Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Farland to Fintry; new additions to the rogue’s gallery

It was beautiful and sunny yesterday here on Cumbrae and I was supposed to be correcting my literature review. Of course I decided the best course of action was to text Matt, get some sandwiches, the binoculars and the camera and head out for a walk. Deciding on the unorthodox route of heading through town and around the Targets Walk to Fintry Bay.
So, leaving the usual stomping ground, we shouldered the rucksacks and set out into the sun. Instantly greeted by the sight of the Waverly, the wonderful working paddle steamer, chuffing into Millport we set off in hot pursuit, hoping to get a couple of snaps of her at the pier. So far, so good.

On board this beauty you can take a trip around the Gannetry at Aisla Craig!
Unfortunately I was swiftly reminded about why I never take the route through town, too many tourists, ice cream-sticky children and careening cyclists for my liking, and we were soon on the road out of town.
After the trouble of getting a clear view of Reed Bunts in the Phragmites they seemed to be everywhere, peeping from the long grass, eyeing us from the branches.

This individual was being mithered by tiny flies.
Cutting past the boat yard and the water treatment plant we were soon on the beach and rewarded by the peeping of nearby Ringed Plover…. But where were they?
My 500 lens makes it hard for me to centre in on things at the best of times (even when I have a clear view, as soon as I lift the camera I have to spend a few seconds reacquiring my target). A well camouflaged plover with its back to me was always going to be trouble. The wary little birds switched swiftly between eyeing us suspiciously, feeding and keeping a tilted eye on the skies for potential predators and I got some lovely snaps before it was time to move on.

Perfectly coloured to vanish amongst the pebbles...

I wish I had a better shot of them checking the skies above, I'll have to be back out on the beach again next sunny day :)
I’m so glad we did, as the path cut inland we could hear a grating chirp coming from the lush growth beside one of the numerous streams. Soon enough, up popped a wonderfully striped Sedge Warbler, seemingly unbothered by my lens and happily going about its business, too-ing and fro-ing from its well concealed nest.

The undergrowth wasn't giving me any clear shots, but when he (or possibly she) emerged it was only for a few seconds at a time...
... never staying in one place for too long.
Then, with the CafĂ© in mind, we were off again. My constant stalling of our quiet walk for every bird wasn’t earning me any points with Matt, so when I looked at the crags to our right and let out a “Bugger!” he carried meandering on. Only stopping when I didn’t get a shift on. What had caught my attention was one of the local Peregrines I’d heard so much about around the marine station, the first one I’d seen since I moved to the island.
Sat atop the a jutting outcrop and in the shade (annoyingly), it seemed oblivious to everything around it. Closer inspection of my pictures when I returned home revealed its head was constantly in motion, including one shot of it staring straight down the lens. 

Oh! For better light!
After sufficient devotion we carried on, pausing briefly to watch the Shelduck and another pair of Common Sandpipers calling across the rocks. Then, following a sufficient feast of banana milkshake, toffee apple cake, banoffee pie and ice cream at Fintry Bay (and with Matthew quickly descending into hayfever hell) we took the quick route back over the hills to Millport, pausing only briefly to snap the seals, a full blown gull fight and a gorgeous feeding BH Gull, before trudging the rest of the way home, thoroughly worn out and drained from the sun. Totally worth it.

It's not a bad view from our street!

Monday, 20 June 2011

What A Weekend!

Well, if you class the weekend as starting on Wednesday, because it did for me. With not one, not two, not even three, BUT FOUR OTTERS in Kames Bay! No long lens and low light leads to very dodgy pictures by the way.

Behold the otters! or the skillfully shape shifting rock....

See, the bit on the left has gone, and the lumps have moved!

Then as we set of on our Sunday walk around the island, another! between the coal terminal and the island, a big dog otter! Followed quickly by a lovely Wheatear, the first I've seen on the island, and towards the end of the walk nice views of the hunting Sedge Warblers and the Merganser again. The latter have been seen in Kames Bay with chicks, so I think Matt will be dragged along on a hunt for small fluffy things next fine day.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Bunting Hunting, or, Sit STILL Damn You!

Well, I said I was going to go after those buntings. So, with the weather remaining fine this morning, off I went to the Phragmites bed. However, as I walked the wind picked up and myself, and the birds, had trouble remaining steady. The birds weren't helping any and some of my shots were wonderfully distorted....

The Common Sandpiper seemed determined to keep up yesterday's elusiveness

Running whenever I got the lens on him...

...however I caught him in the end

The Swallows were twitchy...
...but I nailed it

And the Reed Buntings themselves were down right awkward...
...but as ever, totally worth it...

...even the skittish male put in an appearance.
 All in all a good morning. I've even taken what I've promise myself is the last Oystercatcher photo.

Finito... no more OyCs!

The Benefits of Being an Early Riser

People may have heard me say that Cumbrae gives me something new everyday. It was that thought that got me out the door at 7 30 again this morning. I cant believe I nearly didn't go. I almost stopped a third of my way around Farland point as I was walking into the sun and wasn't getting any good images. I'm so glad I didn't. The weather was, and still is, gorgeous and as I looked out toward the Irish Sea I saw this...

What's that in the distance?

A FREAKING OTTER!!! I've never seen an otter in the wild and I dropped everything in the mad scramble to swap lenses. By which time it was well round the headland. Well of course I did what every sane sensible wildlife photographer does... I picked up my bag, bent double behind the rocky out crop... and SPRINTED. Over dew damp sandstone, slimy seaweeds and soaking grass.

Any one who knows me knows I don't run. Needless to say, I fell a couple of times, each time pulling my camera in close to avoid disaster. I got to the tip of the point. Scaled the best outcrop to give me a 180 view, tried to stop my hands shaking, and waited.....

Here it is folks, snapped in the five minutes before the dogwalkers appeared, my Nessie moment, blurred headshots and all. Next time I'll be prepared, next time I'll be ready, next time I'll borrow the boss's camera!
Okay, so it's a nessie-shot, but definitely an otter
One too busy feeding to be interested in me...
From now on, I'm on Farland Point every clear day. I mean, just look at the sea state. Too perfect. As soon as I hone my camera skills I'll be able to do mornings like this justice.... I see an expensive purchase in my future.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

 Its been an unbelievably good few days here on planet Cumbrae, so I thought I'd make the most of the sunshine and go out yesterday evening to track down the nests I've located and see some of the busy adults feeding. Then it was nice again this morning, so off I toddled again. I ended up with over a thousand photos, but here are some of my favourites, enjoy!

My first rule when out and about, always look behind you, sometimes its an unexpected car, sometimes its a cheeky Oystercatcher.

My first target for the day was the Whitethroat nest, which was well attended by two very busy adults.
Although fairly camera shy I managed a few nice shots.
As far as I could spot, breakfast consisted of a seemingly endless supply of green caterpillars.
Second on my hit list were the Willow Warblers, who appeared to be enjoying the sun as much as me!
This is the Ravenscraig nest, where I can side on the far kerb like a weirdo and snap away to my hearts content!
The warblers I saw seemed to have no trouble bringing in the bugs...
....even some quite large ones!

I also hung around the Phragmites bed hoping for a glimpse of the Reed Buntings, and they didn't disappoint.
Unfortunately they barely sat still for a photo. I'll be off out for these guys again next sunny day :)
Had to put this one in as it's my favourite picture of the day.
An unedited, happy accident, and a gorgeous, fluffed up Goldfinch
Low on waders today, Aside from the usual Oystercatchers this was the only other one I spied, a coy Common Sand, quickly flushed by the "Peloton from Hell", otherwise known as the diabetes charity cycle ride.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Trawl Safari

So I've been out on one of the research vessels today, ostensibly to find some langoustine, but what I came back with were some wonderful pictures!

I know a lot of people don't like gulls, but seriously, they're awesome. Smart, intelligent and ever so resourceful.

Amongst our following were a number of juvenile Gannets, still showing their brown feathers
The birds were on the net before it broke the surface

Never one to let fear get in the way of a free fish, Herring gulls seem a lot nicer when they 're not pinching your chips

As we disposed of the by-catch the gulls were waiting to hoover up the left-overs

in the ensuing scrum some birds get lucky, and some birds get none

...some get a face full of water

and as the food ran out, so did the birds...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Lizardy Loveliness!

Success Ladies and Gentlemen, SUCCESS!

After two months and some very un-lizardy weather I finally have some lovely close ups of my favourite neighbours, snapped between Ravenscraig and UMBSM. A pregnant female Common Lizard, with a very shy friend. I'm trying to work out what she's eaten by what's sticking out of her mouth. I'm currently guessing at a butterfly, probably some form of White), although I'd happily be corrected by any entomologists out there :)


So focused was I on the lovely lady, it took me a moment to spot the second lizard lurking behind!

Zoom in on this picture, she looks like a tiny dinosaur!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

If you go down to the beach today.... will be raining. However, if you went last Wednesday, you'd have found myself, the ever charismatic Tom and the local Steiner school. It wasn't the best weather, and the kids wanted to spend more time getting water over their wellies than hunting for beasties, but who can blame them. We wandered from the station to Millport and back and I, of course, snapped along the way.

When I met the kids they were drawing the results of a trawl, one of my particular favourites was the Squat Lobster, apparently called Nippy

And then it was time for the beach walk, ten kids and only four wranglers on a very rock shore

Some days I can walk to work and not hear a car, that really reflects in the air quality, and then we get the most beautiful lichens.

Keep your eyes on the strandline, there are always new finds to be had. Bones, worn glass and ceramics, even the occasional antler. This is the former.

Hordes of (supposedly) Edible Periwinkle patrol the intertidal. I've never had the heart (or stomach) to try one.

My favourite coastal finds, the ever beautiful Beadlet Anemone, I scour the rock pools for open individuals...

And occasionally I find one, clinging to a Common Mussel shell amongst the Grey Topshells and Common Barnacles.