Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Oban pelagic

An early train from Aviemore to Glasgow and a quick nip from one station to another, then board the train for Oban.  All planned with immaculate detail...

OK the bus was booked solidly. 

Still I managed to get an Osprey again floating south over the town before departure, but no pictures. All was going swimmingly until the train decided to stop.  The delay meant I would miss my connection  and have to spend 6 hours in Glasgow, probably getting drunk.  I complained to the guard for want of anything better to do, and he to my surprise said he would organise something.  This must happen a lot. 

When he came back a taxi had been organised to take me from Stirling to Crianlarich so that I could pick up my train there.  Sweet.  Glad I wasn't paying for that!

Once I had managed to get the train schedule to find I had a plenty of time to get there, I sat back and enjoyed myself as we drove through some stunning scenery with my talkative cabbie.

Arrived in Oban by mid afternoon and it was hot, and full of round people, old people  and European people. Dumped my stuff at the closest hotel to the sea front: expensive and a tad crap - no biscuits for f-sake! Done.  I had been.

Now for Tysties, shouldn't be too hard. Ten minutes later, bingo.  The light however was all wrong so I would have to come back.  I went for a walk along the front, an evening meal and a bottle of wine, and staggered back to get some slightly better lit snaps.  Pretty nice sunset as well.

With that year tick under my belt, how to get the biggy.  White-tailed Eagle.  This is the last bird from my former birding days that I have yet to see in my dotage.  Tantalisingly they were just across the water, but I also wanted to see Basking Shark and perhaps a whale or two, and a bit of sea passage stuff.

After checking out of the hotel after breakfast I wandered down to the ferry terminal to look at timetables. A boat to the Outer Hebrides was just about to depart - decision made.

I positioned myself on the Mull side of the boat as I figured big eagles would probably be easier to see as they fished along the coast.  After about thirty minutes, I noticed a bit of gull action further on up the shore line, and as predicted a big ol' eagle was the subject of their attentions.  They came towards us then the eagle side-stepped the lot and went for the trees, showing its rather distinctive tail as it did so.  That made me rather happy.  Scotland done!

Did miss a Minke which apparently was shadowing the boat on the other side.

Now for shark. As we approached the first of the scheduled stops, their tall fins came into view.  I must admit it was quite exciting - the second largest fish in the world - and a shark - ter-dum, ter-dum, t'dum, t'dum etc. Calls of "we're going to need a bigger boat..."

There were dozens of them, locals said that it was the most they had seen for generations.  Dozens became hundreds by the time we returned, we even looked to have run one over as it cruised into the wake at the front of the boat. Dolphins a plenty too, Commons, Bottlenose and Harbour Porpoise and a lone Minke rolling over as we headed back to Oban.

As we left the small islands, we left the sharks too.  Manxies and Fulmar constant companions, while about half way across I picked up my first Storm Petrel, and a few Great Skua.

I thought we might stay on Harris for a bit longer than we did, so I got off the boat, then had to spend the remaining allotted time getting a pass to get back on the boat.  Arse.  But at least I can say I've been on the Hebrides.  It transpires there was a Snowy Owl reported just around the corner at a bout the same time I was there. Arse.

The return trip was quite uneventful, with the exception of passing Tobermory.  What's the f***ing story ....  Yup that one!

Too late into port, too late to get smashed, too late to get a decent hotel, and too late for any decent food.  Had to eat my Chinese on the harbour front.  A passerby said how pitiful it was seeing someone in such a condition. 

Now just the problem of getting into work for the beginning of my shift. 

Only 4 hours late.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Jekyll Island

I initially went to this blog to post news on Snaresbrook but honestly can't figure out how to even start that so I think I will go back in time and tell you about Jekyll Island.

Jekyll Island is off the coast of Georgia in the US in Glynn county near Brunswick, the western side is bordered by one huge salt marsh, rather like a mega Mersea Island. It has a historical site with buildings dating back to the 19th century (wow!) and is popular vacation destination. In spite of this I found the large areas of inland woodland and scrubland dominated by Live Oak very quite and peaceful, even a few hundred metres off the roads.

At the time I hadn't seen a lot of American Warblers (this was 2010) and was amazed at the abundance of Yellow throated Warbler and Northern Parula here, they seemed to be everywhere at least in the summer.

Yellow throats can walk headfirst down a tree too in the same manner as Black and White Warblers or Nuthatches

Yellow-throated Warbler

Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus) a species of digger wasp
abundant on the island - apparently they are not aggressive.
They stock their burrows with paralised Cicadas.
Julie standing under one of the older Live Oaks on the island
My wife, Margie's sister Julie and her husband Dave Fisher (no direct relation) have a condo here and it was a pleasure to stay here and explore the island for a few days.

Local Alligator

Gulf Fritillary
One evening, I and Dave went to a lake near a woodland Ampitheatre which had an assortment of goodies including Anhinga, a Roseate Spoonbill, 13 Wood Stork and Osprey. Unfortunately my pictures were not as good as Dave's so I have left them off. Then we were off to the Georgia Pig for some unhealthy tasty pork sandwiches and back in time to feed the local Alligator...

Royal Tern

On another occasion I went to the Southernmost point with Julie where there were a few waders knocking about including Semipalmated Sandpiper and Wilson's Plover. The Great Egrets here were particularly tame

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Black Skimmers with Royal Terns

Great Egret
 Another nice surprise here was to find Painted Buntings, these seem to replace the inland Indigo Buntings on the island and I managed to get a good recording of a song of a male at the Historical site.

<iframe src="http://www.xeno-canto.org/embed.php?XC=54641&simple=0" scrolling=no frameborder=0 width=340 height=230></iframe>
Incoming storm near the driftwood beach

Dave taking pictures of the local Flora and Fauna

Snowy Egret

Boat-tailed Grackle (noisy and common on the island)

A walk to the Northern part of the island prodcued this
aberrant Ring-billed Gull with bleached wing feathering

Tricolored Heron

Eastern Kingbird

Phaon Crescent
 Other species of note were both Brown and American White Pelicans and Gull-billed Terns

On the next installment - more from Georgia but a lot more from both the Cruises I went on Mexico and Bahamas.