Saturday, 30 January 2010

Is it Spring yet?

Friday was a nice clear day with the odd flurry of snow here and there but it was blowing a hoolie. I did make the effort to go out and didn't get any photos. The best of the day was a WT Eagle that was sitting on a point of land but it flew off just as I got into range. I watched it fly across the other side of the loch trying to read the tags but the light was against me. Just as I was about to let it go another WT sailed into the view. I watched them wheel around and they were joined by another two birds! So another 4 birds together but at least one of them was a different bird to the four that were outside the shop. I did try to follow the birds up but as they can cross the loch in about 30 seconds it took me 20 minutes to drive round to where I'd last seen them. I did pick up 9 Goosander, 1 BT Diver and a couple of GN Diver on the trip round though:-)
I was surprised to find there had been a covering of snow overnight when I surfaced this morning but it didn't take too long to melt away. The view was nice though.
I picked up 2 Golden Eagle sitting together on a distant ridge just after taking this photo. The wind had dropped from the previous day but it's still cold to stand in the teeth of it. I headed off to see if I could get better views of the eagles picking up five Goosander and this GBB Gull.
Naturally one of the eagles had flown off before I got anywhere near the right spot and the other bird was just sitting enjoying the view. You can't win 'em all. I turned my attention to the corvids that were bouncing around on the hillside. Most of them were Hoodies just squabbling amongst themselves but the two Ravens sitting side by side were loving it up in the sunshine.
A Red Deer was a bit closer and was doing it's best to munch it's way through the landscape.
It was time to move into the sunshine and search for a few things that might be feeling the benefit of the longer days and some heat. The Snowdrops have been about for a couple of weeks now and the Hazel catkins are dangling from the branches but it was nice to find a few that have opened already.
The moss clinging to the trees looked good in the sunlight too.
A large pale billed diver had me all excited for a couple of seconds. I hauled in and jumped out of the motor scrambling for the scope and then watched as the bird turned and the light changed you could see it was just a Great Northern Diver -  a cracking bird all the same.
A male Crossbill was singing it's heart out while I was trying to get a decent shot of the diver so I had to have a look. I couldn't see the male bird but I did find a female bird and they both flew off just as I was setting up for a photo! I had a scan across the water to see if there were any Razorbills or Guillemots. Nothing doing there but RT Diver and BT Diver were nice to see. Another plant that is just starting to break through is Butterwort.
It was time to head for home again so I could get this post done before heading off for the Toon match. I did stumble across another Goosander on the way back but it wasn't really worth the effort!
It was snowing just as I was finishing this off so I've dashed outside to take a couple of photos of the shower heading up the glen and the sunshine following behind. It might not be Spring just yet;-)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Beastie boys

Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through..... and then this happened......

...the beastie boys arrived. Four 2 year old WT Eagles decided to call in and put on a show. They didn't cause that much of a stir with the usual array of gulls and waders out here, in fact there were Redshank wandering around in the background while the birds were messing around! The Hooded Crows came in to pull a few tails and the eagles jostled for position....

They picked up mussels and dropped them, pulled at the seaweed, had a bath and strutted their funky stuff...

 ...check out that swagger!!! Just a bunch of bored youngsters looking for something to do! Ah well back to work.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


Monday I had a run out with a friend from Newcastle, Steve + 3 others, to try and pick up the local specialities. One of the aims was to get a decent photo of a WT Eagle. These kind of trips out can easily end in disaster as everything can decide it's having a day off or the weather is against you. It was the weather that won the day in the end but a cracking time was had all the same. We set off in decent weather with a nice breeze blowing. Steve managed to pick up an Otter but it was a brief view and soon lost in the choppy water. The next stop produced the goods properly as we stepped out to look at a couple of Common Seal close to shore and found three Otters even closer still. We'd had a distant view of a WT Eagle on the ridge already so we were hoping for better views as we moved along. The wind was just about guaranteed to get the birds in the air and we were soon watching a distant Golden Eagle and then a young WT Eagle. Nothing close enough for photos yet. The odd Crossbill was flying overhead as we search the surrounding area. Another young WT Eagle flew past us, again at a distance but the best we'd had up to now. We moved on and a young stag took us by surprise at the side of the road.

I managed to get a view of 2 adult WT Eagle over the ridge but they had drifted off before we could relocate to a decent viewing area. We decided to move on to try and better our chances. Another Otter on the shore eating a fish was picked up by Steve and his company while I was watching another WT Eagle flying above them! Plenty of RB Mergs along the way but there was a nice surprise of a pair of Goosander too. We got good views of Slavonian Grebe before checking out the Goldeneye, Teal, Shag, more Slavs etc. I picked up yet another WT Eagle landing in a tree across the other side of the loch so we headed for that. It wasn't too long before we had two adult WT Eagle circling in the distance and the bird that was perched up, but out of sight to us, hadn't moved yet. It didn't take too long before the close bird came into view followed by it's mate - result!

These two birds we not pleased by the proximity of the other pair and they called frequently as they saw the other birds off.

We hung around in the area to see if we could get any better views and the birds did come back but flew over us too high. They landed on the ridge for a wee while before being sent on their way by a Golden Eagle. It was all exciting stuff topped off by another fly past of the birds.

It was time for me to head back home but it had been a worthwhile outing.
Monday I had a call from the local estate to say a WT Eagle was sitting on rocks close to shore. The weather was pretty awful but I thought I'd give it a go. Naturally when I arrived the bird had moved further back. I took a few photos just because I was there.

They were never going to be good shots in the conditions (they're not blurry, they're drizzly). I could hear a couple of GBB Gull calling to each other - they'd seen the eagle and were getting ready to launch an attack! The gulls started to dive bomb the eagle and he started screaming at them - funny to watch. Not much the eagle can do but duck or fly away but he was really craning his neck telling them where to go!

The gulls soon moved on and the eagle sat smugly on his throne. I headed back towards the dry and warm checking the loch along the way. A good dozen GN Diver were visible across the millpond flat loch along with a single Guillemot and this BT Diver.

 Not long after getting back the cloud dropped to ground level and that was the end of another day!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Photo fest

First of all apologies for the amount of photos but I'm sure you'll enjoy them! Friday I headed off to pick up PS on a cold and frosty morning. The views were stunning and the camera couldn't help but take a shot....

We stopped to take a few shots of a Red Deer at the side of the road but it wasn't working out the way we wanted it despite a few attempts. The Siskin shot was the best I could do.

Next in the viewfinder was a couple of Otters - a male and female enjoying the sunshine.

All very unconcerned by our presence and another furry beastie across the other side of the loch - not a bad start. We then stumbled across a mum with 2 cubs as we stopped for a photo opportunity of a Heron. The cubs were in a playful mood splashing about in the shallows as mum was off catching fish.

Mum was soon back on the scene to stop the fun and take them further along the shore but they weren't having any of it so she had to make a couple of attempts to drag them away - typical kids!

We moved on as the Otters moved off and after a distant view of an adult WT Eagle we headed for the far side of Ben More. We could see there was a bit of low cloud drifting across the loch but we were a bit surprised to find out how much low cloud there was - pea soup comes to mind! It was burning off but slowly. We picked up Otter number seven but he didn't want to play so we headed into the foggy bits. A few GN Diver on the loch along with about 8 Slavonian Grebe well spread out. Foggy stuff....

....and a fog-bow too - bizarre!

It wasn't looking too good so we headed off for a pie stop before making the return journey picking up a few Fallow Deer along the way.

We picked up Otter number seven again as we drove back and he performed quite well this time...

...although you can see why they can be hard to see at times - he's in there somewhere!

 Again the views on the way back were spectacular and not very well captured ;-)

We got back on home turf to find it was still sunny and about 4 degrees warmer and the mum and cubs were heading off to bed.

A cracking day but PS still wanted more - Golden Eagle, please - we gave it a shot and hit lucky to find one just before it dropped out of sight. I had a count of the GN Diver on the way back home and found 14 birds but it was a bit too early for them to be grouped together for roosting.
Sunday is shop ladys day off so it was time for her to catch up with a few things. We started off with a walk and an opportunity for me to do a tetrad for the breeding bird survey at the same time. It was a lovely walk that started with a cracking male Hen Harrier and went downhill from there despite the uphill wander! Seven birds in total with Hooded Crow, Raven, Siskin, Meadow Pipit, Common Buzzard and Dunnock being the other six. A Buzzard sitting at the side of the road provided the first bird photo of the day after the blurry Hen Harrier shots but it made up for that.
A close GN Diver didn't want to be photographed but another further out was posing quite well. While I was taking few shots the closer bird could be heard surfacing and diving and eventually gave a haunting cry as it broke the surface. A slight echo across the loch was superb - spine tingling stuff!!

A Shag coming into breeding plumage and showing that lovely green sheen was next for the star treatment.

A fairly distant Otter was next on the list fishing away and eventually crawling out on the rocks after we'd viewed the RT Diver. A Curlew foraging in a rock pool looked good as a reflected silhouette...

...and the reflection of the sky wasn't too bad either!

We did manage to catch up a mum and 2 cubs and an impressive 20 Stags together(15 in the photo)...

....before deciding to call it a day. You can't get home without seeing something else so another two Otters were no surprise but a real pleasure to see.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Back to normal

The trip away was a real blast but now it's back to normal - if you can call it that! Yesterday was a bit of a wash out so I was looking forward to a brighter day today but only in patches. The view outside wasn't that inviting this morning...

I set off to find that it was actually clear skies further down the road but there was a decent breeze blowing. The plan was to check on the goose flocks first and then work my way back home. I could only see about 30 Greylag Geese in the fields when I arrived along with 8 Golden Plover and 2 Curlew - not the best start. I got to a view point and I was surprised to see the Barnacle Geese in the distance. I went for the scope and didn't even get the boot open and the birds were in the air. There must have been someone walking down on the shore as I was about half a mile away from them. I got them in the scope and counted approx 80 birds in the flock as they headed off towards Iona. As I watched them go another flock of geese flew in the opposite direction - a bit of a turn up for the books - 17 Pink-footed Geese heading South! The Reed Buntings were still hanging around the farm but it was a bit of a mare trying to get photos as the cows were wandering past at the time!

I picked up a couple of Redwing and trained the scope in their direction then a car went past and chased them off but I could see a few heads poking up in the background. It was about 8 of the Greenland White-fronted Geese - no idea where they came from!

The drive back was fairly uneventful so it was nice to turn things around in the afternoon. First on the list in the afternoon was an Otter fishing in the loch closely followed by a Little Grebe. I hadn't connected with a WT Eagle since my return so it was nice to find one sitting in the distance - check out the banana-billed White-tailed fuzzy blob....

It didn't look like there was going to be any action there so I went in search of Otters again. A Grey Heron squawked down on the shore as three otters piled onto the rocks....

There was a fair bit of rough and tumble going on and the young Heron looked a bit bemused by it all. The Otters headed back into the water for more fishing....

...and the Heron watched them go....

...and then they came back again with a fish.

The young Heron was keen to get some scraps but the cubs were leaving nothing!

The Otters headed off again and no sooner were they out of the water and the Heron was coming to have a look! You'll probably have to open that one up but there are two Otters on the rocks - honest!

It was time for bed after all that excitement but there was still just enough time to check to see if I was still watching...

I headed back to base after all of that and attempted to photograph the Siskins that were visiting the feeders. As soon as I got the camera they didn't come back so all I got was this...

It was good to get a few sightings today and hopefully there will be a few more tomorrow.