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Otter Photography in Shetland 2010

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Saturday 18th December 2010 | News

As the final few days of 2010 draw to a close and as 2011’s calendar continues to fill in (already close to capacity for my Otter photography calendar) I thought it was a nice time to reflect on the past season, of both my own and more importantly my client’s Otter images.

I am pleased to say that my continued success rate remains and I have yet to have a single a day that a photographer has gone home disappointed! This year’s very busy season of photographers seeking to capture their own images of Shetlands wild Otters included some well-known names such as David Tipling, Peter Cairns, Mark Hamblin and Chris Gomersall (follow their links to read their testimonials).

As recommended most photographers chose two-three days (often more) which is certainly the most productive option; simply maximising the potential of photographic encounters and a better chance of hitting good light or weather conditions and more time to visit a variety of my favourite sites.

Throughout the season of Otter photography there were some early starts and some late finishes; some wild weather but also some wonderful- but there were always images to take away!

Here is a selection of some of my client’s images from this season;

These are some of my own images and favourites from this season;

And I am proud to recommend our wildlife photography clothing sponsors Stealth Gear, which I was wearing when taking all the images above.

Another summer with Simon King

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Monday 16th August 2010 | News, TV Appearances

Following the massively popular ‘Shetland Diaries’, Simon was once again in the Isles this summer. This year he has been commissioned by ‘Promote Shetland’ (Shetland’s official tourism promotions team) to put together a TV commercial. Once again we were delighted to be chosen by Simon to work with him throughout his ten-day trip in July.

It was particularly exciting to ‘fill in’ as his camera man for various shoots and indeed quite gratifying to see how useful our local knowledge and contacts were to help pull things together where ever and when ever it was needed.

Summer Season

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Saturday 7th August 2010 | News

What a fantastic summer season we have had here in Shetland. Our ‘Wild Shetland Weekends’ and ‘Shetland Nature Experience’ holidays (which all sold out!) went wonderfully. There were many highlights throughout the summer. All our groups enjoyed multiple encounters with Shetland’s enchanting wild Otters – this really is a ‘Shetland Nature’ speciality and an area where our clients experience first-hand the difference between travelling with a small group of six as opposed to a ‘coach-tour’ group of twelve! But it was not just the Otters that enthralled this summer. We had many thrilling cetacean encounters too; Minke Whales, Basking Shark, Risso’s and White-sided Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises and last, but by no means least, Killer Whales were all seen by our groups. This was undoubtedly one of the best summers on record for Killer Whale sightings throughout the isles; with a combination of our local knowledge and contacts, the fact that all our guides are resident in Shetland and not just brought here for the summer, and of course an element of luck, we saw Killer Whales on all but two of our holidays! We also identified a new pod for Shetland’s waters, a very interesting find indeed – a more detailed news post on this will follow soon…

Amongst the other highlights were of course Shetland’s mouth-watering diversity of breeding birds and the northern specialities the islands harbour, such as Red-necked Phalarope, Red-throated Diver, Merlin, Arctic Skua and Great Skua, to name but a few, not to mention the seabird colonies and evocative nights with the Storm Petrels on Mousa. More news on the breeding season for Shetland’s seabirds to follow from our friends at the RSPB soon…

Birding highlights included some star-quality sightings. Amongst the rarities seen were Great Reed Warbler, Black Stork, White-tailed Sea-Eagle and Iberian Chiffchaff (the latter being the first ever Shetland record), whilst scarce migrants included Long-tailed Skua, Red-backed Shrike, Marsh Warbler and Golden Oriole. We also made some very exciting discoveries on the birding front, with Hoopoe, White-billed Diver, ‘Northern’ Eider and a fine drake Surf Scoter making national headlines! More on these stories on our ‘Birdwatching’ Reader Holiday posting…

Plants, by their nature, don’t fly or swim away, so it’s always lovely to catch up with them in stunning surroundings. The Shetland endemic Edmondson’s Chickweed has proved a star attraction, whilst orchids have included Fragrant, Frog, Heath Spotted, Early Purple and Northern Marsh. Several scarcities included Oysterplant, Arctic Sandwort, Northern Rock-cress, Wood Burdock and Moonwort. Mountain Hares also performed well, with all groups connecting with them; this species can be found later on in the season.

A big thanks must go to our hosts at the Orca Country Inn, Saxa Vord Resort and the Spiggie Hotel, for excellent company and cuisine after a full-on day in the field; savouring the best of food Shetland has to offer is a must. Much enjoyment came from the debates over cheesecakes!

World-class encounters!

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 7th May 2010 | Birding in Shetland, News, Sea Mammals in Shetland

What a fantastic day! After an extremely successful (and very enjoyable) three days of Otter Photography – 23 Otters on three Islands with a Dutch client (Wim Konninghurst) we decided to spend a day on Unst.

The day got off to a fantastic start with a pod of over 20 Risso’s Dolphins off the early morning ferry. The dolphins were spread widely across Bluemull Sound between Yell and Fetlar. This stretch of water is one of the best in the Isles for seeing these burly dolphins.

Although you cant quite make out much detail from my cropped record shots, Risso’s are characteristically covered in scars. With blunt- bow headed appearance and these often rather prominent markings, Risso’s can look quite coarse and rather rough looking and with this be very distinct, given decent views. They are often quite deep water predators, with squid being a favourite food source and cause of much of the scarring! Feeding dives can often last up to an impressive 15-20 minutes and Squid in the stomach contents of Risso’s have been found to measure an amazing 12 feet! Lets hope we manage to locate them during our Seamamal Search on the 29th of May!

Barely an hour later, on arrival to Burrafirth Shore Station at the North end of Unst (where the Scottish Natural Heritage reserve’s visitor centre is based) we found a Hoopoe, literally seconds after getting out of the car and kitted up! Quite increadable given that fellow members of the ‘Shetland Nature’ team Garry Bell and Rob Fray had been called out to identify a bird the previous day – which turned out to be a Hoopoe! Which incidentally is the one photographed, by Gary.

But the day was not yet done. Just as we were about to make our way down off the reserve, whilst sitting gazing out over the Atlantic Ocean, simply awe struck by the ‘seabird city’, my good mate Robbie Brooks rang to inform me he had just had a Sea Eagle heading North over his house. Trying not to expect too much more out of what had already been an incredible outing, I thought to myself ‘that could very probably head our way…’

I then also passed on the exciting news by calling the reserve warden Alister Wilson, who I knew was out on the reserve, not too far away.

Sure enough about an hour later we were alerted to the birds presence by the hundreds of Great Skuas which took to the air across the reserve as the bird drifted low over the moorland. A truly awesome sight indeed watching how this fantastic bird of prey simply dwarfed the swarming Skuas. Not wanting Alister to miss out I called him again literally minutes later it soared over his head, when he got this cracking shot- note the wing tag.

The bird was an immature which was first seen a few weeks earlier on Fair Isle and again by good friend and Shetland nature tour leader Roger Riddington soon after. It is one from a release program on the east coast of Scotland. This bird had a green wing tag on with a No.8 on and is known to be a one year old male. We later enjoyed yet another encounter with the bird during an evening visit to the reserve cliff tops.

Oh if only these masterful raptors would return to the Isles to breed some day…

Sponsored by ‘Stealth Gear’

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Tuesday 20th April 2010 | News

A very exciting development for us, we are now sponsored by ‘Stealth Gear’. Stealth Gear is a relatively new brand of outdoor clothing, which is as they say themselves ‘is designed by wildlife photographers for wildlife photographers’.

It is my reputation as a guide for wildlife photographers seeking to photograph Otters in Shetland that led me to review and wear the clothing, for which the gear is ideally suited. The clothing is designed for dedicated wildlife photographers spending a lot of time in the field and, as my experience so far proves, in all weathers!

Read more about Stealth Gear and my review at: http://www.stealth-gear.com/photographers/brydon-thomason.html

Being sposored by ‘Stealth Gear’ realy is a fantastic development for ‘Shetland Nature’ and especialy so for the Otter Photography trips I guide. The various camo garments I normally provide clients with are now being replaced by ‘Wlildlife photography clothing that has been designed by wildlife photographers’.

Stealth Gear

Read more about my Otter photography

Simon Kings ‘Shetland Diaries’- The book arrives!

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Thursday 15th April 2010 | News

Brydon with Simon

As if Simon Kings Shetland Diaries was not enough of a joy to watch on screen (and it truly was), the book is an absolute must have! Whether you are a fan of Simon, Shetland or Natural History in general it is sure to entertain and enthrall. A signed complimentary copy from Simon arrived today!

Having worked closely with Simon and co throughout the making of the documentary, I truly did feel privaliged to be included in the series (read more about this) .  It was indeed an extended privilege to be asked by Simon to provide photographs for his ‘Shetland Diaries’ book, for which he chose six images; otter’s (of course), Orca, White-sided dolphin, Red-throated Diver and Guillemots.   And to be amongst the few individuals to be given a special thanks in the opening paragraphs was an true honour to say the least.

No Frontiers

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Tuesday 16th March 2010 | News

Irish TV’s RTE1 travel show, ‘No Frontiers’ aired last weekend, which you can catch on the internet at http://www.rte.ie/player/#v=1068599 This was our third TV appearance this winter, after ITV’s ‘Islands of Britain’ with Martin Clunes which was recently repeated and the BBC’s ‘Simon King’s Shetland Diaries’, due to be repeated in the next few weeks.

Simon King’s Shetland Diaries

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Saturday 20th February 2010 | News, TV Appearances

If you were not fortunate enough to have seen Simon King’s fantastic three part series which finished this week, we would very much recommend viewing it on BBC iPlayer. It was with out doubt the best TV documentary to feature Shetland in recent years, maybe ever! It was a huge privilege to have been involved right from the start and even more so to have made an appearance on screen.

Watch Simon King’s Shetland Diaries on BBC iPlayer (available until February 25th): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qnw3b