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Cal Cottrell - wildlife photographer

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 June 2016

Cal Cottrell - Short-eared owl at Blackpool. They look around when they hear the camera shutter

Cal Cottrell - Short-eared owl at Blackpool. They look around when they hear the camera shutter

Cal Cottrell

Cal Cottrell put down his gun and picked up a camera in pursuit of Lancashire wildlife

Cal Cottrell wildlife photographer Cal Cottrell wildlife photographer

The phrase ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ fits Cal Cottrell like a falconer’s gauntlet. ‘You name it, I did it,’ he says. ‘I followed the Holcombe Hunt, went hare-coursing, fishing and shooting. My dad took me ratting, I had a lurcher for hunting, spaniels for collecting game and tried falconry. It was a bit sad really.’

Cal, who describes himself as a working class lad born and bred in Blackburn, adds: ‘I was following in my dad’s footsteps – when I was eight or nine I was out egg collecting. But as I got older I started to make up my own mind. Age has changed me. Now I’ve no wish to kill anything.’

Cal still shoots wildlife but only through the lens of camera and his work shows great promise.

The 46-year-old father-of-two hasn’t cut all ties with his past. ‘I’m still friendly with a lot of gamekeepers, partly because they are a great source of information about where to find wildlife to take pictures.

Cal Cottrell - These hares were captured near Dunsop Bridge Cal Cottrell - These hares were captured near Dunsop Bridge

‘It’s also because I can see both sides of the argument. I don’t want to kill animals but without the conservation work on shooting estates we would lose a lot of native birds.’

Cal put away his guns more than a decade ago and has been taking pictures for the last six years. ‘I just started to going to some of my old haunts in the countryside with what was a pretty cheap starter camera with a 100mm lens,’ he says. ‘I am pretty much self-taught although I have had some advice from top photographers such as Danny Green.’

Cal’s wife has most faith in his ability – without his knowledge, she entered him into a national wildlife photography competition and he was shortlisted.

Cal works as a supervisor at an engineering firm. ‘I can’t afford to buy a camera lens for £8,000 and travel to exotic places like the US and Japan so I have to concentrate on British wildlife,’ he says.

Cal Cottrell - It took Cal three months to get this picture of a weasel near Darwin Cal Cottrell - It took Cal three months to get this picture of a weasel near Darwin

‘But that’s not a hardship. There is stunning wildlife out there on our doorstep. There is a massive amount in Lancashire and one project I really want to do is otters on the River Calder.

‘Cal also helps nature along by collecting pupae and keeping them in a special tank so he can photograph them when the moths hatch.

‘Patience is the key to everything I do,’ he says. ‘I can spend four to five weeks just watching before taking out my camera. I watched a family of foxes every night, feeding them so I could get a shot of the cubs playing. It took me three days to get the shot of a kingfisher.

‘My wife puts up with me. I’m forever saying I’m just nipping out because I’ve been told there are dragon flies hatching somewhere…but I do get my ears clipped from time to time!’

Cal Cottrell - Southern hawker dragonfly. This image was taken near Bolton Cal Cottrell - Southern hawker dragonfly. This image was taken near Bolton

Cal relies on of spotters to contact him when they see animals that would make great wildlife pictures. You can contact him on 07860 484945.

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