Saturday, 31 July 2010

The eagle has landed!

Thursday was a bit poor with the weather but I still headed out for a bit of a look around. A nice looking Lesser Black-backed Gull...
...was hanging out with Common Gulls while the Corncrake called occasionally from the edge of the field. A brief view of one of the Hen Harriers was a good spot in poor conditions. An Otter was located on the way back to the shop before the weather really started closing in but that didn't hamper viewing the WT Eagle.
Saturday wasn't looking too grand, as you can see from the view, but you can't let that get in the way of a bit of wildlife watching can you?
I headed off to pick up the guests in conditions that make the photo above look like a summers day! There were showers still pushing through as we watched this Mountain Hare,
...these four Black-tailed Godwits...
...and a juvenile Hen Harrier while we watched a Red Deer calf. Not a bad start to the day but the conditions worsened before they got better. An Otter brightened things up a bit before the day really took off. We went for an early lunch as a brighter spell might give us our only chance of Golden Eagle but the weather started closing in as soon as we headed for the hills! An Adder showed well in drizzly conditions as we settled in for lunch. The cloud started to lift and revealed a few Red Deer hinds and a bigger herd of stags a bit higher up. I had another look for the Adder as the sun broke through briefly and managed a photo of this Toad...
...before getting the Adder in my sights.
Just as the weather looked like it might close in again two Golden Eagles cleared the ridge and circled over the Red Deer. They performed superbly as everyone got cracking views through the scopes. Just a WT Eagle to get now so we headed for the usual nest site hoping the weather wouldn't spoil things too much. As it happens the sun broke through which made it scorching hot but birdless for now. A quick cuppa and a look around and, as if by magic, the eagle had landed. It hadn't flown in from a distance so it must have been checking on the youngster who is still on the ground. Good views of the adult were enjoyed so we headed back along the way. A quick stop to check the ridges produced another three Golden Eagle - again very satisfying views in the scope. We'd had plenty of good sightings for the day but the day wasn't finished yet. Cracking views of a Red Deer stag at the side of the road before located a real treat. It had been mentioned that it would be nice to see a WT Eagle in flight and we got a real eyeful when I spotted this monster.
This was one of last years juvenile birds but he wasn't going to stay landed for too long as he was getting harassed by the gulls. Sure enough he took flight and made our day! After I'd dropped the first of the guests off a male Hen Harrier flew in front of the motor and then I got another male Hen Harrier as I approached home!! It had been an absolutely stonking day and the showers were still pushing through!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Never a dull day.

Wednesday was a poor day for weather and a bit of a struggle for finding the wildlife. Even when it's dull it's never a dull day - read on! With the juv WT Eagle fledged and out of sight there was no sign of the adults either. We trailed around the loch for Otters and found nothing but the usual Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Greylag Goose and these two Common Sandpiper who will soon be on their way to Africa.
A Common Buzzard was a welcome sight sitting at the top of a tree as we headed for a Golden Eagle site that was free from the low cloud base. By the time we arrived at the location the cloud base had dropped again! Rather than waste time waiting in a poor situation we headed off. As we drove down the road a brief glimpse of a bird sitting on the fence had me reversing to find out what it was. My first sighting of a juvenile cuckoo on Mull - that was me happy for the day. It flew off before I could get a photo but it was a cracking find all the same. With Red Deer, RT Diver, Common Seal and Adder on the list we weren't doing too bad but still no sign of the Mull specialities. Having the patience to wait for these things to appear will always help and we eventually got our rewards in the afternoon. A female Hen Harrier was busy feeding two fledged youngsters. We watched the youngsters fly around and then lost sight of them but a bit of careful scanning with the scope and we had both of the youngsters sitting on the ground. You could see how orange the youngsters were compared to the adult bird. We also located a Golden Eagle in the distance so we headed off to get a better look at that. It was all coming together quite nicely now and we continued with the good luck as we located two separate Otters and then finished the day with stunning views of an adult WT Eagle sitting in the sun that had finally came out.
Thursday was a much better day for the weather. Just prior to the first guests arriving a male Crossbill was singing at the top of a conifer behind the shop.
After picking the last of the guests up we headed straight for the Hen Harrier site. Two minutes of scanning and we'd picked the birds up. Once again it was just the female and two youngsters and I wonder if the male bird has succumbed to the pressure of feeding the young when there isn't much food about -we'll see. Next on the list was Mountain Hare and a Golden Eagle sitting on top of a hill. We chased the Goldie down and got views of the bird in flight but not for too long - 'there'll be more' said I. An impromptu stop next as the spidey-sense started tingling. I hopped out of the motor watching two Cormorants flying off high and the local gulls were just starting to call. All of a sudden the gulls went up and there was an adult WT Eagle flying up the loch towards us - what a sight! That one earned me a round of applause - thanks, people. An imperial stag was a delight to see at close quarters before we headed for lunch.
Lunchtime was spent waiting for Golden Eagle. We ate lunch, told a few tales and it was getting near to leaving time before we spotted a bird clearing the ridge. With everyone watching through binoculars and a few directions being given 'it's flying right', 'no, it's flying left', 'right', 'nope it's still going left' - we had two birds on the go. The second bird had landed and another one appeared over the ridge! It was certainly worth the wait. I had a quick check to see if the perched bird was still present, it was, but here was a fourth bird just appearing over the ridge - classic stuff!! We moved on to see if we could get the one thing missing from the days list - Otters. It was an unusual find for the day as there was a photographer was staking the Otter out. Lying full length in the seaweed with the camera pointing at the rocks we knew there was hope of seeing it but how long would we have to wait? He indicated the Otter was asleep so we headed for the WT Eagle site just in time to get the male bird in flight. We watched it fly off and headed back for the Otter. We didn't have to wait long before it woke up and gave us excellent views. What a day!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Back in the field.

Not a great deal done on Wednesday or Thursday due to more decorating. After dining out on Thursday evening there were a nice selection of waders parading around on the loch side when we got back with 25 Dunlin, 20 Golden Plover, 3 Greenshank and a BH Gull - nice. By Friday I was getting a bit stir crazy so I headed out for a quick fix of wildlife watching. I got some cracking views of one of the Otter families with the mum and two cubs out on the shore cavorting around.
The juv WT Eagle was showing well jumping up and down, flapping wings all in preparation for it's imminent departure into the big bad world. Little did I know this was to be my last sighting of the bird on the nest. Saturday was my last day of decorating so we'll move on to Sunday back in the field! The previous couple of days had been quite nice but Sunday was a stinker with low cloud and drizzle. Not to be deterred we headed off and had a couple of Corncrake calling in a field. Other highlights from the day were a couple of RT Diver, two Golden Eagle that appeared as the cloud was lifting, another Golden Eagle in flight as we watched an adult WT Eagle and a cracking female Hen Harrier hunting at the end of the day.
Monday I had a request for Otters and that request was filled within 20 minutes of being out. There was no sign of the WT Eagle nest as the cloud base was so low! We moved on to pastures new but the visibility wasn't improving so we returned to the nest site to find the cloud had lifted and the female WT Eagle was posing beautifully. We had lunch overlooking the loch picking up 4 RT Diver, Black Guillemot and a flotilla of eclipse plumage Eider. We got half a dozen Dunlin at the end of the day....
....before we got an absolutely cracking sighting. We'd just stopped to listen to a Corncrake when a shout went up for a large bird approaching....a female Hen Harrier was homing in...on the Corncrake!! This was all about 10 yards away!! The Harrier shoved her talons into the long grass and the Corncrake squealed like a Water Rail and she made a second attempt before flying off - fantastic!! It was still pretty foggy down here and we drove on and got another close fly by from the same female Harrier. As we returned down the road the Corncrake was in the ditch on the side of the road still calling - a lucky escape! 
Tuesday started off overcast with a few showers. We had poor start with no sign of any Otters or WT Eagle but things changed all of a sudden when I caught sight of a WT Eagle disappearing over the ridge back towards the nest site. We turned around and headed back and immediately picked up an Otter! By the time we got to the nest site there was nothing in view so back around the loch again having another look at the Otter. A male Hen Harrier flew straight in front of the motor before we picked up a WT Eagle and a Golden Eagle in flight then headed off to lunch. Two Golden Eagles were seen just after viewing an Adder while we demolished the lunch. The fields where the Corncrake had been were being cut so all was quiet with them but the local Buzzards were on the hunt for anything that tried to escape the cutting.
It was nice to be back in the field again watching the wildlife. That's enough for now and I'm making a sharp exit just like the Buzzard!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

RNLI fundraiser

First of I'd better give the answers to the quiz....in the order they appear Common Sandpiper, Hen Harrier (fem), Adder, WT Eagle (adult), Golden Eagle (taken at the same time as the one in the quiz post!), the one that fooled everyone is a Jackdaw and the last one is a male Hen Harrier. So the imaginary pint prize to Mark, Malcolm can have a gulp and Thing can have a sip!!
It's been an interesting week full of surprises. Monday turned up a wedge of waders with 8 Golden Plover, 6 Dunlin and a sumplum Blackwit just after we'd bagged a cracking adult WT Eagle. Good views of a couple of RT Diver showed the intricate marking on the neck. Tuesday was more of the same. We had an Otter and two WT Eagle on the list before we had everyone on board but they were found for the other guests through the day. The weather was pretty poor in the morning which spoilt the WT Eagle photo...
...but less than an hour later the weather was improving. This Buzzard is a proper poser.
The day carried on in the same manner with plenty of good sightings to keep us going. Four RT Divers today and cracking views of a male Hen Harrier. How do they get away from the camera so quick?!
While we were out I was informed that the RNLI fundraiser was on that evening and not to be late back so that put paid to any thoughts of blogging. The evening arrived and we set sail around Iona checking out the Common Seals on the way.
Just look at the sunshine too! We all kept our eyes open for the BN Dolphins that had been seen in the morning but it wasn't looking too hopeful. We chugged over to see the marble quarry in better light this year.
As we headed around to the West side of Iona a Bonxie cruised over head and I just gawped at it before getting the regulation bum shot:-) The sunset was looking like it was going to be a good one as we were regaled with tales of yore and listened to the traditional music from the local musicians on board. We suddenly changed tack and started heading out West before slowing and word filtering through that a Dolphin had been spotted but no further sign. Just before we cruised back towards shore they broke surface again and started heading towards us - what a treat!!
We had spectacular views of the other isles to the North and West of us as the sun began to sink towards the horizon.
Here's a wee taste of the atmosphere on the boat.
video
With the raffle and the auction over the sun had finally disappeared...
...before we left the boat to head for home.
Another very worthwhile trip out with over £800 raised.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Can you tell what it is yet?

The last few days have been fairly similar with the weather still doing the wet thing but it does improve as the day goes on. The sightings have continued to be good but I can't say the same about the photographs so there will be a 'guess what it is' quiz at the end!
Anyway, a quick run down of the last few days first....
Friday gave up some quality views of the Adder despite the rain. The wee beast was found 'basking' in the rain and being cold it made a very slow exit for a change. I didn't have the camera with me as it was too dull and wet:-) The Otter that we located on the day performed very well and had a bit of a kip...
...as another beast put in an appearance. As you can see from the photo the conditions were not the best. A brief view of a male Hen Harrier was had but the WT Eagle family sitting around in the rain was probably the best sighting of the day.
Saturday was a day with a dull start for weather but cracking for the wildlife. We'd rattled off the WT and Golden Eagles along with an Otter before lunch. The sightings of the smaller birds through the day were superb with cracking views of Whinchat, Stonechat, Linnet, Wheatear etc on the land and good views of Manx Shearwater and Gannets at sea. Two male Hen Harriers were seen on the day with both of them giving excellent views. We'd had a cracking day but reckoned it would be nice to round things off with a good view of an eagle in flight - what a surprise to drive round a bend and find this flying around.
Sunday was a day off decorating so we'll move on to Monday which had a dreadful start in the rain. We still managed to pick up a few Dunlin and Mountain Hare and the promise of the weather improving. As usual on days like this you just plug away at the commoner birds and then it all goes BANG! WT Eagle sitting in a tree then flying off, 10 Golden Plover, 6 Dunlin and a Black-tailed Godwit that were probably brought down in the poor conditions earlier in the day, a RB Merg and a Golden Eagle were all seen in about 45 minutes! An Otter was picked up not long after that and we managed to follow that one along the loch for half an hour.
We finished the day with another Otter and cracking views of Golden Eagle flying around.
Time for the quiz now - feel free to leave your answers and you could win an imaginary pint! The pictures haven't been cropped, just reduced in size - go on have a go, you know you want to;-)
A starter for ten...it's an Oystercatcher but what's the other bird behind it?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Run to the hills

Monday wasn't too bad a day but a bit breezy. With the vegetation getting longer by the minute the promise of a Mountain Hare on a windy day was pretty slim. We searched around for the long-legged beastie but got little in return as four Dunlin flew in to land out of sight and a male Hen Harrier disappeared rapidly in the distance before we finally located a pair of ears sticking out of the grass. We got a view of the head eventually but it was a difficult to view spot so the scope was useless due to the heat haze. They can't all be good views so we left happy to have seen a Mountain Hares head! Our next stop gave us good views of Gannets fishing and our first Otter of the day. A second year Golden Eagle was nice to see as it wheeled around showing off the white in the tail and wings as we viewed another Otter. A couple of Adders were good to see as they moved off but we waited patiently until we got a better view as they slithered back out into the sunshine at our feet. I'm guessing that this is a faded Dark Green Fritillary sporting a lot of white along the edges of it's wings plus it was too big to be anything else!
Three Goosander were a nice find outside the shop. By the time we got good views they were hauled out on the shore and it looked to be a female with two youngsters. We checked out the Golden Eagle nest site and I was surprised to find that the youngster had fledged already. It was due to go until the end of the month but I guess the good weather we'd had meant the chick had been fed on a regular basis and got away early. The juv WT Eagle was still on the nest but there was no sign of the adults so we waited around until a big bird appeared over the ridge - another Golden Eagle that was. We'd a cracking day out so we called time and headed home.
Tuesday was another fine day with the wind picking up and the threat of rain in the air. As we headed round the loch the temperature was up to 20 degrees already with a maximum of 24 degrees through the day! We'd stopped to look at the Greylag Geese with the youngsters and they were looking a bit nervous. The youngsters can't fly so the adults take the opportunity to replace their flight feathers and they just wander round the shore grazing. One of the dangers for them are the Otters who are capable of taking either the adults or youngsters so they are always on the look out. We moved along the shore about 50 yards and there was the Otter that had the geese keeping alert. We followed the Otter as it slowly made it's way along the shore and we were rewarded with cracking views as it hauled out with a fish. An adult Common Seal was hauled out on the shore about half a mile down the road.
Three Cormorants were nice to see as they dried their wings before we caught sight of the male Hen Harrier and a Curlew was standing keeping an eye on the proceedings. I finally managed to get a picture of the Sundew in flower today.
I've seen plenty of them with the flower buds on but this is the first I've seen with a flower open - must pay more attention! A couple of Crossbills flying over and three Adders were seen before we found a beastie that would make you run to the hills - get an eyeful of this!
It's a Horse Fly of the type, Tabanus sudeticus, and they bite. You'd be sucked dry in five minutes by this thing! It must have been at least a foot long and chased us for ages - just kidding but it was a good inch long and looked the business!
It was a bit of a quiet afternoon but our last stop of the day made up for it. We had cracking views of a Snipe asleep, 20 Linnet, a juv Whinchat, 4 Stonechat, 6 Greenfinch, a flock of Goldfinch sitting on the wires next to a Buzzard and a Mountain Hare. A paler Buzzard was running about on the ground probably chasing frogs as we left the area.
Just before dropping the guests off for the day we had one last look at the WT Eagle to find the adults sitting side by side in a tree. I tried for a photograph but the camera battery died and the spare was flat too - probably just as well as the photo wouldn't have been that good anyway.
Wednesday couldn't have been more of a contrast as the wind was howling, the rain was raining and the fleece was on! We headed off for the Golden Eagles first and it was a bit of a fight against the weather to get a view of one of the adults. We hung around for the rain to stop and hoped the bird would get into the air but you could see the bird was fairly drenched and just hanging it's wings out to dry - we moved on. The sea was really choppy so the Otters were always going to be difficult but we tried our best. No sign of the furry beasts so we went to the WT Eagles instead and got cracking views of one of last years youngsters in flight as well as one of the adults perched above the nest with the youngster in. After another check for Otters with no luck we got a different reward in the shape of  a female Hen Harrier right in front of us. I wish I could get the camera out and ready a bit quicker! The male Hen Harrier put in a brief appearance before we had the female back in front of us again! This time I managed a shot but it was still distant by the time the camera was out.
The Adders performed well with two of them on show and I managed a photo too!
The wind really picked up in the afternoon and made life difficult as we searched for some of the smaller birds. All things considered we didn't do too bad as we picked up Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Stonechat, Linnet, Rock Dove etc. We picked up a cracking Mountain Hare at the roadside...
...before we bagged another Whinchat, Wheatear, Lapwing etc. We headed back towards home hoping we could find an Otter before the day was out. We checked a couple of spots with no luck before we finally picked one up fishing. We watched as he caught a big fish and headed for shore and ate his catch under the watchful eyes of a couple of Hooded Crow. When he finished he headed back into the water briefly before reappearing on the land and headed off up the shore and into the Bracken - superb!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Garden birds

The weather over the last few days has mostly included rain but there has been sunshine every day too. I've not had a great deal of time to look at the wildlife but I've still managed to see the odd bits and pieces. I thought that I had better check out the garden birds too. I missed out on the Swallows fledging in the garden but they are still hanging around. Here is a photo of the Swallows at the shop who should be on the wing in the next couple of days.
The first bird I managed to photograph from the garden was this Buzzard. It was a whole lot closer to start with but by the time the camera is sorted it's hardly worth the effort!
There are quite a few Siskin and Lesser Redpoll flitting around the edges of the garden so a bit of constructive planting should bring a few more birds in. A family party of six Redpoll were flitting about in the sunshine so I waited for them to head for the fence and I was lucky enough to have them land quite close.
Most of the time when you step out of the house the Swallows go mental trying to scare you off so it was nice to see these two preparing for the next attack!
Friday was probably the most productive day with some nice atmospheric weather. Just as we arrived at the shop in the rain there was a bit of a commotion with the waders and the male Hen Harrier flew straight past us! I scrambled for the camera and got one of the most stunning photos you will ever see...
...good eh?;-) At least you can tell what it is. There seemed to be quite a few extra waders out there and I could hear Dunlin calling so I hauled out the scope for a good look round. Redshank were up to 25, 12 Dunlin, at least 20 Curlew, 6 Ringed Plover, 1 Greenshank, 3 Grey Plover (uncommon round here) and an Otter - well worth it! I checked again later in the day when it had cleared up and they had all moved on. With most of the decorating done I'm back to work today so there should be a few things to report.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Wind and rain.

No sooner am I back on the blogging front and I'm going to disappear again! I'll try to get some bits and pieces in but decorating is taking all my time over the next few days. On my way back to base on Tuesday evening, in the rain, I took this snap of the waterfalls on Burg. Not much water going down the cliff as the wind blew it all back over the top!
Monday was a day that started with showers but it cleared up soon enough. A cracking view of a male Hen Harrier was our first sighting of the day closely followed by this Mountain Hare.
As the hare was taking shelter from the blustery Westerly wind we didn't bother getting out of the motor so as not to disturb it. Our next stop produced good views of a male Whinchat, a Common Buzzard perched on a telegraph pole and some superb views of Gannet. The weather was improving all the time so it was no surprise when we picked up a juv WT Eagle briefly clearing a ridge. We waited patiently for it to reappear but it soon became apparent why it didn't as a Golden Eagle put in an appearance. The bird landed just out of sight so we moved further down the road and managed glimpses of it's head as it looked around. A juv Golden Eagle was next to appear and this prompted the first Goldie to get into the air and do some rollercoaster display - superb!! The roadworks continue so after checking out the Adder we moved quickly on to clear the potential delay area. Just after getting through the roadworks we spotted a mass of birds with about 15 Oystercatcher and 4 Shelduck amongst the panic. What was going on? A hunting WT Eagle right in front of us!! It was after the Eider ducks with youngsters but with no success it gained height and moved on with a couple of Herring Gull in pursuit.
The wind was picking up again and there was the threat of rain again but we soon picked up an Otter that we watched for a good half hour.
A Common Seal had hauled out on the rocks at the side of the road so a quick stop to get view and a photo.
Another WT Eagle and another Golden Eagle were watched before we called it a day.
Tuesday started off in decent weather and our first stop was the WT Eagle nest site. The youngster was showing well with an adult bird perched above and another sitting in the trees nearby. We gave it a bit of time to see if we would get some flight views but it wasn't happening - you just can't rely on wildlife! We moved on to look for Otters and got cracking views as one hauled out on the shore to eat a fish. Another Otter was located a bit further down the road but after it performed well it started to head away from us so we moved on. The Golden Eagles provided some excellent views as the youngster was standing proud and exercising his wings and we had both adults perched side by side before they took to the air. I finally managed to get a photo of one of the Adders at lunchtime.
The weather started to close in while we were having lunch so we headed off to see what else could be gleaned from the day. Another two Otter were located just after lunch with one of them catching a large fish which it proceeded to bring ashore. The place it hauled out was not viewable for us so we headed off into the rain. The wind had started to pick up again so we turned our attentions to the sea and watched streams of Manx Shearwater flying by with plenty of Gannets fishing too. We hit a bit of traffic in the afternoon so hauled in to view the Sand Martins hawking around at low level and I managed to get a year tick too as a Swift came screaming through the middle of the Martins - excellent! The weather was, how shall I put it?...atmospheric on the way back but it still produced the bird of the day with a female Hen Harrier hunting very close to the road. It was close enough to see the colour of it's blazing yellow eye!! She stared straight at us before banking away to continue with the hunt.
That'll do for now and I'm away painting again. I'll try to get a photo of the new neighbours who all look a bit like this.