Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A short trip to Scotland (Day Two - March 14th 2014)

Our aim this morning was to check the harbour out before breakfast, just on the off chance that the AMERICAN HERRING GULL would fly in. We were up at 05:45hrs and down by the harbour at 06:00hrs. The mist had cleared, and we could see far more than yesterday (like hills and mountains). 

Again we were entertained by the 40-50 Eider in the harbour, plus the Guillemots and Black Guillemots. The only other birder in town (Ewan - we'd met last night) arrived again and we exchanged phone numbers for later in the day. He also mentioned he'd seen the possible NORTHERN EIDER in the new harbour, but also said the beak wasn't right. With no sign of the AHG again, we drove round to see the Non-Northern Eider.

It was an easy task. All we had to do was find the Eider with the prominent fins and the normal beak, and that would be the Non-Northern Eider. As I sifted through the 40+ flock, I noticed quite a few of the males when they were displaying had small prominent fins. We soon gave up. CJW spotted the pre-breakfast bird of the day when four Rock Doves came on the jetty to feed. They came back later, with a Feral Pigeon amongst them. A single Greenland White-fronted Goose also flew over.

Eider in Campbeltown Harbour

Rock Dove

Campbeltown Harbour

Following our excellent breakfast at Redknowe Bed and Breakfast we set off for the AHG hunt. We checked the fields by the airport first, meeting up with Ewan again, the only other birder in town. We found a flock of 100+ large gulls plus several flocks of Greenland White-fronts, but no sign of the AHG. We drove back up to the main road to check out previous haunts, but again, there were no large gulls around. There appeared to be just the one flock in the area. 

We headed down to Southend to check out a different area. We even managed to do some birding from the beach, seeing Black-throated and Red-throated Divers, Black Guillemots, Gannets and Shag.  


Shots of Southend at the bottom of the peninsular.

We got back into the car and headed back up towards Campbeltown. CJW then checked his phone and found to his horror that he'd had a missed call from Ewan. He tried to ring him back but there was no signal. We hurtled back up towards the airfield, our hopes were rising. We were hoping that Ewan had found the AHG. Just as we could see the airfield, the signal was restored and CJW rang him back. He had indeed found something - a 2w Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull by the airfield.

We sat and thought about the situation. The wind was whipping up now and you had to hold onto your scope to stop it being blown over. We'd search the area and found no more gulls. It was now cold, and raining. We discussed staying until the evening again in case it returned to the harbour. The only problem was it would mean at 02:00hrs arrival back at home, and CJW had to be at work for 06:00hrs. We headed for the Snow Geese.

We headed north to Tayinloan  and checked all the geese in the area and down to the ferry. There was no sign. We headed north again and down to the holiday park but again nothing. Then as we headed even further up the road, CJW spotted two white blobs in a field with more Greenland White fronts.


Two Snow Geese near Rhunahaorine

With the drizzle turning to rain, and the mist coming down again, we decided to head for home. We thought that it would just be a repeat performance of last night. 

As we were driving home through the rush hour in Glasgow, a novice low listing photographer decided to tweet CJW and inform him that the AMERICAN HERRING GULL had returned to roost in the harbour. Not to worry, we've dipped before and we'll dip again. At least we've learnt birding etiquette though. 

Of course, there always has to be a song at the end. Now I'm feeling a lot better following my small session of body part altering, and the songs can return now that I'm fit enough to dance. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

A short trip to Scotland (Day One March 13th 2014)

We had been discussing a trip to Scotland for a few weeks now, and with the continued presence of three decent rarities - the BLACK DUCK, the AMERICAN HERRING GULL and the AMERICAN COOT, we devised a route which would see us add a few year ticks along the way as well. We originally planned to go last weekend, but with one thing or another we had to cancel. CJW was off again on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th and so plans were finalised. 

Unfortunately, the AMERICAN HERRING GULL's routine had changed since the weekend, and it was only now showing in the harbour pre-roost. On Wednesday evening, following several lengthy discussions with CJW, we totally reversed our route around Scotland. We set off at 01:00hrs on Thursday morning.

We decided to be safe and responsible, and we only did two hours driving each. GAS did the first drive up to the Lake District. Unfortunately it was foggy. So foggy, that you could hardly see where the bonnet ended. As we changed drivers at a service station in the Lake District, the access road was unlit and CJW almost had to walk in front of the car to guide us in. 

CJW did the next stint and with the fog clearing we sailed up through Glasgow. I took over and did the wonderful A9 stretch just as dawn was breaking over the snow capped mountains. Yes I timed my drive perfectly. 

We arrived at Loch Garten at 07:30hrs and spent an hour searching for CRESTED TIT. The reserve was obviously still closed and we made our way right up to the special forward hide. A Red Squirrel was the only bird of note. We also tried the woods on the opposite side off the road. These were quiet too, but there was a Red-throated Diver on Loch Garten plus a few Goldeneye. 

It wasn't the ideal start, and with a tight schedule to follow we headed to our next location. We were hoping to see CAPERCAILLIE here but that was a very long shot as it was mid morning now. Luckily, we did see two Crested Tits so it wasn't a complete waste of time.  

Another half an hours drive and we were pulling into Loch Flemington, east of Inverness. We soon found the famous white stones and the lay by to pull in. Then it was a race to find the American Coot. CJW won only because his bins were round his neck and mine were in the boot. Slight cheating I thought. The American Coot showed extremely well and we enjoyed our stay at the loch.

The Loch Flemington American Coot

And here's one I saw earlier - 10 years ago now on South Uist. How time flies

and this Cormorant showed quite well too

Unfortunately the white stones and a Coot weren't enough to put smiles on the faces of these two

We now had the long drive across Scotland from one coast to the other. The drive took in some of Scotland's finest scenery, driving the length of Loch Ness, through Fort William and down to Oban. As we reached the west coast, the mist descended and we had spells of drizzle. 

We finally arrived at Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre at 17:00hrs. Unfortunately, the mist had followed us, and the visibility in the harbour was poor. We found the yellow buoys that the AMERICAN HERRING GULL perched on and so we stood and waited. There were already quite a few gulls in the harbour, but quite large flocks were heading straight over us and out to sea. There was plenty to see to pass the time. A female Common Scoter was feeding, along with nine Black Guillemots, 20-30 Eider, a Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Crows, Shag and a few waders. 

We realised that the gulls had stopped flying into the harbour and with the light fading with the increasingly poor visibility, we had dipped the AMERICAN HERRING GULL this evening. We still had tomorrow to try again.

We headed to our accommodation for the night. We unpacked and headed out to the Argyll Hotel for a very nice tea of Chicken stuffed with Haggis. An excellent way to end a long day. We returned to the B&B with the sound of Greenland White-fronted Geese flying overhead.    

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Early March 2014

Just realised my last posting was on February 21st. I do apologise for slacking. We've done quite a bit of birding recently. Its good for my recuperation.

On Saturday 8th March, we popped into Gailey to see a female Red-crested Pochard that SR had found during the morning. We were quite surprised to see how pale it was, most likely a leucistic bird.

The ginger one at Gailey

On Tuesday, March 11th, we headed up to North Wales again, starting off with a visit to see the Black Grouse. They were showing exceptionally well by the side of the road when we arrived, some of the closest views we've ever had. Unfortunately, it was foggy, so it was a good job they were close.

We payed a brief visit to Llanbedr-y-cennin, but there was no sign of any Hawfinches today. I decided to pop down to Caerhun, a site that hasn't been good to me in the past. In fact, I've never seen Hawfinches there ever. Today was different, with one singing as we arrived. We eventually had brief views of one, before an amazing 14 birds flew out of the trees and away.

We finished the day on Anglesey at Cemlyn Bay, where an adult Mediterranean Gull showed well plus there was a Greenshank on the lagoon.