Saturday, 11 June 2016

Ardnamurchan photo-dump part 4 - Sanna and Ardnamurchan Point

Sanna Bay lies on the north-west shore of the peninsula and Arnamurchan Point pokes out on the west coast. Sanna is achingly picturesque - the point a bit less so but it's a fine spot for sea-watching. The weather (including not much wind) meant not much was coming close inshore though.

Seawatching from the lighthouse yielded lots of Manx Shearwaters beyond camera range, It was while watching a flock of these through the scope as they banked and turned and dropping into the sea that I saw the grey back of a Minke Whale briefly break surface - my first whale-from-land.

 You can climb down the rocks here and get pretty near the sea. Here's a Whimbrel sitting at the sea edge.

And a fly-by Raven. Both these pics were taken on our first morning, when we had a few hours of grey skies.

On our second visit to the lighthouse the skies were glorious blue - a nice backdrop to these mountaineering Red Deer.

And now Sanna. It was in the car park here that we met (for the first time out of three) local wildlife photographer Hamza Yassin, who gave us lots of top tips for where to go to see various stuff. Oh, and we met this environmentally aware female Wheatear as well.

In the bay itself - a Great Northern Diver - one of several seen, in full stunning breeding plumage, over the week.

The beach here is a) glorious and b) good for waders. We found Sanderlings and Dunlins, lots of Oystercatchers, and many Ringed Plovers. I like the contrast between these two - one camouflaged and the other not-so-camouflaged.

A walk over the heathery duney bits behind the beach produced these orchids, which I haven't got round to identifying.

Also some of these brilliant little beasts - Green Tiger Beetle.

Sanna, even on the sunny day of our second visit there, was quiet - the archetypal undisturbed beautiful Scottish beach. There were a few others there though. We saw a pair of snorkelers and a pair of canoeists enjoying the water, and this artist having a bit of a paint.

And finally a couple of little ones at Sanna - Skylark, and Meadow Pipit against the unfeasibly blue sea.

Ardnamurchan photo-dump part 3 - the mainland

Next post from our mid-May week in Ardnamurchan. I must say (because I've forgotten to do so til now) how AMAZING the weather was. Warm sunshine every day, except for our very first morning which as a little bit grey and drizzly, but had become glorious by lunchtime. I've never known Scotland to do that before. It made things much more inviting, photo-wise. And I'm not sure I've ever eaten as much ice-cream north of the border.

First off, things seen around Kilchoan. We went for walks near the bothy where we stayed (here - recommended!) every day. Some of the locals.

Robin right outside our door. There were also Great Tits and Pied Wagtails nesting in the various buildings on the (small, lovely) campsite.

Twites were numerous in the fields lining the little road into the village. Lovely to see lots of them at close range.

On our first morning, this fabulous beast flew overhead as we walked into Kilchoan. One of two White-tailed Eagles we saw on the mainland during our week.

Sedge Warblers are very common round here. This one was on the way to the ferry port. We saw him several times. Also in this area were singing Grasshopper Warblers but we couldn't see them.

Ahhh. Fledgling House Sparow and her mum, again on the way to the port.

And in the same area, all on his own for some reason, this Red Deer stag. We did see many more Reds up on the hills. Oh, on the subject of mammals, Nick saw an Otter on the beach near Kilchoan but I missed it - did get a distant one on Mull though.

A bit of landscape - taken from the beach at Kilchoan.

A pukka British Bluebell, one of lots lining the road.

More of our neighbours. From the top - Common Buzzard, Common Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Sand Martin, Swallow.

 And a little further out of the village - a lovely male Whinchat. We saw a number of Stonechats too but I didn't get any pics.

The day after our Mull trip, we drove east a bit to visit Glenborrodale, the RSPB reserve that climbs through woodland out onto the moors (a bit) then back again.

We'd hoped for a Wood Warbler here and we found one. Also Tree Pipit, and a ton of Willow Warblers.

AND a couple of butterflies - Green Hairstreak and an oblita Speckled Wood. There were many Latticed Heath moths around too.

It was while I was trying to photograph one of these lepidopterans that Nick quietly pointed out a Tawny Owl perched in a tree right in front of us. This photo is pretty much uncropped. WOW.

The Tawny didn't much like us staring at it and flopped away to a slightly more distant tree, where it was actually a little easier to photograph.

We went for a cup of tea after that at the nearby Ardnamurchan Natural History Visitor Centre, and were entertained by these two. The female was clearly mad for it - every time the male dismounted she'd yell and yell until he came back and did it again.

I was going to talk about Sanna Bay and Ardnamurchan Point here too but this post is already pretty long so I shall do a fourth one in a minute

Friday, 10 June 2016

Ardnamurchan photo-dump part 2 - a day on Mull

On our third day, we took the ferry over to Tobermory where we met up with Phil (his fab blog here) and Carol, who by happy chance were on holiday on Mull for the week. They very kindly drove us about all day and showed us some great places and wonderful wildlife. Sadly I didn't make notes on what was where so this is going to be a bit (OK, very) sketchy details-wise.

First off, though, the wonderful sight of several Harbour Porpoises from the ferry.

We headed inland from Tobermory, pausing at a small lake to look for Hen Harriers but finding something much rarer (in a Mull context) - a Jay! Then it was on to a stunning sea-loch inlet at Dervaig.

Here we found waders including these Common Sandpipers, also Shelducks and plenty of Common Gulls.

One of said Common Gulls, looking very lovely in its fresh breeding plumage.

We drove a long way cross-country then, heading for... I'm not sure which sea-loch, but it was a spot for eagles and it was a long way off. On the way I spotted a Cuckoo on a fencepost right at the roadside and, happily, we were able to reverse back to it.

It wasn't too impressed by that but stayed put just long enough for a few photos. My best shots ever of a Cuckoo, and he was a gorgeous-looking bird indeed.

We arrived at the eagle spot and waited a while, scanning the skies. Then I wandered off to photograph Hooded Crows in the field behind the road.

Then the others called over to advise me that I was missing a Golden Eagle. This adult or nearly-adult glided overhead, looking lovely if a bit far up for nice shots.

We drove on a bit, and stopped further along for another scan, this time finding a superb adult White-tailed Eagle.

We called in at Phil and Carol's holiday cottage - an idyllic spot by a wooded river. Sadly the resident Dippers were hiding but this Grey Heron looked lovely in the sunshine.

The cottage is close to Loch Baa, and we went for a walk along the loch's shores, adding Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander along the way.

The loch also produced an odonate for us - this female Large Red Damselfly.

It was nearly time to head back for our ferry. We paused on the way at a Short-eared Owl spot but the owls were not playing ball. Then it was back to Tobermory for a bit of food shopping (the nearest supermarket to Kilchoan is here!) and we bade Phil and Carol a fond farewell and boarded the last boat back.

Ardnamurchan photo-dump - part 1 (Treshnish Isles and Staffa)

OK, it's time to blog about our mid-May week in Ardnamurchan - first off, our day out with Staffa Tours to the Treshnish Isles and Staffa.

We walked down to the port at Kilchoan, and while waiting for the boat enjoyed watching Meadow Pipits, Rock Doves and whatnot.

Then I spotted an apparently dead Sea Slater on the harbour wall. I was just lining up a photo when it jumped to its many feet and scuttled across the wall, back towards the sea.

The boat showed up soon afterwards, already busy with passengers (it starts at Mull). We boarded, took our places on the top viewing deck, and chugged off alongside the Ardnamurchan peninsula, soon saying goodbye to the Herring Gulls and hello to the Kittiwakes.

The seawatch from the boat wasn't all that exciting - a few auks, a few Gannets, one or two Manx Shearwaters that shot by without letting me photograph them. As we neared our first stop, Lunga in the Treshnish islands, we started meeting Puffins.

Lunga is a small, steep-sided grassy island, with no human inhabitants but lots of seabirds, most notably a shedload of Puffins. These were what most folk had come to see - many for the first time and there was much excitement on board.

The boat crew grabbed a floating pontoon and we towed it to the rocky beach. Getting across that was a trial (VERY uneven and slippery). Then there was a very, very steep loose-gravel path up to the high grassy bits. Once we got up that, we were in Puffin City.

The cliff edge was full of burrows and the burrows were full of Puffins. This shows how close you can get... Although shots of flying birds were much more difficult to get than on the Farnes, the scenery made for more pleasant backdrops.

A bit of green and a bit of blue, and a mellow-looking posing Puffin.

This one's doing its best 'cuddle me?' face and having a flap.

I've never seen Puffin courtship before. Pairs walked towards each other in an exaggeratedly slow, high-stepping gait with heads bowed, before tenderly bumping bills.

A slightly less adorable side of Puffin-ness - this one has spotted the remains of a Rabbit...

... and decided to have a bit of a chew. Maybe it was after nesting material. I did see others carrying pebbles and bits of grass around.

My best try of a flying Puffin. They would appear just at the cliff edge and immediately land - none were going overhead (they didn't need to).

An alive-and-kicking Rabbit, thinking I can't see it. Rabbits and Puffins compete for underground real estate here. I discovered afterwards that Lunga has a fair few black Rabbits and I wished I'd tried to find one.

Fulmars were skimming along the cliffs. Down below, rafts of Guillemots and Razorbills sat on the water, and a big bad Bonxie flapped slowly by.

A Lunga Wren showing off what his lungs can do. There were also Rock and Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails on the island.

We stayed a couple of hours, then it was back across the Beach of Doom and back onto the boat. We chugged out of the Treshnish zone (having a Shag on the way, as it were), and out into open sea towards Staffa.

Somewhere between Lunga and Staffa, we were joined by a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins - a UK tick for me! They quickly surrounded us, making photography very hard indeed with my long lens, but I managed a few shots.

This one was pure fluke - it just popped up in my viewfinder as I was flailing about trying to follow a different one.

At Staffa, we lingered in front of Fingal's Cave - stunning, a deep elliptical aperture in the rock with its surround of hexagonal pillars. I didn't change lenses though, because I spotted this Purple Sandpiper making its way along the rocks in front of the cave. None of the photos I can find online of the cave do it justice, so chances are I wouldn't have, either. Here's a shot of it from a Staffa Tours boat, anyway.

Staffa itself, a larger island with a grassy top and undulating profile, didn't have a lot of wildlife - a few Shags and Fulmars on the cliffs... but we passed a pleasant hour yomping across it.

Then it was back on the boat and back to Kilchoan, adding a fourth auk (Black Guillemot) on the way.