Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Monday I wasn't out birding but it was a pleasant day with a light Northerly blowing. I heard some trumpeting in the distance and waited patiently for the birds to come into view - 22 Whooper Swan in formation. I hope they made it somewhere safe before the weather caught up with them as the forecast was for strong winds and snow.
Tuesday the predicted weather hit and kept me inside. I had a go at photographing a few birds in the garden but the branches were swaying that much in dull conditions it wasn't going to work! It hadn't really snowed that much but Ben More had a fair covering. With more snow forecast it wasn't looking good.
The snow started late on Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning there was a decent covering.
I had to take the cat to see the Borg to be assimilated vet to have his nuts chopped and the roads were, let's say, exciting on the higher ground! As usual the snow was localised around us and once through the glen it was reasonably clear. My first good sighting of the day were 2 Snow Bunting flying off the side of the road and a cracking Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Raven. While waiting at the vet's I had a few Crossbill in the trees but no camera or binoculars to get a better view. On the trip home I bagged a female Hen Harrier. Not bad for a run out with no equipment. I thought I had better go out and get a few snaps to brighten up this posting so here goes... first off were a mother and cub Otter.
There was no chance of getting in front of them as they were heading into the wind so I just had to follow until they clambered out. Crab hunting...
While I was waiting for my opportunity to get those snaps I noticed that the Larch trees were starting to sprout - colour at last!
One of the reasons for heading out was to check on the local WT Eagles. It would have been nice to get round early to see how much snow they'd had to cope with but you can't have everything. Anyway, the female bird was sitting tight on the nest with no sign of the male bird. I headed back round the loch and I was surprised to bump into another four Otters. Mum and two cubs with the resident male checking things out. No shots of the male but I did get the family trio on the rocks...
...and also leaving.
A nice female Stonechat kept me company for a wee while too.
You don't want to use all your luck up in one go so I headed for home. It pays to keep your eyes open I rounded one of the corners a large bird was circling. It was fairly high but I pointed the camera at it anyway...
...a nice WT Eagle.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

A perfect day.

Friday I had a tour on what looked to be a miserable day. The cloud was low, the wind was blowing, the Otters were still being elusive so it wasn't looking good. Oh but how things can change!! We headed off in search of Mountain Hares. After a quick look round we'd picked up the 27 WF Geese, which I thought had left for Greenland already, cracking views of the Skylarks and Lapwings but no sign of the Hares. So, one last look around and there was the tell tale ginger shape amongst the rocks. With the scope pointed in the right direction it turned out to be two Mountain Hare sitting out of the wind. A bit of a surprise but well searched out so off to the next stop. Five Whooper Swan had landed on a freshwater loch giving good views along with a couple of Tufted Duck. We followed a female Hen Harrier down the road before picking up Reed Bunting and Redwing and then another surprise find were four Mountain Goats.
We had a good comparison between Cormorant and Shag as they were sitting together on the rocks and an obliging Great Northern Diver was in the bay too.
As we moved on a Sparrowhawk had a flock of Rock Doves on full alert taking evading action. The cloud cover wasn't lifting any at this point and I was wondering where we would get Golden Eagle. An Adder was next on the list in misty, cold conditions and then a big result as we picked up a Golden Eagle close to the road. It lifted off and moved out of sight but a flock of Common Gulls were alarm calling and giving us hope the bird was still visible. We walked back down the road to find the Goldie perched up again - fantastic! The next stop was for lunch and just as I was preparing things the gulls started alarm calling again. I stuck my head out from round the back of the motor and there was a WT Eagle flying towards us! Stunning views in the scope too.
Our luck was certainly in. We finished lunch and moved on to look for Otters. Not five minutes down the road we had a couple of Mute Swan and then I spotted a familiar shape in the water heading for the shore...
...not one Otter but two! Again, stunning views through the scope and they stayed long enough for a few digiscoped shots too.
We headed for the WT Eagle nest after that and got both the adult birds and a herd of Red Deer stags were not too far away from there. So despite the weather not looking so good it had been one of those perfect days.
Saturday was a better day all round but I was busy with other things. I had regretted not having the camera to hand when we'd seen the Golden Eagle yesterday but I was surprised to see two birds in the same location today.
Sunday was Shop Ladys' last day off so we headed off island. The weather was pleasant apart from the odd shower and I was without my binoculars and cameras - guaranteed to see something! As we were heading for home we stopped to look for Otters but it was all a bit choppy to view with the naked eye so were considering moving on when the gulls started alarm calling. They're always quick to pick things up and it was only when the 2 Herring Gulls closest to us started calling that we picked up the reason for the alarm. A Golden Eagle was crossing the head of the loch! It was certainly good to see something like that away from Mull.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Tuesday was a fine day so I headed round to the WT Eagle nest to see if they were sitting yet. I got a nice shot of a Hooded Crow on the way there.
The male bird was sitting tight on the nest when I arrived. Not a great sign as the female does most of the sitting with the male taking over for short spells while she has a fly around. All of a sudden his head went up and he started calling and as I looked up there was a young WT Eagle flying over, which landed out of sight for me, and the male settled down again. A Golden Eagle put in a brief appearance in the distance and when I looked back the female WT Eagle had appeared from nowhere! She walked around the nest rearranging the edges and the cup of the nest. The male flew down into the trees and reappeared carrying another stick for the nest which he then tried to find a good place for it. She got hold of the stick too and there was a fair bit of pulling and pushing going on before they finally agreed on the placement! Two more Golden Eagles provided a bit of a distraction for 10 minutes as they swooped low over the trees and then gained height before moving out of sight. Two Buzzards were sitting minding their own business in the field below and were mobbed by the Hoodies.
With no sign of anything else happening I headed back home.
Wednesday was a day of rain but it was due to clear sometime in the afternoon. I was busy with other things in the morning so I headed back round to the WT Eagle nest in the afternoon to see if there was any change. Both of the birds were standing on the nest in the rain so there was no point in hanging around.
Thursday we had a few showers pushing through on an otherwise nice day. I had to go to Oban so I headed off for the first ferry. As I was driving along I disturbed a Wheatear from the side of the road. It's the first I've seen this year and I couldn't stop to get a better look! On the return journey I had a look for the bird but there was no sign. A couple of miles up the road two large birds appeared heading towards me. I stopped the car and tried to get my hands on the camera as an adult and juv WT Eagle flew over the top of me! With the camera in my hands I watched as the adult bird turned and headed back towards me. I tried for a couple of shots but they aren't the best.
That was the best I could get! Once again I headed round to the WT Eagle nest and this time a result - the female sitting tight and she did get up and appeared to move something in the nest then carefully snuggled back down. Once again I was distracted by a Golden Eagle in the distance and I attempted a digiscoped shot despite the dull conditions.
It's a horrible picture but it's better than nowt!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Highs and lows

Saturday was a cracking day so it was time to pick up PS and hit the dusty trail. The first treat of the day was a single LBB Gull one field too far away to photograph but good to see. The Herring Gulls and Hooded Crows were a bit closer so you can have them instead.
The next treat were 41 Whooper Swans that should have been on their way by the time we saw them. They must have dropped in on Friday night and it was after 10am when we saw them. Here is part of the flock.
Most of the Whoopers that I see usually head off by 09:30 but I'm not worried that they stayed long enough for me to see them! A closer view then.
Lovely bird they are and listening to the conversational trumpeting between them was a treat too! The last time I checked the WF Geese there were only six birds that I could find, today there were 11 birds but only ten in the photograph!
These birds will soon be gone too. What has come in to replace them? A male White Wagtail was a nice find but it wasn't hanging around for me to take photos but PS got a few. I got the dust bathing Skylark that she couldn't get!
A flight shot of the Lapwings...
...and the Greylags before we left.
It went all quiet after that. We found a Small Tortoiseshell....
..and had distant views of 2 Golden Eagle, had a possible Dipper (it disappeared too quick) and an Adder that was too cryptic to publish the photograph before seeing this sad sight.
Fairly fresh Frog spawn in what should be a small pool. It has rained since then and it's now in a proper watery environment. We had a quick glance at a WT Eagle before moving on to a Buzzard that was confident it couldn't be seen.
PS spotted some Lesser Celandine at the side of the road and told me of my plant ID gaff from last Sunday - that was the same plant. It's easier when they have flowers.
Then we spotted a Golden Eagle that looked like it was worth chasing to cross it's path. Did we make it? Course we did. PS picked it up and then complemented me on my eyesight as I couldn't see it!
Straight over the top - stunning!
Sunday was a trip out with budding rally driver Shop Lady. It was a slow starting race but once the speed built up there was no stopping her! VROOOOOOMMMMM!!! Needless to say all my photos were blurry as we hit mach 1. It was a pleasant drive around the island that we had just enjoying the scenery and the drive. Four WT Eagles, 1 Sparrowhawk and lots of Pied Wagtails were seen along the way before we got cracking views of a female Hen Harrier. Brill photo taken by me through the windscreen!
I was out on tour again today. The weather was a bit poor when I got up but it was due to clear. We started in sunshine but it was a bit breezy. 14 Whooper Swan flew North as we headed South - not a  bad start. Still good numbers of Golden Plover around, displaying Lapwing, singing Skylark and 4 WF Goose kept us happy enough. No sign of any Mountain Hares in the breezy conditions until we spotted an eye peering back at us from the long grass. Once you got your eye in it was easy to see - I should have photographed it really. We had cracking views of a Buzzard flying down the road in front of us before we got brief views of a female Reed Bunting and then brief views of a female Hen Harrier. The cloud was starting to build up and it was looking like it could rain as we headed for lunch. A small flock of Eider were spotted as we viewed a single Black Guillemot. Four Crossbills flew overhead and a distant Golden Eagle were not as satisfying as the posey Adder.
A big surprise was just around the corner. We spotted a couple of back sheep on the side of the road and then a few hundred yards further down the road another black shape was on the side of a rise. The angle was all wrong to get a proper view until we drew alongside - anchors on!!!!
TWO Golden Eagles as close as you like - that doesn't happen every day! Next stop gave us an Otter - the first I've seen since last Monday. A GN Diver did 'what it says on the tin' and stayed under water more than it was on the top. Nice views of a Curlew,
Shelduck flying around and Greenshank scurrying about were appreciated before we picked up a WT Eagle. Time was running out so we pressed on and got cracking views of 41 Stags together. Heading back onto the lochside we picked up a couple of RT Diver and six Razorbills in the choppy water. A heavy shower seemed to quieten everything down but as we cleared it and the sun came out briefly we spotted this beast....
We might have just seen a herd of them but the pose is superb! Day over! 

Friday, 19 March 2010

Bath time

Wednesday was a non birding day despite the fine weather we had but Thursday I had a chance of getting out - it rained!! I was busy trying to get a few photos of the Siskins in the morning. There are quite a few flocks of them around at the moment but the ones that come to the feeders always provide some good entertainment. It appears that there are only 2 or 3 birds but if they all fly up together there is about 15 of them. They come down to the feeders for the peanuts....
...and happily peck away....
...until someone else wants a peanut or two.
You can see the tail starting to spread as a warning to the Chaffinch - 'They're my nuts and you can't have any!' Fair warning there but don't get any closer or else...
....out go the wings, the beak opens and the Chaffinch backs off to the washing line.
Very feisty for a small bird and it won't back down. This next threat display was to another Siskin that was trying to get in on the act.
Fantastic to watch but it was a shame the post was in the way for the photos. The Coal Tits didn't seem to get the same treatment but they are always in and out in a flash.
By the time I eventually got out the rain was persistent and I didn't see much more than a WT Eagle and a couple of GN Diver.
Today the rain had disappeared but the wind was blowing fairly hard so I thought I'd give it a shot and see what was out there. A couple of Pied Wagtail have finally turned up again but they were pretty flighty so it's a poor shot of the male bird being blown sideways.
A Little Grebe was taking the opportunity of a bit of shelter to have forty winks.
A Greenshank took flight and moved a bit further up the shore so I followed it and attempted a few shots.This one I took through the window as I knew the bird would fly if I opened it.
A lone Curlew was a bit more confiding though and it was bath time. First, a bit of a rub down...
..and then, splash it all over...
...a nice blow dry...
....brrrrrrrrr, isn't that water cold!!
It was bath time again a bit further along the road as a few Chaffinch bathed in a stream.
The next shot might be blurry but it adds to the movement.
I could hear Siskins calling not too far away so I moved in for a closer look to find them decimating the Larch cones. It looked a bit like the first one to finish a cone had to find the next branch or tree that provided the next meal and the rest would follow. A couple of Grey Herons were standing in a pool and provided a better chance of a photo. I managed to get this one as it took off.
The local WT Eagles are still putting their finishing touches to the nest but it was nice to see both birds carefully arranging the 'furniture'! A Hooded Crow was belting out it's name, CRAAA, CRAAA, CRAAA, to anyone that would listen as I headed back home.