Sunday, 12 October 2014

For a Change: Birds

I am not really a birder - they come after mammals, plants and even moths in my list of interests.  At this time of year though migration is underway, and there is usually something on which to focus.  Skeins of geese have been flying overhead, including brent geese, but to get a bit closer to some of the birds around  I took the canoe out on each of the last three days, getting bolder each time on the expensiveness of the camera I took with me, and the risk of a catastrophic drenching.    Conditions were perfect with the the sea flat calm, save for the occasional rain shower.  

On Scalpay, the island opposite, there is a spit where cormorants and gulls gather but there is also a small group of turnstone, perhaps 10 or so,  and by quietly drifting into where they feed I got really close - sufficient to hear the almost metallic click of stones as the birds turn them over looking for food.

Towards Scalpay there are small numbers of Black Guillemot, mainly young birds and juveniles

Black Guillemot (Juvenile)
On the way back yesterday I came across a big, pale flanked dog otter fishing midway between Dunan  and Scalpay.   It was low tide so the water was not very deep.   My neighbour, Alan, had seen this otter several times in recent days. I kept up with it for a while but got no usable pictures and as it headed off towards Strollamus I gave up the chase.  My wife saw probably the same otter this morning near the slipway, but only briefly.

Two days ago, from the canoe, I saw what was probably a different otter feeding amongst the kelp, also at low tide near the Dunan end of the village.  I think this was a female - smaller and thinner faced.    An otter is also using the cliff holt during darkness.
Long-tailed Duck

This morning where Loch Ainort meets Loch na Cairidh I came acrsoss a male and female  of a rare winter visitor to Skye, a  Long-tailed Duck.   Yesterday I saw two juveniles in the same spot. These breed in the arctic tundra and winter off-shore mainly in the Baltic though some make their way west to the east coast of Scotland and a few.   The Hebrides mark the most westerly limit of the winter migration in Europe.   I got quite close though taking photos from a moving canoe of two birds also moving and intermittently diving did not produce perfect results.

As ever I had a retinue of two seals as I paddled home.   These must be the most nosey of animals, popping up behind the canoe at frequent intervals to monitor me, the intruder in their space, with a bit of noisy splashing to create some distraction.

Common Seal
Common Seal

On the croft a buzzard has been around for several days, occasionally harassed by crows.    There is a pair of ravens and yesterday morning I had a brief view of a sparrowhawk.

Grey Pine Carpet Moth
I put the moth trap out a couple of times but the counts were low because of a full moon and low temperatures.    The count was dominated by Grey Pine Carpet Moths, though I think amongst them were a few Spruce Carpet which are very similar.    I will have to get confiration from our moth recorder.

The sun is shining again; I need to be back outside!

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