Friday, 30 December 2011

The end of 2011.

After the Christmas food excess I was back out in the field on Thursday checking out a few birds in the feeding station at Gosforth Park. Not a great deal of activity but the weather is still quite mild. A Goldfinch sat quietly nibbling away on the niger seed.
Two female Great Spotted Woodpeckers landed on the same trunk and eyed each other up. The first bird was quite high up...
...and kept an eye on the bird underneath.
Three Nuthatches were buzzing in and out, grabbing food and heading off.
A quick trip to one of the hides was worth it for the Wigeon and Shoveler but there was no sign of any Bitterns. A wander round the woods was a bit quiet but we did manage to find 12 Crossbills and a flock of Long-tailed Tits before our time ran out.
All the best to everyone for 2012!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Desert Wheatear.

I was hoping for a few more photos for this post but I haven't been out to take any! This was on Christmas Eve at Newbiggin, Northumberland.
I was wondering if the hanging alula might be stopping this bird from leaving but it seems to fly ok. It was distant to start with but as we were leaving we'd lost sight of the bird and it appeared right in front of us! A few more shots had to be taken. 
I'll have to check these details but I think this is my fifth Desert Wheatear, 2 in Yorkshire and the other three have been in Northumberland, stunning birds though.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Back on line!

More problems with the internet have caused a bit of frustration but hopefully all is well now.  The weather hasn't been that good and with Christmas looming there have been other things to do. A small, dark wader had me grabbing the camera on Tuesday. The weather was filthy so I'm surprised the photo is as good as it is - it's a nicely marked Purple Sandpiper.
I've not really seen them away from their usual rocky shoreline habitat so it was interesting to see this one paddling around with the Ringed Plover flock. It wasn't going to get any brighter but I had a run out anyway. A young Common Seal looked more like a carcase from a distance but you can see it's a lively little cutie.
Next up was a Kestrel with it's lunch. I couldn't get near it but the distant shots were good enough and there was rain approaching.
I'm not sure when the next blog post will be so I'll take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Predictably, I'll leave you with a Robin. Good times.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Mixed up.

Thursday - what can I say? LOOK.......AT........THAT!!!
I'm not sure what's happening in that photo - what is that blue stuff? The white stuff came from the grey stuff that's normally where the blue stuff is now and someone has polished the grey choppy stuff at the bottom to make it look like a mirror! I might be confused about it but I think I like it. It was that calm you could see the birds on the loch a mile away but something a bit closer would be nice. A search for an Otter was an easy one but despite getting well in front of it, it never came close. A Raven perched in a tree was keeping an eye on the attempt.
With the better light another attempt was made on the Dipper. A bit frustrating to start with as the Dipper stayed in the shaded areas but it got into the sun eventually.
A WT Eagle flew past while waiting for the Dipper to perform.
Surprisingly the weather turned quickly, the cloud rolled in and the threat of rain was there. Three Otters were seen sleeping on a rock so a change of plan was in order. Chasing the light seemed a good idea but it didn't help with the sightings. Another hour closer to sunset and the only poser was a Red Deer stag.
A site for Golden Eagle might have been worth a go but checking on where the three Otters were was a good call as they were on the move. A quick dash down to the waters edge gave some excellent views and some photos too. Here they are watching the traffic go by.
The Red-breasted Mergansers were not too far away and the males were displaying.
The Otters were feeding well - I like the spray of water as this one chomps down on the fish. 
One last effort for the day was to get a look at three Golden Eagles (cheers Janis). The birds were found easy enough but a combination of the rain starting and the late hour had the birds heading off before too long.


Wednesday wasn't too bad a day so a run out was in order. Just for a change I was the passenger as Steve had offered to take me out. First in front of the camera was a Greenshank - as you can see there wasn't enough light yet.
It was getting brighter by the minute so the Great Northern Diver didn't come out too bad.
We did locate an Otter but it was heading away from us so we pressed on. A bit of time was spent looking at a Dipper before we headed off for the Iceland Gull - a new bird for Steve.
Another stop had us viewing a couple of distant WT Eagle. We finally got close to some eagles at our next stop. Initially there didn't seem to be anything happening but as we got to a place to park a large bird could be seen on the rocks. A quick look through the bins revealed a bit more - an adult WT Eagle plus two young birds. It wasn't too long before we found the reason for the gathering as three Otters broke the surface in front of the raptors. One of the young birds found something tasty to eat and took off. It showed great skill as it picked away at it's prize in mid air.
The eagles followed the Otters around often hovering above them when they caught a fish that was big enough to be brought ashore.
As the Otters moved off things settled down but we did have one more piece of action as we were leaving. A couple of eagles appeared in the air just as we pulled away, a bit of interaction as they touched talons and then moved off. I managed a couple of blurry shots and found that it had been a Golden Eagle chasing off one of the young WT Eagles - awesome stuff. The light was fading fast as the clouds started to roll in and the sun (what sun?!) was sinking towards the horizon. A juvenile Hen Harrier graced us with it's presence as we were heading back. A cracking way to finish the day - cheers Steve.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A handsome beast.

Monday I was out on tour, once again on the hunt for Golden Eagles. The rain was just clearing as we set off so we thought it would be a good time to get the big birds up in the air. The first stop was fruitless but the second port of call gave us a surprise find...driving up a forest track, half way up the hill we came across three Otters! There were plenty of Buzzards and Red Deer around and a couple of Hen Harriers to keep the interest going. It looked like there was more weather coming in so we had a quick change of location and hit lucky with an adult and juvenile Golden Eagle. A stunning rainbow appeared as the eagles drifted from sight. We moved out of the rain and back into better weather to find our fourth Otter of the day.
The Otter was always moving away from us so we moved on to a spot for lunch. A quick look round produced another Otter for the tally and the last one for the day. After lunch we spent a bit of time watching and photographing a Dipper.
Scanning the ridges we located a large raptor in the distance so we headed a bit closer to be rewarded by closer views of two Golden Eagles. The wind was starting to pick up and the light was fading but we made the effort to attempt to find a Mountain Hare. We would have been happy with distant views in the conditions but our luck held and we got a close one - a handsome beast.
That could have been the last of the sightings but there was more to come. We found a spot to have an afternoon cuppa in the company of a few RB Mergs and an elusive Red-throated Diver. Just as we were packing things away I picked up two bird over an offshore island - Hen Harriers! We had good views of the male and female birds before they were joined by another male. You couldn't ask for a better way to finish a day.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Ice, Ice, baby!

We had a nice run out on Sunday that produced a couple of nice birds, wonderful scenery and a few photos too. I hadn't caught up with any of the white winged gulls last year and I didn't want to see another year out without one so first port of call was for an Iceland Gull. These birds can hide themselves away in a crowd of gulls but once they take flight they really do stand out.
I watched this bird fly past and land beside the Herring Gulls but when I turned to look the other way there was an Iceland Gull! I looked back towards the first bird but it was gone and I couldn't see it in flight - odd. I took some flight shots when the other? bird took flight.
As you can see they are completely different birds;-) Just to prove the presence of two birds here they are together - ice, ice, baby!
It was a bit chilly standing in the breeze coming off the loch so we did the same as these Curlew and headed for some shelter.
The scenery was taken in next as we had a bit of a walk scanning the snow capped tops and choppy waters. I couldn't resist a snap of a Slavonian Grebe. Too far away for a decent shot but a stunning bird to see and I just had to share!
A trio of Fallow Deer were grazing near the road but best of all they were all sporting a different colour variant - an all dark one, a mid brown and a regular pale one.
Time was cracking on so we started to head for home taking in some nice Redwing...
...and Fieldfare along the way.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Idle birds.

Thursday was a little bit breezy as you may have heard. The worst of the damage was an island wide power cut and everything is back to normal now.
Saturday I was out on tour doing an eagle special. A request to see a wild Golden Eagle by Dan and a new experience for Kevin seeing Mull in all it's winter glory. It couldn't have been a better day after the stormy weather we'd had. The landscape was covered in snow with pockets of mist in the glens and a Golden Eagle perched on a rock amongst the splendour.
The idle bird just sat there and viewed it's territory so we moved on. A Kestrel at the next stop was the best we could manage but as we stopped to take in another stunning view we picked up another Golden Eagle sitting on the ridge. Once again we waited to see if the bird would fly.  A WT Eagle appeared over the opposite ridge and landed in full view. No reaction from the Goldie as it just sat and looked across. Another WT Eagle took off from the hillside and disappeared before the first WT Eagle followed it.
What did the Golden Eagle do? It took off and dropped behind the ridge! It was a bit chilly standing outside watching these birds do their thing so when they left we headed off for a warming cup of tea. Next on the agenda was to try to locate an Otter. A good look around the loch gave us plenty of Shag, a few Red-breasted Merganser and a group of five Great Northern Divers. A group of 10 Crossbills flew across the conifers but, typically, landed out of sight. We decided to move on and got as far as the first corner and there was an Otter swimming along close to the shore. A quick bit of reversing and a scramble across the rocks gave us some stunning views of three Otters.
The Buzzards were out in force, a few in flight, but most of them were hunting from poles.
We were even lucky enough to see a few of them catch a vole. The rain started just as we were going to have lunch so we headed for a drier spot to eat. Once we found a nice spot beside a river and started lunch. There were a few Red Deer on one side, a nice male Wigeon and a young WT Eagle on the other. Once again the eagle was an idle bird that sat surveying it's surroundings. We had a bit of a laugh trying to photograph the eagle through the scope with Dans iphone. After lunch we found another eagle sitting in a tree in the distance. Our expectations were that this would be another WT Eagle but when we got into a better position it turned out to be a stunning Golden Eagle!
A superb experience of a winters day on Mull - job done!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Not the best.

A quick run out on Tuesday in some, briefly, brighter conditions. Not the best set of photographs but it's all I have. I thought it might be worth looking for Golden Eagle to start with and I wasn't disappointed. One of the birds was perched on the skyline being hassled by a Kestrel and it wasn't too long before it took flight. You can see the Goldie keeping an eye on the Kestrel in this one.
It wasn't the Kestrel that got the Golden Eagle up but it's mate was arriving on the scene.
With all the snow there are a lot of Red Deer close to the road at the moment. Nice to get one with a snowy background.
A change of location produced another Golden Eagle sitting on a rock on the skyline but it was pretty distant. The light was starting to fade as the cloud started to build up. A Buzzard was sitting on a telegraph pole and I could hear a vehicle approaching so I waited for the bird to take off.
I spent a pleasant half an hour watching this WT Eagle hoping for it to take flight.
While I waited I had a couple of Common Seals come to check me out, a couple of GN Diver were calling to each other when they surfaced, a group of 30 Shag were fishing offshore and a couple of Greylag Goose cackled their way past too.
I followed a small flock of Long-tailed Tit along the road but the light was too poor for photos. We'd seen a Peregrine outside the shop earlier in the morning but we lost sight of it as it stooped at the waders on the shore. I was surprised to find, possibly, the same bird some three hours later sitting digesting a meal.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Icing on the cake.

Saturday was another showery day - wind and hail, not a good combination! The only sensible thing to do was go for a walk in the woods. I took the opportunity to get a few shots of this stag as it posed close to the road.
The wander round the woods was pleasant enough as the trees cut down the wind speed. Not a great deal to be seen but anything is better than nothing - plenty of Blackbirds, Pheasant, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Kestrel. The 'icing on the cake' for the walk was a group of four Crossbills that landed at the top of a conifer and the male birds started to sing - stunning!
We finished our walk getting pelted with hailstones but it was worth it.
It snowed a bit on Sunday and a bit more on Sunday night. Monday morning the hills were white but best of all the wind had dropped a bit. A fairly productive day for a couple of hours shower dodging...first off was a Hen Harrier that headed off pretty quickly. Good numbers of Buzzard on the wing, Redwing flying up from the roadside, Divers on the loch, a sleeping Otter and two WT Eagle were all nice to see but hardly a photograph taken. A hail shower came blazing in just as I found two Slavonian Grebe and a Water Rail called from a rushy area. The hail stopped and I couldn't find the Slavs or hear the Rail but I did spot two Otters - which one to go for! I went for the furthest one, good choice. I just got in position and it headed straight for me!
It clambered up the rock in front of me for a better look...
...wandered past and settled down for a clean up - awesome!
The Otter moved off, the hail moved in and I left. The Hen Harrier that I'd seen earlier was floating about but it was still distant.
It landed on a post so I clambered out for a better view but I got distracted by some Red Deer jumping the fence.
No sign of the Harrier after that. My last effort of the day was a shot of a Redwing that was with a single Mistle Thrush and a few Blackbirds.