Thursday, 31 August 2017

A journey around Wester Ross

Just south of Ullapool  lies another contender for the title of most beautiful area in the UK. With mountains far higher than those found at Inverpolly, a more accessible coastline and an area of far larger wilderness, Wester Ross really is a serious contender. If red-throated diver is the embodiment of Inverpolly, then in this area that honour falls to the much rarer black-throated diver. Not that you would think that they were rare here if todays visit was anything to go by. I was staggered to see flocks of summer plumage birds almost everywhere and in total counted at least  88 birds, with 38 birds on Loch Ewe alone. Not that red-throated divers were absent, in fact I counted over 20 those as well.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A journey around Inverpolly

Stac Pollaidh, Cul Beag and Ben Mor Coigach.
Just north of Ullapool in North West Scotland lies Inverpolly, an area which I would argue is on a par with any in the UK in terms of beauty. The mountains are not the largest, but there are few more spectacular and the sea scapes are the best you will find anywhere in the UK. Here is my whistle stop tour around the area.

Loch an Eisg-brachaidh.

Loch Assynt with Suilven behind. Loch Assynt is usually a good place for black-throated diver.

Quinag. This is always a good spot for golden eagle, and today I was lucky enough to see a bird displaying spectacularly, climbing high and then dropping like a stone before roller coasting high again.

Devil's-bit scabious.

 Suilven. This is one of the most spectacular mountains, and also one of the hardest to climb, not least because of the length of the walk to the foot of the mountain. It might look spectacular, but it's only 731m or 2,400 feet high.

Lochan an Ais.

The limestone outcrop at Knockan Cliffs.

Loch Assynt with Ben More Assynt behind and to the left.

Ardvrech castle on Loch Assynt with Breabag behind. Between the two you can see the limestone cliffs of the botanically famous Inchnadamph.

Ben Mor Coigach.

Stac Pollaidh.

Achnahaird Bay. There aren't many of these sandy bays, but when you find one they are hidden gems, with lots of botanical interest and often plenty of waders.

Achnahaird Bay. Ringed plover and Dunlin.


White wagtail.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The highs and the lows

Starting with the highs! Today we visited Loughborough hoping to catch a glimpse of a hoopoe which has been frequenting a housing estate for the past few days.

When we arrived I very much doubted it showing in the front gardens with so many birders around and with so many private back gardens for it to drop into out of sight, it seemed to me like we would have a long wait for perhaps at best a flight view between gardens. Fortunately though we walked past the right house at the right time. The owner came out and asked if we could take a look at a bird on her back lawn, which, guess what, turned out to be the hoopoe! The photos were taken through the glass of her patio doors, which fortunately she kept sparkley clean! The moral of the story? Always keep your windows clean because you never know what might appear on your back lawn.

Perhaps amazingly, I've never yet seen a hoopoe at a classic south or east coast migration point, in fact this is the furthest south and east of all of the hoopoes I've seen in the UK. I have however managed several in the north west, and now a couple in the midlands, as well as one in North Wales.

Now onto the lows, and this was the scene at dawn just four days ago, birders arriving at Portland Bill in Dorset, full of anticipation and hope that they were about to see Englands first ever American yellow warbler. Alas nobody told the bird and this atmospheric scene was about as good as it got all day. We had an 11 hour round trip, missed a nights sleep, used a tank full of petrol and to top it all got a parking fine despite having paid for 12 hours parking. We didn't even get to see much of Portland Bill, because we spent most of our time staring at the same group of bushes hoping that the bird would pop out. It never did....

The lighthouse in daylight. Days like this are important because they make the good days all the better, keep telling yourself that!

At least I got to see this wonderful golden-samphire, a species which I have only ever seen before in Pembrokeshire.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Lizards in Cyprus

The agama Stellagama stellio cypriaca, is a common species on Cyprus.

Relatively common on Cyprus, but I was still surprised and delighted to find two Mediterranen chamelians during our 10-day stay. This particular individual was at the top of an almond tree but the first I saw was walking around the edge of our swimming pool (see below).

Pretty sure that this is a Cyprus endemic, Phoenicolacerta troodica, Troodos lizard.

Snake-eyed lizard Ophisops elegans.

Friday, 11 August 2017

House martins landing in a bush to feed on insects

One of the more remarkable sights from our holiday to Cyprus in August 2017 was to see over 200 hirundines, almost all house martins but also the occasional swallow, perching on wires in Nata village before dropping down into a bush to pick insects off the branches and leaves. I'm not sure what the insects were, they were too small to be seen through my binoculars, so I guess aphid types.

Out of interest, the "Handbook to the swallows and martins of the world" (Turner/ Rose), Poyser 1989 states that "Exceptionally, they [house martins] will perch on trees and walls to pick up insects". It certainly must be an exceptional occurance, in 40 years birding I've never seen anything like this before!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Greater Sandplover, Paphos

It's always good to start a holiday with something special, and today it was a greater sandplover at Paphos lighthouse. I've seen them here in the past, but only in winter and a bird at the beginnning of August was a bit unexpected, by me at least.

It's day one of our holiday to Cyprus, not a time of year I would have chosen personally but now that I'm here I'm trying to make the most of it. Also at the lighthouse today, several impressive agamas, a spiney lizard found only in the eastern Mediterranean and Africa.

In the evening we took the dogs for a walk to the Asprokremmos dam and saw a masked shrike, a hoopoe, about 20 turtle doves and a few red-rumped swallows, plus probable Cyprus warbler, but that will have to wait for another day to be confirmed.


Some type of hoverfly, but I've no idea which.

Red-veined darter on the edge of our pool at Nata village.

Popular Posts