Monday, 27 September 2010

Now you see me...

Saturday was a cracking day with a proper good start to the day. The camera didn't see that much action due to me being to slow off the mark! A juvenile WT Eagle was perched in a tree at the side of the road but I had to move on to let some traffic by and when I reversed the bird flew off. Stunning views of the bird in flight but it drifted out of sight too quick. After checking out a herd of hinds we picked up two large birds in flight - another two WT Eagle with a Golden Eagle, that we hadn't noticed, in tow. With 8 RB Merg giving us a fly past, a Little Grebe bobbing about and a single PF Goose hiding amongst the Greylags things were looking good. The two Golden Eagle flying about at lunch time gave us a treat. Ten minutes after leaving our lunch spot we were watching 3 WT Eagle. I picked up two adult birds perched together on an offshore island but by the time I pointed this out there was only one bird. The other adult bird appeared in flight closely followed by a juv bird! The juv gave superb views as it flew right past us. We finished the day off with another Golden Eagle, a bunch of Manx Shearwater, a cracking Skylark having a dust bath, five Mountain Hares...
...and an Otter at our final stop - phew! A stunning end to the day though.
Sunday was a day off but it was back to the daily grind on Monday;-) The weather was superb early on but it clouded over quite quickly and it was a bit chilly too. While picking up the guests I'd pointed out a hill top that was good for Golden Eagle - there was nothing there. With all the guest on board and about two miles away from the aforementioned hill top the Goldie was now sitting pretty!! We'd bagged a female Hen Harrier and a Twite so we headed off for a closer view of the Goldie. When we arrived at the closest point to the hill top it was bird free again!! Now you see me, now you don't - we left, quickly. A vast improvement was had when we spotted a young Goldie in flight - this one flew straight overhead!!
I was quite surprised to see a flock of 8 Swallows flying through after a couple of days of no sightings of this species. An adult Golden Eagle kept us company at lunchtime but never as close as the young bird we'd seen earlier.
Our grand finale for the day really was grand with two Otters in and out of the water...
...and two juvenile WT Eagles. One of these juvenile birds was sporting green tags which makes it a 2009 bird from the East coast project.

Friday, 24 September 2010


A quick update on the kitty, Sula. As you can see from the photo she's settled in very nicely, thank you!
Wednesday was a bit of a poor day with rain in the morning and some clear spells in the afternoon but I was in Oban with Shop Lady to get the broken ankle checked out. Everything seems to in order so she'll get the plaster off in four weeks time - hooray!
Thursdays weather was a whole lot better with rain early on and the rest of the day was just stunning. On the way to pick up the guests I was lucky enough to have a sighting of a female Hen Harrier but we didn't see one on the tour! We started the day off with a view of a juv WT Eagle on the ground. We had good views of the bird before it took flight so we watched it until it drifted out of sight. We headed off in the same direction as the bird and managed to pick it up again in the company of an adult WT Eagle and an adult Golden Eagle. The Golden Eagle stooped at the juvenile WT Eagle which presented talons to protect itself and then touched talons with the adult WT Eagle too. It was almost as if the adult bird was congratulating the youngster in it's efforts. It was a tremendous way to start the day though. We picked up an Otter on our first attempt with a single beast out on the shore.When it moved off we managed to pick it up a couple of more times and then let it be. A mile further down the road we caught up with the mum and two cubs who were a whole lot more obliging. They were swimming along initially and then out on the shore with the youngsters being their usual boisterous selves. As you can see from the photo the mother Otter just gets on with things while the youngsters throw themselves around!
After a good two hours of excellent viewing we wondered if the day would quieten down. Nope! We picked up a single Pink-footed Goose in with the Greylags, a nice view of a couple of Red Deer hinds, plenty of Common Seals and this Buzzard hunting at the side of the road before we had lunch.
Just as we finished our lunch two Golden Eagles appeared and proceeded to give us a great display.
Better still were the views we got of a juvenile Golden Eagle being mobbed by Ravens. The young bird seemed quite curious of us and gave us some superb close encounters!
We'd picked up some good sightings of smaller birds with Siskin and Stonechat showing well but there was a distinct lack of Swallows through the day. The only hirundine that we saw was a single House Martin right at the very end of the day but we did get a migrant Northern Wheatear to spice things up a bit. The Skylarks were as obliging as ever...
...and the single Mountain Hare that we saw gave us an all round view as it munched away on the grass. A WT Eagle sitting in a tree was a good sighting but when it took off it was a real WOW moment. Naturally the camera was nowhere to be seen and the best I could manage was a distant shot of the bird after it had gained some height.
 It had been an easy day but they can't all be that way!!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

That's life.

Monday was a fine enough day with a bit of a breeze blowing. The previous days PF Geese had moved but I was sure there would be more to follow. We hit a bit of a blank at our first stop but we did pick up a few of the commoner birds with the Ravens being the best of the bunch. Our first decent sighting of the day was a single Golden Eagle that didn't perform that well. We picked up Common Seals, Gannet and the odd Buzzard before we heard the distinctive 'wink-wink' call of PF Goose but, frustratingly, we couldn't pick the birds up! Our next stop gave us some stunning views of Golden Eagle. A single bird glided into view before landing on a rocky outcrop so we drove closer but the bird lifted before we could get out. It landed again and gave us superb views through the scope and then it was off again and flying towards us. Once again the awesome views stopped me thinking about the camera so this offering will have to do.
A few Redshank and a group of 8 RB Merg were had at our next stop before we picked up an Otter at close quarters. We only had about five minutes of viewing before the beast headed for it's holt. We had a leisurely viewing of two adult WT Eagle sitting side by side.
We stalled for time by having a cuppa just hoping that one of the birds would take flight but it wasn't to be. We left the two of them in peace and headed off. We picked up another Otter on our journey back along the loch and managed a good half an hour of viewing this time. With the tide well in we found a Shag fishing in the shallows. The Shag spent a lot of the time with it's head under water and then it would dash for a tasty morsel. I managed to catch it as it surfaced with it's prize!
On the final stretch one of the guests, Pam, caught sight of a pale fronted bird of prey sitting on a ruined blackhouse. It was on a bend in the road so I didn't see it but I promised to have a look on my way back. Surprisingly the bird was still there when I returned but just in the process of leaving - it was a another Buzzard.
Tuesday was a greyer day with a stiff Southerly blowing. With the guests on board we had an absolutely belting start to the day. We picked up an Otter at our second stop and got superb views while three Stonechat and a few Meadow Pipit bounced around behind us. Better still a juv WT Eagle graced us with its presence too. The local 'free breakfast' Buzzard was posing on his usual telegraph pole.
We were quite lucky to pick up three WT Eagle together being harassed by a flock of Raven. It's a sure sign of a carcass on the hill but it probably won't last more than a couple of days. A flock of 17 Teal was a nice find along the way. The birds had obviously just arrived and were busy having a bit of a clean up.
A nice female Hen Harrier was seen at lunchtime but the Golden Eagle were having an off day. It took a fair while and a visit to another site before we picked up one of those. It may have been a distant Golden Eagle view but there were three of them together. The two Golden Plover that flew low overhead were a nice treat as were the 12 PF Geese that flew past. Our final stop of the day gave the best sighting of the day. We were picking up the small birds like Linnet, House Sparrow, Goldfinch...
...and Skylark...
...before we picked up a couple of Mountain Hare. While watching the Hares a female Hen Harrier appeared over the ridge just behind them. It made its way towards us while dropping out of sight every now and then but we got some stunning views all the same. I was cursing the bird as it passed within feet of where we had just been parked before picking up the hares. That's life!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A bunch of fives.

On Thursday I had the unthinkable happen - with half the guests on board we picked up an Otter. We stopped for a quick look before going for the other guests and sure enough they wanted to see Otters more than anything else! It wasn't anything to worry about though as, despite the strong wind, the sea was reasonably flat in places so it didn't take too long before we were watching two separate Otters, one close...
...and the other a bit further away. We'd already had nice views of Red Deer and a confiding Buzzard... it was a good start to the day. While watching the Otters we had a fly past by a large metal bird.
It's all low level flying and dogfights that the airforce do here and it's not too bad if you can hear them coming but if they come out of nowhere they scare the hell out of you - they never wave back either;-) Cracking views of a juv WT Eagle were had as the youngster just appeared overhead - a jaw dropping view and I did just that before I thought about the camera, all too late! A couple of Golden Eagle kept us amused at lunchtime but there was very little else up on the moor as the Autumn coolness gathers pace. There were showers pushing through for most of the day so one of the features we kept seeing were rainbows - a nice one in the morning trying to obscure Staffa...
...and a nice bright one in the afternoon with Burg just visible in the background.
As we pressed on we got a few more good sightings of Buzzard perched up and in flight and cracking views of four Ringed Plover on the beach.
The last stop of the day gave us the usual sightings of Mountain Hare in decent numbers, Skylarks were grubbing around in the nettles and this Peregrine was having a go at the gulls before settling on the rocks.
Another WT Eagle in flight as we made our way back was a good sighting but the adult bird sitting in the trees at close quarters was right on the money!
Friday was another day of showers but not so many rainbows. The Otter sightings were exceptional when we had them to ourselves but the antics of those who turned up later were diabolical. The first Otter was on the shore having a cleaning session when someone parked up directly opposite, got out, slammed the door and the Otter just melted away. We moved position to get another view when it came out of hiding and we were rewarded with a superb sighting as the Otter brought an Eel ashore and munched away in peace. The next Otter we saw was being followed by six people!! You could see the Otter looking over it's shoulder every time it surfaced. We got in front of all of this and, once again, the Otter went into hiding. I had words with the mob but I doubt it made any difference. We moved on and picked up the mum with 2 cubs hunting in the shallows. They made their way past us at close quarters and carried on. That was the first of a bunch of fives. Next stop gave us a Golden Eagle sitting on the ridge but the two that appeared from behind the ridge were worth waiting for. As we headed for lunch we took in this Cormorant sitting on the shore.
A brief view of a Hen Harrier wasn't too bad but once again the 2 Golden Eagles flying around stole the show.
So that was a bunch of five Goldies - what could be next?! A road side Buzzard that was hovering had us pulling in for a better view and this scored us our next bunch of five as a WT Eagle drifted into view! A scan about picked up another WTE close to the first one and three more flying on the other side of the loch!! You couldn't make it up. We travelled on seeing good numbers of Shag, about 200, a very obliging juv Herring Gull that I had to shuffle around to get the shot.
The trip back gave us a tremendous view of a juv WT Eagle as one circled low over the road.
Saturday had a bit of a slow start with distant views of Golden Eagle after the rain had stopped. Bird of the day for me was the Moorhen (a first for me on Mull) that was feeding away as the GE flew around - you can guess which one I was watching the most. We improved the Golden Eagle sighting massively as we watched two birds fly below us before gaining height.
Not a great deal else of note for the day as the sightings continued in the usual manner.
I had a phone call from f-stop this morning to come see an unusual bird as it didn't look like anything in the bird books. I arrived at the scene wondering what this was going to be. Quite a few Bullfinches were flying about but they were too small, the Blackbirds were too big plus the bird we were looking for was really pale. Ten minutes of searching and we had the bird. It was certainly pale and very striking in flight but too distant to get anything on it. We approached the bird and set the scope up to find....a leucistic Song Thrush! Ah well, it might have been something good. On the journey back home I found 24 Pink-footed Geese too - result.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Monday was diabolical with not just torrential rain but a hoolie blowing too! We headed out safe in the knowledge that we would be rewarded for our efforts in some way as any sighting would be memorable in these conditions! We struck lucky almost immediately as we picked up an Otter. The beast was on the move after some close views and the rain continued to fall. It was a struggle to get anything in the poor conditions but we kept plugging away. We checked out a few Golden Eagle sites that were still visible but to no avail. I think we were lucky to see the sites! Predictably there were very few Common Seals on show in the wet conditions but at least we could see the ones that were hauled out. We did get a wet Mountain Hare that was munching grass in the lee of a mound.
The tide had dropped to expose the seaweed margins as we travelled back along the road so it was a huge surprise to arrive at the shop to find the tide was still in!! The amount of water coming off the hills combined with the Westerly wind had stopped the water level dropping. As we headed for the other side of the loch the road was flooded but passable. We located another Otter and we wondered if it was the same one from the morning. As this one moved off we had the mum with two cubs come sailing past us too! We'd put the effort in through the day and this was our reward. Half a mile further up the road and we were looking at our fifth Otter and the rain briefly stopped.
Just to finish the day in style we picked up a WT Eagle too as the heavens opened again.
Tuesday was a different day altogether. There were still a few showers around and the wind was still blowing but there was a bit of a nip in the air. This Cormorant leaning into the wind will give you some idea of what the day was like.
Cracking views of an Otter were had just as a shower hit.
We had a good twenty minutes watching this one before we headed off. A juv Common Tern also drifted past, close to shore, during this stop. Good views of Hooded Crow and Raven were had before a larger bird was spotted but it dropped from sight before I got a look. We gave it a bit of time and eventually we had two Golden Eagle giving us a fly past. Lunchtime proved to be twice as good as we had 4 Golden Eagles flying together. The performance was superb with plenty of interaction before we had a real close fly past by one of the birds.
A cracking view of a male Stonechat seen us on our way. We didn't waste any time moving on but still had time take in the Gannets flying up and down the loch and also viewing the waterfalls that were flowing upwards in the strong wind. Once again a Mountain Hare was a good find in poor conditions...
...but the best sight of the day was held for a male Hen Harrier that was hunting the marsh.
The Harrier was moving away from us so when it dropped out of sight we moved closer and we were greeted with a female Hen Harrier crossing in front of us. The male bird moved off as she came in and soon we were left with nothing - fantastic! We finished the day with stunning views of two WT Eagle sitting in the trees.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Better late than never!

Here's a quick whip round Saturdays tour. The weather was fine, the guests were great - we had a good laugh and saw some good stuff. What more could you want?! We got off to a slow start as we got stuck behind a herd of cows but it wasn't too long before we had a few Red Deer hinds in our sights with a stag in close proximity. After we got some brief views of a Golden Eagle and negotiated the cows again we scanned the loch for Otters but it was all looking a bit blank. A good vantage point soon produced the goods in the distance so we drove a bit closer. We got tremendous views of the Otter fishing and it soon headed for shore only to turn around at the last minute - why? Another Otter joined the first and they put on a fine display. It was a good hour before we moved on from them - excellent. The Swallows that featured in the last post finally fledged on Saturday morning and they all look fit and healthy.
We picked up Goosander, Common Seal and Common Crossbill before we hit a shower of rain that produced a stunning rainbow over the loch. The photos don't do it justice but you can see rainbow...
...and as it faded it lost it's middle.
Back to the wildlife...Golden Eagle was next on the list with stunning views of a bird perched up and just as we were about to leave it took flight and flew towards us!
The day was shaping up quite nicely but there was a distinct lack of WT Eagle. Another Golden Eagle was spotted on a distant hill top as we viewed Mountain Hare, Skylarks and Linnets paraded around us as we enjoyed an afternoon cuppa and we moved on just after we watched a fly past by a male Hen Harrier. We were nearing the end of the day when we finally picked up a WT Eagle or maybe it was the other way round! We'd stopped to scan around and seeing nothing I was just going to move on when the shout went up. This is what we saw...
...AWESOME!! The bird had a full crop (you can see the bulge) and was heading for home. We watched her cross the loch and I had the spidey senses tingling so a quick look over the shoulder and this was cruising the ridge!!
A Golden Eagle with a full crop - these bird had obviously been feeding on the same food source. What a way to finish though!

Friday, 10 September 2010

King of the hill.

Wednesday I had a few jobs to do but in the afternoon I was outside, chewing the fat, and a female Hen Harrier flew over head. The camera was in the shop as I'd been doing the last blog entry so I couldn't get a photo but you can't be at the ready all the soon as the Harrier disappeared a Peregrine appeared heading in the opposite direction!!! I ran into the shop and grabbed the camera as the bird was sailing away. The first shot was seriously blurred and this one isn't much better but it was half way across the loch by this time.
Another mystery moth - I'll probably end up with a proper ID book for Xmas or even birthday. Any ideas on the moth and also any clues as to which book to buy would be gratefully accepted.
Thursday I was back out on tour so with the guests on board and no particular targets for the day we set off. A Cormorant was drying it's wings at our first stop with a few Curlew flying between feeding areas. The Hooded Crows are at their cheeky best at this time of year. Small groups loiter around just looking for trouble or just some fun with each other. Well worth an hour or two of sitting watching them - try it if you get the chance! We located an Otter in the distance so headed a bit closer and waited for some exceptional views. A WT Eagle appeared behind us while we were watching the Otter but it was soon out of sight. There was a bit of a crowd gathering and all of a sudden the Otter disappeared so we quietly left the area.
I'd had regular sightings of a herd of Red Deer hinds so we had a look in the area but the farmer was out gathering his sheep so that was a blank. There were a number of Ravens in the area riding the updrafts and calling to each other so it wasn't a complete blank. The Grey Herons are a spectacular bird but they can be overlooked as they are quite approachable and a common sight up here.
We'd had a fair bit of rain overnight and as the cloud started to break and the sun came out there were wisps of steam coming out of the forestry - stunning.
As we approached the area where we'd seen the Otter we could see a real poor situation. One person was steadfastly pursuing the Otter along the shore while another two people were trying to get in front of it. The Otter was really motoring and not fishing - not good at all. There was nothing we could do without causing more disturbance to the Otter:-( We got cracking views of a Sparrowhawk just after lunch before we picked up a small herd of Red Deer hinds with a couple of youngsters. As we headed to a spot for Golden Eagle we picked up 4 Yellowhammers at the side of the road with plenty of Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail in the same area. A flock of 20 Rock Dove were in the next field down.
Stunning views of one of the Golden Eagle sitting on a telegraph pole were had with one of thee other birds flying at some height in the same area. We willed this one to take flight but it wasn't going to happen. We'd turned around and heading back we got a fleeting glimpse of the bird taking off and the camera was out.
A mightily impressive bird at close quarters - you don't care what you see after an encounter like that!
We located the King of the hill at our next stop. A couple of Northern Wheatear were pursuing their prey and this bird kept coming back to this obvious high point to scan for the next victim:-)
We had Mountain Hare in the bag so we had a refreshing cuppa while scrutinising the Skylark and Linnets through the scope. Both of these birds are worth a look when you can see them in such detail. Our journey back had a few highlights too with Gannets visible almost constantly as we drove along the lochside. As we slowed to view a couple of these black and white birds I caught a flash of black and white on the side of the road. We stopped and wandered back along the road to find this....
...a wee kitten. We had little choice but to take this one with us - not feral, no sign of an adult or other kittens and it was starving too. We've named her Sula after the old Latin name for Gannet and she's well pleased with her cosy new home. Back to the tour - a couple of miles down the road we hit the ferry traffic and had to pull into a passing place to let a number of cars go. This was what we could see out of the window as we waited...
...two adult WT Eagle - a grand finish to the day! Back at the shop the Crossbills were giving a fine display too.