Wednesday, 19 October 2016
The approach track to the car park was fairly quiet with mainly Lapwings, Pied Wagtails, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Kestrel and a couple of Marsh Harriers.
A skirmish between a Kestrel and a juvenile Peregrine was entertainment in between Stonechat, Reed Bunting and Bearded Tit sightings on the path to the hides. Although the tide was pretty much fully up, the flood in front of the hide was almost fully down and held just a few waders; Ringed Plovers, a couple of Redshanks, a few Dunlins and a couple of Grey Plovers.
The wind had dropped considerably on the way back to the car park and the Beardies were much more evident.
Monday, 13 June 2016
The river Ba runs through Knock and the small amount of through traffic is carried over the river by an old stone hump backed bridge. In previous years we've watched Dippers from here as they carried food to their nest hidden among the tangle of roots and stones along the river bank. This year we were considerably earlier than usual and I think this is a pair still in the throes of courtship.
We struggled to find them after this, maybe they were nest building somewhere else along the river this year.
It goes without saying that the weather in the Northwest of Scotland can be unpredictable, if not downright horrible. This year though, our luck was in and the sun shone bright and hot almost from the start. Even this Chaffinch, just along from our cottage, was pleased about it and took in some rays, seemingly oblivious to our presence.
Eager to take advantage of the good weather we booked a boat trip to Staffa and Lunga on the Treshnish Isles for our first full day on Mull. Our pick up point was the tiny harbour at Ulva and luckily we had enough time to stop en route along the shore of Loch na Keal to watch this superb White-tailed Eagle soaring against the blue sky. Sorry it's a bit distant but it does set the scene.
Staffa is the smaller of the two islands and is home to Fingal's Cave, famous for its fractured columns of Basalt rock and Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides Overture' which was inspired by his visit there in 1829.
There wasn't too much to see on this small island but the views are terrific and it's always nice to see Eider ducks, even if they are a bit sleepy.
Next stop was Lunga and a spot of Puffin therapy. On the way though, we made a short diversion to see a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins after a tip off from the skipper of another boat. This was a brilliant and exciting few minutes of wildlife magic as the Dolphins surrounded our boat and rode the bow wave so close I could have reached out and patted them. The only slightly cropped picture below makes my point.
And so to the island of Lunga where the Puffins welcomed us with open arms.
It's very easy to get carried away by these charming little birds and indeed we did, spending too much of our limited time on the island with them.
I've limited my self indulgence to just three Puffin pics. Here are just a few of the other inhabitants of the island further down at Harp Rock.
|Great Skua, aka the Bonxie|
Did I mention Puffins? I think they were sad to see us go.
Sunday, 3 April 2016
I hadn't seen a Water Vole for some time in the narrow ditches that skirt the east and west scrubs. So I was really pleased to see this very young individual feeding in the edges and showing little concern about the humans and dogs who passed by every few minutes.
On the bird front, things are changing too with the arrival of the first Summer migrants, notably the Chiffchaffs. There have been a few on site right through the Winter but now numbers seem to have risen and the air is full of their monotonous but very welcome song. More melodious was the first Blackcap song of the year from the individual below who was singing from the area around the NW corner of Brooklands lake. Further round the lake, close to the NW corner of the sunken marsh, was where a Ring-necked Parakeet flew by me and over bucket wood. That was a surprise and although not a site tick, was only my second ever in the area. Buzzards deserve a mention too. I lost count of how many I saw that day, but a minimum of nine in the air all at once was bordering on a flock. Good to see, even without all the other individuals and pairs and trios also drifting over during the morning.
Yesterday morning I got a text from Glenn to sat he'd just had a probable Short-eared Owl from bucket wood. This has now been confirmed by his own pics that he managed to take and is a great record for the site, especially as it came across the river and over to the sunken marsh. Am I jealous? I sure am. That's why I visited this morning in the very faint hope that it would return. Of course it didn't, it was probably just passing through. But I did manage to find my first Sedge Warbler of the year, singing intermittently right alongside the Blackcap who was also still in full voice.
On the first of October 2015 I drove down to Dungeness to see and take some pics of the Firecrests and Goldcrests who had arrived to spend the winter here and were feeding up before dispersing into the wider countryside (including New Hythe as it happens). On the first of April 2016, exactly six months later I went back down to Dungeness to see their return.
I was a bit late to see them in the numbers that were there a few days earlier but I probably got to see half a dozen or so as they fed incessantly, along with a few Goldcrests.
Unfortunately the sun shine was a bit patchy and the breeze didn't help, but I was quite pleased with some of the pictures that I managed to take when they stopped for half a nano second!
Here's a Goldcrest who wasn't too shy.......
.......and here's another who was.....
.....and here's another who looked a bit odd posing on the grass.
The RSPB reserve was a bit quiet. I did spot this rather distant Gt White Egret. But apart from that it was mostly Reed Buntings really. Although just before I reached the approach to Dengemarsh hide a pair of Bearded Tits flew straight over my head. Somebody a bit sharper than me (no pun intended) might have got a quick shot of them, but my 'birds in flight' skills are notoriously poor. Must try harder.
I don't know who was more surprised when this Stoat ran across the path in front of me and disappeared into a patch of Gorse. When I tried to call it back it surprised me again by popping up behind me. Just as well I wasn't a Vole in distress or I'd have probably been lunch.
Anyway, realising he'd been duped, he left the scene double quick. 'A clean pair of heels' I think this is called.
On my way round the reserve I'd heard and seen a few Marsh Frogs. And at first I thought this was one. But it was crossing a wide track away from the water and it was walking, not hopping. Must be a Toad then..........
Friday, 18 March 2016
Lapwings called and displayed all around, and a single Black-tailed Godwit and a few Curlews stabbed the grass in search of food like the Redshank above, Skylarks sang unseen, high against the sky, Buzzards circled on the thermals, a Sparrowhawk and a couple of Kestrels were all searching for their next meal and a couple of Marsh Harriers showed more than a little interest in each other. The male, below, often flying low over a particular area of reeds where the female called to him constantly.
My plan to walk to the hides however, was thwarted when I happened upon a young man who had broken down along the track. It turned out to be my nephew. Isn't life strange sometimes. Unsurprisingly, he was a bit pleased to see me. I borrowed some jump leads from the farm buildings but they failed to get him mobile again. So it was off to Sittingbourne to buy a new battery which got him going but left me without enough time for my walk.
As I sat in the car deciding what to do next this Brown Hare appeared, possibly one we had seen earlier while sorting the car. I was able to get some half decent views and at one point watched as it appeared to practice its boxing skills.
I stayed put for some time after the Hare had disappeared and after a while another, or the same one, suddenly appeared in the grass right alongside the car. I managed a couple of close ups before it crossed the track in front of me, so close that I couldn't see it over the bonnet of the car. A good Hare day indeed.
I bought a new lens this week, it has more reach than my other one so a trip to Dungeness with Alan Roman the following day gave me a chance to try it out.
To be honest there wasn't much to point it at. But these Common Gulls sitting on posts near the dipping pond on the RSPB reserve were obliging enough to be my first targets. Unfortunately the Long-eared Owl was either absent or sheltering further back in the trees to keep out of the bitter wind.
On the main lake most of the birds were sheltering in the lee of the wind over on the far bank. But we did see several Goldeneyes and a drake Smew accompanied by three females.
On the way to Denge marsh hide we spotted this ragged Peacock butterfly, my first of the year and a welcome taste of things to come. The only surprise from the hide itself was the arrival of seven Barnacle Geese, nice to see whatever their (dodgy) provenance. We tried the mound but the evil NE wind quickly got the better of us and we retraced our steps back to the visitor centre. The return trail is still shut due to flooding. The surprise of the day happened just as we approached Scott hide....
...a Badger crossed the path in front of us and ran up the bank to the right of the hide. It stopped at the top and turned to look back for a couple of seconds. Having decided it didn't like the look of us it ran back down the bank, across the front of the hide and over the shingle to the lake side.
I have never seen a Badger out in broad daylight like that and maybe never will again. The thing that struck me, looking at the hastily taken pics, especially the top one, was how Bear like it looked as it ran away.
From Dennis's hide these gulls were having an almighty bust up. Other birds gathered around the fight. Their screeching and squawking reminiscent of the playground punch ups of old when all the kids would gather around shouting 'fight, fight,' as a couple of boys (or girls) wrestled on the ground. It probably wouldn't happen now.
At one point they appeared to be trying to drown each other. But after what seemed an age they broke up, only to begin all over again a bit further out in the lake.
A brief stop at the ARC side produced a very distant Gt White Egret, a singing Chiffchaff, a solitary Tree Sparrow and a Goldcrest.