Sunday, 27 February 2011

Ghost.

Friday was a day of showers but as the day ended the skies started to clear.
Saturday I was out on tour in perfect conditions - flat calm and sunny. A single male Crossbill paraded around just before the guests arrived but we set off in search of Otters and got a quick result. Nice close views were had of the Otter itself...
...and we also investigated one of the areas where the Otters sleep when the bracken is in full display. Good views of Common Buzzard, GN Diver, another Otter and distant views of a Golden Eagle were had before we visited the Common Seal colony. Next stop was for lunch where we saw a single Adder...
...and another two just next to it.
A 30 strong flock of Golden Plover showed briefly as a Golden Eagle cleared the ridge for about 2 seconds. We continued with lunch and waited for something to appear. It wasn't too long a wait before two Golden Eagle were circling in the distance, they gained height and then headed towards us. A quick dash for the camera and just enough time to switch it on before the first Goldie was flying above us.
The second bird wasn't too far behind and a lot closer - absolutely awesome view! Our next stop produced two WT Eagles sitting pretty on some small island but the reappearance of the Golden Eagles was a bonus. Both birds were in flight then one bird landed and just after getting the scope set up on it the second bird came in and landed on top of the first to copulate - you don't see that every day. A bit of a drive down a rough track gave us decent views of another pair of Golden Eagle before we headed to the beach. The sea looked quite calm but the swell must have been quite big as it was crashing over the rocks.
A Buzzard perched on a post was glorious in the sunshine but as the camera came out the sun went in - still a good view though.
There are plenty of stories about the origin of the Mountain Hares on Mull. Some information points at two separate introductions of Hares - one from the mainland to the East side of Mull and another introduction of Irish Hares to the West of the island. Consistent cold temperatures must have some bearing on whether Mountain Hares change to a white coat in Winter much the same as you get with Stoats whereas Irish Hares don't change colour at all. I've seen Stoats in their full white coats and also patchy ones when it's not so cold a Winter. If that's all wrong then we saw a Ghost Hare on Saturday.
There were two other Mountain Hares in the same area that were holding more of the reddish brown colour but still sporting decent white patches and, as you can see below, a fair bit of white in the coat of this one too.
Plenty of white underneath too as this one loped off down the road.
We'd seen a few Red deer through the day but no decent looking stags so it was nice to rectify that as we headed for home.
I've seen the odd pair or single Mute Swans on Mull but I've not heard of any larger groups so 9 birds together was a notable sighting to finish the day off nicely.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Happy days.

The weather has continued to be pretty dull and showery in places. I had a really poor view of a White-tailed Eagle actually in the loch with wings pointing skywards while it was being mobbed by a group of Hoodies - great to see but shame about the weather at the time.
Thursday I was out on tour. Not the best of starts to the day but a white Mountain Hare made up for the lack of other wildlife. It didn't take too long before we had an adult WT Eagle in our sights. We followed it at speed to get better views before the bird drifted off and out of sight. A few Turnstones, Pied Wagtail and Ringed Plover added to the days tally. Next port of call should have given us Golden Eagle but we ended up with two WT Eagle instead! With the conditions quite cool in the breeze the prospect of seeing Adders didn't seem too good but after rescuing a frog from a pool on the track we set off in search of reptiles. A quick scan around for large birds of prey was fruitless but two Adders soaking up whatever heat they could find was a bonus. Next on the hit list were the Common Seals and they were hauled out in good numbers but this Pheasant stole the show as he flew in and paraded around in front of us.
Next stop was for lunch at the side of the loch. Just as we pulled up we could see two Otters in the water - result. Cracking views were had and lunch was delayed while we watched them. The dull conditions prevented any clear shots but the views were tremendous - here is one of the two.
I had a scan around before setting out the lunch and picked up another Otter further along the shore so as the first two moved off and we finished lunch we picked up the third Otter on the shore.
We were understandably blown away by the views and our luck but better was to come as the resident dog Otter came swimming along too and walked over the rocks about 20 yards away!
Better views of Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and a few new species for the day were had before we picked up a small flock of Lapwing. There have been two birds wintering here so it was nice to see some new arrivals boosting the flock to twelve.
We checked out a few spots for Golden Eagle but with the low cloud covering a lot of the tops it didn't look good. We headed for an area that looked good and gave it some time. A very distant Golden Eagle that was just hanging in the wind and not really showing any good profiles was not good enough. The odd Raven or Hooded Crow appearing over the ridge caused brief excitement but it wasn't what we were after. The longer you wait the more restless you get, wondering if it's worth the effort but patience will pay off eventually - we got our reward. Everyone got a good view of this single bird as it played hard to get dropping behind the bits of landscape in our way. We moved to a different position to get closer views. We now had two birds in view flying low to the ground and showing very well. Once again the photograph doesn't do it justice but what a way to finish!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

More weather.

Monday tried to show some promise with bits of sunshine pushing through the clouds but the low cloud was holding tight to the higher ground. I had a quick run out in the morning to check on the family of four Otters. The wind was blowing fairly hard, it was cold that wind, but the sun was shining down on a sheltered spot with the Otters all bundled together. They were difficult to count to start with but eventually I got a count of four - all is well! Too far away for the camera but you can see the problem of counting them.
Even the Red-breasted Mergansers wouldn't come close enough for a decent shot.
This shot of a Grey Heron shows how windy it was.
Another attempt on the RB Merg that failed miserably so I headed for home.
A nice rainbow appeared while I stood in the drizzling rain. Low cloud, snow on the tops, rain, sunshine what more could you want....
....steam rising from the forestry?
There were a couple of Golden Eagle displaying over this forestry while I was taking that shot.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Pale Buzzard.

I've been keeping my eye open for the pale Common Buzzard to get a few snaps so you can see what all the fuss is about. To be honest there was very little to look at anywhere on another cold, breezy and dull day. What I needed to do was get turned around so I could get out and use the motor for a bit of shelter. There were plenty of people out though - f-stop and PS were passed on the road, Postie and Ferry Lady were watching an Otter so we chatted for 20 minutes then had a look at the Otter they'd been watching, BB and BA were watching another Otter just round the corner. Just at my turning point a pair of Ravens were perched up leaning into the wind.
I missed the open wings but you can see this one is enjoying the breeze in the armpits!
What about the pale Buzzard then...it was flying about with it's mate when we came back down the road. Getting a photo was something else though but here we go...if you get a view of the top of this birds tail it's white with a dark band on the tail just like a Rough-legged Buzzard but the view from below is like this.
The buff underwing and dark carpal patches look quite good but the dark trailing edge to wing is too extreme and the obvious pale body rules out the rarer bird...
...stunning bird though. Thanks to the wind the bird stayed in one position long enough for me to find it in the scope, get the camera, check the settings and then take a snap!
You may be wondering what it looks like when it's not flying...here's one I took earlier.
Shop Lady was trying to get me onto a Golden Eagle while I was taking those photos but I managed to miss that!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Off island.

Friday was a bit of a poor day so no outing but I did get my first Greenfinch of the year.
Saturday we had a trip off island but not much time for birding. Despite the driving duties I still had my eyes open so a few good sightings along the way - a couple of Buzzard in a field hunting by foot, a large herd of Red deer stags and a roadside Merlin were the pick of the bunch. A couple of Black Guillemots were just too far for the camera and my first Pied Wagtail of the year stayed in a shady spot on this gloomy day. The Red Deer that we saw in the morning were still there on our return - I guess they must be getting fed - a tremendous sight though.
This next bird had me reaching for the camera as it flew above us and then dropped out of sight. A bit of a search soon had the bird in reach of the camera - nice!
'It's just a Hooded Crow' I hear you say...not just any old Hooded Crow, this one is white! Apart from the head and is it more of an off white/grey colour?
It was a lot whiter in flight though and an interesting leucistic bird - have some video too:-)
video
A small flock of Siskins were waiting their turn at some nearby feeders - superb views but the poor light prevents the same being said about the photos!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Scales.

Well, a bit of a change to the design but the content won't change much - plenty of wildlife! Here we go...
Wednesday was a bit calmer than the previous day but there was still a bit of cloud cover. I didn't have much time so I didn't go too far. Find a spot, park up and wait. Plenty of waiting went on so I tested the camera settings on this Grey Heron.
There is always something to look at or listen to so the distant Golden Eagle took up 15 minutes or so as it circled higher and higher until it disappeared into the low cloud, a Crossbill was singing in the forestry behind me but I couldn't pick it up, scanning the loch produced a number of RB Merg, 9 GN Diver, 1 RT Diver and a single Common Guillemot. Pure bliss. I'd been keeping an eye on a couple of Shag that were fishing the shallows, they didn't stay up for too long and were creating a lot of ripples on the water so I missed the approach of two Otters. The Otters were catching fish on almost every dive but it was all small stuff. This one looks like it's got a Pipefish....
...and the other one is doing the same thing. You can see how the Otter holds onto the fish just to give it a bit of guidance into the trap!
Not too sure of the relationship of these two as they both look of similar size and certainly adult sized. It could be two cubs that have come to that time in their life when they have to move on. I'll keep my eyes peeled and see if there is anything more to add.
The weather was starting to close in again but nothing more serious than a bit of drizzle. A small group of Red Deer stags that I see around the house were loafing on the moor. Nothing doing here...
...until one of them gets shirty!
There must be few hormones still kicking around but they are handsome, proud beasts.
Thursday was a bit of a surprise as we woke up to find the skies were blue and there was very little wind. Some serious de-icing of the car (start it up, heat on full blast and wait for 10 minutes) before we could head off. I was curious to see if the Adders would brave the icy conditions but once again it was warm where they were.
I did say 'they' as there were two today. 'Never put your hands on the ground without looking first' when these beasts are around - good advice - this second one was no more than a foot away and right where you would put your hand for a bit of balance.
Just to show how cold it was, not ten yards away this fresh frog spawn was resting on the edge of the frozen pool.
A real welcome sight for the day was my first Stonechat of the year.
A displaying pair of Golden Eagle seemed to cruise around the boundaries of their territory without getting close to me as they took the high road over me! Six Bullfinches gave me a nice fly past before another scaled beast caught my eye. This time it was a Common Lizard. You can see how much it's spreading out to get as much heat as possible.
An even better view of the spread from this angle. A cracking run out though.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Rapt.

Another run out today in a bitingly cold wind and dull conditions. It was a proper raptor day with my first stop producing this gaudy little number. I let rip with photoshop auto settings but, with such a poor photo (it must have been about half a mile away), there was no other way - a cracking male Merlin all the same!
I was certainly rapt with that bird as I stood, eyes streaming with the wind, until it flew off. A Mistle Thrush landed close by and started to sing - the Stormcock really is well named. As the Merlin departed I scanned around and picked up a Golden Eagle in the distance so I headed off to attempt a better view. Unfortunately for me the bird was always heading away but good views were had through the scope and once again the photo does no justice. A Kestrel hunting the moor was a welcome sight too as they can be difficult through the Winter months.
A big surprise was this Adder as the air temperature was only 1 degree and with the wind chill it must have been minus two or three where it was basking!!
As I pulled up to my next stop I could see a Buzzard against the sky sitting on a post so I thought a silhouette might be in order. You can see this bird has had a good feed already as the crop is bulging!
A quick look for Otters on the way back to the shop produced just the one beastie but it took up another huge chunk of time.
Just look at the teeth on that.
The Otter must have had a messy meal as it nosed around picking up a few scraps before a couple of Hooded Crows moved in to get the smaller pieces that were left. The Hoodies proceeded to make their way around three bird carcasses that were littering the foreshore.
'Can you find anything worth eating?'
'Me neither, let's complain to the management!'
After lunch I headed back out and picked up a male Hen Harrier. It was tremendous to watch the effortless display of this bird in the strong wind. The bird was gliding into the wind, just over the vegetation, with the occasional flap and then, with a twist of the tail it would catch the wind, turning and gaining height at the same time to be pushed backwards before dropping back down and face into the wind for another foraging run.
I was happy with that lot and I probably should have quit while I was ahead as the weather was starting to close in a bit. The Shelduck that I saw on Sunday had relocated to another bay and, for once, it was close enough for a photograph.
Another view of a male Hen Harrier that could have been the bird from earlier, a distant Golden Eagle and this Buzzard doing a bit of ground hunting were the only other highlights.