ConaGlen - Stags and Hinds

22nd October 2021

Having returned from a trip to the ConaGlen Estate on Ardnamurchan - a selection of shots of stags and hinds.

The Estate has some great looking "heads" the problem is photographing them.

The stags and their hinds come off the hills in the early evening and are back up the hill before daylight breaks so that can make photography somewhat difficult.

Also the Stalking Season for stags runs until the 20th October so the hills were not the place to be out photographing !

This stag I "bumped" into !! filling the frame at 800mm - he looked at me and I at him ! There was no option but to point the camera as there was nowhere to go - so I took a couple of shots and then sought a retreat !!

The Stag above had a great set of antlers - a thick "coat" with great colours - those blacks and reds blending into the hillsides.

As the sun set shutter speeds were down to 1/60th of a second

Of an evening, opening the front door of the cottage you meet a "wall of darkness", proper darkness, as there are no street lights and no ambient light.

It is just dark, but not silent as out in the darkness the stags roar and bellow at each other.

Cold clear nights, bring into view a multitude of stars, with the occassional shooting star streaking across the sky.

On those colder nights the stags seem to be more vocal, challenging and being challenged by each other.

Ardnamurchan has a wealth of wildlife, but just concentrating on the birds and mammals on the Conaglen Estate, I have but "scratched" the surface.

My most "infamous" moment of photography was when leaving the estate driveway and by Heron Island rounded the bend in the road and there sat on a tree on the side of Loch Linnhe, where a pair of Sea Eagles.


Out of the car and camera off the back seat they took flight, their massive wings spreading and the birds gaining "lift off", as they do that I am lifting the camera, viewfinder to eye, steading the weight of the 400mm 2.8, deep joy a Sea Eagle was there - framed in that little bit of glass !

A press of the shutter nothing, absolutely no response from the camera - by now the Mk111 should have been rattling off 10 frames per second.

But "OH NO" it was switched off, in those few seconds it took to realise what had gone wrong and switch it back on - the massive wings of the birds had flapped a couple of times and they where now in a gentle glide over the surface of the Loch.

What I was left with was a less than average record shot - a Sea Eagle but it could have been so much better.

One of the pair glided to and perched on tree stump that is revealed by the low tides in the bay in front of Conaglen house.


It was all rather hopeless then, the bird a bit far off for the 400mm and as I was trying to close the distance by walking a 100yds or so towards it - it was off and away again.

Yes I know you can go to Mull and book a boat and get superb fishing shots, as the birds dive in for the fish thrown from the boat, but for me it was the thrill of coming across them like that - they where just there !

I will do the boat one year though.

I did record the event in the visitors book that year - there was a written response from another guest on how easy it was to mix up a Sea Eagle with a Buzzard !!! mmhhh

During the Autumn Sea Eagles are often seen in and around Conaglen Estate. Getting the photograph is another matter !

While photographing the stag with in my opinion the great looking antlers, a Sea Eagle glided overhead, photograph or not they are a fantastic sight to see.

I can add Ospreys along with Sea Eagles to the lit of "wants" - although I have seen them fairly regularly over Loch linnhe and also Loch Eil - all I have managed are overhead in-flight shots.

What I want are the fishing shots that can be obtained over on the East Coast of Scotland.

So next summer when the Ospreys return from Africa to the Scottish Lochs to breed, I will have to pay a visit to the venues outside of Inverness with the intent of getting the Osprey "splash down" and recovery from the water with a fish in the talons photograph.

It is either that or a trip to Finland !!

Otters frequuent the shores, I have now found that once you find your otter you can change position along the shore keeping pace with the otter by taking roughly 15 paces once it dives until it surfaces again.

They also seem to do 4 or 5 dives eating what they catch on the water and then usually there is a trip to the shore.

It is a good job the single track roads around the Loch are not too busy as often the brakes heat up due to a quick stop when a tell tale larger than average ripple indicates an otter diving.

Red Squirrels can be seen - but they are predated on by the Pine Martens who inhabit the grounds and lower slopes of the hills around the estate, so the Red Squirrel population is small.

I have seen Pine Martens on the Estate - but despite my best efforts I have not recorded one onto a memory card - yet !!

Within the grounds of the Conaglen Estate there are the usual small birds, Chaffinchs are probably the most numerous.

Robins are plentiful - a small charasmatic bird - with "bags" of attitude.

The juvenille Robin's follow the adults through the garden.

Their characteristic calls can be heard throughout the undergrowth as they flit between the lichen and moss covered branches.

Blue Tits are common in the gardens and add a tiny dash of colour to the shubbery as they flutter about.

The Coal Tits who never seem to rest for more than a second or two - as they "zip" back and forth between various favoured perches.

Great Tits move their "smaller brethen" along and again are one of the more common species to be seen.

Greenfinches are frequent visitors to the gardens

The Greater Spotted Woodpeckers make great use of the range of mature trees on the Conaglen Estate.

Drilling and calling through the surrounding woodland.

To be cont'd


Photo comment By Elizabeth MacLean: Dear Graham, I live and work on Conaglen and you have met my husband Ross before. We just had a look at your amazing photos and wanted to let you know that Ross had managed to see them. The are very impressive! Regards, Elizabeth

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