Sunday, 21 August 2016

UK Road Trip. Prepare for a long read and many photos !

Here is the long awaited UK Road Trip blog....

We had quickly planned and booked in May to take the family to a few places we've not been to together before and see some wonderful wildlife sights.
The plan was, and carried out exactly, to travel up to Glasgow area, stay overnight as it's a long way from South Wales, next day travel on to Oban, where we visited a sea life sanctuary and had booked a ferry to the Isle of Mull.


It was a very fine day for travelling on the ferry- 45 minutes from Oban to Craignure. En route we saw our first truly Scottish birds of the trip - Black Guillemots...
A gorgeous sea bird, even though it is black, with white wings and red legs.

I've been wanting to go to Mull for ages to see the White-tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles and Otters. We stayed in a sweet little B&B place whose facilities were first class. We used this as base for 3 nights and ventured out in the day times. A boat trip was already booked before we travelled to see White-tailed Eagles in and around a specific loch and we were not disappointed ! Just take look at this for an encounter....

White-tailed Eagle

It was glorious weather and the loch's waters were calm. In the distance my husband spotted a Golden Eagle but it was so far away above the horizon of some mountains. A glimpse at this stage was fine by me.

On this boat trip we saw a few seals, Shag, Gannet, Guillemot, gulls and a distant mother and calf porpoise briefly surfacing.



Jellyfish seen below us in the water, after getting off the boat.

The following day's plan was to visit the Isle of Iona as we'd read it was possible to see or hear Corncrake. After a very long drive around what seemed to be most of Mull, with outstanding scenery I might add, and during which we found a closer Golden Eagle soaring, we arrived at the ferry port for a short ferry trip. Foot passengers only allowed. It was a lovely little island. White sands on the beaches, lots of tall grassy areas and some history tied in with it's ruined Nunnery and an existing Abbey. After a lunch stop we walked around near the grassy areas and sure enough we just about managed to hear up to 3 Corncrake. Their call is very distinctive. Listen and watch here....

 Isle of Iona

However en route to the ferry port, we stumbled across 2 otters swimming in the loch close to the road. The light conditions were poor and this is the best image I captured of them, possibly a mother and a youngster...

Our return journey back to the B&B was in the misty rain through the mountains. Most of Mull's roads are single track with many passing places thankfully. The mountains are enormous - had it been a better day I'm sure we would have stopped a few times to admire the scenery and look for bird life.

Other birds seen during our stay on Mull were a Short-eared Owl close by,  Herons seemed to be everywhere you look, Red-breasted Merganser, Ringed Plover,  a Spotted flycatcher, Greylag Geese, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, more Black Guillemots and Guillemot.

Short-eared Owl record shot at dusk.

Ringed Plover.

We had an early morning return ferry to Oban. Whilst waiting at the port to board there were a few hooded crows around. A common sight in northern Scotland. 

Hooded Crow

Guillemot with newly flegded young seen from return ferry to Oban.

From Oban we made the 2 hour trip back towards Glasgow, and then in the direction of Edinburgh area for our next overnight base. The next day was a visit to the Scottish Seabird Centre and another boat trip to the famous Bass Rock, home to over 100,000 Gannets. I couldn't wait!
Bass Rock.

A loop around a smaller island first gave us our first views of Puffins for the trip - they are very cute! 

And so on to Bass Rock. Choppy seas resulted in me getting soaked on the return journey, but what an amazing sight to see so many Gannets! Thousands were flying out to sea and back, all around us, perched on the rocks high and low, on nests if you can call it a nest on bare rock, with bundles of white fluffy babies! And there something else noticeable too - the noise from their calls and the smell! 

Spot the baby Gannet !

Magnificent bird and to think what they are capable of - diving into the sea at great depths to catch fish. They always seem to be a pristine bird.

Then it was time to leave the area and travel south to Northumberland. Here we had another hotel base for a few nights and visited the Farne Islands and a few seaside towns nearby. A lovely area to stay in and explore - I think we'll go back and have a week's stay one day !
The collection of Farne Islands as seen from Seahouses, Northumberland.

The Farne Islands are home to Puffins during the breading season, Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags, Cormorants and Kittiwakes and the very special Arctic Terns. Another boat trip gave us amazing views of all of the islands with a landing on Inner Farne for 1 hour. More seals were enjoyed by all on the boat especially as they sang to us! 

On landing at Inner Farne we were greeted by the Arctic Terns, now with fledglings, flying all around us catching food and feeding their young.

A short walk around the footpaths take you close but not too close to the nesting areas, most finished by now (end of July) but there was one area that was the best. It was a sort of a headland - you were practically on the very top with all the rock faces below. However, a fence at the very edge took you face to face with some of these delightful birds.

Kittiwake - another favourite of mine. Notice the black legs. They make a lovely call that sounds like they say their name. 

Razorbill - I was surprised to one so close. A stunning black and white sea bird, that has a thicker bill than Guillemot.


Everyone's favourite - the Puffin.

We discovered a few wildlife sites on our travels along the Northumberland coast where other birds of note were, Linnet, Tree Sparrow, Ruff, Little Egret, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Water Rail, Sandwich Tern.
Some were so distant I did not get any photos but still great to observe through binoculars and telescope.

A male Linnet - so close to us singing a beautiful song.


Tree Sparrows - best I could get from a small mobile flock.

One of many female Eider ducks. 

Sandwich Tern, centre. Identified by black bill with white tip to it.

We had an amazing trip and I highly recommend any of you birders and nature lovers out there to visit these places and see such sights. 

I hope you have enjoyed reading and viewing the photos. 

Thank you. 

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