Monday, 30 November 2009

Lookin' after No.1

Sunday was a bit of a contrast to the previous day in the fact that it was quite windy. The wind chill was tremendous so we didn't stay out too long! Two Golden Eagle and two WT Eagle within 10 minutes of leaving the house was a good start but I was reluctant to brave the elements for any length of time. Sitting in the car and looking out of the window is not the best option, but there you go,that's what happened. Lookin' after No.1 is always a good option. After the eagle viewing it was time to have a cup of tea and some lunch (it was a late start). We set off again after lunch and tried standing out in the biting wind but it wasn't producing anything good. A Red Deer close to the road looked like it was same one I photographed yesterday.I kept the options down to 'if I couldn't see it from the car with the naked eye then it wasn't worth it'. A small group of RB Mergs close to shore got the camera pointed at them......and a Grey Heron in silhouette was the best that we got.I decided that watching the football in the warm was the way to go. Shocking but true!
Another cold day today but a bit less wind had me hitting the road again to see if I could improve on the previous day. A slow drive round the loch produced 3 Little Grebe, at least 6 GN Diver, plenty of RB Merg, a few Shag, 1 Greenshank, 9 Golden Plover, 10 Turnstone, 4 Ringed Plover, double figures for Redshank and 5 Goosander. A distant Heron masquerading as an eagle and a lump on a rock trying to look like an Otter were taken on board before this WT Eagle was picked up hiding in a Larch!It was starting to look like a poor day but there was still the afternoon to go. A distant Golden Eagle perched on the ridge was a good starter. Another two Golden Eagle with a possible third made things look better. Not a bad view but not close enough for photos. A couple of Stonechat didn't want to hang around for photos so it was time to move again. A male Hen Harrier cruised below the ridge before flicking over the back and a female of the same species took over the airspace almost immediately. Still nothing to photograph though so I took the opportunity to get a snap of the Rooks and a couple of Jackdaws. I checked the Greenland WF Goose flock which, again, numbered 30 but I couldn't get any further as the road was being repaired - time to head back with the sun dropping fast. A Golden Eagle was the last sight of the day heading off to roost no doubt.Tremendous views on the way back home and I couldn't resist taking a few snaps. It's a cracking view eh?Ben More with a cloud peeling off the top.......and the Moon in all it's glory.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Never happy

The last week has been dominated by rain so I haven't ventured out too much. Last Sunday I could have included this photo of a stag we came across at the side of the road.The only other highlight through the week was a flyby WT Eagle on Thursday.Not the best of photos but not the best of weather but you can see that this bird has had a good feed by the bulging crop. Thursday evening we saw a Barn Owl perched on a fence post and I had a Woodcock flying in front of the motor last night.
Today the weather finally broke and it's been a flat calm sunny day. Typical of your normal wildlife watcher I'm never happy - it was too nice today. A cracking day for looking on the water as it's flat calm but a waste of time trying to watch the ridges as there isn't enough wind to encourage the big birds to get up! All the Buzzards we saw today were sitting on posts, a single Kestrel we came across was post hopping too - you get the picture, I'm sure. I had PS and f-stop on board for company today. The first thing that came under fire from the cameras was a Red Deer that hadn't wandered too far away from the road.Flat calm water greeted us at the loch but it wasn't giving much away at all. A decent number of RB Merg, a smattering of Little Grebe, plenty of Mallard, a group of Golden Plover but no sign of any Otters. We spotted a GN Diver that was fishing close to the shore a bit further along the road so we timed things nicely to be in position when the bird surfaced.A Grey Heron took flight as the diver worked it's way along the shore...We reckon we had an Otter further up the shore but with someone else already taking photos in the area we passed it by. We stopped to look in another bay and f-stop picked up an Otter that was too far away for photos but worth watching. It actually turned out to be 2 Otters together but they were working their way away from us. A group of Starlings were perched on the wires in front of us showing off their glossy sheen to perfection.A Sparrowhawk came dashing in from the left and had the Starling panicking. We watched it disappear into the distance, looking like it was going to land so we followed the direction of the bird in the hope it was perched on a fencepost. We didn't find it perched up but it did fly past us again and close enough to see it was a cracking male bird. We headed back in the direction we'd come from and stopped again to look through a few of the winter thrushes but it wasn't too long before we were distracted by another Sparrowhawk - a female this time. Again the bird disappeared from view so we followed and this time got lucky as she was perched up in a tree.Cracking on we stopped to view the loch to see what divers we could pick up. Typically the most distant diver had to be the odd one. GN Divers into double figures and a single Black-throated Diver - again not the best photo but better than none at all. A big white flank patch on this bird and the tell tale 50/50 black and white neck.A nice view down the loch to show how calm it was.We headed back to the shop for lunch and we picked up a small group of Common Crossbills. I missed the best opportunity for photos apparently as I was on the phone but the birds were a bit flighty and calling constantly. A real treat to get a good view through the scope and take a few shots too.This male bird was giving a superb demonstration on how to snip the cone off and then demolish it. The cones must weigh as much as the bird itself so it quite a feat to snip it off and swing it round it's bill! The afternoon was very quiet with the highlights being a single Red-throated Diver, the Kestrel I mentioned before and plenty of Buzzards perched on poles.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Three Amigos

I'm sure that everyone has been keeping up with the nasty weather over the last few days. We've had our fair share so I've not been out that much. Tuesday evening there were 2 Swans on the loch which I presume were Whoopers but as it was pitch black it was hard to say. They had left by the next morning. The Golden Plover flock has been absent over the last few day so when a flock of 75 turned up on Wednesday it had me thinking as to where they had come from. The worst of the weather was hitting Cumbria at that point so had these birds pushed North to avoid it or had they come from somewhere else? Either way they didn't hang around as they were gone on Thursday.
Friday I had a run out with PS to see what was about in between the showers. We bagged a male Hen Harrier early on but it was a distant bird that was heading away from us. A couple of Reed Bunting in with the Chaffinch flock didn't want to pose for photos so we tested our skills on the waders. This Oystercatcher stood still for long enough to point a camera at which is more than can be said about the Curlew - twitchy blighters!I had a count of the Greenland WF Geese which numbered 30, one less than last time, but there was 3 youngsters this time so I'm guessing I haven't seen all the birds together yet. A few of the Greylags were next to the road and didn't seem bothered by the passing traffic so it was point and click time again - the Three Amigos in action - Ruuunnnnn, he's got a camera.....The weather was supposed to clear as the day went on - they lied. We had a brief stop for a squint at the Rock Doves which had a few feral with them - it won't be long before they breed with the Rock Doves and spoil the stock.We managed to get a distant view of an Otter from the roadside but we soon moved on. There were plenty of Buzzards sitting on telegraph poles but it took a while before we actually had an opportunity to get some shots.Just after taking this shot I picked up a WT Eagle in the distance but as it flew against the land it was lost to sight. A Reed Bunting feeding at the side of the road was reluctant to move on so we watched for a while and took a few photos.It was getting close to lunchtime so we moved on but it wasn't too long before we spotted two GN Divers close to the shore. As we pulled up both birds dived and an Otter appeared in the same place. He was heading for the shore with a fish so we parked up in a place where we could view him when he hauled out. He managed to find a nice place where he couldn't be seen too well but when he'd finished the fish it was time for a wash...out of sight, of course! We waited patiently and eventually he stuck his head out - 'Are you looking for me?'He moved off eventually but soon hauled out again to mark his territory before going fishing again. A great sighting though. The wind was picking up and the showers were becoming more frequent so we pressed on to see if the WT Eagle were at home. We weren't disappointed with the birds but the lack of light made it difficult to get decent shots. The female bird was the one we picked up first.......but the male wasn't too far away.Time was getting short and we'd just picked up another Otter when a tremendous squall came through. It was difficult to keep an eye on the Otter and by the time the squall cleared there was no sign of him - ah well it had been a good day. The rainbow that formed as the last of the rain went through was worth the effort of getting a better viewpoint for it - stunning.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Weather or not...

The weather is doing it's best to be unpredictable at the moment. It was supposed to be a bit stormy today but, I'm guessing, it passed through last night. It looked like the last of the rain was passing through this morning and when the sun broke through............what can I say? There aren't that many daylight hours at this time of year so I gave PS a bell and hit the road. Not two minutes out of the door and I'm watching a juv WT Eagle soaring over the loch and heading away from me - dodgy photo that one!! I carried on along the road and got distracted by a big lump sticking up from the rocks...........still a dodgy photo but better than the other dodgy one! I eventually picked up PS and we headed off to do my BTO tetrads - we shouldn't have bothered. Neither square managed double figures of birds! The first square produced a couple of Robins and a Dunnock - honest! You get the picture anyway so I won't bore you with the same birds in the other tetrad. We decided to point our cameras at a Buzzard that was hunting just off the side of the road. It was never going to be good but the silhouette against the blue sky was worth the effort.As we arrived at the next birdless tetrad we scanned around to make it look good and I mentioned that I could see nothing but Deer. PS was straight in with the response 'You mean this fu...fu...fine fellow here?' Either they grow really quickly or it was in the bracken at the side of the can't be an easy thing to hide! A few more Red Deer.......a Chaffinch and a Buzzard later and the rain was ready to start again. We did manage to get some nice shots of a friendly Robin before the rain hit...We had lunch while the rain lashed down and then the sun was out again but that was about it. I got a glimpse of another WT Eagle disappearing over a ridge, no Otters, a few Redwing and we called it a day. I had mentioned that I hadn't seen a Hen Harrier close to home in a while so PS will be well pleased to find out a male bird flew past the shop door when I got back!

Monday, 16 November 2009


I've not been out over the last few days so nothing to report from then! I thought I had better make a bit of an effort today just to keep the blog running. The weather wasn't the best for going out but at least it wasn't raining when I left. First on the hit list was this Buzzard that was just minding it's own business.......too much wind and not enough light. the RB Merg numbers are starting to build up but it's still small flocks as a rule. A count of 9 together in the middle of the loch and two lots of 4 skirting round the edges was the best I could do. A handy tip for bulking yourself up is to sit tail first in the a treat! I only saw one of the two Lapwing that are frequenting the place, a couple of Greenshank, no sign of the Golden Plover (they don't seem to like the wind much) and plenty of Grey Heron in the shallows. There are quite a few Common Seals in the loch - I had at least six close in - not too sure what they are after but they are sticking around. You never see them with food so it must be small stuff they are eating. The GN Diver numbers aren't growing either so I was happy to see three of these in the hour I was out. The first Otter I picked up would have been a good one to photograph as it was busy wrestling with a sizable Dogfish. I did make the effort but a one second exposure through the scope isn't going to produce anything good! Another group of 4 Mergs were loafing about the shore but they soon made tracks when I stopped to get a quick shot.Another dog Otter on the return trip was a welcome sight as we had recently lost the regular dog. Boulmer Birder reported the loss of a dog Otter at Cresswell, Northumberland recently so I hope that they manage to get another one on territory as quick as we did.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Three's a treat!

Sunday was a cracking day but I spent most of it sleeping due to a late night on Saturday! Monday was a bit damp so I spent the day in the shop and reading.
Tuesday was supposed to be nice and they were right to start with. I managed to find all the bits of rain that was to be had but the rainbows were nice. I had a check of the WF Goose flock and counted 31 birds again but there could be 32 - if only they would show all at once!I saw a distant Otter and a distant Sparrowhawk before the rain came in and moved me on. I took a slow drive back stopping to chat to folk on the way but didn't see a great deal until I clocked this Kestrel....Not the best photo in the world but it was worth the shot. I headed for home to get some lunch before heading round the loch to see if I could get better views of any Otters. Digiscoping is a tortuous pastime as I'm sure you are aware. The regular wader flock was scattered about in shallow water so I thought it might be worth a go - not on your nelly! No shutter speed at all despite the light - I would have been lucky to get a non-blurry shot of something dead! Ah well you have to try though. A scan round the loch produced one Otter that was showing great interest in a young seal and vice-versa. The Otter came out of the water to look at the seal and seal disappeared off the rocks, the Otter went back in the water to swim round the seal and the seal hauled out again. Funny to watch but you wonder about the potential danger for both beasts. The scenario was broken by the adult seal putting in an appearance at which point the Otter disappeared. Not too long after and not too far away from that drama I picked up mother and cub rolling about on the seaweed. Not sure if the nosy Otter was one of these two or not. A WT Eagle soaring over the ridge in one direction and the rain pushing in from the other had me throwing in the towel for the day - there's always tomorrow!
Wednesday started off overcast with the threat of rain that didn't materialise. I headed off in search of the Otters again as it seemed a good starting point. It was a bit chilly when I left but it was baltic when you got into the teeth of the wind! I did the right thing and set up to grill the place - eye streaming, nose running, finger breaking cold - and I found nothing out of the ordinary. The Cormorant was drying his wings, the Little Grebes were popping up and down, the RB Mergs were out in the middle, Herons aplenty and the Oystercatchers were keeping their heads down. A blurry eyed view of two dark shapes and one pale one on the far shore had me wiping the tears away to get a better view. The two dark shapes turned out to be Hooded Crows but the pale one looked a bit more interesting as it wasn't a gull........a pale Buzzard sitting on the seaweed with it's tail well in the water. I've seen them bathe in freshwater but I didn't think I'd see this - maybe it thinks it's an Osprey! I had to go for a closer look......nice looking bird. I moved on wondering where would be the best place to sit out of the wind. In the motor with the heater on seemed a good idea but it's too restricted for me, I like to be able to see everywhere. A Great Northern Diver wasn't close enough to tempt me out, a seal impersonating an Otter didn't have me fooled for too long - it's like mental finger drumming - what'll I find next? Plenty of Grey Herons and the odd Curlew along the shore but they weren't going to hang around and neither was I. After spending a bit of time watching Meadow Pipits doing their thing and grilling the gulls I headed back along the way. I parked up to have a good scan around. Scan left, nothing, scan right over the ridge, nothing, scan left along the loch, Otter - woohoo! It was a lucky break as I caught sight of a tail disappearing. I waited for the beast to resurface and there it was a bit further out. Too warm and comfortable to get out I was straining to look over my shoulder but as the Otter surfaced again I was surprised to find that the first one hadn't went down yet! To retain my warm and comfortable viewpoint I reversed along the road to get a better view. I managed to find one of the Otters but not the second - that's what you get for being comfy! All of a sudden the Otter was heading for shore with a fish - grab camera and make for the shore. I was out in a flash and into the teeth of the wind that was blowing in off the water - cold I tell you. Into a safe place and wait for beast to appear - I couldn't see much though streaming eyes but I could hear alright. A squeak came from just offshore and there was the Otter demolishing the fish. The big surprise was the two cubs that were trying to get in on the wonder I'd only seen one Otter. Both the cubs were fairly dry so they'd been out a wee while. She didn't share the fish so the cubs must be fending for themselves and as she headed off the cubs moved in to see if there was anything left. A lot of squeaking and chittering later they reappeared as the female clambered over the back of the rock. She just kept coming straight over and paused briefly to look in my direction and then carried on about her business.The youngsters disappeared into the crevice of the rock and the female was back out fishing so I moved off again wondering if this was the mum and two that had been seen earlier in the year. Who knows?! They look about the right size but where have they been for the last four months? It'll be interesting to see if they become a regular feature or not. Heading back along the way the Blackbirds are noticeable everywhere. There aren't a great deal to be seen but in the Winter the numbers are boosted by Scandinavian birds - could this be one?I couldn't help but see this furry lump sticking up so I had to investigate.Mum and cub fast asleep in a nithering wind - get me one of them fur coats.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Kate's day out

Friday I had an exclusive tour with an avid fan of the blog and tours, Kate, on board. The weather was stunningly bad in the morning with Kate wondering if we'd see anything at all! Initially we mostly found nothing in driving rain and blustery conditions - Curlew was probably one of the highlights. We changed tact and headed off for Otter. The waves were beating against the shore and it didn't look good for finding any kind of fish eating monsters. Persevering pays off and it wasn't too long before I had an Otter in my sights. We moved closer to where I'd last seen it and couldn't find a thing so we headed back to the original spot and used the vehicle for shelter. Five minutes of scanning and we had it back in our sights. The Otter was staying fairly well out but we watched him for about half an hour as he made his way past us. It was a cracking start but could we find anything else? There were plenty of seals, Shag and RB Mergs to keep us going and the Golden plover showed well too. The weather was supposed to improve later in the day so, again, the decision was made to head for the West end of the island and hopefully follow the good weather back through. We checked a few locations along the way with not much luck until we spotted a large bird hanging in the wind and driving rain. We hauled in and jumped out to find a juv WT Eagle - stunning! It really performed well despite the conditions and when the rain increased the eagle headed for a spot to land.....The light seemed to improve a bit and I was surprised to see blue sky when I looked the other way. This had to get the bird back in the air. Sure enough the beast took to the skies again and seemed happy to just hang in the wind but not for long. Two Raven cleared the ridge behind the eagle and went into full attack mode. The eagle was taken by surprise and headed towards us trying to swat the Ravens out of the sky........the action was getting ever closer to us and giving incredible views. The final fly by before the bird turned was a real spine tingler....I must say that Kate's photos looked better than mine but the experience of what we watched won't be captured! We headed off for lunch knowing that we wouldn't be able to top that but there was still more to see. We bagged the WF Geese that had increased to 31 birds, a Kestrel or two, plenty of Redwing and the tango twins that we intent on getting some camouflage...A few Skylark scurrying about amongst the Starlings were nice to see but not as good as the single Twite.We headed for the beach to see if we could rustle up a Hen Harrier along the way. Not a great deal to see on the way but as we settled down with a cuppa a male Harrier cleared the ridge - excellent! The sun was heading for the horizon and we were running out of time for Golden Eagle so we packed up and raced off. I reckoned we had about half an hour to find a Goldie and no sooner had I mentioned this and we had one in our sights! Another Hen Harrier, a female this time, didn't stay in view long enough for Kate to see it but the Goldie was taking the honour anyway. Some day out considering there wasn't much hope at the start!