Friday, 30 September 2011

Catch up.

It's been a few days since the last post but here is a quick run down of the last tour and a couple of bits since then. A cracking start to the tour as we picked up a total of four Otters on the way to pick up the last of the guests. We had to backtrack to one of the Otters when everyone was on board and managed to find two! This was the closest.
A bit of a blank sky when we looked for raptors but we had a distant view of a Hen Harrier and a WT Eagle just as we were moving on. Plenty of waders on the shore with Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Redshank and Greenshank all seen. Two Golden Eagles performed well after doing a disappearing act for 5 minutes.
There are not many Swallows hanging around now so the 5 birds that we saw were a good find - I'm sure there will be a few more before the year is out. Not much else to report so the Rock Dove gets a spot on the blog!
A migrant Blackbird put in an appearance too.
The usual sightings of WT Eagle over the last few days of birds flying over and the Otters continue to be elusive but show well when you find them.
That's the end of another month but October should provide plenty of interest as the winter visitors start to arrive.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Pallid again!

Saturdays tour turned up another Pallid Harrier! Just as the guests gathered for the start of the tour a WT Eagle put in an appearance to give us a good start to the day. The search for Mountain Hare was interrupted by the appearance of a Harrier. Once again, as soon as I got the bird in the binoculars, it was obvious what this bird was. We were lucky enough to have bird flying towards us so the views were stunning. By the time I got the camera out it had drifted further away but you can still see the diagnostic head markings.
We continued the search for Mountain Hare and after a good walk around to see a couple of these beasts we got another as we approached the motor and another close one as we drove off. A couple of migrant Wheatear were a good find for the day as were the distant Golden Plover found at our next stop. With quite a few birds of prey flying around, mostly Buzzard we thought the search for the larger species might be easy - wrong! A good spell of raptor activity gave us Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine but no large ones. A small Common Lizard was seen basking in the sun and an Adder showed well.
A distant Golden Eagle showed briefly as we had lunch but it didn't reappear and then the skies went quiet. We searched the ridges for any birds but there was nothing showing at all - very odd. The afternoon was a bit quiet but the commoner birds kept us going with the likes of Curlew, Eider, Guilemot, Greenshank and Goosander all seen well. An afternoon tea break to try for better views of Golden Eagle paid off. A herd of Red Deer and a few Ravens were all we had to keep us company but after a long wait a Golden Eagle appeared, closely followed by it's mate, and showed really well against the land. A shower of rain encouraged the eagles to land so we got decent views of one of the birds perched up before the both flew over the top of us - excellent stuff.
We still had Otter to find but the best we turned up on our first look was a Chinook.
Why put this photograph on a wildlife blog? If you look underneath the helicopter you can see the area where we actually picked up two Otters. Just as we picked the two Otters a Hen Harrier was flying across the loch too - not a bad finish to the day at all.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


This post should have been some spycam stuff. I went to retrieve the camera today to find it was pointing in the wrong direction and a bit loose on the mount. It never crossed my mind that something was wrong but on opening the camera I discovered that someone had stolen the card!! Thanks for that.A bit of good news is the Pallid Harrier that I found on Tuesday is a first for Argyll.
I did see an Adder today that was next to the regular hibernating area. The only Lizards that I could see were the young ones. The two in the picture below are no more than an inch and a half long!
Another good find was this Common Hawker - it was nearly squashed by a size 12 welly!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Big ears.

Not too bad a day on Monday with a drizzly start then some clearer weather. We started the day with a good view of an Otter on the move before it came ashore to show very well.
Next up were a couple of juvenile WT Eagle that kept dropping behind the trees. A frustratingly brief view of a Hen Harrier being mobbed by a couple of Hooded Crow was next up. There were plenty of Common Buzzard starting to appear as the weather broke. After viewing the Common Seals and an adult WT Eagle we headed for another spot that gave us a real treat. First up was another adult WT Eagle...
...and the supporting cast of two Hen Harrier, two Kestrel and a number of Buzzard kept things interesting. When the WT Eagle took off it attracted the attention of all the smaller birds in the area but watching it chase one of the Kestrels was a sight to behold! Two Golden Eagle and a herd of Red Deer stags were seen too. Good views of some of the smaller birds were had too with 2 Yellowhammer proving popular, lots of Meadow Pipit and a couple of Stonechat. The search for 'Big Ears' was an easy one. Our first scan around for a Mountain Hare gave us one in the distance but as I got out of the motor I noticed one tucked into the rocks right next to us - what a fine looking beast too!
Tuesday was a cracking day with sunshine and a bit of a breeze. With the tide right in our Otter sighting was a cracking one. We had to wait for it to make it's way along the shore towards us but as it passed within a few yards it was worth it.
Once again the Common Buzzards were much in evidence just hanging in the wind which gave us the chance to get them in the scope - fabulous views. A juvenile Peregrine flew across the road in front of us just as we got an eye on a Buzzard that was perched up. As the Buzzard took off we watched it go and that got us onto two Hen Harrier in the distance. A quick drive along the road for better views of the Harriers paid off. A distant view of a Golden Eagle was the best we could manage after that. We tried to relocate the Goldie but we had no luck. A Harrier put in an appearance as we drove down a track but as we stopped to look at this one it was immediately apparent that it wasn't a Hen Harrier. The underparts were too extensively buff/orange and unmarked, the pale collar was obvious, the dark neck stood out too - this was a juvenile Pallid Harrier. I fumbled for the camera and managed to get a couple of shots of it too - awesome!
Everywhere we went there were Buzzards in the air so it was rude not to get a shot.
After seeing the Mountain Hare we made a determined effort to get both types of eagle as the distant views were not good enough. First up were two Golden Eagle riding the wind. We watched as these two put on a bit of a display. With one bird above the other the top bird just pulled in it's wings and dropped it's feet to plummet towards it's mate. It stopped just above the other bird for a minute or so before they both peeled off and headed for the ridge and out of sight. The WT eagles didn't disappoint either. We picked up two juvenile birds and had one fly just overhead. We followed these birds along the road as they were joined by a third bird. Lots of interaction followed and a cracking way to finish the tour.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


The weather really calmed down and the sun came out so I tootled around checking a few areas to see what was on offer. A hunting Common Buzzard got some grief off a Jackdaw.
The Skylark flock was a bit easier to see in the calmer conditions...
...and a single Ruff was very obliging as it fed in a small pool.
It was warm enough to check out the reptiles too but I wasn't expecting to see too many. Two Adders were seen but only one photographed.
The Common Lizards were out in good numbers too but these basking individuals were the easiest to capture. An adult first...
...and a nice, green looking, youngster.
The Hooded Crows are starting to gather in flocks and show well as they forage along the shore.
Stonechats seem to have had a good breeding season and are much in evidence now.
A Red-breasted Merganser with 3 youngsters has managed to keep her full brood.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Little and large.

Tuesday was another rainy day but the wind had dropped but the birds still get out. A juv WT Eagle flew over the shop at tree height and a male Hen Harrier was hunting out the front in the rain. Wednesday was a much brighter day and dry too. Two juvenile WT Eagle started the day well...
...and an Otter that didn't want to get too close.
The wader flock was still hanging around but looking a bit more restless in the clearer conditions.
A flock of Long-tailed Tit were the first ones I'd seen since the Spring. Golden Eagle took a bit of waiting for but we got good views when it did appear.
Another good find in the afternoon was a Little Gull. No chance of getting close to this bird but it did land next to a Herring Gull which was a nice comparison of size.
A good finish to the day as we were looking for waders. A brown blob in the middle of a flooded field turned out to be a Mountain Hare.
The Hare took it's time crossing the pool but it was interesting to watch.
A cracking view of a female Hen Harrier finished the day off in style.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


Monday was a true test of patience as we got battered with the wind and rain that was the tail end of Hurricane Katia. With it being a bit wet, as soon as everyone was aboard, the windows steamed up. Job number one - try to keep the windows clear! It wasn't too long before we all got out to look at a WT Eagle sheltering from the rain. We all got soaked but we all saw the bird which was an achievement in the poor visibility. Next up was trying to find an Otter. With the rain hammering against the windows it was difficult to see out so there was only one thing for it - keep the window down! The inside of the motor was as wet as the outside. With no Otters to be seen we checked out the waders that were on the shore. I managed to get a poor, but identifiable, photo of one of the Curlew Sandpipers.
I was convinced we'd overlooked an Otter along the way so another good hard look turned up a furry beast. Another good soaking for all as we watched the Otter make it's way along the shore. There is always more appreciation for what you see on a wet day as they are usually hard won finds - Buzzard hunting was a good one, Gannets were out in good numbers, a male Hen Harrier cruising through the rain was an awesome sight, Swallows battling the elements - I could go on! As for the title of the blog I found my 180th species of bird on Mull today in the shape of three Ruff. The photo below shows two of the birds with a Golden Plover in front of them.
Skylarks and Meadow Pipit were in good numbers and a couple of Mountain Hare were good to see. Just before I dropped the guests off we picked up a Dipper as it flew along the shore and then landed to give good views.

Monday, 12 September 2011


Wet and windy weather on Friday for the tour but still a good day out. Three Mountain Hare together were a bit of a surprise as they chased each other along the beach rather than hiding from the wind. Still a good flock of Skylarks around and the Rock Pipit numbers are increasing. Another day of patience was rewarded in the afternoon as we had a nice Otter sighting. We picked it up in calmer waters and watched it fishing...
...before it moved closer to the shore and clambered through the seaweed and peered out.
A WT Eagle put in an appearance in a brief clear spell and a good spread of waders were seen. Quite a few Redshank in a couple of places but the Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Sanderling flock was given a good chunk of time.
The weather started to break as the day was coming to an end so a final effort for Golden Eagle paid off. We got the bird at close quarters as it sat on the ground and then it took off to show it's huge size to better effect. A tough day but thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Sunday was a real stinker as the wind was quite strong with lashing rain. We had an awesome start to the day as we viewed a sprinkling of waders - Redshank, Ringed Plover, Curlew and Dunlin. I picked up a male Hen Harrier next. We watched this bird as it hunted in the distance but it was making it's way closer to us. A Sparrowhawk got up to harass the Hen Harrier and still it came closer. Just as we were getting cracking views all hell broke loose as all the waders and gulls took to the skies. The Hooded Crows all left the ground too as a WT Eagle came over the top of us to take some prey from the far shore. Five Golden Plover and two Turnstone flew in as things started to settle down. we attempted to get closer to the WT Eagle but too many distractions along the way as we picked up the Sparrowhawk at close quarters plus a female Hen Harrier and then a Kestrel too! The sea was really choppy but that didn't stop us from finding an Otter...
...but the rain forced us back into the motor so we lost that one. Two minutes later we were onto another one. This Otter caught a fish and headed for shore. It looked like it was going to haul out in a place we couldn't view but the crashing waves changed the Otters mind and it came over the top to eat it's fish on the edge of a pool!
Four Curlew Sandpipers (the first I've seen since 2007) were next on the list along with a Greenshank. We even saw the sun, briefly, in the afternoon so we walked the beach and picked up a couple of Knot amongst the Oystercatchers plus lots of Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail and a couple of White Wagtail. We finished the day with superb views of Mountain Hare.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Full spate.

After a couple of days off, the tour on Monday had the last of the good weather. The Otters were out in force as we saw one before getting everyone on board and then three separate ones in less than a mile. Just to give an idea of the conditions here is Otter number three heading for shore...
...and another as it hauled out.
A couple of Hen Harriers were seen as we waited for the Otter to come ashore. We had look for the WT Eagles but there was no sign in the regular spot but I did find one across the other side of the loch. A quick look for Golden Eagle was fruitless but we did get some Red Deer. A quick drive round the loch to get better views of the WT Eagle was worth the effort. We got cracking views of Golden Eagle as we had lunch and also a nice Adder sighting. This could be the last one I'll see this year.
Another two Hen Harriers, 6 Dunlin, 4 Ringed Plover and a couple of Redshank were the afternoon highlights plus nice views of Mountain Hare.
Tuesday was a complete contrast as the wind had picked up and it rained all day. You can't let the conditions put you off as the wildlife is still out there somewhere. Cracking views of a WT Eagle taking shelter in the trees gave us a good start. Things got difficult after that but we still picked up Raven, Kestrel, Red Deer and a Red-throated Diver. A well chosen spot for lunch was required to shelter from the wind and rain and hopefully we would get a window of opportunity. The showers carried on while we had lunch but just as we were packing up the rain stopped and a Buzzard appeared and then, one we were hoping for, a Golden Eagle appeared. It dropped from sight so we jumped aboard the motor and drove along the road to get cracking views of the bird. The afternoon was almost a complete wash out so the commoner birds were seen, some brief sunshine when we hit the beach and a Mountain Hare. Away from the wildlife side of things - the piglets are coming along nicely and should be heading to new homes in the next couple of days...
...and the sheep caused a bit of amusement.
A close encounter with a Herring Gull was worth taking a snap of.
The rest of the time was spent looking for an Otter in the choppy waters. It took until our last stop before we found one but it showed well and the guests were pleased to finally catch up with one. As I was heading home the rain stopped and the Buzzards came out in force. I took a quick shot of one bird hunting but found it was actually looking over it's shoulder rather than the ground!
The rainfall through the day had got all of the rivers in full spate too - spectacular.