Red-throated Diver on nest with reflection in still water, Scotland
pic Photographed from a temporary hide using a Nikon F4s camera with Nikkor 400mm lens and a Nikon 1.4x teleconverter mounted on a Benbo tripod; taken at 1/30th second at f3.5 on Fujichrome Provia 100 film rated at ISO 100 and processed normally; no filters used.

Low angled sunlight about 15 minutes after sunrise, June.

Sutherland, north Scotland.

The Red-throated Diver is a Schedule I protected breeding species in Britain and the necessary Licence was obtained to photograph at the nest site.
This image was the winner of the 'Animal Portraits' Category of the prestigious international Competition BG/BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 1998.

The story behind the picture....

"The Red-throated Diver is one of my favourite birds, not only for its wonderful, sleek grey head with red throat-patch and ruby-like eyes but also because it's calls are some of the most evocative natural sounds to be heard that remind me of a place I love - the Highlands of Scotland.

Red-throated Divers are essentially water-birds, adapted to pursuing fish underwater, and spend most of their lives at sea. During the brief Scottish summer, they fly inland from the coast to nest on small lochs and lochans, where the water provides the 'runway' from which they can take flight.

"One summer I decided to spend some time attempting to capture various aspects of the lives of these shy, unassuming birds on film. Basically, this meant spending many hours in a one-metre cube of canvas called a 'hide' (or 'blind') where the temperature inside can vary from 'like being in a refrigerator' to 'like being in a cooker' - and that's just in a single day!

"Red-throated Divers are very sensitive to disturbance so the hide was moved into position very carefully over several days, and I was relieved to see how quickly the adults accepted its proximity and continued their normal behaviour routines. Most days I would enter the hide around 2.30 a.m. under cover of darkness in order to minimise disturbance to the birds, but also because I especially wanted pictures taken with the warmer colours of low angled, early morning sunlight for which I had specifically positioned the hide.

"This particular morning was one of the few occasions when the lochan surface was almost mirror-calm and in the half-light I could just make out the shape of the adult (female) Diver on the bank of a small island in the middle of the lochan and her perfect reflection in the mirror-calm water. She was brooding her two young chicks and, as I set up the camera and settled into the hide, I prayed that she would stay in that position until sunrise - and before any wind rippled the water surface.

"At last, after nearly two nerve-wracking hours, the sun appeared at the horizon and its warm glow bathed the Diver, still in position, and I began taking photographs. This particular image was taken about 15 minutes after sunrise (around 4.30 a.m.). The Diver was constantly looking around and when she was on the alert - maybe due to a skua or another Diver flying overhead - she would assume this graceful upward pose so characteristic of Divers, to be perfectly mirrored in the still water of the lochan, and making the best composition. Not all of the images I got had a perfect reflection and several were marred by an slight ripple which occasionally passed over the water surface.

"A mere 10 minutes after this image was taken, an increasing breeze sprang up and the lochan surface became rippled for the rest of the morning. By mid-morning the quality of light became far too harsh and not only did heat shimmer become a problem but the clear sunshine beating down meant that the interior of the hide became almost oven-like, forcing me to strip down to the bare essentials (wellies and underpants!) until I finally ended the session, quickly left the hide (having got dressed first!) and trekked the few kilometres back across the moor to the camper and a welcome breakfast."

Geoff Doré

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