ebirder is a small, specialist photography company run by Marcus Conway. He has been running photography tours since 2005 across the Scottish Highlands and Islands. In 2012 he was awarded Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year.

Luxury Self Catering Cottages with Nature Photography Hides

Imagine an Historic Highland castle, exclusive nature photography hides and all set in 53 acres of private woodland…

Glentrium nature phtography hides

In association with the stunning Glentrium Estate we have designed a range of nature photography hides for Red Squirrel, Buzzard, Raven, Great Spotted Woodpecker and other woodland birds. The luxury cottages sleep up to four and your stay includes unlimited access to the hides for no additional charge. Other wildlife on the estate includes Badgers, Fox, Pine Marten, Wildcat, Brown Hare, Golden Eagle and Roe Deer. This is a non-sporting estate so the wildlife is not threatened at any time of year and this partnership represents a new and exciting way to show that an income can be generated through ‘eco-tourism’.

A home from home with a touch of luxury, with everything in it’s very own place. What a hidden gem!

The key features include;

  • The cottages are the height of luxury self catering. All with well appointed kitchens, luxury bedding, wood burning stove, free WIFI.
  • Exclusive access to nature photography hides on the totally private and unspoilt Glentrium Estate
  • Unlimited access at no extra charge for your entire group. This means you can choose when to use the hides – for example when conditions are perfect e.g. falling snow or early morning
  • Perfect for photographers looking to avoid expensive, per person hide charges
  • Ideal for groups of photographers looking for better value or photographers looking to holiday with a family or friends with limited time
  • 53 Acres of private woodland surrounding a stunning 1840’s castle.
  • The cost per week is £895 for up to four people and the hides are open between 1st December and 31st March

If you would like more information or want to make a reservation please contact us.

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Scottish Bird Photography Holidays – New Accomodation Partner


Following a successful trial through the past 6 months we are pleased to announce that our exclusive hotel accommodation partner for our bird photography holidays in the Cairngorms and Speyside is the “UK’s Wildlife Hotel”, the Grant Arms in Grantown on Spey.

Our Winter Photography Holiday will now be based from this fabulous hotel and our tour includes very comfortable and clean, en suite rooms, with complimentary WIFI and a three course dinner that all our guests have praised. We also operate our Spring in the Mountains tour from the same base.

Additionally if you are coming for a one to one or a bespoke guiding experience we would recommend staying at the Grant Arms. The Bird Watching & Wildlife Club, based at the Grant Arms Hotel, exists for anyone interested in wildlife, from beginners to dedicated birdwatchers. All Hotel Guests are welcome to use the Club’s facilities which include the Lecture Theatre (the Osprey Suite), Club Room and Natural History Library. The BWWC Team provides free guided walks, wildlife briefings and regular talks.

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Otter Photography Holiday on Islay

Often overlooked as a premier photographic destination, Islay offers wildlife photographers a <strong><span style=”color: #ff6600;”>plethora of opportunity</span> </strong>to get truly unique and captivating images. Whether it be flocks of <strong><span style=”color: #ff6600;”>10,000s of geese</span></strong> in the pink winter sunsets, marauding <span style=”color: #ff6600;”><strong>Otters</strong></span> (the friendliest we have found!), or the rare red billed Chough, Islay has a lot to offer. Combine that with the sparse population of the island and you can count on a wild and unforgettable experience. A chance to get images unlikely to be captured by anyone else.<p><span style=”text-decoration: underline;”><br />Daily activities</span></p><p>Most days will follow roughly the same profile as we use the short winter days to <span style=”color: #ff6600;”><strong>maximise time in the field</strong></span>. Typically we will have an optional early breakfast before getting out into the field at around 7.30AM. The day will be spent in the field until sun set or earlier if the weather is not suitable.</p><p>The main <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>targets</span> for the trip are;</p><ul><li>White Fronted and Barnacle Geese – especially flocks at sunrise and sunset</li><li>Otter Photography Holiday</li><li>Chough</li><li>Purple Sandpiper</li><li>Nature special to the area that we may encounter; Red Breasted Merganser, Merlin, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sea Duck</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Barnacle and White Fronted Geese Photography</span></p><p>Photographing Geese can be a rewarding, but sometimes challenging, activity depending on the light and movements of over 50,000 geese. We will visit a range of sites (some used by the BBC for ‘Islands on the Edge’) as we aim to capture groups of geese on land and in the air. The main aim will be to use the <strong><span style=”color: #ff6600;”>atmospheric scenery</span> </strong>and changing crepuscular light to take unique shots.</p><p>We will also spend time looking for and photographing Greenland White Fronted Geese – a particular speciality of the area.</p><p><span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Otter Photography</span></p><p>For a long time Mull was <i>the</i> place to photograph Otters. That was until we visited Islay and Jura! We will spend time in a <span style=”color: #ff6600;”><strong>secret location</strong> </span>with a particularly high density of these fabulous creatures. In 2013 up to four Otters frequented an area of 1 mile and we were able to photograph Otters at a close range.</p><p>Please note this site is truly ‘wild’ and you will need to sit still for long periods on the rocky shore.</p><p><span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Chough Photography</span></p><p>Islay holds one of the<span style=”color: #ff6600;”><strong> largest populations of Chough</strong> </span>in the UK. However finding and photographing them is never easy. In winter the birds tend to form large flocks of 20 – 50 birds and we will visit their favoured sites used to feed and drink. Sightings are almost guaranteed and we will visit sites where we have photographed them in previous years.</p><p>It should be noted that as part of a behavioural study that many of the Chough are carrying colourful rings on their legs.</p><p><span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Special Nature</span></p><p>An open mind is essential when visiting any Scottish Island in winter. In recent years we have photographed; Purple Sandpiper. Merlin, Hen Harrier, Common Scoter, Long Tailed Duck, Raven, Twite and Snow Bunting. With a wide range of coastal habitats and the eventful weather at this time of year there is a high chance of capturing truly <span style=”color: #ff6600;”><strong>unique images</strong><span style=”color: #000000;”>.</span></span></p><p>Distillery tours can be arranged on request – just let us know if you fancy a wee nip.</p><p><img title=”gallery columns=&quot;5&quot; ids=&quot;1087,1084,1092,1088,1091,1090,1085,1089,1093,1086&quot;” src=”http://c60.20e.myftpupload.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wpgallery/img/t.gif” /><br /><br /></p><p>&nbsp;</p><!–mep-nl–><!–mep-nl–><p>


New website!

A new website!

We’ve redesigned our website in conjunction with webbrewers to catch up with the 21st century! this makes the site easier to navigate especially on mobile and tablet devices.

We also added some other cool features

  • Easier navigation
  • More photos
  • More galleries
  • Available from tablet, mobile and touch
  • Touch and Swipe sensitive
  • Client testimonials (coming soon)

Thank you for stopping by and we hope to add more soon.

Where to photograph White Tailed Eagle

Guide to Photographing White Tailed Eagles in Scotland

Find out more about the ebirder White Tailed Eagle photography tour on our tours page.

There are few words to describe just how special it is to hear the wind whistling through the wings of a diving White-tailed Eagle. Actually to capture the moment on camera is a dream for many photographers and birders. When this stunning Eagle is encountered at close quarters the true size of the bird is mind blowing. However, it is the piercing yellow eye that always captures my imagination. It is easy to understand the source of the Gaelic name Iolaire suile na grein: ‘the eagle with the sunlit eye’. Whenever I have been to watch these birds I am amazed how bright the eyes are, and how this makes well-lit shots particularly attractive.

Fortunately there are now opportunities to witness and photograph one of the best wildlife experiences in the world on UK shores. The White-tailed Eagle became extinct in the 19th century, but following reintroduction programs from 1975 onwards there are now over 100 of these apex predators in the British Isles, with the main strongholds on the Scottish west coast. With the continued growth in White-tailed Eagle numbers (‘numbers soaring’ is the standard paper pun!), ecotourism has become a valuable source of income to the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and a range of options is available to witness these majestic raptors.

Experience the majesty of a White Tailed Eagle dive:

Know the law
White-tailed Eagle is a Schedule 1 species, and it is therefore an offence to disturb them intentionally or recklessly at, on, or near an ‘active’ nest. There is a sorry track record of disturbance by photographers on Mull, including prosecution against two photographers who disturbed a nesting pair. Please also note there are clear indicators in several places where it is not permitted to stop. The law applies to everyone (not just photographers). Please also refer to the webzine article on photographing Schedule 1 birds.

Seeing White Tailed Eagles in action
While it is possible to encounter White-tailed Eagles along the Scottish west coast (and now more easily on the east coast following the Fife reintroduction), there are several locations that are more reliable. These prime locations (though not Mull) are referred to in Gordon Hamnett’s excellent guide listed below. We have witnessed a range of behaviours by watching from viewpoints, but nothing beats the experience of being up close and personal to the two-metre wingspan of a wild Sea Eagle. There are a few recommended boat operators to use to watch White-tailed Eagles as they hunt for fish.

Mull Charters , Mull: Operating from Ulva Ferry, Mull Charters run two White-tailed Eagle trips per day in the Ulva Ferry/Loch Na Keal area. Lady Jayne is a Lochin 33 fully insured and coded by the MCA for category 2 (day or night) and carries equipment above the MCA requirement. The trips accommodate up to 12 passengers plus crew. In our experience the eagles witnessed from Mull Charters are more reliable and strike closer, more consistently than any other wild eagles — but these are wild birds after all, so nothing is guaranteed. What makes the experience even more personal is the enthusiastic approach of the boat’s operators Martin and Judith Keivers. When the eagle approaches the boat and dives for the fish the feverish anticipation on the boat is matched by the excitement of the skipper and his crew, as if it is their first time too. Mull Charters operate to a strict code of conduct, which has been endorsed by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage. A toilet is fitted for convenience and tea and coffee is served between the action. In addition to the operators’ enthusiasm and genuine passion for White-tailed Eagle welfare, the main reason to choose Mull Charters is that if the eagle comes it is likely he will visit and dive for fish up to three times and all within 30 feet of the boat! Not only that, but the skipper also has an excellent record of spotting birds and mammals from the shore and boat, including Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Great Skua, Sabine’s Gull, Common and Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Minke Whale, Basking Shark, Otter, and Grey and Common Seal.
The trip costs £35 in 2012 and lasts for approximately 3 hours.

Brigadoon, Skye: Brigadoon and her crew have been operating out of Portree since 1996, being the first to bring sea eagle feeding to the public. For the dedicated photographer, Brigadoon offer the opportunity to “shoot” the eagles, and any other wildlife, on a special early-morning charter to capture the rising sun and its effect on the colours. They also organise evening trips. The eagles can come close (down to 20 feet) and frequently visit the boat. There are several boat operators on Skye and it’s great that locals can benefit from the eagles’ success. However, the downside is that there are more boats competing for the eagles’ attention and hence the eagle is less likely to visit any one in particular, and rarely more than once per trip.
The price for a private charter is £120. The photography boat trip lasts for two and a half hours and can be scheduled on request.

MV Stardust, Skye: One of the longest-established operators, the MV Stardust operates from Portree, Skye. We have used the services of MV Stardust several times and have good experiences watching and photographing up to two White-tailed Eagles. If you are on Skye or on the west coast of Scotland — and on a budget — I would highly recommend a visit. From the MV Stardust there is also a chance of good views of several auk species and we have seen Golden Eagle on most visits.
The trip cost £12 in 2011 and lasts for approximately 1.5 hours.

Getting the perfect shot

Prepare for action For most observers, the highlight of watching any apex predator is ‘the strike’; the moment at which the eagle switches from gently gliding into a diving bullet of feathers culminating in a splash and the snatch of the prey item from the surface of the water. Capturing the whole sequence as images from start to finish can take several trips or can be achieved by a lucky few in just one trip — with perfect photographic technique or just lots of luck! While no two dives are identical (and that’s the exciting part!) there is a sequence that the eagle completes and the ability to anticipate the next move can be critical in getting the desired image or witnessing the key moment.

Get the setup right
One of the most common (and perhaps surprising) comments we hear on the boat is the exclamation “it’s just too close!” — you do not need a large, arm-breaking prime lens to photograph these birds. Due to the speed of the action, proximity of the eagles and movement of the boat, it is normally a hindrance to use a lens that cannot be handheld — so what is the perfect setup?

Every eagle interaction is different and exciting, with no two dives being the same. However, in our experience the following setups are the most effective.

With a 1.6× or 1.5× crop sensor body:
200–300mm lens
300mm f2.8 or f4
70–200mm or similar
100–400mm or similar

With a 1.3× crop sensor body:
250–350mm lens
300mm f2.8 or f4 or 70–200mm with a 1.4× converter
100–400mm or similar

With a 1× crop sensor body:
300–400mm lens
300mm f2.8 or f4
200 — 400 f4

Photography charters with ebirder
To capture high-octane eagle action is at the top of most photographers’ lists. It is possible to get some fantastic shots with the operators mentioned above. For over three years and in excess of 50 eagle dives, ebirder has been scheduling private charters with Mull Charters. These private charters are designed to give photographers an unrivalled opportunity to get fantastic shots. The key differences for the photographer’s charter are:

Better Light
The boat is scheduled to be at the prime eagle feeding locations in the ‘golden hour’. This means that the light is as perfect as can be for the eagles diving, enabling high shutter speeds to capture the moment with a super sharp image. Equally, it reduces the amount of shadow on the underwings and undercarriage of the bird as it completed the ‘grab’ and take off from the water.

More space to manoeuvre Mull Charters has enough space for twelve passengers. In our experience four is the maximum number of photographers that can be accommodated so as to ensure no obstacles or obstructions.
With just four photographers, plus guide and crew, there is space to move and ensure that everyone has the maximum opportunity to capture a photograph.

Specific guidance at the key moment The dive can last less than one second. Knowledge and experience of exactly what may happen and when is made possible by offering guidance to a smaller group. This is also important for other critical factors such as setting up for the correct exposure as the Eagle moves across several types of habitat to complete the dive.

Depending on time of year we have also combined our time on the boat running with other specialities that are passing through that are normally difficult to photograph, for example, Great Northern Diver.

Find out more about the ebirder White Tailed Eagle photography tour.


Where to photograph Black Grouse

Black Grouse Lek Photography


Want to experience photographing a black grouse lek? 

It’s four o ‘clock in the morning. It’s still dark and ice is forming on the roof inside my hide, but the cold is just not registering as I am witnessing one of nature’s most spectacular events. I’ve spent the night on a frosty, frozen bog, hidden away on the Glenlivet Estate, and I am wearing nearly every item of clothing I own; even my sleeping bag is tucked inside a survival sack. Why? To watch and photograph a Black Grouse lek in the Highlands — and at unbelievably close quarters.
bgwebHow did I end up here? Rewind to the night before, an early spring evening when I met up with David Newland. We transfer my photography gear into David’s Land Rover and head out onto the Glenlivet Estate. On the way David tells me about the wildlife he’s witnessed in the years he’s been running tours in the region. He points to a section of undergrowth — “We’ve had Wildcat there” — and then a small plateau — “Tens of Mountain Hare up there; we run Land Rover Safaris in winter and get within a few metres”. I’ve already got goose-bumps. I am so excited about being in an area where wildlife is so abundant and the landowners are supporting small eco-companies through access and local agreements. David continues to tell me about Golden Eagles, Dotterel and a range of waders that breed in this stunningly beautiful area.
We leave the main track and head across boggy terrain and the conversation moves on to Black Grouse, our main target for the following morning. There are over 10 established leks on the Glenlivet Estate, totalling in excess of 70 cock birds, and several of the leks constitute more than 10 lekking males. I can already tell David has a bit of a thing for Black Grouse. His enthusiasm for them is infectious as we discuss a range of topics and the importance of conservation and following the Black Grouse Code of Conduct. All the time, David is mixing a variety of biodiversity and land-management topics with behavioural information that may help me get some great shots. For me, this is where wildlife photography can make a real impact: mixing the importance of conservation with the enjoyment gained from getting close to and photographing nature’s best events.

Photographing at a Black Grouse lek 

 After about 30 minutes of off-road Land Rover action we’re getting close to the lek site. A couple of Black Grouse are looking on as we approach a boggy hillside and David explains where the lek occurs and the main action sites. We then measure out how far away the hide needs to be placed to ensure we are not too close to the action. David puts his hand about the same distance from the ground as a grouse and I check on the various bodies that I can fit the whole bird in frame — being too close is an unusual problem! Satisfied we have worked everything out, we set about putting up the hide, which will also be where I spend the night. David won’t see me until the morning and has explained at great lengths the importance of ensuring there is no disturbance to the lek, and staying inside the hide at all costs once the lek has started. He will meet me the following morning having watched the lek disperse from a distance; when he is confident the birds have gone, he will come and collect me from the hide. David leaves me and not much later the light fades and I climb into my sleeping bag to get some sleep.
My alarm clock for the next morning turns out to be a drumming male Snipe making courtship flights from the top of the hide! Soon enough male Black Grouse start arriving, cooing and hissing all around the hide. I tentatively sneak a peek and in the twilight can see at least five Black Grouse within feet of the hide. This is special. In fact it is unreal: I feel like I have become part of the lek. Then a pang of frustration flows as it’s still too dark for photography. How long will the grouse stay? When will the light get better? I decide not to worry and spend the first hour immersed in the experience of a Black Grouse lek at incredibly close quarters. As the light improves I start taking images, and then a real commotion breaks out and the grouse are in a frenzy. I take my eye away from the camera and look around. Three females or ‘Grey Hens’ have arrived, hidden in the grass. This is a treat and I get as many images as possible of the rarely seen female.
6980250773_dc0490df3d_bTime flies by and at 06:00 light floods into the glen. Suddenly, the birds disperse and everything falls silent. David tells me this can happen and I can’t believe the show is already over. I pour myself some coffee and look through the hide flap to see what’s going on. Suddenly the pulse races, and it’s not the caffeine kicking in. There’s a female Goshawk sitting outside the hide less than 20 feet away. I move my lens slowly to get in to position, but I can’t get a clear image of the shot. I lift up my other camera, but the Goshawk becomes suspicious and disappears as suddenly as she arrived. Momentarily I’m gutted. Then the Black Grouse start to reappear and I am engrossed again in watching these fantastic birds leap and jump and squabble with each other. Males square off against each other and put on the most amazing show. I remind myself to stop taking pictures and just enjoy the moment.
The light is getting better all the time, but the grouse are starting to thin out and when there is just one left I can hear the distant hum of the Land Rover, and I know that the shoot is coming to an end. It’s hard to draw myself away, but as the last grouse flies away I signal to David that the coast is clear and we pack our items back into the Land Rover. The grouse will be back the next day to perform the whole ritual again and I have several memory cards full of images to process — and best of all it’s only just turned time for breakfast.


The best places to watch a lek

I’ve witnessed Black Grouse leks on numerous occasions; typically at a safe distance from the car with a flask in one hand and the bins in another, or from behind a viewing screen, always adhering to the Code of Conduct. Leks are vulnerable to disturbance and it is imperative that birders and photographers don’t add to the decline of this Red-listed species by inadvertently causing disturbance. To witness a lek in the Highlands and watch Black Grouse can be completed easily at several sites.

Glenlivet Estate

Glenlivet wildlife run a specialist Black Grouse viewing experience from the comfort of a hide. Black Grouse still inhabit the upland moors of Glenlivet in good numbers. Leaving shortly before sunrise, you are taken to a hide which has been specially built so that you can view the lek. At the Black Grouse Watch you will usually also see Roe Deer, Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatcher as well as Black Grouse. You may also see Mountain Hare, Brown Hare, Raven and Red Deer as well as several other more common species.

RSPB Corrimory

The best way to see Black Grouse at Corrimony is to go on one of the guided minibus ‘safaris’ in April and May. A full list of Black Grouse safaris is available on the RSPB website.

Tulloch Moor

In most years, the RSPB put up a screen at Tulloch Moor to watch Black Grouse. Unfortunately in recent years a number of birders have arrived rather noisily, chatting and slamming car doors, which has made this site less reliable due to disturbance. The best place to get information is from the RSPB Loch Garten Osprey centre

“Where To” Guides

Where to Photograph birds and wildlife in the Scottish Highlands.

Ever wanted to know the best place to photograph wildlife in Scotland? Ever wanted to know the best, free location advice from a Scottish nature photography guide? Look no further. In association with Birdguides, ebirder have put together a growing number of guides to enable photographers and birders to successfully photograph a range of the very special birds in the Scottish Highlands and Islands

Black Grouse Photography Tips Guide (free)

bg bulletWhere to Photograph Black Grouse

Photographing a Black Grouse lek
Details of the hide photography experience
Locations to watch and photograph a lek

Crested Tit Photography Tips Guide (free)

c bullett

Where to Photograph Crested Tits

Photographing Crested Tit in the Caledonian forests
Range of options throughout the year
Best feeding stations to use in the winter
Other species available such as Red Squirrel
Find out more about our workshops

White Tailed Eagle Photography Tips Guide (free)

White Tailed Eagle buttonWhere to Photograph White Tailed Eagles

Photographing White Tailed Eagle in the Scottish Highlands on Mull and Skye
Best boat operators to choose for photography
Which lenses to choose to capture the action
Other species available such as Great Northern Diver
Find out more about our workshops

ebirder is a small, specialist photography company run by Marcus Conway. He has been running photography tours since 2005 across the Scottish Highlands and Islands. In 2012 he was awarded Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year.
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