Wednesday, 30 May 2012

My day so far...

This morning we've had Strathclyde Police across for a 50m chamber dive, all very routine except that we had the Chief Inspector in, so John and I pulled on the fancy overalls.

Go Green!
We were up and running by 10... the police didn't arrive until 11:30... We took the opportunity to drink coffee and watch others work.

The cops had travelled down by high powered RIB so, after the dive and in the interests of training, we donned our life jackets and scrambled aboard.

Best Wednesday EVER!

Even a few Porpoises for good measure

We took a blast out to Little Cumbrae then, having both done our powerboat level 2, we were allowed to step into the driving seat.

John was first up, cranking up the revs around wee Cumbrae

... then I brought us round the top of the island and back to the pier, 42 KNOTS BABY!

All in all, not something I thought I'd be doing today, but who wouldn't. SO MUCH FUN! Big thanks to the great guys from Strathclyde.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

First Trawl of the Year

Okay, I know I don't usually post things from work here, but I had such a lovely day yesterday I really had no option. The boss, John Curry (QML master's student) and I were out on the RV Actinia collecting flatfish and Langoustine (doubling up on boat use to minimise sea bed damage FTW). In beautiful weather we left Millport pier at about half 10, heading for the main channel and Skelmorlie. Hardly a breathe of wind, so low on birds unfortunately, but never the less Phil and I had cameras to hand. 

The start of the morning past slowly, and the lack of birds was a bit of a disappointment. The first tow was taking an age to haul in, and our skipper, Campbell, told us there was probably a lot of mud in the trawl. I wasn't prepared for quite how much...

Oh dear...
Well, we couldn't do anything about it, so out came the gloves and in we dove. John was sans wellies and the boss was without his overalls so it was up to me to dive in with the muddy catch.

Luckily something had warned me to pull on my overalls that morning...
Kenny was my hero, sluicing of the mud as we worked. Between the four of us we soon had the deck cleared and the mud washed and swept back into the sea.

"You hose, I'll pick..."

"Look, there ARE fish in here!"
Afterwards Kenny got even further into my good books, providing caffeine and biscuits all round. Excellent! We then steamed up to Skelmorlie and deployed the net again.

John fuels up in the sun after out first bout with the mud
The amount of wildlife around picked up as we moved up the Clyde and our discarded catch caused a lot more interest in our boat. Finally we could get some shots in, although unfortunately none of the gannets today.

This unfortunate Greater Black Back has rope tangled around one leg, luckily this was only a small piece.

Remarkably brave Guillemots, the closest I've seen these birds without them having a major freak out

A large male Grey seal which followed the boat looking for scraps
As we returned to Kepple Pier with our catch the Eiders were waiting with their ridiculously adorable ducklings, giving us the chance of a last few snaps before we stepped back onto terra firma.

Eiders congregate around the pier were they dive for molluscs and other foods

Sunday, 20 May 2012

(just) Another Day in Paradise

I love living in Scotland. Every time I step out of my door I encounter something I didn't expect. This morning I realised that I haven't shown you all my Breeding Bird Survey square. Thankfully I was over at Lochwinnoch this afternoon, and planned an early trip to wander up there for a casual visit... I didn't make it.

I packed the camera and, fully dressed for an afternoon's volunteering, I set off. Turned off in Lochwinnoch to take the windy single track road to Muirshiel Country Park; windows open, and enjoying the drive. I was the second car into the car park. I pulled out my bins, grabbed my rucksack, and headed out. 

I only passed two groups on the way out, and managed to swifty clock up 4 calling cuckoos, a wheat ear, a couple of pied wags, a treecreeper, carrion crow, grouse, a solitary swallow, and skylarks and meadow pips galore. All in all, a peaceful morning. Even nice enough to lose my jacket. Then, half way along my route to the top, I went to cross what is usually a slightly spongy section of ground at the head of a stream. First step and the ground turned to mush.... I went in up to my knee. Instinct? Step Out! Result? I was suddenly up to my HIPS in the water! 

Thank goodness I learned my survival skills. Leaning forward, I spread my weight and pulled myself out. Looking down at my soaked trousers, I could feel the water running down my gaiters and into my boots... 

BOOTS OFF! SOCKS OFF! Preserve the dryness (only partially successfully)!

I wrote off my walk to the top. Settling down to dry in the sun and much on my picnic in the hour before I was due at the reserve. 

Surprisingly warm toes!

My square is the other side of that hill... I get not only some productive birding, but a nice walk too!

The top of the Calder at Muirshiel

An hour later I arrived at Lochwinnoch Reserve, ready for my shift. The feeders were a hive of activity. And unlike last weekend (and me) the weather was wonderfully dry.

During the afternoon the female starling bought her newly fledged brood to the feeders. By 5pm the female sparrowhawk had taken everyone. Still, the other birds were looking in great shape (unfortunately I didn't get any great pictures of the wonderfully coloured breeding plumage male redpolls - they were stunning).

Even without the rain, the feeders remain buzzing

My highlight of the day was definitely the show Greater Spotted, who whizzed between the feeders and the stands of trees to either side of the centre through out the afternoon.

I was completely distracted by this fine fellow who happily sat outside the visitor centre window.

Great plumage & tonnes of charisma

Hopefully there's a full nest somewhere and we'll be seeing little red-capped spotties soon!

So, despite the soaking, an excellent day! Sad for the starlings, but still early enough for a second brood. Keep your eyes on the fledglings over the next few weeks, they make great targets for birds of prey and may bring excellent sightings. Good hunting!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Faster then a speeding bullet....

...that's how they'll describe my dash for the showers after finishing this the Race for Life at Glasgow Green in only 15 days time. I'm definitely not a runner and I'm not holding out hopes of getting round in a quick time, but I'll start out running, and I'll finish it running and in the process I'm aiming to raise £250 for cancer research. Why not stump up a few pounds or run along with me!

You can get donating at my Just Giving page!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Lochwinnoch at the Ayr Show

Phew! What a weekend! Shattered doesn't even begin to cover it. A couple of quick emails from the reserve have seen me taking on 3 extra days this month (not bad for a newbie!). 

Friday and Saturday at the Ayr Country Show and Sunday on the reserve, brilliant fun!

My "weekend" started at 6 am on Friday morning, getting ready to go help Rita set up the stand (which basically meant Rita capably organised everything, and I helped shift stuff from the car and basically got under her feet. And it was FREEZING. We shivered away as the school kids trooped past and grabbed the occasional coffee and hot soup where we could!

The Saturday I got a lovely lie in until 7:30 as I was picking up extra stock from the reserve and we did a steady trade in fluffy owls and pin-badges. With me occasionally disappearing to find things to stuff my face with or visiting the excellent Shaw's Meats stand (I ended up buying venison stew mix, wood pigeon breast, wild boar salami, biltong, and ostrich, kangaroo, springbok and vension burgers!). Our stand was handily next to one from the Great Grog Company, who sent us away with a few nice taster bottles. Both of these companies deliver and I can heartily recommend their wares!

Rita and Nigel were brilliant stand-mates (and didn't mind me vanishing in search of more food!)

Herring Gull feet- the only birds I saw all day

Attempting to convince a nice Irish man that Buzzards aren't all that bad!

Sunday it was slinging it down. And my attempts at getting any good pictures on the reserve were pretty much thwarted. Everything looked damp and miserable, however, there was high drama on the pond when a marauding heron went for our teenage ducklings (a big mouthful for any predator). 

This mother has done well to get 8 chicks this far with our resident herons around (just look at her determination!)
The rain kept the centre pretty quiet and allowed us to get on with moving some stock, but the birds came to the feeders regardless, looking for an easy (if a little damp) meal. So remember guys - even if it's raining - come in and say hello, get yourself a hot chocolate, and enjoy some comfortable birding! Happy spotting!

Damp Chaffs

My one "keeper" of the day, a damp disgruntled Jacky
Poor soggy redpolls

"These one's are wet, I want his..."