Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Monday, 16 June 2014

Crinan and all that, Scotland Week 2 or Nice Beaver!

So after Mull & Iona it was on to pastures new. The Crinan area and the peninsula down to the Mull of Kintyre is somewhere we had never been before. We did have a reason for choosing this, we wanted to visit Knapdale and have a look at the Beaver Trial area and hopefully get really really lucky and see a Beaver.

We stayed in a cottage on the Crinan Canal at a small place called Cairnbaan, another beautiful spot and a good location for visiting Knapdale, it is only 15 minutes drive.

But day 1 we decided to explore a bit and went up to Crinan, this is where the Crinan Canal joins the open sea so its quite an interesting spot and well worth a visit. Although according to our daughter (who joined us here for a couple of days the staff in the Crinan Hotel are most unhelpful and rude!)

Anyway from Crinan you can do a bit of sea watching, Gannet and Cormorant were about but it was very dull day and not much birding activity was had. From an information board/map at the Crinan Car Park we discovered that there was a Bird Hide overlooking the river and the nearby marshes accessible from the canal tow path, so we drove down and had a look.

It was nice new hide, although the views over the marshes are distant so a scope is needed. We did spot Shelduck with ducklings, Merganser, Common Sandpiper, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Mallard and Redshank, with only the Redshank and Merganser really being close enough for a photo:

We explored a few other places in the immediate area, but little else was seen.

The next day we went a bit further afield and explored some of the coast. Again the weather wasn't great very dull and windy, but we did find some Deer and the odd bird or two:

We had planned the Tuesday to go to Knapdale, we had tried in vain for days to phone the Beaver Trial to book on one of their Tuesday guided walks, but we only ever got an answer machine and the never phoned back until the Friday! Bl**dy useless. So we went on our own, the Beaver trail is advertised as a 3 mile walk, so we thought we would have plenty of time to do it then get to the Car Park for 6pm and join the walk anyway. let me tell you it's not 3 miles! (not according to GPS anyway!) So we got to the car park at 6:10 to see the walk setting off and didn't have the will to chase after them!

Of course we didn't see any beavers on the walk, but we did see plenty of signs that they were about:
Bird life on the walk was sparse, Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Chaffinch, Mallard, Heron and Crows. The first half of the walk is great alongside the lochs and through nice woodland paths. The second half back is a tiring slog up a forestry track, but never mind. We decided to come back the next Thursday and Friday evenings to try our luck at dusk for the beavers, but those plans were to change!

Anyway next day we headed down to the Mull of Kintyre just so we could say we had been and call in at the Machrihanish Bird Observatory near Campbeltown. The drive down was great stopping at a few place on the way. The Bird Observatory was locked! But there were nice views to be had there anyway and there were plenty of places to sit and watch. The wind wasn't right for sea birds, but there was still some nice things to see:

We carried on to the Mull of Kintyre where there were some great views of Northern Ireland and Ruthlin Island that we visited a couple of years ago.

Next day was a visit to Taynish NNR again only a 20 minute drive from our digs, this is a beautiful place with a great circular walk through the woods along the lochside, some great sightings were had and even a few photo opportunities:
Tree Pipit

 Female Redstart
 Male Redstart
We stood entranced by the Redstarts for a good 15 minutes, they flew around in circles around us calling to each other, we actually think there were 2 males but the shot about so quickly through the trees that it was difficult to tell, the female was more obliging than the male, but he did finally hold still for a few seconds to get this shot. In the end we had to move on as the midges had found us!

After Taynish we popped into the Crinan hide again as it was on our way back, luckily for us as we entered there was a chap on his mobile phone. Now me being a bloke I zoned out, but Tina couldn't help but overhear that he mentioned the beavers. So when he finished Tina asked him about them. He happened to be on the guided walk we missed, it transpires we didn't miss much, other than a tip the guide gave about a really good place to see Beavers, he went the Tuesday night and saw them, so he told us where.

Hence the change of plans, we went bacfk to our cottage had some tea, then after watching Springwatch for a while we set out. His directions were great and we found where to park then walked the three quarters of a mile to the Loch. I immeadiatley spotted the Lodge, and was pointing it out to Tina, but she went one better and was pointing at a Beaver!! Being 9:15 on a murky night the light wasn't great but I tried:
'He' swam around a little then headed to the lodge, dived and disappeared. Absolutely brilliant!! We stayed for about an hour and got another really good sighting further down the loch, by now though the midges were driving us mad, so we headed home for a celebratory dram! (Well we are in Scotland.)

The final day we took a boat trip out from Crinan to see the whirlpool at Corryvreckan, the whole trip was brilliant, Seals galore:

We saw 3 Golden Eagles over Scarba, although somewhat distant!
Then plenty of Guillemot and the odd Razorbill on the water:

We then moved into one of the Lochs to be shown an Osprey nest and Sea Eagle nest only about 100 yards apart from each other! One of the Ospreys was at home, but kept putting its head down whenever I took a snap:
Whilst the Sea Eagle chick obliged but again quite distant:
None of the other adults returned whilst we were there although our skipper stayed as long as he could.

So zoom book to Crinan:

Til our next trip!

Iona - May 2014

So day 5 of our stay on Mull was our trip over to Iona. This is always great as it's a wonderful place with always the chance of a Corncrake, if you are very lucky.

After alighting from the Ferry we went to the Fire Station as this is where we have seen and heard Corncrake in the past, but apart from one call no luck was had. So we headed off to the north end of the island to probably one of the best beaches in the UK if not the world! I kid you not!

On the way we spotted this Song Thrush opening it's lunch:
There were plenty of Starling and Hooded Crow busy collecting food, and this resting Greylag:
Meadow Pipit and Wheatear were all over the place:

We heard loads of Corncrakes as we walked, but none would show, anyway when we got there, the beach was as stunning as we remembered:

We stopped here for lunch, watching the Terns fly by:
as well as Cormorant, Guillemots, Razorbills and Oystercatchers. There were plenty of Rock Pipits about too:
As we headed back we cane across a nice group of Ringed Plover:
with a nearby Pied Wagtail:

We stopped for a cream tea at one of the Hotels on the way back and after a glorious day it rained, exactly as it did when we did the same last year, so indoors we went. The rain didn't last long and we set off back to the ferry.

Just before we got to the ferry, we heard a Corncrake again near the church ruins, so we stopped and our luck was in:

So a great end to a great day on Iona.

Isle of Mull - End of May

Well another trip to Scotland, this is what has become our annual trip to Mull (well that's 3 years on the trot anyway) because we just love the place. The wildlife and the scenery are fantastic although we are later this year than previously usually we go early May, but because of one thing and another we couldn't go then. The biggest downside was the midges, we had hope we would still be too early for them, but the mild and wet winter has resulted in an earlier and bumper crop!

This year though we added on a second week near Crinan on the main land (South of Oban), but I will deal with that in another post.

So as previously we stayed on Lochdon, where our rented house overlooked the Loch. After unpacking we went straight out down the track to Grasspoint to a place where we know we can get views of White Tailed Eagles and within minutes Tina spotted one in a tree on the other side of the valley. It was then mobbed by some Hooded Crows and flew away coastwards landing miles away on a ridge, much to far for a photo, but a fantastic start to the week on the island. As it happens that was to be our best WT Eagle sighting, we did see others but never close up, this is the only photo I managed and even with my 500mm lens you will be hard pressed to spot them:
Anyway back to day one, we headed back towards the cottage stopping at another favourite viewpoint and were immediately rewarded with a Stonechat and a Whinchat, followed quickly by a distant Short-eared Owl and a Hen Harrier
No photos of the Owl or Harrier to far away! We carried on back to the house by which time Jo and Jimmy had arrived and we were able to site outside with a beverage and just watch. By the time we went in we had totalled 35 species, not bad!

Day 2 saw us explore some of our old haunts where we know that we might see Otters, Golden Eagle and Divers. Perhaps it was coming later in May than usual but the Otters didn't show and we only had a distant view of Golden Eagle, we did though find some Great Northern Diver:
If all else fails you can always rely on Curlew, Pipits, Hooded Crow and Mergansers:

And Oystercatchers of course:

Day 3 was a kind of stay at home day we planned a walk along the Loch (Lochdon) from Gorten. The weather was showery and we did get caught out a couple of times. We walked to the point and sat down for lunch when this popped up nearby!!

What a shame it was overcast! Whilst photographing this a Cuckoo landed in a tree some 20ft behind us, I didn't know where to look first, actually I did the Otter of course! After the Otter departed we looked for the Cuckoo but it had flown to a post some distance away:

So the plan for Day 4 was to get the passenger ferry to Ulva and go for a walk, we have never explored Ulva so it seemed like a good idea, we took the scenic route to get there, hoping for Otters on Loch Scridain but again no sign. We arrived at the ferry only to see that the ferry wasn't running due to a family funeral. So we decided to head for Tobermory and get lunch (we had planned lunch at the Inn on Ulva so hadn't took anything with us) The best sighting on the way was another Cuckoo photographed through the car window as we didn't want spook it any more than it was already:

Day 5 took us to Iona. Iona deserves a post of its own. So I'll cover that later.
After Iona we dropped into one of our favourite spots, Fidden, which is only a couple of miles from the Iona Ferry. Fidden is a glorious spot for waders, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Godwit, Lapwing and Whimbrel. And also Brown Hare. So we were shocked when we approached to see the whole area covered in Tents, Caravans and Camper Vans, as a result we only saw a few Lapwing, a Shelduck and a solitary Redshank! Gutted!

Day 6 and off to try Ulva again, this time we made it across and set off along allegedly marked routes. They were for the first hour or so then the markers disappeared and we got totally lost, we had no choice but to retrace our steps, plus we saw very little wildlife,

but we still enjoyed it (I think!) and we did have a great lunch as a reward for our efforts:
Our last full day was another explore around our favourite spots, this time we did get another Otter:
At the same place were two beautiful Red-throated Divers, I was concentrating on the Otter then when we looked for the Divers again they had gone. C'est la vie!

We called in at Garmony Point a couple of times, this proved interesting:

A drive up to Loch Buie provided our best Deer sightings:

Then finally our drive back to the Mainland provided our best Black Guillemot sightings at the Corran Ferry:

Our full count for Mull and Iona was 66 Species, including both Eagles, both Harriers (I forgot to mention we picked up a Marsh Harrier as well!) So not too shabby!

Iona to follow