Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Patch of Secrets

Since my trip to Mull, I have spent a lot more time back in Northumberland, the majority of the time on my patch. And what a patch it has become. Species have came and left, but one that has been for quite a while, and just made its first appearance in front of me is the elusive Fox. I had spent the day, just out on a wonder, walking about casually, just taking in the fresh air. A careless attitude to the surroundings, blissfully watching the many swifts soaring around the skies, followed by the odd curlew and gull, until a Kestrel decided to make an appearance. On a fence post it landed, looking around, or even at one point just posing. I stopped and took a few photos, and decided to leave it be.

But this didn't seem to be what the bird had in mind. It followed me for the rest of the day. Every time I decided to change route it would come follow, from post to post, gate to gate, it just didn't want to leave, occasionally it would drop to the grass and prey on a slug, but again I think it was showing off.

The more I observed it, the more it would pose, from looking at its plumage this bird of prey was obviously new to this year and full of character. Two hours had passed, a lot of time with a wild Kestrel, and I decided to try and move on and leave the bird to a post.

Eventually I think it got the idea that I wasn't interested any more, or it took the huff that I put the camera away, as it quickly jumped up and span around and showed me its back, with a very few slight turns of the head to see what I was doing.

It was just comical to watch. Laughing in my head I started to walk off, a continued on a walk around the patch to see what else was kicking about.
Many tracks of sea birds found in the mud, more swifts and swallows in the sky, until I stumbled on what appeared to be Roe Deer tracks, I had heard stories of sightings of Deer around the neighbouring village and casually straying to different parts, but didn't think they had managed to venture this far. Walking through what seemed a timeless meadow, I ventured back on to the beaten track, only to look down it, and only to find a bird casually sat in the middle. With a borrowed pair of bins, I focused in on the bird............ the kestrel. I thought to my self "unbelievable", must have just been a lost good bye though, as I walked further, it kicked of the ground and plummeted down the hill, and into flight.

With a lot of meadow around and grassy areas, I thought it might be a good chance to see if I could get a fresher looking butterfly shot of some sort. Scanning the area, I could see little flutters here and there but nothing straight in front of me, the day was pretty warm so any cold blooded animal would be on top form, basking in all the suns heat. As I walked on, I spotted a Meadow Brown butterfly, and followed it down a bank of grass. As it landed on a blade of grass I took my camera from my bag and changed lenses for a macro.

One shot is all I got (a pretty poor shot), until a damsel fly caught my attention, as it flittered away to the point where I was nearly cross eyed looking for it, I happened to glance down, and there it was, staring at me, a beautiful Fox. Body nestled in the grass, head peering through the weeds of ragwort, a beautiful coat of golden red fur over its face, with a snowy white chest.  Its glance changing direction ever so slightly but not far enough to take my view out of sight. As my camera rose in the air, the expression changed, its body backed of a little, but stayed for quite a while to get a good number of shots. Its head turned, and body slinked with it, back into the grassy parting, it disappeared.

As I put my camera down, another appearance, but this time form another parting of grass and by a much bolder, older Fox, fur more duller, white chest more worn, and face with more years. What I'm assuming was the Vixen, she casually rose her head, gave me a stare, continued with her head rising, and sniffing the air, after a second or two, she turned and slowly retreated back, gracefully, with out any scurry or alarm. As if a silent warning had been given to me and she knew that I was to back off and leave them be. Delighted by the sighting, and not wanting to spend anymore time there than nesassary, obviously they were wanting to come out of then den and me being there was stopping this, I packed up and headed off. After a further walk along, my eyes must have told my jaw to hit the floor. Three more foxes, playing and lazing about on a heap of black ground dirt.

A few captures with the camera, and I was happy to leave it at that and return back to the car, and head off home. A great find, and lots of possible photographic opportunities buzzing around my head, with hopefully a few cogs getting moved in the thinking department.

After a few hours at home, i decided to head back out but this time look for a few Barn Owls, and i wasn't disappointed. As soon as i stepped out of the the car, sure enough there it was, in flight, doing its evening food shopping.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Wonders Of Mull

Been a tad busy over the past few weeks, completely moved out of halls, settled back home, with the occasional drive to work for the weekly torture shifts! But last week seen me and a group of friends drive up the west coast of Scotland on route to the Isle of Mull. The drive was long, as I started my journey from Northumberland to Penrith to pick up a few people for the trip and then to Carlisle to meet up the a few more people, and off we went. a few hops, skips, jumps and two ferries later we landed on Mull. What a beauty it was. Crystal clear waters, lush green grass, hills, valleys, waterfalls, it was like being in the setting for the next Jurassic Park film, less the dinosaurs of course. We drove to were our camp site was going to be for the next week, a beauty of a spot, located on the edge of Loch Na Keal. Amazing views though out. The waters a playground for otters, seals and porpoise, and the skies thermals creating a fantastic atmosphere for White Tailed Eagles and Golden Eagles. After we set up our tents and organised our selves we had a small walk around the site, the light was still on our side. Views of a White Tailed eagle could be seen with the female steadily seated in one of the conifers, bold as brass. The views behind us seen a small group of Fallow Deer grazing in fields. Amazed by what I had seen in less than 30 mins, it was sure to be a mind blowing trip.

The night had flown by, and we were all up ready to take a boat trip to the Treshnish Islands just to the west of Mull. On route to the trip we encountered a number of Otters within the loch shore swimming from rock to rock, a spectacle to see.
 The first island to land on was Staffa, as the boat ferried around the island, views of the infamous Finglas Cave could be seen. As we landed we climbed the steep steps up to the fresh green grassy land, walking around what seemed lifeless at first, until we headed over to the north east side where the cliffs were harboured with Fulmars and Guillemots, and the occasional Shag flying by.

After our short stay we headed back to the boat ready to take the journey to what I'm sure what is what everyone was waiting for, Lunga "a green jewel in peacock sea", the breeding ground for many puffins, gulliemots, and razorbills.

If you could add another wonder to the world then I would defiantly nominate the Isle of Mull for the entry. It has everything you could need. The endless amount of terrain, marine, marshland, woodland, moorland, with everyone playing habitat to an array of wildlife.

On one of the days at Mull we booked a trip with Sealife Surveys Whale Watching, and i have to say it is one of the best trips i have been on. Seven hours of pure bliss! I would recommend this trip to anyone, the amount of sighting of marine wildlife is outstanding. Basking sharks, Harbour Porpoise, Common Dolphins and Minke Whale. Whilst on the boat i encountered what i will say will be one of the most memorable sightings of my life, what seemed like a scene from Jaws except with no razor sharp teeth and massive amount of plankton, a basking shark swam direct for the boat, under and to the other side, obviously not bothered by the vessel.

And not long after a pod of Common Dolphins gave a good sighting.

And the biggest highlight of the day, a Minke Whale gave the biggest show of all, merging to the surface of the water, unfortunately no pictures of this close encounter as believe it or not, the lens i had on my camera was had a range to big to capture the massive creature, however I did manage to capture the Minke moments before.

Another trip be embarked on was the Eagle trip, which allowed us to get up close and personal with a number of White Tailed Eagles. Another amazing experience. This place was beginning to feel like paradise. WHat else could you want to capture an unreal amount of wildlife.

After our trips we explored more of the island to be continuously blown away by sightings. Short Eared  Owls hunting on on field, and glances to the next a Hen Harrier could be seen doing the same. Unbelievable.
From driving through the single track roads sightings of Red Deer were also spotted. After stopping the car, and agreeing to "try and snipe" over to them myself and Ciara, managed to get relatively close and refrained from disturbing them.

The wildlife around the Island is not the only thing Mull boats, there a plenty of opportunities for any amount of landscapes.