Thursday, 23 June 2011


Before we came to the island, we had given ourselves a friendly little challenge. We wanted to try and see if we could spot 100 different species of birds in a week, a task both Steve and Dougie had not managed to do before. Unbelievably, when we awoke on the morning of our final full day we had seen 99 species, just 1 away from our target. As we'd explored as much of the island as we could we were really struggling to think of where our possible 100th bird would come from. The only thing Steve could think of was to try a bit of a sea watch to see if we could pick something up out at sea. And so we headed off to a little place called Kintra. On the moorland approaching the tiny coastal town we stopped at a little farm as Dougie spotted some little brown birds feeding on the side of the road. They turned out to be a small flock of Twite, and we were getting excellent close views from the comfort of the car. But they werent new birds for us so we quickly moved on. As we pulled up at Kintra, Dougie immediately fell in love with the place. As can be seen from the picture above, it basically consisted of around 10 houses overlooking a tiny bay, and very little else. But the remoteness made the place even more appealing to Dougie, and he talked about wishing to live there one day! Nothing wrong with having dreams, mate. But thats the future, and we were in the present, and right now we needed a new bird. We got out of the car, walked through some fields and settled on the cliffs to look off shore. The first thing we saw was a ship not too far out, and on closer inspection it turned out to be some sort of research vessel. There were no birds on the sea, but a few things were flying past, mainly Terns and Gannets. But then, we all saw a small trickle of Gulls flying past the ship. Almost as one the three of us immediately called out 'Kittiwake'!!!, and were surprisingly ecstatic. We had our 100th species, and we were all absolutely thrilled. Challenge won, we headed back to the caravan to have a celebratory cup of tea!
The lady who owns the farm that we were staying at had told us there had been an Adder in the fields just behind the farmhouse. It had actually bitten and killed one of the newborn lambs. So what did we decide to do? Yep thats right, go looking for the Adder! We actually had a pleasant hour or so exploring the area, but alas we found no snake. We did however find a brand new species of butterfly for the three of us, Green Hairstreak. A great little find!
Seeing as we were in snake-hunting mode, we decided to go and have another look in a different location. Steve had been told of a place on the Pennyghael estate that was a reasonably regular spot for them so we decided to take a look. After a gentle ten minute walk we stopped at a wooden gate. To the side of the gate there were a couple of sheets of corrogated iron that had been deliberately placed on the ground. Dougie and Steve were both saying how we would never see a snake cos the weather was so bad when I called out 'there's one'!!! Sure enough there was the tail end of an Adder just poking out of the iron. Of course we wanted better looks, so Steve (our version of Steve Urwin) lifted up the sheet of iron. The Adder was in full view and sat there completely unfazed by our presence. The other two got their fill of photos before Steve gently put the metal sheet back and we left it in peace. It was a fitting end to a truly memorable week. The three of us had had a superb time. We'd seen some superb wildlife in truly stunning scenery, in great company. What more could you wish for!

Monday, 20 June 2011


This morning we thought we'd give Glen Mor another go to see if we could get another view of the Golden Eagle we saw yesterday. Once again we were up and out nice and early, and the weather was wet but not nearly as bad as it had been. On the way we had a slow drive along Loch Scridan to see if we could see any Otters, but we weren't in luck. We did however get a very unexpected Wader, a Green Sandpiper. Apparently this is a very good record for Mull as they are quite a scarce migrant. But we all had excellent views of it both on the shore and then in the air and we were all 100% confident on our i.d. And so we moved on to Glen Mor and settled in for a good scan. After a while we noticed a Raptor flying in from our left. It wasnt the hoped for Eagle, but it was a stunning male Hen Harrier. As bonuses go this was a beauty! We watched it for a good while as it seemed to take an eternity to glide over the ridge and out of sight. This was a good start. And it didnt take long for it to get a great deal better. To our right the unmistakeable sight of a Golden Eagle came into view. It soared effortlessly along the ridge to our extreme left, circled, then came back over. It did this three or four times before, incredibly another bird flew in and started to mob it. Amazingly it was the Hen Harrier back. Wow. We were watching a Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Hen Harrier. How many times can you say that in your lifetime? We were all awestruck as we watched this fantastic display. Eventually the Harrier flew off, and the Eagle circled a few times before flying quite low over our heads and off into the distance.
Around mid-morning we found ourselves at some woodland at Torrasay. I think it was called Fenella's Wood but I cant be certain. We had a really pleasant stroll for a couple of hours in some quite stunning scenery. We had some nice birds such as Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Bullfinch, Treecreeper and Lesser Redpoll. We also had our first butterflies of the week, Green Veined and Small White, and we had a brand new moth for me, a Speckled Yellow. Dougie enjoyed lots of gorgeous flowers, and we had the unusual experience of watching Gannets and Black Guillemots from inside a wood! A very surreal experience. This walk was one of my favourites of the week.

After the disappointment of the Eagle boat trip on monday, Dougie came up with an ingenious idea. He'd managed to work out where in the bay the boat had taken us, and knew which nest the White Tailed Eagle was sitting on that the boat was targeting, so he thought if we parked the car underneath the nest we may just get to see good views of the Eagle coming out and going to meet the boat for its daily feed. And so we parked the car and waited. We managed to get side tracked very quickly though when an Otter was spotted swimming just offshore. It eventually came aground and we watched it for a short while before it bounded out of view. We then focused back on the Loch. Low and behold, the boat came into view. And low and behold the Eagle went out to meet it. And fantastically it flew right above our heads to get to it. This was simply magnificent. We watched the bird fly out to the boat, take the fish that had been thrown out for it and bring it back to the nest. It actually did this not once but four times in all, each time flying right above our heads there and back. In all the time I've been watching wildlife this is simply one of the best spectacles Ive ever witnessed. Even long after the Eagle had gone and settled down for the night the three of us were still absolutely buzzing. And we probably will be in ten years time!

Sunday, 19 June 2011


Well, the rain was back! After yesterdays almost complete dry day we awoke once again to the the sight and sound of the wet stuff pummelling the caravan. This was starting to get annoying! After an extended breakfast we decided to head out despite the heavy downpour. After a quick scan of Loch Scridan didnt produce much we went to Glenmor. We settled down and started to scan the ridges, hoping for something good. A couple of Ravens soared over, quickly followed by a couple more. And then something else glided in. Something noticeably bigger. With straighter, broader wings. Something that was clearly a danger to the Ravens as they immediately started to mob it. It was an Eagle. But it wasnt a White Tailed, it was our first Golden Eagle of the week. Excellent! We were beginning to think we might dip on this species but we neednt have worried. We watched this magnificent creature for a while as it soared effortlessly over the ridge and eventually into the distance. We then went to Aros Mains to have another try for Dipper. We had no luck again but we did get great views of a Spotted Flycatcher hunting over the river. We also seen a nice Treecreeper. From here we decided to visit Tobermory and have ourselves a nice fish and chips lunch. I absolutely loved this place! The quaint little main street with its luridly coloured houses was fantastic. You can easily see why its used in various tv programs. Mind you I was less impressed by the cost of the lunch! After a pleasant hour of eating and trawling through the book shops etc we headed off to a place called GlenGorm Castle. We had intended to have a walk round the grounds but the rain was still lashing down and there was no way we could even get out of the car. We did see the unusual sight of a cat that had caught a young rabbit, and was play hunting with it. Not the most pleasant of sights but certainly fascinating to watch.
We visited Ardmore Forest in the hope of a new species for the week. Its a big Coniferous Forest and at our first stop Steve immediately picked up the call of our target, the Crossbill. He managed to spot a couple of birds flying over head but myself and Dougie missed out. After quite a search we did eventually see some distant birds flying but we wanted better than that so we went for a walk. We could hear birds calling all around us but all we were getting was fleeting glimpses until eventually we got a bird sat in the open. Much more like it! Our next new species was along the Aros Road. There was a huge area of trees that had been cut down, so we stopped to see if we could pick up a Tree Pipit or two. We seen quite a few birds moving around but they were surprisingly difficult to pin down in such a dark background. But then we heard the distinctive call of a Tree Pipit and one lifted up, done a display song and landed on a felled trunk. We managed to pick out a few more before the rain had us headed back to the car. We then went to Loch Ba in the faint of hope of seeing some woodland birds. It was still raining, but not as heavily so we thought we'd give it a try seeing as we were in the area anyway and we had nowt better to do! So we spent an hour or so exploring a little wooded area on the edge of the Loch, but the best we got was a flock of juvenile Pied Wagtails! It was absolutely desperate so we headed back to the car. As we were walking back we heard some Ravens noisily squawking just behind us, and as we looked up we saw a truly unforgettable sight of a stunning White Tailed Eagle flying low down right above our heads!!! We couldnt believe it. This was an unbelievable piece of luck, at least until Dougie and Steve realised they hadnt taken any photos! On the way back to the caravan we stopped at various places along Balmeanach Cliffs in the hope of a Peregrine but we didnt see a thing. We also had another view of the White Tailed Eagle on the nest at Kilfinichen Bay before finally heading home for the night.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


The three of us had all agreed on the ferry crossing that the first morning that it was dry we would go over to Iona as we didnt know if we would get any other dry days afterwards. So when we awoke to clear skies we knew today was the day. As we were packing the car up we were welcomed by the usual call of the resident cuckoo, and this time we finally had excellent views of the bird perched on a tall conifer tree to the left of the caravan site. A very nice start to the day. On the relatively short drive to the port at Fionnphort we saw the unusual sight of a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over the vast moorland. There wasnt a single tree for what seemed like miles around! We booked ourselves on the first ferry crossing at 8.45am and then headed off to Fidden to have a look around while killing time. Quite a few waders were feeding on the near shore, including lots of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, a couple of Whimbrel and more common stuff. A small flock of Pied Wagtails flew in and while checking through them a fine adult male White Wagtail was picked out. Time killed, we headed back to the port and boarded the ferry. At this time in the morning there were only a handful of other travellers joining us on board, which surprised me as I half expected it to be full of birders. It was only a short crossing of around 15 minutes but we still managed to do a bit of sea watching from the upper deck, seeing a few Sandwich Terns and even an Arctic Tern bound overhead. But we were soon on the island of Iona, and Steve took us to the garden of the Iona Heritage Centre in the hope of seeing our target bird the Corncrake. The garden was actually a reasonably sized walled meadow, with particularly long grass so seeing such a secretive species was gonna be extremely hard work. On approaching the garden we heard the unmistakeable call of the Corncrake coming from our destination so we picked up speed and got our binoculars ready. Within minutes we heard the call again. I couldnt believe how loud it was. It was astonishing! It took me completely by surprise and I listened in total awe. We located the area that the call was coming from and scanned, but knowing where the call came from and seeing the bird itself were two completely different things. It was hidden in the long grass and was more than happy to stay there. Every 5 or 10 minutes the bird had slightly relocated before calling again, and for almost an hour we played a game of follow the call. On one occasion the bird was calling on the far side of the field, but then Steve noticed the grass moving right in front of us. We all looked intently and finally managed to get fleeting glimpses of a Corncrake creeping silently through the foliage. We were delighted to finally see a bird but we were desperate to get better views. So we decided to stick it out for a while longer to see what we could get. It proved to be a wise move. We again heard the bird calling from the far side of the field and as I scanned along the opposite wall I came across the bird standing on a rock completely in the open calling away. I was ecstatic, and quickly called the other two over and the three of us got great views. It eventually skulked away and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We headed back to the ferry-landing area but it wasnt due for a little while so Steve took us over to the fire station garden as he had seen Corncrakes there in the past. We had only been there for about ten minutes when we heard a Corncrake calling further along the road next to the houses, so we quickly moved on to where we thought it was. We checked a couple of gardens for a while but couldnt see anything. Then as we started heading back we heard the bird calling and it was right behind us. As we turned around I saw some movement in a small clump of flowers and saw immediately it was a Corncrake. Incredibly it was completely unfazed by our attendance. In fact it almost seemed like it was posing for us as Steve and Dougie took what seemed like a million pictures. We couldnt believe how close the bird was and how it didnt seem too bothered about running for cover, but eventually thats exactly what it did and we boarded the ferry absolutely elated.
We departed the ferry, got in the car and slowly drove away happy with our mornings work. But as we drove through Fidden we heard a sound that took us all completely by surprise. We stopped the car and listened more intently. Soon enough we heard it again. It was quite distant but absolutely unmistakeable, it was another Corncrake!!! We all laughed at the irony but decided that it was too far off to try and locate it. We had an hour at a place called Ardalanish Bay where we saw our first Turnstones and Sanderlings of the week and also a small party of Twite flying around the fields behind the beach. Dougie also spent some time looking for flowers and he came across a number of new species to him including a couple of Orchids. While driving around we bumped into one of the local tour guides (I say local, he's actually from Northumberland!), Brian Raines and he told us that a couple of summer plumaged Red Throated Divers were at a nearby site called Port Uisken. So we went over and located them easily enough. That was all 3 Divers sorted now, which is not something that can be said too often. We also got another new bird for the holiday, a cracking Whinchat sitting on a fencepost along a quiet country lane. Our final stop of the day was at Loch Assapol, but the only bird seen was a Little Grebe so we headed back to the caravan to prepare for the next day.


Early monday morning I got a message from Birdguides saying a Red Flanked Bluetail had been trapped and Ringed down Hartlepool. I thought to myself I wished it had been in our nets, then put my phone away and went off to work. Then while on my lunch I had a quick check on facebook to see what was going on in the world when I noticed Steve (Seggs) had commented on a White Throated Robin that had been trapped and Ringed - in Hartlepool! I frowned, and thought to myself he's gotten a bit mixed up so checked the sports news. But something made me go back to Steve's comment. I double checked it. It definitely said White Throated Robin. Again I shook my head and thought whats he written that for, its a Bluetail? So I decided to give him a quick ring. And thats when he told me the Bluetail had in fact been re-identified as a female WHITE THROATED ROBIN!!!! Erm, okay. This was a whole new ball game! Wooooooow! This was a Mega. And I was stuck at work with no chance of getting away till 5.30pm. Cack. This was going to kill me. I asked Steve to keep me up to speed with any info and begrudgingly trudged back to work. After what seemed like an ETERNITY 5.30 finally came around and I ran to get my phone. But I wasnt greeted with what I wanted to see. Steve's last text was to say the bird hadnt been seen in over two hours after relocating to the Doctors Garden. Bugger. The Doctors Garden is a private garden with high walls all around it so theres no chance of peaking over it. I decided what the hell I would go down anyway just incase. In the meantime Derek Lawrence had rang me to say he was down there hanging about to see if it re-showed, along with a couple of hundred other birders!!! I think its possible I may have possibly went a tad over the legal speed limit and reached Hartlepool in around 20 minutes. I quickly met up with Derek and he told me people were getting excellent views of the bird! How? I asked him, but when I got round the corner it quickly became obvious how. I have no idea where they came from but there were loads of big ladders propped up against the garden wall with hoardes of birders scrambling up to get the view they were so desperate for. Not just that, a couple of vans had pulled up alongside the wall and people were climbing onto their roofs to see over the wall. It was an incredible scene. Incredible, ridiculous, hilarious, choose whichever word you think applies. I personally had never seen anything like it before. I have to confess I did feel quite embarassed, especially as the local residents and various media types were watching in amazement. But as embarassed as I felt it didnt stop me from climbing on top of one of the trucks to get my view of the special little bird. And what a bird it was. It may have been a female but it was still quite fantastically beautiful. It definitely rated high on the cute scale ( see Derek Charltons excellent picture above as proof). After 10 minutes of watching the bird sitting right out in the open giving superb views I gave my place up to the next person patiently waiting in the considerable queue behind me. Myself and Derek L looked at each other and grinned knowingly. We'd just had fantastic views of an exceptionally rare bird right on our doorstep. We'd had worse days.
To top things off the pair of us nipped down the road to Seaton Carew to see a stunning male Red Backed Shrike in the dunes behind the golf course. It was showing exceptionally well for the small audience that had gathered and it was a fitting end to a superb evening.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Today we were to have a boat trip that had been arranged by Dougie the week before our holiday. The idea behind the trip was to try and get as close as possible to a pair of White Tailed Eagles. The captain does this by throwing out a couple of fish knowing that this is easy feed for the Eagles. The Eagles come as close as 15 feet on a good day. To put it mildly we were a teensy weensy bit excited. But, when we got up (again to Dougies magnificent cooking) our spirits werent exactly high. It was lashing down, and had been all night. To say it didnt look promising was a slight understatement. But still we are nothing if not optimistic so slowly made our way to Ulva, birding along the way although not very successfully. At 10.00am we boarded the boat, and our enthusiastic captain reassured us that Eagles still came to the boat in the rain. Even better, they'd had an Eagle every time they'd gone out this year. This was just what we wanted to hear, so we set off with a lot more enthusiasm. The journey took about 30 minutes to the Loch where the Eagles were nesting and the only birds seen on the way were Black Guillemots and our first Common Guillemots of the week. It was still lashing down. Once in position the captain cut the engine and allowed the boat to drift as we all waited for the action to begin. And we waited. And waited. And...........well I think you get the picture. Unsurprisingly, the Eagles were a no show. The weather was so bad even the sea birds were complaining of getting wet! So we were the first trip of the year not to see any birds come to the boat. We were disappointed but to be honest thats the thing about wildlife, nothing is guaranteed. The three of us are fully aware of this and are quite philosophical about it, so we didnt stay down for very long. By the time the boat pulled into the harbour we were joking and laughing about how unlucky we were and how it could only happen to us!

Sunday, 5 June 2011


I was awoken at 5.00am to the unmistakeable smell of bacon. Dougie, being used to getting up nice and early for work, had gotten up nice and early and made breakfast for the three of us. This was something he did for the whole week - bless him. So our bellies full of bacon, sausage, egg and beans we headed out full of spirits. Even the rain didnt dampen things. Our first stop was to be the muscle beds at Loch Scridan but on our way we decided to check out a scrubby/ woody area to see what was about. On getting out of the car the first thing we heard was a Whitethroat singing close by. A little walk put us onto it singing amongst some gorse. Quite a number of common songbirds were seen including Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chiffchaffs etc and also a small number of Siskins regularly flew over us. But then we heard the familiar sound of a Raven on the crags above us. We scanned along and seen the bird, which was then joined by another. It appeared we'd found a possible nest site which was something new to us. We watched the pair coming and going and interacting with each other for about 20 minutes before heading back to the car. On the way back we heard a high pitched squeaking sound by the side of the road and when we investigated we stumbled across a Common Shrew out hunting. It barely even noticed us as it scavenged for food. We left the little critter to go about its business as we headed off ourselves. Steve had told us that the muscle beds at Loch Scridan was a pretty good area for Divers, so we set up our scopes (in the rain which is never easy) and began to scan. The first things we saw were a couple of Shags dotted about, and then we spotted a Diver though this one was a Great Northern. And then we came across a different species of Diver. On closer inspection we saw that it was a Black Throated Diver. Little did we know this was to be our only Black Throated Diver of the week. As the rain was coming down heavily we decided to pack up and move on. Our next stop was a place called Lochbuie. We were here to look for an animal that I was surprised I'd never seen before. We stopped next to a beautiful stream overlooking some open fields and quickly found our targets, a herd of Fallow Deer. These are incredibly beautiful creatures and not necessarily that scarce but I'd just never happened to come across any before so I was particularly keen to see them here. As we counted (there were 8 in total) we also noticed a couple of Red Deer tagging along with their cousins. Steve and Dougie were trying to get some photos but the Deer were just a little too far away to get anything good, so we made the decision to try to outflank the herd and creep a little closer. It looked like an extremely straightforward task, but it didnt take long to realise what we had let ourselves in for. The fields were absolutely waterlogged with the heavy downpour that the island had been subjected to and the fields were as boggy as hell. As I only had small walking shoes on I was struggling more than the other two and they seemed to find it hilarious watching me struggling to keep up with them and I ended up with saturated feet but we eventually got close enough to get some great photos. It almost made the splodge feel worthwhile. Almost.On the approach road to Loch Spelve we stopped at a little woodland to see if we could find any woodland birds. We gave ourselves plenty of time to fully explore the area but the birds were few and far between. The dubious highlights were a single Spotted Flycatcher and a Lesser Redpoll found by Steve, but the birds were fairly routine common stuff. This was our first disappointing stop of the trip but it was still early days so we were in no way downhearted. Our next bird was much more like it. While driving along the main road to Lochdon near Grasspoint one of the lads spotted a Short Eared Owl sat on an old fence post. Steve screeched to a halt (luckily there was no-one behind us!) and reversed so we were in line with the bird. It didnt bat an eyelid and sat happily posing away as Dougie and Steve snapped away with their cameras. As can be seen above some excellent pics were taken. We then went to a raptor watchpoint at Grasspoint. This is a well known White Tailed Eagle nest site, so we set our scopes up in anticipation. After a little wait, an adult bird glided in from our left and perched in a tree on the other side of the valley. Shortly afterwards it relocated to a different tree slightly further to the right, this revealing a second bird that we hadnt even realised was there! We watched the two birds for quite a while, just sitting there, doing very little before eventually getting quite bored and so we went for a walk. It was only a short walk to the coast, and on the way we picked up a couple of Sedge Warblers and one of a million Wheatears on the island. The only other thing of interest was a load of frog/toad spawn in some of the tidal pools. There was tonnes of them. I didnt realise they could survive in salt water but clearly they were thriving here. Anyway we eventually wandered back to the raptor watchpoint. The Eagles were still in exactly the same place!

Saturday, 4 June 2011


Having waited for what seemed like an eternity since we booked up, the day finally arrived for our much anticipated trip to the Isle of Mull. Up nice and early, we left Dougies house at 4.00am on the saturday morning for the long drive to Oban. In the past this would have absolutely killed me but since becoming a trainee Ringer early starts have become the norm. The drive up was pleasant and relaxing, we gave ourselves plenty of time incase of any hiccups but we neednt have worried as the drive was nice and uneventful. We arrived at Oban at just before 11.00am, giving us an hour to have a nice breakfast and to explore the harbour. It also gave some people a chance to go shopping as Dougie had forgotten his boots and Steve had forgotten to bring any toiletries!!! That done, we went searching for sea birds. Just a few minutes of scanning produced our first target bird of the trip, with two Black Guillemots bobbing on the sea. These are absolutely beautiful birds and I'd only ever seen them once before in Cumbria so it was a pleasure to see these again. In a half hour walk around the bay we saw maybe around 10 Black Guillemots on and around the sea. The only other birds seen were a few species of Gull. And so at 12.30pm we bordered the ferry and took the 45 minute sail to the island itself. We tried a bit of sea watching from the boat but to be honest there was very very little to see bar a couple of Gannets and a few more Gulls. On departing the ferry we saw the first of many (and I mean many!) Hooded Crows. The difference between these birds and our familiar Carrion Crow is startling. They are much more attractive, if you can call a Crow attractive! While driving alongside Loch Beg to one of Steve's first sites Dougie shouted for Steve to pull over as quickly as he could. He had seen an Otter! We all scanned the shoreline and sure enough there was our first Otter of the trip. Magnificent! I have seen a couple of Otters before but never as close as this one was. We slowly and quietly got out of the car as Steve and Dougie wanted to try and get a few photos but the little critter was having none of it and went under the rocks and out of view. Still, it was a superb start. Also on the Loch we saw our first Diver of the week, a gorgeous summer plumaged Great Northern Diver. We would see quite a few of these relatively scarce birds over the next few days but seeing our first one was quite a thrill. We also had our first Ravens of the trip, again these were extremely common birds on the island. We eventually dragged ourselves away as Steve had something special lined up for me. We pulled into a spot at Kilfinichen Bay and Steve got his scope out. After a few minutes he told me to have a look through his scope, and there slap bang in the middle was a female White Tailed Eagle sat on a nest. I was gobsmacked. It was my first ever W.T. Eagle and it was a majestic sight. I ran to the car to get my own scope and set it up as quickly as I could. I was onto the nest in seconds. We all watched in awe at this incredible raptor as first it preened and then it stood up, revealing 2 chicks!!! TWO CHICKS. This was better than I ever imagined. We stood there watching for a good half hour before setting off for our lodgings for the week. What a start we'd had!
We arrived at our caravan, unloaded our stuff and immediately headed straight back out. After all we had a whole week to look around the caravan area! We did however hear a pair of Cuckoos singing in the woodland opposite our caravan, always great to hear. We headed off to a place called Fidden, an area that Steve knew very well. We pulled into the side of the road at one point and Steve said it was quite a good area for Hen Harriers. We scanned for a good half hour but had no luck with any Harriers. We were just getting back into the car when Dougie said 'whats that?'. He looked through his binoculars before saying 'got one, Hen Harrier in the far field'. Myself and Steve joined him and we both spotted the bird he was watching. It was fairly distant but it was unquestionably a male Hen Harrier. These are one of my favourite birds and it is always a delight to see one. Steve had come up with the goods again. We kept watching it until it eventually glided out of view. We drove off very happy. As we drove along we spotted a couple of Whimbrel in a field. At least we thought it was a couple! On closer inspection we counted 16 Whimbrels in total. None of us had seen this many in a group, usually we're happy to get just the 1 or 2 together! Steve then took us to an area that he'd had some Mountain Hares in previous visits. I'd only ever seen 1 before so was looking forward to seeing a few more. We pulled up and immediately seen a Hare. Excellent! That was easy. We decided to get out of the car and have a slow relaxing stroll for a half hour before heading back to the caravan for the night. We were all astonished with how many Mountain Hares we ended up seeing. Incredibly we saw more than 20 of these beautiful creatures on our little amble. They were absolutely everywhere. We actually thought they were quite shy animals and would be quite difficult to find but we couldnt have been more wrong. Having filled our boots with Hares we headed back to the caravan. It had been an extremely long day but it had been a superb start to our week.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


Well I'm back from my recent travels to both the Isle of Mull and Norfolk/Suffolk. Its been an incredible couple of weeks. Exhausting and exhilarating in equal measures. I'm still waiting for Dougie & Steve to go through their pictures but I hope to do a full write up very soon. In the meantime, I went to see a superb bird tonight. I got a text message from Derek Lawrence this morning to say a drake Surf Scoter had been found off the coast at Blackhall Rocks in amongst a flock of Common Scoter. I decided that if it was still around after I finished work I'd go and have a look. So, after a quick confirmation from Foghorn I set off for Blackhall. When I arrived Andy Watts & Peter Hogg were just leaving but they assured me it was still there and gave me rough directions on where to look. They neednt have bothered as the flock of almost 150 Common Scoter were very easy to find! The Surf Scoter stood out a mile, the white on its head extremely easy to see. It almost made our Scoters look incredibly dull! Its the first time Ive seen one of these striking ducks and it was very impressive.