Scotland - 29th August -4th September 2009

 We stayed at Eleraig Highland lodges next to Loch Tralaig. This is around 20 minutes drive south of Oban.

Saturday 29th August 

We Called into Leighton Moss briefly to break up the journey. Good views of Greenshank and Redshank with the highlight being a Spoonbill well picked up by Greg. En route we saw our first Hooded crow and 7 Red deer grazing on a steep mountain side. After arriving at our lodge with little light remaining we went straight out to explore the area. We soon stumbled across 2 Twite which was a new bird for both of us and also in the area were a single Stonechat, 4 Whinchat, 3 Hooded crow and a Raven what a start!

Sunday 30th August

We got up early and went for another walk from the lodge. The area had great potential with a loch, a large area of flat rough grassland and steep mountain slopes all on our doorstep. Approaching the loch a flock of birds were feeding. We were delighted to see they were Twite and  we could now get some photos, a Wheatear was also nearby.

 With Eagles high on the wanted list, my eyes were constantly being drawn to the mountain tops. I could not believe it when i saw a huge bird coming over the top of the mountain some way off. It was distant and soon went out of sight but i was certain it as a White Tailed Sea Eagle! With Greg missing the action as he was trout fishing on the loch need not have worried. After a short while two birds were seen from the lodge coming over the mountain and this time far closer. It was confirmed that they were indeed Sea Eagles! A brilliant sight and we managed to get a shot of the pair which isn't easy digiscoping! Its poor quality but who cares. 

 

In the afternoon we drove to Oban and en route stopped at Loch Feochan spotting 4 Eider Duck and a group of around 15 Grey Seals on the rocks. In Oban we had a quick look over the harbour and had distant views of our first Black Guillemot with 1 near summer plumage. This as another first and our 4th tick of the holiday!

On returning to the lodge i fancied a look over a sea loch and picked out Loch Melfort as a good spot to try and find Otter. Dad and I drove there in the rain and found a good spot to scan the harbour. Within 20 minutes and with dad thinking of calling it a day an Otter popped up by the boats! It was a brilliant sight. The Otter surfaced and dived a few times before disappearing. What a Fantastic end to an amazing day!

Monday 31st August  

Around the Lodge the flock of Twite now at 30! Watched them feeding before setting off for Glasgow for a  gig in the evening. On the way we stopped off by Loch Awe and saw 2 Red-throated Diver both in Summer plumage close in. What fantastic looking birds!

Tuesday 1st September

Again early morning around 30 Twite around the paddock again. We Decided to take the boat out and we rowed to the very end of loch Tralaig. Stunning scenery and perfect quiet. As we neared the end of the loch 2 huge White-tailed Sea Eagles lifted from the pine trees lining the Loch. Getting brilliant views of the birds as they flew up the loch they then appeared to land. We moored the boat and I climbed to shore across a bog to relocate the sea eagles.

At this point a large bird flew out from over the forest. It was clearly an eagle but it instantly dawned on me that it was not one of the Sea Eagles. It was a juvenile Golden Eagle! I had excellent views of the bird as it flew directly over my head.  I really couldn't believe it! As it flew over, the 2 Sea Eagles also lifted to the sky and I had the 3 of them together in the bins! A special moment. The Golden Eagle flew across the loch and across the mountain side and the 2 Sea Eagles came back to the original area. 1 perched on a tree stump with the other in a tree. Unfortunately I only had bins due to having to take the boat but still got excellent views. The underside of the juvenile Goldie was etched in my mind, the white wing patches and white tail with black around the end. I was in shock that this had showed up so close overhead with the sea eagles. What a place!!!!!

A flock of around 20 Siskin were seen on the way back and Greg managed to catch a nice Brown Trout.

In the afternoon we drove to Seil Island. Here we saw a Peregrine Falcon 3 Raven over the hillside and looking out to sea many Manx Shearwater were seen carving the waves. We went for a pint in a pub with a fantastic view. From the beer garden we saw Kittiwake, Rock Pipit, 2 Razorbill, 10+ Shag,and 6 Gannet

On the way home we stopped off at Loch Feochan and scanned the Loch for a while. We saw 6 Grey Seal and 2 Otter! One of them came ashore briefly and we watched it walking along the beach! Magic!!

Wednesday 2nd September

We got up at first light and drove to Loch Melfort to try and get some more Otter sightings. We weren't disappointed. We sat on the end of a pier and waited. An Otter surfaced a little way out and just got closer and closer until it was almost too close to the pier to even see! We could hear the Otter chewing fish which it seemed to catch on every dive. It was an incredible experience.

We also saw 2 Auk species in the harbour, they did seem very small but it was their behaviour that was baffling us. Literally as soon as they came to the surface they dived again! There was no time to get a scoped view to ID them! It was very frustrating. Could possibly have been Little Auk but being the wrong tie of year and not having experience in seeing them we had to leave it as unidentified. 2 definite Razorbill were nearby though. These didn't dive as regularly acting like normal Auks. We drove to Loch Ness and on the way saw 2 Eider Duck and 7 Goosander. At Loch Laggan on the way back we saw a Goldeneye on the loch but no Black Grouse as we had hoped.

Back at Oban harbour we saw 21 Black Guillemot 9 Turnstones and a Rock Pipit bathing.

Thursday 3rd September

Today was the trip to Mull. The weather wasn't looking great but we were going and that was that. On the Ferry over we saw more Black Guillemot much closer this time. Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater, Gannet and 2 Arctic Tern. Also seen was a presumed Dolphin.

On Mull the weather wasn't helping but in a secluded bay we saw Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Redshank, 30+ Grey Heron,Curlew,Oystercatcher,Hooded Crow and passing Arctic Tern.

After a lovely scenic drive to Tobermoray and getting great views of 2 Red Deer stag we arrived into Calgary Bay. The day picked up here when two Eagles came over the mountainside.  We got them in the scope and the Golden nape showed up in the sunlight as they came infront of the mountain. 2 Golden Eaglewoohoo! They stooped and landed out of sight on the mountainside. They looked like adults as there was no white on the underside of the wing. In the fields were plenty of Common Gull and Oystercatcher with a Black Guillemot, Razorbill, 3 Eider and a single Great Northern Diver in the bay. En route to the ferry we stopped to watch 2 White-tailed Sea Eagle sat preening in a pine tree. Cracking birds! We carried on to the ferry after watching 27 Goosander and stopping to watch both Red Deer and 2 Fallow Deer buck. Despite the freezing cold driving wind and rain there was no way we were staying inside on the return trip. We had great views of 25+ Manx Shearwater  with Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot and Kittiwake also seen. The highlight however was a smart pale phase Arctic Skua that flew close to the boat and landed on the sea. With less than favourable conditions it had been a cracking day!

Friday 4th September

Back to Loch Melfort in the morning to see the Otter. Brilliant views again and this time it came ashore. Magic! I decided to walk to the end of Loch Tralaig while Greg did a spot of fishing. I saw a single Reed Bunting, 2 Grey Heron and a few Hooded Crow. As i got to the end of the loch and after scanning the skies 2 Eagles came into view. They got close enough to identify them as Golden Eagle in a similar area to my first sighting. It is clear to see the different shape of the two Eagles in flight. They flew across the Loch and out of sight over the forest. Later Greg saw one soaring and drifting back across the loch. Great stuff!

Around the lodge a Stonechat, Twite, Lesser Redpoll and Redstart were seen. Late in the afternoon a White-tailed Sea Eagle flew in from the coastal direction and circled being mobbed by Buzzard and Raven showing its immense size! It gave really fantastic views from our doorstep! An evening scan over Loch Feochan produced 12 Seal on the low tide and yet another distant Otter sighting.

Saturday 5th September

We drove the long journey back to Cheltenham after a fantastic holiday! Highlights were the incredible views of both Eagles from so close to the Lodge and the amazing Otter sightings! With so many great birds and mammals I really can't wait to get back to Scotland. What a wild wonderful place!

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