Wildlife summer 2013

30 June: Isle of May seabirds
01 June: Scottish Ospreys

30 June: Isle of May seabirds

A day trip to this small island in the Firth of Forth gave me a chance to see and photograph many species (including a few I'd never seen before): Gannet, Puffin, Kittiwake, Shag, Razorbill, Guillemot, Eider, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Terns - there are Common Terns, Arctic Terns and Sandwich Terns on the island, but I'm rubbish at telling them apart! Also saw Oystercatcher and Pied Wagtail, and a very large Grey Seal colony.

Guillemots Landscape Flowers Female Eiders Rabbit Kittiwake feeding chick Gull chicks Arctic Terns Arctic Tern. They were aggressively dive-bombing intruders coming too close to their eggs/chicks, but unfortunately the Tern colony is just on the path leading people off the ferry! Razorbills - and a Shag having a nap Razorbills Guillemots Guillemot Puffins Puffin portrait Puffins Puffins Lesser Black-backed Gull with chicks Shag Vertical bird city Shag nests Razorbill Seals Seals Seals - colour differences Seals

01 June: Scottish Ospreys - Loch of the Lowes and Loch Garten

The main purpose of this 5 day trip to Aviemore was to see the webcam-famous Ospreys for real.

Friday 24th May

On the way north to Speyside I stopped at Loch of the Lowes near Dunkeld to see Lady, possibly Britain's oldest Osprey, who has been breeding at the Loch for over two decades. On the day I visited, the Scottish Wildlife Trust staff reckoned they could see one of the eggs moving. It was expected to hatch the following day. (As it happened, nothing hatched until 1st June.) Lady was on the nest most of the time I was there, but she did leave for about ten minutes, where her mate was also out of sight, causing the people in the hide to get a bit nervous as the eggs were exposed...

Male Osprey 'Laddie' approaching the nest Male Osprey over the nest Lady on her nest at Loch of the Lowes The nest tree Loch of the Lowes with a Great Crested Grebe Great Crested Grebe Shore of Loch of the Lowes with the nest tree in centre Pheasants with chick Male Pheasant Siskin (foreground) and Chaffinch Siskins The woodland by the Loch of the Lowes visitor centre

Saturday 25th May

On Saturday morning I went on a guided walk around Milton Loch in Boat of Garten, one of the activities offered as part of the village "Osprey Festival" that day. In the afternoon I visited RSPB Loch Garten where resident female Osprey EJ was obligingly sitting on a perch grooming herself, giving visitors a good view through a scope or binoculars, while her mate of the last few years, Odin, was incubating the eggs. That morning the first of the eggs had begun hatching, so everyone was waiting to welcome a new Osprey chick ("osplet", "bobblehead", or "knitted dinosaur" - Osprey fans have a handful of pet names for them!) into the world. When news broke that a Crane had landed on a pond half a mile down the road people jumped in their cars to go see it, but it had left by the time we arrived. I spent a bit of time by the shore of Loch Garten. Abernethy Forest is a magical, quietly atmospheric place, and no words or pictures can fully do it justice. I decided to return there to explore a bit more some other day.

Black-headed Gull on Milton Loch Oystercatcher Oystercatcher Male Orange Tip Willow Warbler Swallow River Spey, where Ospreys occasionally fish Red Squirrel at RSPB Loch Garten Red Squirrel Red Squirrel Red Squirrel Nest, camera, and EJ perched on a dead tree That blotch in the middle is EJ... honestly! Red Squirrel View across Loch Garten

Sunday 26th May

The following day I went to Rothiemurchus, despite my reservations that this estate appears to be an expensive tourist trap (the clue is that they charge for parking). I had hoped to visit the Osprey hide at the Rothiemurchus Fishery, which was advertised as being open from 9:30 for an access fee of 5. However, when I got there they weren't allowing people in as a group of "serious photographers" had paid a substantial amount for the privilege of access from 4:30 in the morning but had had a disappointing session, so they were invited to visit the hide again later in the day which in turn meant it was closed to "Sunday photographers" like me. Having just seen the group depart, dressed in camo gear and with thousands of pounds worth of kit, I was rather disappointed that I wasn't allowed a turn!

Instead I took a walk on Rothiemurchus Estate and around Loch an Eilein. I didn't see much of interest (mostly Chaffinches, which were abundant), but it's hardly surprising as the path around the loch became quite busy as the morning progressed, and the car park which was almost empty at 9:40 was full when I returned at 2 in the afternoon. I did spend a little time observing a female Teal pecking food off the surface of the water and catching insects in the air just above her, and I watched a Red Squirrel foraging on the ground (albeit from a distance), which was quite entertaining.

Loch an Eilein Rothiemurchus Rothiemurchus Common Heath moth (male) Common Heath moth (male) - very difficult to take macro shots using a zoom lens; the depth of field is so narrow (but I was afraid it would flutter off if I took the time to change lenses) Teal (female) Teal (female) Loch Gamhna Loch an Eilein Loch an Eilein Loch an Eilein Loch an Eilein Loch an Eilein Loch an Eilein

Monday 27th May

Monday I returned to the Loch Garten Osprey Centre, as the first chick had indeed hatched over the course of Saturday and I also wanted to continue my exploration of Abernethy Nature Reserve. EJ was on the nest while I was there, although at one point standing up and revealing the chick and the unhatched second egg. Odin was on a nearby perch eating a fish which he had delivered to the nest earlier and then taken away again after EJ had fed the chick. EJ was making a lot of noise telling him to give it back! I tried my hand at digiscoping with my old compact camera and the centre's scopes. It was cold and rather windy (it had rained in the morning) but I went for a walk around Loch Garten and neighbouring Loch Mallachie anyway, hoping to spot a Crested Tit. Alas, I saw no "Cresties" at all during my trip, but the walk in Abernethy Forest was enjoyable nonetheless, as the wind calmed down a bit and the sun came out.

In the evening I attended a talk on Ospreys by Roy Dennis at the Boat of Garten Community Hall. He began by giving an update on the last two breeding seasons - both 2011 and 2012 have had rotten weather for the Ospreys. He then spoke about helping Ospreys repopulate the British Isles by building artificial nests, about translocation in the UK and abroad, and about the perils they face on migration and in West Africa. He also told the story of a few satellite-tagged individuals who have provided an insight into some fascinating behaviours. At the end he took questions and had a wee book sale/signing. I had brought my copy of "A Life Of Ospreys" along and he kindly signed it for me.

Boat of Garten welcome sign Loch Garten Osprey Centre - Odin Red Squirrel Capercaillie wood carving at the Osprey Centre The holy grail of Ospreyworld! Odin in flight Osprey outline - Odin Odin flying above the nest Odin on perch - digiscoped Osprey display at the Centre Odin - digiscoped Odin on the nest - digiscoped Information boards at the Centre Red Squirrel Red Squirrel Red Squirrel Singing male Chaffinch - by far the most abundant species I saw Abernethy Forest Abernethy Forest

Tuesday 28th May

Tuesday I headed south again, but not before spotting this little fellow nibbling away outside my hotel window... with another rabbit not far away behind a tree.

Rabbit Rabbit

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