Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hard as nails!

After the excitement of the last post I thought it might be wise to get some half decent shots of the Waxy one. Saturday was the chosen day to go as it was going to be a bit sunny - it never crossed my mind that the garden would be in the shade but it didn't matter in the end. I had PS on board for the day so she could give her camera a work out. We headed off up the glen in search of the Snow Buntings but we found nothing more than Hooded Crow and Red Deer.
A White-tailed Eagle had us pulling over to the side of the road to view it before we reached the main destination for the day. We were welcomed into Dave's house to sit and wait for the Waxwing to appear which didn't take too long. It flew into one of the trees before dropping down to feed on the apples and plums that had been scattered in the garden. A few photographs were taken through the window before it flew back up into the trees.
We opened the conservatory door to get better shots and it wasn't too long before this confiding bird was parading around a couple of yards away. With better views than the last time I'd seen this bird it was noticed that it was a juvenile through the lack of white on the inner webs of the primaries and the outer webs of the primaries were a washed out yellow (see below).
There is plenty of wax on the secondaries and a fairly broad band on the well worn tail, most likely, marks this bird as a male.
These birds are quite feisty or as the blog title says 'hard as nails'. This chap didn't want to share the fruit with any of the other thrushes in the garden. There were a couple of Song Thrush hopping about but it was the Blackbirds that annoyed the Waxwing.
It didn't matter that the Waxwing had food for itself, as soon as a Blackbird started pecking away the Waxwing was there to chase it off. In fact, the Waxwing was that hard that when an alarm call went out and the garden cleared of birds the Waxwing just crouched and waited for the other birds to return - quality stuff!
A special bird requires a special treat so here's some video - don't bother with the sound as all you can hear is PS firing off shots!
Time was pressing on so we had a bit of a drive around to see what else we could pick up. A Barnacle Goose in with the Greylags wouldn't pose for a photo and another WT Eagle was too far away so a Fallow Deer in the snow will have to do.
We gave the Snow Buntings another go but again no luck with them but the stag was nice with his mane blowing in the wind.
Me and the Shop Lady were heading up to Tob for a birthday bash on Saturday night and what should we see but 3 Snow Buntings! There were good numbers of Woodcock coming up from the side of the road as darkness closed in so that was a bonus too.
Sunday we had a fairly relaxing morning before heading out for a walk across the moorland at the Mishnish lochs. Not a great deal to see up there while we were there but walking through deep snow doesn't help with your observation skills! We had a good laugh wandering about and as we were heading back down the hill we picked up a bird on the ground not too far ahead of us. It was another Mull tick for me - Red Grouse!
The bird didn't seem too concerned as it crept away from us before taking flight.
It's all top quality stuff!!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Punk ROCKS!!!!

Tuesday was bright and breezy so I had a quick run out to see what was about. I called in on the WT Eagles to find the female standing on the side of the nest and the male sitting well down in the cup of the nest. A lovely sight and it shows they've put in a fair bit of effort to get things ready for the season ahead. I had a cracking GN Diver on the way back round but I just couldn't get a decent photo of the bird. I nipped back home for some lunch before heading out again just as it started to cloud over - typical! The temperature dropped and the breeze picked up so the best I could manage was a Shelduck...
...and a nice couple of shots of a Raven.
You can see how blue the plumage is in the second shot - stunning!
Wednesday was a white out and not a day for wandering about and Thursday was much the same. We had to go to Tobermory on Thursday evening but with the snow still falling and the glen road a bit treacherous we decided on an early run up by way of Salen. There was a Waxwing hanging around in Salen and we had enough time to try and pick the bird up while there was some daylight left. I'd been in touch with Dave, whose garden the bird was in, and he'd said the bird had not been seen for an hour or so. We arrived at his place to find we'd just missed the bird by 10 minutes! We settled down to wait with a cuppa and chatted away while scanning the surrounding area - nothing but Blackbirds and Blue Tits. It was starting to get dark and we would have to leave before too long then all of a sudden the bird turned up in one of the trees - result. There was no chance of getting any photos in the light we had, but it was nice to see the bird. Not just a year tick but a Mull tick too. I can't leave you with no photo so here is one taken elsewhere - this punk ROCKS!!!!
The weather conditions were not going to improve so we stayed overnight in Tob.
Friday morning was looking a little better when we set off. We called in at Salen to drop some apples off for the Waxwing before heading down the road. We hadn't got too far before we spotted a Buzzard cruising in the stiff breeze and another mile down the road we picked up a bigger bird doing the same thing. I stopped the motor and grabbed the camera to get a shot of the juv WT Eagle before it disappeared.
This was shaping up to be a decent morning! On Thursday there had been no ferries at all so as we were driving through Craignure we stopped to watch the ferry as it arrived. It didn't look like it was going to be an easy job for the Captain.
We were well down the road before the ferry finally docked. As we were driving through the glen two small birds shot across the road in front of us - chunky looking things they were. There aren't that many birds to be seen in the glen at this time of year and these little fellas looked like Snow Buntings to me. I jumped on the brakes and reversed to where the birds had disappeared but there was no sign of anything. A bit of a dilemma - we had to get to the shop to open up and the Snow Bunts would be another Mull tick for me - what to do? I started to drive on thinking I would just drive back up and hopefully search them out. I hadn't got 50 yards and 10 birds flew up from the grass and landed at the side of the road - brakes on, bins up, Snow Buntings - fantastic!!! The birds were very flighty so no chance of photos again so here's one from Speyside.
I did head back up the glen in search of the birds but there was no sign of anything but Hooded Crows.
As I drove back down the glen 4 Snow Bunts flew up and went behind me. I decided to leave them and try another day so I headed to the loch for a look around. A couple of Little Grebe are still hanging in along with a male Goldeneye and a few Teal. The loch was fairly choppy but I could still pick out the odd Shag and GN Diver bobbing about in the waves. I'd almost given up on finding anything of great interest and while taking this shot of a Hoodie....
....I caught a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye....
There's a cheeky chap! It was one of the mums with two cubs. I took a few shots and watched them fishing before they headed off. I turned around and moved to another position. As I stepped out of the motor 5 Crossbills started flying about and then settled in one of the trees next to the road. I managed to get a few shots before they left but the wind was howling round the scope.
As the Crossbills flew off I turned around to look for the Otters and found I'd just missed them.
They were on a mission so I let them go and headed for home - phew!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The nick of time.

The drive down to Newcastle was shaping up quite nicely until we hit the A1. The forecast of snow finally hit and had us down to 20mph in places - it'll take forever to get there at this rate. We managed to pick up the pace and the snow stayed with us most of the way - we arrived about half an hour later than we should have so not too bad.
Saturday was clear and bright. It was going to be a round of visiting family and keeping the kids amused. What better way to amuse the kids than feed the ducks - Killingworth Lake will do! A few year ticks, a few photographs and everyone is happy! Coot numbers were quite low....
...but the usual masses of Black-headed Gull were keen to squabble over the bread that was thrown about.
A single Pochard swam past looking like it was interested in getting some food but it just kept going.
The Tufted Duck just get stuck in the fray and capture any food that sinks out of reach of the gulls.
The Mute Swans are so used to the feeding scenario you can't get moved for them. They'll follow you round and steal the bread from your hand or even try to get the bag off you. They terrorise the kids so you have to keep watch! The Canada Geese just stand away from the main action and eyeball you till you throw them a few scraps.
After a bit of shopping for Stotties, pease pudding and lunch we headed to the coast and a bit of gentle birdwatching for the grand kids. A male Pintail was a nice bird for them to see...
...and also the Snipe hiding in the grass (hard for them to pick out) and eventually one on show.
A quick trip to look at a Med Gull and use up another loaf of bread....
....before we headed back to pick up a few shore birds. Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Golden Plover and Sanderling were all noted while the kids busied themselves with rolling down the embankment and getting a bit mucky. The kids love it but I'm not sure the same goes for my daughter - I'm a popular bloke at times! It was time for more visiting of folks before the day was over.
Sunday was a drive back to Mull with not a great deal noted. Despite the numbers of Pheasants around it was easier to see road kill than live ones (4 deceased and no live ones) and Buzzards outnumbered Kestrels 8 to 5. We had a brief stop to get Red Kite and bagged four of them and a Treecreeper too.
Monday was another fine day and I was out with guests on a tour. Just before they arrived I managed to get a couple of snaps of a male Crossbill...
...and a juv WT Eagle flew from the shore and headed over the back of the shop. The guests arrived and we headed off in search of anything that moved. Greenshank and Redshank performed very well as did a Rock Pipit that perched in a tree next to the motor before we picked up a cracking Black-throated Diver. We drove a bit closer and got the scope on the bird to find it was well on the way to Summer plumage - stunner!!
The usual Curlew,RB Merg, Heron, Red Deer etc were all noted before we picked up our first Otter of the day. It was there and then it was gone so we waited and eventually gave up on it. Two Red-throated Diver were being harassed by a Herring Gull so we had good views of those too. Next on the list was a Golden Eagle perched on the ridge closely followed by a WT Eagle in flight. We then bagged another two Otter which we had to turn around for - worth it though. The photos were rubbish but Postie will be interested...
A couple of Ringed Plover, 3 Golden Plover and nice views of two Golden Eagle were had while we watched the Otters. A Great Northern Diver was close to the road and dived as we spotted it. We stopped and waited for it to surface and, again, got cracking views. We went on to find one more Otter, two more Golden Eagle and a single Adder before our last stop of the day. A single Mountain Hare graced us with it's presence, the usual flock of Greenland White-fronted Goose, a small flock of Fieldfare, 10 Skylarks and a single Barnacle Goose were all notable but the day wouldn't be complete without a cracking male Hen Harrier....he turned up just in the nick of time.
If you want to keep an eye on migration and what's on it's way check out Clive Finlayson's blog.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Otter fixation

Yesterday was a cracking day with clear skies and no wind. I had the intention of hunting out a WT Eagle or two but I got waylaid by otters! I'd bagged a couple of male Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Buzzard, RB Merg and the odd Grey Heron before I came across the first Otter. I'd spotted the tell-tale ripples from a fair distance so I made my way towards it. He was still fishing in the loch when I got level with him.... ...just before he decided it was time to get out. He came ashore for a quick dip in fresh water to clean the salt from his fur but, like quite a few Mull residents, he found his water supply frozen!He headed off in search of a better supply.I headed off when he disappeared from sight and bumped into the mum and two cubs about five minutes later. So much for the eagle hunt! I set up the gear again and waited for an opportunity. While I was waiting I scanned the loch picking up 2 RT Diver, 5 GN Diver and a couple of Guillemot plus another Otter heading towards me and two more in the distance - WOW!
Mum with two cubs eventually hit the shore and I took a few snaps but the light wasn't right and a crowd was gathering. I'd tested the video option on the camera, I posted said video yesterday, so I turned around and headed back to base before heading off again to see if I could get more video without being disturbed. I certainly hit lucky when I located two Otters close to shore but I would have to do some stalking to get a decent video. I'll let you decide! 
I was delighted with that so I, foolishly, thought I'd try it out on the Adders too. Despite the sunshine it was only about 3 degrees and the Adder didn't want to move at all so here's a still Adder.
No chance of getting any birding done today as we are off to Newcastle tonight. I'm hoping to get a few year ticks while I'm down there but it's doubtful as we are only there for the Saturday to see the kids!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A day in pictures

Tuesday I was off to Oban to get the motor put through it's test with the council (it passed). A pretty uneventful day really but I did have a look for the Ring-billed Gull. Despite standing around watching the gulls come in and go out for 3 hours there was no sign. A few Common Gulls in with the Herring Gulls made the heart leap but I couldn't string any of them into a RBG. I did get a very obliging Bullfinch though.
Wednesday started off looking like this....
...but the next time I looked you couldn't see for the blizzard!! It soon cleared off and I was determined to get out after my enforced captivity. I picked up PS and set about finding things. A Buzzard for starters...
....and then a whole list of birds after that. Rock Dove aplenty, 5 Meadow Pipit, 1 Wigeon, 30 Teal, 100 Golden Plover - here's half the flock....
....and a couple in the field.
As you can see one of these birds is starting to come into Summer plumage. A couple of Mountain Hare entertained us for 10 minutes or so. The first one came to a halt....
....with the second one not far behind. They started to move off and do some running like this...
...and then stopped to pose nicely.

We picked up 1 Grey Plover and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit just as 30 Barnacle Geese flew in.
A flock of 20 Fieldfare were perched up nicely until I tried to get a shot and this Hoodie decided it would be great fun to chase them around!!
Greylag Goose....
...and Tufted Duck....
....were on the list early in the day along with a Little Grebe. We managed to get the Starlings in the sunlight...
...and a Kestrel when the sun was hiding.
After all that excitement things seemed to slow down a bit but a Sparrowhawk brightened things up and a Golden Eagle sitting on a hill top was a bonus. A few Stonechats, a Black Guillemot and a few Common Seals later and it was lunchtime.
No, it wasn't Lamb for lunch but it is the first one I've seen this year. You can't go anywhere around here without seeing Grey Heron but they are always worth a look and even more so when they have a fish to play with....
...and then it was gone.
We drove past the Otters so we could pick them up in better light on the way back. Red Deer would have to do to fill the gap.
He doesn't look too happy about having his feed disturbed! Back to the Otters then...they were easy to find again as there was a parking issue where they were! We moved on and waited again. They appeared to be moving in our direction but when they didn't appear, and everyone else had cleared off, we found them curled up on the smallest of rocks.
Jostling for position as the tide comes in is always an option.
Great fun to watch though. We'd had our fun for the day so we headed for home. A Raven wasn't sure if it wanted to leave it's perch or not as we approached him...
...and a Golden Eagle looked menacing staring down at us at our last stop of the day.
Let's see if this works - if it does there will be more!!