24.6.12

Scotland

So I spent the last week in the Highlands for my holiday, in Plockton close to the Skye Bridge. Before I went, I was a little unsure how successful any birding I did there would be, as from what I had heard it wasn't the most popular destination in Scotland for birding, but actually it was a fairly successful week. The trip got off to a good start, when I got an easy lifer on the journey there in the form of Hooded Crow. We spent the second day at Portree, on the Isle of Skye, and decided to go out on one of the Sea Eagle cruises. There were plenty of Eiders and Guillemots, around but the rough-ish conditions made steadying the camera to get a picture fairly difficult. A pair of Sea Eagles showed really well, coming with in a  few feet of the boat, only after the guy threw out some fish of course however. I managed this terrible picture whilst one of the birds was perched in a tree. 
There is one there... honest!


Despite the fact I was starting to feel a little sea sick, I managed another lifer on the way back, and one of the birds I wanted most for the trip. A Black Guillemot. Unfortunately by this point I was unable to take a picture because it was far too rough. And that was it for the lifers. I was hoping for more like Raven (which I may or may not have seen on the way), and Golden Eagle, and some mammals like Red Deer and Red Squirrel, but after searching constantly I had no luck. But that didn't mean I didn't see any other birds of interest. On the Journey back from Applecross on the third day, I got great views of a Ring Ouzel which flew across the road in front of the car, landing on the roadside, but as per usual too slow in getting my camera, and another highlight was fairly good views of several cuckoo on two occasions on the journey to and from a hide on Skye. Both trips to the hide proved fairly unsuccessful, apart from a great number of both Grey and Common Seals. When we arrived on the second visit, I did see a long v shaped trail in the water, but I'm not confident in saying it was definitely an otter, and unfortunately no Cetaceans were to be seen either.
     Despite seeing so many seals from the hide, the next day we went on one of the Seal Trips from Plockton Harbour, where for me the highlights were a couple of large flocks of Eider. The morning of the same day, like much of the rest of the trip consisted of Kayaking on the sea loch. As well as getting really close views of Grey Heron and Oystercatcher, and on the final day a Sandpiper which definitely wasn't common, but too far to ID without bins, on this morning in particular there were a great deal of Jellyfish. Most of these were Moon Jellyfish, but there was also single Lion's Mane, which was amazing to see, and so close up as well!
        Overall, despite not seeing as many species as I'd hoped, still a successful trip, and the place itself was so incredible it more than made up for it. Can't wait to return!

11.6.12

Norfolk

So I realise it's been months since I last blogged. I've finished university now for the year so I really don't have an excuse not to any more. 
      Last weekend was my second trip to Norfolk. We arrived at Lakenheath on Friday night, where we began the trip with an unsuccessful badger walk. Early the next morning, it was time to go out an look for the Orioles, amongst other things. Before we had even left for the walk, I got a life tick which I'd wanted for a while in the form of a Jay, but as yet I'm still to get a decent view of one. The walk was full of great things with plenty of Bitterns booming, various types of warbler, and much singing from the Golden Orioles, (although only a fleeting view of a male in flight). Next it was on to Strumpshaw Fen for Swallowtail butterflies, where we were treated to amazing views, and a spot of pond dipping resulting in several new Odonata species; Banded Demoiselle, Four-spotted Chaser, and Broad-bodied Chaser. Our final destination of the day was Winterton Dunes, where after following another birder we got great views of a young Woodchat Shrike, a lifer for me, and the first of two Shrikes for the week. After the excitement of the Shrike, we walked for a while over the Dunes in search of Natterjack toads. Unfortunately our timing had backfired somewhat as we arrived far to early, and the weather wasn't exactly helping, but regardless we waited and searched. The visit resulted in a total count of one injured frog, and one dead Natterjack toad. Not so successful. 
      After a short and cold night's 'sleep', Sunday morning consisted of a combination of sleeping and birding in a hide at Titchwell. This added a few more birds to the trip list including Little Egret, and for James and I, a Temminck's Stint, as well as a couple of Muntjac deer earlier on in the day, but sadly, no Chinese Water Deer. Since the weather seemed to be getting worse if anything, we decided to cut short our trip, but stopped off for one last bird on the way back; the Roller. Luckily, it was really easy to locate, and despite the conditions, still amazing to look at. A nice way to end a fun trip, sleep deprived or not.