Thursday, 31 March 2011

I want it all.

Tuesday was a flat calm day with superb visibility - classic conditions for rain the following day. I had to go out in the morning so I packed the camera, bins and scope in the car before heading off. Less than five minutes later I was out of the car trying to get a view of a couple of Otters but the angle of view through the trees was not so good. A flock of 20ish Whooper Swans were on a loch as I drove past and once again too distant for the camera. A bit of success at my next stop as 2 male Wheatear were blasting song at each other. Stunning birds - I'm sure there will be a few more photos like this before the year is out! 
Another bird vying for the same bit of territory as the Wheatears was this Skylark.
Nothing of any great interest on the journey home but I did come across the two Otters again. I spent about 15 minutes just watching them before they swam past me - nice.
Wednesday I was out on tour and as I mentioned earlier the weather had turned - wind, rain, cold etc. Not the best conditions you may think - read on...With no real targets for the day we set out to make the most of the poor conditions so our first stop was hopefully going to set the pace for the day. We bagged a hat full of stuff - Mountain Hare, Shelduck , Snipe, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Lapwing and a male Hen Harrier as we left the area!
Not the best of photos but you can see it's a grey and black fuzzy thing with a white rump;-) We took in the flock of Whooper Swan and four Tufted Duck before moving on. The weather was almost threatening to clear a bit but the showers kept coming. Our next stop was the beach - it was a bit breezy but we still bagged a Common Seal, Kittiwake, 3 species of gull, Oystercatchers and a couple of Wheatear. A Redshank posed nicely for the camera too.
It was cracking on for midday and we still hadn't seen a Buzzard or any bird of prey for that matter but we kept plugging away. A couple of Sand Martins were a good find as was the singing Yellowhammer that eventually perched up on the wires so we could have a look. A Red-throated Diver was found close to shore with a Great Northern Diver just a bit further out, Curlew were seen just about every time we stopped, nice views of RB Mergansers, a flock of Redwing - we were certainly racking them up. Our first raptor of the day was a brief view of a Kestrel and five minutes later we had a brief view of a Buzzard - they weren't making it easy. The rain stopped briefly as we found a sheltered spot on the loch side for lunch and, hopefully, a bit of Otter spotting. The lunch was nice, no Otters and then it started lashing down - just what we needed! A quick stop outside the shop kick started the afternoon with a lovely rainbow and then a bit of a panic amongst the waders and gulls as a small raptors flew in front of us and then landed on the rocks - male Sparrowhawk was the initial thought but it was better than that. A cracking male Merlin with a Meadow Pipit for lunch - stunning views through the scope of the bird plucking it's prey and we forgot about the rain.
The Merlin certainly kept the spirits high as we drove to our next stop that produced an Otter pretty quickly. We watched the Otter fishing for a wee while but after half an hour or so we pressed on. A couple of Buzzards showed well along the way before we got a shout for a large bird flying over us. We jumped out and managed a brief view of the White-tailed Eagle before it disappeared into the cloud that was hanging over the forestry. It wasn't looking good for our chances of seeing either of the eagles but you have to try. The WT Eagle nest site was shrouded in mist so nothing from that and it was lashing rain and low cloud at a Golden eagle site with the only consolation being a Dipper - better than nothing though. As we headed back to the WTE nest the sky seemed to be brightening and thankfully the cloud had lifted from the eagles home. Both birds were on the nest and showing well. We headed towards another site for Golden Eagle as the weather started to clear but a large raptor clearing the ridge being chased by a Buzzard had to be checked out first. It was a young WT Eagle - fantastic! Better still we got it over head too!
It was certainly all coming together now but with the weather clearing nicely and Golden Eagle still to get we wanted it all. We settled in with a cup of tea, a couple of Red Deer stags for company, and waited. One Golden Eagle appeared from nowhere on the ridge before taking flight and heading towards us and then it was joined by a second bird. They gave us a stunning display circling round before pulling the wings in and dropping the legs as they plummeted down in front of the ridge to give superb views before heading off - what a way to finish the day!!
A quick video taken this morning, Thursday, to show how much rain has fell...
video

Monday, 28 March 2011

A foolish mistake.

Saturday was another pleasant day which was spot on for the French film crew that I had in the afternoon. It was all a bit of a rush but we still managed to get footage of Common Seals, Pheasant, Red Deer, WT Eagle etc and some stunning scenery.
Sunday was a day of rest so we'll crack on to Monday instead. Only a quick jaunt out in the morning but quite productive in the flat calm conditions. Stonechats seem to be in good numbers so there seems to be very little reduction in numbers despite the cold Winter.
A good scan across the loch was productive too with 21 Eider, a few small groups of Razorbill and numerous Great Northern Diver.
Another new bird for the year were this pair of Goosander.
A quick stop to look for Wheatears. I could hear one singing but I never saw it. A well camouflaged Rock Pipit was feeding close to the motor.
While scanning the ridges I picked up a flock of large birds too distant to ID with the bins. A bit of waiting and I could hear the birds trumpeting to each other...
video
...a flock of 27 Whooper Swan heading North - excellent.
I did catch up with Wheatear just after lunch as two birds flew up from the side of the road when I drove past. I stopped pretty smartly and waited for the birds to reappear and sure enough they did. The male was a bit more brazen than the female and lacking my usual camera for digiscoping I had to rely on the coolpix 4500 for this shot.
I should have been heading for home but I missed the turn and mysteriously ended up looking for Golden Eagle instead! When a Golden Eagle did appear it was in a real hurry to get somewhere - I stood and wondered what the fuss was all about. I thought about getting the camera but it was too distant for a decent shot - a foolish mistake! A WT Eagle cleared the ridge and the Goldie was on it in a trice with talons outstretched, the WT Eagle turned upside down and locked a talon with the Goldie as the Goldies free foot smashed into the WTE's wing - all exciting stuff eh? What happened next? The WT Eagle had a lucky escape as the Goldie could only grasp a feather or two and remove them as they plummeted earthwards. They parted before it all went pear shaped and the Golden Eagle escorted the bigger bird off it's territory. Not the best of photos but you can see the gap in the secondaries where the contact had been made. It wasn't just me that had made a foolish mistake.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Third time lucky.

Thursday I had to go to Oban and news had filtered through that there was a Pied-billed Grebe on Mull. As soon as I got back to Mull I headed for Salen to see if I could locate the bird. The tide was really low and there was no sign so I let it go as I was going to be passing by a bit later on. Another failed attempt on the way to Tobermory but it was getting dark this time.
Friday I set off early to make sure I caught up with the bird. After scrutinising a couple of distant Little Grebe the bird in question floated into view at which point I got a stunning photo - you can nearly see some of the relevant features.
The weather was the best as it was overcast and as the bird appeared the wind picked up and then one of my cameras packed up too - disaster!! I had to rely on the old Coolpix 4500 which doesn't perform that well in poor light but it was good enough to show how well this bird blended into the seaweed.
Another couple of shots that show the pied bill....
...A cracking bird.
I headed inland from here to head for home and it turned out to be well worth the effort. Two more year ticks at my next stop in the shape of a Bar-tailed Godwit and also a Sand Martin that I picked up while scoping a Golden Eagle - cool or what?! I don't have Fallow Deer at my regular haunts so I couldn't resist this one.
Six Slavonian Grebe just starting to come into Summer plumage were a treat to see as were the two Whooper Swan and this White-tailed Eagle that flew over.
I'd promised to be back at a reasonable hour and time was passing rapidly by so I pressed on. As I drove along I didn't even stop for a Peregrine that was flying about or a Golden Eagle that was displaying but when I spotted this one circling over the road I had to stop...fast - well worth it.
So third time lucky with the grebe and some nice birds to slow me down on the way home - get in there!!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Two days news

Tuesday was another tour with the weather looking fantastic. I was watching a male Hen Harrier displaying and meeting up with the female bird just as the guests arrived. It was a bit of a distant view but as we set off we caught up with the male bird again and got better views as it went about it's business. Plenty of Grey Heron, GN Diver, RB Merg and a few Curlew...
 ...were seen along the way to view two WT Eagles. We got held up by the council repairing the road but a Golden Eagle on a ridge top gave us something to look at. When the road cleared we headed towards the Golden Eagle and managed to get two birds in flight. While checking out the Common Seals we spotted a Treecreeper and heard a Chiffchaff singing - both new birds for the year! We had a quick look for Adders before lunch and almost missed the Golden Eagle flying over our heads. The Goldie hung around and was joined by it's mate so a great sighting was had there. Another check around for reptiles produced my first Slow Worm of the year...
...and a well hidden Adder.
Another displaying Hen Harrier kept things interesting before we stopped to get a few snaps of this obliging Common Buzzard.
We finished the day in style with nice views of Shelduck, lots of Lapwing and a couple of Mountain Hares, one white and the other brown, chasing about in the field.
Wednesday looked like it was going to be a bit grotty but the cloud soon disappeared. With the guests on board we headed off to look for Mountain Hares. A failure on that one but the effort was balanced out by a cracking view of a Peregrine.
Good views were had of a couple of groups of Rock Dove. I can hear everybody saying 'It's just a pigeon!' but I like them.
A female Hen harrier having a bit of a tussle was exciting to watch and the list for the day was growing...Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Greenfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Great Tit - all nice birds to see and probably missed by quite a few people. Three Otters were spotted at our next stop but they played hide and seek amongst the rocks before disappearing all together. Lunchtime gave us the customary Golden Eagle sighting... 
...and also one of last years young Adders sporting it's proper colour instead of the ginger tinge they have when they are born. A real delight watching the feeders today with Great Tit, Coal Tit and Blue Tit all on the feeder at the same time before getting seen off by the Siskins. The WT Eagles were still hanging around the nest and applying the final touches before the eggs are laid. We'd had a fabulous day already but there is always something extra just round the corner - this Red Deer was a real treat...
...and a solitary Whooper Swan was a bonus as we finished the day as the fog rolled in from the ocean.

Monday, 21 March 2011

A mixed bag.

Friday wasn't too bad early on so I headed out for a quick look around. It was a bit breezy if you got in the wrong place and cold with it. My first stop gave me a decent view of an Otter just in the process of bringing a fish to shore. A couple of snaps of that...
...and one of the Heron that was on the same strip of land.
I had a quick look for Adders but it was pretty cold in the wind so I left before too long without seeing anything of note. As I travelled back down the road a couple of Golden Eagle were flying about so I headed off on foot to try to get closer. I got some cracking views but not prolonged enough to get the camera out. A skein of geese heading North but distant I presumed were Pink-feet but they never got close enough for a proper ID unlike these resident Greylag Geese.
Two White-tailed Eagles were sitting watching the day go by and keeping an eye on each other too.
As a regular breeding pair it was no surprise that they were checking out the same areas and keeping close company.
Saturday I was out on tour in the sunshine and we started the day off nicely with splendid views of an Otter fishing in the shallows. Other highlights for the day were WT Eagle perched up and in flight, a few Golden Eagle, another Otter, Crossbills, Adder, my first Grey Wagtail of the year...the list goes on. The camera didn't really see the light of day except when we stopped to look look at a few Sheep on the hillside!
Plenty of Buzzards along the way, Eider ducks and a nice finish to the day with a Red Deer stag and stunning views of a Great Northern Diver eating a crab.

Sunday we had the Yellowhammer in the garden again but the day was a bit of damp squib with a fine drizzle falling all day.
Monday morning has been a little bit eventful with lovely views of a Curlew on it's breeding territory, Skylarks singing, a small flock of Crossbills to greet us at the shop...

...and best of all a strafing run by a hungry Peregrine. So a nice few days but a shame about the photos!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Most exciting.

Tuesday started off a bit grey but it soon brightened up as the day went on so I finally headed out in the afternoon...for a walk no less!! Two Otters were out in the loch fishing and eventually came together with lots of chittering and chasing about going on - marvellous to watch!
A single Meadow Pipit flew up out of the grass and headed inland never to be seen again before I came across a pair of Common Buzzard calling to each other. One bird was in flight, carrying prey, while the other was perched on the ground. The prey was delivered to the sitting bird and then it was off again on another hunting mission.
I finally found a few Primroses in flower so a climb up the bank to get a photo...
...and then I managed to get down twice as quick as I lost my footing and slid down to the road - the things you do for a photo! On the return journey I came across my first Northern Wheatear of the year being harassed by a Rock Pipit.
Always good for a few photographs but this would have been better if I could have got closer.
I sat down to wait and see if it would come closer and picked up a pair of Stonechat in the same area. This is the first female Stonechat I've seen this year.
The Wheatear did come closer eventually but it always seemed to coincide with a car coming down the road to scare it off again.
On Tuesday evening, when we got home, there were two lambs in the field next to the house. It was too dark for photos at the time so Wednesday morning I was out with the camera getting a snap.
As the sun broke through the clouds a couple of thrushes could be seen making their way towards the fence. Not a pair of birds but, first of all, a Mistle Thrush...
...and then a Song Thrush following in the footsteps of the first bird - nice.
As we headed off to the shop the temperature was building and creating some mist on the hillsides and across the field. A nice bit of atmosphere with a few Red Deer too.
I met up with Postie after that to go and check on the Adders. We'd been basking in sunshine but as we headed towards the Adder site the clouds hadn't shifted so it was a good 4 degrees cooler - might not be the best for the reptiles. A Golden Eagle was sitting on the hillside but it took flight as soon as it saw us so we watched it circle round before it headed straight over the top of us - cracking!
It took a good hour before we found an Adder so Postie got a few shots. As I headed back to base a Red Deer was posing by the road...
...and a Pheasant was trying it's best to sneak away from me.
A half hour trip in the afternoon was quite productive too as I followed a male Hen Harrier along the road before locating a lone Whooper Swan. As I pulled in to get some shots of the swan a Pied Wagtail was working the road side and provided some entertainment. It's worth turning the volume up to listen to the bird muttering away to itself.
video
I took the time to head the Whooper Swan off to get a couple of shots in better light.