Saturday, 25 March 2017

Winter Hen Harrier Survey Draws to a Close.


So another winter Hen Harrier survey comes to an end but with the change in weather and spring here there is more to be getting on with until the next winter season survey commences. 

There has been some good days this winter sitting out on the moors and heaths looking and waiting for Harriers to come in at the days end. I have to say that I visited 3 different sites reguarly this winter but my own survey site location failed to produce any sightings which is disappointing but a reflection of what is happening elsewhere with this species throughout the country. Talking with Dorset roost watchers they also state that this was a poor year compared to others. 

So as I walked off site staring at the fire-balling sun as it set over the heath I pondered on how the next winter season will be for the Harriers. 

The day ended with two Hen Harriers, an adult male that drifted through and then a female lingering, dancing in the buffeting wind. A Female Merlin sat motionless in a nearby bush watching over the nearby valley.










Saturday, 11 February 2017

Out on the Moor.


Had a venture out today and with the recent drop in temperature and falling sleet whilst out on site I was hoping for a little more activity than what actually took place.

Always good to be out no matter what the end result is but it was quiet today, real quiet with just two Ringtail Harriers but the Great Grey Shrike put in an appearnce be it distantly and brief. A couple of Raven had a fly around but that's all folks.


This Ringtail Harrier came in just on 17:20hrs hence the light and poor quality shots, the first Ringtail came in at 17:10hrs but was to distant to even contemplate any shots. 


The Moor seemed harsh and lifeless as I arrived on site today but the cold-fresh air was good but I forgot my hat so luckily I got a new one today from a Snow Board shop just up the road from site which did the job and a discount for cash, tomorrow is a survey day so I hope it is rewarding.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

North Ronaldsay Day 2.




Day two on North Ron was a much duller day, the wind had picked up and it felt like a "tough going" day lay ahead as I walked out in the rather buffeting & chilling wind. I decided to take a stroll around a few different areas today before going on the Harrier Hunt. 








The golf course held a mixed flock of Ringed Plover and Dunlin  but several "scan-through's" didn't produce any colour ringed individuals.

Fulmars were entertaining as they flew low over the golf course, foot paddling at times allowing for some close views. Gulls drifted along the shoreline including a juv Glaucous Gull.


The wind was pretty tough going as the day progressed and so I wanted to get to Loch Hooking where I decided to spend a few hours, The 2 Whooper Swans were still present as was the drake Smew. 


It was tough going sitting it out, waiting in the cold buffeting wind AND the female Hen Harrier  showed only once today when it went in to Roost at pretty much the same spot but the Northern Harrier only managed a solitary fly through but I was grateful to see it again although never being able to nail a reasonable photo during both days.


Then it was that time of day and I had to head to the airport for my return flight back to Kirkwall. All in all a very successfull trip, with the Snowy Owl & Northern Harrier combo, a new location for me, with some good Scotish / English hospitality and good food.


Saturday, 4 February 2017

North Ronaldsay = Northern Harrier.


So After departing Eday I shortly arrived on North Ronaldsay but the light was pretty much fading fast and no time to do anything other than to head in to the Obs where a good evening meal and some good hospitality was had before heading off for the night.


The following morning after a decent breakfast, I headed out in order to spend the day trying to see the Northern Harrier, both Sam & George were helpful on tips where to try and catch up with this bird as well as sending me texts on the latest update on the Harrier and it's where-abouts during the day. I decided  to spend time at a high point on the island allowing views over the surrounding area. Loch Hooking (above) is where I spent most of my time and this paid off as I had my best views of the Northern Harrier here usually just passing through briefly during the late morning - mid afternoon but I originally saw the Northern Harrier from the cross roads where it was rather distant through scope views. Two female Merlin put in appearance hunting in sync over the airfield, both hunting the same passerine together, one from above and the other from below, something I have never seen Merlin do before. 

A drake Smew and two Whooper Swans were nice additions to the day which has been a long time since I have seen both species and a Juv Glaucous Gull was also good to see. 


At one point I was settled in viewing the loch when this nice female Hen Harrier drifted by allowing a couple of clicks before passing through.


As the day went on the Northern Harrier began to show itself and linger around the area of the loch although never coming the right side of the loch until late in the day, however views are views and through the scope it was a rather smart well marked and contrasting bird.








Eventually as the buffeting windy day slowly began to draw in, both of the Harriers appeared around the Loch again and both were seen going in to roost. The timings were quite different as the Hen Harrier went to roost at 14:36 hrs and the Northern Harrier went in to roost at 16:14 hrs both birds roosted on the same side of the loch but perfering different habitats of the loch edge. 


"Back-of-the-NetSo that was that, manged to connect with the Northern Harrier on the first day on North Ron and so after seeing both the Harriers go in to roost and the light was fading I started to head back longing for a hot cuppa and the warmth of the Obs but did stop a few times on route, image below shows the lighthouse near Sinsoss Point.


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Eday Island, Orkney & a Snowy Owl.



For some time now I have been toying with the idea of visiting the Orkney Isles but I have never actually got around to it, "always some where else to go, always something else to do"









Arrival on Eday was within 17 minutes of take off from Kirkwall, where I was met by Kate the Eday Ranger as had been previously arranged. Kate was brilliant and very welcoming and helpful, she kindly drove me up to the site where the Snowy Owl had been lingering, of which I saw before I even got out of the car. Kate also showed me the local post office/shop (below) for me to be able to grab a drink and some food if needed. 



Eday is a small but beautiful island, 8 miles in length and 14 miles north east of Kirkwall that has a raw, wild, remote but safe and welcoming feeling about it. It has lots of remaining areas of heather-clad sweeping hilly moorland that give it that extra special appearance. 




So there it was the Snowy Owl seen flying around the fields of the north eastern end of the island, on a windy but dry and bright sunny day-perfect. What a smart looking bird, 


This individual performed well and was on show for the whole duration of my time on site. I spent the whole time on the island watching this smart bird. I then started a slow walk back to airport, The weather started to turn and the wind picked up mid afternoon and so I was grateful that the elements were kind to me today. 





I like this shot, as a local was walking through the adjacent field the Snowy flew in and landed just behind the wooden pallets as if not to be seen but I was lucky as I was actually sat down against the dry stone wall the in this particular field having a cuppa. The bird had a few favoured areas where it would sit and watch the surrounding area.  














And then it was time to head back and so I walked to the airport taking in the scenery  as the light of day began to fade slowly in to evening. As arrived back at the airport Kate pulled up getting ready for her shift at the airport and took me for a short tour of a part of the island showng me different areas and explaining about the relevant wildlife of the island at certain times of year. I am definitely intending to vist Eday again in the summer months. 

What a Great day on Eday.