Favourite wildlife images of 2015

DSC_3621copy2At the beginning of 2015 I made the decision to dedicate the entire year to wildlife photography, after spending most of 2014 concentrating on caving photography. I have focused almost solely on mountain and coastal wildlife in the Scottish Highlands. Here a mountain hare is rim-lit in crisp November light in the Monadhliath Hills, an area which I have visited almost weekly for the past 7 months.

Ptarmigan at restPtarmigan at rest high in the Cairngorms. Confined to high mountain plateaus and sub-Arctic tundra, this species is one of the most powerful symbols of wild land in Scotland. I had been trying to get this precise composition since 2008 and finally managed it early this December.

DSC_9904copyportraitA white-tailed eagle mirrored by a gull on the Isle of Mull. The white-tailed eagle is (so far) a success story for the species re-introduction and re-wilding movements in Scotland.

Hunting at dawnA bottlenose dolphin hunting at dawn in the Inner Moray Firth. I live only 5 minutes from Chanonry Point, one of the best places in the world to watch bottlenose dolphins from land, and I visited the point 4-7 days a week during the spring and summer months this year. It took many hundreds of hours of effort to get images like this in such good light.

Mountain hareA mountain hare in thick snow in early December. During an exceptionally mild late autumn and early-winter, images of the hares in the snow have been hard to get.

Through the seaweedAn otter in shallow coastal water on Skye. A species which obsesses me like no other. 

Violent endSpectacular hunting behaviour from a bottlenose dolphin at Chanonry Point. 

European adderAn adder on the Isle of Mull. I have thousands of images of adders from my childhood on the Suffolk coast but very few from the Highlands. In my opinion the adder is one of the most beautiful animal species found in the UK.

Mountain hare in flowering heatherA yawning mountain hare during a warm summer day. During the summer months in particular mountain hares are extremely shy and very difficult to approach. It took me a while to learn the field-craft involved with getting this close to a mountain hare without spooking it.

Crested titA crested tit in Abernethy Forest. These very tiny birds are fast-moving, often shy and in the UK confined to the pine forests of NE Scotland.

Warming upA dipper bringing in food to its nest. I spent several weeks documenting the breeding cycle of these birds in a Ross-shire river.

Female ptarmiganA ptarmigan in ‘morph’ plumage during the autumn. This species is perhaps the one I am most familiar with, through years of climbing and hill-walking in the Highlands.

MissileA breaching bottlenose dolphin in the Inner Moray Firth. The sheer unlikelihood of this dolphin’s position in mid-air has always made this image stand out for me.

A mountain hare amongst flowering heather in August.

DSC_1734_01copyHerons in the rain on Mull. It was a lucky encounter to find three individuals lined up in the same position.

Grey seals on the Moray Firth coast.

Otter portraitAn otter on Skye. Although I have several otters within only minutes of where I live on the Black Isle, they are more nocturnal and far more shy than those found on the West coast.

Slavonian grebeA close-encounter with a Slavonian Grebe. These are one of the UK’s rarest breeding birds, with only 30 or so pairs present every year.

'Incoming!'A group of bottlenose dolphins approaching Chanonry Point at speed. These were part of a much larger group of dolphins which minutes later put on the most impressive display of breaching I’ve ever seen. It has taken a while to grow on me, but this has become one of my favourite dolphin images.

DSC_6474_01copyA grey wagtail on the Fairy Glen ‘luck tree’.

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