Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Look out, look out ...................

....... there are some birds about !

A few days ago, we were all hoping (the birders up here that is) that the south easterly winds would continue and bring a few birds in; it seems as though that has been the case.

Monday 6th September

This morning, I decided to head off over to Hermaness and take a look at the gannets as it would probably be my last chance to get over there this year. It was a beautiful sunny morning, not a cloud in the sky but a stiff breeze was blowing - at least there should be fewer midges. The walk up the relatively new board walk was easy despite having a fairly heavy rucksack on my back. Most of the Bonxies had now left the breeding ground but there were still one or two youngsters dotted about. I came across one bird which was relatively tame and allowed a very close approach; even when on one occasion it took to the air, it circled around and landed back virtually in the same place.

Juvenile Bonxie

Juvenile Bonxies are easily told apart from their parents by the plainer, lack of barring on the undersides. As I walked on, from time to time, an adult would fly past giving me the once over. It's quite easy to mimic their call and this gets them to often hang in the wind and check me out. The one below however, is just a fly-past.

Reaching the top of the cliffs, today there would be no 'distractions' of Tammie Norries' (Puffins) - virtually all them will have gone by the second week in August. It's not known for sure where they winter, it is known to be far out in the Atlantic and I'm almost certain, that no large concentrations of them have been found during the winter months. Down below me were a large number of Gannets on the water, including quite a few youngsters that had already left the nest. Most of the birds were soaring much lower down the cliffs than usual, whether this was because of the wind direction I'm not sure. Coming from the south east, the wind today was blowing offshore, so I presume that because of this there was much less of an updraft for them to fly around on.

Reaching my favourite spot on the cliffs, I worked out the best vantage point at the edge of the cliff which just gave me enough of a clear view of a nest site with an adult and a chick on it. The only problem with this spot is that in the morning, the cliff is in shade which gives a cold cast to the subject. Despite having now being here for two and a half breeding seasons, I've not yet got to Hermaness in the afternoon when the sun hits these cliffs. I know the adults are such beautiful birds, but can the same be said about the guga (young gannet) ?

I only spent around an hour there, but while there it was a real treat watching the comings and goings of the Gannets - something I never get tired of.

Whilst sitting on the cliff top, I was almost stunned, when a Raven flew in and landed only a few yards away from me. I have tried to get shots of Ravens on the ground for ages but have found that they're just too canny to get anywhere near them. This bird could obviously see me but wasn't too bothered as long as I lay still on the grass - maybe it thought I was on my last legs and was waiting for a meal ! Unfortunately again the light was from behind the bird and I couldn't really move much - the cliff dropped off over 100 meters just 3 meters behind me and I only had the 500 on the camera.

Raven - virtually full frame
On the return back down, I got a call from Rory to say that there was a Citrine Wagtail down at the school but due to the location, not to look for it until after school closed at 3.30pm. The timing proved to be a pain as I'd got to be at Uyeasound for a PTA meeting at the same time, fortunately, Catriona's work phone call had finished early so it enabled me to go and take a look with Mike P. Despite the fact it was a juvenile, it was a cracking little bird and the call was very distinctive - a bit like a 'buzzy' Yellow Wagtail. The only close photograph I got was of it perched quite high in a tree and in to the sun.

another one in better light from last year.............

Juv' Citrine Wagtail

Tuesday 7th Sept

I had a couple of hours between taking the kids to school and picking Rona up at 11.30am for an appointment so I headed up north. It seems like the wind has brought in a few birds as I found a Dunnock and Redwing at Skaw, a Green Sandpiper at Lamba Ness and also nearby several Whinchats, a Redstart and several Kestrels. Down at Valyie, Norwick; there was a Common Rosefinch, Garden Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, several Willow Warblers and a Fieldfare. One of the biggest surprises however, was a 'flyover' of a Great Spotted Woodpecker over Baltasound school as it flew west - not many trees in that direction !



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