clear it was being used and so I set up Bushnell camera's to see what was happening and if I could photograph them in daylight. Sure enough, after a week of the trail camera being in place, I could see from video sequences triggered by the motion sensor that she had two young cubs and that on days that she was using it, she left between 8 and 9 each morning- I had a chance...!

It took me three mornings, sneaking in to an adjacent barn- also dilapidated but this gave me the ideal place to hide. However in order to get a clear view of the door without them knowing I was hiding, I had to shoot through a hole in the roof, over the wall head and to see through it, had to stack a pile of old fish boxes to get high enough. Precarious but it worked.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Foraging in gale force winds and waves

A female otter foraging in gale force winds. Encounters like these offer a fascinating insight into just how challenging life can be for an otter on the Shetland coasts. The wind was at least up to force 8 at times, probably gusting more with the occasional shower that swept in from th south east. I was actually out with returning otter photography guest Dave Curley.
I took Dave to this particular site to try to capture some slightly more unusual images, knowing that there was a good chance she'd be out and that the sea conditions would be excellent to try to capture some different and unusual otter images.

Landing a codling

More catching up...
Another sequence from mid August.

A mother catching a beautiful and bright red codling, takes it in to the shore where she releases it for her cub.

A fantastic flatfish

Backdating a couple of blog posts from as long ago as August! Where does the time go...

This was a session with a mother and cubs. The image of her landing the lovely flatfish was her sneaking ashore, obviously needing the meal herself as when she was powering in for the shore- from as far out as 40 metres or more with cubs chasing after her- she shrugged off the two cubs chase and changed direction. She landed just in front of me whilst the cubs ended up together on the shore further along, seemingly bewildered by loosing her- but the meal too. She ended up just out of view only 20 metres away where she scoffed the lot.

This image was slightly later when they were reunited.