Nov 26, 2010

Well made it to London just ahead of the snow. In a night time run from John O Groats it was a slick and glossy run to Edinbrugh, then fron Edinbrugh to london it was ocasional flurries and sleet. The south end of the M1 is an endless mass of road works dominated by 50mph speed cameras and we dont recomend at all. The A1 or M11ymust be better bets. The first birds seen from the balcony were a pair of green parakets and some blue tits. Theres the chatter of magpies and some nice song that i dont have a clue what it is. Off to explore a bit on Saturday.Londonshire

Nov 22, 2010

Hen harrier roost

On a notion tonight I shot off to the biggest west mainland Hen harrier roost to see if there was anything doing. On arriving I was surprised to find I wasn’t the only one with the same thought. Pulled in to a passing place was a car and a land rover both with scopes sticking out of the windows. It was an RSPB crew who were out for their monthly Harrier count. Now this was a piece of luck. The views here are distant and there is a large slice of hill to cover so four pairs of eyes are a definite boon. With the failing light the first birds had already been seen coming in over the heather. They were still flighty and not yet ready for settling. As they landed here and there we would try to keep an eye on their position so as not to confuse them with more arrivals. Slowly more and more were spotted. In the main we were seeing males coming in , the ones that landed mostly took positions on stabs or prominent heathery tussocks so they could view the hillside and new arrivals. Ringtails soon started to be spotted, many settled straight in to the heather whilst others quartered the hillside of the traditional roost. There was some interesting interactions between the males and females, between the males as well. Every so often a male would put up another male and a short squabble would ensue. Things were settling well when a Short eared owl entered the game. Now Short eared owls and Hen harriers are not the best of friends on a good day and the fear was that this owl would put all the birds up and the count would get scrambled. The SEO was chased by several males and a ring tail before finally heading off out of the area. It provided some entertaining flight and fortunately didn’t cause too much confusion to the count. This was the first Short eared owl I had seen for a while. They are a bird that gets rarer as the winter progresses. There has been some debate as to whether they all migrate south or a small population remains here and drops their diurnal feeding pattern in favour of a nocturnal life style, but that’s a debate for another day!!. The light was failing fast now and the last of the ringtails seemed to have arrived. With the youngsters and females settled over the hillside The males that had been sitting on the high spots seemed satisfied it was time to roost and one by one they moved off to claim their spots for the night with a slow circle over a favoured patch of heather before a quick plunge take them instantly out of sight. All in all it was a cracking spot of raptor viewing.

The totals for the roost were 8 males possibly 9 and 7 ringtails possibly 9.

Nov 21, 2010

Lochside morning.

It was such a flat calm morning that I thought I would head out and see what was to be seen. Lochside was to be the first port of call. It was lovely as well with the early winter colours of the heather and reeds reflecting in the water between the islands. I like this time of year, the first of the winds has been and the coldness of the winter depths is yet to fall. Whilst setting up my scope a lone Wren started its chiding cal from a bust thirty paces from me. This is a bird that is a handful to catch in the digiscope as they are so flighty. Sure enough I managed to get the bird in view in the scope and offer up the camera but two quick snaps and it was gone, disappeared in to the heather where it moved about and gave out some song. No prizes for guessing the sex of that one then!
There were a few birds on the water but my attention was drawn to the fields on the far side below Biggins, spread along the loch shore was a good flock of Lapwing numbering 125+ interspersed within that flock were a hundred or so Golden plover and 30 odd Curlew. Either side and above them the ubiquitous greylags grazes away. I didn’t bother to count them as I seem to be quite blasé about the tens of thousands of grey geese that are spread across the county. 25 or more Teal were emerging from the loch in a seemingly determined feeding column. As they come ashore a flurry of action draws me away as a Hoddie and a Herring gull squabble over some food on another island. It soon falls quiet though but a scan along the shore reveals five Snipe maintaining their usual immobile stance. As the winter progresses Snipe are becoming more and more visible at he waters edge, not only on the loch sides but along the sea shore as well.
The water its self held no real surprises. The predominant duck was the Tuffted with a hundred or more in view. Amongst these groups of tufted further out were five Scaup and in amongst the islands but spread out were three male Goldeneye. A small contingent of Cormarants dried their wings and preened on one of the skerries with a couple of birds paddling about and actively feeding. With the place kindo scoped out I packed up to head over the other side of the loch for a view but shortly after arriving on came the rain. I remained at the junction of Harray and Stenness for a while and stoically ignored the increasing rain until I thought my jeans were suitably wet and my legs cold enough then jumped back on the bike and shot off the four miles home….another short day….och well!

Nov 16, 2010

Thou shalt allways bird!

Check out Thou shalt allways bird. Theres a link at the top of the side bar.

Shooting star alert.

The annual display of Leonids shooting stars is almost upon us. They will be here on the nights of the 17th and 18th That’s the morns night and the next. Look to the constellation of Leo which is to the left and a little lower than Orion. This is in the eastern sky. Happy viewing!

Nov 11, 2010

Nov 10, 2010

Nov 9, 2010

Celestial events to see the year out!

There are some interesting celestial events coming up over the next month or so and I think they are well worth making a note of so as not to miss them.

Firstly there is the Geminids meteor shower. This will run from December the 9th until the 14th and it will reach the peak on the night of the 13th.

After this there is the Ursids meteor shower. This will go on from December the 17th to the 24th with the peak occurring on the night of the 23rd.

During this shower things will get really interesting with a lunar eclipse happening on the solstice around 5am just before sunrise. That will be on the morning of the 21st of December. I just cant help but think what the builders of Brodgar and the Stenness stones would have made of the event!!

On January the 1st to the 4th it will be the Quadrantids meteor shower with the peak occurring on the night of the 3rd.

With this shower over the morning of the 4th of January will provide the greatest spectacle of all!!, as the sun rises it will be in partial eclipse with a quarter of the surface occluded by the shadow of the moon.

Weather permitting it looks like the end of the year could provide Orkney with some of the greatest celestial spectacles it is possible to see….weather permitting of course!!...Happy viewing.

Nov 2, 2010

This was a very exhausted or ill redwing on the Marwick path today. It moved after i got with in fifteen foot of it. It moved back at the same slow pace that i approached it before it moved farther in to the field with a short flight. This shot was taken with the new camera and i see it wanted to focus on the barb wire in the foreground...mmm no change there then!!!