Thursday, 30 April 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
We got a cracking view of a male Hen Harrier while we were demolishing the lunch and my first view of a Dipper this year. One of last years young Adders was sunning itself on the path but I'd left the camera in the motor - fool that I am! Another Otter was picked up in Loch Beg but it managed to give us the slip so we moved on to the WT Eagle. There were 2 WT Eagle in flight with a Golden Eagle in close company with them. We attempted to get closer but it wasn't to be. As we headed back we picked up an Otter settling down to sleep on the shore so we watched for a while. Just as were getting ready to move on the female Otter with 2 cubs hauled out right next to the dog!! That held us for another 20 minutes while we watched the four beasts alternately fishing and wandering along the shore - absolutely stunning!
The Puffins were edging ever closer to us and starting to fly around from their watery starting point. A Great Skua gave a brief fly over view but didn't deter the birds from coming to the burrows. After about 15 minutes of waiting we had our first Puffin at our feet - stunning. Most people had headed for Fingal's Cave and the rest of the folk had walked further on so we had these birds to ourselves. The camera was kept very busy and I could post a dozen or so shots but one will do the trick.
We did have 2 birds appear from a burrow that had been busy refurbishing - muddy bills and dirty chests made a change from the pristine birds. All too soon it was time to leave but I'll be back out there again later in the year when they have young to feed.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Friday was an absolute stinker weatherwise - overcast and raining all day. Not the best conditions for photos but always exciting for birds at this time of year. The guests were enthusiastic despite the weather and we went for damage limitation making the best of a bad one - boy, were we surprised! 64 species seen on the day with some nice surprises along the way. We got Otter and WT Eagle early in the day with good views of a few GN Diver. The loch was reasonably calm so it wasn't too long before we had Black-throated Diver on the list too. Black Guillemot was a requested bird for the day and we managed to find one bird amongst the Razorbill and Guillemot - they can stay down for quite a while so it was a patience game with that! Best sighting of the day had to go to the Cuckoo that was being mobbed by a Stonechat. The Cuckoo had the regulation large caterpillar hanging from it's beak and the Stonechat spent a lot of time trying to sit on the Cuckoos head - superb. Poor light and distant for the camera was never going to produce anything good but here is an action shot anyway....
We saw 3 summer plumage Red-throated Diver, 3 flyby Dunlin and a male Hen Harrier on our travels but the best was still to come at Fidden. A great selection of birds and an Island tick for me. We picked up a Mountain Hare in a field and we'd noted the flock of birds present too. The Scope was set up to look at the Hare and scan through the 300 Golden Plover. Amongst these stunning birds were a few Dunlin so we set about trying to get a guesstimate when all of a sudden they were off - there must have been about 50 Dunlin there. We drove on and located a flock of Curlew type birds in the distance - careful approach revealed it was 15 Whimbrel. They were obliging so I nabbed a shot.
We decided to take a tea break to see what else was around. The Plovers and Dunlin were doing regular flying displays and a couple of Mountain Hare were encouraging the cameras to come out. A shout went up for Black-tailed Godwit flying above the Golden Plover. Sure enough there were six birds.......nope there is another flock approaching...they headed in our direction giving a superb flyby before settling in a field. They seemed to increase every time we looked so 28 was the final number of these birds. A couple of the birds were colour ringed but I could only get the rings on one bird. It's been submitted so I'll post the response when I get it. A Purple Sandpiper was picked up minding it's own business on a distant rock but this was my 'Mull tick' for the day - tremendous. We stalked the Mountain Hare to get some shots for the 'big camera' guys - got them down to 5 yards so another result. A fantastic day all round, I'm sure you'll agree.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
I took delivery of a new camera in the afternoon but I had to wait for the battery to charge up before I could use it. We had decent views of Hen Harrier, heard a Cuckoo and a Whimbrel that we couldn't locate.
Wednesday was a better day weatherwise and I was armed with the Panasonic FZ28 hoping for some close encounters. Fidden was the starting point for the day and it didn't disappoint. 100 Golden Plover, a few Wheatear, cracking views of Meadow Pipit and Skylark, 3 Whimbrel flying by with a Curlew in tow. We moved on to Uisken where a Raven calling in alarm resulted in seeing a White-tailed Eagle flying over. No sign of the Geese or the Godwit so the camera remained unused. Stunning views of a male Hen Harrier at lunchtime but too distant for a snap and still no Adders - they'll be back. The first attempt with the camera came not too long after lunch with a cracking Great Northern Diver just offshore - result. I couldn't have done this with the digiscoping kit.Otters were next on the hitlist and it didn't take too long. As I was searching the far shore the shout went up for 2 Otters on the near shore. Out with the camera again and it didn't disappoint. This photo has caused a bit of hilarity as it looks like a cross between a bear and a beaver! It wasn't a bad effort for the first attempt but there will be better to come I'm sure. We managed to find another 2 Otters but they were distant, another WT Eagle got on the list and right at the death we bagged 2 Golden Eagle.
I did try to photograph the first WT Eagle but when I switched the camera on all I could see was a photo of Sunny, our cat, and in a panic I couldn't figure out how to get the thing into shooting mode - it won't happen again!
Monday, 20 April 2009
We started the day in style with a Golden Eagle flying low over the ridge and also perched on the hillside. A stroll along the beach gave excellent views of Ringed Plover, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Sand Martin and an elusive Willow Warbler in the scrub. You always see Great Black-backed Gulls on the beach too and on returning to the motor I was asked about the difference between GBB and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Smaller, gentler looking bird with a grey, rather than black, back and yellow legs is the easy way to go but the best way is to find one at the same time - we got a stunning view of one while I was explaining things and another one to photograph in Bunessan.Just before lunch we had stunning views of a dog Otter on the shore munching on a fish. We were looking down on this beast so when he went off fishing again you could follow him in the clear water - stunning........but it made me hungry watching him eat. Lunchtime was the usual 'keep your eyes open' affair. A look round for Adders produced nothing so I guess they are off hunting Hares;-) The birds of prey all want to be the star of the show at the same time so after eating lunch in peace it all happened in a flash.....a distant Golden Eagle, a male Hen Harrier, 2 female Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Raven then four Hen Harrier and a Buzzard all together and then they were gone again - bizarre!
The afternoon was a leisurely affair but just as exciting with four more Otters seen, a mother with 2 cubs and the dog, stunning views of GN Divers with some in summer plumage and an adult White-tailed Eagle flying through a glen. I managed to see a Cuckoo that we could all hear calling but it was a distant speck - they will be a good feature through the coming weeks as they perform very well up here.
My local Barn Swallows have eventually made it back and it's a real treat to hear the male chittering and buzzing from the wire outside. The song is not unlike the transfer of data you get when you ring a fax machine - I wonder if he's sending messages long distance! Welcome home.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
On a lighter note I found my first migrant Common Sandpiper on Thursday having previously seen them in Devon in January. White Wagtail were out in force too with at least 6 down at Fidden - very smart looking birds they are so the camera will have to come out at some point.
I had a quick look round Loch Beg this morning to see what changes there are. The Redshank have reduced in numbers with only 6 found but Greenshank are up to 4, the 2 Shelduck are still putting in appearances, the Ringed Plover are difficult to find but still present and the Ring-billed Gull is still here. The Eider numbers are creeping up with at least 10 today and very photogenic. Plenty of aggravation going on with the females seeming to instigate most of it. As you can see this Eider has found a jet ski to impress the ladies........
After all the pushing and shoving they get tired and haul out in a huff - it doesn't look like anyone is speaking in this shot!
Just around the corner from the Eiders I stumbled upon a pair of Grey Wagtail that were collecting nesting material. It was all a bit gruesome to watch as they wandered in amongst the bones of a dead sheep pulling out bits of wool. Much better to see the pose on top of a rock!
I had 2 GN Divers nicely lined up for photos and got distracted by a Willow Warbler for a couple of minutes - no sign of any Divers when I looked back! You can't have a trip around the loch without looking for Otters and it wasn't too long before I had one hauled out on the rocks with a fish. A cracking view through the scope but the heat haze coming off the grass in front put paid to any ideas of photos.
Thursday, 16 April 2009
It was worth the wait to get the light for those photographs but we managed to get another Golden Eagle and a male Hen Harrier while I was busy!
We had a fairly impressive list for the day already and the Otters were the only thing we hadn't seen. A supposedly quick stop at the shop turned into a long stop when I picked up this Ring-billed Gull. As you can see it was a battle with the light to get a decent photo but this shot shows the bird quite well. Possibly a first for Mull as, I think, the last record got thrown out.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Lunchtime was much the same with a Golden Eagle picked up almost immediately only for it to drop out of sight before anyone else saw it. It made another couple of brief appearances before finally clearing the ridge with another bird in tow. They were always distant but prolonged views meant everyone saw them in the scope. We thought the show was over when they disappeared but how wrong we were. Three Golden Eagles appeared from a closer ridge and proceeded to give excellent views with two youngsters chasing each other about and an adult bird displaying. The youngsters didn't seem to notice the adult bird so a show of force was necessary. The adult bird gained a bit of height and came diving down to the youngsters with talons out. It certainly scared the hell out of the Buzzards as at least 6 of them appeared from the trees trying to get above the warring Eagles! What a sight.
There was no way of topping what we had just witnessed but another Otter was a surprise find and the Mountain Hares showed well. Stunning views of the Lapwings and a couple of Golden Plover kept us going. Best sighting of the day had to go the Skylark that did a slow fly by at head height, singing all the way, then landing right in front of us - stunner.
I finally managed to clap eyes on the Willow Warbler this morning and I thought I'd try for a photograph - fool that I am! I've been after it all day and I've had stunning views but not a single photo was taken. Scanning the ridges in between bouts of trying to snap the Warbler was quite productive with 5 Golden Eagles, 1 male Hen Harrier and an adult White-tailed Eagle straight overhead. So the only photograph I got today is shown below and it's not a Willow Warbler!!
Friday, 10 April 2009
A trip down to Uisken gave up good scenic views rather than good birds although we did have brief views of a distant juv WT Eagle. The stop for lunch was a race against time as there seemed to be showers approaching from the NW. This Adder was still basking in the sunshine as we arrived and if we'd been 10 minutes later, when the first shower arrived, we probably wouldn't have seen it.
Distant views of 2 Hen Harrier, one male, one female, wasn't unexpected but still a treat. A Golden Eagle drifted past low against the hillside. With the sun shining on the bird it was nice to pick up the colour on the bird through the scope before the next shower came charging through. The wind was starting to pick up and the loch was sporting 'white horses' - not a good sign for finding Otters. We tried a few locations with no luck but we still had Loch Beg to do. We were saved the hassle of looking when we spotted a group of people all looking in the same direction on the water and sure enough an Otter was added to the list. As we were watching the antics of the Otter leaping out of the water to bury itself under the waves a couple of gulls started alarm calling in the distance. A quick look upwards and there was a WT Eagle flying over - class! It soon dropped over the ridge but it wasn't gone for long. A Golden Eagle made a brief appearance closely followed by the WT Eagle which flew over the top of us again with another 2 birds of the same species in tow! These birds circled around for ages and gave a fantastic display that just got better and better. They were joined by a fourth bird and eventually 5 WT Eagle all in the same view was just stunning. Lots of interaction between the birds too with the odd Buzzard coming for a look but keeping their distance.
Thursday, in comparison, was an absolute stinker. The cloud base was low and the wind was brisk to say the least. The highlights are different every day and the total species seen differs slightly but you make the best of it. We managed to see a Slow Worm but no Adder, a female Hen Harrier at close quarter cheered up a quiet lunch and the Mountain Hares showed very well despite the conditions. The bird of the day was the male Hen Harrier that allowed us to follow it down the road at no more than 20 yards away - there is always a gem. We'd struggled for Otter through the day too but right at the last we found one asleep on bare rock which is unusual and it was soon awake and showing well. A fitting end to a difficult day.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
I was also too slow for my first Swallow of the year, or rather the camera was, I saw it and the camera didn't. He might be round later on this evening if the conditions are good so I might get another chance. He was keeping loose company with 4 Sand Martins which usually appear out the front.....right now....they just flew past the window.
The flock of Greenshank have increased from 2 to three birds so there is a fair bit of 'argy-bargy' there too. I managed to get a photo of two of them together and the third is just out of shot.
I tried to get a decent shot of the Ringed Plover but they weren't close enough...yet. I had a quick scan of the ridges and picked up a Golden Eagle being harassed by a Raven so that passed a bit of time. The tide normally changes in the wink of an eye but it takes forever when your waiting for it. It got there eventually and all the Ringed Plover flew off.......apart from one. He was a bit huffy at first and wouldn't turn round but a quad bike backfiring had him taking a bit more notice - another underrated bird full of charm and beauty!
Monday, 6 April 2009
Back down on the beach the rock formations are superb with the Mica Schist glistening in the sun.
The trip back from the beach gave us superb views of a male Hen Harrier hunting beside the road. It's always nice when you don't have to try too hard!