Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Merry Christmas.

I think I've worn out the blog for a wee spell and it's holiday time too - Christmas, family etc - so it might go quiet. Early on Monday we were serenaded by a Common Crossbill. There were two birds flying around but only one on view when they landed.
I had to go to the garage at lunchtime so that was a good excuse to have a look about too. I drove past an Otter on the way and managed to see it again on the return journey half an hour later - result.
While scanning through the gulls on the loch they started to lift and call in alarm - where is the cause though? I didn't have to look as a juv WT Eagle flew into my view so I kept an eye on it until it landed. I didn't realise how dull it was at the time (duff, distant photo) but the view was superb in the scope. As you can see it's a tagged bird from the East coast released in 2009.
Not a lot else to report. We missed the eclipse due to cloud cover but as soon as it was all over the cloud started to break up - typical. Nice view of red snow when the sun was breaking the horizon.
Well that could be it until the middle of January so I'll take the time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a bird filled New Year - all the best, folks. Bryan & Joy.
'It's my tinsel, right!!'

Monday, 20 December 2010

Trails of the unexpected.

Sunday was the perfect day to go for a walk. A pristine blanket of snow covered the landscape and the trees were Christmas card perfect.
It was all quiet as Shop Lady and I headed off along the old road. The first tracks we found in the snow were of a feral cat that holes up in the barn but it wasn't too long before we came across the first of many Red Deer tracks. We could see for a reasonable distance in all directions and there was no sign of the deer at all. The next set of tracks we found looked like this.
Probably a Short-tailed Field Vole but interesting to see them crossing the track. There wasn't a sight or sound of any birds close by so it was a wee while before we came across our next interesting track.
There aren't many animals to pick from so that has to be Mountain Hare loping along the road. As we skirted around the loch we picked up our first birds of the day - Little Grebe, Mallard, Grey Heron, Stonechat, RB Merg, Curlew and Greenshank. A distant WT Eagle was never going to come our way in a hurry so we pressed on looking at plenty more deer tracks and trying to find something different. We knew we'd come across this one before too long but I didn't expect to get such a clear track - Otter. You can see where it climbed out of the water... 
...before heading for a culvert under the road.
Top quality tail print in that photo as well. The views were stunning all round too.
I was happy with the haul for the day already but we cracked on with the walk. A Common Buzzard looked absolutely superb as it cruised along the ridge - shame it wasn't a bit closer.
Two minutes later and we had this pale Common Buzzard flying over the same place - once again, stunning.
It was good to see this small herd of hinds and calves were still in good condition. I'd guess that these beasts were responsible for most of the tracks on the road and had probably been supplementing their diet with seaweed during the night.
We'd just had a brief conversation with Postie and he'd driven on and the most unexpected thing happened. Only about 10 yards walk from where we'd been talking a Barn Owl lifted from the side of the road and flew off. No chance of a photo at the time but I thought it might be worth walking back to where the bird had disappeared from sight to see if it was visible. I had a good look through the bins and couldn't see a thing but just as I was about to turn back the bird lifted again and landed in a tree - result!
It wasn't there for too long but I got a couple of snaps before the bird flew straight in front of us and out of sight again. We pressed on, scanning the loch to see plenty of Common Seals, a couple of Great Northern Diver and a single Black-throated Diver plus our first Hooded Crows of the day. The crows appeared to be investigating one of their nest sites and allowed a fairly close approach. One bird flew from the shore to the tree and back again while the other sat on a rocky outcrop adorned with icicles.
A robin refused to pose on the snowy topped fence posts while the camera was pointing at it...
...and the single Fieldfare was nice to see, in company with a Mistle Thrush, but never close enough for a good shot.
Postie came back down the road at this point so we cadged a lift back home.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Through the square window.

Saturday started off perfect but there was more snow forecast so there was no thoughts of heading out. I stocked up the feeders and settled down for a look through the square window as the snow started to fall. A young Blackbird was making it's presence known by having a go at anything that landed near it. It did a good impersonation of a giant Wren when it was leaving the bird table and, as you can see, it only has one tail feather. 
The Great Tits like to have a look around the windows to see if there are any spiders hiding there.
The snow was really coming down and making the Sheep look a bit whiter than normal.
As the snow deepened this Blackbird was sporting some smart looking snow boots.
A single Goldfinch added a bit of extra colour into the mix. There are three of these birds flying around but only this one comes for a feed.
The scene wouldn't be complete without a Robin - nice.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

All good things...

...come to those that wait. With no intentions of going out I was forced into action when I took a phone call in the shop and wandered over to the window just in time to see a WT Eagle fly past. I watched the bird lose height and attempt to land on the thin covering of ice. The ice might have been thick enough to hold the weight of the Hooded Crows but the eagle went straight through it and just sat there for a minute before flying a few yards to solid ground.
You can see the soggy undercarriage in this shot.
There must have been some food there as this Common Buzzard came in for a look too.
I watched as the Eagle repositioned itself...
...before dipping into a hidden pool for a drink and eventually picked up what looked like a leg from a Mountain Hare.
I guess there wasn't enough meat to interest the eagle as it soon took flight and left.

Friday, 17 December 2010


Tuesday was due to be the last of the good weather so I had a quick run out in the morning. With the sea still frozen I thought a return trip to the Otters might pay off. Just as I stepped out of the car an adult WT Eagle was heading my way so I grabbed the camera and fired off a couple of shots. I discovered that the camera was only on half zoom so this could have been so much better.
The Otters were fishing in pretty much the same area as the previous day so I made my way down to a spot where I could stay hidden. There was strong smell of all things fishy and lots of Otter poo.
It didn't take too long for one of the Otters to catch a fish big enough to bring ashore...
...but they landed the catch just along the way from me.
It really was nice to see these beasts at close quarters and nicely relaxed too. The fish was devoured and after a bit of a roll around they were heading back out into open water.
I managed to get a brief sighting of the Red Kite as I was leaving and then headed for home. I've not been out since so nothing much to report apart from the male Hen Harrier putting in a daily appearance. Usually he'll put the gulls up so you know when to look! The snow has arrived here...
...but only a dusting on the roads but it's enough to get the car sideways if you try too hard!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cold and frosty morning.

Saturday was a bit of a grubby day but I was heading for a miserable time in Oban - shopping. A male Hen Harrier was the highlight of the journey to the ferry and the highlight in Oban was the chiphawk after me chips.
Saturday evening we were out for dinner and there was no escape from the sightings as we spotted a Barn Owl on the way out and a Mountain Hare was in the garden when we returned.
Sunday was a cracking day with clear blue skies but I didn't get the chance to go out so top sighting was a Golden Eagle from the garden.
Monday was a repeat of Sunday with a real cold and frosty morning.
As we were heading for the shop there were a few Red Deer close to the road so after helping out with the delivery I headed back along the road. The Deer were still close to the road and you can see how cold it was as the frost is still covering the back of this beast.
As I headed off round the loch to see if the Red Kite was still around I was quite surprised to find that the sea was covered in a thin layer of ice. I had a high count of Little Grebe with the four regular birds boosted to a massive five! The Grey Herons were all in their usual spots with some overlooking iced water while others had clear water but just look at the frost on the seaweed. 
I took both these pictures as I was heading back to base at about 11:30. The Curlew has a nice warm spot to sunbathe in...
...while this Grey Heron has a place that is still surrounded by ice! You have to pick your spot carefully.
I was hoping the Red Kite was going to be late at getting up hence the early trip out. I scanned the ridges from a couple of places on my way along in case the bird was flying but I needn't have worried as the bird was still perched up in it's favourite tree. Most of the day this tree is backlit so the only chance was an early morning shot but at the distance involved it's never going to be good. Not a bad effort considering it's about half a mile away!
I'd seen a couple of Otters in the water as I was driving along and by the time I'd finished with the Kite there were three of them out there. I picked them up again as they were heading away from the shore so I thought I'd wander down to the spot and maybe get lucky. Did it work? Oh Yes. One of the youngsters caught a decent sized fish and brought it ashore just below me.
I have got some video footage of this too but after attempting to load the video three times yesterday, wasting about 7 hours, I gave up on that one! I did mange to get an underwater shot of the Otter as it went back out fishing but it's never going to look good without a polarising filter.
As I was moving to a better position the female Otter started to head for shore but I was sussed as the Otter surfaced earlier than expected when a Raven was alarm calling above me. I was skylined and had no chance. She still came in for a closer look though.
With my cover blown I moved quietly off. As I got back to the car a Hooded Crow was posing beautifully in the sun. Top quality.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Last of the summer wine.

It was no surprise on Thursday morning to find our piece of the world had a big grey blanket thrown over it. The temperature had shot up 10 degrees to a balmy plus 4 but the rain was a bit of a spoiler. I was contemplating going out when Postie and f-stop turned up for a coffee break on their trip out so I invited myself along as there was just enough room for me in Postie's car. There was some insane, surreal and funny conversations along the way with a few good sightings too. We must have looked and sounded like Compo, Clegg and Foggy as we wandered along the road chatting. We had a cracking sighting of a Sparrowhawk having an aerial dogfight with a Hooded Crow. The Sprawk was really having a good go at the Hoodie with some very impressive manoeuvres executed before the tables were turned. We half expected to find them scrapping on the side of the road but we weren't that lucky. One of the Black-throated Divers was just offshore from our next stop but with no digiscoping gear I had to make do with the FZ28.
Compo took the opportunity to wander about looking for some proper wildlife or maybe he was looking for something to eat.
While we were scanning about for Otters a group of Common Seals surfaced together and then disappeared again - we named them the Scridain Seven Seals Synchronised Swimming Society otherwise known as the suh, suh, suh, suh, suh, suh team! It was getting close to lunchtime when we picked up a couple of Otters so it was time for a wander down the road to keep an eye on the tumbling furry animals. We'd decided that these two were the cubs due to the amount of playing about they were doing but watching all that activity was making me hungry. My sandwiches were in the car and I was determined to hold out till noon. Every time Postie lifted his bins I sneaked a peek at his watch..11:40, 11:42 a bit of ribbing about me clock watching, 11:53... I could hear my sarnies shouting for me! Dead on twelve a Merlin flew in and landed at the top of a tree - so much for lunch. I was never going to get close enough for a decent photo but you can tell what it is.
Time for lunch at last. The Otters were not getting any closer so we moved on to look for a Dipper that f-stop said had been seen regular. Even he was amazed to find the Dipper sitting at the edge of the river as he's usually excellent at finding nothing;-) I managed to get a stunning shot of the bird in it's natural surroundings...
...before f-stop went stalking it. As you can see he tires easily and needs a lie down and he's probably eating seaweed (photo courtesy of Postie).
The rain started lashing down so me and Postie sat in the car laughing at the wet one on the shore. Our time would come. The rain stopped and the bird flew towards us so we did get some shots...
...but when the bird flew back down towards f-stop it landed about 2 yards from him!! Needless to say he got some good shots. We headed back towards the Otters. We watched them fishing in the bay with regular visits to land with fish. One was noticeably bigger than the other and bringing fish ashore for the smaller one. Did we get it wrong earlier or had the mum come out and one of the cubs was asleep on the shore somewhere? Who knows but they were nice to see. It was starting to get very dull as the invisible sun dipped towards the horizon so there was just enough time to squeeze in one last good sighting. We picked up a Golden Eagle from outside the shop before we headed along the road. Once again scanning for Otters, with no luck, we hit lucky as a juv WT Eagle appeared. It was tagged and had a sat pack on so possibly Yellow C again.
Thanks for a very entertaining time guys.