Sunday, 27 June 2010

Youngsters.

Thursday was a pleasant day with the good weather continuing. I had a youngster on board today so one of the scopes was utilised for her to give her the best views possible. Kids are always a treat to take out if you show them the right things and don't overload them so the numbers of species tend to be a bit lower but the quality shines through...read on! We started off with the WT Eagles which showed well with the chick standing up on the nest and the female perched just above. While we were there the male bird flew in too which was a treat. An Otter performed well giving some people their first views of this endearing beast. We picked it up as it was fishing and we watched quietly as it made it way towards us. Our reward was soon given to us as it hauled out right in front of us - stunning stuff. A Curlew posed on a rise, calling constantly, as it watched over it's young which remained hidden. Always an impressive bird to see and hear.
After viewing the Golden Eagles we headed off to lunch but before we got there we stopped to look at the Common Seal colony. There was a fair bit of activity going on with quite a few seals in the water with their young but a group of Ravens flying in caught my eye as they all headed to the same location. A Great Black-backed Gull and a Herring Gull were already in attendance as one of the seals started to give birth. A superb sighting of life in the raw! The birds were all around the seal trying to pick up any scraps available and the mother actively tried to keep them away from her new born pup. It all made for a very memorable performance.
We found a wee toad crossing the track as we headed for lunch so that was examined closely before setting it it's way back into the undergrowth.
After checking out the Adders we went round the plants on show taking in the smells of Fragrant Orchid and Bog Myrtle along the way. The butterflies were virtually glued to the Wild Thyme as the temperatures soared. A Dung Beetle was found digging it's way into a cow pat which provoked the usual 'bleurgh' for the youngster but a nice beetle to see all the same. If you get the chance to pick one up check out the metallic blue underside. We had a superb sighting of Stonechat, Whinchat and Reed Bunting all sitting on the top of the bracken within a couple of feet of each other. A bit of a wander on the beach to look at crab claws and shells before we headed off to pick up Mountain Hare to finish off what was a memorable day for the youngster. She came in the shop the following day with a bunch of postcards to send off to her friends and one of her teachers telling all about her wildlife tour!!
Friday and Saturday were similar days with both being scorchers and similar sightings too. The Mountain Hares showed well with the Redshanks parading around with their youngster who can now fly and the Ringed Plover chicks looking like washed out adults. The Golden Eagles have given some close encounters too.  
There are some well spaced Greater Butterfly Orchids on the road side.
Basking Sharks are still showing in a couple of areas so that's a treat for everyone. I'm expecting to get back to normal service on the blog sometime through the week when the new equipment arrives.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Computer stress

I've not done a post for a few days due to the PC monitor having a black out. Postie has kindly lent me a laptop (cheers mate) for a few days so here I am typing this but it won't feature any photographs until the new monitor arrives.
As you know nothing much changes up here so it stays warm and dry and the panic over water supplies increases. Quite a few people have run dry already and we have maybe a week before we join the rest of the waterless. Monday and Tuesday were both dry days but we did get a splash of rain on Wednesday.
Mondays sightings included my first returning Dunlin, a Golden Eagle that was seen by most people before disappearing but 2 other birds at close quarters made up for that and good views of Mountain Hare. A cracking view of a Snipe as the bird perched on telegraph pole before taking flight and landing not 5 yards in front of us!!
On Tuesday I got my first sighting of the male WT Eagle since I watched him fly past the shop.  We had a very obliging Adder before we picked up a juv WT Eagle...
...and an Otter in the same place. We waited with bated breath as the Otter got closer to the eagle, hoping the Otter would catch a fish but it wasn't to be. The Otter did haul out with food but it looked like a crab that was the meal - the eagle just sat and watched! Good views of a Whinchat and a Cuckoo sitting side by side on the wires were nice to see. The Redshanks were well admired at the end of the day with the Mountain Hares giving us the run around. Just before dropping off the last of the guests we managed to bag another Otter too.
Wednesday was clear to start with but the threat of rain was always there.We had a busy start to the day with Mountain Hare showing well and a family party of Raven with a Common Buzzard in tow were flying around causing havoc! A male Hen Harrier was nice to see as it quartered the moor but Cuckoo was not so obliging as it dashed across the road and out of sight. The juv WT Eagle from yesterday was still in the same place early in the morning but not there when we returned with the full group. We did pick an Otter though and also a Cuckoo perched up in a tree in the distance but good views in the scope - 'How did you find that?' I was asked by the guests....'Skill'was my reply;-) We had a couple of Crossbill flying overhead and managed to get an Adder too before we dashed off for Golden Eagle. We waited for about 15 minutes, taking in the flowers and butterflies, before one of the adults appeared carrying a Hare...
...stunning views were had as the bird sailed into the nest...
...with it's mate flying not too far behind. Both birds flew around showing well and then headed off just as the cloud base dropped. A curtain call if I ever saw one, as we moved off it started to rain!! We picked up another Otter asleep on the shore before we headed towards the WT Eagles. Just as we arrived one of the birds took flight and headed off. We found out why when we set up the scopes. The nest was being invaded by humans as the RSPB were there to put a satellite pack on the youngster. We stood around getting eaten alive by midges while the job was being done and eventually we saw the youngster returned to the nest. It was good to see the size of the bird with a person for comparison. The chick drew himself to his full height and looked very impressive - I wouldn't fight one:-)

Monday, 21 June 2010

Snake in the grass

Friday was another day of good weather but we need rain now. Most of the water supplies are starting to dry up now but I'm sure that Wimbledon will save the day and instigate some of the wet stuff. It was a bit of a quiet day to start with as there was a brisk Northerly keeping things down. We'd seen Mountain Hare, Redshank and assorted small birds in the morning and some fresh Dark Green Fritillary...
...before we picked up a WT Eagle in the distance. We watched the bird circle round and it eventually flew straight past us.
We checked out a great deal of flowers and plants along the way too with Sundew, Butterwort, Northern Marsh Orchid, Wild Thyme, Fragrant Orchid and Bog Myrtle etc photographed, sniffed or closely watched for Butterflies. Cracking views of an Otter were had as we watched this one fishing for about 15 minutes before he came ashore.
More Orchids were viewed while we waited for the Golden Eagle to put in an appearance. A cracking day all round though.
Saturday I had the day off in fine weather but the Northerly wind was still blowing. I had a quick trip out in the afternoon and managed to get a nice picture of a Pied Wagtail with food.
On Sunday the weather started off fairly reasonable but the cloud cover came in and we even had a bit of drizzle in the afternoon! With the guests on board we headed out and it wasn't long before we were viewing two Otters - not a bad start to the day! A female Hen Harrier was seen being harassed by a Hooded Crow as the Otters moved off. Another mile down the road and we were watching our third Otter but he was a bit distant so we headed off to see the WT Eagle with the idea of returning later for better views. No sign of any WT Eagle except the youngster at the nest but one of the birds was located at a distance. Back to the Otter again and we were fortunate enough to arrive just as he was clambering ashore - cracking stuff! Common Sandpipers were perched up along the shore at frequent intervals so I had to capture the moment.
Our next stop for Golden Eagle produced a first for me in the shape of a Marsh Fritillary.
The Golden Eagles performed well with bird seen in flight and perched up. Lunch was a quite affair bird wise but a snake in the grass was a good find with this Adder showing well.
Flowers and butterflies took up a good bit of time as we located another Marsh Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary, Small Heath, Common Blue, Speckled Wood and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
While watching a family party of Whinchat we picked up a Red-throated Diver calling, another Otter and a male Hen Harrier! The waders performed well with the Redshank being the pick of the bunch...
...but Snipe, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Lapwing all added to the interest.
Our run back through produced a couple of highlights too with our fifth Otter of the day, a cracking Red Deer stag and superb views of this WT Eagle.

Another peach of a day!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Gums 2

Wednesday was a bit cloudy to say the least. The cloud base was down to the ground and not looking too grand but it can produce some good sightings. Our first good find of the day was this Black-throated Diver - top notch!!
No signs of any Otters as we moved along but these Greylag Geese caught our eye as there was a bit of conflict going on. There was certainly a few feathers lost by one of the adults but they soon settled down again.
The low cloud produced a bit of drizzle through the morning but we still managed to pick up some good sightings along the way. A couple of Red-throated Diver, a Snipe sitting on a post, a small group of Manx Shearwater were all seen before we had lunch while watching 5 Basking Sharks! The Sharks were viewed from above at reasonably close quarters - close enough to see the gape of these huge fish. The weather did start to lift in the afternoon so there was still hope of getting some good weather. Another RT Diver was added to the list as we viewed another Basking Shark and a family party of Whinchats were nice to see too. With the sun out and Mountain Hare added to the days tally we headed back along the way. A cracking Red Deer posed at the side of the road.
The Golden Eagles performed well before we went in search of the elusive Otter. We weren't disappointed with the Otter we found as he caught a crab just after we located him...
...and brought it ashore right in front of us!
Thursday started off in the same manner as the previous day with some low cloud and not too much wind. Thankfully it cleared a bit quicker this time as I had been offered the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Basking Sharks. We headed out to where the sharks had been seen the previous day and, luckily, there were still 3 present. We cut the engine on the boat and waited for one of them to approach. They are awesome beasts up close, absolutely massive and all you can hear is the fin cutting through the water as they approach.
The gape of the mouth was very impressive as they cruised past the RIB.
A better idea of how it all looked is the video footage - AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!
video
I'm still smiling now!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The quick and the dead.

On Sunday we had a trip to Lunga chartering a boat so we could stay there all day. It was star studded turn out with such luminaries as Shop Lady, Postie, F-stop, PS, Bowman's Bulldog and associated WAGS. The weather was pretty dire to start with and it wasn't looking good but we were in high spirits. The trip out there was fairly uneventful with a few Manx Shearwater spotted and not a sign of any Dolphins, Sharks or Whales anywhere.
As you can see we were still fairly well wrapped up on arrival and some of the party were happily waving us off and hoping we would have a safe landing!
One of the first birds that I saw as we approached Lunga was a Peregrine disappearing over the top - more about that later. With everyone safely ashore we set off to sample the delights of the island. We gave the Puffins a miss to start with and just had a wander about picking up plenty of Wrens, a couple of Buzzard and lots of Wheatear. A common Blue butterfly showed well in the brightening weather.
We headed off to the auk colony and found plenty of birds whizzing about along the way but a timely reminder of if you aren't quick, you'll end up dead! This was the only sighting of Rock Dove that we had!
A pair of Fulmars at the nest had a bit of company that they didn't appreciate...
...and the birds cruising the cliffs were a delight to photograph.
Quite a few of them were either curious of us or we'd found the sweet spot for them to hang in the air.
Another superb sighting of how tough it is to survive the bird colony life was witnessed as we watched this Great Black-backed Gull quartering the sea waiting for Puffins to come to the surface with their catch. The bird would dive in before they broke the surface...
...and give them a good shake to make them let the catch go - fantastic to watch.
It was difficult to find a pristine Guillemot but this one standing to attention was worth photographing.
Most of the birds were pretty grubby looking and packed tightly together on the cliffs. The noise is superb but the only thing you are missing is the smell. I don't think blogger is doing scratch and sniff yet!
video
The Razorbills were in much better condition and spread around the area but very approachable.
It was nice to see the yellow gape of these birds.
They would sit there grunting away to each other then flap their wings and then open the bill - excellent stuff.
Another short clip of the interactions of some Razorbill.
video
Another grisly find was this skeleton of what looks like a Fulmar - nothing is safe out here.
I did see one Great Skua at a distance but this Arctic Skua was patrolling round the auk colony the whole time we were there. It's enough to strike fear into the heart of any target species.
The bird would just cruise around until it saw a likely target and would hunt them down at speed.
As you wandered past the boulder strewn areas you would be greeted by a rasping honk and bill clattering as the Shags told you to keep your distance.
The jack-in-the-box effect was witnessed a few times as a head just appeared for a look around.
The Wheatears were on the attack constantly hunting down the flies to feed the youngsters. It looks like this one is trying to catch flies with it's feet!
I can't leave you with no Puffin shots so here we go. The flight shots were difficult as there were that many flying in at times you got distracted from your first target! This one is quite comical with the legs dangling.
It was interesting to see that quite a few Puffins were just nesting amongst the boulders in small caves. It's a different view of one if nothing else.
A fantastic day all in all and just remember there is only the quick and the dead!!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Gums

Monday and Tuesday have been cracking days weatherwise with more sun than I can handle - bring on the rain! Monday started off with a bang as we located the first Basking Sharks that I have seen this year. They certainly look impressive as they scythe through the water but it's just a 'greet big, gummy fish' (they do have teeth but not big ones). They feed mainly on plankton which they filter from the water with gill rakers and grow up to thirty feet long! The beast that we saw were about 15 -20 feet long - very impressive though!
All the usual suspects featured through the day with Mountain Hare doing a runner, a distant Otter before we got a close one, an Adder that was seen by me and both types of eagle.
Tuesday was an almost identical day but the little extras were superb. It was also a day of numbers.....we located a Mountain Hare that decided it was shy and just showed it's backside. Five minutes later we were looking at six of these handsome beasts that were within 3 yards of the original sighting! Next on the number list were two Cuckoos, male and female, sitting together on the wires - superb. They flew off and disappeared but as we watched them go another bird started heading towards us. It was grey on top and pale underneath with barring just like the Cuckoo but the flight was all wrong. It got closer and closer before flying over head and off but we'd clinched the ID of the moustached Cuckoo imitator - Peregrine Falcon! I hoped to catch up with the Basking Sharks again but I wasn't expecting what we got. I picked up one Shark initially but as we scanned around the numbers grew - two together, another to the left, two more to the right and a huge one close in. We had NINE in total and an Otter at the same time! The large one was that big that the dorsal fin was bent over at the top - it must have been a thirty footer at least. We eventually moved on elated at the sighting that we'd had but there was more to come. An all too brief Golden Eagle and an Adder at lunchtime was quickly followed by another two Basking Shark! Better views of Golden Eagle and a look at the Orchids with Fragrant and Lesser Butterfly (below) being the best of the bunch.
We passed by an Otter that had just moved closer to shore and out of sight so we headed off for the WT Eagle. We saw the adult female fly in and land by the nest and enjoyed good views of the bird preening before heading back for the Otter who showed superbly.
We also have an addition to the two 'pet' Grey Herons as they have produced at least one youngster this year.

PS - I haven't forgot about Sunday. There will be a gruesome tale to follow!