Saturday, 29 January 2011

Try and try again.

Friday turned out to be a bit on the cloudy side so there was no real plan to go out until I was informed that there was a WT Eagle that might be worth a visit. I headed off to see if I could pick the bird up. I could see the bird sitting on some rocks from a fair distance away so I found a place to park up and started walking to a viewing point. I just got the bird back in my sights, still at some distance, and it decided to leave!! I wandered back to the car and drove in pursuit, checking a few favoured locations with no luck. I did find my first Shelduck of the year and there is always a Great Northern Diver to look at.
I headed back along the way, checking again but there was still no sign. A couple of hours later I was informed the bird was back so I tried again and managed to get a couple of shots before the bird was flushed.
The bird landed a few hundred yards further away before taking flight again and settling in the forestry. I had been wondering what was holding the bird in the area and as I approached the car I discovered one of the Otter fishing.
The WT Eagles will attempt to steal fish from the Otters on occasion but a lucky find for me all the same. I watched this one as it swam past me and I noticed a tail disappearing a bit further out - two Otters then. I watched the first Otter going on his way and then picked up these two on the rocks.
That'll be three Otters then! I watched as the youngster polished off the fish while the mum looked on.
I could still see the dog Otter moving away from the area but when the closer two left the rock and headed for open water imagine my surprise when I saw this..., four Otters in total. The second visit really paid off, eh?!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Two half days.

Wednesday and Thursday were both nice days so I put a bit of effort in - Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon. Before I set off the small flock of Rock Pipits flew up from the shore to land on the wires so I took a couple of shots. When I looked through the photos in the evening I noticed that this bird has a pale bill instead of a dark one - odd.
The Crossbills were flying about too and when they landed a bit closer than the last time I gave that another shot too.
The Common Gulls were paddling about in the shallows with a single Black-headed Gull. It's not that often the Black-headed Gulls come close enough for a photo so another bonus.
I headed off to check out the Adder site and it was looking good for the emergence of the reptiles from their Winter slumber. It was a bit wet but it'll dry off quick enough so I could get lucky in the next few days. A single Kestrel was the only bird of note while I was looking around but when I got back to the car I could hear a Buzzard mewing. As I turned and looked up I was surprised to see a Golden Eagle with the Buzzard mobbing it - excellent.
While heading back I spotted a group of waders waiting for the tide to drop. Three Oystercatchers, two Curlew, a single Grey Heron and nine Turnstone.
I was driving along with the windows down and heard a Wigeon whistling so I pulled over to find this beauty.
Another treat just before I reached home was this White-tailed Eagle. Poor light for this one but a good sighting all the same.
In the afternoon I was sitting reading a book when I heard a Hooded Crow calling from the garden. I grabbed the camera and peered out of the window to find two Hoodies eating the spilled seed from the feeder.
A couple of scenic shots as the sun was going down to finish off. Ben More was visible for a change...
...and the sunset itself was nice.
Thursday afternoon effort was just as good but not as many photos. First in the bag was a Grey Heron looking splendid.
Lots of Great Northern Divers and single Red-throated Diver were out on the loch while a couple of Otters swam past and headed for their holt. Two White-tailed Eagles were sitting side by side close to their nest - it won't be long before they settle down to raise another youngster or two. Another Otter on the way back before I stopped to try for a Raven photograph. The Ravens were just in the process of leaving when I was heading down the road but a Common Buzzard perched up was a nice alternative.
The Ravens have been feeding on a Red Deer carcass so I'll get another shot at them sometime. I was surprised to see the Buzzard heading for the carcass though.
Not a great deal else to report apart from the usual RB Mergs, Shag, Cormorant and another Otter. When we arrived back home, in the failing light, a nice looking stag was grazing along the fence line. It was too dark to get a decent shot but I'll post the photo anyway.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Soul food.

There is a lack of urgency at the end of January after the initial rush of starting the new year list and the weather doesn't help either. The last few days have been a bit dull, overcast, showery - you get the picture. I've been out checking on both types of eagles (they are doing well), noticing the distinct lack of Meadow Pipits and bigger flocks of Rock Pipits, 5 Little Grebe instead of the usual four wintering birds but nothing out of the ordinary and no pictures either! The 'soul food' over the last few days has been the small flock of Crossbills. One of the male birds is using the conifers at the back of the shop as a singing post. Here he is doing his thing. 
The garden feeders are getting well used but there is a distinct lack of Coal Tits this winter - I haven't even heard one! There is no shortage of Chaffinch though.
The weather should improve soon and bring some of the 'missing' birds back into the open.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Five alive.

A quick update on Sula - she's growing up fast.
Thursday was just like the weatherman said - high pressure, settled etc. To set the scene... would be rude not to go out. While strolling along the road looking for Woodcock I could see this Otter in the distance. No Woodcock so it'll have to be the Otter.
It looks like there are decent numbers of Great Northern Divers around at the moment as I counted at least 20 but only three Red-throated Diver out there. Another Otter caught my eye and as I watched this one fishing in the shallows and hauling out with just about every fish it caught it seemed a good chance to get a bit closer. A Great Tit thought it would hang around and watch the action.
Down the shore I went and picked a safe spot to wait. The Otter came ashore with a fish and I couldn't see it! I eventually got a snap of the Otter as it came ashore the second time. It was still out of sight but I was helped out by a car passing on the road behind me - up popped the head for a look.
The Otter moved a bit further along the shore so I made one move as it was submerged and watched as it surfaced and headed for shore. No fish this time. It clambered up the rocks until it reached the highest point with seaweed on, nosed around, sprainted and then it was off.
I did manage one other photo of this one - once again it's watching the traffic on the road.
In the still conditions I'd seen a few Buzzard sitting on telegraph poles and it was nice to get this one perched on a tree.
After hearing the Crossbills singing and seeing them mating I caught up with another bird that is busy setting up territory and in full song - a Dipper. A cracking bird to watch and listen to.
I was happy with what I'd seen but there was more to come. I spotted one Otter that I must have missed on the first run before seeing the first two Otters again both of which hadn't moved very far. More movement in the water was another Otter - surely not, I'd just passed one...hang on, there's two down there! I checked back the way I came and sure enough there was an Otter on it's own but down on the shore in front of me were THREE Otters!!! I wasn't complaining, I just stood and watched. As they moved along the shore I set the scope up and took a few shots and suddenly they all came ashore together and went on the alert.
I was pretty sure it wasn't me as they hadn't even cast a glance in my direction. It all became clear as a dog Otter came sailing into my view. I guess he'd been creeping along the shore before sailing past and then came in for a closer look. He was told where to go pretty quickly too!
Then, stranger still, the dog Otter moved on, the bitch followed, the cubs following 5 yards behind their mum. They all hauled out in the same area with the cubs watching on as the two adults checked each other out. Just over the top of this action I could see one more Otter - five in the same place isn't unusual but the mix of 3 adults and 2 youngsters was a little different to what you expect. I hung around for a while to see if there would be any further developments but all seemed peaceful. I did get a shot of a GN Diver while I was waiting too.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Camera shy.

Tuesday was a day of occasional showers but mostly it was very nice. Just after we arrived at the shop we had a White-tailed Eagle come up from the near shore. It certainly wasn't there when we drove in but there must have been something tasty there to get it down beside the road. A couple of hours later and the gulls started getting a bit upset - a quick glance around picked up two young WT Eagle circling round. They both took their time losing height before settling on the rocks. No cameras, just pure pleasure in watching them. Life is good.
Wednesday gave us a more settled day - simply stunning! Cracking views of a female Common Crossbill were had early morning but it was too dark for any photos. When the bird flew off to land in the trees it was joined by a male bird and we were lucky enough to see them mating too! A small squadron of Rock Pipits landed on the wires, I managed to get one...
...before they flew off. The main reason for them leaving was the fly past of a male Merlin - superb. One of the local Common Gulls, Limpy, is a regular sight along a good two miles of shore.
I had a meeting to attend in the afternoon so it was a bit disappointing to miss out on the nice weather.
Just after I took that shot a female Merlin flew past covering the same ground the male had done earlier in the day. After the meeting I took a couple of shots of the sun going down.
Not bad views at all.
The final bird of the day was a Woodcock flying past as we shut the shop.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Broad shoulders.

I've not really made the effort to get out since coming back from the hols mostly due to some nasty weather so todays tour was just the ticket. We started off nice and gentle with some Oystercatchers, Hooded Crow, Buzzard and a few Common Gulls before banging in a couple of WT Eagle. Great Northern Diver was the next one to make the list with Slavonian Grebe not far behind. Three Otters performed superbly with the mum bringing a huge fish ashore and the youngsters giving us a close swim by. We'd spotted three swans in the distance but hadn't yet identified them so we drove a bit closer. As we got out the motor a Woodcock flushed from the scrub in front of us - excellent. The swans turned out to be three Mute Swan - not a common bird here so a good sighting. Little Grebe numbered five, a male Goldeneye, a spring of Teal and a few Curlew were added to the list before we viewed a few Red Deer. A quick look for Golden Eagle produced some nice stags, a Kestrel and a few Ravens before a shower of sleet moved us on. Another brief stop produced Siskin, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and a single Crossbill before we picked up a raft of Otters. An unusual sight of a mum with three cubs.
No apology for the quality of the photos as the light was poor. We cracked on to find the same two WT Eagles we'd viewed earlier sitting a couple of hundred yards apart. If I didn't know better I'd say they were keeping tabs on us.
While taking that horrible photo we picked up another three Otters. The title of the blog - broad shoulders....Golden Eagle does it really well!
Not one but two...
...and coming in for a closer look at our lunch too.
You can't have enough of this, can you?
As the second Golden Eagle left the area we followed it down the road until we went our separate ways. A bit of a quiet spell followed all that action with Tufted Duck and Turnstone being the most notable of the new birds for the day. Greylag, Canada and White-fronted Goose were all seen well before we parked up beside three very obliging Skylark. A female Hen Harrier warmed things up nicely before we headed back for home. Amazingly the two WT Eagle we'd seen twice before were now cuddling up together - it could have been six for the day but I'll settle for two!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Gambia - the last post.

Well, here we go with the last part of the trip to Gambia. First of all I missed out a couple of photos from day 6 - White-shouldered Black Tit...
...and White-crested Helmet Shrike - a stunning bird I'm sure you'll agree.
I attempted to get a few photos of some of the common birds that, mostly, we'd drive past. Round the hotel gardens we had Cattle Egret, Hooded Vulture, Black Kite, Senegal Coucal and plenty of Pied Crow.
Most mornings we'd start the day by counting up to twelve Blue-bellied Rollers on the wires. Well worth a stop for a good shot.
Little Bee-eater was another bird that we saw plenty of but it was a struggle to get a shot at them. I was happy to put that right too!
Our first visit to the beach turned up a few new birds for the trip with Royal Tern, Osprey, Sandwich Tern, Kentish Plover, Slender-billed Gull, Sanderling and Caspian Tern.
Five Great White Pelican flew over while we were checking through the gulls and terns.
Lizard Buzzard was a bird that was seen every day but never close enough for a decent picture.
We'd seen the odd trail of a snake crossing the dusty tracks so it was good to actually find one. We guessed at this one being a Cobra.
Cattle Egrets were around in good numbers...
...especially around, of all things, cattle!
While attempting to photograph the likes of Dark Chanting Goshawk, Vieillot's Barbet and Purple Glossy Starling a cracking African Hawk eagle put in an appearance.
The cattle caught up with us and gave us a chance to see the Oxpeckers at work.
Klaas's Cuckoo had been seen a couple of times in the week but two on one day, showing well, gave us a chance to check out the iridescent green plumage.
Long-tailed Nightjar - fantastic!!
An adult Village Indigobird was a cracking find at the end of the day.
With our suitcases packed and a flight to catch at 17:15 we headed out to try and mop up a few more species. A visit to a sewage works was a bit of a bonus with Rose-ringed Parakeet, Shikra, Common Sandpiper(front), Wood Sandpiper(back)...
....Sacred Ibis...
...and a large flock of Black-winged Stilts.
The Spur-winged Plovers were very approachable too.
Giant Kingfisher was a bird we'd struggled to find - we got two!
Pied Hornbill was finally found while watching the Giant Kingfishers.
There weren't many flowers to photograph so here is the only one we did snap.
The Palm Trees were spectacular as much for the birds that they gave us as they were to photograph.
An odd one to see was this painted tree...
...and the locals were as colourful as the birds.
All too soon we were back at the airport. That's all, folks!