A Day of Wild Intrigue
“Good things come to those that wait”
Waiting is not something I used to be good at, but it is something I have learned to be great at. Two weeks ago I contacted my university tutor Cain Scimgeour asking about places to photograph red squirrels (knowing full well his company Wild Intrigue was in the process of finishing a wildlife hide in Haweswater) cheekily, I asked if there was a chance I could take the hide for a spin before it opened to the public. To my surprise he said yes.
Fast forward to this morning. It is 7am, Katt and I have been on the road for just under an hour. After a brief stint on the motorway we are now winding our way along single track lanes, moving ever closer to our eventual destination. Unfortunately, neither me nor our sat-nav were sure of where we were going, as it finally decided enough was enough and dumped us half way up a private road. Fortunately, a kind dog walker was nearby and pointed us in the right direction, a 15 point turn later and we were on our way again. A couple minutes later, we arrived at Naddles Farm, where we were greeted by Cain. After some quick introductions we grabbed our gear and set off.
(The side Window of the hide offers great opportunities for 300mm lenses or lovely tight shots with a 600mm.)
The hide is situated up a small hill, a few minutes’ walk from the car park. As per Wild Intrigue's instructions we arrive in the dark so not to disturb the wildlife. Cain gives us a brief tour of the hide, showing us how to use the gimbals provided. He then gives us the low down of where red squirrels and other animals will probably appear from. With this key information exchanged, Cain disappears back into the night leaving us to prepare for the excitement to come. We set up our cameras up, poured some hot chocolate and stared out into the morning gloom.
At around half 8 as the sun rose (although you couldn’t tell due to all the cloud cover) a robin appeared, our first visitor of the day. This was shortly followed by great-tits, coal-tits, blue-tits, siskins, nuthatches and even a trio of woodpeckers. The garden bird numbers rose exponentially over the course of the day, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say we must have had over 50 birds feeding in-front of us at one point.
An hour later the real stars of the show arrived, not one, not two but five beautiful red squirrels. They came dashing in to grab hazelnuts and sun flower seeds dropped by the birds (I should interject here and make it clear that I had never seen a wild red squirrel until this point). So trust me when I say that every squirrel I saw took my breath away. They hung around for just over half an hour gorging themselves and, of course, posing for pictures here and there. Eventually the rain clouds rolled in, the light faded and the squirrels scampered off into the trees.
EOS R Sigma 150-600S 1/320 sec at f/6.3, ISO 6400
After this initial excitement we were able to sit back and relax, something I can’t say I have been able to do in any hide that I have used previously. Instead of the typical wooden bench found in most hides, Wild Intrigue's Woodland Wildlife Hide is fitted with two luxury leather office chairs (which I can say as I write this, are far more comfortable than my own personal chair). There is also tea, coffee, hot chocolate and locally sourced biscuits provided. This made the quiet moments (not that there were many) incredibly bearable.
(Did I mention how comfy the chairs are??)
The rain continued on throughout the day, keeping most of the squirrels away, although a few tougher individuals did venture out from time to time. This was always a pleasure, one particular squirrel with a blonde tip to his tail spent well over an hour with us. When the squirrels did move off, we were able to focus on some of the more ‘common’ species such as great spotted woodpeckers and siskins. Both of these species have been photographic targets of mine in the past, and I was blown away by the sheer number that visited the hide throughout the course of the day. I remember remarking to Katt how lucky we were to see a single siskin, only for another 20 to appear a few minutes later.
EOS R Sigma 150-600S 1/400 sec at f/6.3, ISO 5000
As the light finally began to fade we packed our gear up and headed back down to the car park, our batteries dead and memory cards full of images. We met Cain in the car park and said our goodbyes before finally heading home.
I cannot thank Wild Intrigue and RSPB Haweswater enough for this amazing opportunity. I would thoroughly recommend the Woodland Wildlife Hide to anyone interested in photographing some of Britain’s best native wildlife.
Below are links to both Wild Haweswaters and Wild Intrigues Facebook page, Instagram and Website as well as Katts Instagram.
Last but not least a belter taken by Katt