Latest news from North Northumerland Bird Club
Wildlife photographer Ron McCombe was our speaker at the North Northumberland Bird Club's Indoor Meeting this month.
He invited us to take an amazing Walk On The Wildside, his latest compilation of images ranging from our local area to other locations throughout Europe.
He was voted Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year 2010 and his outstanding photographs reflect his interest in and enthusiasm for all the birds he sees.
When he moved to his current home in the Scottish Borders, he set up a small shed as a hide at the bottom of his garden, which has grown into a 12ft x 18ft hide for four people, with electricity, heating and the internet. From there, he has taken the most stunning photographs of such species as lesser redpoll, siskin, brambling, goldfinch, nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker.
Whilst visiting the Aviemore area, Ron has been prepared to spend hours in July being eaten alive by midges in order to obtain photos of the charismatic pine martens, which visit his prepared lures for perhaps a matter of only five minutes before disappearing again for three hours.
He also obtained amazing close-ups of capercaillie by arriving at the chosen site at 4.30am, having driven four hours through the night from home. In fact, one male capercaillie got so close and threatening he had to throw his cap away to distract the bird.
On Mull he spent much time in January videoing otters, enjoying watching many aspects of their lives. When a mother otter wants her youngster to sleep, she lies on it to quieten it. Also, otters roll around on the kelp to put air into their fur to improve their buoyancy. One otter had caught a ling fish over a metre long and having dragged it by the snout out of the water, it spent three hours eating it.
Ron has travelled widely in Europe. On trips to the wilds of Northern Sweden, with temperatures in winter of –25C, he sits in a hide, warmed by a wood-burning stove, to photograph golden eagles, which fly in to feed on a carcass frozen in the snow.
A Siberian jay, attracted by mince placed on the end of sticks, became so bold it even landed on Ron’s head, and then on the end of his camera. Another visitor, a red fox, tentatively came out of the wood for the eagle’s food. When there’s an eagle about in the area his tail goes up as a warning.
We also enjoyed Ron’s beautiful views of the Milky Way and the multi-coloured Aurora Borealis.
Whilst on a visit to Northern Norway, he photographed king eider, Steller’s eider and long-tailed ducks from a floating hide in the harbour only a metre away from the birds, with the colours of the houses around the harbour being reflected in the crystal clear 30ft to 40 ft deep water.
In Edinburgh this year there have been many sightings of waxwings, particularly in supermarket car parks. Ron recorded their acrobatics feeding on the berries. They keep returning to the same bushes for about three weeks until all the berries are gone and then will move on.
His photographs reflect considerable knowledge of where to go and where to wait to obtain the photographs he wants, and he is prepared to spend many hours in order to get the right shot.
He also uses different techniques to attract birds and animals, such as sprinkling nyjer seed in teasels so that goldfinches will squabble over them, or putting out jam sandwiches for the pine martens.
The members of the North Northumberland Bird Club were left in no doubt that they had witnessed an amazing sequence of photographs, a true reflection of Ron’s outstanding skill and infinite patience.
Next month we welcome Dr Viola Ross-Smith, of the British Trust for Ornithology, who will talk about the latest research on gulls when she visits the Pavilion at Bamburgh, at 7.30pm, on Friday, May 12.