Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Little drummer.

A showery day with no tour so I nipped out for an hour. First decent bird seen was a male Hen Harrier...
...followed by a female of the same species.
I thought I had seen a Whinchat sitting on the fence as I drove to the shop so that was a target species for the short trip out. As soon as I parked up an almighty shower came through so I had to sit that out but as soon as the rain stopped things started to move again. A few Curlew were flying around and calling to each other and one of them landed close by.
A small bird popped up on a fence a fair distance away but you could see the head markings of a male Whinchat quite clearly. A short walk had the bird within range of the camera.
The best thing about the showery weather is it encourages the Snipe to get up to display. You can quite often hear the 'squeaky toy' call of this bird but people are probably more familiar with the drumming noise heard during display. The drumming is not vocal but made by the stiff outer tail feathers vibrating as the bird stoops - you can see the feathers sticking out in the photo below.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Too late.

The tour started in fine style with four Bullfinch making their way along the roadside trees and two WT Eagle at the nest site. The only request had been for Otters but the understanding that wildlife does what it does and when it wants actually helps you stay alert - just keep your eyes open. A few GN Diver were seen and a single male Eider was resting on the shore.
An Otter was seen shortly after that and good views were had as it came ashore in a couple of places. The rest of the day was fairly relaxed with good banter and some excellent sightings of wildlife and the scenery was enjoyed just as much. Five Brent Geese were found on the shore of the loch and gave good views.
Lunch was a pleasant affair with a Golden Eagle appearing just after we'd finished eating so there was no panic of grabbing binoculars for a better view. As we drove off an Adder was seen crossing the track...
...and the Golden Eagle came in for a closer look at us with two more birds circling in the background.
The small birds were appreciated as much as the large ones - a Robin singing it's heart out, Northern Wheatears everywhere, a Stonechat perched up and a Song Thrush that serenaded us down at the beach.
The views across to Iona were splendid with the red granite and blue sea shining brightly and a couple of Shelduck resting on the shore.
My first Whimbrel of the year were at the next stop.
Three Mountain Hare were blending in with the landscape, Lapwings flying around and a small flock of Golden Plover were seen too.
A check for SE Owl was fruitless but there was one perched in the open as I headed back home - too late for the guests!

Saturday, 27 April 2013


A report of a White-billed Diver was awaiting confirmation by photograph...a couple of days passed with no news so I had a look as I went through the area. Naturally there was no sign of anything unusual after two days. Two GN Diver were in the area one an adult coming into summer plumage (with black bill) and a pale billed juvenile bird. I found out later that the photo was considered to be inconclusive - I wonder what it was. There were plenty of Northern Wheatear to photograph though.
A tour on the following day was a good day out. We started the day with good views of GN Diver, RB Merg and WT Eagle before we picked an Otter. We leapfrogged the Otter a couple of times and got good views.
A male Hen Harrier was a good spot by one of the guests and a couple of females of the same species were seen at lunchtime. A distant Golden Eagle flew around while we ate lunch and eventually came close just before we left. A Redwing was still hanging around at the next stop but the top prize went to the Starling which look stunning at the moment.
A couple of Skylark were brave enough to sit tight as we pulled up beside them.
A couple of Sparrowhawk, GN Diver, Sand Martin and Willow Warbler were all seen at the next stop. Another migrant bird is the Lesser Black-backed Gull...
...which was among the bigger Herring Gulls.
We drove past a couple of Linnet sitting on a wall so we stopped to get views through the scope. There were a couple of Whooper Swan on a small loch that added to the winter birds.
We finished the day with a couple of Mountain Hare, two Snipe, another Linnet and three Twite which were a well sought after bird for some of the guests.

Friday, 26 April 2013


I was just leaving home when 3 Goldfinches flew into the garden and started taking over the feeders. The Chaffinches tried to scare them off.
One of the Goldfinches was doing a tail-wagging display.
It was a nice start to the day. The newly arrived Barn Swallows were hanging in this time so they must be the local breeding birds.
A tricky bird to get to grips with was a Willow Warbler that was keen to feed up after it's long journey.
This Barn Swallow was keen to stake a claim on it's nest site - hopefully they will have a better breeding season this year.
An addition to the patchwork challenge was a male Northern Wheatear.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Part two of the previous post was a trip out to Staffa on MB Iolaire. A few Kittiwake and a single Gannet were seen in the sound of Iona while waiting for the boat to arrive and a couple of Common Seal were seen...
...from the boat as we headed out towards Staffa. The Treshnish Isles are easily visible as you head out with the Dutchman's Cap...
...and Fladda...
...stretching across the horizon. A good view of Ben More from the starboard side.
A slow walk up across Staffa produced a Snipe, a Blackbird, Wren and plenty of Rock Pipit. A reasonable number of Puffins were already ashore when I arrived at the nest holes.
There were plenty of Fulmar flying around so I tried, unsuccessfully, to capture one in flight.
There is always a Great Skua or two hanging around so it wasn't too much of a surprise when one suddenly appeared for a fly past.
The MB Iolaire was waiting just offshore...
...as I headed back. A few Eider were sitting around on the rocks and there were plenty of Shag to point the camera at.
We had a look at the Puffins on the sea for the folk that hadn't made the trip up to the nesting site so that was a chance to have a go at some more flight shots.
Plenty of Guillemot and Razorbill on the sea - it's always a good trip out to Staffa.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Winter or spring?

A day of two halves so I'll split this into two posts.
It was a calm and sunny morning so I thought it might turn up some singing migrant birds. First stop didn't produce any migrants at all but this Buzzard was keen to be the centre of attention!
I could see a couple of Otter back along the way so a bit of a leg stretch was called for. I was hiding behind a rock waiting for them to appear but it seemed to be taking a bit too long so they must be on the shore. I stuck my head up for a better view just as the two of them came trotting to the top of the rock. I had to stay down until I was sure they were back in the water before grabbing a few shots.
On my way to sunnier spot for migrants I saw a mostly white Mountain Hare at the side of the road. The Common Seal seemed to be enjoying themselves - do they ever look any different?
The trees were bursting into leaf and I caught a couple of glimpses of what was certainly a Willow Warbler but it was right in line with the sun, 'It's bound to sing in a minute' thought I. I walked a reasonable way down the path then turned back so the sun was behind me - not a sign of the Willow Warbler. A few Goldfinch were flitting about and one perched in the open briefly.
Next up was another winter visitor - I heard the bird call a couple of times but I couldn't see it. A bird flicked into view and I saw a male Brambling just before it flicked further up into a Larch tree. As you can see from the photograph, unmistakably a male Brambling!
Another winter bird is the Great Northern Diver but at least do they stay here long enough to get their summer plumage.
Just after photographing that bird I had a touch of spring when the Willow Warbler burst into song and a lone Barn Swallow flew around. The local Robins seem to have paired up and were keen to do some fly catching and display on a wall.
Half a dozen Wild Goats were seen enjoying the sunshine and eating the seaweed...
...and a final sign that spring isn't totally here was the sighting of a couple of Red Deer stags with antlers. Winter or spring? Make up your own mind.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Year ticks...

...and on the patch too. A few days of stroppy weather produced these birds some of which were overdue. There were two Sand Martins flying back and forth outside the shop. They normally turn up at the back end of March so the middle of April is a bit late!
In the afternoon there was no sign of the Sand Martins but there was a House Martin flying around instead! The House Martin is pretty much on time.
Common Scoter I have seen already this year but this one is on the patch - terrible weather, terrible view but an superb bird.
Another day, more stroppy weather with strong winds and a bird I've not had on the patch before. A tern was spotted in the distance, I got it in the scope and you could see it was an Arctic Tern - a great find. I turned around to get the camera, turned back to look and the bird was gone! A quick scan and I could see the bird had settled on the rocks so I headed off, on foot, in the rain. The bird was back in flight before I got anywhere near close enough so I kept going and settled down on the rocks in the rain. The bird kind of did circuits while it fed so it came reasonably close at times - some good shots and lots of bad ones but it was worth it.