Monday, 30 March 2009
What a weekend that was! Friday was a waste of a day with a strong Northerly wind blowing which had us wondering if the caravan might blow away! It didn't so we're happy. The wind was still pretty fierce on Saturday morning and forecast to die down through the day. Saturday afternoon was like a Summers day, in comparison, and the birds were out to prove it. Four White-tailed Eagles soaring above the shop at one point and checking round the ridges produced another one with a male Hen Harrier not too far away. The Golden Plover flock hasn't increased any but they are looking splendid in their Summer dress.
We had the stick makers dinner on Saturday night and although we didn't win anything I did get a second place for a matching pair.
Sunday was a day of two halves with pleasant weather in the morning so a quick scoot round the loch to see what was on offer. This male Wheatear gave a brief opportunity to get a photo and the first one I have photographed this year. Only one Otter on the loch this morning but easy enough to find. The numbers of RB Merg are on the increase with at least 10 present.
We had lunch near the Seal colony and so did a Herring Gull. There were two Shag fishing in the shallows and one of them came up with a fish which the Herring Gull promptly stole!! Anything for the easy meal.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Monday was a complete blow away day and that included the washing that had been hung out! Despite the high winds I made an attempt to get out as it wasn't raining. As soon as I had got myself in the motor and I was waiting for some traffic to get past a large bird appeared.......an expletive was uttered......White-tailed Eagle labouring against the wind......only about 50 yards away and no chance of getting the camera - what a sight though. I had just enough time to get Little Yin outside for a quick view before it disappeared round the trees. About 4 hours later we noticed the birds on the near shore leaving in a panic and it was the White-tail crossing back over the loch.
It was looking like a pleasant day when I stepped outside this morning but it clouded over and the heavens opened - hmmmm I'm still going out! Checking out Loch Beg was a real treat as the water was flat calm, the Curlews were displaying and a few Snipe were calling too. Rock Pipits chasing each other about, a Pied Wagtail chirruping to itself on the shore, 3 female RB Mergs with a single male were 'grazing' the shallows for fish and I call this my office!! A Red-throated Diver put in an appearance but wouldn't stay up long enough for a bad photo never mind a good one. Great Northern Divers were visible for miles down the loch with at least 10 counted in the view that I had.
An Otter was soon on the list and heading away from me so I moved on to get in front of it and just waited.........just enough light to get a snap!
The Heron at the start of this post flew in as the Otter moved off. I followed the Otter as it made it's way towards the middle of the loch at speed and I was surprised to see a Common Seal surface right in front of it. They don't interact too much but I was pleased to see the Seal just carry on swimming. I turned back to the Grey Heron on the shore and he was at full stretch and looking good. They look absolutely splendid in these light conditions but the photographs never do them justice. It takes something for a bird to shine in dull weather but these guys manage it.
It's nice to see a bit of Summer plumage coming through on the GN Divers and you can make out some of the spots on the back of this bird. It won't be too long before there are some tasty looking birds around!
Monday, 23 March 2009
The 100 Golden Plover were still in the fields so I made the attempt of getting a photo of one of the male birds. The wind was howling which didn't help but this is the best of a bad bunch.
A very brief glimpse of a Wheatear was bettered a little later on with 2 birds (a male and female) keeping close company. Lunch was spent cloud watching more than anything else with the tops out of view more than anything else. A brief flurry of activity livened things up when a Golden Eagle cleared the ridge closely followed by a Hen Harrier. The Harrier was a male, flying with a purpose, that was joined by a female coming out of the forest and a food pass was made. The male headed off immediately and was joined by another female bird and eventually all 3 birds were seen together - result!
A group of 6 Ringed Plover at close quarters were nice to see and another Otter asleep on the rocks had me reaching for the camera but I achieved nothing in the strengthening wind. A GN Diver feeding close to the shore was nice to see but I wasn't going to be thwarted again so the camera stayed put. Grey Herons aplenty along the shoreline were favouring the more sheltered spots and the Primroses are now starting to flower in good numbers. Two White-tailed Eagles finished off a day of difficult conditions but it shows you can still have good sightings on a bad day.
Saturday, 21 March 2009
On the trip back to base we managed to add 20 Eider, 2 Common Scoter and a female Hen Harrier was a welcome addition to the list of the 53 species we saw on the day.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
You could hear a pin drop it was that quiet so a bit of a splash off to the right had me waiting for something to surface not too far away.......another Otter and this time close enough for a quick shot.A Red-throated Diver still in winter plumage, but reasonably close, was a nice bird to see but getting the camera out put paid to that. They can travel a reasonable distance under water and this one gave a prime example of that as it headed for open water - maybe next time. We took in the WT Eagles and a few Stags along the way but a group of birds on the loch, backlit, were worth a second glance. A group of 11 Whooper Swan had dropped in for a short rest before moving on North again.Another location was looking pretty dire until an explosion of birds from the forestry had me diving for the scope. First bird in the scope was a male Hen Harrier with a Kestrel mobbing it. I checked the rest of the birds and was surprised to see it was 2 male and 2 female Hen Harriers with a pair of Kestrel mobbing them - quality! A White-tailed Eagle sitting on a rock gave us the opportunity to check the plumage of a sub adult bird with the bill all yellow and the plumage fairly plain it was a 3 year old bird. I was just reaching for the camera when it flew off.
Lunchtime gave us our first sighting of Golden Eagle with 2 birds circling round and gaining height rapidly and soon lost to view. I checked out the frogs spawn which has all hatched now.
In the same pool were 2 Palmate Newts which were nice to see but no sign of any Adders anywhere. I guess they had warmed up early on and were out feeding. I had to go back there this morning to check for Adders and also to get the photo of the wee tadpoles! A nice stroll on the beach produced nothing more exiting than a few Rock Pipits and our last call of the day bagged another Hen Harrier and also my first Mountain Hares of the year in the daylight.
Here is the Adder from this morning.......
......and some Primroses that are now starting to show.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
St Patrick's Day was a day spent with guests and I got a flying start with a stunning male Hen Harrier. We managed to get a good tally of 50 species of birds throughout the day with nice views of the White-fronted Geese (32) and cracking views of the Skylarks, Lapwings with a couple of Common Snipe zig-zagging to keep us on our toes.
A distant view of 2 Golden Eagle whetted the appetite for closer views and a close female Hen Harrier was photographed but not by me! I've got to get one of these Lumix FZ18's. Male Sparrowhawks seemed to be out in force with 3 seen through the day but the entertainment prize has to go to the Eagles.
We picked up a group of 4 Golden Eagle youngsters that were building their aerial skills by dive bombing each other and talon touching. This was viewed over some distance but the spectacle was superb. We headed off for lunch when all 4 birds settled down otherwise we would have been there all day! I picked up another 3 Hen Harrier and a Golden Eagle at lunchtime but again distant views. With all this activity it wasn't going to be long before a White-tailed Eagle was on the list and sure enough I picked one up but again distant. This was to be the sighting of the day for me. The WT Eagle was initially on it's own as it cleared the ridge but another bird soon followed. They dropped in front of the ridge so we could see that these birds were not adults and I was stunned as they cleared the ridge again and got them in profile and they touched talons - it was a young WT Eagle with a sub adult Golden Eagle!! I'm doubting there was any animosity as it was the White-tail dropping down on the Goldie and normally you get the Goldies chasing off the White-tails. Who knows what was going on but it was a superb sighting anyway.
Another stop produced 2 White-tails a juv bird and a stunning adult that filled the view of the scope - could we take any more? Well we still hadn't seen an Otter so that was next on the list.......the photograph tells it all zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! We checked on this beast about an hour later and he was still in the same position.
A visit to a WT Eagle nest site produced another surprise as a young bird from 2005 was standing on the nest! Obviously the owners of the nest were not in attendance so we waited for a while and eventually the youngster took to the air because...........the adults were returning. The adults were touching talons while the youngster watched probably picking up tips for later in life. A Common Buzzard joined the fray and proceeded to bomb one of the adult birds. A superb size comparison and great to see the Eagle flip over and show the Buzzard what it might get if it's not careful. They started to drift off but it wasn't over yet as 2 Golden Eagles appeared from nowhere and circled round with the WT Eagles! The WT Eagles touched talons and the male Golden Eagle was doing the stooping display - fantastic!!
Today will be different I'm sure but no less exciting so let's start with the sun up!!
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Migrants are still few and far between but you can see the change in numbers of birds if nothing else with the likes of Lapwing and Skylark very noticeable now. It was nice to see these 6 Whooper Swans that probably dropped in last night and no sooner did I have them photographed they were on their way again. The ringtail Hen Harrier was quartering the area around the Whoops but I'm sure it wasn't responsible for seeing them on their way!
After putting up a new shop sign this morning I thought it might be an idea to see if there were any Wheatears around. These birds seem to appear along the Eastern side of Mull a couple of weeks before I get them on my patch so I was heading for Loch na Keal. It was hard to miss these two White-tailed Eagle sitting in the conifer trees. A lovely couple, side by side, with the female bird just about to give the male bird a cuddle (or a slap for eyeing up some other bird - what's he looking at anyway?).
It was blowing a bit of a hoolie on Loch na Keal but it was a pleasant afternoon of birding. We flushed a Redwing from the side of the road that just didn't bother stopping once it took flight and then a couple of Mistle Thrush that did the same thing. I had to get out the motor to see if there was someone strapped to the front chasing everything off - there wasn't though. The birds on the water were behaving in a better manner with some cracking views of Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Black Guillemot. The Oystercatchers on the side of the road are absolutely stunning and so are the Curlew that are starting to grow in numbers now. A decent number of Shelduck (10) were fighting against the stormy wind near Inch Kenneth
A rare bit of shelter gave me an opportunity to get the camera out for this Raven that was working it's way along the rocks with it's mate.
A quick check to see if the WT Eagles were still cuddling up but the tree was bare. The birds were just in the process of leaving, so watching them circle round before disappearing from view was a treat.
Friday, 13 March 2009
About half a mile further down the road a large raptor cleared the ridge and set off a couple of Great Black-backed Gull. You always run the risk of these birds dropping out of sight before you can get a good look but this bird just sailed along the ridge and gave me the chance to get it in the scope. A cracking view of a first winter White-tailed Eagle.
This Great Northern Diver was fishing in the shallows and provided an opportunity for a close look and a few snaps. A real beast of a bird and the beam of the bird is just immense! How wide do you need to be?
Look at the size of that bill too. There were at least 10 GN Diver, 6 RT Diver, 4 Razorbill and numerous Shag out on Loch Scridain. The forecast for the weekend looks a bit breezy but Monday night might be just right for another count of the Divers.
A view out towards Staffa and the Treshnish Isles produced another year tick in the shape of a single Gannet scything through the increasing wind with ease.
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Wednesday was a bit of a wash out but the Golden Plover, Shelduck, various waders were all still present and a Yellowhammer was singing out the back of the shop. I spent most of the afternoon staking this bird out and never seen it once!
I stepped out this morning to see if the Shelduck were still present and found they had morphed into 2 Whooper Swan overnight - it must be funny water out there!
I spent the rest of the morning watching the final touches being made to the White-tailed Eagle nest - a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours. A Golden Eagle giving an all too brief burst of displaying was a nice supporting act.
I guess I was inspired by the WT Eagles doing housework and I went home to do some chores (I'll get some ribbing for that) and watch the feeders in case the Yellowhammer put in an appearance. Chaffinches are abundant up here the same as most places but a treat to watch as they squabble over the dining table and they aren't keen on any other birds joining in. The Coal Tits dash in and dash back out again, Great Tits will stand their ground but are usually beaten by the numbers and best of all is watching a Collared Dove being harassed by a Chaffinch!
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
A Black-throated Diver was next on the hit list and he was playing hard to get. A bit of perseverance got this shot. The usual suspects were around but nothing photogenic. The Black Guillemot numbers seem to be rising daily or it could be the summer plumage is easier to spot. A total of 4 RT Diver today with only the one in summer dress.
Another Otter was making a bee line for the rocks not too far away from me so I set up an ambush and got a nice shot as he crested the rise. Only one shot as he went straight back in the water - digiscoping is great for things like that!
I did get a nice profile in the water though.
As I was heading for my next stop a juv WT Eagle was flying in the opposite direction - cue handbrake turn and back down the road. Sadly it landed out of sight and despite trying from a few vantage points it had found the ideal hiding place.
I had a walk around to see if there were any more but it seemed he was the only one. The waterfall was looking good after all the rain and a Golden Eagle was patrolling the ridge in the distance. A strange one that I did see near the waterfall was a hovering bird with little or no tail. A look through the bins gave up the Kestrel but it sure looked strange without a tail!
I checked the few pools in the area for frogspawn and it was there but not in any great mass. You can see the frost damage on this clump but the rest of it is quite far on with half grown tadpoles already - marvellous!
I checked out the Common Seals on the way back and counted at least 70. With the wind blowing in my face it was carrying the sound of the seals moaning with the odd call from a GN Diver out on the Loch - very atmospheric. A check of the distant ridges here produced another Golden Eagle.
No real changes with the numbers of birds on Loch Beg at the minute except the arrival of 2 Shelduck and the Rock Pipits have started their parachute display flights. I just need a Wheatear to say it's Spring!
Monday, 9 March 2009
Saturday night saw the weather break briefly and the wind dropped too so an opportunity to get a nice reflecting image from the doorstep. It's an awesome sight every time and you have to get an image - I could probably fill a book with the selection I have!
Earlier on Saturday I had been volunteered to help out with someone moving house. As I was waiting for the wagon load of furniture I was parked overlooking Loch Scridain with the rain lashing against the windows when something caught my eye. What I had seen was something akin to a torpedo flying through the water which I knew would turn out to be a duck of some sort. I cleared the windscreen and peered through the bins to find a female Goosander that was hunting fish. I'm sure most folks have seen the likes of Mallards powering themselves through the water in a similar fashion. What was awesome about this was watching the fish leaping out of the water in front of the bird! It certainly kept me amused while I was waiting.
After unloading the furniture and on my way back I saw this Buzzard on a telegraph pole drying it's wings. It would have been a better shot from the front of the bird but you can't win 'em all.