26th of August 2012.

The Isles of Eigg & Muck - West of Scotland.

A trip today aboard the “Shearwater” from Arisaig to the Isles of Eigg and Muck. The excursion was only five minutes away from the jetty when we were passing rocks with many common seals on basking in the sunshine. The rocks also had great numbers of Cormorants on along with Great Black Backed Gulls and Hooded Crows.

As we got out in to open water we were met with the sight of hundreds of Manx Shearwaters skimming the sea. Not to be outdone, there were many Gannets diving from upon high for fish. Razorbills were seen too, however not many. With the highest population of Manx Shearwaters burrowed at night on the Isle of Rum, it was not too much of a surprise to see so many of these fabulous birds.

The real stars of the voyage were two Minke Whales just off our starboard side, sadly the record shots all turned out to be outstanding pictures of waves!

First port of call was the Isle of Eigg where half of the passengers disembarked for their time on the island. We then carried on to the Isle of Muck to explore this small Hebridean Island.

The birds seen were Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Razorbill, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Great Black Backed Gull, Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Common Scoter, Common Tern, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Grey Heron, Hooded Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Greylag, Pied Wagtail, Swallow, House Martin, Starling and Tree Sparrow.

The Island also had great numbers of Common Seals.

There is currently a project on Muck to try and encourage Corncrakes to breed. There are special areas set aside for this and I will be following the reports in future. Between August and September the Corncrakes leave Scotland for the center or south of Africa, as I spent quite a while in these areas, I made the asumption that the birds have since flown?

24th of August 2012.

The Highlands – West of Scotland.

A round trip to Loch Ness was enjoyed with a voyage along the Loch taking in the vastness of the great Glen. The weather was truly dreadful with rain on and off all day. The only birds seen where two Mallards, one a hybrid, a few Herring Gulls and finally as the Jacobite catamaran was docking at the end of our cruise an Osprey was seen flying along the Loch. I would have missed this, as it was my better half that spotted it and asked, ”what’s that, it looks like an Osprey” The Osprey was flying high for a while, it then dropped low and flew just a foot or so above the water and then disappeared from view. Throughout the day we both kept our eye on the Loch for sightings of the “Beastie” sadly no sign of the Loch Ness monster nor a record shot for my blog!

22nd of August 2012.

The Highlands  - West of Scotland.

Species seen 37.

Having travelled to Scotland on Friday, we made our first camp at the Luss Campsite on the shores of Loch Lomond. The rain continued to pour all night and in the morning it stopped, giving atmospheric views of the Loch. The forests surrounding the whole area looked as though there was steam rising from the trees!

On route to our second base camp at Arisaig in the West of Scotland, we stopped at Glen Coe to admire the views within this awesome Glen with its high peaks and beautiful waterfalls. It was then onwards towards Fort William, passing Ben Nevis and taking the road to the Isles towards Mallaig.

Once settled at our superb campsite at Sunny Croft, it was time to explore and of course see what birds were around? Nothing too much out of the ordinary with the following seen. Curlew, Dipper, Grey Heron, Hooded Crow, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Chaffinch, Canada Geese, Greylag, Mallard, Coot, Cormorant, Kittiwake, Herring, Black Headed, Great Blacked Backed, Common and Lesser Black Backed Gull, Common Tern, Starling, Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch and House Sparrow. Also seen were Gannets flying high above the sea and then diving at great speed to catch fish. A single Common Seal was viewed sunning itself on rocks not more than a hundred metres from shore.

The Isles of Eigg, Rum and Skye have certainly provided magnificent sun sets from our campsite.

Lastly, with the International Space Station passing over this weekend for the last time until October we’ve also had superb views on consecutive nights of it in the night sky, so much better without any light pollution!  

5th of August 2012.

WWT – Brandon Marsh.

Species seen 27.

Sunday afternoon was warm and sunny, however as I drove nearer to Brandon Marsh through the back roads the sky was turning a very dark blue. Arriving in the car park, a flash of lightening followed by thunder made me think, maybe I’ll leave and do something else to occupy my Sunday afternoon. I met with two birding friends and we chatted in the courtyard of the visitors centre as the rain soon began to fall. Within a few minutes the rain was almost like a monsoon, this lasted for over half an hour!

Once the rain eased off we all took a stroll to East Marsh hide, hoping to see the six Black Tailed Godwits that were posted on the "The unoffical Guide to Brandon Marsh" website. Sadly these were nowhere to be seen.

Once the sun had come back out, I made my way to the screen hide. This turned out to be perfect timing as a Hobby was perched not too far from it. The bird gave two birders and myself superb close views of it as it flew around the Newlands area collecting insects. It also shared the area with a Kestrel that was also hunting. At some point they were taking it in turns of perching on the many posts within the area.

This year’s Swifts are still flying over the reserve; however it won’t be long before they are gone for another year! On the way back to the car park I lost count of the many Swallows I saw. What looked to be a damp uneventful afternoon, turned out to be a most enjoyable one with the highlight being the close views of the Hobby?

1st of August 2012.

WWT - Brandon Marsh.

Species seen 25.

My evening visit was spent with a few regular Brandon Birders in the Carlton hide following quick stops at the other hides.

A Hobby showed well, as well as Kingfisher, Buzzard and Kestrel. East Marsh pool had the usual birds with nothing uncommon on view. Teal pool had nine young Grey Herons and three Green Sandpipers.

As the summer evenings begin to draw in, the darkness was soon upon us. By nine o’clock, we were all ready to pack up and go home! Staying another ten minutes proved to be the right decision, as we were all treated to a fabulous sight of four Otters at the back of the pool. The female was keeping an eye on her three cubs as they played, splashed and gambolled in the water for a good three minutes. They disappeared briefly and then reappeared even nearer on the right hand side of the pool, again the views lasted a good three minutes, but then, they were all gone!

By this time it was almost dark and the trek back through the reserve to the car park was done with everyone on a high and each of us recounting our joy at seeing these beautiful wild mammals.

I did manage a very poor record shot as the there was almost zero light, but at least it’s something to remember this unforgettable night?