Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Much ado about nothing

Well haven't blogged for a week as we haven't been anywhere recently, to much to do in the Garden and around the house. Luckily though we managed to get time for a BBQ on Sunday and just chill out.

For our hard work, we were rewarded with our first UK Swifts of the year (we had our first sighting back in March in Italy), They were swooping around over the garden they stayed around for quite a while, must have been good pickings.

Although on the down side we had a Blackbird (male) squealing in distress for hours on Sunday evening, he was just flying around until dark, obviously searching for something. Very sad indeed.

On a brighter note we are off to Skegness for a few days shortly, so hoping to fit in the 2 nearby RSPB reserves, Gibraltar point and wander up the coast to Blacktoft and Flamborough on one day.

If anyone has any recommendations for the area I would be most interested.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Haden Hill Park 22nd May

Well the sun was shining, so wrapped my lunch up and toddled off to Haden Hill & Corngreaves NR. Not the best time of day, too many dog walkers and it was rather hot! Still musn't complain.

So I wasn't expecting much and that was what I got! Well after Mull what can you expect! Started off with a couple of nice Nuthatches though:

The pool had the usual supects, Canada Geese, Coot & Mallard, unusually no Moorhen about that I could see.
Through the NR heard plenty of Chiffchaff, had a brief glimpse of Willow Warbler, then Wren (3) Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.
As I was heading back a GS Woodpecker flew over and back towards Corngreaves Hall, so as I had a bit of time I looped back around and found him! (Of course he stayed in the shade and  wouldn't let me get to close)
So apart from Crows, Rook, Woodpigeon and Magpies, nothing much else, so headed out of the NR back into the park, where the Wild Garlic was abundant and smelt fantastic (if you like Garlic!)
Just going to add one Blackbird who was posing nicely and singing for his supper! (Well lunch!)

I walked home via the canal and picked up a missing Moorhen!!!!!!!
These Iron Moorhens are to be found all along the canal

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Eagles, Owls, Otters and the RAF, it must be Mull!

Well been off the air for a while. We have been away on the Isle of Mull with no internet access, so no blogging!
We stayed in a brilliant cottage on Lochdon with fantastic views over the Loch and surrounding hills, this is an example, the photo isn't great as the light was going and it was through the living room window, but it gives you the idea
Fancy a dip!
As I said the location was brilliant, from our living room window in the first two hours after we got there on the Sunday evening, we saw, White Tailed Eagles, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Red Breasted Merganser, Common Sandpiper, Red Deer, Mink (thought we had an Otter, but that came late in the week), Oystercatcher, Curlew and many more.

We went to Mull using the Corran and Fishnish ferries, much cheaper than going direct from Oban, even though it added about 30 minutes driving, but that was good as whilst waiting for the Corran ferry we picked up a lifer, a Black Guilemot. So that was a good start to the week.

Then once there unpacked, picked up all those good things I listed earlier.

So Monday, the weather wasn't great, but decided to go to Loch Ba as there had been sightings of a Long Tailed Duck, this would be a lifer for us, we trotted off from the car park to the Loch, of course once we started walking the heavens opened, but we were togged up for it so put the Camera away and carried on. There wasn't a lot about on the Loch, but we did see:
Sandpiper, RB Merganser, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit and Willow Warbler.
I've had enough of the rain, I'm off!
We had just had about enough of walking in the rain and were going to head back, when we saw 3 birders all scoping at the same spot, it was pretty murky and couldn't really make it out with our bins, so we walked over and asked whats up! A pair of Red Throated Divers, they obligingly let us have a look through the scope, they were a distance away and because of the bad light I couldn't see the red throat in all its glory, but another lifer and it was only the start of the first full day!

We carried on to Loch Na Keal and the highlights there were Golden Eagle and Great Northern Diver, not lifers but first for the year.

This could get really boring if I just go through everywhere we went day by day (as we did repeat visits!) So I'll concentrate on the highlights in no particular order.

Up there has to be the Iona, we went looking for Corncrake, the day was glorious if a tad windy (that goes for every day! It was either sun & wind or rain and wind!) Iona is a stunning place, we loved it, although I think it should be renamed Wheatear Island! They were everywhere.

We soon heard our first Corncrake but couldn't make out exactly where and then he went quiet! So we moved on and ended up on the other side of the Island on a glorious beach (where it was time for lunch):
Spot the Eider
On the walk back across the island we heard the Corncrake again only a few feet from us in an Iris bed, but would he come out and play..... No! We were then told we might stand a better chance at the Fire Station, so off we went, to join a small group of Corncrake Hunters in the Fire Station car park. This one was a real tease, he was vociferous but shy! We must have waited nearly an hour, then Tina spotted his head as he wandered through the Irises, his head was in view for a couple of minutes, before he slid away again. But that was it, lifer No. 3! So off for Tea! (Flask in the backpack as usual!)
Waiting for the ferry to Iona
(Me, Tina, Jo and Jimmy)
Another highlight were the Great Northern Divers, we came across them most days in most of the Lochs near the shoreline, never got a great photo as they were usually to far away for my lens or it was bit dull, this is probably the best that I managed:
Rain drops keep falling on my head!
So next highlight, we were driving back to Lochdon from Iona over Glen More, when the cries went up Owl! I was driving and luckily there were no other cars about, so I reversed up the single track road to where a Short Eared Owl was perched on a post up the hill. I managed to reverse into a passing place (most roads on Mull are single track) by this time he was up hunting. He traversed the hill side for a good while giving us a great show, but never getting to close, then to our delight a second Shorty popped out if the Grass. So after many visits to places where we know that there are short eared owls, or so we have read or have been told we finally get our first! Lifer 4! For the record:
I need a bigger lens!
After he finally disappeared over the ridge we carried on only to get a 3rd a few miles further on, what a day! It was back to the house to sit in a nice comfy sofa looking out the picture window watching the birds etc. on the Loch. I think I will recommend this to the RSPB, hides with picture windows, central heating, comfy sofas and a kitchen at the back (including a few bottles of Ale!) It can be tough birding!

The next highlight happened the following day, we drove to the Ulva Ferry as we knew White Tailed Eagles are seen around there around lunch time as one of the local boats does trips where they throw fish out, so we though we would give it a try.
We hung around for a while by the ferry, the swallows

and skylarks giving us good shows, until we had a raptor fest! In the sky all at the same time circling over the harbour, 2 White Tails, 2 Golden Eagles, 2 Buzzards and a Peregrine. All quite high, but it was a magnificent sight.

For the record!
A good time was then had in Tobermory!

We decided next day as the weather was dreadful to go to the Mull Eagle Watch run by the RSPB at least there was some cover out the rain. We were booked at 1pm, and got there early so parked up by Loch Beg and added some year ticks, Whinchat and Yellowhammer, the Yellowhammer was hiding out of the rain:
Nice Fuschia
The Eagle Watch was brilliant, great views from the observation area of the female on the nest with 2 chicks and a dead lamb! The nest is about 300m from the viewing area and as the weather was so dismal, no good photo's I'm afraid, this is the best I could do:
The white on the front of the nest is the Lamb!

but the view through the scopes was excellent. We stayed there about an hour hoping the male would comeback but he was probably tucked up somewhere. We heard some Crossbill but they weren't showing. Back out at the hide we picked up some Siskin, so that was nice too!

So last highlight is in 3 parts. Firstly Tina and I decided to go to Staffa to see some Puffins, so drove down to Fionnphort, the wind was really up, but the trip went anyway, the ride out was to say the least exhilarating and took longer than usual apparently as we were headed into a strong northerly wind, riding up the waves and crashing down again was fun, but was glad to get to Staffa. We ignored Fingals cave to start with and headed for the other end of the Island for the Puffins... who weren't there! They were all down on the water, as usual it was Tina who spotted them first, she's so much better at this than me. There were about fifty down in the water, with 2 Razorbills and 1 Guilemot.

On the way to the Puffins, we were surprised to hear a Corncrake, there was a small bit of dense vegetation in a dip, again like on Iona we searched but couldn't find him. We did see one of my favourite birds though on Staffa, Fulmars. I simply love them, I can't explain why, they are the tank of the sky, or in RAF terms (more about that in a bit) the avian Hercules. (Thanks Tina for that idea!), then the next best sea bird (IMHO) was all around too, Gannets, just wonderful!

We only had an hour on the island, so we dashed back and did the tourist bit and had a look at Fingals cave.
Once we'd done with the trip we headed for Fidden Beach and lunch, where we had a really productive hour and a half, so many great things here:
Whimbrel(40), Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Little Stint, Greylag, Swallow, Sand Martin, Snipe, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Eider, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow, Rook, Hooded Crow, Common Sandpiper, Rabbit and Hare:

So back to Lochdon, and on the way picking up 2 Golden Eagles and 3 more Short Eared Owls, what can I say! A couple of slightly better shorty pics:

So that's it apart from Otters from our living room window, swimming across the Loch and running around the waters edge, oh and I forgot the Cuckoo that landed on a post across from the house, I'm sure there's lots of other things, but then there were the impromptu RAF displays, Tornado, Typhoon, Hercules, Sea King another big highlight for me, but those are for a different forum!

So would we go back... tomorrow if we could!

Here's a full list for the week:

Black Guillemot, Blackbird, Black-tailed Godwit, Blue Tit,
Buzzard, Canada Goose, Chaffinch, Coal Tit,
Collared Dove, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper,
Cormorant, Corncrake, Cuckoo, Curlew, Dunlin,
Dunnock, Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Golden Eagle,
Goldfinch, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Northern Diver,
Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose,
Guillemot, Hen Harrier, Herring Gull, Hooded Crow,
House Sparrow, Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull,
Linnet, Little Stint, Mallard, Manx Shearwater,
Meadow Pipit, Merlin, Mistle Thrush, Mute Swan,
Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail,
Puffin, Razorbill, Red-breasted Merganser, Redshank,
Red-throated Diver, Ringed Plover, Robin, Feral Pigeon,
Rock Pipit, Rook, Sand Martin, Shelduck,
Short-eared Owl, Siskin, Skylark, Snipe, Sparrowhawk,
Starling, Stonechat, Swallow, Tufted Duck,
Wheatear, Whimbrel, Whinchat, White-tailed Eagle,
Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer
(6 Lifers!)