Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Nice weather, who needs it?!

Saturday started off reasonably good but the rain soon came in. I headed off in search of the Siberian Stonechat in poor conditions and gave the area a good grilling but I couldn't relocate the bird. On checking the cameras on my return I found a few shots from the previous day one of which shows the two races of Redwing side by side - cool.Sunday was another day with guests and the weather wasn't good! We did start the day in reasonable conditions but the rain was always threatening. It was fairly breezy so I wasn't expecting to get Mountain Hares at the first stop but lo and behold we found two distant hares sheltering from the wind and then a closer one revealed itself about 30 yards away! The Greenland WF Goose numbered six today, 4 adults and 2 juv, and the Skylarks showed well as a Snipe flew overhead. A trip to the beach gave us our first GN Diver of the day and a Common Seal but not much else before we headed into the rain. The poor conditions didn't help things so we raced through a few locations picking up a few of the common birds. We stopped at the shop for lunch so we could pick through the waders while we ate. PS was on form as usual 'there's a big f..f...flying thing over there' (I think that's what she said) that turned out to be an adult WT Eagle across the loch. It was raining pretty hard at the time too. We headed off in search of the Otters after lunch and it almost looked like it was going to be pleasant weather. The rain did hold off for about an hour but we hadn't seen much apart from a reasonable collection of GN Divers on the loch. Heading away from the lochside and into the glen we picked up two WT Eagle perched up and drying off. We watched them until they decided it was time to go - nice to see them in flight though. We had some nice views of a Red Deer stag in the glen before we retraced our journey. A car parked at the side of the road with a telescope trained on something needed to be investigated so we asked what they had........juv WT Eagle sitting out the rain that was pouring down again. I managed to read the ring on it's leg and it turns out the bird is one of our own. The photograph below shows how little white there is in the tail of the youngsters.We moved on in search of Otters again and it wasn't too long before we had one in sight. No sooner had we got out of the motor and the Otter was heading for the shore with a fish.It was a superb encounter and we managed to get the folk who showed us the eagle onto it too - it's nice to give something back! We stopped at the shop on the way back round to see if we could pick anything else up - the reward was 5 Whooper Swans dropping in - excellent! We had one last stop to look at the seal colony and that proved fortuitous too as the first thing I saw was a female Hen Harrier getting mobbed by a Buzzard. A superb comparison of these two birds as the Harrier hunted and the Buzzard 'mewed' it's displeasure.
Monday was an absolute stunner of a day - clear skies and not much wind. Sounds perfect eh? With the guests and PS on board we headed off in search of the hares. Nothing. Birds? Very few. PS reckoned it 'wasn't very good' or words to that effect. Highlights were a Sparrowhawk on the hunt that stopped long enough for this photo.....only 5 WF Goose, a couple of Skylark overhead and a Common Buzzard. Tantalising glimpses of the commoner birds seemed to be the order of the day as everything seemed to want to be out of our way. We did get nice views of Redshank.........and Grey Heron along the way....but even the WT Eagle that we picked up mocked us from a location that we'd already been through - a whole lot of 'if only....'! The Great Northern Divers showed well but a distant Golden Eagle that I picked up was never going to be easy as it flew against the land and a male Hen Harrier that proved to be elusive added to the frustration of the day. Our luck had to change though. While going through the waders and ducks outside the shop I picked up two Otters asleep on the rocks. We headed round to get better views and at last we had something that was easy to see! We travelled on in search of anything that moved. We stopped in a good location for Golden Eagle and our initial reward was nothing but nice views. A small flock of 5 Crossbills flew overhead and then, just before we were going to move on, a Golden Eagle cleared the ridge. As everyone got onto the bird another two Goldies joined the first one and two Ravens started mobbing them. One of the birds moved off and the other two briefly settled on the ridge. I managed to get photos of the birds perched up for the guests before we moved on. A few Red Deer hinds we showing at close quarters a bit further along the road.......and then we were heading back. We stopped to look at the Otters again on the way back through before we decided to call it a day.

Friday, 23 October 2009


Wednesday was a pleasant day with still waters and no precipitation. With the tide well in it was going to be worth checking for divers early on and we weren't disappointed. The guests and PS had GN Diver on the list as I arrived to pick them up. We headed off along the road and made a stop for Otter spotting and bagged five GN Divers together - four still in summer plumage and the other a juv. While we were scanning about a few Crossbill flew over and one bird perched up in view. Not a bad start to the day and we pressed on gathering up the commoner birds along the way. A Golden Eagle was picked up cruising the ridge across the loch as we perused the waders. The rest of the morning consisted of distant views of Red Deer stags and another two Golden Eagle and a missed opportunity of an Otter. The Golden Plover were showing well next to the road and provided a chance of a half decent photo...Lunchtime gave us the best sightings of the day as a Golden Eagle flew around at close quarters before drifting off and a female Hen Harrier replaced it soon after. We managed to find an Otter that was out in the water and fishing well but not getting the 'big one' that would have had it heading for shore. I've been searching about for the Greenland White-fronted Geese that spend the winter here with no luck until today where we managed to find two birds amongst the Greylags - result - let's hope the flock builds up to the forty or so birds we normally get.We also found two Mountain Hares in the now blustery conditions. They were tucked well into the clumps of sedge sheltering and blending in extremely well. A Raven was watching our antics from the top of a rock and making sure we knew he was there - 'LOOK AT ME NOT THE GEESE!!'Thursday wasn't too bad a day either but I was otherwise occupied. There wasn't much birding going on but I did hear a Chiffchaff calling from the bushes outside the shop.
Friday has been a bit of a showery one but with plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing around I headed out to try to get a few snaps. It was a brief sortie out but very productive. I started off with a couple of Stonechat as the thrushes scattered away from where I was parked up.As I scanned about with the bins I picked up a very pale looking Stonechat that needed a second look. Very pale on the head and breast, plain mantle, pale rump and an obvious pale panel on the wing. It then dropped out of sight and I didn't see it again. Definitely not a Whinchat as it was too 'dumpy' but the bird smacks of female Siberian Stonechat. It was the only bird I didn't get a photo of! I rattled off a whole heap of photos of the Redwing.......Goldfinch.......and Fieldfare...There was a fair number of Blackbird, Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush there too but the photos aren't that good. Both races of Redwing were seen together showing what a contrast there is but again the photos were hopeless. I didn't do too bad considering the weather but I'll have to hunt that Sibe out again!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Sunday started off with quite a bit of rain but it soon cleared up. The plan for the day was to watch the Moto GP and the F1 and it was worth it. Between the two races a bit of a foray outside to look for Crossbills proved to be a double bonus for me. Two birds that have eluded me this year, on the island, were Goldecrest and Treecreeper. The last time I saw both species this year was at Shapwick on January 1st and today I was lucky enough to catch up with both these birds again in the same tree! The F1 race at Brazil was one of the best of the season and Button finally got the well earned World Champion title.
Monday morning was absolutely stunning - clear blue skies and very little wind but it was forecast to change quite quickly - the weatherman was right again! There were 4 Whooper Swans on Loch Beg early in the morning but I didn't have any faith in them hanging around. Quite often they will arrive in the dark and all you know about it is the bugling calls but they usually don't fly off until about 10:30. With guests to pick up in Fionnphort it was unlikely we would catch up with the birds later in the day but there was some consideration given to the weather that was pushing in from the SW. With PS on board with the guests we started off looking for the Hares in windy conditions but it was a fruitless search. We did find a cracking Sparrowhawk perched up on a fence, trying it's best to look like a Peregrine, but this was soon put off by a female Hen Harrier that was just cruising by. Another female Hen Harrier put in an appearance a bit further along the road and we managed to pick up both birds together on the way back through the farm. A couple of Kestrel and some good views of Buzzard added to the raptor list for the day. By this time the skies were decidedly grey and heading for the beach it was noted that the islands South of here were not visible! We decided to push on and try to get Golden Eagle before the weather set in properly but it was not to be. Very brief views of two Otters kept us going till lunch by which time the cloud base was right down. Two GN Diver still in summer plumage were a treat to see and also a juv bird that kept its distance. A good spread of waders while we had lunch provided some interest with the Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Dunlin etc all showing well. Two Goosanders in close proximity to the RB Mergansers provided a good comparison but there was no sign of the Otters....yet. We moved round the loch and looked back towards where we had been and there they were! They must have been right underneath us and out of sight. We watched them fishing and crawling out on the land before they headed off and out of sight. We pressed on in poor conditions not seeing a great deal! Two hinds at close quarters stared at us as hard as we stared at them and then we were off again. At the next stop a Raven mocked us from the cliffs as we searched in vain. Another GN Diver put in a brief appearance before our fortunes started to change. The distant calls of Barnacle Geese could be heard and eventually we had them 20 or so in flight looking for somewhere to land. They came down amongst another flock - there were about a hundred in total. It was good to see them back for another winter. We headed back to see if we could relocate the Otters to get better views and along the way we saw this Grey Heron catch a fish....... it was decent sized fish but everyone was too slow with the cameras but you can see the lump at the bottom of it's neck! Back round to where the Otters were, we jumped out of the motor to see two Golden Eagles disappear into the cloud - result! We had the Otters back in sight too but I was keeping an eye on where the eagles had disappeared.......they came back! We had both birds perched on the hillside at close quarters......and then off they went again. I only managed the one shot of one bird but it was worth it - a stunning sight for all! A young Red Deer was frozen to the spot just beneath the eagles and it's probably no surprise to find it was still there twenty minutes later in the same position! We'd lost track of the Otters in the excitement but as we turned to look for them again PS had picked them up right in front of us and showing well....The day had come good at last. We were happy to call it a day after that but there was one more surprise in store yet. We rounded a corner to find a bird flashing in front of us and heading for a telegraph pole......up it went and landed behind on of the insulators....it was a female Merlin. We did a slow drive by and got a safe distance past and then scoped the bird - stunning. A first for PS who said it was a 'jolly nice bird'. Just champion, man!
Sunrise this morning.........red sky in the morning - we all know what that means!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Tough stuff

Wednesday was another day out with guests and the weather wasn't too bad. We started off with a fruitless search for Hares but we did have some good flight views of three Common Snipe. Three Stonechat were nice to see perching on the high points and a couple of Reed Bunting keeping them company. The first big sighting of the day was an adult WT Eagle perched on the rocks in the middle of the loch. The waders were performing well with the Turnstones and Golden Plover being the highlights and a couple of Little Grebe doing their best not to be seen. Two WT Eagle perched together in a tree gave the guest a good size comparison between the male and female of this species and then a very distant WT Eagle on a cliff top didn't give much away at all as a silhouette! The run back to the starting point gave us the much needed Otters but they were across the loch and asleep. We gave them a bit of time and they eventually woke up and started feeding before heading closer to us. They ended up about 20 yards offshore from us and it was great to hear the splash of water as they surfaced or dived and also the crunching noises as the fish were eaten!A couple of GN Diver and three RT Diver were welcome additions to the sightings for the day and it was a shame that a female Hen Harrier was seen just after dropping the guests off.
Thursday dawned pretty grotty with low cloud but this was due to lift through the day.As you can see it was one of those days where you can't check the ridges but with no work on I wasn't that bothered. I did have a quick scan around when the cloud started to lift and it paid off immediately with a Golden Eagle just coming to land on the ridge in the sunshine. A brief glimpse of a WT Eagle disappearing over the ridge was a bonus but the sighting of the day was still to come. I was stood outside chatting and a gull calling in alarm had me looking to the skies and a good job too.......an imm Golden Eagle soaring overhead - cracking stuff!
Friday was an absolutely stunning day almost a return to Summer - clear skies and no wind. Out on the road with guests, I'd already informed them that it could be a tough day, we had a bit of a slow start. There wasn't a great deal happening at all with no birds in the sky at all. Even the Buzzards were all sitting tight. Approaching lunchtime we had nothing of any great note to speak of so a bit of sitting tight and searching the skyline was in order. It paid off as we had brief views of two Golden Eagle and then prolonged views of a different pair of the same species. We bagged a few of the water based birds in the shape of Guillemot, Shag, Eider, RT Diver, RB Merg to hold the interest. We caught up with a stunning GN Diver that was busy preening while we had lunch but there was no activity above the ridges and the best we could do was plenty of Red Deer on the hills. It was looking like a tough job for the Otters too but some extensive searching eventually winkled them out. We had to turn back to seek better views and we were rewarded with close views and plenty of photos for the guests posterity. Another two Golden Eagles perched on the ridge in the distance and very brief views of two WT Eagles finished the day off.
Saturday is not quite over yet but it's been another stunner. It started off with a decent frost this morning and I was on shop duty for a change. A brief saunter outside to check the ridges paid off with 3 Golden Eagle up in the air together, a WT Eagle in the same air space and it just happened to coincide with the arrival of some of the guests from yesterdays tour. They were certainly pleased to get some extra views of the eagles.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Raptors and migrants

This is a bit of a catch up as I've neglected to pull the info together for this lot so here goes.....
Friday wasn't too bad a day weatherwise but a bit breezy. We started off with the great Hare hunt and scored almost immediately with one beast trying to fool us by being right in front of us. Too close to see when you are looking further afield! We tried to find more but it wasn't going to happen although we did get a stunning female Hen Harrier that dropped on prey right in front of us. We waited for it to reappear and started snapping away. It didn't work too well for me but I did get 1 shot....With a southerly wind blowing the next stop on a South facing beach didn't look good initially but with a quick scan across the bay I was stunned to pick up an Otter. It took a good while before everyone saw it but it was worth the time spent and a bonus of a fly by Sparrowhawk too. On the drive back out we had a Merlin flash in front of us but too quick to get the bins on it. A decent haul of raptors there and I forgot to mention the two Whooper Swan that were on a small loch at the side of the road. Way later in the day we found a sickly looking RT Diver that had grabbed the attention of a Heron and a couple of Golden Eagle performed over the ridge. No sign of any WT Eagle today and that had me puzzled but I suppose you can't them every time! Another Otter performed very well on our run back through and a GN Diver was pretty much ignored due to the performance of the mustelid.
Saturday saw me back on the road again in cracking conditions but the best weather doesn't always produce the goods. The start of the day was a bit of a struggle but the Mountain Hare was an easy find. Two Wigeon alongside a couple of Tufted Duck was more indication of the migrating birds starting to move through. A distant Golden Eagle sitting viewing it's territory wouldn't get up to fly but a small party of four Mountain Goats was a real bonus. Just before lunch we tripped over a flock of thrushes that turned out to be Mistle Thrush with 6 Redwing and a juv Ring Ouzel - what a find! A small charm of Goldfinches were flitting around the same area too. Distant views again of a Golden Eagle but this time in flight but the WT Eagle that was in the same location dropped out of sight before I could get anyone on to it. Another 8 Redwing were perched up on the wires alongside the road as we tried to chase up the eagles we had seen. No luck with that but we did get a flock of 15 Twite for our trouble. The RB Merg numbers are starting to build up but there aren't any stunning males yet. Two Otters wrestling on the seaweed covered rocks was a real treat to watch and we eventually got better views of two Golden Eagle flying together and a distant WT Eagle perched up.
Sunday was a showery day but the clear spells were worth it. A day out with B&B gave me a break from driving but we couldn't find anything that wanted to be in range of the cameras. We did have good views of a Golden Eagle quartering the moor before I turned the camera on the rainbows.........and i just had to have a go at the WT Eagles on the reef.......followed by more rainbows...Sunday night I was contemplating a visit to Oban on Monday until I'd checked the forecast Monday was going to be a peach of a day and Tuesday was going to be grotty. Me and Polite Spotter out on a jolly again. I had an Otter in the sights just before PS turned up so we tracked the beast along the shore but he didn't want to play. I took a few shots of these Curlew......while we waited to see what the Otter was going to do. He eventually caught a fish that needed to be brought ashore but he was staying well out.We left him in peace and moved on. I finally managed to get a shot of a Stonechat on our travels.......and while taking a few snaps of this bird.......can you guess what it is or maybe no interest...anyway, the camera decided it had had enough. It wouldn't take any more photos, the battery was changed etc but it didn't want to play. Then it would take one shot but I had to turn it off and back on before it would take another - technology eh?! Here is one of the shots that was taken between the swearing fits....I still had digiscoping to rely on though - it might not be good but it was working! We could see the WT Eagles sitting across the loch from us so we knew not to look for them and we also found two other adult birds that were too far away for photos. Time was filled with a singing Robin in it's natural habitat of steel cables........then in a more natural habitat where it blended in too well....A Common Buzzard tried the same sort of tactics using a telegraph pole for cover...We moved on and located another Buzzard that looked promising for photos but the road was all of a sudden busy. We kept an eye on it and PS was doing 'Uzi 9mm' impersonations with the camera. I thought I would have one last go with the sickly camera, just in time too....The camera had decided it just needed a rest I guess - we'll see. I tried it again on an obliging Heron....I tried the camera a few more times and it seems ok for now - watch this space. We moved on to check the ridges for big birds and the reward was three Golden Eagle - superb. The find of the day was another migrant bird. PS was off trying to photograph Seals and as she returned I heard 'chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff' then it shut up! I was out in a flash and we managed to get good views of the Chiffchaff as it flitted about in the willows. There was photos too but you can guess how they turned out! Just along the road we found Lesser Redpoll, a couple of Bullfinch, a Golden Eagle and a Grey Wagtail - not a bad haul. We headed back to base with a quick stop to photograph the Common Seals doing their banana impersonations....

The trip to Oban today was in the predicted poor weather so that's me up to date for now - back to work tomorrow:-)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Magic moments

Wednesday was another day off but busy with other jobs. I was asked if I'd seen any eagles while I was in the shop, I hadn't, but when I stepped outside there was a Golden Eagle sitting on the ridge and a male Hen Harrier quartering the marsh - easy when you know where to look!
Thursday was a late start with the Polite Spotter (PS) for company. It was a fabulous day in all respects. We had a quiet start but after about an hour we picked up something that looked like this.......we watched this for a bit until it dragged itself out of the water and it was holding on tight so as not to get washed away....It wasn't too long before the youngster hauled out beside mum - result. The sky was blue and so was the air as PS cursed the Otter for being too far away - oh well! The youngster must have heard the commotion and, very kindly, caught a fish and brought it ashore right underneath us!'Don't hide behind the rock!' was the cry and again the prayer was answered as the Otter moved into a more photogenic position........tasty fish, yum.......it was like a kid with a big bag of bullets(sweets, in case you don't know).....Mum, being sensible, had done a runner while the young 'un was filling his face so there was an awful lot of squeaking going on in between the munching.With the fish devoured the Otter was off like a shot looking for mum squeaking all the time. It eventually headed off in the right direction but mum wasn't giving any clues as to where she was! A nice RT Diver was just off shore at the same time but that wouldn't pose for photos. It started raining so we jumped back in the motor to look through some of the photos and when the rain stopped a quick scan before we drove off had us gawping at a WT Eagle! It looked like it was going to land but it was just scaring the gulls before heading towards us - woohoo!Closer and closer.........it just kept coming........it drew level.........and then it was on it's way....It wasn't really going to get any better than that but we soldiered on. The decision had been made to go look for rutting deer as there was plenty of roaring going on. We found quite a few stags but they were all well up the hills and no real excitement until we found one stag making moves towards another. The camera was primed and ready to go and the battery went flat. I tried another battery and that seemed to be flat too! The last battery worked but the stags had moved apart without any grappling. While I was trying to relocate one of the stags a Golden Eagle flew through the view - get in there - so we watched this beast fly along the hillside before clearing the horizon where another two birds were already circling - brilliant stuff! They soon moved on and we followed suit but it wasn't long before PS said 'There's a jolly nice stag on the skyline'. Out we jumped to see what we could do.......a fitting end to a cracking day. We did get a stunning sumplum GN Diver and another Otter on the way back but, again, not close enough for the itchy trigger fingers!