Monday, 31 August 2009


...I wonder if they would help? If not there are plenty of spectacles here, read on...
Friday I had the day off to practice looking through the new bins. It was wet so I didn't bother much - there's dedication for you! I did find a single Bar-tailed Godwit outside the shop though.
Saturday was a pleasant day with no rain till the evening. We started well with a good showing of Mountain Hares and as we moved to the next location a cracking male Hen Harrier flew straight in front of us. Naturally by the time I'd stopped and got the camera out it was a bit distant but here is the shot anyway - look at that blue sky!There were regular sighting of Common Buzzard through the morning but at lunchtime things went strangely quiet. We managed to find a distant Golden Eagle but the skies were empty after that. I had a real close encounter with an Adder as I tried to relocate one that had slithered off. It was a moment of madness that won't happen again! I moved a piece of Bog Myrtle, not really expecting to find anything, only to find the Adder's head pointing straight at me - luckily I must have been just out of range! We moved on to view the Common Seals and managed to get a couple of them porpoising. Three Greenshank are still in the locality but they can be hard to find, at times, so it was nice to get them on the list. The mother and cub Otters put on a good display as I searched the ridges for big birds - still no buzzards around either. You could feel the weather was changing even though it was still pleasant. We did get cracking views of a female Peregrine that soared around for a while before going into a stoop that brought it straight over the top of us - classic. We finished the day off trying to locate a WT Eagle - all the favourite spots had been checked and we spent a lot of time scanning ridges but it was all to no avail. That's got to be the first time this year I've not located one - very strange.
Sunday started with a bit of rain but it cleared up soon enough. With little wind the dreaded midge was having a go but it also meant the Hares were easy to get too. A good gathering of Ravens indicated the presence of a sheep carcass and three Common Buzzard provided a bit of sport as we tried to photograph them.
Plenty of Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtails around but very little else so a family group of Goldfinches were pleasing to get good views of.We stopped at a gate where quite a few small birds were moving around and a pleasing haul of Greenfinch, Linnet, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and a Wren ensued. Next stop provided views of a single Golden Eagle and a few Manx Shearwater passing by amongst the masses of Kittiwake. Common Terns are still hanging around too but a surprising lack of Skuas at the moment - maybe they'll come yet. The main request for the day was for Golden Eagle so when we finally got a close one it was worth the effort........they don't get much better than this but the photos don't do the bird justice - stunner.We got a distant view of WT Eagle sitting on a ridge so there was some hope of getting a closer view if it stayed put. The weather started to change as the wind switched direction. The lochs were still pretty much flat calm but there was nothing moving out there. The birds and beasts really do know when there is going to be change. This Buzzard was looking for somewhere to sit out the front that was threatening to spoil the day.We couldn't find any sign of the WT Eagle on the ridge and no sign of Otters. The cloud base suddenly dropped and the ridges started to disappear - WTE was starting to look desperate. We stopped in what was hopefully a good location and had a cuppa. Five minutes later a WT cleared the ridge and was followed soon after by another and the rain was starting to fall. Off again for the Otter hunt, pleased with the haul up to now, but the visibility was disappearing. You could hardly see the other side of the loch but the two little heads popping up gave their presence away. We moved to a better position as the Otters moved further away so we got good views before they hauled out and disappeared behind the rocks. We called it a day as the visibility disappeared and drew a curtain on the day!

Friday, 28 August 2009


This is my hundredth post on the blog. I only started the blog to see how it easy it was and was instantly hooked. It's great to see that people read this on a regular basis and it's appreciated. I'm not as prolific as some bloggers but most of the incentive comes from getting a few photos to 'pretty it up'. It was never going to be filled with quality images as I don't have the equipment for that but getting any images at all has proved to be difficult at times. I'm still enjoying it so long may it continue!
I was hoping to get one of those spectacular opportunities to jazz this post up but it hasn't happened - no surprises there then! Tuesday was wet start and thoughts of damage limitation but we got off to a good start with 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Sanderling and a good number of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Barwits and Sanderling are always a good find up here as we only get the passage birds and they tend not to linger too long. We proceeded to get wetter but there was signs of it clearing. An Otter in the choppy water was a good find but with the rain lashing down we didn't watch it for long. Miraculously the weather cleared and we could see the ridges so the chance of Golden Eagle went from 'not a chance' to 'it's got be a dead cert now'. We bagged another couple of Otters before locating the two adult WT Eagles sitting side by side on a branch. We headed further up the glen and immediately picked up two Golden Eagle in flight. It's nice to get the lucky breaks with the weather!
Wednesday was a continuation of the showery conditions. I spent a bit of time checking out the wader situation on Loch Beg and located two Bar-tailed Godwits. I picked them up on call as they flew in but they didn't hang around for long. I had the day off to take delivery of some, well needed, new equipment. Wednesday evening I found a moth in the passageway of the pub so I took a photo or two and here is the result. Not the best and I can't find it my books. There are a few that it looks like but nothing definite - feel free to help me out. Is there a particular way of narrowing things down? Do I need to buy an expensive guide to Moths or should I just leave them as Moth sp.?Thursday - wet! With new bins and Postie on board I was hoping for a good day but the weather had other ideas. It was clear skies on Wednesday evening so most of the waders that had been hanging around took the opportunity to move on. We did get 4 Dunlin in flight and a few Redshank that wouldn't stand still and the Mountain Hares were obliging enough. There wasn't a great deal of wind and the midges were out in force. The heavens opened, we got wet, the windows steamed up and we laughed a lot at our great misfortune. The forecast said it was going to rain harder in the afternoon. The forecast was wrong for once. The rain slackened off and the midge battle began. We located an Otter and spent a lot of the time pacing up and down the road with occasional watching of the mustelid before we admitted defeat to the mighty midge. The next stop was much the same with Common Tern and RT Diver being the highlights before we were driven off. We took a chance on looking for the Adders as the sun was starting to poke through but we had no luck and didn't have time to wait around. A Red Deer hind with a calf was a nice spot and a cloud of corvids lifting from behind a distant ridge bagged us our first Golden Eagle of the day. Next on the hit list was a male WT Eagle sitting on the reef being mobbed by GBB Gull. The eagle was in full voice obviously pretty upset by the attentions of the gull. I got the camera out to capture the spectacle - fired off a few shots and gave up, it was too far away. As I put the camera away I noticed it was on the macro setting - doh!I gave it another go on the right setting and it didn't make any difference at all so not doh! after all. It was just too far away.The WT eventually flew off up the loch and we watched it go. It was heading straight for a flock of Eider. The Eagle just cruised up to the Eider then dropped to about a foot of the surface - we waited with baited breath - the feet came down and there was an almighty splash as the Eiders dived. The Eagle just carried on up the loch, probably laughing at the scare it had given the Eiders - quality viewing though. Another brief view of an Otter (picked up by Postie) just before lunch was heading in the wrong direction so we let it go. Fed and watered we headed off in search of better views of Golden Eagle. No sooner said than done! Two big birds in the sky turned out to be the juv WT Eagle and a Golden Eagle together - a great performance that ended with the WT Eagle coming in for a closer look. Another Otter further up the loch with another Golden Eagle behind us meant you didn't know where to look. The Goldie got most of the attention though. A short drive up the glen, out of the motor, bins up, a quick scan......another Golden, two Golden Eagle and then it was 3!! Stunning. We left the Goldies to watch a Kestrel hovering over the ridge - you'll not hear that very often! A quick cuppa and we were retracing our route. We bagged another good view of Golden Eagle as we scanned the hillsides for something new to look at and then the rain started again. We'd had a good day and we were happy with what we'd seen so we headed for home. One of the best sightings of the day was waiting just round a corner though. I caught a flash of something out of the corner of my eye but it was seen better by one of the guests who said it looked like a small bird of prey. It had landed just out of sight and as we drove on it came flashing in front of us - a Merlin. It's not often you get to see them on the island so it's always an exciting bird to see. It disappeared out of view so we moved forward and scanned the area to see if it had perched up again in the rain. Postie to the rescue again - 'I've got it' he says - quality. I was encouraged to get out in the blustery rain to get a shot for posterity.......well worth the effort!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Sunday, floody Sunday or......

.....floody hell! I had the day off to watch the F1 - well done Reubens - and the weather wasn't too bad until the race finished. We had a garden party to attend in the afternoon and as soon as we set off the rain started. We sat in the motor for 20 minutes waiting for the deluge to abate and it didn't happen. Long story short - it rained a lot so we headed off in search of devastation. This is what we found........a road under troubled waters.The source of the flood - clouds and the rivers on the hills.The milepost survived.Salen 20 miles - is that by boat?Under the road it goes........up through the middle of the road........and out the other side - cool! Just a regular feature on a wet day.
Monday was a complete contrast with an almost cloudless sky but the rain was hiding at the back. Back on tour again we headed for the WT Eagles first and dipped out but 2 Golden Eagle above the ridge was a good start for the day. A few Red Deer on the hillsides were worth a look but we eventually found the WT Eagles. Both the adults and the juvenile together on a hillside having a go at what appeared to be a dead sheep. The sheep wasn't dead though as we found out when one of the eagles started tearing away at it and the legs started kicking! A cow with a calf was nearby and, surprisingly, the calf was going mental chasing the eagles off! I guess they have to take every opportunity. Off for the Otters we went but no sign of them. Another WT Eagle flew over and a distant Golden Eagle kept us going. We had a bit of a flower fest after looking at the Adders. The heather is in full bloom now......the Grasshoppers are still bouncing about.........Autumn Gentian is starting to bloom........Bog Asphodel is as striking as ever even when it's gone to seed.......and Devil's Bit Scabious looking good.We left the flowers behind and about five minutes later while driving down the road I felt this sharp pain in my back - a wasp sting I thought. I stopped the motor and looked for the offending beast but there was nothing there. A quick check of the T-shirt found a soft lump on the inside - yuk - flap the T-shirt a bit and this dropped out!!!!!!!!Biggest midge bite I've had this year - b*****d! Onwards and upwards feeling a bit weird but it's all in the mind. Cracking views of Ringed Plover soon got me back on track and the Dunlin performed well too. The biggest surprise was this Common Snipe that thought we couldn't see it.Then the heavens opened so we headed back in search of the elusive Otters. We checked a few places and picked up Red-throated Diver along the way and at the last stop we were entertained by 2 Otters to complete another cracking day.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Nothing to declare

It's nothing but the same old, same old up here at the moment. No exciting sightings or exotic birds as yet but something will turn up or so they say.
Wednesday was another wet day with a bright spell in the middle. The best we could come up with initially was a drenched Buzzard on a telegraph pole.We managed to find two Otter that performed reasonably well while we picked off the regular waders on offer. While scouring the hillsides for something to move I got a very brief view of a male Hen Harrier that disappeared in the undulating landscape. With everyone on full alert it soon picked up again but again a brief view. We headed off to a different vantage point to see if we could pick it up again. The vigilance of the people on the tour was excellent and we soon picked the bird up again as it appeared as we drove down the road. Decent views of the bird were had as it crossed the loch. There was nothing else of note until we headed off for Mountain Hare and the selection of waders at Fidden. Another male Hen Harrier put in an appearance flying in front of us before giving prolonged views as it quartered the area. We watched it go down on prey and rise, victorious, before heading off. A soggy WT Eagle finished off the day as the heavens were in full spate again.
The overnight rain washed out one of the House Martin nests on the hotel next door. Two orphan birds were picked up as the parents didn't want anything to do with them after the nest fell. They have been taken into care and seem to be doing well.Thursday and Friday were booked off for the usual routine of catching up on 'stuff' so there is nothing to declare from those days! I'd checked the wader flock and scanned the ridges for Eagles with the usual success. The most interesting thing on the days off was the tale of someone trying to do a 3 point turn in a motorhome and managing to reverse over the edge of the road which left the front wheels high and dry - top quality! We've had some of the highest tides over the last few days so to see water in areas that you don't normally was a bit special - there's not much goes on around here - oooooh look, water and the boat that don't float!The Swallows are gathering in preparation for their long migration so I tried to capture a few shots as they swooped around. The dull conditions were never going to help but I could have left this space blank.Saturday was a welcome day out in the field with reasonable weather conditions too. We bagged the 'stuffed' Buzzard sitting on the same pole but a bit drier today.The young WT Eagle put on a good display of the new talent of flying. I've seen the bird doing short flights at low level but today it was up there doing it's thing and even crossed the loch twice. We picked up the mother and cub Otters before lunch and a Golden Eagle that was frustratingly against the land so it was hard to see. Another Golden Eagle put in a brief appearance before dropping out of the sky before we managed to get one sitting and another in flight at close quarters. A very obliging Northern Wheatear provided me with the opportunity to display my non-existent talents at digiscoping - voila

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Dog days

Sunday started off quite poor with very little on offer and we struggled to kick start the day. No sign of any WT Eagle in the parts of the forest we could see through the rain but we did get some Red Deer. We managed to find an Otter in the choppy water and it was a bit of a relief to see it was the dog Otter that had the open wound on it's head. He's been missing (at least I haven't seen him) for about 2 weeks so there was potential for him to have succumbed. Good to see him out there fishing well! I managed to take one photo, not a good one either, through the day so here it is - a Curlew.We did get a couple of Adders but the clouds were hanging on to the tops so no sign of any raptors. We decided to go to a different location to try for Golden Eagle if the tops were clear. We viewed the area from a distance and the ridge was under a big shower of rain. Another diversion to give the shower time to pass and off we went for the Aquila. A large raptor was seen to disappear against the hillside and not reappear so kept scanning until eventually the shout went up for Golden Eagle. There were a few people about a mile behind us on a hilltop and we could hear them shouting 'EAGLE!' from where we were. It's amazing how well the sound travels. Elated, we pushed on to see if we could bag anything else before the end of the day. The sun was now shining and the wind had dropped so we headed off for Mountain Hare. No problem with that one and got a superb bonus as a Peregrine came swooping in on a flock of Oystercatchers in the field. Naturally they scattered but the six Ravens feeding on a sheep carcase didn't budge. It was getting late in the day so we headed back to see if we could get WT Eagle. After a rapid return we got slowed down by finding another Otter just in time for it to get a big catch and we viewed it on the shore while it feasted. Our luck had certainly changed for the day. The juv WT Eagle was on display when we got back to the nest site so it was a bit of a hard day but persistence had paid off!
Monday was a different day all together, the sun was shining, hardly any wind, it was looking good. We started off with a herd of Red Deer and some cracking views of the islands offshore.A closer image of Staffa, in the foreground, Dutchman's Cap, to the right, and Tiree on the horizon. I had a scan over the sea and picked out a Basking Shark but as we watched the numbers grew until we had 4 sharks all feeding in the same area - fantastic. Back down the road we went and a request for a comfort break came just in time to see these two Red Deer at close quarters.Onwards again and another chance stop gave us great views of a juv WT Eagle flying overhead - a bit slow with the camera though!Great views of roosting Greenshank and Golden Plover were had on the way to lunch where we bagged a female Hen Harrier, 2 Golden Eagle and 2 Adders.We headed for the beach to let the kids have some time to burn off some energy. On the way down we had a cracking male Merlin fly in front of the motor and also bagged another Golden Eagle, Black Guillemot and a stunning Grey Wagtail.
Tuesday is bleak. It's still raining now and I'm still wet! I had a request for Hares, Otters and WT Eagle - nothing difficult to find then. We headed off for Mountain Hare and bagged three of them as soon as we stepped outside - cool! Common Buzzard, Raven, Stonechat, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Northern Wheatear - the list just grew and grew and then rain started in earnest. Next goodie in the bag was an Otter. We watched it for quite a while hoping it would come ashore but he was happily munching away on everything he caught. It was a good feed too as he must have came up with a fish just about every time! While having lunch we picked up a grand selection of waders including the regular Golden Plover and a cracking sumplum Turnstone. Another two Otters cuddling up on the seaweed got the afternoon off to a good start and then an adult WT Eagle sitting out the rain in a conifer completed the task for the day. Red Deer were seen in good numbers but the stag at close quarters on the way back was the star of the show.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Water, water, everywhere...

Thursday was a stunning day that turned out to be easy as pie. I had a pick up in the middle of the route so it was a toss up which way to go. We decided that Otter were high on the 'must see' list so we headed back towards Loch Beg. We picked up the Common Seals and a flock of 30 Golden Plover, the cameras came out in force so I had to digiscope everything for 4 people - time consuming but worth it. We got round to the loch to find mum and cub, cuddling up, asleep on the rocks.I scanned round the ridges while the Otters slept on and noticed a bird perched prominently. It was a Golden Eagle but distant. We headed off for a closer view and on arrival discovered a second bird perched on the ridge. We hung around for a while to see if they would fly but had no luck with that. One of the guests managed to delete all the photos on her camera so we had to go back to the Otters again - what a hardship;-) Off for the WT Eagle next. How easy can it be? We arrived to find absolutely nothing! We scanned the ridges and waited. Finally a large bird of prey appeared which turned out to be the young WT Eagle - first time I've seen this bird in flight, fantastic. That was pretty much everything sewn up for the day but we did get 2 Adders, a flock of 40 Siskin, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and 3 Mountain Hares for other highlights.Friday was forecast to be one of the wettest days since the winter - boy were they right! We started down at Fidden in the rain and wind. We got the usual array of waders and small birds but no sign of any Hares. Stopping at various locations was just getting us wetter and not producing a great deal but things brightened up when we bagged 2 Otters. It was lashing it down at the time and the Otters were left to their own devices before too long. We sailed on down the road looking at waterfalls and streams that were increasing in intensity by the minute. Lunch was a damp affair and getting out in the rain was almost pointless. Getting up into one of the glens was a bit of an eye opener. One side of the road was a river and the other side was a lake! The river was in good spate........and the spray was being blown around too - pretty spectacular stuff.We checked out a few more waterfalls before heading back to see if we could locate a WT Eagle. We actually hit a spell of weather where we could see further than ten yards and immediately picked up a bedraggled WT Eagle sitting in a tree. Ten minutes later we couldn't see the tree! One of the roads was flooded on the way back but not enough to stop us getting through. We'd managed to have a superb day, picking up a decent amount of wildlife, despite the weather conditions.
Saturday was looking good as we set out in sunshine but the showers were coming through too. It was like a game of cat and mouse trying to get out in the dry spells. At least we could see the rain coming! First stop of the day was for WT Eagle and we missed it! One of the birds had just flown off and there was no sign of anything else. We ploughed on, keeping our eyes on the ridges. It nearly always pays off and it wasn't long before we had Golden Eagle being mobbed by a couple of Raven. A good herd of Red Deer hinds were found with one of the youngsters suckling being the highlight. We headed off in pursuit of Otter as the rain seemed to be taking control of the day. Hooded Crow, Cormorant, Greenshank, curlew and the like, kept us interested along the way. The lochs were chopping up pretty bad in the strengthening wind - was this going to thwart the Otter hunt? 'Never!' he cried. We had a clear spell with another shower fast approaching so we doubled our efforts, eyes streaming, until a little brown head was found poking through the waves. The Otter chewed on the fish long enough to get it in the scope and everyone managed a view before the rain stopped play again! These House Martins seem to have been in the nest forever but finally they look as if they may go.While we were taking a few snaps of these I thought I'd better check the shore for waders and the like. While scanning around another Otter appeared on the rocks - a much better view this time. It went back in the water and then out again followed by another Otter. It was the mum and cub giving us a bit of a show - superb stuff! We stopped to get a look at these Greylag Geese......put your left wing in, your left wing out etc...they paddled and preened, flapped and honked but they weren't going to fly. We found 5 RB Mergs while we were watching the geese. The next stop we had proved to be the sighting of the day,'s a Gannet, if your wondering and it was dead before they got there. The WT Eagles obligingly flew a short distance to show off their huge wingspan. I finally managed to get a shot of one of the Adders that I keep mentioning - this was just before the heavens opened again!We carried on down the road getting some superb views of Goldfinches, Stonechat, Linnet, Dunlin and no views of Hares! We'd had a good 'un though. The heavens opened properly on the way back and tried to spoil things but one of the WT Eagles was sitting close to the road. We'd stopped already but we were looking the other way but when we clapped eyes on him there was much fumbling of cameras and windows being opened and he was off! Too quick for me. I managed to get a shot through a double thickness of tinted window, between a head the edge of the window. Quite an achievement, I think;-)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Stinky weather

Tuesday was a real stinker of a day but the goods were produced eventually. We started off with nothing but pouring rain and it just got wetter. The best we could do was a quick look at a WT Eagle sitting in a tree before it was obscured by a deluge of the wet stuff and pick off the usual waders and LBJ's. I decided to make a dash for Fidden to have lunch and hopefully get some brighter weather to catch us up - it rained some more! The Dunlin and Skylarks were showing well but spirits were starting to sag a little. We got flagged down to help out a tourist with a flat tyre on a hire car - it didn't have the socket for the locking nut on the alloys and he actually had two flat tyres! Driving through the potholes always does that - phoned the rescue service and left him to it. In the meantime the rain had stopped and it was starting to look good. The Buzzards were up in the air at last......and we stopped off to look for Otters but that was forgotten about as a Golden Eagle put in an appearance. A quick diversion up a track gave us superb views of this giant in the air and perched up (or down as it was on the ground). The Goldie disappeared and just as we were going to leave this appeared.....Not the best shot in the world but a cracking view of WT Eagle. Spirits were lifted and there was smiles all round as we left. Another shout for a raptor clearing a nearby rise had me reversing up the road to view a female Hen Harrier - cracking stuff. We headed off in search of an Otter after that. A good scan around the shorelines was producing nothing at all but on the final look around a head popped up from behind a rock, yawned and there was our final prize. The dog Otter gave himself a good wash and brush up before heading away from his bed but closer to us. A superb end to another day in the field.
Today proved to be one of the hardest days I've had this year. We started well with the Dunlin performing superbly, four Buzzards buzzing each other and the same number of Raven joining in. The Purple Loosestrife is still looking good in the fields.But then it all went pear shaped - the rain came charging in and spoilt everything! Undeterred we ploughed on but it was all common stuff apart from a very brief male Hen Harrier. No Otters, no Golden sign of any activity at the WT Eagle site...oh dear. We waited and waited for something to happen. It was pushing 3pm before we caught sight of a WT Eagle flying our way......she came closer and closer before dropping food off for the youngster who just appeared out of nowhere on the nest!This is the first sighting of the young bird I've had since it fledged in July - double bonus! We headed off in search of an Otter after we watched the adult fly away again. Another hard look around the shoreline eventually turned one up. It was a dog Otter again but this time the fishing was on land. He was digging away under the seaweed covered rocks and actually came out with a fish. Two Herons started stalking him after that! The clouds were starting to lift off the tops so headed for a good viewing area to have a cuppa and scan the ridges. Five minutes in and BINGO two Golden Eagles flying together - they were distant but it was a good view in the scope. We decide to try our luck somewhere else to get better views. No luck with Goldies but a cracking adult WT Eagle sitting on a rise was just the job. We couldn't ask for anything more so we called it a day.