Saturday, 28 February 2009
Both types of Eagles have been displaying and mating in the brief clear spells that we have had and next month (March) will see them all settle down to nesting.
Two of the Common Scoters have decided to put in another appearance after a long absence. I tried for a photo of these birds but they flew off just as I got them into focus. I'll keep trying for them as it's the drake bird and one of the females.
Today looked a bit brighter so I thought I would have a look around to see how things are changing if at all! Naked eye birding at 30mph isn't easy but you always see a few things so 6 Shag, 3 GN Diver and 5 Buzzard was a decent tally on the way down to Fidden.
The Lapwing are gathering well at the moment with 200+ scattered around the fields and moor but only 8 Golden Plover today. Skylark were singing everywhere and they even allowed a half decent photo.A quick stop at Bunessan to look for the dodgy Eider that wasn't there again but a nice female RB Merg was fishing in the shallows. I got about 10 photos of the bird snorkeling before getting this shot!
The weather didn't know what it wanted to do so it was intermittent rain usually starting just as I get out into the fresh air. A view across to Burgh produced a single Golden Eagle displaying and you just know there has to be a second bird if you wait long enough. The displaying bird disappeared behind the cliffs than reappeared with another bird in tow...was it the female? Nope, it was a young bird with white in the wings and tail and he was displaying too - interesting. The two birds were roller coasting like mad but eventually they eased off, touched talons and drifted left which brought another 2 Golden Eagle into view!! All 4 birds were circling round and occasionally there would be a touching of the talons and all too soon they all dropped behind the cliff again. I waited for about 5 minutes before the adult male came back up to do some spectacular dives on his own. I guess that put everyone in their place as there was no more action after that. The rest of the afternoon was spent indoors helping someone out but it was good option looking at the weather. On the last leg of the journey home was the incident with the Scoters so I opted for the scenic view down Loch Scridian instead.
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
I'll leave you today with the local pet Herons having their breakfast of Sunny's leftover cat food - yum.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Around the sheds at the farm there are always a few finches, buntings, larks etc you just never know what you'll get or how many. The stars of the show today were the Reed Buntings. I was trying my best to get some shots of the 15 Skylark but the light was failing and they were running around an awful lot. I noticed a few birds flying in from my right and landing not too far away but just out of sight. I turned my attention to these closer birds to find it was 8 Reed Bunting and they were starting to show well. This bird stood still long enough for me to get a decent shot.
It wasn't too long before the Skylarks took flight and the Reed Buntings followed. Next on the hit list were the Greenland White-fronted Geese. As I was approaching the field where these birds spend a lot of time one of the Hen Harriers put in another appearance. It had been sitting close to the road eating what looked like a vole so as it flew off with prey in talons I just waited. Not too far up the road it dropped again but out of sight. It soon lifted again, talons empty, and started hunting again but it was too close for me to get out of the vehicle to attempt any photographs. Mastering a blustery wind can't be easy so it's great to watch the small adjustments needed to keep the bird on track - a stunning display of agility. Too many distractions down here...I noticed a Buzzard approaching from the left hotly pursued by a Raven 'cronking' like mad and when I looked back the Harrier was gone.
For once the WF Geese were not that jumpy although I did get out of the passenger door and got the scope without the birds being disturbed. I had just taken this shot when the Harrier reappeared further up the road so I swung the scope round and it was gone again - damn! I took a few more shots of the 23 WF Geese and then moved on.
The rain was coming in again and the wind was picking up so I had a scan around the distant shore. 10 Shelduck were notable along with good numbers of Herring and Common Gulls.
On the way back I noticed a few Rock Dove dropping down so I hauled in to get a couple of shots. With the wind howling and nothing to shelter behind I was lucky to get this. The males were in full display puffing their chests out and hassling the ladies. As you can see from the left hand bird it too cold for any of that!
Another check in Bunessan to see if the Eider was going to put in an appearance but it wasn't to be. No sign of either of the Divers but I did complete the set with this Black-throated further down the road. It was keeping a very low profile in the water for some reason. There were Common Seals around but they would attack from underneath given the opportunity so that couldn't be the reason for the low profile. Another puzzler.
Friday, 20 February 2009
Today was a bit of a fiasco as the folk who booked a tour didn't turn up but not to be deterred I had a tremendous time. Despite the inclement weather there was plenty on show - 6 Skylarks passing through from the East, Grey Wagtail going in the opposite direction, an increase in the Lapwings to 20 birds, 8 Ringed Plover, 3 Goosander, a Golden Eagle in the distance disappeared in the Glen and 2 Hen Harriers quartering the marshy area. It was busy enough for the time to fly by. Another scan around produced a juvenile White-tailed Eagle that disappeared over a ridge but it would be worth keeping an eye out for that one and I got more than I bargained for.
A jaunt round the loch in the rain wasn't a great prospect but with what I'd seen already it couldn't do any harm although photos weren't going to be a priority. A couple of Otters in Loch Beg were too far away for the camera but always good to see. This Heron was waiting the weather out and not in a hurry to move - a photo opportunity.
On the return journey I had a seriously close encounter with what I presume was the very same WT Eagle that had disappeared over the ridge earlier. It came up off the lochside and almost got wiped out but the bird seemed unconcerned which is more than I could say!! The Eagle kept on flying away from me and into a ride between the trees and appeared to land. Gathering my wits I continued down the road and got into a position where I could view where the bird had disappeared. Sure enough Lucky was sitting on a branch laughing, I guess!
I returned to home base for lunch and a change of underwear before setting off to refuel the motor.
The weather was really closing in and the wind was picking up so I wasn't expecting to do anything but do the refuelling. There is always something out there that gets you to stop. As I was driving through Bunessan I noticed an Eider on the sea, not too far out. 'I'll have a go at photographing that on the way back' was the thought. On my return the bird was still in reasonable close proximity and as I looked through the scope I noticed the odd bill colour. I'm no expert on the borealis Northern Eider but it looked a good candidate in comparison to some photos that I have seen of this subspecies. I'll probably have to go back tomorrow for a better look but any comments are welcome. The only thing this bird has going for it is the orange bill. I didn't see any 'sails' but most of the viewing was through the camera (bad move) and the photos aren't really clear enough.
Not much else to report but the 2 Raven that were sitting pretty on a cliff top. I got soaked for that shot and it's not even a good one! Still, there is always tomorrow.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
There was a small splash of rain while I was shooting the Heron so I moved on to get to the other side of the shower. It's great when you can see the end of these showers. I was now presented with an opportunity to get the camera out for a courting couple, I know what your thinking, of Rock Pipits. Boy, did they give me the run around. I had one of them sitting pretty, nicely lined up and a Buzzard flew round the corner and scared the pants off them - game over on that one. This Shag was sitting on the shore the whole time so I guess this is what he wanted. A handsome beast.
I scanned up the side of the Loch to see if there was anything close inshore. A single Shag, 2 RB Merg, 2 GN Diver and something else about half a mile up. I couldn't see head and neck so it had to be an Otter. Brrruuuuuummmm up the road........... one Otter not too far out but very camera shy!
Another shot of the same beast.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a movement in the water but right on the shoreline....another Otter! Both of these beasts were dogs and the closer one was keeping a low profile. They seem very tolerant of each other on the crossover of territory as long as there is a bit of distance between them. The first Otter didn't even look in the second Otters direction. I followed the second Otter until he climbed out and he really showed his feelings!
A late addition to the post but very welcome is the return to Loch Beg of ....... Pied Wagtail - hooray! I also had Grey Wagtail this morning but only a fly by.
If there are any car enthusiasts out there we have just had the course organiser for Scottish Malts Classic Reliability Trial in the shop. He was wanting to know if it would be possible to have the classic cars stop out front for the drivers to have a cuppa when they are on Mull. We told him..............YES! Check out www.hero.org.uk FANTASTIC!!!
Sunday, 15 February 2009
The big changes over the last few days has been the amount of birds singing now. The Chaffinches are very pleased with themselves, you'd think they'd just invented singing. The Dunnock's mate has returned which prompted him to start singing and the Robins have followed suit.
This mornings treat was a Skylark bursting into song - fantastic to know they are back in the area although these initial birds may not stay to breed here.
Off for a short walk this morning so I thought I'd give you an idea of the patch. The closest piece of water is tidal with a river running into it then you have Loch Beg and finally Loch Scridain. If the photo opens you might get a better impression. In the photo the tide is in and shows all the channels where the birds can hide when the tide goes out.
The place we were heading for today is Derrynaculen farmhouse. On the walk out here we saw very little in the way of wildlife, 1 Raven, 1 Buzzard and a couple of Hoodies. It doesn't really matter where you go on the Island you always keep one eye on the ridges and sure enough a Golden Eagle cleared the ridge just as we arrived at the destination.
This Ash tree with the holed trunk is a an attraction for photographers, artists etc. Probably one of the most photographed trees on Mull and I've got my shots of it now!
This one looks like the Ash tree is storming the farmhouse. I like the small trees growing out of the top of the walls too. As we were departing we had the female Golden Eagle again closely followed by the male but no display from them.
Back home for lunch then out round the other side of the Loch. The tide had dropped so scanning for the waders turned up 1 Golden Plover, 1 Goldeneye (I know it's not a wader but it was there to see), 2 Greenshank, 12 Redshank, 2 Turnstone, 10 Ringed Plover, 1 Dunlin, 8 Curlew, 6 Lapwing, 22 Teal, 14 Mallard, 2 Little Grebe, 8 Grey Heron and eventually an Otter too.
Onto Loch Scridain where there were quite a few RB Merg and Shag but it was a bit of a struggle for the Divers. We had 5 GN Diver but no sign of BT or RT Diver. The last treat of the day was this Slavonian Grebe that showed very well and would have been a better photo if the weather had been better! An Otter hauled out a fish just before we left too. Once finished he was back in the water so we left him in peace.
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Anyway, this morning was nice and clear so I was off the mark early. I checked the loch for last nights Golden Plover and they were still there, a tidy group of 10.
The view of snow capped Ben More was breathtaking with the clear blue sky as a background.
Not much sign of any birdlife except Hooded Crow, Buzzard and the odd Raven. Lots of Red Deer were trying to eke out a living down in the glen but it was that quiet you could hear the snow melting. While looking down over these lochs I could see some ripples on the near shore of the furthest loch. As I waited for something to surface a ringtail Hen Harrier took off from the lochside and landed in the water - bathtime! Another ringtail approached from further back and chased the first one off and then had a good wash in the same place. Not something I'd seen before so it was notable.
There was a gang of 8 Hooded Crows up behind me making a nuisance of themselves but it was just general banter between the birds. Looking in the larger patches of snow there was a superb print of where a Hoodie had taken off, footprints in the middle and primaries spread either side. Also lots of vole tracks with little footprints and a line where the tail was hitting the snow.
This next shot of the Golden Eagle was a treat. I saw the bird flying so I hauled in as soon as I could but it landed on the top. I decided to wait and wait.....and wait..........then she was off again. It was a struggle to get this but it looks ok!
As the sun was beating down and creating a bit of heat I thought I'd give the Adders a go on the off chance. The first 2 locations were a bit damp but third time lucky there was one basking. It had obviously been there a while as it looked quite alert as I approached. Nice and easy does it....superb!
A close up too.
Monday, 9 February 2009
I'd waited long enough and that nice clear spell of weather just wasn't going to happen so off I went. Loch Scridain was reasonably calm and also reasonably blank with 8 GN Diver, 2 Little Grebe, 20 Shag and about the same number for RB Merg. A juv Golden Eagle sporting lots of white in the wing and what looked like an almost completely white tail was patrolling the far ridge. I took some shots but they are for my eyes only or the bin probably!
A bit further up the loch this Cormorant had his best outfit on and he was soon joined by 3 Shag. It's a nice comparison between the two different types of bird - the Cormorant being the large bird on the left hand side.
It was still pretty cold standing around with the wind coming off the loch so I thought a bit of a wander in the shelter of some woodland might be good. Woodcock, GS Woodpecker and some of the smaller birds would have been nice but I saw and heard nothing but a single Great Tit. At least it wasn't completely wasted.
I was looking for this Kestrel as I drove down the road but I still didn't see it till it was too late (better on the road than in the ditch) and I had to drive past it. It was obviously time for afternoon tea as a delicious looking mouse/vole was being devoured. I waited for the meal to end then we went our separate ways.
A late addition - todays view!
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Just before setting off this morning I heard a Greenfinch singing so I scanned the trees until I found it. They seem to disappear in the winter probably to another part of the Island so it was nice to see they are on their way back.
We were heading for Loch Ba today and it's been a bogey walk for us for a while. The weather has beaten us every time with rain, gale force winds, thunder and lightening but today would be different with a bit of luck! We stopped along the shore of Loch na Keal in a couple of places to get a few birds in as we knew there wouldn't be much up Loch Ba. First stop produced 1 BT Diver, 3 GN Diver and 2 Black Guillemot and the second stop gave me an opportunity to photograph these Red-breasted Mergansers. As soon as the scope and camera came out the birds decided to go for a swim but I managed to get this shot of the male and female in the same frame.
We set off on the walk with the wind in our faces and it wasn't too cold but the various streams that come off the hill were in various stages of freezing. The walk is approximately 4 miles and flat - just right for me! Not too far in and a Common Snipe exploded from the side of the path and away into the distance. While there were no birds to watch I was busy crunching my way through the iced over puddles or looking at the ice formations on the overhangs at the side of the path. I'm sure I'll find one that's worth taking a photo of but it's still fun to break the fresh ice or crunch though the virgin snow!
The woodland areas along the loch are made up of Birch, Hazel, Oak and the odd Holly tree here and there. They are all wizened with age and the harsh conditions - fascinating to look at. We actually found some birds in there too but not many. A Buzzard was the first one we disturbed rapidly followed by a Robin and not too much further on we found 3 Mistle Thrush, 5 Fieldfare, 2 Blackbirds and 3 Lesser Redpoll.
We were nearing the top of the Loch so I thought I'd better take a snap of where we had come from. The field area of this photograph is where we saw 5 Golden Plover on the way up but on the way back we picked up 16 Golden Plover and 2 Lapwings - superb! As we approached the loch again there was a flock of 8 Wigeon (the only birds we saw on the water) and a fly by of 7 Curlew.
Another surprise find were these Hazel catkins. It's obviously reasonably mild in this area. There was a small, broken, tree stump that had a collection of Hazelnuts scattered around. This was the scene of a wild party held by the local mice as we don't have Squirrels on Mull.
Next one for the hungry eye of the camera was this bracket fungus - nice.
The next shot looks like a real cold one with the ice covering the small rocks and the ice gargoyle clinging to the side. The gargoyle part actually looked like a Seal so apologies to the Seals for that!
This next shot was taken looking further up the glen and in the centre of the shot, at the base of the snowy hill, is a settlement. Pre Highland clearances there used to be 800 people living in the Loch Ba area - unbelievable!
Another shot of the settlement but zoomed in this time.
We could have carried on from here but the clouds were starting to gather and we didn't want to get caught out again so we headed back.
As we neared the end of our walk there were 11 Red Deer, hinds and youngsters, grazing on the top of the rise. The camera was out but the settings were not right so I missed the whole group but I did manage to get 5 of them!