Tuesday, 31 January 2012


January is over already!! Monday was a really pleasant day with sunshine (remember that?) and a cold wind. I had a pleasant wander about along a woodland edge which produced prolonged sightings of WT Eagle and Golden Eagle in the distance but it was the smaller birds I was after. A flock of Crossbill were flitting about the tree tops but never settled anywhere for a good view. It took some time to find anything else but once you found one bird there were plenty more not too far behind. A Blue Tit appeared from nowhere, closely followed by two Great Tit, three Coal Tit, several Chaffinch and a Treecreeper.
The small birds were not concerned with the presence of the displaying Common Buzzards.
A change of location in the afternoon should have been pleasant but the wind had picked up a bit and had a real bite to it. Plenty more Buzzard plus a Kestrel and a fly past Woodcock...
...were seen before I headed for a more sheltered spot. I found my first Redwing of the year just standing in the middle of a field.
I hung around for a bit and a Mistle Thrush appeared and that encouraged the Redwing to fly around.
A young Great Black-backed Gull posed nicely against the blue sea as I headed for home.
Tuesday was a complete contrast as the cloud cover was complete and it stayed that way all day. I had a couple of things to do in the morning and with no improvement in the weather I was just going to head for home. A flock of waders flying around turned out to be Golden Plover so I thought I might try to get a usable photo for the blog. I wandered down the shore in the general direction of the 5 Golden Plover and watched another wader join them as they lifted briefly and flew closer to me. The extra bird was the Purple Sandpiper that has been missing for wee while - cool. I was never going to get too close so I fired off a few shots of one Golden Plover that was coming into summer plumage.
Do you ever get the feeling you are being watched? I'd wandered past a herd of cattle that looked like they might follow me but it wasn't them, it wasn't the Common Gull just off to my left...
...but it was a WT Eagle appearing from cover like a giant grouse!
It wasn't going to hang around for long as it eyeballed me and there was nothing I could do to hide so off it went.
I got another year tick as I arrived home as three Meadow Pipit landed on the fence.
So, one month down and 76 species seen - that's over half of what I expect to see for the whole year!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Not a lot.

There doesn't seem to be a great deal happening out there at the moment. We had a bit of a wander round in various locations and turned very little of interest except for Red Deer.
A Coal Tit and a Blue Tit at the top of a tall conifer were of little use so another Red deer will suffice!
A walk on the beach was a bit more productive with a few Herring Gulls, one GN Diver, a couple of Shag, plenty of Oystercatchers and a flock of 12 Reed Bunting.
Corvids always provide good entertainment so a flock of Jackdaws were a real treat. Apart from the amusing antics the colouration of these birds changes with the light so you can go from monochrome...
...to a bit of colour...
...to 'are you sure that's the same bird?' Cracking birds though.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

It had to happen.

It's been a few days since the last entry but with no decent weather I haven't really been out and certainly no camera action. The weekend was a bit wet and windy, Monday was showery with wind and the only improvement on Tuesday was that the wind had dropped so it looked a bit like this.
I couldn't stay in for another day so I grabbed the camera in case things improved and headed out. The usual flock of waders - 10 Turnstone, 12 Ringed Plover, 5 Redshank, 3 Greenshank and 1 Dunlin - were on show. The two Goldeneye are still hanging around but there was no sign of any Iceland Gulls today amongst the usual GBB, Black-headed and Common Gulls.
It didn't look like I was going to get many photographs so I had a play about with some of the settings to see what I could get. There were three Red-throated Diver that were way too far away so I resorted to firing away at the easy target of Grey Heron.
A Robin played hard to get in thick vegetation but it showed long enough for a couple of snaps.
Something always happens to make it all worthwhile and that thing happened just after lunch. A disturbance in the water started it all off - I knew it was an Otter but I couldn't see it to start with. As I got a bit closer I saw the beast slipping back into the sea and coming towards me - result! I took a few blurry shots as it swam past and then had to change location and change the settings on the camera for another attempt. I was surprised to find a Dipper sitting on a rock as I got into position. It was more interested in the Otter than me - you can see the disturbance in the water where the Otter is.
The Dipper flew off the rock towards me as the Otter hauled out.
As soon as the Otter moved on the Dipper went back to it's rock.
I had a bit of a dilemma as the Dipper was close, the Otter was moving off and a Great Northern Diver was moving in - what to do?!
I fired off quite a few shots before heading off for the Otter again and managed to catch up with it just as it was heading for shore...
...and out of the water.
This is a spot I know well and the Otter was heading for a gully and it would have to climb out at the other end if it came all the way through. It's a good five foot drop to the bottom of the gully but Otters are fairly nimble and better climbers than you think!
The Otter was close enough to hear the shutter on the camera and it dropped out of sight. I moved off quickly so the Otter could carry on. One lucky break is enough and with the weather closing in again I called it a day. On the way back I noticed the Lapwing flock had increased to three - is that enough birds to make a flock?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Pushing off.

Wednesday may have been dull and windy but there was still things out there begging for their photo to be taken - first up was an adult Iceland Gull. It was a blustery wind cutting across the loch and with no cover to get close, it wasn't going to be an easy task. There was a WT Eagle sitting across the loch too so I didn't want to frighten that off either. I just walked out to where the Iceland Gull was and started firing off a few shots, then a few more, some more - get me out of this wind!! I did get a usable shot eventually.
The Iceland Gull was pushed off by the tide and I watched it fly over the top of the WT Eagle. A quick drive got me a bit closer to the eagle but there was no chance of creeping closer to this one.
I waited until the tide pushed the WT Eagle off, frightening the life out of the Mallard. A big surprise for me at the next stop. I was expecting to take some flight shots of the eagle but as I pulled up a Mountain Hare raced away from the side of the road and stopped, briefly, in full view.
The Greenshank is a flighty bird, quite happy to set the alarm call off and frighten everything for miles so if you get one that is approachable it's a bonus. Like any good performer you have to clear your airways and strut about before taking to the stage...
...and then it's all sweetness and light.
I was happy with the performance and managed to get an encore as the bird flew off and came back to the same spot!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Dark skies.

Tuesday started with dark skies but rather than do something useful I headed out to see what was about. First stop was for a WT Eagle that was showing well against the dark sky.
As the bird disappeared over the ridge I thought I might have a chance of another view if I drove round the corner. It didn't work but a couple of Hen Harrier plugged the gap nicely. An Oystercatcher flew onto the shore just below me and posed for the arty wave shot!
I could see brighter skies in the distance so I headed for the sun. I caught up with one of the two Lapwing that are spending the winter here...
...and a Red Deer in the shade as the sun warmed things up.
The temperature was up to 10 degrees so I had a quick look for Adders but there was, thankfully, no sign. Another WT Eagle picked up in the distance put some effort into giving me a good view...
...as it cruised past and off into the distance.
A good check of the loch was worthwhile as I picked up a couple of RT Diver, six GN Diver, three Kittiwake, twenty Razorbill, ten Guillemot and two Slavonian Grebe! That was just the first scan as I picked up an Otter and another WT Eagle on the second pass.
The cloud came back in to dull things down again but the sightings continued with another group of 7 GN Diver, plenty of Common Seal, another three separate Otters and two Woodpigeon (the first I've seen this year)! 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Some improvement.

Another three days without the internet and a lost weekend means there has been no update to the blog but you haven't missed anything! I managed to get some, slightly, better photos of the Black-throated Diver....
...and another attempt at the Red-breasted Merganser - I don't think I'll ever get a good shot of these.
The small waders eventually started to come back on Wednesday when I picked up one Ringed Plover and two Turnstone but it was another couple of days before more birds reappeared. Thursday I clocked my first Sparrowhawk and Dipper of the year plus had another sighting of one of the Iceland Gulls. No photographs of any of them so a Shag will have to do.
Friday was a decent day with distant views of Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, two Otters and a couple of Stonechat that kept just out of camera range. Things improved in the afternoon with a cracking Otter...
...and the return of the Purple Sandpiper, a Dunlin, a couple of Lapwing and three Greenshank to swell the number of waders. Monday was a good day too as a report came in of some Bottle-nosed Dolphin just along the road - off I went. I managed to pick four of them up in the distance and they were heading away. A bit of a drive along the road and another scan produced nothing. I picked up WT Eagle, 8 Razorbill and a few Kittiwakes before I picked up the Dolphins again.
Back at base two second winter Iceland Gulls floated past the shop and landed with the Common Gulls - I managed to get one in flight but that was it.
With nothing else to distract me I had to have a go at this Grey Heron as it came past.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


The weekend was a bit of a wash out but Monday was just stunning. I've just been nibbling away at the year list but it does add a bit of interest to the sightings. I've mentioned the fact that the small birds are not visiting the feeders in the poor weather, they are coming back in now the wind has dropped but the numbers are down on what we had in December. I have only seen one Robin this year but I've had six Dunnock and not a sign of a Wren! Common birds but interesting. The year list can help with a blog title too - how many year ticks did I get today? Seven.
I was prepared for a bit of driving around but a quick check outside the shop produced a white winged gull that needed a closer inspection. It was an adult bird that was a bit distant and facing away from me so off I went for a better look. On arrival at a closer spot I was surprised to find not one but two Iceland Gulls. A superb 2nd winter bird...
...along with the adult bird - awesome.
Things got a bit confusing after that as both birds flew off and when I relocated two white winged gulls one was a young Glaucous and the other was a young Iceland Gull! Another change of location for a closer look and the Glaucous Gull had disappeared and the young Iceland had a different amount of black on the bill tip and looked darker. I couldn't get close enough to get any decent photos for a comparison and I never saw more than two birds at any one time. A pair of Goldeneye were seen in the vicinity of the gulls as were a pair of Goosander both of them boosting the list.
The last of the year ticks in the afternoon were a flock of six Rock Dove, a single Black Guillemot and a flock of about 180 Barnacle Goose. I got a superb view of a Golden Eagle on my way back home but I'd managed to move one of the dials on the camera which messed up the shots!
No such problem with the White-tailed Eagle that appeared a bit further down the road but it never came that close to me.
The year list now stands at a modest 50 which is just under a third of last years total of 164.