Friday, 23 June 2017

Terns Fishing

Last weekend I went for a walk along the beach at the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where there were a flock of common and arctic terns chasing after a shoal of tiny fish in a shallow bay. There were about forty terns in the flock and all were dipping and flitting in their determined efforts to capture fish to bring back to their chicks, which were in the ternery on the northern shore of the estuary, about a kilometre away.

I stood less than fifty metres away from the birds as their repeated diving drove the fish into shore.

All their eyes were focused n the fish, not me.

Not all dives were successful.

But every dive was spectacular.

The fish were several centimetres below the surface, so the birds had to partially submerge to catch them.

And breaking free from the water required strong wings.

Many of the birds were ringed, most probably by members of the local Grampian Ringing Group, with rings supplied by the British Trust for Ornithology. Ringing these birds helps to determine where they migrate to, what waters they fish in - need to fish in when on migration, and how long they live. All of which helps to assess the viability of the local breeding colony and the general conservation of the species.

Dashing, splashing, paddling.

Then one last push with their webbed feet and they had their reward.

Oh, what a feeling.

The fishing was good and there were well fed chicks that afternoon.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wild Places in the Highlands

Climbing Stob Ban in the Mamores
(Model - Nigel Raven)
Over the past few weeks I have been in some wonderful wild places in the Scottish Highlands. Too many to document here, so I will just give a little selection of shots taken during my wanderings. These are mostly of hills where I have being studying ptarmigan and the habitats they use on the high tops. The vegetation is all very short, although it varies in species composition across different massifs. The hills in the west are wetter, snow lies longer on the highest hills and even lower hills are windswept, so hold suitable hill-top vegetation.These really are wild places to live.

The northern buttresses of Stob Ban.

The summit ridge of Mullach nan Coirean, in the Mamores.

The north-eastern corrie of Carn Eighe, north of Glen Affric.

Sgurr na Lapaich, Glen Affric.

The distant snowy top of Ben Nevis, seen from Carn Dearg, south of Loch Ossian.

Another distant view of Ben Nevis, from a lochan on Beinn Pharlagain, Rannoch.

The remote railway station at Corrour, seen through the mist from Beinn na Lap.

The rain-washed slopes of Beinn nan Aighenan, seen from Glas Beinn Mhor, Glen Etive.

A waterfall on the Allt Mheuran, Glen Etive.

Creag an Duine, seen from Seana Bhraigh.

The northern cliffs of Creag Riabhach, Cape Wrath.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Original House Martin nests

A house martin looks out from deep inside its cliff nest; the original site for these birds to build their nests before we built houses with eaves for them - artificial rock overhangs.

This colony built their nests in the cave left of the sea stack, at the back of a sheltered bay on the north sea, near Aberdeen.

A closer view shows that it is more of a large overhang of rock rather than a deep cave.

Their are five completed nests in this photograph, and a few that have either fallen off or are only just begun to be built. There were twelve complete nests altogether. Each nest is well placed in a corner or rock within the whole larger overhang. A perfect safe site for a colony.

A house martin looks out from its nest, the entrance hole is open onto the rock roof, like they are on buildings.

Then the bird dropped out of the nest and whizzed by, too quickly to photograph without flash - which I prefer not to use on wildlife.