Monday, 28 September 2009

Glossy Ibis

Thursday I was pretty well tied up with deliveries which is more than can be said for this boat. The weather wasn't too good and the boat had been tied up with rope, needless to say, it escaped!I also received a very belated report of a Glossy Ibis on Mull. The report was only 6 days later than the event so there was no hurry. From a birders point of view I would have made an effort to get the news out a bit quicker but there you go. In between the deliveries I was checking on the wader situation outside and I was quite surprised to find them on the near shore rather than the far one. Out came the camera to see what I could get in the gloomy conditions. After taking photos of a few different species I had a look through on the PC and they were mostly rubbish but the Golden Plover wasn't too bad.......... and the Knot was a bit blurry.....Friday was a better day weatherwise so I went in search of what would probably be a long departed Ibis. One of the email I received about this bird was to consider White-faced Ibis as the bird had been found around the same time as the Blackburnian Warbler on St Kilda and the Sandhill Crane on Orkney. There wasn't any sign of anything that looked like this......but the walk was very pleasant. It was nice to be out in the peace and quiet and the birds were showing well. I could hear Greylags cackling away in the fields somewhere and a small flock of Golden Plover took flight from one of the fields. Fifteen birds flew off so I scanned the field for more - no sign of them but a cracking male Yellowhammer sitting on the fence was a real treat. I hadn't taken the camera with me either. While I was having a second look at the 'hammer a female Hen Harrier glided into view - stunning. Just along the fence three Stonechat were feeding away dropping into the grass and popping back up again. The Greylag were on full alert but not disturbed enough to fly off. Three yellowhammer were sitting on the gate at the end of the track and a charm of Goldfinches passed overhead. Man, this was good. The odd Robin was ticking away in the bushes and the occasional view of one as it perched on the fence. Meadow Pipits aplenty and six Skylark 'chirruped' overhead. You can't beat being out on your own and just soaking all this up. Six Pale-bellied Brent Geese were down on the shore and were a nice find for the day. When I arrived back home there was a report of a Glossy Ibis at Loch Sween on the mainland the previous Saturday- possibly the bird reported from here and again 6 days too late!! With the slightly better weather I decide to have another go at the waders out the front. The feeding is pretty frantic so they go at it non stop saving the preening for when there is no feeding opportunity. The Dunlin are difficult to catch up with, half a second still then they are off, as can be seen here......but I did get one right.......the Golden Plover were just too camera shy......but even a view from the back shows off the stunning plumage of this bird.
Sunday was dreich as is today so no photographs apart from giving an idea of why I'm not out 'soaking it up'.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Wet, wet, wet

Monday was another wet day that proved to be hard work for everyone but we managed to get some of the goodies. We started off with the search for Mountain Hare that proved fruitless although the Skylarks and a Buzzard gave us a decent start considering the weather. We didn't see anything else of note until we bagged 2 Otters. The hard work continued as we missed out on Golden Eagle due to the low cloud but the Seals were showing well. Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Turnstone provided some interest to keep us going. Best sighting of the day was two adult WT Eagle flying alongside us in driving rain and we managed to relocate one of the birds after it had landed.
Tuesday was a day of showers so we tried to seek out the wildlife in the sunny spells. I did have a Peregrine on a fly past before I set off but first on the list for the day were two WT Eagle, one perched in a tree and the other sitting on a headland. The adult in the tree was soaking up the sunshine/drying off but it was some sight when she half opened her wings.We picked up a herd of Red Deer after this before heading off on the trail of Otters. No sign of any movement in the water except for the odd Common Seal and a fine selection of waders outside the shop. We managed to relocate a single Knot amongst the Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Redshank. After an hour and a half hold up for the road resurfacing we finally made it to lunch and immediately picked up a single Golden Eagle. The bird of the day was going to be this female Hen Harrier that performed tremendously......the Greylag Geese were just flying into the fields at the same time........but this was totally eclipsed by the appearance of a male Hen Harrier at our next stop - what a stunning bird this is!!Shame about the photo though! We travelled back to home base trying to pick up an Otter but it wasn't working. I decided to give it one last go before dropping everyone off. The waves were sporting white horses and it didn't look good, a shout went up for a head appearing but it was just another Seal. I put my eye to the telescope, focused on the waves and couldn't believe it when an Otters head appeared in the view. Could I find it again though? No chance. I scanned back and forth in the choppy water with a quick check on the nearest rocks just in case - still nothing. I wasn't giving up on this one so I kept scanning and it paid off as the Otter appeared on the rocks and we all managed to get a good view!
Wednesday started off with rain that was heavier than forecast but it was supposed to clear a bit. We failed on the Hares again today but it's no surprise given the poor conditions. The Skylarks showed well and some great sighting of Buzzard and Raven gave some hope for the day.
We actually struggled after that but the raft of 200 Eider in the loch was a good sighting with Gannet and Kittiwake providing some backup. I spotted a WT Eagle perched up on the other side of the loch so we headed off for that before the clear weather could spoil a good sighting. Along the way we stopped for the waders with the Knot number increasing to 3 and the usual suspects still in the area. A quick check for Otters didn't reveal anything and we eventually arrived at the spot for the WT Eagle which, thankfully, was still sitting in the same tree. What we hadn't seen was the other WT sitting above the first bird and the youngster on the ground! Three for the price of one! The youngster took flight and gave a great display as it headed towards us......and soared above us..... but just after the camera went away the bird came down against the trees and made half an attempt on a Hooded Crow - stunning! We managed to get some decent views of a herd of Stags instead of the usual view of a beast up on the skyline and then we were back on the trail of Otters. It proved to be a difficult task again as the sea was whipped up into a fury. I did manage to locate 2 Otters on the shore but sadly they dropped behind the rocks and didn't reappear so nobody else got a view. We'd done the best we could in difficult conditions but we didn't find any more Otters.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Fledge party

Thursday was a good day with the weather but not too grand with the sightings. The best we could do for WT Eagle was a distant white tagged individual at some distance. We headed off to look for Golden Eagle and Otter - no sign of any Otters but we did get 2 Golden Eagle but it was still hard work. It had to improve soon! Another look for an Otter with the tide well out and plenty of seaweed covered rocks to sleep on it could be a hard task. The sun was beating down and creating a fair bit of heat haze when I found something that didn't look right. Zooming in on the mystery object I could see it was the wrong texture for seaweed - an Otter at last. We waited for about ten minutes before it eventually stirred and we could see it for what it really was! We headed off to lunch and had just broken out the sandwiches when a Golden Eagle flew straight overhead. I managed to get the camera on it eventually but it was an awesome sight at close quarters.We lost sight of the bird before too long but relocated it flying with another bird. Not a great deal else to report from the day with the regular birds performing as usual but there does seem to be an increase in the number of Stonechats around. Here is a photo of a strange effect you occasionally get when the sun starts dipping towards the horizon.
Friday wasn't too bad a day either. A real bad start with nothing of interest to show but Red Deer after a couple of hours. Two Golden Eagle over the ridges brightened things up no end before we bagged an impressive selection of shorebirds including the Golden Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover etc plus a single Wigeon. Just around the corner an adult WT Eagle was sitting on the rocks being harassed by 3 Hooded Crow. The Hoodies were using the usual tactics of one bird behind and the other two in front of the eagle and trying to drive it off - great to watch. 3 Golden Eagle gave reasonable views at lunchtime but the 2 Bullfinch and a charm of 20 Goldfinches stole the show. We'd had no sign of Otters up to now and it was looking desperate when we made a stop at an inlet - no sign of anything. Out with the scope to check the rocks seemed like an attempt too far but it wasn't long before I spotted an Otter rolling about - result. It was the first time I'd seen an Otter out of the water in this spot but the delight doubled when I found another one in the water! Never seen two Otters at the same time here either. We had a great finish to the day with superb views of Stonechat, Reed Bunting, a flock of 15 Skylark, 30 Linnet, a Common Snipe and a female Hen Harrier. I finally managed to get a reasonable shot of a juv Rook - these birds get reported as Carrion Crow just about every year as they have the feathering over the bill.Despite the windy conditions we still picked up 2 Mountain Hares too. A cracking day out despite the shaky start!
I had the weekend off for a birthday treat staying at Tiroran House - just round the corner from a WT Eagle site. Saturday we were up early for a stroll in the gardens and it proved fortuitous as a WT Eagle made three passes over the area while we were out. With friends to take around the island and show off the specialities we were hoping for good weather but the rain came lashing in early on. The forecast said it would clear by 11:30 and thankfully they were right. We looked around for things for the first hour we were out with nothing much showing. The wind had changed direction so I thought we should check a regular spot for WT Eagle in poor weather. Result - one adult bird perched up waiting for the rain to stop. The weather was clearing nicely so we followed it through. Another WT Eagle in flight, a juv this time, was a bonus before we picked up a Golden Eagle coming round the side of a Ben. We tracked this bird below the ridge until it joined with another two birds. We headed off for coffee and a chat before we continued on our journey taking in some of the scenic beauty of Mull. Another two adult WT Eagle kept up the wildlife theme and a few tales of times past and historical sights filled the gaps. A Buzzard doing it's thing looked like a good photo opportunity as we travelled along. We had one last chance to bag an Otter before the day was done but there didn't seem to be any sign. I had to try with the scope just in case we'd overlooked anything. The tiniest piece of fur was sticking up from behind a rock and we could easily have driven off without seeing it. The fur came to life and a head popped up before settling down again. Another furry body appeared too - it was a mother and cub together. We moved to a better position to get better views before heading off for a celebratory pint!!
Sunday we were due to attend the WT Eagle fledging party at Loch Frisa. With two birds satellite tagged this year and one of them being named Oran after St Orans Well I'd taken some photos of it in the grounds of Tiroran House.We arrived at the hide at Frisa to find decent weather but no birds and then the rain came in to try to spoil things. It was a quiet afternoon but the highlights were a hunting male Hen Harrier that landed in a field near to the hide........and a pair of Golden Eagles that seemed intent on giving a Raven a heart attack. They certainly didn't attempt to kill it but they did frighten the living daylights out of it - a fantastic sight that had everyone gasping.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Young Ones

Monday was pleasant day with no rain and very little wind. We started off with the hunt for Mountain Hares but there wasn't a sniff of them. The first thing of interest that we saw was this calf that had just been born - still in the bag and struggling to get up. The first of the young ones.Ten minutes later it was on it's feet and suckling from mum - aaaahhhhhh! We picked up a female Hen Harrier while watching the bovine antics and we left soon after with no Hare. The day took a bit of a nose dive after that with very little on show except the common stuff. A brief glimpse of a WT Eagle perched on a distant ridge was all we had until late in the afternoon when a breeze started to pick up. An Otter asleep on the seaweed was a relief to see but the next Otter we found showed extremely well - a just reward for the quiet spell.A search for a closer view of WT Eagle was looking like a waste of time until this young one flew right past us........then landed briefly on the hillside!As the bird gained height, after taking off, a Golden Eagle joined it and they both disappeared into the cloud that was hanging on the ridge. On our return journey we picked up the dog Otter again who was out on the shore again.We finished the day of with views of a Goldie perched on a ridge and 2 WT Eagle, one juv in flight and another perched on a ridge.
Tuesday was a different day altogether. It was drizzling when we set off but looking like it would break up. The guests on board we headed off in search of WT Eagle and it took a bit of time. We located 2 young ones in a field and no sooner had we found them and one was in flight - we headed to a closer view point. The local Hoodies and Herons were going ballistic with the giant in the air.This bird crossed the loch and made a half hearted attempt on a few Eider before landing in a tree next to another WT! Three in one go wasn't bad but that was just the start of it! We'd had a tip off for an Otter so we headed in search of that. We had a patient wait before finally picking it up but with the wind blowing from our backs it wasn't long before he clocked us and moved off.Next on the hit list was Golden Eagle - no problem with that as we picked up a bird on the ridge. A bit of a drive to get a closer look paid off as the bird took flight and was immediately joined by a second bird. They soared around for a while before seeming to take interest in something....another juv WT Eagle was just underneath them. The male Goldie dropped out of the sky with talons outstretched and the young WT flipped over to present his talons! Strangely they soared around together after that but seeing all three bird together it was apparent that the young WT was a female bird - huge compared to the Goldies! We bagged all the waders around Loch Beg including the Common Sandpiper. Driving on a shout went up for a large bird in flight - juv WT Eagle again! It eventually came right overhead.....After this bird disappeared we went in search of the seals only to have them overshadowed by an adult WT Eagle with a young one not too far away.Lunch proved to be a bit quiet but we did eventually pick up another distant Goldie and a different adult WT just before we moved on. Another stop to look for Otters didn't give what we wanted but yet again an eagle stole the show - Golden Eagle at close range! We headed off for the Hares and some small stuff. Five Mountain Hare all tucked in to various sheltered spots and good views of Linnet, Goldfinch, Skylark and a couple of Common Snipe. We'd had a cracking day so we headed off in search of another Otter but we were foiled again at the first stop we made. We scanned the area thoroughly and nothing was showing at all so I had a quick glance in the opposite direction to find 2 Golden Eagles circling in the mid distance - no sooner had I got everyone onto the birds and another one flew right overhead......followed by another.....then another!!!! They were all adult birds too. We'd obviously hit rush hour on the Goldies M25! Half a mile down the road another Golden Eagle appeared at close quarters but this time it was a young one with the brilliant white patches on the wing and tail - absolutely stunning. I told everyone to close their eyes and stop looking after that - what a day!!
Wednesday was a cracking day weatherwise with clear blue skies and a decent breeze too. A no show for the Mountain Hares but the female Hen Harrier was about again so that got us a good start. Next on the list was a Golden Eagle perched up on a ridge with a fair number of Rock Doves on the moor in front of us. Strangely nobody saw the Rock Doves fly away! A trip to the beach next was looking a bit blank until we got Gannet, Northern Wheatear and a cracking male Grey Wagtail. Stonechats and Meadow Pipits on the return trip was brightened up immensely by the appearance of a male Merlin flying up the road in front of us. As the Merlin disappeared into the scrub it disturbed a Sparrowhawk that smashed it's way through a hedge before flying off. Seeing both these birds so close gave a good impression of the different flight patterns, wing shapes and most of all the size difference of these two birds. We bagged an Otter not long after that performed well in the shallows before climbing out on to a rock briefly. Then it all went flat - conditions looked good but nothing was showing. The usual array of waders, seals and stunning views but no sign of any birds in the air - even Buzzards seemed to be in short supply! We got brief views of 2 adult WT Eagle over a ridge, no sign of any more Otters and eventually we picked up 2 Golden Eagle sitting on a ridge and another in flight. It was a bit of a let down after the previous day but that's wildlife for you!

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Friday night I missed the sunset so I got a late shot that has been brightened up - still pretty cool though.We had a family visit on Saturday and the weather was just perfect for it. The sun coming up in the morning showed the new Autumn colours off perfectly.We did the tourist thing from the ferry terminal and headed for the railway to get a ride along to Torosay Castle. It's certainly a pleasant journey along the coast to the castle. A visit to the tea room to set ourselves up for a walk around the gardens produced a few of the expected birds with Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin and House Sparrow. It wasn't hard to entice them in with a few crumbs of cake.After they had cleaned up the crumbs I looked over my shoulder to see a bird coming in at speed - Sparrowhawk! It landed, briefly, and left empty handed. A wander round the gardens produced quite a few Peacock butterflies but not much else but it's a stunning place.Lunch was taken at Salen before heading round the scenic route. Another Sparrowhawk flashed by as we were viewing Aros Castle and then yet another was seen as we arrived at Loch na Keal - this last one with a small bird in it's talons. A spectacular drive eventually brought us to home base where we had a cuppa at the shop while I busied myself with checking the ridges. A view of a Golden Eagle through the bins had me digging the scope out but it had dropped out of sight. It had to come back up at some point and when it did it had 2 more Goldies with it - superb! We watched them wheel around and then head off with a purpose before disappearing behind Ben More. I scanned for them returning with no luck. Another bird cleared the ridge in a different location and it was heading straight for us, flapping hard at times. It was another Golden Eagle but real close this time - stunning views as it went overhead but no camera! We headed off through Glen More back to the ferry to say farewell to the family before driving back home. A female Hen Harrier was hunting the side of the road as we went back through.
Sunday was another settled weather day and it looks to be staying that way for the rest of the week. Now is the time for recording those last sightings of the Summer migrants up here. The Swallows are getting thin on the ground, House Martins are virtually gone, Northern Wheatear gives the occasional sighting and down South you can't move for these birds! I watched the F1 and caught up with the football today before doing any birding and even then it was only from the doorstep! Two Golden Eagle sitting on the ridge, the waders out front included 23 Golden Plover, 2 Knot, 4 Greenshank, 4 Turnstone, 6 Dunlin, 10 Ringed Plover along with the ever present Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher. One wader was well away from all the rest so it merited a closer look.........a Common Sandpiper - not a common sight in September at all! There was also a lone Northern Wheatear and 4 RB Merganser on show.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Shooting for the moon

Wednesday was the pleasant clear day that we have waited for. It certainly looked like it could be a day to capture a few classic moments with a back up plan of snapping things that don't move much! With a friendly spotter on board we went in search of wonderment and it went a bit like this....a search for Golden Eagle that produced a photo of the Moon in a clear blue sky - no eagle.We moved to another location and caught a shower of rain and as soon as it passed we found a WT Eagle in the distance and the Goldie we had been waiting for did a distant fly by heading in the direction we had just come from! We set off in pursuit only to find nothing at all - how lucky can you get?! Stumbling across a small flock of Goldfinch provided one of the highlights of the day as there was a Whinchat, a Common Whitethroat and three Stonechat in the same area. We tried our luck on the things that are nailed to the ground, so to speak. Grass of Parnassus was still in flower next to a small waterfall that gave a nice background......the Hazel nuts are just starting to turn so I gave them a shot too.We stopped at the shop for lunch and had a rethink while checking out the waders - naturally nothing close enough to photograph. We headed off in search of nothing in particular and that's pretty much what we found - nothing. The riot of colour provided by the Rowan trees at the moment is pretty spectacular. The photo doesn't do the justice the Rowan deserves but there certainly is a good crop this year.We went in search of Gannets for a change of scenery but they weren't playing fair either. A reasonable number of birds about but all too distant - 'bother', or words to that effect, were heard to be mentioned by the friendly spotter on board. The best we could manage was a Shag sitting on a rock that looked like it was ready to go so we sat and waited for it to went eventually and it probably wasn't worth it either...Heading back we had a Peregrine come shooting in front of us and then gaining height. We hauled over and watched the bird till it landed at the top of the cliff and tried it's best to not be photographed by preening and turning it's back - I was persistent and got a poor digiscoped image for my trouble.Back at the shop and packing the gear away I found this bizarre insect, with his house on his back, loitering on the motor.I hasten to add the motor is not made of wood - I put the bug on the table so we could take some snaps. No idea what it is either.
Thursday was another cracking day - blue skies and pleasantly warm to start with and a bit of cloud cover building up through the day. I was hoping for better luck today and it didn't take too long to improve on the previous day. Three WT Eagles were located while looking at a herd of deer. An explosion of corvids in the distance had me reaching for the scope to discover the huge lump of an eagle sitting out the attack of the corvids. It didn't take long for the WT to take to the wing and it dropped out of sight. No sooner had it disappeared than another two bird were heading in the same direction. It was a shame that they flew away from us though. We set off in search of other things and got a nice surprise in the shape of 6 Common Crossbills flying around. They wouldn't settle for too long but they were nice to see. As they headed off into the distance I'd noticed a pale patch in the trees so I refocused on this to find a spanking adult WT Eagle sunbathing - stunner! Moving on to the water birds we picked up a couple of Little Grebe and a lone Wigeon that were fresh in. Lunchtime provided an eagle spectacular with a juv bird showing very well in the sunlight and three adults in the distance. One of the adult birds was being seen off by the other two - a spectacular dive down on to the intruder had the victorious male displaying with great vigour - cracking stuff. Two Hen Harrier sightings in the same area spiced things up a bit too. We headed off in good spirits not too worried about what else we would come across. Another Common Whitethroat sighting was a surprise and again the bird was in company of Stonechats but a few miles away from yesterdays encounter! We got the 'V' sign at the next stop as we located a pair of ears sticking up from behind a rock - a Mountain Hare was the culprit and he did show eventually. A flock of Linnet showed well along with a few Skylark and Rock Pipit. We still hadn't seen an Otter so with time running out we headed off in search of one. We checked a few likely spots without any success but we needn't have worried as the trusty mother and cub were showing well in Loch Beg.
Today has been another pleasant day with the lochs flat calm this morning. I'd promised to go on a shopping trip for some uisge beatha but a bit of wildlife watching along the way wouldn't go amiss. A flat calm sea soon produced a number of Common Seals, 1 Otter and 2 Porpoise - that'll do for a start! Shopping next and then back along the way to find a couple of spanking RT Diver with one of the birds calling to the other. Along to the mussel farm to count the Eiders next - 200 of them and a single Black Guillemot. This Hoodie was checking to see if a manicure was required!Ever closer to home and GN Diver was next on the list and a Common Guillemot. A scan of the ridges produced one WT Eagle sitting and another in flight - sometimes it's worth shooting for the Moon!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Eagles and Otters

Sunday - washout!
Monday was a fine day with a decent breeze blowing and the odd shower here and there. This was certainly a day of two halves with the morning starting off on a bit of a blank that changed rapidly. No sign of any birds of note as we set off so we looked for Red Deer instead - there was heaps of them! At the next stop there were more Red Deer and not much else until I was thinking of moving on.....a raptor appeared....we watched got closer....then went WT Eagle!While watching this bird cruising overhead someone picked up another bird that turned out to be Golden Eagle - we didn't know where to look. Both the eagles moved off and then another WT Eagle appeared following the trail of the first bird - another adult. It was a good start if a little slow to get there so we set off for Otters fully alert and full of anticipation. The tide was still quite high so there was a chance of a close encounter. We stopped, scanned, waited, moved on and eventually picked up a lone dog Otter but only briefly. We moved to a better position and scanned around where we thought he should be....nothing. We were getting restless and it was looking like we would move on empty handed and then there he was again and close too! He put on a fine performance after that to everyones relief. We checked out the waders on display and picked up the usual crew with the biggest difference being 5 Knot instead of 4. Then the day went flat as the weather started to change. Despite the wind still blowing there were no Buzzards up, the small birds were taking shelter and it was all a bit of a struggle. We'd certainly had what we wanted in the morning but saw very little until we picked up 3 Mountain Hares. We retraced our steps to see if anything else could be gleaned from the day. The wind dropped dramatically and the lochs were flat on the way all changed again. A Merlin flashed by us, we bagged a cracking GN Diver that was calling all the time we watched, a Goosander was a good find too. While having another look for Otters we could hear a bit of a commotion as the local Greylags got up...........not one WT Eagle..........but two came flying across in front of us! A fitting end to the day.
Tuesday was forecast for heavy rain and gales. Not a great prospect but it has to be endured - metcheck said it might clear so I was going with that! I set off in rain to pick up the guests and by the time I had everyone on board the rain had stopped but it was blowing a hoolie. We picked up one of the adult WT Eagles perched up in the trees and while we marvelled at the regal sight the youngster tried to sneak past us - the gulls gave him away!On the trail of the Otters after bagging some Red Deer and the conditions were not the best. Dodging potholes and a procession of Minis wasn't helping me any but the guests were alert enough to see this Otter munching on the shore.We couldn't relocate this one in the choppy water so we moved on to a more sheltered spot to try again. We picked up the mother and cub almost immediately in the water but they moved onto the shore for a bit of a groom.No apologies for the quality of that shot as it was way too windy to get a clear one! We missed out on most of the waders today as they were seeking out the sheltered spots that we couldn't view so we ploughed on. A Kestrel hovering at the side of the road had me reaching for the camera again...We had the company of a Golden Eagle for the whole of lunchtime as it scanned the area looking for something to kill. The wind was starting to increase so we decided to head for the Mountain Hares and then work our way back - it turned out to be right choice too. We bagged a few Hares, Raven, Greylags, Curlew etc before seeing a raptor disappear behind a mound. We chased this one up to find a female Hen Harrier quartering the ground.Again it wasn't good weather for standing up in and there wasn't much light! We'd managed a cracking day when it could so easily have been a disaster.