Monday, 19 December 2011

A rapture of raptors (and a few bitterns)

Another busy day at Leighton Moss, with many raptors (encouraged, no doubt by the tens of thousands of starlings arriving each evening), a number of bittern sightings, and a surprise visit from a water vole.

As soon as we got to the Lower Hide, we were told there were a pair of peregrine falcons resting on a faraway tree, and it didn't take long for one of them to fly off and past us at high speeds. It in turn scared a sparrowhawk from it's perch, so it did a swift turn around the marsh and then flew into the distance. Next came a bittern, followed by the marsh harrier who'd spent the previous Monday hassling an otter.

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching bitterns appear suddenly, fly a short way and then disappear into the reeds again, all while the marsh harrier flew around causing panic attacks in coots.

A final treat was seeing the head of a water vole peep out of a little hole, look at me, and then pop back in. First time I've ever seen one of these endangered, elusive creatures.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Stunning starlings

Leighton Moss did not disappoint us with a spectacular murmuration seen from Causeway (the starlings flew directly over our heads- incredible sound of wings and they just kept on coming- hundreds of thousands)
Also not one but two bittern! The marsh harriers are still around and we saw a few sparrowhawk (one later on trying his luck with the murmuration)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Short eared owls like London buses

Ever since I was little and my dad sat me on his knee and flicked through his bird book- I have wanted to see a short eared owl. Both Pants and I have been hankering for a short eared owl all this Autumn. Up in Mull we knew there was a possibility of seeing them but nada. A shorty has been spotted at Leighton Moss but for us..nowt!
Decided to head to Wirral to see the family on Sunday afternoon and spend day off on Monday with the gang. We nipped by Burton Marshes on way and lo and behold .. being mobbed by a corvid.. SHORTY!! We ended up watching him for over an hour and realised there were at least two down there. Then took bro up there yesterday afternoon and they were everywhere.
Wonderful wonderful birds. Stunning views of them quartering, then plunging into the reeds. We even got one landing so close to my brother he had to hold his breath to avoid disturbing it.
So you wait a lifetime and they all come at once.
We even saw a male hen harier down at the marsh there in Burton- though only through bins.. too far to shoot (with camera)
Lighting was appalling so excuse the low quality of the pictures..

Friday, 18 November 2011

Murmuration Murmurings

Went to Leighton Moss on Mon 15th. We got some good Marsh Harrier action with two still around and one being attacked by,...well juries out.. could have been a hen harrier and in some pics it seems likely though sooo much smaller looking.

Anyway saw the murmuration which was spectacular - though weather was dark and overcast and we were on the road so the view was overshadowed by darkening hills in background.

Here for your delight our photos (we pray they will improve as a) starling flocks increase in size and b) we get into position and have good light.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Face to face with Fallow and Red Deer on Mull

There's a lot of deer on Mull, though you have to adjust your vision to see them sometimes when they are on a hillside. There are certainly many more red deer than fallow, but we were lucky enough to bump into both, almost literally. Start out early enough in the morning and you could well come face to face with them as they spend the hours before light eating the greener shoots closer to sea level. We had many sightings first thing in the morning, and came very close to having a beast of a stag on our laps as he crossed the road as we sped (if 30mph is speeding) beyond Craigoch.

Anyway, here's a few of the closer calls.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Final snaps of the final day on Mull

Final day on Isle of Mull- and 5 more otters

So if you haven;t just stumbled upon this one blog entry and have read the previous few then you will understand that we part time, extremely enthusiastic otter spotters are now wondering just where luck ends and something like experience or dare we say it skill or even more dare we say it divine intervention counts. We came with 12 otter spots under the proverbial belt. We now had another 6 in the bag and it is our last day on Isle of Mull.
Wandered down to Fidden Farm area (where we had intended to camp before we saw how horrendous the forecast was) Again we found spraints and spraiting points (and were delighted by this in itself)
On way back we bethought us to stop once more at the fruitful Loch Scridon and then head back to Loch Buie (site of our first sighting of a single otter hunting but also of 2 eagles and thinking it much more liely we would see the eagles again than any chance of a final farewell otter)
Arrived at Scridon and parked up for a walk. Simom noticed that the "island" that we'd seen two otters eat on was now walkable to and proceeded to slip and slide across seaweed strewn rocks towards that point..
I snapped a buzzard swooping right across my line of vision and a couple of herons for want of getting something on the memory card at least on our last day.
Herons make a hell of a racket when screeching off but there was another sound I sort of became aware of which forced my bins to eyes. A scan of the sea and the seaweed shoreline promptly stopped me in my tracks! My final prayers had asked to see a snuggle of otters curled asleep on some seaweed and lo and behold there in the circular vision of the bins was such a brown furry snuggle. I called a loudly, quietly as possible to Pants (Simon) and began snapping furiously as the snuggle unsnuggled and began to tussle, chase each otjer around in a circle and snap and screech at eavh other. I watched alternatively through bins and camera lens as mother (I assumed) left and slithered in to sea (not to be spotted again) The remaining group slithered and cuddled and dispersed so fast. We followed some for a bit not really understanding how may there had been and where they all went. After a bit we lost them all.
Then one reemerged and we had a final sight of it emerging onto a rocky seaweed island and sliding off that again before disappearing.
On looking at the snaps we realised we had seen 4 otters initially. AWESOME!! TEN OTTER HOLIDAY FOLKS!!

NOT THE END>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
We scurried back to see a last sight of golden eagles and as we were bumping through the pot holes beside Loch Buie Simon said "Funny people go slow looking from their cars for otters but you never really see them from the car!" I replied "Well you saw our first this holiday from the car on this very Loch!" He responded.. "Yeah but that was a one off.... OTTER>>>>" I stalled!!

Parked the car in pouring rain and tried to cover my camera at the same time as scrambling over the rocks towards the place I' dropped Simon off without slipping into a rock pool and trying to spot the otter he'd seen.

Once again we had a good hour an half watching a single otter hunting. "he" came close to the rocky shore eating whilst swimming when the prey was small enough and swimming ashore when he needed to concentrate a little more on the chewing action (as the pictures show)

So we left Mull with 23 otters in the bag. Not the closest and best situation for photography but incredible experiences watching behaviour. Singles hunting and eating, sprainting, playing, young with adults! A truly awesome otter spotting experience.

A moment of gratitude is due.... to the great thing, power or energy that some may call god.
:-) :-) :-)