Saturday, 28 May 2011

Some May Moth ticks

Pale Oak Beauty - one of the larger moths
Clouded-bordered Brindle
Garden Tiger Caterpillar
Light Brocade

Friday, 27 May 2011

May 24

Not hopeful of many birds for Sue to-day Just as well, there weren't. She still managed to add five to her year list and we added one to ours.
Bad start, no Spot Fly at Sculthorpe Mill.
One Corn Bunting in exactly the same place as when I photographed it last week, then two Turtle Doves flew downhill in front of us as we left Choseley Barns.
Less wind to-day but, enough to warrant a fleece at Titchwell. Reed Warblers showed well, the Southern Marsh Orchids starting to fade, Still no dragonflies in view on the Fen Trail at Titchwell though.

Southern Marsh Orchid (Pam took this)

On to view the Freshmarsh pool where, after a lengthy scan, the lone non-breeding plumage Curlew Sandpiper appeared in view. It must have been hidden behind an island. Plenty of well grown Avocet chicks and a single Dunlin amongst the diminished - number flock of Black-tailed Godwit.
Time for lunch and the tide was barely on the wane at Brancaster Staithe. Whilst Pam and Sue ate, I attempted to photograph a male Little Tern bringing sand eels in to feed a begging female. Unsuccessfully. Either people walking through disturbed the female or, the male caught me by surprise as the eel exchange was very brief. I only managed a few of the female.

A chance shot of a pair of Oystercatchers whilst I was waiting turned out rather well. Why does she have crossed legs ? !!

The next excitement was news of a Bonaparte's Gull on Salthouse duckpond. Huh. It was a very small Black-headed Gull.

We met Reston and Pat, Robin Abel and Richard the Hat (deerstalker) whilst parked, enjoying the discussion.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

First of the Month

Friday May 20
To maintain our personal challenge of 100 birds per month in Norfolk, it was time for our monthly North Norfolk trip.
A May visit to Sculthorpe Mill is a must and it came up trumps. Two delightful Spotted Flycatchers flitting amongst the branches of a willow near the Hotel building. 

The surprise was a pair of Grey Wagtails fossicking amongst the planted urns outside the front door. We usually manage to add some of the commoner finches here too, along the wooded entrance road.
This Grey Partridge was in a hurry to get away....

Tree Sparrows in the usual place before breakfast (muesli) at Abbey Farm whilst scanning the area. A lone Ruddy Shelduck appeared from a creek, our first here, otherwise it was very quiet - until Pam went to get my camera from the car and a Kingfisher flew through! Oh dear.....

 I did find a Little Owl, sitting on the ground, to partially make up for it though.
We'd hummed and hawed about including Snettisham as most of the waders will have gone. Imminent high tide and my painful back changed our minds. Good thing it did. We had a thoroughly enjoyable half hour watching summer plumaged Sanderling, nesting Oystercatchers, Knot and Turnstone. No sign of any Ringed Plover nests. 

Sanderling photos taken by Pam, using my camera - they were on her side of the car

The Horned Poppies are beginning to look their best too, all in warm sunshine against a high tide foaming onto the shore.

Holme was only remarkable for a delicious  Ronaldo's raspberry  icecream...........
Whilst returning from Thornham, Pam spotted a raptor flying west. I got out of the car for a view of a male Montagu's Harrier flying away. Pam had seen it side on before we stopped.
Titchwell Fen Trail had at least three singing Reed Warblers, none of them showing despite some efforts to view them. One did show very well further along the path to Island Hide. While we were waiting for a  Reed Warbler to show, this Little Grebe showed well.

 The pasture full of Marsh Orchids has even more than in the past. Lovely.
Glimpses of the Bearded Tit family flying over the waterway near the pools where the Rudd show well, was all we had of them. 
An unusually large flock of Black-tailed Godwits for the time of year, took to the air, along with many Avocets. At least a dozen of the latter's chicks dashing about on the muddy islands. We'd missed - by 10 minutes- an Osprey fly through. Other migrating waders had cleared out overnight. I was hoping for a Wood or Curlew Sandpiper.
I photographed this Corn Bunting near Choseley Barns,  through the car sun roof, whilst it rested on the wire above. It seems to have a bit of a deformed lower mandible.

Lunch at our beloved Brancaster Staithe added Little Terns to the year list. None at the Ythan this year.
Cley Beach for Sandwich Tern, another icecream from the van at Salthouse duck ponds and home via Sainsbury's.
Not the best of days species wise but, a satisfactory count of 86. That makes 92 for the Norfolk month list when we include those seen in the garden and at Buckenham Marsh ( we made a short sortie there yesterday, the best being a very fresh Swallowtail butterfly on the rhododendron bushes at the Level Crossing).
Our Scotland trip list totalled 142, a good average.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Goodbye Scotland

Monday May 15
An excellent breakfast, all alone in the Bar, don't reckon the other guests want an 8 a.m. breakfast on a Sunday. That was the earliest one available too - unless you want to pay £10 extra for one before that time. That's a new one!
Yet another abortive Ythan Inch Road scan for a King Eider. Common Eider are delightful birds but sorting through several hundred is a chore. Many males were doing their head thrown back, slight jump out of the water mating action, accompanied by the growling yowl so typical.

The King hasn't been reported for a couple of days so maybe it's re-located.
After a sunny early morning with much less wind, it clouded over again but we only had to use the wipers once to-day.
First stop was Vane Farm RSPB on the shores of Loch Leven where one can watch from the first floor cafe which is equipped with scopes. We have a roadside stop first from which we saw a drake Scaup, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and several Shoveller, all list additions.
The loch is enormous and the scan for geese was abortive - the scopes aren't brilliant either. A male Reed Bunting and many handsome Lesser Black-backed Gulls were admired before four unruly and very noisy young children drove me out. We heard a Garden Warbler in the trees on the way back to the car.
Another roadside stop, using my own scope, 4 Pink-feet, and 5 Barnacle Geese looking dimunitive on a distant island, brought the new bird tally to 10. Many Swifts hawking over the water too.
Lunch was very late, enjoyed overlooking the Firth at Longniddry Bents south of Edinburgh. A few auks and Gannets and terns kept us entertained.
North Berwick is worth a detour to gasp at the awesome Gannet colony of Bass Rock, from which they got their latin name, Sula Bassana. It looks like a giant white island, closer look through binoculars reveal that the white is thousands of nesting Gannets, others swirling like a white cloud around the crown.

The sea is full of adult Gannet squadrons at all heights, plunge diving, flying away in all directions, others returning with fish in their beaks to feed the sitting partner.
Calling in at both Skatteraw and Cove for old times' sake, we didn't tick off the pair of Snowy and single Eagle Owls in a cage on the way down to Skatteraw.....
Berwick Travelodge for the night and an annoyingly slow internet connection. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

East Coast Birding

Saturday May 14
We have seen sooo many Kittiwakes to-day. After an early start, packing the car in the rain, we left at 6.10 a.m. Via an unexpected, and unsigned, A road closure and continuous rain, we arrived at Starnafin Farm, Loch of Strathbeg RSPB at 9.45.
The Centre Hide held an assistant warden only, we could move about at will, peering through raindropped windows at not a lot. The rain eventually became more sporadic,  we added several trip ticks. The expected Tree Sparrows in the car park, two Garganey flew into a cut, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, Gadwall, Marsh Harrier and Whooper Swans on the far pool. Our first Sandwich Terns too. We' ve also seen many Swifts to-day, not usual for Scotland.
We opted out of the walk to Tower Hide and the airfield because of the strong cold wind and regular rain.
Sea-watching at St Combs, near the Tufted Duck Hotel ( we stayed there when we flew up for a weekend to see Black Stork), brought the first of the Kittiwake hordes fly past. Moving on to Cairnbulg, there were even more. Several thousands an hour. Fantastic place for sea watching although not very salubrious ! Rubbish everywhere and an overwhelming stench of rotting seaweed and fish. A wrecked fishing boat listed on its side offshore, Shags and Cormorants utilising it  for perching. A few hardy, wet suited sail surfers, practised recovery from capsizing in the very rough sea and strong wind. Looked fun....
Summer plumaged Turnstones eventually gave themselves up from the seashore weed and rocks.
Cruden Bay for a cup of coffee from a little hut in the Harbour car park, our first all day. Thousands of screeching Kittiwakes were abluting in the fresh river water running into the bay. Scanning around, I found a single sleeping Long-tailed Duck bobbing about with four Eiders.
The shore off Collieston was far less rough, the occasional Auk scurrying by,  Eider loafing offshore with a few distant Red-throated Divers.
Low tide at the Ythan, Inch Road, is heart dropping. All those Eiders, sleeping on the shore or hurtling downstream on the fast dropping tide. Looking for one King Eider...
I did not succeed on this occasion and the tide was not right later, nor will it be in the morning.
After signing in to the Udny Hotel, our room is comfortable, I sorted the internet connection and we drove to Collieston to have our supper. A lovely sunny evening. Many more Auks and Fulmar than earlier. Back to the Ythan for a last scan before retiring to watch Eurovision (!). Still no sign of the King but a lovely rainbow sunset.

Couldn't decide which I liked best.
Man U managed a draw with Blackburn 1-1. CHAMPIONS.
Oh dear........Man City won the FA cup.

Cairngorm and Alpines

Thursday May 12
The first funicular up Cairngorm leaves at 10.00a.m., we were on it. Several flights of stairs and a wrong turn later, we were on the outside viewing platform. Boy, what a penance. We stuck out the howling, cold, wind and occasional rain flurries for an hour before retiring to the Ptarmigan cafe for soup and a roll. That was the only Ptarmigan we saw all morning before giving up and catching the 1.00 train down. The visibility varied from a mile to (mostly)several feet.
As we were about to join the two way part of the access road, a black bird stepped into a roadside bush. A male Black Grouse. What a delightful surprise.
Lochindorb before going back to the chalet - the pretty way! I was able to photograph a male Red Grouse, the rain certainly brings them out into the open.

The Famous Grouse
A swimming Black-throated Diver was our first freshwater view of the trip.
Amazing. No Common Sandpipers to-day.
A charming baby Lapwing trotted across the road in front of us before a calling parent sent it scuttling to play dead beside the loch.

Much prettier on its spindly little legs.

You can't see me....
After a coffee, we went to the hotel to access the internet, then back to prepare dinner before setting off for Tulloch Moor. We'd been told that a couple of Black Grouse showed in the evening. Pam climbed to the viewing platform and signalled that she could see them. By the time I got there - fairly quickly - they'd disappeared. Just as well we'd seen one earlier! Pam was put out but, she got the reward for her persistence.
Returning via the loop road, Pam stopped, thinking she had seen a Redstart. Looking up, I saw another Crested Tit foraging in the branches. Fantastic.

Our usual last day is to try and catch up with missed birds or to potter about in the area.To-day, we gave up on the Caper - too early a start, and the Ptarmigan - bad weather, to drive to Inshriach Alpine nursery. After the usual mouth watering selection of alpines, perused and bought, next stop was the cafe. For two reasons. They have a massive feeding area high up in the trees outside a balcony bar and stools which overlooks a steep drop to the valley below. Secondly, they have fantastic cakes. Pam had carrot cake, I had chocolate and raspberry. Couldn't resist photographing the Red Squirrel and Siskin with begging baby, despite the rain in the background and the heavy shade against the light.

Feed Me

That's Better
Insh marshes RSPB reserve was as birdless as always. The hide overlooks an enormous expanse of marsh. We found Redshank, Grey Heron, Curlew and half a dozen Roe Deer whilst we were waiting for the heavy rain shower to ease. The few Swifts passing through are always a delight. The eastern Europeans had left before the rain, two other birders and us had to sit it out.
Glen Feshie was quiet too - still raining......
We gave up. Did a last shop in Tesco and came home to pack up for to-morrow. Hateful job. All those bits to find room for. And....the vacuum has a large split in the hose, blows out air!
A last hurrah. An Osprey flew over as we drove to the chalet.
Friday May 13

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Tuesday May 10
Yesterday was great. To-day wasn't.
We arrived at the Loch Garten Osprey hide at 6.00 a.m. A blob in a tree had been seen by a few but not by most. After half an hour of the jockeying for position at the viewing slots - which we hate - we left, telling ourselves, truthfully, that we preferred the Black Grouse to a Capercaillie blob anyway.
Tulloch Moor, very windy and cold. We were surprised to find no other birders there. No wonder, no grouse! What a disappointment. Apparently, they have not been showing at all well -if at all. Where do we go now?
A quick visit to the parking varea to console ourselves with another view of the Crested Tit dart, hurling itself out of the nesthole.
Back to the chalet for another hour's sleep, a shower and hair wash, followed by breakfast.
After a Tesco shop for vegetables in Aviemore, we lunched in the Coire na Coiste parking area halfway up Cairgorm. No sign of any Ring Ouzels - no birds at all - in the howling wind, slinging showers against the car and drifting the rain like thick cloud across the mountainside. In between, the sun shone warmly....
As we left, a Raven flew through.
Loch Morlich's choppy waters yielded four Goldeneye and several Mallard, our last hurrah before returning to the warmth of the chalet and a trip to the Hotel for an internet connection. For no apparent reason, sitting in the lounge at our computers makes us both feel very uncomfortable, especially when there are guests arriving. The stay is minimal, I come back here to write up the day's Blog and sort photos. No photos taken to-day.
We plan our east coast trip to Dunnett Head to-morrow, a long day, no internet until Thursday. The forecast looks reasonable, we hope to dodge the showers.
Wednesday May 11
In the car and away by 5.38 a.m. on a lovely sunny morning to begin my favourite Highland trip.
Embo sand-drift-blocked jetty via a caravan park is the first stop. We always remember it for eating Bridget's delicious fruit cake, with wind blasting sand against the car. An empty sea to-day but, a surprise three Purple Sandpipers snoozing on the rocks. Working our way around the sea loch, a few Bar-tailed Godwits amongst the Whimbrel and Curlew on the usual corner where waders congregate at high tide.
The Mound is our preferred breakfast place. The view is stunning and there is always a good chance of a variety of birds.

View of the Mound from Parking Area
 High tide to-day made for even better views. The usual ducks and gulls plus one Pintail, 3 Redshank, 4 Greenshank, a pair of Teal and a Kestrel to add to the constant piping of Common Sandpipers over breakfast.
The next stretch of the A9 is visually stunning on a lovely day. Burnished gold and silver sea to the right, golden, gorse clad mountain, redolent with coconut on the left.
Turning off the A9 at Golspie onto the 24 miles to Forsinard single track road, is one of Pam's favourite sections. The first part is quite gentle. The river is relatively smooth running, the sides tree clad. Gradually, the river narrows, the trees become patches of stunted, gnarled, lichen covered oaks, with many dead spikes to illustrate the harsh winters here.
A superb male Grey Wagtail bounced onto the road, beak full. Not much time to appreciate it, as a car passed us and scared it off. Redpoll flew over and our first Greylag goslings were shepherded into the water by watchful parents.
A delighted cry from Pam. An Osprey, fish in talons, perched on a hilltop beside the road.

We stopped. It flew off, fish tightly clasped in one talon.
After Kildonan station - two dwellings in the middle of nowhere - the scenery becomes
bleak moorland with isolated patches of conifer plantations. Real Flow Country starts after Kinbrace. Miles of moorland covered in low heather and cotton grass, patches of standing water as well as larger lochans. Here we saw three proper wild Red Deer, not the farmed variety.
After passing Forsinard RSPB, the road starts to descend towards the coast and there are a few slim green meadows along the river. As we hoped, a dozen black-aproned Golden Plover fed in the long grass. Best of all, a stonking male Whinchat perched on heather. Much brighter than any we have seen before and putting the book illustrations in the shade.
Forsinair is a bridge to a farm basically, where lovely Marsh Marigolds are at their best at this time of year.

Ladies Smock adorn the road verge.

 An information board indicates that it is a nature reserve of sorts.

The road terminates at Melvich where it joins the coastal A road, which we turned onto at 10.30. The 16 miles to Thurso seem much longer than that. Especially as it had clouded over and we had our first rain. Time to fill up with very expensive petrol and a Lidl stop for snacks.
Still raining as we turned off to Castletown Bay which extends to Dunnett Head. The bay was full of birds. At least 50 Divers, mostly Great Northerns with a few Black and Red-throated. Dozens of Auks - Guillemots, Razorbills and two Tysties, one of them changing from winter plumage, looking very mottled. Or was it a juvenile? The Terns were a mixture of Common and Arctic, largely the high pitched screaming latter. Three female Common Scoter huddled together in the middle of the bay. A small flock of mixed Ringed Plover and Dunlin, swooped restlessly about. Why don't they conserve their energy ........
Time to drive to Dunnett Head. Soon after the junction, a male Cuckoo perched on roadside wires, the cat amongst the poor plankton (everything preys on them), Meadow Pipits, gathered around him.
Still raining, so we passed St John's Loch and drove out to the Head car park - which has sprouted an RSPB hut. Walking down to the Lighthouse with eager anticipation, we were disappointed to find no sign of any Auks on the sea nor flying out from the cliffs. It's usually teeming. Plenty of nesting Fulmar, two Puffins appeared from nowhere and a couple of predatory Bonxies cruised through. A gate was open so I went through hoping for a more extensive view - not! Two Twite amongst the buildings though.

We moved to a further clifftop for lunch, from which we saw a Peregrine, Raven and a few Gannets - Pam spotted them whilst I was texting Bridget on Orkney.
Another shower dried up as we got to St John's and walked down to the old hide overlooking the loch, the new hide is still not ready. A blissful forty five minutes enjoying and photographing Arctic and Common Terns screaming their courtship displays. Females waiting and begging, males bringing in small sand eels as payment for the hoped for services.

I'm still not happy with my Arctic photos, they are so active and tend to settle further away from the hide. Flight shots are even worse. One settled on top of the Starling nesting tenement but rose as I clicked the shutter!

We dragged ourselves away at 3.00, paid Castletown Bay a quick visit and drove home on the A9. Another spectacular coastal route on a lovely evening. We were home by 6.45.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Such a Good Day

Man U beat Chelsea 2-1
Added to Norwich achieving automatic promotion to the Premiership, it's been a good week.

Monday May 9
Again, not an early start, I started cooking the mountain of mince we bought yesterday. Still on our way by 9 though.
We had a Red Squirrel on the nuts this morning, they are so endearing. The Mallard still has seven ducklings overnight, one of them is a maverick, always lagging behind, he may not last long.
No Slavonian Grebes visible on the roadside water before Boat of Garten, a few more padders in the form of Coot on its nest, Tufted Duck and a pair of Wigeon.
Loch Garten reserve was not open until 10, we were a little early. They have a couple of hours off after the early morning Capercaillie watch. The latter was the reason for our visit, nothing on the pager this year to indicate that birds were being seen. Two were seen this morning but the girl gave us the ampression that this was a rare occurrence.Oh dear... we shall still try in the morning though.
EJ, the female Osprey, is sitting on three eggs, her head viewable above the mountainous nest from time to time. Odin brought a fish at 5.30 and is unlikely to visit again to-day, visits become more frequent when the eggs hatch.
The walk alongside Loch Garten down to Loch Mallochie is where we have managed to see Crested Tit the last couple of years. As we left the car park, a camouflage clad photographer set up his big lens near the information board. Thinking nothing of it, we walked on, meeting a woman in a wheelchair who told us that there was a Crestie nest near the car park. We returned ! A dead tree, containing several holes was the nest site.

Small hole bottom right
The first view was a bird darting away from the hole, carrying a foecal sac. I then saw an adult Crested Tit perched in the hole, all but its tail visible - immediately after I had taken a photo of the nest site! Missed it. Could have stayed longer but decided to leave for Forest Lodge.
As we turned off the main road for Abernethy Forest Lodge, Pam saw two Crossbills fly into a roadside tree. A female Parrot Crossbill and one young. Great.
No-one else parked at the Lodge, a Tree Pipit singing away and the first of three Common Redstarts also singing. As we approached the old dog kennels, another Crested Tit showed beautifully just above our heads, bashing some prey against a branch and then foraging in the festooning lichen.TWO in one day.
We walked to the bridge and back before setting off for Findhorn Valley.
First stop, the Dipper bridge for a late lunch. No sign of a bird until Pam walked to the river edge and saw a Dipper on the Findhorn river, not the usual side stream. As I got there, I saw the adult bird fly to the edge under some overhanging trees, where it fed a wing-fluttering begging youngster.That's a first. I stalked the birds and got some pretty poor photos in the darkness of the trees against the stark contrast of the sun-lit sparkling water.

Our first rain of the day sent us back to the car and on up the valley to the parking spot. Very shortly, the heavy cloud descended making for poor visibility and bringing a heavy shower. We left....driving the Farr road, seeing even less than usual.
More rain as we arrived at Ruthven RSPB. We waited until it stopped, walked far enough to see a splendid golden eared male Slavonian Grebe, got wet and, beat a hasty retreat.
The Hotel is open to-night so was able to post the last two days Blog. This will have to wait until to-morrow.
, the Premiership is almost ours, two matches to go and we're 6 points ahead.

Monday, 9 May 2011

May 7-May 8 Mull-Carrbridge

Saturday May 7
Breakfasted, car packed and away by 8 a.m. We always enjoy our time at Seaview, John and Jane are great. Welcoming, friendly and they run a good establishment. The newly re-furbished Erraid (our room) was even better, the beds exceedingly comfortable.
In plenty of time, so we dropped in to Grass Point, seeing one Eagle fly in with prey, two more Stonechats and a trip addition, Great Spotted Woodpecker.
The ferry was a little late, 'medical emergency on the previous sailing' is what was cited. We didn't bother going on deck, cool and with occasional spitting rain.
After a big Tesco shop in Oban and a petrol stop - 15p a litre cheaper than that on Mull - we left for Carrbridge via Fort William and Newtonmore.A screaming group of six Swifts were our first this year, we often don't see them in Scotland. Despite warnings of heavy rain making driving conditions hazardous, we didn't get any at all.
Pam had forgotten our usual bird feeders and food, we bought some in Kingussie, we can always do with some new ones.
A notice on Fairwinds door told us that Silver Birch was open, no sign of Alison and Lindsay. The chalet has been refurbished this winter. New carpet, wallpaper, pine walling and furniture, looks good.
Whilst we were hanging up the feeders, Lindsay appeared to welcome us, asking after Aileen and Bridget. Alison then appeared cuddling a ten and a half month old Maltese terrier. Quite delightful but, he's waking them at 5 a.m.Lindsay later returned with a bottle of red wine which we enjoyed with our Chilli con Carne supper.
The Hotel is closed until Monday so no internet access until then, I didn't like to ask......They've taken the time off to settle the dog, Lucy.
Sunday May 8
I caught up with some much needed sleep at last, we didn't leave until 9.30. The forecast was for showers, some heavy, the north east coast seemed the best option. Burghead called....We went the pretty way, via Lochindorb and had seen eight Red Grouse, perched in the open, by the time we reached the Lodge. It being a Sunday there were more fishermen than birds.
Burghead Maltings area is not very salubrious but a magnet for good birds. An extensive rocky bay backed by rough ground on to which backs a row of houses.The sea was pretty rough this morning, plenty of birds, many of them rising and falling well out of sigh tin the troughs, others flying in circles of frenzy over a shoal of fish.
Our favourite parking place was largely occupied by a very large motorhome - much to Pam's disgust. We parked further west, me scanning the sea from the car initially - until I had a brief view of the Yellow-billed Diver. I hopped out , set up my scope and couldn't find the bird again! Disaster.
During the next hour and more, scanning from a bench, we ID'd Kittiwakes, Common Terns, Black-throated and Red-throated Divers, squadrons of Gannets and flights of Fulmar.As the tide came in, the birds disappeared, the wind got up and a shower drove us into the car to eat our lunch.
Returning to the Maltings area to scan again, an elderly man approached me to ask if I'd seen anything. Bless him, he told us that the YB Diver was off the west end. Five minutes later we'd BOTH got the hefty bird in our scopes, it's pale bill upturned like that of a Red-throated.
Some House Martins -few and far between this year - were collecting mud for their nests from a nearby puddle.

Findhorn Bay
Loch Flemington

What a smart bird- Ringed Plover - probably the Tundra race.
Home via a windy Lochindorb.
Mergansers with the wind up their tails.

had the expected flotilla of ducks in the middle of the water, not the Scaup expected but Red-breasted Mergansers, mostly males. Groups of Ringed Plover and Dunlin tested eyesight as they huddled amongst the stones.
added Mute Swan, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and a Little Grebe. List padders.
held no birds at all....amazing.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Last Day on Mull

Friday May 6
Last days are always a mixture of last chance to see and not driving too far. We started with a drive as far as we could go at Fidden, to the end farm which has a sign for the reserve of Knockvologan - walking only. Near here I saw my first Stonechat of the trip and we were to see 3 more to-day. Where have they been hiding? The cattle were out in force to enhance the view.

Not quite as good a view as from where we ate supper every night.
The lambs are delightful.
Via Penn-y Ghael and Loch Beg to the other side of Loch Scridain, stopping to photograph some Red Deer posing on an outcrop and a Common Sandpiper standing still for once.

About nine people sitting on lochside rocks, cameras at the ready, gave us a clue.....A beautiful dog Otter fishing, eating crabs, actively going about its business. We watched him for 20 minutes before driving off. He was a little distant for photos from the roadside but I got a couple worth keeping.

Only the sitting bird's head and shoulders visible on the White-tailed Eagle nest, no sign of the other adult coming in to take over.

Spot the nest.....
 After fifty minutes we left, returning via Scridain where they were still watching the Otter. No-one has been seeing one this week - until to-day.
Approaching Bunessan, a Golden Eagle soared overhead, soon spiralling out of sight behind a cloud. Sunny to-day but with a fair bit of cloud too.
A half mile from Bunessan is the unmarked turn off for the Scoor Estate. The tarmac soon runs out, the remaining track very potholed and rough, climbing up to the allowed 'car park' - a piece of rough ground along the track. Room for half a dozen cars. The view over an un-named lochan and Loch Assapol to the sea is stunning. We ate lunch, enjoying the dozens of Sand Martins flying like giant midges over the lochan surface. Our only Little Grebe of the trip popped up for a few minutes only.
Sudden panic... a male Hen Harrier rushed into sight before shooting off up a gully. It re-appeared flying fast across the mountain top, far too short a view of this charismatic bird.
A quad bike and trailer pulled up behind us, a tall and lean man got off and approached Pam's window. Oh Oh. He was utterly charming (James, John told us later), asking if we'd seen the Corncrakes on the lochan edge (!!). The Manchester boys are staying at his cottages and had found the birds earlier this week. He then asked if we'd been to the beach. Pam replied that we were not good walkers, drive there he said, you'll get there in this. A mile down a rutted track later, we arrived at a most beautiful white sand bay, one of many without a name, only accessible via the sea and this farm track.

Pam walked down - she's that dot!
We felt privileged.