Saturday, 18 July 2015

Isle of Skye and a bit of the Mainland (The Tour Part 3)

We had a good crossing from Tarbert to Uig on the Isle of Skye, spotting some distant Dolphin on the way as well as plenty of sea birds, including our first and probably last Puffins of the year, this distant shot is just to remind us that we did see some!
Once on Skye we headed south to our hotel on the Sleat peninsula. The weather turned quite nasty whilst driving down, so we took the opportunity to put our feet up for the afternoon and listen to the pouring rain. We had a lie in as well the next day, as the weather was still foul. We did eventually venture out and spent a few hours down at Kylerhea where the Forestry Commision have an Otter Hide and the RSPB have just this year set up a hide as well. We spent a good couple of hours in the RSPB hide where a very friendly RSPB chap and another couple kept us entertained whilst we waited for a White-tailed eagle that allegedly shows up regularly just before high tide to make the most of the Mackerel that get swept into the channel between Skye and the mainland. They usually come when the spot the Gulls congregating and fishing. Of course the Gulls came fished and went away but the Eagle didn't show! This was the view from the RSPB hide.
Once the tide had turned we took the 15 minute walk in the mizzle to the Otter hide. This ovelooks a stretch of shingle and rocky beach where some 4 years ago we saw our first Otter. In fact the weather was identically awful then too, but that was October! Anyway at least the Otter didn't disappoint us!

 We also actually managed a few new bird species for the trip  adding Bullfinch, Goldcrest and Tree Pipit to our haul from the Outer Hebrides.
After Kylerhea we explored the Sleat peninsula and by late afternoon the weather turned glorious, so much so we stopped for an ice cream at Armadale. So back to the Hotel.
The next day we packed up as our next two nights were at a B&B in Staffin on the north of Skye. However we had booked that day to go out with a wildlife guide, the start point of which was in Portree a good stretch on our way to Staffin.

All in all it was frustrating day that initially got off to an excellent start. Our guide took us (and the other 6 members of the group) to a little bay at Camastianavaig where he knew a family of Otters lived. There we saw a female Otter with two youngsters and then a fourth Otter, another female, as well. For once I just watched as with the bins and scope we had good views but it would probably have been too much even for my 500mm lens!

We then searched for Eagles and had distant sightings of both Golden and White-tailed, but not close enough to photograph. After this we headed to the sea Loch Ainort where a small pod of Pilot Whales had been spending some time:
That was brilliant a first for us and everyone else in the group.

The rest of the day whilst very good was focused on Eagles and Otters, we would have liked a bit more time spent on other bird and wild life. Luckily I spotted some Dipper as we were driving alongside a small river, I managed to get our guide to stop and got a couple of pictures:

The other highlight of the day happened when we stopped to look for Eagles again (no luck!) but just after we get back into the minibus there was some commotion in front of us in a field. A Hooded Crow was trying to catch a Weasel! The Weasel was ferocious in defending himself even when another Hooded Crow joined in! We were all so enthralled by what was happening I forgot to get the camera (even though I was holding it!) Happily the Weasel made good his escape.

We arrived back in Portree about 5ish and zoomed off to our next bed in Staffin.

Another mixed weather day four our last full day on the islands, so very much an explore day to see as much of the north and west of the island as we could, hopefully picking up some wildlife on the way. We started with a walk to 'Coral' Beach at Claigan a good 4 mile round trip in mainly decent weather apart from hunkering down on  the beach for a 15 minute downpour!
We enjoyed watching a Seal having a mad half hour splashing about and throwing kelp around
Mustn't leave out the less 'exciting' birds, this Herring Gull posed nicely in the daises
with the Ringed Plover just behind.
As I said the weather was mixed, this just highlights it...
So that is Skye done apart from the drive south on the next morning to cross the bridge back to the mainland. (For those of a more ornithological bent I have put a list of our Skye sightings at the end of the post._

On our way off Skye we passed the Loch with the Pilot Whales, so we stopped for one last look:
So over the bridge and time for a coffee stop and admire the view:
Then carry on to Edinburgh to stay with our fabulous Daughter and be joined by our equally fabulous Son! With a short stop on the way to visit our favourite Ospreys!

Apart from having a brilliant time in Edinburgh with Jen & Mike we also managed a trip out to RSPB Loch Leven:

Loch Leven is a lovely reserve with some well located hides and screens and was Tufted Duck central on the day we visited!

So that about wraps it up apart from a climb up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh,
 Queens Garden Party at Holyrood,

and a walk along the Water of Leith that added a Grey Wagtail to our list for the trip!

Skye bird list:
Arctic Tern  ("Sterna paradisaea")
Blackbird  ("Turdus merula")
Black-headed Gull  ("Chroicocephalus ridibundus")
Bullfinch  ("Pyrrhula pyrrhula")
Buzzard  ("Buteo buteo")
Carrion Crow  ("Corvus corone")
Chaffinch  ("Fringilla coelebs")
Common Sandpiper  ("Actitis hypoleucos")
Cormorant  ("Phalacrocorax carbo")
Curlew  ("Numenius arquata")
Dipper  ("Cinclus cinclus")
Fulmar  ("Fulmarus glacialis")
Goldcrest  ("Regulus regulus")
Golden Eagle  ("Aquila chrysaetos")
Goldfinch  ("Carduelis carduelis")
Great Black-backed Gull  ("Larus marinus")
Great Tit  ("Parus major")
Grey Heron  ("Ardea cinerea")
Greylag Goose  ("Anser anser")
Herring Gull  ("Larus argentatus")
Hooded Crow  ("Corvus cornix")
House Martin  ("Delichon urbicum")
House Sparrow  ("Passer domesticus")
Lapwing  ("Vanellus vanellus")
Mallard  ("Anas platyrhynchos")
Meadow Pipit  ("Anthus pratensis")
Oystercatcher  ("Haematopus ostralegus")
Pied Wagtail  ("Motacilla alba")
Raven  ("Corvus corax")
Razorbill  ("Alca torda")
Red-breasted Merganser  ("Mergus serrator")
Red-throated Diver  ("Gavia stellata")
Ringed Plover  ("Charadrius hiaticula")
Robin  ("Erithacus rubecula")
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon  ("Columba livia")
Rock Pipit  ("Anthus petrosus")
Rook  ("Corvus frugilegus")
Sand Martin  ("Riparia riparia")
Shag  ("Phalacrocorax aristotelis")
Shelduck  ("Tadorna tadorna")
Siskin  ("Carduelis spinus")
Skylark  ("Alauda arvensis")
Song Thrush  ("Turdus philomelos")
Starling  ("Sturnus vulgaris")
Stonechat  ("Saxicola torquatus")
Swallow  ("Hirundo rustica")
Tree Pipit  ("Anthus trivialis")
Wheatear  ("Oenanthe oenanthe")
Whimbrel  ("Numenius phaeopus")
White-tailed Eagle  ("Haliaeetus albicilla")

Loch Leven bird list:
Blackbird  ("Turdus merula")
Black-headed Gull  ("Chroicocephalus ridibundus")
Blue Tit  ("Cyanistes caeruleus")
Buzzard  ("Buteo buteo")
Carrion Crow  ("Corvus corone")
Chaffinch  ("Fringilla coelebs")
Common Gull  ("Larus canus")
Coot  ("Fulica atra")
Curlew  ("Numenius arquata")
Gadwall  ("Anas strepera")
Great Crested Grebe  ("Podiceps cristatus")
Great Spotted Woodpecker  ("Dendrocopos major")
Great Tit  ("Parus major")
Greenfinch  ("Chloris chloris")
Grey Heron  ("Ardea cinerea")
Herring Gull  ("Larus argentatus")
Jackdaw  ("Corvus monedula")
Lapwing  ("Vanellus vanellus")
Lesser Black-backed Gull  ("Larus fuscus")
Little Grebe  ("Tachybaptus ruficollis")
Magpie  ("Pica pica")
Mallard  ("Anas platyrhynchos")
Moorhen  ("Gallinula chloropus")
Mute Swan  ("Cygnus olor")
Peregrine  ("Falco peregrinus")
Pied Wagtail  ("Motacilla alba")
Pochard  ("Aythya ferina")
Reed Bunting  ("Emberiza schoeniclus")
Sedge Warbler  ("Acrocephalus schoenobaenus")
Shoveler  ("Anas clypeata")
Skylark  ("Alauda arvensis")
Swallow  ("Hirundo rustica")
Teal  ("Anas crecca")
Tree Sparrow  ("Passer montanus")
Tufted Duck  ("Aythya fuligula")
Woodpigeon  ("Columba palumbus")
Wren  ("Troglodytes troglodytes")

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