Sunday, 31 October 2010

Simply, the best.

Sunday dawned with reasonably clear skies and the wind had dropped, it was an opportunity not to be missed. I headed off to pick up the optics before heading round the loch. All the optics were steaming up with the temperature change so while I was demisting everything two Otters swam into view! The mum and cub had hauled out on the rocks and they both watched the Little Grebe that was swimming about in front of them.
 I left them in peace and took in the fabulous scenery - mirror like water, fabulous Autumn colours reflected everywhere and nothing to hear but the rushing of the waterfalls and the calls of the wildlife - just incredible! A Buzzard was captured with the camera just before it took flight.
A few Great Northern Divers were close to shore and still looking good as they change into Winter plumage.
 This bird was playing hard to get...
...and it took a while to get a big bird but when I eventually picked up a Golden Eagle it was only stooping down at a White-tailed Eagle - it was just one of those days. There were Red Deer scattered across the hillsides and then a very familiar silhouette...
...Waxwings!! They've been seen just about everywhere over the last week but I've bided my time and then I come across fifteen of these beauties at the side of the road. To say they were gorging themselves would be an understatement as their crops were bulging to capacity and it seemed a struggle to swallow just one more berry. It was a good mix of adults and juveniles too so they've obviously had a good breeding season.
 While watching another group of seven Waxwings one of the Autumnwatch team turned up to film them - keep your eyes open for that on Thursdays programme.
 It had been another incredible day and what better way to finish than an incredible sunset. Simply, the best!

Saturday, 30 October 2010


Wednesday was a showery day but we managed to stay dry and get plenty of good sightings for the day. Our first sighting was of a Golden Eagle sitting on top of a hill just before a shower came through and killed the visibility plus a couple of Redwing showed well at the side of the road. Our next stop provided views of a few Common Buzzard....
....12 Greenland White-fronted Goose and two White-tailed Eagle - an excellent start to the day. The weather continued with the showers and kept things a bit quiet but we did have a brief view of Golden Eagle in flight. I thought we could get better views of the Goldie from another location so off we went. As another shower passed through we picked up the Goldie again and got views of the bird being mobbed by Ravens as it stood on the hillside before taking flight and drifting off. Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, RB Merganser and Common Seal were all seen before we finally picked up an Otter. The light was starting to fade as the clouds gathered but the view of the Otter was superb as it swam towards us and finally came ashore to head for the holt.
We picked up a couple of WT Eagle in flight when we stopped for an afternoon cuppa and finished the day off with close views of four Red Deer.
We did have a nice surprise on the way back as we picked up 3 more Otters near to the road - result.
Thursday was a day off and the weather was pretty poor. Friday I was back on the road again with guests but the forecast wasn't looking too good. The morning started off quite windy with the rain threatening so we had to try and make the best of the day. Before I even set off this WT Eagle drifted over the shop.
We knew the rain was due to start around 12pm so we made the effort of getting round a few of the Golden Eagle sites but we failed to pick one up. We'd had a bit of a quiet start and as the rain started to fall we wondered if we'd see much more. We'd had the likes of WF Goose, GN Diver, Common Seal etc but it was about time we'd had something special. The rain was getting worse but I spotted something in the water that required a second look. We waited for something to reappear. It seemed to take an age before the small brown head of an Otter broke the surface - at last!
Not just one Otter though as there were three of them! We watched these until they disappeared and then we were lucky enough to find another just after lunch. Another prolonged view but this time we saw the beast out of the water too. Despite the heavy rain we headed off in search of WT Eagle. A quick look around didn't produce anything at first and on our second look I was surprised to find a WT Eagle, in flight, drifting into view!! I watched it land in a tree so headed off for a closer look.
The guests were slightly disappointed that they hadn't seen the bird in flight but that didn't last long as the bird dropped to the ground and then it flew off to the right.
We watched it eat whatever it had picked off the ground before it flew back towards us - who says they don't fly in the rain?! We were soaked by this time so we headed back to the motor to see what else could be found. We picked up another two Otters on the way back.
We had Red Deer and a few Common Buzzard that were sitting, dripping wet, on telegraph poles...
...and the Common Seals just looked on as we passed by.
I make no apology for the fuzzy quality of the photos - that's the way the weather is, fuzzy!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The news...

Not a great deal to report for the last few days as we had family visitors but just to keep you up to date here is the news.The snow made a brief reappearance on Saturday.
I'd had an early run round the loch for a quick Otter fix and bagged an adult WT Eagle too before getting a snap of this Cormorant drying it's wings.
Monday I ended up having a trail around on my own. The weather was fine and there had been a few Waxwings on the move. The Waxwings had been reported as arriving on the Sunday and it seemed like they were pushing rapidly East. I didn't rate my chances but I was keeping my eyes and ears open for them. I'd picked up WT Eagle on the way to check on the WF Goose numbers (still 10) then the Coot was duly checked out alongside 30 Tufted Duck. A quick check of a piece of woodland threw up a few species with Chiffchaff and Goldcrest being the star birds amongst the 4 species of Tits seen and a Sparrowhawk that nearly had me for as meal by mistake!! Great Northern and Red-throated Divers seemed easy to find today and the flock of 30 Golden Plover with 4 Dunlin hiding amongst them seemed to be a good find until my next stop. There were 120 Golden Plover on view with 4 Dunlin (again), 4 Turnstone, 8 Ringed Plover, 12 Redshank, 2 Greenshank with a cracking female Merlin and two Golden Eagles to spice things up. When all the waders lifted off I waited for a WT Eagle to appear but it never happened until after I left - typical that someone fills the gaps;-) I finished the day off with some stunning views of the Otters - this one eating a fish...
...and this one just passing me by.
I'd seen a few migrant birds through the day with fly over Skylarks, Fieldfare and Redwing but no sign of any Waxwings. Most of the Rowans seemed to be stripped bare but the Hawthorns were virtually untouched so there may still be a chance but I'll not be holding my breath!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Snow is falling...

Tuesday we managed to dodge a lot of the showers that were blowing around. A big thanks goes to the person that didn't turn up - a quick phone call wouldn't hurt! A cracking view of a Peregrine started the day in style before checking out the usual fare outside the shop. Three Otter were next on the list with close views had before they moved on and eventually went into the holt. We had some tremendous stag action too as one big stag rushed from one place to another, roaring all the time, trying to keep the other stags away from his harem!! Next on the list was an adult WT Eagle preening in a tree. We gave this a bit of time to see if it would go but it wasn't to be. The list was growing nicely - RB Merg, Common Scoter, Shag, Cormorant, Rock Pipit etc. A Stonechat posed for us as we headed for lunch so I took the chance of a quick snap.
Just as the lunch was coming out I picked up a Golden Eagle in the distance so the food and drink had to wait. I got the eagle in the scope before checking the bird out again with the bins and it was then that I noticed a small flock of birds in the distance that were heading our way. I wasn't sure if my eyes were working properly so I pointed the other scope at the flock of five birds - they were all Golden Eagles!! You could get all six in the same view of the bins too. We watched as the birds approached and one bird gave a decent fly past at low level...
...and the others cruised over the top of us - top notch!!
They sailed out of sight for a wee while before we picked up one of the adult birds with a juvenile in tow. It was tremendous to watch the mastery of these birds - no flapping, just a flick of the wing or twist of the tail had them cruising about with ease. We weren't going to beat that for excitement but it had been an excellent few hours. The Red Deer seemed to be out in force...
...Mountain Hare was an easy find as the weather started to turn and I added one to my Mull list when we picked up the lone Coot amongst the Tufted Duck.
Wednesday we had to head for Oban so Shop Lady could get the cast off her foot. When we got up it was a bit frosty looking outside and it was nice to discover that Ben More had a covering of snow. No camera to hand so no photo and the snow had melted by the time we returned.
Thursday the weather was pretty poor with showers pushing through in the morning. With the dreary condition the photos aren't up to much but better than no photos at all! We picked up a few Red Deer early on with a small stag being the most photogenic.
As we rounded a corner we were straight in on 4 Otters. It was a good show too with the dog Otter interacting with the mum and two cubs. He was very cautious in his approached but when there was no reaction from the female he relaxed immediately. The party of three soon moved on and the fourth one hung around fishing for a while.
We left the dog Otter and went to look at the mum and two cubs. We found them all sprawled out on the rocks having a clean up before they were back in the water fishing. It was a busy old time as they clambered in and out of the water with fish, the dog Otter turned up again and the cubs had a good romp around too.
Another bit of video too...

We returned to where the stag action had been on the Tuesday and located the hinds immediately and then found the stag looking a bit tired. He'd obviously run himself ragged over the last couple of days but he'd got his harem. A couple of Golden Eagle put in a brief appearance too but they were moving away from us. This sighting was easily surpassed by another two Golden Eagle that put in an appearance while we were looking at the Common Seals. There was a cold wind blowing today so it wasn't too pleasant standing outside and the sea was a bit rough too. Plenty of views of Buzzard were had, a swift fly past by a Sparrowhawk, lots of Eider, my first Greenland White-fronted Geese (10 adult birds) of the winter, the Coot and a few waterfalls that were flowing upwards but no sign of a WT Eagle anywhere. We weren't going to be beaten on this one so we made a thorough search and then resorted to the last ditch effort:-) Did we find one? Thankfully, yes we did and it was just reward for the effort. The bird we picked up was a two year old (Turquoise 1) from the East Coast introduction. A good end to another action packed day.
The weather forecast says it's going to be a cracking weekend here with a bit of snow on Saturday night - we'll see....

Monday, 18 October 2010

Seasonal weather.

Saturday evening on the way to a movie premiere for Blooded the sunset looked a bit like this...
Sunday morning saw the end of the pleasant weather and it was really cold - proper seasonal weather. Needless to say the skies were grey and it was chucking it down when we set off on tour. Worse still I didn't have a battery for the camera - noooooooooooooooo!!! Otters were a top priority for the day but the sea was choppy, the rain was lashing and the windows were starting to steam up. Luckily I spotted a furry beast rolling around on the seaweed in the distance so we went for a closer look. Nice views were had of a mum and cub before they headed back into water as the rain got heavier. It looked like there was a break in the weather as we approached our next stop where we could hear a few Red Deer stags roaring. A quick change of location and we were watching three stags, all with hinds, shouting at each other - very impressive. We headed back to where we had seen the Otters and picked them up immediately - they were just heading to shore. We left the motor and waited for them. They were about 10 yards away when they came ashore and headed towards us!! Nobody was breathing as the two beasts made their way through the rocks and gave us the odd glance before they dropped from sight - absolutely unbelievable views! You couldn't beat that one but we did get a second best as we moved further along the road and found Otter number three who caught an Eel. Where did he haul out? Right in front of us! Stunning views again but not for long as he disappeared when a few motorbikes went past. As I'd not got any photos of those sightings I had to attempt a dodgy digiscoping of a couple of Common Scoter just to get something for the blog.
The rain came down in earnest after that so we peered at various things along the way through the murk and things started to brighten up after lunch. I now had a fully charged battery too so when we found a Golden Eagle I could attempt a shot of it.
As time moved on we wondered what the next exciting sighting would be. A Mountain Hare graced us with its presence and then a Hen Harrier crossed our path too. We'd tried a few locations for WT Eagle with no luck so as we returned to one of the sites and scanned around. It wasn't looking good. 'Not to worry, we've had a fantastic...' was just being said and I had to interrupt 'You'd best have a look at this bird first' as a WT Eagle cleared the ridge behind us!! My, how we laughed - how fortunate can you be?
Monday we had similar conditions - lots of rain and a stiffer breeze. It was certainly looking like a tough one. We managed to see a Red Deer stag with a few hinds but only after waiting for the cloud to blow off the hill! It was difficult to see any distance as the rain came down in sheets but we kept plugging away until I spotted a couple of Otters heading for the sea. As they hit the water the fun began...
...they leaped out of the water...
...and wrestled in the seaweed before they moved on.
Nearly forgot - here's a video too.
We'd picked up the Common Scoter along the way and got sight of Ringed Plover and Turnstone just before the rain started lashing down and the wind was screaming. We headed for lunch as the squall passed over and some blue sky was peeping through the clouds. A bit of a wait and we had a Golden Eagle parading around in front of us - excellent. Another three Golden Eagle at our next stop was a good result too. Cracking views of Mountain Hare sheltering from the wind. 
A few Golden Plover were doing their clockwork toy impersonations in a nearby field.
Another Golden Eagle flew over the top of us at low level before heading off and out of sight and then a mile down the road we picked up another Goldie. We moved to a better position as the bird landed briefly and then came over the top of us!
Not a bad way to finish the day. WT Eagle was picked up but at a distance and difficult to see as it flew below the skyline. Not a bad couple of days considering the seasonal weather.

Fun in the sun.

Thursdays tour was a cracking affair but I never took a single photograph due to the massive depression caused by the loss of the internet or it might have been the lack of opportunities. We managed a good start to the day in fine weather but nothing to get the pulse racing so the Brent Geese, Mountain Hare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Blackbird etc were duly watched before I spotted a Minke Whale! It was one of those moments you dread - you are scanning the sea and seeing nothing and then it appears in the view, you can see what it is but nobody else has seen it so we wait. The Minke can stay down for a good 15 minutes and then surface, potentially, nowhere near where you'd first seen it so the chances of seeing this again were slim. I like a challenge. Unbelievably the beast surfaced in exactly the same place about 10 minutes later but, apart from me, only one of the guests caught sight of it. We gave it more time but without any luck. With hardly any wind there wasn't a bird in the sky so we travelled along picking up the likes of Eider, Golden Plover, Mistle Thrush etc and then it all happened just as the wind started picking up. An Otter showed well, WT Eagle sitting pretty and a cracking view of Golden Eagle. The Golden Eagle was picked up clearing a ridge in the distance, it circled a bit while being harassed by a Raven before landing. Not too bad we thought. We waited to see if it would go off again. A couple of Ravens were 'kronking' away just above us so we turned our attention to them. They started to drop lower down and when they were in front of the hill the 'kronking' was amplified beautifully with just the right amount of echo - stirring stuff. The Ravens then settled onto the Golden Eagles favourite ledge and redoubled the efforts of the calls - even I wouldn't stand for that!! The Goldie was off the ridge in an instant and made a beeline for the Ravens. They left, quickly! Tremendous views were had of the Goldie landing on the ridge above us and viewing his land. We left shortly afterwards and as we chatted about what we'd just seen another two Golden Eagle came into view. Just to be boring we got another two Goldies at the end of the day while looking for WT Eagle!
Friday the internet frustration carried on so there were a few phone calls to be made and some jobs to be done. Saturday was the same again. I had to get out otherwise I'd snap. I took the car and the cameras and headed out on a fantastic day. I had a wander on the beach to start with and bagged a crowd of Ringed Plover... a couple of Dunlin.
The Rock Pipits danced about me and seemed determined to get into photogenic places so here's a rubbish one.
The Starlings were busy cooling off in the stream and then giving it the 'shake the tail feather' treatment just above me - you can't not take a photo, can you? Does that even make sense? Have a photo.
Suitably relaxed I carried on with the sightings adding Pintail, Wigeon, Black Guillemot, RT Diver, a tribe of Long-tailed Tits, a couple of Coal Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker too. An Otter was an easy find in the glassy water at my next stop and it was getting warm too. A couple of these bird were close to the road but why do they always put their head down when you press the shutter?!
You can't fail to be impressed by the Great Northern Diver and nice to see the green gloss on the neck and head.
While watching the divers I got a brief glimpse of two Porpoise before a juvenile WT Eagle flew into view - how lucky was that? I watched the bird fly down the loch, pick a fish out of the water and then head into the trees to devour it's catch. It was on the other side of the loch but I reckoned there was a chance of picking it up again. I drove past an Otter to continue the search for the eagle but a few Redwing caught my eye briefly.
I couldn't locate the eagle in the trees so I headed back towards the Otter and had a quick look at two Long-tailed Duck along the way. Just as I approached the spot where the Otter was I noticed a big bird coming across the water. Switching the camera on as I abandoned the car I could see the legs of the WT Eagle drop - was it going to land? was it after something? Have a look at this!
The Heron was taking evasive action and a Hooded Crow joined in the fray.
That was enough fun in the sun so I headed for home to cool off.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Internet problems (update)

As you can see the internet is now fixed so the pictures have been added - what a difference they make too! The good sightings have continued over the last few days as has the good weather. The Rally was on over the weekend so I didn't do any tours on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. On Sunday morning we had a Yellowhammer in the garden but it soon left as a female Hen Harrier flew over.
Monday's tour was blessed with clear blue skies and lots of birds. There was a decent arrival of Redwing and Golden Plover. We started the day with a Northern Wheatear that we picked up while watching a Common Buzzard. A good flock of 70 Golden Plover were feeding in the distance. 30 Redwing gave us the run around as they fed in roadside bushes but moved along as we approached but a single Stonechat was more obliging. The wind had dropped so the sea was flat calm and this gave us a bonus of a few Bottle-nosed Dolphin. We had some cracking views of Golden Eagle at lunchtime...
...and some equally stunning views of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk later in the day. With no wind to encourage the big birds to fly we were struggling to find WT Eagle and there was no sign of any Otter either. When I finally found an Otter it was a very distant view so we moved to a closer spot to try to improve the view. It didn't work as we couldn't relocate it but we did find two WT Eagle sitting on the rocks! As we headed back along the way we were very lucky to pick up two Otters asleep on a small seaweed covered rock - stunning views...
...and a good end to the day.
Tuesday was another flat calm day with clear blue skies when the mist clearedand the deer had wandered back into the woods.
I picked up my first Fieldfare of the Autumn at the shop before heading off for the tour. With the guests on board we headed off to see what the day had to offer. It was a bit of a slow start with an Otter missed by five minutes and only a Guillemot...
...and a Red-throated Diver to show for our efforts. We eventually connected with two Otters after an hour long search. Both the Otters were feeding well and it took about half an hour of waiting before one of them came to shore - brilliant. A good show of Golden Plover, Redshank and Curlew kept the interest going before we had a chance find of a female Hen Harrier while watching a few Redwing and Mistle Thrush. A Golden Eagle gave a good display while we had lunch. Just after lunch we found two WT Eagle in a regular spot and as I went for the camera they both flew off and out of sight! Three Pale-bellied Brent Geese...
...were a good find along with a single Mountain Hare.