From their wintering grounds in North Africa dotterel head north. With traditional stopping-off points a ‘trip’ of dotterel may appear on the summit of Pendle Hill, Lancashire before reaching the Cairngorms in mid-May to coincide with a hatching of craneflies, an abundance of insects.
Amongst granite boulders on the summit plateau of Cairngorm Mountain we spy out wildlife: a silver-blue mountain hare stretched out in the sun, snow-bunting and dotterel. Lugging a telescope up a mountain is arduous but essential if we are to see wildlife well. We study dotterel through scope and binoculars but framing a photograph is tricky and I’m not alone in lining-up from the head of an obliging photographer in camouflage gear.
Respecting wildlife is the ethos behind a birding trip and our leader instils this into us. So when I see-saw off a shared granite boulder into the gravel an urgent whisper cautions me not to show against the skyline.
The images I use in my books and in blogs are my own. The immediacy and essence of experience is my subject, always. So word and image are integral. On this Birding in the Highlands trip eight of us shared telescopes and the dotterel of Cairngorm Mountain. So I am grateful to Ian Jenkins and Malcolm Taylor who captured the best images of dotterel with powerful cameras and generously share them here.
I first saw dotterel years ago, in what was then Yugoslavia. We were up in the mountains and had ample time to contemplate the bird- none of us knew what it was. I had recently joined Bristol Ornithological Club so I asked everyone to tell me what feature struck them about our bird. I wrote it all down, random and haphazard as it was, handed it to a respected birder who instantly said dotterel.