Saturday, 29 May 2010


Friday - the weather continues to be pleasant and the midges are growing in numbers (good job there is a breeze to keep them down). A few highlights from the tour were watching the Redshank escort it's youngster through the Iris bed, a quick stop for a Buzzard got us good views of a Cuckoo and two Otters acting like they were dolphins leaping out of the water. The highlight of the day was the display the Golden Eagles put on for us - just awesome. We had both birds in flight and the female was just cruising from one perch to another and back again with her wings held back and feet dangling at times. The control was just stunning. If you've seen Ravens riding the updraughts imaging an eagle doing the same thing!! There's more...a Kestrel put in an appearance and the male bird took umbrage with it. He made a pass at the wee falcon and then turned around and started chasing it! The eagle would come steaming in, wings flapping furiously, and the Kestrel would turn on a pin while the Goldie put the brakes on and turned pretty sharply to have another go! The female bird came charging in from the other side of the Kestrel and it was almost curtains for the falcon. The Kestrel survived the attack and the it really looked like the Eagles went away chuckling to themselves. AWESOME!!!! Nothing was going to top that for the day and I didn't even think about the camera.
Saturday started with a bit of drizzle but soon cleared. With the lack of photos yesterday I thought I'd better get a token Golden Eagle photo while getting some flowery shots.
There ain't a great deal about but what is there looks good - Bird's-foot Trefoil...
...and Lousewort have been around for a while now.
The round leaved Sundew plants are just starting to show well now...
...along with the rarer oblong leaved Sundew.
I walked straight past this Early Marsh Orchid on my way in but spotted it on the way out.
Finally, you can't beat a good view to finish off.

Friday, 28 May 2010


Tuesday was yet another decent day. While travelling to the shop early in the morning we had a cracking view of a male Hen Harrier trying to get at some Oystercatcher chicks. No camera on board so it will remain a happy memory! Just a few photos from the last couple of days but featuring what usually turn out to be the stars of the show. Amongst all the usual things on Tuesday we had cracking views of the Dipper which now has fledged youngsters. Only a single GN Diver today so I guess the rest have headed back North at last but there will be the odd lingering bird until the end of the month. The Golden Eagles posed beautifully against the sky.

We found a Red Deer having a snooze down on the seaweed - it was camouflaged well enough but soooooo out of place.
The Twite performed nicely and with the constant calling they were easy to keep an eye on. There are still plenty of Dunlin and Ringed Plover around too.
Wednesday continued to give us good weather and some brilliant sightings. The Redshank have youngsters now so it was nice to see this bird on sentry duty.
The Mountain Hares were on good form running about in the fields.
Other highlights through the day were a Cuckoo sitting on the wires, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, good views of Whinchat, stunning views of Golden Plover and plenty of Skylarks.
Thursday was a welcome day off and I did nowt but paperwork. Back to work today and hopefully there will be more photos!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Cooling off

Sunday turned out nice again after the overnight rain. Once again, with some some guests on board and others to pick up, we saw an Otter out on a point of land. It was pointed out that there were two other people, with a camper van, watching the Otter that appeared to be naked! Bare shoulders and bare legs could be seen as they stood behind the open door - thankfully they were not devoid of clothes. While picking up the last of the guests we got sight of about 40 Crossbills flying over before we headed off to view the WT Eagles. Heading on from there we located an Otter mum with 2 cubs that were crawling through the shallows and seaweed. They took very little notice of us as we watched quietly from the shore.
Cracking views of a Common Whitethroat were had at the same time but a singing Blackcap proved to be too elusive for us. With GN Diver, Eider, Common Sandpiper and an oiled Common Guillemot adding to the list we stopped to look at a Hooded Crow nest with at least two youngsters.
At our next stop the Golden Eagles put on an impressive display as they both flew in and one of the birds stooped out of the sky with legs dangling - fantastic stuff.
A Common Snipe was on sentry duty standing on a post at the road side which provided some of the best views that you can get of this species. We finally caught with a Blackcap as it flicked about in some Birch trees and we had a fine welcome from the Highland Cattle at our lunch spot.
Two Ravens put on a good display and the Dipper was seen in flight before we picked up a couple of Whinchat. A Lesser Redpoll perched in a tree was a good sighting for the day along with views of a female Hen Harrier in hunting mode. The five Dunlin I'd seen the previous day had been joined by a single Ringed Plover. One of the guests had an interest in Brown Hares while at home and was particularly keen to see a Mountain Hare. She was delighted to get the close views that we had.
Both Twite and Whimbrel had been requested for the day and we got them both within minutes of each other. The Twite performed well on the track in front of us and 2 Whimbrel flew past calling away.
Monday started off really nice at about 5am but by 7am it was raining and by 9am it was back to fine weather but a lot cooler. It was the usual fare in the morning with good views of Golden Eagle perched up and flying, Golden Plover were close to the road for a change, nice views of the Eider and the GN Divers wouldn't stay up long enough for a good view through the scope! The WT Eagle nest had the chicks showing but no adults in sight and when a large bird appeared we thought our luck was in. It turned out to be a young Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Hooded Crow and a Buzzard. How long do you wait for a bird to fly back in? We gave it a bit of time but with nothing happening we moved on. Two More Golden Eagle were seen along the way along with two Raven. Naturally when we returned to the WT Eagle nest one of the adults was back feeding the youngsters. A very nice Otter was seen eating it's breakfast unperturbed by our presence. It just happened to be in the same place I'd seen the three Otters yesterday so the Whitethroat was still in full song at the top of an Oak tree.
The Otter was, by this point, settling down for a kip with tide rising rapidly. It won't be sleeping there for long.
The wind really picked up in the afternoon so we were happy to get flight views of Lesser Redpoll, Linnet perched on a fence and cracking views of a Cuckoo.
Our last stop of the day turned up a couple of Turnstone with the Dunlin and Ringed Plover along with 3 Mountain Hare.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Hot, hot, hot!!!

Friday was a scorcher with the temperatures in the twenties by 10am. I was en route to pick up the last of the guests for the day when we saw three Otters in the loch. Not an ideal situation but you can't drive past these things. We picked up the rest of the guests and had a look at the WT Eagle feeding the youngsters. It wasn't too long after we were viewing another Otter so that got everyone on an even keel. Common Sandpipers were all over the place and cracking views of the GN Divers as we went along. We got both of the Golden Eagles in flight and the eaglet on the nest. It's hard to imagine the little ball of fluff growing into a magnificent adult.
With the usual array of small birds filling out the list it was good to come across our first Buzzard of the day with a Cuckoo showing well nearby.
The last stop of the day gave us decent views of Twite, Redshank, Linnet, Ringed Plover and of course the Mountain Hare.
Saturday was another scorcher with an exclusive tour for a birthday treat. Michael and Dawn had the time of their lives as their own enthusiasm seemed to make things appear - what a day! We started off with an Otter crawling out of the sea right in front of us before getting excellent views of GN Diver. The WT Eagles were in the process of changing over when we arrived so both birds were seen in flight and the chicks got a feed too. A flock of 10 Crossbill flew overhead while we were watching the action at the nest. Stunning views were the order of the day as there was very little wind.
More excellent views of 3 Otters were had...
...while a couple of Oystercatchers had an argument on the rocks.
The Eider ducks were in full flow when we parked up next to them - such a delight to listen to! An absolutely cracking Cuckoo was seen as we headed towards the Golden Eagles who put on a superb flying display as the chick poked it's head over the nest.
A brief view of a Whinchat was had but cracking views of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler kept us going before we managed to get stunning scope views of a male Whinchat. We strolled along the beach watching the Common Terns and a Gannet before we came across a small party of Dunlin. One of the Dunlin was standing on sentry duty keeping a close eye on us.... the rest of the group continued feeding.
The Linnets that we saw were looking their best in smart summer dress and the Mountain Hares raced around in the sedge showing us a clean pair of heels.
We managed a good look at one of the Lapwing chicks... the mist started to roll in off the sea.
It was a bit like the curtain coming down at the end of a show - classic stuff!!! Happy Birthday, Michael.
The sunset was a bit tasty too before the rain came in overnight.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Dull days

Wednesday was a warm enough day but the cloud was down to the ground. What do you do on a day like that? With the guests on board we headed into the murk rattling off a great list of birds to start the day -Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Meadow Pipit and the list goes on. Two Mountain Hares on the top of a mound caused a bit of excitement too. On the way to the next stop the road rises and puts you further into the cloud base and there was less visibility and comment was passed that a male Hen Harrier flying through this would be nice but probably invisible. We found the usual Whinchat and Stonechat before a Cuckoo put in an appearance but flew deep into the mist. We followed a Willow Warbler down the fence and it eventually perched up on one of the posts - excellent!
As I was taking that photo a shout went up for Buzzard and immediately after another shout for another bird. If I'd taken one more shot of the Willow Warbler there would have been an out of focus male Hen Harrier in the background!! What a stunning bird. It flew past us then round the back and down the other side - you couldn't ask for any more. Half a dozen Common Tern were flying around in the bay as we continued on our travels. Despite the apparently dire conditions we had over 40 species on the list by lunchtime. The afternoon should have been a difficult one but the birds were keen to show themselves. Golden Plover, more Dunlin and Greenshank were seen before we headed off to get Golden Eagle. The cloud had lifted just enough for us to scope one of the Goldies on the cliff so that was a big bonus for the day. The water was flat calm as we searched for Otters but nothing was moving at all. Plenty of Great Norther Divers to be seen but very little else. We viewed the WT Eagle nest and I was delighted to find there are two chicks in the nest. Another try for the Otter produced nothing again. I dropped off half of the guests and headed off to drop the others at their accommodation. You can't help but look for stuff as you drive along so this Red Deer lying down was nice to see.
A WT Eagle was seen out on the rocks and we found an Otter too! A cracking day all round. An evening treat was had when we heard a whole load of splashing in the dark as a small herd of Red Deer were crossing through the shallows. It was a bit late so the photo (it was near enough black before I brightened it up!) is just capturing the moment rather than my usual masterpiece;-)
Thursday was another dull day with another bunch of enthusiastic guests. There were no expectations but plenty of keen eyes to pick stuff up as I'd informed them of the good fortune we'd had the previous day. We bagged two Otters at our first stop along with numerous sightings of  GN Diver, Eider, Razorbill, Common Tern, RB Merg and GN Diver.
Miraculously the cloud lifted briefly and we able to get Golden Eagle on list yet again and as the cloud descended again we moved on. The Dunlin and Ringed Plover were performing well as a Greenshank flew across the loch and a Bar-tailed Godwit was found - it was all looking good again. Two Common Buzzard were perched up causing great alarm to a Blackbird. One of the Buzzard looked particularly precariously balanced.
A Grasshopper Warbler was heard as we picked up Whinchat, Stonechat, Common Whitethroat, Twite and Rock Dove. Two Green-veined White butterfly were mating on the Iris stems while we looked for the Gropper.
Our last stop of the day turned up the three Black-tailed Godwit...

...along with two Whimbrel. There were plenty of Linnet flying about, a cracking Mountain Hare trying it's best to hide and some stunning views of Twite. The Lapwing that was on the nest has finally hatched the youngsters too. On the run back to base we managed to get Great tit flying alongside the motor, Grey Wagtail and a Cuckoo. Another amazing day out with over 60 species put on the list.
Footnote: Thanks to a bunch of people that staked out the Golden Eagles all day on Wednesday, blocking at least 4 passing places in a row, you now can't park near the birds. Marvellous!!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Sunny days

Monday was a cracking day with a nice breeze blowing. Golden Eagle was the first bird on the list as we captured this beast soaring over the ridge.
The Eider ducks were sitting pretty on the near shore as we searched for an Otter. We got decent views of GN Diver along the way and the usual view of the WT Eagle at the nest with the addition of the other adult bird soaring above. We eventually located an Otter asleep on the shore but he showed no signs of waking up in the time we were there. Stunning views of another Golden Eagle at lunchtime as a bird flew past us then started displaying.
It was nice to see the Stonechats with youngsters doing well and a couple of Whinchat in the same area. Last stop of the day gave us superb views of Mountain Hare as a few of them raced past us before sitting to attention and then running on. Three Black-tailed Godwit were still in residence along with good numbers of Ringed Plover and Dunlin. A beautiful calm evening with the tide in provided a photo opportunity and still no midges to speak of (that'll be the end of that comfort then!).
Tuesday was another cracking day (T-shirt weather now). The day started off with a couple of eejits walking through the Iris beds scaring all the birds and, obviously, disrupting the nesting birds too. I asked them if they were aware of the birds nesting there and the response was that they were aware but they were just trying to get some photos!!! I sent them packing. Despite the disturbance we still managed to get a single Mountain Hare, a few Dunlin, Whimbrel, Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Skylark etc. Bird of the day was a sighting, at last, of a Cuckoo. There are plenty about but not many that we get to see and the numbers are down again on last year. Areas that held a few birds last year are down to single calling birds this year! I've never seen or heard a young Cuckoo down this end of the island and I wonder if the population is just dying out, through unsuccessful breeding, rather than other problems on migration. Just a personal view from a small area.
On a brighter note the Sedge Warblers seem to be in good numbers this year with at least 4 birds seen. Another two Mountain Hare were seen having a face off with two Hooded Crow. Good views of Tree Pipit and Golden Eagle at were had followed by a brief view of an Otter. A few of the guests missed this beast so I was under pressure to resolve this! Half an hour later I located another Otter sleeping on the shore so everyone managed to see that! While watching the Otter I noticed the Hooded Crows heading towards the nest and it was nice to see the heads of the youngsters come up with blazing red gapes (must have a go at getting a photo!). The Butterwort is back in flower so a few of us descended into the ditch to get some photos.
The young WT Eagle is coming along nicely and the female is happy enough to leave the side of the nest to perch above. We headed back to see if the sleepy Otter had woken up. Sure enough he wasn't there and had swam across the loch to the near shore. We got fantastic views as he came ashore before heading off. A cracking way to finish the day. On my way back home I stopped to get a shot of Early Purple Orchid. which will be out in abundance before long.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Weather beaten.

Saturday was a fine day with good visibility. With the guests on board and requests for Golden Eagle, Otters and male Hen Harrier we headed off to see what wanted to be looked at. Two Golden Eagle were quickly on the list with the birds perched on a cliff and then flying around. We could hear Cuckoo calling but couldn't locate it and a Red Deer or two were seen while we scanned around. The old sixth sense kicked in at the next stop as I drove past a passing place something made me stop and go back to it. I hadn't seen anything but it was just a feeling that I should be looking from here - we found this.
We stood and watched as he woke up, preened himself and headed off - quality! After a quick look at the WT Eagle at the nest we headed back down the loch getting good views of GN Diver and another 4 Otters (two pictured below).
At lunch we had two Golden Eagle in the distance and Tree Pipit before we picked up another Golden Eagle closer in. While we were watching this bird flying in front of the forestry the view through the binoculars was blacked out for a second as another Golden Eagle came straight over the top of us!!! A couple of Whinchat were seen just after that and then we headed off on our travels. We managed to catch up with a male Hen Harrier breaking the ridge and then hunting the moorland - all requests fulfilled, there were smiles all round. Nice views of the Mountain Hares...
...were had while we searched through the various waders at the end of the day.

Sunday started off as a cracking day but by the time I headed off on tour the weather had changed with showers pushing through. I'd already seen a couple of Otters early in the morning so I was hopeful of relocating one of them as we headed round the loch. Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, GN Diver and Whimbrel were all seen before we got sight of an Otter hauled out on a spit of land. A prolonged shower dampened things down a bit before we located another Otter bringing a Dogfish ashore.
At least 3 Lesser Redpoll were seen with a few Siskin while our third Otter of the day was sleeping on the far shore. Two Golden Eagle were picked up just after the shower passed but they were reluctant to fly. A fledgling Stonechat 'chacked' demanding food from a parent bird. Another look through the waders added Greenshank to the tally for the day. Lunchtime was enhanced with the sighting of the Dipper in flight and feeding in the river before I finally got a shot of the Tree Pipit.
The weather was starting to close in and it wasn't too long before it was raining again. There was still a slim chance of Golden Eagle in flight but it wasn't looking good. We waited as the rain got heavier and then a big bird appeared, low against the forestry, being harassed by a corvid - it was the Golden Eagle. Impressive stuff! A fair bit of searching around produced a few more Whinchat along the way before we caught up with 6 Black-tailed Godwit, at least 10 Twite, cracking views of Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Lapwing along with a couple of Mountain Hare. The weather had been well and truly beaten!