Sunday, 25 July 2010

scotland holiday-day 5

it rained again today, ha! I lied it was actually sunny! Today was the day that we would go to the top end of the island for a look that meant Lochranza where the eagles and red deer lived plus where most of the lochs are so a possibility of red throated divers.

a great start was needed in order to set the ball rolling, and I got one! I found a garden tiger moth in the men's loos today resting on one of the light shades. A great find although in a little less dignified habitat than I would have like. Plus the light was slightly poor which meant getting the photo right was a bit of a pain.

it was a long journey up the east side of the island to Lochranza but the moorland road where the eagles were supposed to be offered some spectacular scenery. We drove past a river called the north glen sannox and my dad suggested that if the weather stayed nice that we would go for a walk there that afternoon.

At the end of the road there was the isle of Arran distillery. This place is famous for its beer and its golden eagles. we only stopped by for the cafe but we got talking to the owner and he told us that the eagles should be out today because the weather had been so poor and they just wanted to soar. After I had finished my irn bru I went out into the car park, got out the scope, and started to watch. There had already been a few buzzards and a kestrel but no sooner had I left the cafe did a much bigger and to be frank, scruffier bird come over the rise of the hill. It was clear what it was right from the start but soon after it had appeared and it flew in front of a dark hill mass and not against the grey of the sky you could really see the gold on the back of its neck. The photos I got were less than good but the one featured below was decent enough to be classed as a record shot.

So there we have it. Objective two completed! I was really happy but my parents had not got their phones on so when I texted them about it they missed out because of their phones. Talk about the limitations of modern technology!

still from this encounter I learned just how big these birds were. And I was sure that the next time I saw one there would be no question. After that we moved on towards the town of Lochranza itself. There we parked at the ferry terminal there and had our coffee. We struck up conversation about the possibility of red-throated diver nests and the chance of going to see one. There was one lochan with a footpath and we decided that me and dad would go there and my brother and mum (because my mum has MS) would stay in lochranza and go on the canoes. So we all drove round to where the path was that would lead us to the lochan. We never got there. Half way round at a place called Rubha Glas I spotted some shapes out at sea. My head full of red-throated diver I asked my dad to stop so I could have a look, although I was sure that they would be cormorants. They weren't! they were full summer plumaged red-throated divers. I was so thrilled. Through the scope You could see everything about their profile. I say their because there was not just one but 3. I crept down the beach to the shore to get some photos and although they did not come out too well I will always treasure the memories.

Whilst I was looking at the divers My dad and brother had gone off rock pooling. Half an hour after they had started they called me and my mum over to have a look at something they had caught. Well, it was the icing on the cake. A shore rockling of sorts was being held in my dads hand. It is the first time I have ever seen a wild codfish and, after identification in my book, it turned out that this was a five bearded rockling, so not just any old codfish. I was able to take some great photos of the beast because of the fact that it had been caught but I'm not sure I will be needing them. I will always remember it.

They also caught a edible crab which I took some photos of

after we had finished rockpooling 3 more birds came and landed nearby. I had a look through my binoculars and I could easily see that these were different from the divers. I looked harder and saw the orange heads that are a common feature of red-breasted merganser. 3 of them were out swimming in front of me. As with the diver I couldn't get a really got photo but I got an acceptable one.

After all that excitement there was no need to go for a long walk to see the divers and so we set off back to North Glenn Sannox that we had seen on the way here. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of red deer in lochranza itself but as we drove past the lochranza campsite we found some sitting on the golf course. My parents decided that they would look around the campsite, allowing me to get the photos of the deer that I had wanted. The deer were quite a way away but I managed the best I could to get some photos, although to be fair, I have managed better with my little happy snappy camera last time we were here.

Next we arrived at north Glenn sannox. It was quite a habitat. A fast flowing river surrounded by moorland until you reached an area of coniferous forest growing further up the river. There were a good deal of exciting waterfalls.

We stepped out of the car, the sun beating down, and began our walk. I even left my jumper in the car. Brave move I know but a necessary one to keep my body temperature down. The river offered a wonderful sight and no sooner had we set of than we met our fist dragonfly. To be frank it would not stay still for me and despite my desperate struggles at taking a photo to work with the darn thing was just too fast. My parents carried on and left me to my struggles. Eventually I gave up too and joined them further up. It soon became clear, however, that dragonfly X was not the only one on this walk. There were loads of them, hunting and diving in all directions.

The first photo I recall taking however is featured below. Not of a bird or a dragonfly but of a magpie moth. I remember the first time i saw a magpie moth, in a toilet in south Devon only a few days after I bought my eye-spy butterfly's and moths book that originally got me interested in butterfly's and moths. It was my first moth over 10 points within the book at a whopping 20 points I was well pleased with my first magpie moth. Since then I have had patchy sightings but no real photos. Until now. At last I have a record shot worthy of my self criticism. I was slightly surprised by their presence here but I should see no reason why. I have seen them only down the coast on the rhins of galloway so why should they not be here. Anyway they are and I am pleased for them and for me.

a lot further up we began to see more and more dragonflys. Even before we saw them landed we could easily tell that there were golden-ringed and common hawkers. My mum had stayed slightly further down the hill as me, my dad and brother carried on a bit to have a look at a waterfall. As we reached the waterfall there were some golden-ringed resting allowing me to take my first photos of golden-ringed dragonflys this year. I was eager to see at least one of the 8 species that live on Arran but seeing two in one day and so close was extraordinary.

You may, if you were paying attention, would have noticed that I commented about there only being 8 dragonflys on the island. I have put in a list here for anyone interested in dragonflys going to Arran soon. Those with an asterisk are new species to me and those with speech marks I need a photo of

Keeled skimmer"*

Common Hawker"

Southern hawker

Common Darter

Black Darter"*

four spot chaser

golden-ringed dragonfly
so as you can see there are quite a few dragonflys on the island

When we rejoined my mum she was sat on a rock overlooking a waterfall. I decided to try and take a moving water shot on this waterfall and, if I do say so, is really good (although I don't really understand it!)

As I stayed at the waterfall taking photos my mum and dad had moved off. When I rejoined them mum mum told me to look at my dads face. I was quite shocked and amazed by what I found there-see below to look!

That's a great record shot of a common hawker. Now they realised their game was up however they started landing for photos everywhere allowing me to get some slightly more natural photos!

Just before we reached the gate the dragonfly above is sat on my brother pointed to a gigantic giant green Caterpillar marching along the floor. I tried to get some photos but my dad helpfully moved it onto a more outstanding rock to make it easier. I took some photos and then moved it onto the grass to avoid it being trodden on. Later identification proved it to be an emperor moth caterpillar. It would have been great to see the moth.

No sooner had we left the caterpillar than was our attention drawn to the path again. this time in the form of a green beetle running very fast. I recognized it but only vaguely and told my family with much doubt that it was a green tiger beetle. Later analysis proved that it was a green tiger beetle. look at the second photo I took. Tiger beetles are renown for their predatoryness and the second photo shows just how evil this creature looks. I was well impressed with that photo.

We were getting nearer the car all the time but the wildlife just would not stop coming. We found a large red damselfly, a species we are well used to having them in our garden pond, resting next to one of the pools around.

then I found my second garden tiger moth of the day, resting near the tiger beetle. It is a much more natural setting than the men's loos and so I took some more photos of them just for natural authenticity. a great day out.

But the gold rush just would not stop. A small brown bird landed in front of us and through my mums binoculars I recognized the unmistakable black mask of a whinchat, only my second. I took a photo but it flew across the river and so this is the only photo I have. I cant say whether I can find the bird in the photo or not but its there, hiding amongst the braken. I said "lets get out of here before something else turns up"

We finally arrived at the car but decided as my mum and dad got ready for the long drive back to have a mooch round the car park. I was rewarded witha blue butterfly. I can not say what type of blue it is. I have lots of feild guides but only one has maps and the british isles on that map the british isles are small and almsot unidentifiable. I know that small blues are very small and black so it couldnt be one of them and as a result have classed it as a common blue.

as i finished watching the butterfly I spotted a hoverfly on a nearby gorse bush. Huh I hear you cry whats a hoverfly just a bug. Yes well this was no ordinary hoverfly....

Look at the photo below. I have included a scale. A twenty pence peice and you can really see just how big this animal was. what a sight! and a great end to a great day out.

at the campsite me and my dad went for a walk just like last night only we got a bit furthur to the fulmar nests in the cliff although by the point in which the fulmars nest the path is incredibly inaccsesible. infact there is no path it is just a rockfall which is a free hand scramble to where the fulmars nest. still it was worth the effort. only I didnt bring the camera so I dont have the photos

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

scotland-day 4

a very wet and depressing fourth day. For lack of anything better we decided to go to Lamlash, the second biggest town on the island which is not far from the campsite. The rain, it think, only got heavier the closer to the town we got. We walked along the seafront in rain but there was very little to see. a couple of grey herons and a ringed plover where all that there was to view really and they were probably as depressed as we were by the rotten weather.

after we had done here we were at a loss as to what to do. we decided to go for a look at the marine no-take zone at Lamlash to see what was there. By this time the weather looked as though it was clearing up, which is always a nice sign. when we arrived at the car-park there we had lunch and whilst we ate my dad spotted some shapes moving out in the water. (although it was cold and wet, there was no wind and so the sea was dead flat). They identified them as otters and so we all rushed out of the car to go and see more otters.

When we arrived at a suitable otter-viewing bit of the Beach we stopped. I decided to go for a little look in a large rock pool that was nearby. To be frank it was more of a sand pool with rocks in it but still. My mum had just got me a pair of wellies and I was eager to make use of them. As I waded through the pool I found things bolting away in all direction. In a flash, however, they were gone. One of them was a bit slower than the rest and I managed to get quite close to it. It was easily recognizable as a flatfish but some photos would help me identify it later.

unfortunately getting the shot right was hard. In order to do this you need immaculately calm water and at the moment the rain drops were making this quite a feat. I decided to stand in front of the fish and so protect that area of water from the rain. To my surprise it worked and I was able to take some photos. Normally rock pool flatfish are dabs but this one has Orange spots on its back which are a feature only of plaice. so, that's a tick for me. There was also a non-descript blenny in the pool which I took a photo of. Now that's better than otters in my opinion.

as the weather was clearing up we decided to take a walk along the side of the no-take zone. the habitat is a gorse scrub soil hill type of habitat. and unsurprisingly the birds were no different with mipit, wheatear rock pipit and linnet. also I found my first willow warbler of the Holiday )although it was certainly not the last)

on the shore around here there was common sandpiper and oystercatcher. as well as hooded crow plus gannet and cormorant. It was a good afternoon and by the time we were finished the weather was really picking up. We decided to go home over the moors which would take longer but be a much better drive. On the way back we found a buzzard sat on the side of the road. unfortunately we didn't stop in time for me to get a really go photo but still managed to get one which was alright.

Back at the campsite, the bird feeder that we put up was heaving, with sparrows. They are the only normal garden birds frequently seen on the island although there is a family of greenfinches near to where we were staying (but if your an egg-thief too late, they all ready fledged!). never-the-less the sparrows offered me a great photo opportunity and I took ti although to be fair I only did take one photo of them on this occasion.

In the evening my dad said that we should go for a walk along the side of the village and onto the adjacent beach. the walk was not in vain. we managed to see ravens and of course some spectacular scenery coming from the cliffs. as for the ravens I couldn't really take any photos because the light was too poor and the birds too far away.
My dad said that in one of the bays there was a lot of seals. He was right of course and I was thrilled to see so many. Two of them were really close and they were the biggest there. I think that all of these are females but I am unsure of how to tell them apart so I cant be sure.
As well as the seals I found this caterpillar. It is not a cinnabar moth, although it looks similar but I don't have a book with it in and so it will remain caterpillar X!

And the last thing we saw on our walk was the so-called key hole of Arran which I suppose is a fair enough name although it looks nothing like a keyhole.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Scotland-Day 3

And so day 3 begins, I decided to go for a morning walk along the beach to see what I could see. No sooner had I walked down to the shore did one of the shoreline campers point to something out at sea. I failed to hear what he said but when I saw where he was looking it became clear! otters, a long way out but they were there. 2 of them swimming out by one of the dykes. A truly awesome site to see. I ran back to tell my dad who seemed reluctant to get up but still managed it.
The otters did do very little during their swim and as a result we left after about half an hour of spec watching to continue along the beach. No sooner had we set off did something else caught my eye. A large flock of summer plumage dunlins was weaving its way along the shore in search of sandhoppers.
For wading birds these dunlins were quite bold, but as I say, for wading birds, which meant they still flew off whilst I was about 5m away.

By the time I had finished with the dunlins the otters had made their way to one of the dyke's and got out. Conveniently it was the dyke right in front of us they chose although they did not stay there for long. still it gave me enough time to get a reasonable record shot of the otter. There I have now got proof, not specks!

The walk back along the road produced some hooded crows. They were quite bold as well which allowed me to take the record shot that I needed. Unlike yesterdays, these particular crows were much bolder.

also on the way back spotted 3 hares in the Field opposite from the campsite, which was always nice. My mum wanted to see the otters when we told her, when we got back and so no sooner had we got in than we went out again to see the otters. I was in luck. The dyke they had sat on before was now having them sit on it again. I managed to sneak further up the dyke until I could get the photos I wanted. By this time there were 3 otters and it was clear that they were a mum and 2 cubs which is a usual set up for otters.

We lingered around until they ahd gone which was about an hour. My brother did not wake up within that time and as a result he failed to see them. Still, that is the price for sleeping in! As we walked back along the beach I spotted some familiar faces along the shore. It was the dunlin flock. I silently crept up to them again to try and take more photos and I managed it. I could touch them easily without having to stretch my arm I amanged to get that close. They wree such delightful characters and just as bold as chaffinches, not waders.

This offered me a great oppertunity to take dunlin record photos. it is always nice to get a great record shot and not some blurred mess, just like the trumpeter finch. Seeing it was one thing but it came so close that I manged to get some decent pictures of it and not just a blurred mess.

My family decided that, since the sun was out, that they would spend the day at the campsite snorkeling and canoeing. That's great but I hate canoeing. they decided that that's what they would do first and so I decided to stay at the campsite and view the local wild creatures. The otters where still in the area and a seal was perched on a rock nearby. As the otters got closer It allowed me to take a photo of two semi-marine animals together, which i am quite proud of.

I stayed within that area to try and get close to the seals. Just as my parents were pushing out their canoe, however I heard a strange noise. Its easily identifiable when you hear it but still,the noise its self was so unique and indescribable. I spotted them, 2, flying over the sea. I whipped out my camera and took a snap. One came out well but still not well enough for me to put my finger on the species. The photo I took is below and it is clear to see that this animal was a loon of some description. sadly however there is no red or black or green present on the animals neck and so I can not tell you what type of loon it is. judging by the types that live in the area I think its fair to say that it is probably a red throated but who can tell?

Not much further up the beach I manged to catch site of another wader, my fourth species of the holiday, a redshank. It too was quite bold and it allowed me to get the best redshank shot that I have ever got.

Then I returned to the seal sat on the rock to try and get some more photos of seals. I think that these are common seals because they lack the "roman nose" featured with grey seals. There was number of other seals sat behind this seal, but they were too far away to make out and so I left it like that.

When my family returned from their canoe voyage they went back into the campsite. I followed until I managed to spot this even better photo opportunity on the campsite. look at him, playing with an innocent piece of bread. I suppose that the crows will know that this area is home to a lot of scratty tourists who just throw out their rubbish and as a result the birds come down regularly to pick off the scraps.

After this we went snorkling. I can positively say that this is the coldest sea I have ever been in. The only animals I recall being in it were the seals and the only way I could see them was by poking my head out of the water. Still it made for an end to an exciting day.

In the evening the sky turned blood red, which was reflected off the light house creating this beautiful scenic image I have included here.