Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Venturing Out

Its been quiet, hasn't it?... Don't hold it against me, I've been busy.

Since my last post I've pretty much locked myself in my flat; alternately working on my thesis, or on fundraising for this year's International Marine Conservation Congress in Glasgow (you should come along).

The hours have been funny; often 30 hours stints, followed by sleep snatched on sofa or - very occasionally - the floor (my back hurts being hunched over my laptop, laying on the floor helps, the sleep is unintentional). Recreation is a 10 minute drive to Fintry to check out what's in with the geese... I tend to feel guilty when I'm not near my desk.

When I do stop, the last thing I want to do is write a blog post, and I've not been outside to see anything anyway.

I suppose you could say that I've been coping by not coping.

So yesterday I decided to break the rhythm and cook for friends. Of course the result was that today I woke up hung over. I decided to take the scope and a flask round to the far side of the island, do a little sea watching, and let my head adjust. The next thing I knew, I was on the ferry, heading for Stevenson's Point. I'd go and take some shots of the purple sandpipers, and come back feeling like I'd done something fun. 2 hours tops. Back and working by 3...

There was one problem with that plan... No bloody purp. sands. I sett in the scope broke out the flask, and settled in for a sea watch instead. The weather was pretty grotty, and for the first 50 minutes there was nothing but mergansers and eider, idly bobbing in the waves.

"you could have got these on island" my conscience whined.

Then I picked up a few razorbills heading north. Then a red throated diver just inside the cardinal buoy. An arctic tern close in. Then sanderling on the beach. A sandwich tern. 8 common scoter. The tide was well out by this point, no chance of tracking down those sands now...

"you've missed 3 hours of typing time" said the conscience.

Home time then.... right after I drop in on the golf course and tick off the scaup. They're always there anyway...

A cheap tick

Right, done, my flask is cool enough to drink now, which means I've been out way too long...

...maybe I'll just look in at Muirshiel, see it there are any cuckoos or hen harriers around. Seeing as I'm off islands.

...bang! cuckoo is the first bird I see as I get out of the car. Time to stomp around and try to spot a hen harrier. I followed the trails upstream, getting out of the tree line (Muirshiel has a nice mix of coniferous areas and upland heath). The water level was testament to the excess of rain we seem to have had recently.

Everything's damp...

Hardridge Trail

Then as I head up Hardridge, I hear the sound of someone running their fingernail down a comb... dipper! Two in fact, feeding together along the burn. Hen harriers forgotten I spent a good hour snapping the pair, watching them nip in and out of the water (some of which was seeping through my trousers where I was kneeling). One even took a moment to chase off a passing grey wagtail. I was starting to feel much better for ditching work for a day.

Beginning to lose light and decidedly damp I started down the trail for the car park, keeping my eyes peeled for any harriers over the hills. However, the only other thing I managed to tick off was this foraging tree creeper.

Treecreeper at the visitor center

As I got home the ravens were attacking something on the cliff. I was expecting the resident sparrowhawk or kestrel, but it was a peregrine that nipped around the crags, before gaining height over the house and heading for wee Cumbrae.

Bonus Bird

I still feel guilty for going out; but at least it paid off. I think I can hold out until our annual capper hunt on the 18th. Now, time for an 18 hour writing stint. Adios!

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