Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Taming...

Seriously, sometimes life gives you a break - "214 quid spent on a new exhaust for the Rockmobile and an Olympic sized hangover? No problems, have a friendly shrew to distract you". I seriously love shrews, adorable furry things that have no trouble taking a serious chunk out of your fingers if you're dumb enough to fall for the dozy fluff-ball act, AND they make an excellent food source for any number of my favourite beasties such as kestrels, weasels etc. It was really surprising to see this little darling wandering round the lawn in broad daylight.

Shrews are insectivores and have one fast paced metabolism, as such they spend most of their day out hunting for slugs, beetles and other creepy crawlies; this one was no different and it was hard to get a picture without its head stuck in amongst the grass. It also seemed pretty oblivious to my snapping away (on occasion wandering over my hat and camera strap), a little gem. Enjoy!

Eyes and ears almost invisible - its all about SMELL


Completely clueless!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hoo's in the Garden

I always say that all you need to see awesome wildlife is patience and a little luck. Sometimes you just need the latter.

Which is why I was bolting out of my front door, camera in hand, on Saturday evening; trying to get a shot of what had just ghosted past the big bay window and crashed into the scrub in the "front garden". I managed one quick good picture before my "neighbours" drunkenly rounded the corner and scared the wee soul away.

They made up for it by giving me home brew from a pickle jar and herding me to the pub. A great night out and I only spent £2.20. Cheers Mike!

One Shot.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

I have very few words to describe the last fortnight...

... but thankfully lots of pictures!

I've just back from my second week on Mull. A different selection of staff this time so I was on boats everyday, and BOY did they deliver! 

Got my camo threads ready to go!
Lets start with the mammals. Day one on Sula Beag of Sealife Surveys. The weather was pretty cruddy, so we stayed within the shelter of Ardnamurchan. Our on board guide Ewen (Blog - Geltsdale Wildlife Warrior), was a true hero, spotting this distant otter (circled).

Day two, Staffa Tours, out by the Cairns of Coll in beautiful weather. Two wonderful minke whales - the first I've seen around Mull.

Staffa tours continued to deliver on both day two and three, with 18 basking sharks observed between the two trips!

White scarring on the nose, possibly from a boat strike

I'll continue with the birds... 

                       ...there were stonking seabirds!
On Sula Beag, I spotted two red throated divers, and Ewen and Andy bagged two more.

I lost my lens hood for these shots... I don't even care

Then of course there were two more visits to Lunga with Staffa Tours :)

The spot Phil picked out for the student's observation exercises afforded great views of a number of species, the cynic in me thinks it was deliberately chosen for its photo oportunities... 

This week there were plenty of fluffy Fulmar chicks on show.

I've been trying for decent Fulmar shots for a year
Once again it was puffin fantastic!

loads of sand eels = loads of terns

Black Guillemots around Staffa
And all these nesting and feeding birds were bringing in the Skau's.

 All in all, I'm very, very happy! Now I REALLY need sleep!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Mull - Trip 1 Boat 2 - Staffa Tours

"Good girl, Natalie. Have a toffee" That's what the universe was saying to me yesterday as we headed out on our Staffa Tours trip to the Isle of Lunga. One of those awesome moments when you realise that all those life choices may have been right!

As we steamed out of Tobermory there was a slight breeze, which became a strong breeze and a sea state of 3-4 as we left the shelter of Ardnamurchan... We were up top, and within minutes were drenched with spray. I took the wuss route for the sake of my already soaked socks (not to mention my camera), and headed down below with the damper students while the others bravely continued with their observations. 

Luckily by the time we reached Coll I had dried and the sea was calmer, allowing great views of at least 3 basking sharks, one a 10 meter giant! The guys up top got great views of them breaching, but I was happy just to have them cruising around us.

Next we headed for Lunga, and disembarked for a 2 hour stop, when the students would be making behavioural observations of the island's amazing avian inhabitants.The air was think with razorbills, guillemots, shags, kittiwakes, fulmars, common terns, and - best of all - puffins. 

I took over 1300 pictures, and I think I grinned for the full 6 hours we were out. And I certainly celebrated with a few beers last night... Ouch! Enjoy the pictures, I know I enjoyed taking them! (And, in case you're wondering about my new lens, its the best present I've ever bought myself!)

Too big to fit in the frame - check out that GAPE!


Mull - Trip 1 Boat 1 - Sula Beag

Here are some of the shots from my first boat trip around Mull. We were aboard the Sea Life Surveys trip on Thursday, great weather, nice sea state, plenty of birds. The staff are all awesome - masses of local knowledge - they make my job so easy! It also means we get to where the wildlife is, allowing me to get snap happy!

White Tailed  Eagle 1 on Day 2 - from Sula Beag
White Tailed Eagle 2 Day 2 - From Sula Beag
My First Puffin! - From Sula Beag

Great days from Gannets - Sula Beag Again

There were around 300 Manxies off Ardnamurchan 

I love this boat, makes me smile every trip!

A couple of tasty numbers

And a Shag on a mooring buoy
Me (in Tilley hat and bins) along with students, passengers and crew.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Making for Mull

Well, tomorrow evening I'll be on Mull. Its the annual Marine Mammal Module trip. That means 2 five day trips to Tobermory, complete with a minimum of 2 pelagic trips, an island tour and some searching for otters and white tailed eagles. On the second trip Prof Chris Parsons of Kraken in the Aquarium and George Mason University will be with us, so there's a high likely hood of beer and nerdy sci-fi references.

I have my new 150-500mm lens, my Tilley hat, Eels- I Like Birds and Geoff Sample on the iPod, and a LOUSY weather forecast. Fingers crossed. I'll keep you posted!

Pew pew!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Slow Few Days

Not a lot to report this weekend, a visit from the parents this weekend limited outdoor time; however, I did have an excellent carvery at the Hungry Monk and bought some ace lavender ice cream at Lime Tree Larder, AND the Ravenscraig sparrowhawk chicks hatched. 

While they were here, I took the opportunity to take the 'rents for a look at the reserve. Despite it being unusually quiet we were rewarded with a brief view of a Spotted Flycatcher.

Blurry Spot Fly!

Today was generally wet and miserable and I spent it in the dark of the SEM lab, listening to the Spooky Men's Chorale and reading Gripping Yarns by Mr B Oddie (a situation which I can recommend).  On the way home I was stopped by the sound of chirping. Two immature Whitethroat were watching me warily from the gorse, then I was thoroughly "yelled at" by one of the parents on the opposite side of the path. The juv.s disappeared but the adult flitted nervously between the foliage allowing me enough time for a few photos.

go away...

...Go Away....

... GO AWAY!!!