Rothiemurchus Red Squirrel / Crested Tit Hide
Rothiermurchus estate is located adjacent to Aviemore in the Cairngorms. The estate offers visitors to the area a wide range of leisure activities including some related to wildlife photography.
The red squirrel and crested tit hide is located near to Loch an Eilein. Having booked a space in the hide, the day starts at around 8:45am in the car park at the Loch. A Rothiemurchus ranger meets you there and shows you to the hide. There is a large supply of peanuts that can be use to attract both the red squirrels and the woodland birds.
I've visited the hide twice, once in September and once in May. There were lots of squirrels about on both visits, however there was perhaps more activity during the September visit. At that time of the year though the squirrels do not have their very cute looking ear tufts, they do in May.
I understand that winter is the best time to photograph the crested tits as they do not usually come to feeders if there are more natural food sources available. I didn't see any crested tits during my September visit but did manage to get a couple of shots of one during the day I spent in the hide in May.
The wildlife is quite tolerant of people so you can be sure that if you leave the hide to put out more peanuts the squirrels and birds will be back within a few minutes.
I used a range of focal lengths during my visits to the hide. For the squirrels I typically used the range from 250mm to 420mm (I use a zoom lens). I also took a few shots at 600mm. For the birds I would recommend a 400mm or longer lens though I did take a number of shots at 300mm too. These focal lengths are based on using a 1.6x crop camera (a Canon 7D in my case).
As the hide is located in a woodland setting I found the light to be very changeable. On both days I visited there was a mixture of sunshine and showers and I had to use a wide range of ISO settings to achieve the desired shutter speed and aperture.
The hide can be booked through Rothiemurchus. Go to their website using the link on the right hand side of this page and select 'Activities' then 'On land' then 'Wildlife photography' and finally 'Red Squirrels and Crested Tits' for more details. On the website it says that you should wear a balaclava when in the hide, this is not necessary unless you want something to keep you warm.
I would recommend that anyone visiting the hide take warm clothing with them whatever the time of year. Just a couple of days after my visit in May the temperature in the area dropped to around 3 degrees centigrade with strong winds and snow!
There is a toilet located a few minutes walk from the hide. I took a little time out on each day I visited the hide in order to get lunch at the Rothiemurchus cafe which is about a five minute drive away.