Monday, 30 June 2014

Northton, Harris

Corncrake 3 calling                     
Great northern diver 1 juv    
Whooper swan  1          
Arctic tern 3 small colony
Redshanks breeding
Lapwings breeding        
                                                       
Northern marsh orchid
Early marsh orchid

Yet more beautiful scenery on a lovely day.

Loch Seaforth, Harris

Golden eagle over Strathabhal near Loch Seaforth.

Sound of Harris ferry

Arctic skua  1 light
Hooded crow  1
Arctic tern  100        
Greylag goose  10
Bonxie   1              
Great northern diver 1 win
Black guillemot   5
Red throated diver 4 sum
Eider 300
Gannet   100            
Razorbill 30                

Year: 264 (Arctic skua)

Otter 1  in Leverburgh bay    
Grey seal 40

North Uist

Female hen harrier over road near Berneray causeway.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Berneray

Even nine days worth of breathtaking scenery with an abundance of wildlife doesn't prepare you for the incredible beauty of Berneray. The walk from the car takes you across fields of machair, with frog orchid, early marsh orchid and common twayblade added to our list of orchids for the holiday.

On crossing the sand dunes you are met with an awe inspiring sight, 3 miles of silver sand beach and turquoise seas with the mountains of Harris as a backdrop. We walked the entire western and northern shores of the island until we reached the rocks, then cut inland over the summit of  Beinn Shleibhe. At 93m it may not seem high but from here you can see the St. Kilda archipelago, with Hirta, Boraray, Stac Lee and Stac an Armin all clearly visible to the west, whilst to the east the Cullins of Skye look incredibly close. To further increase the illusion of altitude, alpine bistort and mountain everlasting grow near the summit.

Continuing our walk into the village and harbour, with its selection of traditional black houses, we stopped to admire the common seals with their pups on the rocks at low tide, while a family party of greylag geese swam past on the loch. The Hebridean greylags are truly wild birds, unlike the feral birds we see in England. Berneray truly is the most beautiful and interesting of the Hebridean islands.



















Summary of birds seem:
Golden plover 3
Gannet 200
Eider 10
Arctic tern 50
Little tern 50
Lapwing 20
Ringed plover 10
Greylag 30
Raven 10

Also today..

Male hen harrier over the road between Balranald and Berneray and a female over the road in North Benbecula.

Also whooper swan near Balranald.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

A journey through the Uists

Today's leg of the journey saw us on the Barra to Eriskay ferry at 11.10. Not a huge amount to report from the crossing, perhaps 20 Gannets and a single bonxie, as well as the obligatory Arctic terns.

From Eriskay we headed north through South Uist to Vorren island, little more than a jumble of rocks surrounded by silver sand beaches, yet this place holds happy memories because it was here in 1984 I saw a drake Steller's Eider in amongst the small Eider flock.  Looking inland, the view from here was breathtaking, with flower filled meadows and iris beds and bright blue skies providing the perfect frame for the dramatic Bheinn Mhor mountain range.

Next it was onto our campsite at Carinish on North Uist where we put up the tent and made a meal of locally caught smoked salmon.

Finally we went for an evening stroll at the RSPB reserve Balranald. On the way a ringtail hen harrier flew across the road. On the loch at Hougharry there was a shoveler with 2 chicks, at least 3 tufted ducks with chicks and about 50 bar-tailed godwits but no sign of the long staying American wigeon.                




Friday, 27 June 2014

Mingulay

Golden eagle 2       
Corncrake 2 seen and heard
Great northern diver 1 sum
Great skua 40
Puffin 500
Razorbills
Guillemots
Gannets at sea
Rock dove 5                        
Black guillemot 5
Kittiwakes
Fulmars
Shags

Magnificent views of golden eagle,  15m over our heads, not once but several times! It was another glorious day on Mingulay, the third highest sea cliff in Britain. We were dive bombed by bonxies and saw fly pasts of hundreds of puffins.
Breathtaking!
PS can I tick rock dove if ive already ticked feral pigeon?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

From the campsite, Barra

Corncrake  2 calling at night
Twite 5
Arctic tern 50
Eider 3

Cetaceans: bottle nosed dolphin 3.
Flowers: lots of typical machair species, Including several pyramidal orchids, our first of the holiday.


Great experience to be kept awake by calling corncrake at night!

Vatersay

Corncrake 2 calling         
Great northern diver 1 summer
Great skua 2        
Black guillemot 1
Gannet 10
Razorbill 1                                   

Glorious turquoise seas, silver sand beaches, bright blue skies and hot sunny weather, what a day to be on Vatersay, walking through flower filled machair grasslands, full of buttercups, kidney vetch and orchids. The view unsurpassed, except perhaps from our campsite at Scurrival.

Barra harbour

Two bonxies chasing gannets and black guillemot in Barra harbour.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Minch, Oban to Barra ferry

Storm petrel 10
Manx shearwater 1200+
Great northern diver 1 Sound of Mull
Gannets
Guillemots
Puffin 10                
Fulmars
                                 
Year: 263 (storm petrel)        

Cetaceans: bottle-nosed dolphin

Great sea watching from the Clansmen today, I love watching the stormies fluttering over the waves in the great expanse of the Minch. They look so tiny.
More numerous were the shearwaters, we passed large rafts of them sitting on the sea and saw many glide powerfully and effortlessly past the boat.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Loch Na Keal, Mull

Golden eagle 1 chick in nest
Red throated diver 4 sum
Gannet 2 ads    
Red breasted merganser 2
Sand Martin 4
Common sandpiper 10

Year: 262 (golden eagle)

The last day on Mull ended with the sight of a golden eagle chick on the nest, but no adult. I can tick chicks can't I? I'll just have to hope we see adults later in the holiday.
Loads of common sandpipers on Mull, we see them on the beach, on the rocks, on fence post and even sitting on telegraph wires. It's impossible to go anywhere and not hear them.
So ends the first leg of our adventure on Mull, with white tailed eagles and otters still pretty much as elusive as ever, though at least we did see both pretty well. On to Barra and the outer hebrides tomorrow. Who knows what the signal will be like there, but I'll continue to update the blog as and when signal and battery life allows!




Glen Gorm Castle, Mull

Plenty of great inverts flying today in the glorious sunshine. Golden ringed dragonflies are everywhere on Mull, and there were a lot more burnet moths on the wing, some of which looked like Scotch burnet, but I need to get home to check my books. Certainly they weren't transparent burnet which I saw the other day.

Tobermory, Mull

Craignure campsite, Mull

Everyday birds on Mull include hooded crows, ravens, common sandpipers, lesser redpoll and terns. There are otters seen almost daily from the campsite but this is our second year here and all I see are grey seals. I'm sure there will be otters, but I can't help but wonder about many of the sightings.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Otter, Loch Na Keal, Mull

Otter 1

At last a decent sighting of otter on Mull. I was beginning to think they were extinct on the island.

Iona


Corncrake 3
Red throated diver 2 sum
Eider inc. female with chicks
Sedge warblers
Gannet 4                  
Ringed plover 4

Year: 261 (corncrake)

Stunning views of corncrake on Iona today, we could hear it calling and it seemed incredibly close, then suddenly it walked out onto the side of the track in full view no more than about 10 feet in front of us! It continued calling and occasionally stopped to feed, but seemed quite unconcerned by our presence and stayed in view for at least 5 minutes. Be prepared for  some frame fillers here when I get back!


.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Burg and Loch Scridain, Mull


Black throated diver 2 non breeders
Cuckoo 2
Greylag 20 adults with chicks

Year: 260 (black throated diver)

Inverts: lots of golden ringed dragonflies, 50+ transparent burnet moths, several tiger beetles

We set off on a vain attempt to find a fossil tree but ended up with a year tick to take me over last year's record high of 259 with still over half the year to go.

It was glorious at Burg, lots of sunny weather and a fine display of flora and inverts.

Loch Na Keal, Mull

White tailed eagle 2 (adult & juv)

Year: 259 (white tailed eagle)

The eagles were flying around and sitting in the same tree as last year. Fantastic birds but I'd still like to find my own!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Grass Point, Mull



Whinchat 2
Cuckoo 2
Stonechat 2

There was a prolification of orchids at Grass Point, with masses of heath spotted, fragrant and northern marsh, as well as good numbers of creeping lady's tresses and lesser butterfly orchid. 

Photos from my phone, not ideal for macro especially. Better to follow


Sent from my Ultrafast Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini on Three

Oban

Day one of our Hebredean tour, sees us in Oban at 11.15 waiting for the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry with black guillemot and hooded crow already under the belt. I'll update the blog as and when the signal allows!

Sent from my Ultrafast Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini on Three

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, Devon

Ross's Gull 1 1st sum
Spoonbill 1 adult
Mediterranean Gull 1 1st sum
Little Gull 2 1st sum
Spotted Redshank 1 adult sum
Little Egret 12

Year: 258 (Ross's Gull)

Bizarre to see a High Arctic Ross's Gull walking around on the mud next to a Spoonbill and several Little Egrets in the middle of June.


Ross's Gull, considerably smaller than the adjacent Black-headed Gulls. It's been here for at least 3 - 4 weeks and apparently spent the first week misidentified as a 1st summer Little Gull.



Spoonbill and Little Egrets.



Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Around Devon

A beautiful day in Devon, mainly doing habitat surveys. Highlights today included Cirl Bunting, Cuckoo, Green Hairstreak butterfly and Golden Ringed Dragonfly.


Stoke Point.


Green Hairstreak.


Tonights accommodation the 15th century Duke of York.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Stoke Point, Devon

Cirl Bunting 2 (male & juv.)
Stonechat

Bats: Probably Greater Horseshoe flying around hedge at dusk.

Year: 258 (Cirl Bunting)




My first Cirl Bunting in years, the camera performed exceptionally well to get this photo, taken at 9:30pm with the last rays of the sunlight almost spent. I guess that's what f2.8 is useful for! This male is carrying food.


Marbled White taken earlier in the day. Who put that piece of grass in the way!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Short-toed Eagle, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex

Short-toed Eagle 1
Woodlark 2
Tree Pipit 2

UK Life: 400; Year: 257 (Short-toed Eagle)

"Boom!" as they say these days, 400 up in the UK with the bird of the year so far, which I feared I had missed, Short-toed Eagle. It was seen to probably go to roost yesterday evening and it seemed the perfect opportunity to go and see the bird. No need to worry about getting time off work, with the boss needing Short-toed Eagle for his 520th UK bird (!!), I met up with him at Sandbach at 2:30am and we headed south to Ashdown Forest near Wych Cross in East Sussex, arriving at 6:30am.

We joined the 30 or so birders overlooking an area of woodland about 150m in front of us, but there was no sign of the eagle. Amazingly though, at about 7:50am, it suddenly appeared, sitting on a branch in full view right on the edge of the wood. Nobody saw it fly in and land, it just appeared in full view to gasps of delight from the assembled birders. It sat there for about 5 minutes before flying back into the wood, mobbed by crows. We hung around for another three hours but it wasn't seen again until much later, well after we had left. We also had some nice views of Woodlark.


Short-toed Eagle and Carrion Crow.

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