Monday, 27 May 2013

A Quickie

Sunday May 27

Duncan (Wildsounds ) had left a Birds of Colombia book for me  at Cley Centre. He would have posted it on Tuesday, I was  eager to see it.
Pam still didn't feel like any exertion so I suggested that we stop at  Salthouse Duckpond to have a look.....It had to be the very far end, a queue buying ice-cream on a lovely hot and sunny day occupied most of the space.
Viewing a pair of Turtle Doves from my window, I got out - perilously, I had to shuffle sideways to avoid the water's edge - to get my scope from the boot.
I digiscoped the Turtle Doves, which were on the pasture beyond the pond.

I then scanned the marsh as far as I could see and found a sleeping Ruddy Shelduck,  very distantly. What a good shopping trip.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Rain Wind and Sue

Friday May 24
Pam was offered to-day at 10.40 or June 6th to see the doctor about her sinus and chest infection. Sue understood why it had to be to-day, we only birded in the afternoon. Pam drove, Sue and I walked.
Not seeing any sign of the Ruddy Shelduck in the Salthouse / Iron Road area,, we parked at the village end of beach Road, Cley, Sue and I walking to the top of West Bank. There we stood in a howling, freezing cold north easterly near gale  - without seeing the Red-backed Shrike. It had disappeared shortly before we arrived and did not re-appear. 
I managed to clean off most of the glutinous mud clogging my shoes before driving to the car park at the beach where a couple of Sandwich Terns flew squawking through.
Fortified by one of Julian's delicious hot chocolates, Sue and I walked East Bank towards Arnolds Marsh. What a penance. Eyes and nose streaming, I stood beside a small group of birders huddled on the side of the bank, where a departing Richard the Hat pointed out an unexpected Pectoral Sandpiper at the very end of the Serpentine. The missing Wood Sandpiper then flew, in giving very close scope views. A man from Satholme and Sue used my scope, the bird flew before I had a chance to digi it......I shouldn't be so generous! Yes I should, others have been good to me in the past.
A white blob in the distance was a Snow Goose! Another surprise. When I questioned its provenance, SG told me that it had just flown in. It was later reported flying past Blakeney Point.
The Snow Goose was still visible from East bank near the car park so Pam could make a short sortie to tick it before hastening back to the shelter of the car.
I was pleased to get back to the comfort of home. It's June next weekend.........

Monday, 20 May 2013


Sunday May 19

Only the second time we've dipped on a twitch (the Belted Kingfisher doesn't count as we saw it in Scotland a few days later), the other was a Brown Flycatcher in Yorkshire. This was a biggie though, the first twitchable Dusky Thrush since 1959. It was 7.30 a.m., only 30 miles from Margate when the pager messaged the dreaded  'no sign of'. 
Turning round at Medway Services, and our first ever visit to a Greggs for breakfast, we drove to Lakenheath RSPB.  I'd mooted a visit and it was only a small detour on the way home. 
The car park was packed at 10ish, including two big coaches, two staff were needed on parking duty. One of them allowed us - as before - to drive as far as the railway crossing, which is a good mile's walk from the centre. Bliss, as that mile is pretty unproductive. 
The open viewing hide overlooking New Fen was packed too, a couple of dozen birders standing outside.  I was lucky to find a seat on the bench, Pam only had to wait 10 minutes or so to sit beside me. The adult male Red-footed Falcon was perches as far away as he could get, on a tree stump in the reeds, the heat haze making scoping difficult. It was shirt-sleeve weather, blue sky with some high towering cloud.
Twenty minutes later, I was transfixed by the awesome, exhilarating, acrobatic and lightning fast hunting display of the Falcon. Fantastic. I shot nearly 200 images, the sound of umpteen camera shutters was like machine gun fire in the attempt to follow, focus on and catch a whole bird image. Everyone's automatic exposure was malfunctioning due to the bird's speed, it's unforseeable change of flight direction - and focusing on the background, sometimes water/reed/trees,  instead of the bird. Into the light too.....I was not surprised to delete virtually all the images when I got home. Disappointed that I hadn't got any that I was happy with, after so enjoying the experience. I read Penny's Blog, she took 620 images and deleted nearly all. She did get better ones than I though.

If these were the best I managed, I leave it to your imagination as to how bad the others were !
BUT, this is my personal diary, not publicised ,  only read by a small handful of others. You have a choice. Still embarrassed by the lack of quality, I may yet delete them all !

When was the last time that Hobbys were the distant runner up attraction? Such lovely birds. Pam counted ten in the air at once, I managed 5 in a short respite from peering through my camera view-finder. 
The Falcon disappeared for a rest and to digest all the insects it had caught. We walked about a mile to the distant copse, hoping to hear Golden Oriole. Far too late in the day for that, plenty of song from Cuckoo, Reed and Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats.
Leaving at 1.30, we dropped in at Weeting NWT in the hope of a Stone Curlew. Reaching the packed hide, the head of a sitting bird on the far ridge was pointed out to us! Even through my scope it was difficult to believe that it wasn't a stone - then it moved a little. Underwhelmed, we shopped in Thetford Sainsbury , arriving home in time to do some chores before the last footy of the season at 4.00.
How could Man U draw 5-5, a  score never before achieved in Premiership history, after leading by two goals on two occasions ! A fitting first for Sir A's last match in charge but a win was preferable.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The 16th is the New First

Thursday May 16th

Norfolk month list barely begun...the weather forecast was reasonable for to-day. Not a very early start, we were up early enough yet didn't drive away until 6.50. a.m. on a cold, sunny morning,  with no discernible wind.
Decision made to omit Snettisham, not brilliant at this time of year, our first birding stop was our regular site for Grey Wagtails and Spotted Flycatcher. Not immediately obvious, a little patience and searching paid off. A pair of Grey Wags were feeding young at the entrance of a small brook off the main river. Delightful birds, the only photographic opportunity was the male perched briefly on a rather thick overhead wire.

 The Spot Fly flew into a tall tree amongst the small group of houses here.
Harpley next for hard won Tree Sparrows. Our habit of viewing Abbey Farm field from 'the gate' paid off. A lone Little Owl was perched low in its nesting tree, totally invisible from the hide as we found out. An elderly man sitting there was keen to see it and soon scuttled off, successfully thank goodness. The other man in the hide was a member of the farm household, spending his regular half an hour checking the birds on view. Pam soon had him answering questions. Most interesting to me was the reply that Kingfishers are not nesting this year. Most disappointing.
Holme welcomed us with a Lesser Whitethroat dashing acress the path, calling. It was now cooler again, the birds not very active nor numerous, the best a Greenshank calling - as it always does - whilst leaving the Broadwater.
When was the last time I walked at Titchwell sweaterless and wearing an open jacket? I even took my jacket off whilst viewing the Freshmarsh. A distantly flying Hobby, Sparrowhawk, a small flock of summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits, one black bib and tuckered Grey Plover, two Common Sandpipers, the male Red-crested Pochard and two Little Terns were the highlights of our visit. My jacket was quickly donned as the sun went in and the wind increased.
One o'clock and I hadn't eaten yet, Choseley barns was chosen - luckily - as the picnic spot. Our first Corn Bunting of the year was the reward, I've never had to wait this long before.
Continuing our leisurely, woodland free day, we drove out to Beach Road, Cley, adding Blue-headed Wagtails amongst the cattle, a Stonechat and a Wheatear in the Eye Field and plenty of Sandwich Terns feeding offshore. Doing a quick count-up, I was amazed to see that we were well on into the 90s on the species day list. If only.... we'd started earlier, gone to woodlands, walked to Patsy's Pool at Titchwell, 100 was well within reach. Wader variety was not as good as usual either. Instead, we'd had a thoroughly enjoyable and stress free day, ending on 98 with a lone Teal on Simmonds Scrape at Cley.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


Tuesday May 14

News of a Savi's Warbler at Hickling NWT (thank you James), and waking to sunshine, sent us off birding. 
The bird was reported to be between Whiteslea Lodge and Tower Hide. What a surprise to find the footpath along the flood bank from the Lodge, closed. The diversion was along a rough pasture/tussock path on the landward side of the bank. Where exactly was the bird birders in sight and the only song that of Sedge and Reed Warblers, Reed Bunting, a distant Cuckoo and screaming Swifts overhead. We found the narrow one plank bridge which led back to Tower Hide and tried that. No luck, nor on the path back. No-one else had heard/seen the Savi's either. But, we did see a Crane fly in to the distant field. I didn't see it again as there's a new bank protecting the area from birders using the track. I know that a pair of Cranes has nested here for several years and protection has been put in place.
Back to the Centre where we parked the car and walked to Cadbury Pool, enjoying singing Whitethroats on the way. After Scotland we are behind with spring migrants. House and Sand martins joined the Swallows and Swifts hawking insects over the reedbed. The hide overlooking the pool was empty and dark. On raising the flaps we saw that the only birds in sight were:
a pair of Mute Swans

two Sacred Ibis. Escapes? No leg rings. Thrigby? Or from the Continent?
They were as far away from the hide as possible, we were patient, they suddenly flew towards us and over the top of the hide. Oh. A look to the left and there they were, as near as one could have wished for, feeding avidly. camera delight.

Neither was the Osprey viewable at its fishing pool haunt, despite a good search. A lovely morning which we thoroughly enjoyed. We were home before the ......RAIN.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Last Day on Mull

Friday May 10

What did we do to-day? Spent 3 hours on an open boat - the Lady Jayne - in heavy rain and a squally wind. My coat, trousers, hat, gloves and underwear were sodden and I was cold to the bone.  I LOVED IT.
For this........

He came in for a fish 5 times, hungry after two days rain. Martin liaises with the RSPB as to how many fish he feeds daily. The last time he appeared we were virtually back at Ulva Ferry.
Maybe next year it will be dry and sunny! I'm amazed my camera managed anything near good focus, I was very anxious in case it got wet which is disastrous for digital cameras - and very expensive for the owner.
When, with assistance from the men, we all managed to get off the boat, it was low tide and a very big step up to the jetty, we got back to Dervaig as fast as possible to change our clothes. Kathy dried our drenched coats and the rest went on the bathroom towel rail. I haven't been that wet for years.
Back to the jetty... all but two men needed assistance, Pam was hauled up as was another woman, one short man was saved from falling back into the boat.Me? I side stepped along the gunwales, leant forward to hold the rails on the stone steps below and swung onto the 5th step up, very successful and applauded.
The 10 mile drive to Tobermory for a hot meal along a winding, climbing steeply curving round was worth the effort. 
Martin the boatman, is great as was Christine his new young assistant.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Curate's Egg

Thursday May 9th

Having cancelled our Lady Jane trip this morning - I left a message - we had a leisurely 9.40 the rain. Much less wind than was forecast though.
Tobermory was the first stop, no daily papers anywhere, I wanted to get Alex's retirement accounts. Looking into her rear view mirror, Pam saw an Otter cross the road. Well !! 
Aros Park had a singing Garden Warbler, not the expected Wood Warbler, they haven't arrived yet. Only a short way into our walk, I had to turn round owing to a painful toe. Plaster and antiseptic helped but we gave up on a wet walk.
Aros Drovers Bridge, downstream from the road bridge, did not produce a Dipper nor a Grey Wagtail. Admittedly, we didn't stop long, the wind was throwing icy shards of rain at us.
No sign of Golden Eagle on the southern side of Loch na Keal, they don't fly in the rain. Nor in the dry this morning, it actually stopped raining.
On the northern side of the loch, driving through, I noticed a large lump on the beach. A White-tailed Eagle feeding on a lamb carcase. Pam turned round but could only stop in a layby furthest away from the bird. No other birders around.  I tried some photographs across Pam through the car window, far too distant, the pics are heavily cropped as you can see. Soon after we stopped, the adult male took off and flew into the distance. Very lucky.

Gradually, the rain stopped and the sun made an appearance. Plenty of cloud around but no more rain, thank goodness. 
Calgary Bay is a noted beauty spot. This is only a part of the golden white sweep, machair a smooth green carpet behind.

Despite the small number of houses, we found a cafe in the Art Gallery, where we had a hot drink and a piece of cake. Decadence.
At one of our stops a Common Sandpiper was incredibly noisy. Settling, performing a long and ornate display flight before landing and doing it all over again.

I loved these ram horns.

Croyg is a lovely little fishing harbour where we saw an Otter yesterday. Photos only this time.

We re-traced yesterday's route and by the end of the day had seen two Golden Eagles, one of them flying over Dervaig, and a Sedge Warbler in the reed bed we can see from our B and B. 

Not long after getting in, the Lady Jane people phoned to say that they'd cancelled to-day's trip themselves and had left me a message on Kathy's ansaphone. What a relief, I hate letting people down , I don't remember the last time I cancelled anything. The real reason for phoning is that they're running a trip to-morrow at mid-day, do I want to come. Quick consultation with Pam and we're on the trip. Great, that will do nicely on our last day. It's a reasonable forecast too. Here's hoping for some decent Eagle shots to-morrow.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Out with Arthur

Wednesday May 8

After one of Kathy's splendid breakfasts, Arthur (Discover Wildlife Mull)  picked us up at 9.30 before driving to Tobermory to collect the remaining 6 passengers. They were all very pleasant companions.
The day started dry and ended normally - wet. 
We saw three different White-tailed Eagles, one on the beach, the other flying in to a nest.

One Golden Eagle
Two different Otters
A herd of Highland Cattle wandering up the road, accompanied by a Simmenthal bull. 

The farmers are trying out different bull breed/ Highland crosses for commercial reasons. We saw a Charolais bull in another herd.

We added a Sparrowhawk at Aros and , ending up at Arthur and Pam's home for tea, a splendid selection of birds on their feeders, including 4 Lesser Redpolls. Great.
Instead of getting off at Dervaig, we went on to Tobermory and had an interesting tour of the upper areas. We'd never been up there before. Arthur dropped us off at Kathy'son the way home.
A lovely day as always.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Sunshine - All Day

Tuesday May 7

Sad to leave John and Jane and our comfortable room at Seaview. We paid a last visit to Fidden after taking a photograph across to Iona, bathed in warm sun for the first time this trip.

The tyre had been repaired, thank goodness. The garage is something to behold. Dirt ground, puddles, pieces of car everywhere, a smashed one on a trailer and a ramshackle building.
Pam called at Penyghael stores for her last honeycomb ice-cream, I took this photo from the car. Swallows nest on the stores .

We had a quick look for Short-eared Owl without success, loitered in a parking spot in Glen More looking for Golden Eagle, no go again.
Grass Point is always a favourite. A singing Tree Pipit just after the bridge, nothing else until we reached the parking spot, which was full. We drove to the end so that we could turn round , returning to find that several cars had gone. Pam scanned the tree belt and found a large blob in a bare tree on top of a rounded hill. White-taile Eagle, one of the oldest pairs on Mull. The other was perched in a different tree but flew to join its mate before we left. Doesn't look as though they're breeding this year, they do so less and less often as they age. 

White-tailed Eagle - from a distance
Whilst I was attempting to digiscope - silly really, distance and heat haze but I couldn't resist it - Pam noticed a bird at the top of a tree giving a song she didn't recognise. A lovely male Whinchat. 

Whilst I was trying to digi that......another cry from Pam, a male Hen Harrier was flying across the hillside. She followed it for two minutes, I gave up before that to continue with what I was doing.
Via various birding stops, we got to Dervaig soon after 5 to a lovely welcome from Kathy. She raced out to meet us for a kiss and a cuddle. Great.
I only had about four hours sleep last night, early to bed to-night ready for our day out with Arthur to-morrow. The forecast is.........rain, cold and strong winds on the way. Halleluya.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Mist and Dreech

Monday May 6

Iona was invisible as we ate breakfast and yes, it was raining. A lingering breakfast followed by a leisurely hour on the laptop before we ventured forth, books and newspaper ready.
Fidden first, the tide at its lowest. Flocks of Dunlin, Golden Plover and Ringed Plover wheeled restlessly around, landing on the seaweed thick, waterless sand between the rocks before rising and doing it all again.
I got out to digiscope, took one photo of the Goldens before they scattered wildly. 

Focused on the eyepiece I hadn't seen a Mountain Hare lollop through, pose upright for a few seconds before disappearing just as quickly. Lovely animals.

Turning towards the sea, I couldn't resist trying for the seals draped on distant rocks.

Two lovely older men from Brightlingsea, they'd driven up yesterday so it was their first day, stopped to read us their bird list and to ask for information  about Corncrakes and Eagles. They were so happy and pleased with what they'd seen so far. Many Whimbrel again, scattered amongst the sheep flocks.
Uisken once more, hoping for a drier spell so that we could walk on the beach. The moorland cows and their calves looked wet, dirty and rather miserable, poor beasts.
I read for half an hour before noticing that the rain on the windows was minimal. It was great to walk the beach, much of the white sand covered by huge swathes of thickly rotting seaweed uprooted and abandoned by the storms. There are outcrops of granite rocks to negotiate in addition to  streams running off the land All very interesting and enjoyable, much liked by shorebirds. A small flock of Turnstones, a group of 50 Dunlin and  4 Sanderling kept being disturbed by the half a dozen people and one dog also enjoying the fresh air.


Flock of Dunlin

We walked back along the grassy bank, adding a Yellowhammer, Sand Martins and two Twite to the list. Our first west coast Terns - 3 Common - fished along the shore before making their way onwards. Only a light and intermittent drizzle although visibility was very restricted.

Pam suggested going to the White-tailed Eagle nest for a final visit. 
En rote, around Loch Scridain, we saw 3 vehicles parked in a lay-by, scopes up and pointing.  A sure sign of.......Otters present.
Moving to the next lay-by where there was room, we saw three Otters on top of a rock in the middle of the loch. A mother and two cubs which were her equal in size. This is probably the worst - digiscoped - pic of Otters on the web.

We parked on the stony area pull-off from which the Eagle's nest is viewable, setting up scopes in time to see the male perched in the nesting tree. A short intermission whilst I phoned the AA, we had a puncture ! Luckily I got some reception. Back to the scope in time to see both birds fly off left. The female quickly returned to the nest, the male perched in a distant tree. The nest is a good half mile from the road,  I tried some digiscoping when the cloud rolled back sufficiently.

A couple staying at our B and B drew in behind us, they'd been on the RSPB trip this afternoon and had seen the remains of the lamb on the nest. We were able to show them the nest from the road and we all loved the stupendous views of the male flying right before crossing the glen overhead and flying a parallel course along the conifer belt,  where we had great views of him against a dark background.
We persuaded the couple that we would be fine when the man was pretty insistent that they would stay until the garage man arrived. We read in the car as it as raining again, finding that there was reasonable phone reception here - 2 bars - and a text from B who is on Ardnamurchan. She'd sent it yesterday but there's no reception in Phionnphort. Good to here that they're here safely if soggy !
The orange-clad as wide as he was tall, McDougall garageman arrived at 4.55, making short work of changing the wheel. He took the wheel away, we need to call in at the garage on the way to Dervaig to-morrow to see if it's fixable or if we need to buy a new one. 
No traffic on the road, it only took us 50 minutes to get back to our room.
Looking at the pictures I've posted to-day, I'm not proud of any of them. They're pretty mediocre. I wish I'd had the conditions o take better.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

I Should have Finished the Ark

Sunday May 5

We breakfasted watching the sun sparkle on the Sound of Mull. Half an hour later, it had clouded over and we had virtually non stop rain for the rest of the day. I'm usually pretty philosophical about matters but I'm getting fed up with the conditions. On an island like Mull, there is no escape, even the far flung coffee shops were closed to-day.
I managed to scope the female White-tailed Eagle on her nest with a dead and partially eaten lamb draped across the rim before the rain became really hard. Breakfast in bed. It looked as though she was feeding at least one chick. 
The rest of the day was occupied moving from place to place, scanning for birds, reading, doing word games and crosswords. The pick of the bunch was a Tystie (Black Guillemot) near a fish farm on Loch Scridain. We also explored the Knockan Road from the other end after finding it wasn't a dead end. The Dunlin population at Fidden had increased from 1 to 50.
I photographed a few beasties in the rain but only my face and arm got wet !

Grey Heron at Bunessan river (stream) mouth

A soggy Meadow Pipit - the commonest passerine 
Mountain Lamb

Twins. The lambs were huddled against any shelter they could find.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Star Bird

Saturday May 4

We've always caught the first ferry to Iona with all the workers. A strong wind, mist and overcast put us off, which meant waiting for the 9.55........ when the first coaches arrive.
We were not alone in making our way to the Fire Station, three male birders turned left as well. All other passengers went straight up the hill to the Abbey. We heard the distinctive KrekKrek call as soon as we disembarked. Ten minutes after setting up behind the station, hearing two birds answer each other from opposite sides of the small field, we had our first sighting of a Corncrake. I was pleased to show it to the men. Shortly afterwards Pam found one and we had even better views of  a whole bird calling from a mound in the dead sedges. The irises are less than a foot tall so they're frequenting the taller swathes of dead sedge.
Chilled to the bone, we visited our favourite shop which sells really classy and expensive clothing and goods ----and twt. The woman behind us went off with 4 toilet rolls. Time for a hot drink in the bar opposite, we had a hot chocolate keeping an eye on the ferry to check when it left Phionnphort. It was running late due to the heavy swell white-capping its way up the Sound, driven by a near gale force wind. We'd rocked and rolled our way over.
A quick call in to our room to collect supplies before driving to Scoor, the estate is a right turn out of Bunessan. The road was worse than ever. We're used to potholes but they'd covered the whole road with a layer of lumpy, stony shingle. 20mph was the speed limit, we travelled at 5 mph..
A male and female Hen Harrier arrowed across in front of us well along the path, we saw little else.
Bunessan Harbour had 6 Red Breasted Mergansers, the four males displaying to the females. Two Eider huddled on the rocks. Looking over to the left, we realised that we'd never explored the road around the Head to Knockan, so we did. Many more houses than we'd expected, most of them with a superb view out to sea, foaming water geysering over craggy rocks and reefs. Lovely.  The Rock Doveds here are handsome.

Uisken Beach had Turnstones, Ringed Plovers, one Dunlin and a few Whimbrel.  Leaving the shelter of the bay, the sea was tremendous, several  barely visible in the troughs, Manx Shearwaters struggled through, as did a few Gannets. 
Last call was Fidden, as always. We sat and surveyed from the camping ground, a few Seals pulled out on the rocks, no birds to-night, still 2 Mountain Hares in a field with the sheep.

It was darker than this.......
There are some delightful lambs and calves around. I haven't managed a lamb yet but fell for this calf which should be named Bandit.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Time to Build an Ark

Friday May 3

What a day to choose to visit the White-tailed Eagle nest viewing point run by the RSPB. I booked it a month ago, hoping to take closer photographs. I took my camera but to no avail. It's rained all day, varying from moderately to a downpour, starting fairly lightly and going downhill fast. We had to be at the gathering point at 10.00., 28 miles away the other side of Loch Beg. Three cars waited until the Ranger drove down the hill, introduced himself , John Clare , and led us all through the gate and up the hill. He took us further than the 'hide' (used as an information centre),  because of the rain. Then, a short walk and up a tree bark lined path to stand under conifers where three telescopes had been set up. There was a very good view of the female Eagle sitting on her nest through a natural break in the bank of conifers. One of the eggs was due to hatch to-day, she was certainly very fidgety, half standing to look down at the eggs on several occasions. John said that this was different behaviour fom the previous days.
 I even enjoyed most of the hour and a half stood in the rain, large drops plopping from the trees, soaking my coat which proved not to be completely waterproof - despite its cost. Country Innovation !!
John the Ranger was a very informative and interesting guide, only in the job 6 weeks for a fixed contract. He offered a return to the hide which I was pleased to take. There we watched the female on the nest on CCTV whilst John showed us feathers and pellets etc, answering a wide range of questions. Seaview John had told us that there were now Pine Martens on Mull and we were told more details, probably 20 pairs now present. How did they get here? They are unlikely to have swum the sound. Maybe on a wood lorry from their stronghold on Ardnamurchan.
What to do now ? We sat in a layby overlooking Loch Be admiring beautiful Great Northern Divers, two Grey Seals and an Otter. The latter was never very near, Pam spotted it swimming and diving mid loch. Her first ever finding of an Otter. Very pleasing.

Rushing torrents cascading down the mountainside
Back to Phionnphort to collect to-day's paper frpm the Post Office, check out the Sound for birds - 2 Razorbills, a Shelduck and a Shag - before driving the short side road to dead-end Sound-side hamlet,  Kintra. Plenty of bedraggled Wheatears flitting the stone walls and tussocks before a Hen Harrier whizzed around a crag and disappeared. Perennial favourite and daily-different Fidden did not disappoint. A flock of 500 Golden Plover in the jet black bibs and bellies of summer breeding kept flying about in a wheeling, swooping, circling  flock before landing again in a sheep field. I tried to photo through the rain, not very successfully.

The camping ground is an undulating piece of rough, sandy, hard based pasture overlooking a rocky bay. Pam drove to the far end where one can overlook an inlet. Very productive to-night, 8 Whimbrel perched on rocks and then flying, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit amongst a small flock of feeding Redshank, a single Dunlin occasionally showed. Almost best of all was four Mountain Hares on the shores and rocks, lying down to have a good clean-up after the rain, which had diminished to an occasional drizzle.
In early to-night, soon after 4, hope the weather is better to-morrow, we've never had such consistently poor conditions for so long. We've done well for birds considering.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Leaving the Highlands

Thursday May 2
We left in brilliant sunshine - and -4C - , becoming ever more cloudy as we drove west until it started to rain soon after the Corran Ferry to Ardnamurchan. What good luck. As we drove down the ramp, we were beckoned onto the ferry, the ramp was raised and we were off. The ferry only took about 10 minutes of blind travel. One stays on the vehicle and the sides of the boat are too high to see the sea. Just as well in retrospect. We were on Ardnamurchan at 9.00 a.m..............When we got off, we viewed the bay, it held Tysties, auks and divers last October. Three Eider to-day.
We birded our way to Lochaline in steady rain. The mountains were shrouded in cloud, the bleak scenery a soggy yellow of tussock grass and deep brown vegetation. Miles of peat bog. So different from our last visit in the Autumn on a lovely day.
More fortune at Lochaline, the ferry was in and  discharging its cargo. We queued for about 3 minutes behind half a dozen Dutch bikers and we were waved  on. Again a blind crossing. It's great to stay in the car but I like watching the sea. We could have joined the excited bikers on the small raised side decking but it was pouring down.
After stopping at the small Craignure Spar to buy the prunes we'd forgotten at Fort William Morrison's this morning, we drove to Grass Point. Viewing a field full of Highland cows and their delightful teddy bear young occupied us nicely until Pam spotted our first Cuckoo sitting in a tree. One tracked bird came to southern England , turned round and went back to France!
Despite the steady rain we called in at our favourite places, Bunessan Bay for another really grouchy looking Grey Heron. Can any other bird looks so miserable? Uisken (pronounced Ooshken) for Handsome summer Turnstones and Ringed Plover, a roadside lochan immediately before Phionnphort had two Whooper Swans and two Canada Geese and Fidgen for Shelduck and little else. Good to see all our places again.
We are now settled into our room 'Erraid' on the ground floor of Seaview. John as welcoming as ever, I haven't seen Jane yet although Pam has. 
What a relief to have internet access in our room, the office and router are next door so the reception is good.

Catch-up Day

Wednesday May 1

A very leisurely start in preparation for to-morrow’s early drive to Mull. We needed it after yesterday. By the time we’d read and showered, it was a 9.50 stop at the paper shop. Catch-up day was te plan and, trying to see how many specialities we could see for the first of the month without rushing around.
We both regret missing Ptarmigan because of the weather, should we try again? The tops were not in view this morning, heavy cloud cover with occasional light rain. Dodgy. Maybe a drive to the car park would prove conclusive. Still poor viewing conditions. Most of the snow has gone from the lower reaches, the remainder is very dirty and sordid looking. No, reluctantly we decided not to go up on the funicular. I decided that I would like to scope the slopes, so we returned to the other side of the car park where a man was using binoculars. 18 Snow Buntings were feeding on the stone walling, eating the grain placed there by the birder.

We tried our Black Grouse area but no luck to-day, it was a bit late for them.
Loch Garten RSPB again. The female Osprey still sitting, well hunkered down, on her two eggs. She laid 4 and we know that the male kicked one of them out but not what happened to the fourth. The Goldeneye was on her nest but soon left, sitting on the unseen edge, one of her feet filling the camera view. Crested Tit again on the feeders outside the centre.
We walked much of the way to Loch Mallachy, hearing another Cresty and seeing Goldcrest.
Dulnain Bridge came up trumps again. A lone Dipper posed on a rock in mid-stream, viewable through a gap in the trees and a pair of Grey Wagtails gave a brief flying view.

Lochindorb for the last time on a lovely, golden late afternoon. Several Red Grouse called and posed on the heather clad hillside and a Great Northern Diver fished on the loch. 

A female Red Grouse- beautifully marked
Two Buzzards rose and soared together, bombed and hassled by a Raven. What a pain, Raptors have a lot to put up with.

About time I included a Wheatear
Ali and Lindsay were out when we tried to use the Internet at the hotel. I hung around a bit, trying to get access from outside. The connection is only ‘fair’ from the lounge, nothing outside. They drove up, having been to the Cash and Carry, so I was able to post the last two days’ Blog. 
Bliss after to-morrow, access in our bedroom at Seaview in Phionnphort (pronounced Finfert). We drive to Corran Ferry in the morning, hoping to shop in Fort William en route for supplies and fuel.