Wildlife Photo Shoot with D&G Countryside Ranger Keith Kirk

Over the last couple of years since I started DGWGO as a simple Facebook page, I have met a lot of new people, many of whom I have only ever chatted to on-line to discuss D&G matters or events. One of these people is Keith Kirk. Keith is a semi pro natural history photographer and writer. He is the wildlife feature writer for D&G Life Magazine and also writes a monthly Nature Notes column for the Galloway News. His day job is a countryside ranger with Dumfries and Galloway Council, something he has been doing for over 24 years.

A few months back Keith offered me the chance to join him on a wildlife photo shoot, and he also said I would be able to use some of his amazing camera lens’s as they would fit my camera! We left it that Keith would contact me when he had a spare afternoon, and earlier this week he asked me if I could go this Sunday! Well it wouldn’t have mattered what other plans I had, I would of dropped them for this chance. But as it happened I was free anyway.

After being told that all i needed to bring was my trusty Nikon and a bite of lunch I set off to meet Keith at a top secret location, to go to one of his favourite hides . I felt very honoured to be shown the location and also chuffed to bits that I was being given this chance! It was such an education, Keith lent me a 300mm fixed lens , it was massive compared to anything I had used on my camera before and very heavy . Then I was shown the best setting’s on my camera for the light conditions where we were and for wildlife shots in the situation that we were in! It’s fantastic to be shown things like that by someone who really knows their stuff. Keith explained things to me in very simple terms , but told me so much stuff today , I will be lucky to remember a fraction of it !

But it wasn’t long before I got the chance to start taking some shots, a pair of woodpeckers arrived, my heart lifted , and I managed to get a few shots. To start with I was moving to sharply or focusing my camera too slowly , and missing lots of shots, but with listening to what I was being told, I gradually started to get one or two not bad photo’s! ( Well for a novice) . We saw lots of small bird’s including, green finch, ,siskins, great tits, chaffinch’s, and others too. We also got to photograph some jays , which Keith informed me I was very lucky to have photographed. They were fast, swooping in and out really quickly! We also had a Buzzard settle on a branch near by, but it never came close enough to get a really good shot. But by far my favourites were the wood peckers, we saw several, male , female and young ones too! After a good 3 hours and lot of chat and photographing birds, we suddenly saw a red squirrel come down one of the trees , it was really fast , Keith said he knew this one well, as it had a white tip on its tail, he said there were several in this area, but he had often seen this one. But unfortunately the wee white tipped squirrel was not for posing for a photograph. He bobbed through the long grass in front of us, then bumped about on the roof of the hide, then vanished! Even though I never got a photograph of it, it was still fantastic to see him so close up!

It was a fantastic afternoon, a great experience, and a real education . Even though I am a country person, who has lived in the countryside all my life, and I like to think I know a bit about wildlife and nature, you can never know it all, and in 4 hours this afternoon I learned more about wildlife,my camera and Dumfries and Galloway as I have done in a very long time! I must thank Keith for spending his Sunday afternoon teaching me so much . It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget, and it’s given me a real taste for wildlife photography . My fingers are crossed that I may get asked along again ! And maybe next time that squirrel will be a star on DGWGO .

Keith’s web site links are

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