Sunday, 19 February 2012

From one end of Scotland to the other...

Friday 10th Feb and I headed out to the west coast with Andy Mcgreevy. As I was on my way to pick him up I was driving through Kingstown and looking over to Mcdonalds car park I seen a suspicious gull which could of been something so I thought I will call in on the way back. I picked Greevy up and we headed in to Mcdonalds car park to have a quick look. While scanning with the binos the local litter picker came over and asked me what I was looking for and I told him I was checking the gulls, he said there a pest and I replied there here taking advantage of our messy habits with urban areas covered with litter and food. He then perked up thinking I was having ago at his job and I thought he was going to prod me with his litter picker! anyway no suspicious Gulls about so we headed off to the coast.
We did the round route at Skinburness to Grune point and round to the other side. A retreating high tide produced the usual waders, wildfowl and geese. The sea was flat calm, the type of state you would be licking your lips with when on a whale watch on Mull.
On the evening it was quiz night at Brampton golf club and Andy rightly called our team 'Suspicious Gulls'.

Saturday 11th Feb and game of Golf at Brampton produced a Peregrine flyby on the 10th tee and 2 WF Geese on 13 heading towards Talkin Tarn.While playing I was thinking of my golf course sightings over the years and a few of the highlights are - Waxwing flying over 1st tee, Buzzard nesting next to the 3rd green watching them bring in prey making me 3 put!, Stoat preying on a rabbit on 1st green with us watching in the clubhouse. My overall highlight on another golf course was defiantly on Lochranza golf course on the isle of Arran seeing my first Golden Eagle at age 14 and on the same hole I seen the bird I pitched in to get an eagle!...no joke ask James Stobart.

Sunday and I headed over to the Scots side with Dad. First port of call was Threave. We headed to the Lamb island hide but there was no sign of the reported Blue-winged Teal with two Snipe seen and a few Goosander. We were on the clock so headed on to the next site of Loch Ken. We got a few Red Kites en route and when we arrived at the loch we got Greenland WF Geese and another Red Kite at the back of the loch. We decided to head to the coast working our way back from Rockcliffe, Mereshead and finishing at Southerness. Thick fog was settled by the coast and visibility was very poor. We had a good wader count through out the day with Grey Plover, BT Godwit, Golden Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Curlew.

click on photos for enlargement...


A beautiful bird of prey...

2 Red Kites opposite the Castle Douglas feeding station...

Monday 13th with lovely sunshine forecast me and Andy Mc headed to Balcary for the day. An early start and after the hour plus journey to get there we arrived at 10ish ready to cover a good stretch of the coastline to see how much wildlife we could get. As we made our way round to the stunning steep coastal cliffs we got a few Auks sat on the water with Guilimots, Razorbills and 2 pairs of Black Guilimot. Half a douzen Fulmars were seen patrolling the cliffs and taking up early breeding sites. As we made our way further round Andy spotted a female Peregrine sat beautifully on a ledge showing like a gargoyle on a church building (but way better looking). it soon took off and we enjoyed another couple of views of the bird in the next hour as we sat and watched with Rock Doves cruising by us sounding like harrier jets!

Fulmar at balcary getting first dibs on nest sites...


Guilimot collony building at Balcary...

We arrived round at Rascarral bay where there was a large squabble of Gulls consisting of Black-Headed, Common and a few lesser Black-backed. 4 RB Mergansers were in the bay also. A supposed bird hide was in the area but all we found was an old shack looking out to sea which I suppose could do a job.  


"do you think this is a good place to raise chicks?
or what about higher up??"

This is for jimbo and Ruth..."this site is taken come back next season!"

Me scanning the cliff face...


always a pleasure...

Balcary estate cliff walk in all its glory...

The weather was stunning sunshine all day and it was a joy to be at a location like this. We headed back on our selves deciding not to do the round route as the coastal walk is so good on a day like this. We enjoyed the Donkeys company before heading back to the steep cliffs to try and see the Peregrine again. we waited for a good half hour continuing to enjoy watching the Fulmars in action and the Guilimots flying to their ledge in unorthodox fashion. No Peregrine action but we did get 2 Porpoise close to shore and a low flying male Sparrowhawk near the hotel on the way out! Headed to Southerness for evening sunset...great day.

lokoing back at Balcary point and heading towards Rascarrel bay...

beautiful Donkys patrol the grassland...

Yorkie will like these...
Rascarrel bay...

Porpoise! seen two today, hopefully will see many more on Mull this season...

Southerness point sunset after day at Balcary...
Gdale sunset while out looking for Long Eared Owls...

A few days up in Aberdeen on the 15th to see family. A couple of trains journeys and a bus to arrive at West Hill just west of Aberdeen. Im not the biggest fan of public transport it does my sweed in to be honest. Upto 30 Common Seals seen on the coast just north of Dundee and a few fit girls on the train was only positives from trip. Read Steve Backshalls book for most of trip about his adventures in Papua New Guinea. On the evening I was aware of Aurora activity to the north in Shetland but as I was in an urban area with no transport I didnt make the effort. Internet reports in the morning showing aurora photos taken in Aberdeenshire evening before. Gaad so annoying!



Aberdeen harbour and beach...

Crathes castle, Aberdeenshire

On the 16th Me, Tom, mum and Auntie Iona headed to Aberdeen harbour to look for Bottlenose Dolphins which are reported daily in the area. We looked out for a good hour including from the cafe window but no Dolphin splash to be seen. I did get a female Long-Tailed Duck with 3 RB Mergansers in the bay which was nice. While we were in the cafe A fat lass sitting on an outside table kept shooing off a lovely Starling that was stood like 10 feet from her while she was grazing. I was annoyed because I was enjoying watching the Starling and I didn't tell her to move because she was blocking my light.


Amazing introduced Giant Sequola from California in the castle grounds planted in 1860

Crathys castle looking through gates...

The next day in Aberdeen we headed to the cost again this time further north starting at the lovely sea side village of Colliston. Humpback Whales had reported from this area for the last few weeks so obviously that was the main focus of the trip. The sea state was a bit choppy which made for tricky spotting. 20 odd Eiders in the bay and a couple of Guilimots. I could of done a 12 hour shift scanning the sea for Humpbacks but we had to move on and cover other areas, plus it would be unfair to make Nan sit in the car for that long! we moved onto Sands of Forvie briefly which is an excellent SNH reserve. Pub lunch at Newburgh with mum, tom and nanny. Tom found it funny that I said magic and smashing to the waitress like John says and I told him its Miles family tradition to use those words so told him I would give him a tenner if he said magic and smashing the next time the waitress came. He did it as well, very impressed, he is not getting his tenner though! 
we finished the day at Belmedie beach which is a huge amazing stretch of sand to the north of Aberdeen. still rough out to sea but 20 plus RT Divers in a close area. While I was watching the Divers in the binos...Dolphin! a Bottlenose broke the surface with another on near by. 


up Scolty Hill looking over Banchory...
Drake eider in Colliston harbour

Collsiton, a lovely sea side village...

Higher up looking down on Colliston...

what a view...

Me and mum on Balmedy beach, amazing stretch...

Heading south back to Carlisle on the 18th. A few Ravens on a run down site near Luchars being the big highlight. When we changed trains at Edinburgh I had to pay 30p to spend a penny! WTF!!! Get me back in the wilderness where I can piss where I want! Arrived back at Carlisle Station greeted by legend John Miles with a big smile on his face and his first words were...Neil Warnock! who had just been appointed new manged of Leeds United. Coming out of the station you realise what a great city Carlisle is with the lovely historical building and laid back environment compared to the hustle and bustle of the major cities. 



 Put this time lapse together while up Geltsdale valley on the 19th searching for the Aurora with no joy. Amazing night sky action with Comet Garradd showing just above the consolation of Hurcules. Jupitar, Mars, Venus with Saturn appearing later on, 3 impressive shooting stars along with male and female Tawny Owl calling...Great night!

On the 22nd Feb one of the greatest conservationists Steve Irwin would of celebrated his 50th birthday....Thanks for changing the world Stevo


Thanks for Looking :)



Monday, 13 February 2012

Its all Go...sightings and captures from the last 7 days

Click on images for enlargement...

Male Stonechat up snowy Gdale, a few pairs have been
 seen throughout the winter...
Panoramic of The Greens, high up Gdale...

Amazing rolling fog working its way up the valley...

on the beaten track up to the cairns looking
 back at thick fog...

what a stunner! Ermine Stoat on gdale, what a treat.
It froze on the wall as the oblivious dogs trotted
 past and then disappeared in to the stone work...

Low fog covering bare Ash tree up at the Greens...

You can shoot this bird (with a camera) hundreds of times and
still get a lot of joy out of this beautiful uplands species...

Doe Roe Deer in among the Birch.....Can you spot her??

Panoramic of Thirlmere....Our national park looking stunning in
 winter conditions...


Drake Goldeneye displaying on Bassenthwaite Lake.....Reel in that sheila lado!

Swaledales up Latrick, I wanted an agricultural photo for my mate
 Laurie Brunskill...

Drake Smew on Talkin Tarn on the 11th Feb! A stunning bird...

Red Squirrel up in the canopy at Talkin Tarn on the 11th Feb...

Turnstone at siloth...

Name the prints to finish things off??  No prizes though!

A must watch...Click the Link...Barn Owl and Cat Video...Best friends....One of the greatest things I have ever seen...Beautiful

Thanks for looking, Just to say Happy Bday to Ruth Molley on the 14th! she is a fan of the blog and I hope she has a great day :-)

Monday, 6 February 2012

Scots Side Solway and Snowy National Park...

On Saturday 28th I decided to head over the border and cover a few well known birding sites on the Scots Solway. Decided to head to the furthest a field site first and work back from there so Rockcliffe was the first port of call. On the A710 road I got a Red Fox crossing the road which was a great start! 

I arrived at Rockcliffe and used the public car park before heading up the National Trust coastal path that took me to Castle Point and the impressive coastal cliffs. When I arrived at castle point I stopped and scanned for a good half hour in fantastic calm conditions and flat sea state. A brief view of a female peregrine flying behind some gorse continued the great start. Seeing a Peregrine makes most birding days complete for me! 2 Ravens followed and upto 50 RT Divers counted out in the bay and a single GN Diver. Large rafts of Common Scoter and Goldeneye were seen further out and a few GC Grebes and Mergansers thrown in. 

Barnacle Geese at RSPBs Mersehead reserve in D & G...

Male Yellowhammer at Mersehead....

I moved onto Mersehead RSPB reserve which I had visited once in the past with dad. Nice views of Barnies, Pintail and a single Pink-Foot. Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting in the hedgerows and plenty of Teal and Wigeon on the wetlands. Had a little walk to the shore and the exposed beach on low tide. very impressed with the whole set up, excellent.


I spent the evening session at Southerness where I managed Purple Sandpiper, 5 Porpoise including a juvenile, Turnstone, Dunlin, GC Grebe. I waited for the sunset and met Sandy there doing the same. He is an excellent local photographer and I would recommend having a look at his Flickr page. The low cloud dampened the sunset a bit but still nice colours and cloud formation. 

Southerness sunset...
Gdale with the dogs, sunny afternoon...










Up Carrock Fell with Andy Mcgreevy leading the way...
On Sunday 29th myself Greevy and Danny decided on a hill climb in the afternoon after the usual game of Sunday league football. we picked Carrock Fell in the northern lakes as it was not too far to drive. A nice bit of snow higher up. A few Ravens were seen during the walk and I was scanning hard for Snowbuntings but no joy. Danny was being a jessie and resting every 2 min as we made the climb as he was twining about having sore legs from football! He was fricking goal keeper and he hardest thing he did was pick the ball out of the net 6 times! As me and Greevy played full games on the wing! man up danny the fanny! The light dropped on the way down and chief guide greevy sent us the wrong way and we ended up having to clamber through a few farmers fields to get us back on track. 

Red Squirrel in Dodd wood...

A sunny afternoon in the lakes was in order on Wed 1st Feb. As there is no fell walking video game available to buy right now Tommy Milo my brother came along for the walk and we had a great trek up Dodd summit. We got 3 ravens and 2 Red Squirrels which added to a lovely walk. Fish and Chips afterwards from the Keswickian which I was very disappointed with, it has been good in the past but I asked for large and got a really small portion. The chips were ok but a slimy moist fish slapped on top was not very impressive. I recommend the Kingfisher chip shop just down the street, better name as well!

Snowy Skiddaw summit...

Dodd summit with impressive clear views...

dodd Summit with Tom looking south over Bass lake...

Raven in flight....love this bird!

On the way down...No sign of Peregrine today but I will keep looking...



On the 3rd I headed to Bass lake to cover all the wildlife in the superb surrounding area. Nice sunshine and snow on the higher ground would make for great photo opportunities as well. Whilst driving down I was cursing to myself as I forgot my DSLR camera to use for night shots after dark and just had my compact for landscapes and digiscoping. When I got down there I got out my bag to get the camera and take a landscape shot but after ratching for a while I realized I had left it on charge in the kitchen!! So I managed to forget both cameras!....what a pillock! 

Had a great few hours sat by Bass lake covering the lake along with Powter How wood and the surrounding  higher ground looking for Ravens and raptors. I managed female Scaup, 2-3 Otters, 6 Pintail, 3 GC Grebes, 50 plus Goldeneye, 25 Tufted Duck, 2 Ravens, 3 Little Grebes, 20 odd Wigeon, 8 Teal, 50 plus Cormoronts (need WT Eagle in to control them!) and 4 Goosander. When I got back home I listened out for Long eared Owls for a good half hour but no joy yet, they will be back! 

Thanks for looking :-)

Looking from Latrick with Keswick and Derwent water on the left...