Sunday, 22 June 2014

Rose tinted birding

At last a bird has been reported in Highland that could be considered a local twitch- only a 50 mile round trip to try and catch up with a rose-coloured starling at Achiltibuie. Friday evenings' attempt turned into a dip despite careful scrutiny of the area around the piping school cafe and surrounding crofts over a near 3 hour search. A return on Saturday morning resulted in a rather nervous second attempt with the bird taking nearly 2 hours to show- but when it did it proved worth the wait- I had not seen an adult before and it was certainly an attractive individual. I also saw a helmeted guineafowl walking along the verge- obviously an escape but interesting to see. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Cutting edge birding!

No- unfortunately I have not come up with a new wing formula for tricky warblers or new bill dimension criteria for crossbill sp. - but I did rescue two tawny owlets from a horrible fate! 

Yesterday, whilst walking on a highland estate I came across a tractor with hedge trimming/grass cutting equipment bolted on the sides. As cutting operations were ongoing I decided to follow an alternative loop to avoid the general disturbance and noise- not much use for woodland/riverside habitat birding. Anyway, a couple of hours later having done some very pleasant birding, I started the return leg when I became aware of two birds calling in deep vegetation just off the track. I was unfamiliar with the calls which immediately raised my excitement level as it is not often I do not recognise bird calls. Further investigation revealed two owlets emitting what I assumed were begging/contact calls. I admired the two birds before commencing my walk along the track- until I realised with some horror that the two owlets were in the path of the ongoing trimming operations that were now some 400 metres or so further down the track and likely to trim the owlets in an hour or so! With plenty of daylight remaining I guessed that the owlets would remain in situ for some time. Now I'm well aware that we should not touch or interfere with recently fledged birds and chicks but on this occasion I knew that if I did not intervene the owlets would certainly meet with a grisly death- so reluctantly I returned to the birds locations and after much beak clacking, blinking of large blue eyes and flexing of sharp claws, I managed to lift both birds to a safer location further into the vegetation and between trees where no cutting blades could reach. Fortunately a passer -bye managed to capture a shot on my iPhone of me holding an owlet -job done as they say!

tawny owlet in cover
Later that day breaking news of a Citrine wagtail near Durness prompted a plan for the following morning that allowed me to twitch a much needed lifer- just reward methinks! 

part of the trimmed verge- not good for owls- or much else!
a lovely little bird carefully relocated out of harms way!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Summer stroll

We have a fine spell of weather in the NW highlands just now, so it  is a good time to spend an evening or two strolling around Achnahaird. Few birds of note with the exception of the long staying glaucous gull, a few passage dunlin and two pairs of lapwing. Nature is in full swing now with the salt marsh covered in thrift- the pink flowers providing a very pretty carpet for the ringed plover to forage in. A few puffballs are putting in an appearance and the bay gave up some fantastic sand ripples at low tide. 


long staying glaucous gull

view of Achnahaird bay

stunning sand ripples

puff ball

a carpet of thrift

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

KP nuts and a saucy Savi's.

Last week I was finalising a plan for a significant twitch to try and catch up with spoonbill on the Montrose basin and Temminck's stint at Letham pools in Fife- both species being needed for my 'Scottish' list. Whilst packing my bag an RBA alert came through at 18:10 informing me that a Kentish plover had been found near Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. With a minimum 3 hour drive to the site and 4 hours of light left it was a non-starter. A quick phone call to my birder friend Bob Mcmillan confirmed that he had found the bird and he obligingly provided an accurate grid. ref. for the site location. Plan B was set in motion very early the following day. As any twitcher knows, the feeling of total desolation following a major dip is not something to dwell on, so I'll just say that after a 03:00 start, a 6 hour return drive of 280 miles and 6 hours on site searching for the bird without success my mood could not really be described as jolly! The bird had obviously been a one- dayer and flown on overnight. To rub salt into my wounds I had received a couple of alerts during my travels informing me that both the stint and spoonbill had stayed in place all day- bummer. Highlight birds for my efforts were limited to 3 bar-tailed godwits and two pairs of very tidy whinchat. Enough said. I did enjoy spectacular views of the Cuillin range on Skye however. 

Anyway, moving swiftly on, a few days later I teamed up with former Highland recorder Al Mcnee for a very early twitch to Loch of Strathbeg to try and see a Savi's warbler. We left Inverness at 01:00, arrived on site shortly after 03:15 and had located the bird shortly after 03:30. Although distant we enjoyed intermittent 'scope' views for the next couple of hours. Although the bird was perched in an upright stance in the tops of the phragmites reed stems, the distance and wind direction did not allow me to hear it. Some you win, some you lose……..