Tuesday 19 June 2018

A Pair of Ospreys

None of your trout farm specials here, wild birds behaving naturally. I have known of this Osprey site for some years, thanks to Dawn and Jim, and I try to make one visit each time we go to Scotland, normally in June. I have held off publishing these photos to minimise disturbance to the birds and I don't post pictures of nesting birds in the breeding season. That said, on this occasion there were members of the public between my camera and the nest.! This 13 year old female wasn't bothered in the least, she has been on this site for at least ten years and as far as I know has successfully raised offspring every year.  I have heard her alarm calls only once - when a guy on a bright orange paddleboard, wearing a bright orange wetsuit and carrying a bright orange camera got too close - no wonder she was perturbed. 

We visited the last week in June and it was at the height of the heatwave in Scotland, the gritters were out - the main road through the village had melted and they were applying sand to the road surface. When we arrived only the female was in attendance and the sun was beating down, you could see her panting and "parasolling" to shade the chicks. The male had visited the nest with a pike about forty five minutes previous and was expected back any time. However, two hours later there was still no sign of him, I settled down under the shade of a tree, camera pointed at the nest and waited. 


.... shading the young.

Finally a sighting, he was returning with another pike and thankfully, he circled the nest several times giving some perfect views.

However, there was a major problem, he had been followed back to the nest by a larger male and that was complicating matters. Now our resident male is a fairly new partner and I have to say that he isn't a large bird by any means. He did seem to have some experience though as, having touched down on the nest, he appeared to realise that the intruder was a threat so departed.

Unfortunately the female also left the nest and for a brief time the chicks were unguarded, luckily both parents returned but the male departed again, not letting go of his pike and escorted the larger male off the premises.

Straight over my head

The male sat in a nearby tree, reluctant to visit the nest whilst the intruder was about. Lots of cloaking the prey and looking up at the threat accompanied by loud calling

In the mayhem I managed to capture what I think was the male that was causing the problem, I didn't think it was carrying any rings and was identified by having one feather missing.

A larger bird.
After what seemed an interminable wait our bird returned once again, sat in a nearby tree and proceeded to eat the pike's head. Finally the family were fed and when we departed calm and serenity had returned to the locality.


Saturday 16 June 2018

A Caravan of Stoats

Back in June, when we were on our annual Scottish Holiday at Lochan Lodge, we were sweltering in temperatures of 30 degrees and photographic subjects were keeping to the shade. However, Lochan Lodge has more than its fair share of rabbits and this year was no exception, with plenty of small bunnies about and of course this supports a number of stoats. Most years we see one and I was pleased when Liz spotted one emerging from the long grass. I grabbed the camera, took a couple of records, then with my best fieldcraft tried to get closer. Sure enough an inquisitive young stoat sat and watched me from a long way off. What happened next was a bit of a shock, a whole family or "caravan" emerged. The adults stood and watched as five kits ran riot round the lawn, climbed and fell out of trees and generally caused mayhem. 

Caravans don't tend to stay in the same place for long but they were still there the next morning and I managed to get closer, half camouflaged by a piece of scrim. It didn't fool the stoats, they knew I was there but were intrigued by the clicking of the camera shutter. After twenty minutes they got bored of watching me and wandered off into the undergrowth - no doubt they were intent on terrorising the rabbit population once again. Later on I set up the hide but the Law of Sod kicked in and we never saw them again.

A stoat!

More stoats!

Seven - a "caravan"

Friday 15 June 2018

Farne Islands - again!

My seven readers will be saying "Not again!". Another visit to the Farne Islands and yet again a day when the sun failed to shine. The previous day had been bright sunshine, albeit Storm Harold was lashing the sea at around force ten on the Beaufort Scale. Today was much calmer and, in the end, we were lucky to get out of harbour.

Photographing black and white birds in poor light always leads to problems but on the Farnes there is always something to photograph and you end up with something that is usable.

Arriving at Staple Island we were greeted by the Puffin welcoming committee, posing obligingly.

Everyone wants flight shots but with the prevailing light it was always going to be difficult.

Life isn't easy for the Puffins - parasites abound. The Puffin spends an awful long time out at sea catching sand eels for the chicks, the gulls just hang around waiting to pounce as the birds come into their rabbit hole nests. Some get through, others lose all their catch and have to do it all again. This one made it with half a beak full.

Safe - for now.

There are thousands of other seabirds on the island - it's just that I could sit and watch Puffins for hours.

Thousands of seabirds give the atmosphere a pungent aroma of fish.

Guillemots give you a quizzical look 

The "bridled" form




Only the top predator on the island can afford to leave its young and eggs only half guarded.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Not long before it is swallowing tern chicks whole!

Then a short boat ride over to Inner Farne to catch up with some very obliging Arctic Terns

How can such a demure looking bird turn into a ferocious pecking and pooing nightmare - 'cos you are a tad close.