Monday, 27 June 2016

Scotland

Jess and I have just enjoyed a fantastic week at one of my favourite places on earth, Scotland...

River Dochart

It wasn't a birding holiday, but of course the binoculars were packed and I couldn't help but see some fantastic birds.  We spent the first couple of days around the Borders where Jess used to live (Kelso area) and then had five nights in a lovely self catering cottage in Comrie, which is a charming little village on the A85 west of Perth.  It's so reassuring and nice to see that in this part of the UK (I can still say that yes?) villages still feel like villages and have that community feel. Large superstores haven't littered the landscape so each village still needs its own bakery, butchers, newsagents, etc, and everyone in the village goes out to use these every morning. 

Obviously we didn't just spend the whole time in Comrie, on Tuesday we spent the day in Edinburgh, on Wednesday we spent the day on the fantastic Isle of Mull...

Looking south to Lock Na Keal.

And Thursday we enjoyed a six mile walk in the Cairngorm National Park, walking up to Cairn Gorm (the long way!)...

On the way up!

Nearly at the top, but still a steep hill to climb!

A panoramic pic from the very top


And this is what I saw during the week:

Manx Shearwater -  a flock of c12 and a couple of singles from ferry between Oban and Isle of Mull.
Common Tern - numerous seen around Isle of Mull, off Craignure and from ferry.
Arctic Tern - at least four seen from ferry between Oban and Isle of Mull.
Black Guillemot - several pairs and singles at Oban, with numerous nests in sea wall, also four seen from ferry near Isle of Mull.


Puffin - five seen from ferry crossing between Oban and Isle of Mull.
White-tailed Eagles - two singles seen on Isle of Mull, one hunting off Calgary Bay (in the below photo that is a Buzzard mobbing it!!).


Golden Eagle - one circling over mountains on Isle of Mull, looking south from main road at Grulin.
Red Kite- several lone birds around Comrie.
Osprey - one caught a fish and flew north at fish pond just east of Auchingarrich wildlife park.


Hen Harrier - two single ring-tails over the road between Lochbuie and Craignure on Isle of Mull.
Black Grouse - two males within 15 minutes drive of Comrie at a traditional lek site.


Red Grouse - two family parties and a couple of single birds along minor road south of Loch Tay.


Ptarmigan - two single males and a group of three at Cairn Gorm.


Grey Partridge - one along A6105 just west of Gordon (the Borders).


Hooded Crow - numerous on Isle of Mull scattered across whole island including two lingering around port at Craignure. Also one just east of Oban and a hybrid HoodedxCarrion Crow at Loch Tay.


Rock Dove - a flock of c15 seemingly pure Rock Dove beside the road at Glen Liedle on Isle of Mull.


Whinchat - a dense population of birds along Monument Road, Comrie.
Tree Pipit - singing male along Monument Road, Comrie.
Snow Bunting - male singing from the top of the large cliff face on Cairn Gorm at NH988030.



I didn't try for Capercaillie, but was surprised to learn how far they south they are, not far at all from where we were staying at Comrie which is a long way south of where I'm used to seeing them - there's Ptarmigan in the same area too.  I was disappointed to miss Dotterel, I did scan all the green bits on the Cairngorms that we walked over/past but just didn't come across any.  Maybe late June isn't a good time as the females may have gone walkabouts with the males sat tight on eggs or small young. The Snow Bunting was absolutely fantastic though, and was the one I really wanted to see up here - a singing male Snow Bunt in breeding habitat. So smart.

One of the best birding experiences was at Oban, watching the fabulous Black Guillemots.  I was watching several in summer plumage just offshore for a few minutes before realising the piping calls coming from under me were their nests! They are nesting in the sea wall, just a couple of feet below a busy path and not all that far from a main A road!  I could have watched them for hours but we had a boat to catch.

Any now for some videos. I've split them up into three different ones, and as ever for best viewing change quality settings to 1080pHD. Hope you enjoy...


The Cairngorms:



The Isle of Mull:



Other bits and pieces:



Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Nightjars

So our Nightjars have returned for a fourth year, which is brilliant news.  It wasn't until last night that I had a chance to get out and see them, the conditions were absolutely prefect but sadly they didn't come out until 21:45 so it was pretty dark.  I saw a male and a female, but only the male showed well enough to video (just!)...




Also saw a Hobby on patch yesterday, only my second here this year. It was hunting over fields just south of Colyton then drifted off west. Looked to me like a loitering bird as opposed to a late migrant - hopefully they are breeding somewhere nearby.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Catching Up...

Well I had a feeling the blog posts would start drying up, but I won't apologise because spending so much time on Dartmoor is proving an incredible experience. I have seen so many birds and I know you all already know, the scenery is absolutely stunning.  I am delighted to be part of the team that is mapping bird numbers and distributions on Dartmoor for the Moor Than Meets The Eye project (http://www.moorthanmeetstheeye.org/).

Sadly we can't always park this close to the survey areas!

A singing Grasshopper Warbler in silhouette 



And spending so much time out on the moor means we encounter more than just birds...

Adder




I do have a bit of patch bird news to tell, rewind back to 21st May and it was one of those days I was not enjoying missing!  Although not all that much was seen off the patch in the first few hours of the day, Lyme Regis and Sidmouth had seen a nice selection of skuas and a heap of passing waders.  Early afternoon though Dan at Sidmouth really upped the grippage with two Pom Skuas and a Storm Petrel - ouch.   I wasn't home until late afternoon, but immediately made a bee-line for the seafront.

I was really lucky to get down there when I did, about 40 minutes into the watch the weather completely changed. All the cloud and showers cleared through, the wind dropped off and the sea went almost flat calm.  I would have loved to have got here sooner, but I still managed a few nice highlights.  Best of all being a lovely pale phased Pomarine Skua west at 18:25. It seemed to be a full adult, with a long stiff tail but no spoon on the end.  What was best about this was five minutes earlier a pale phased Arctic Skua flew west, albeit much further out.  I am always worried we throw some Poms away here with the distance some of our skuas pass, but seeing these two flying in the same direction in such a short space of time has eased my worries somewhat, the second I picked up the Pom the flight style and wing shape were just so obvious.  

Other than these two skuas, 60 Manx Shearwater and a mixed flock of 35+ Dunlin and Sanderling were all I noted.  

And that's about it. Well except for a Red Kite east over the Donkey Sanctuary on 28th May...

Pic taken with my phone - it really was low!