Friday, 18 November 2011

To the land of the seals part 2

A long-eared owl close-up, feel the force of its personality.

A photo session
A woodcock close-up.
A European white-fronted goose, a youngster and a rare visitor to the island.
One of 100+ blackbirds depsrately refueliling for the next part of their journey.
A dusky warbler, a very rare visitor.

When you land on the island it is the seals that captured your attention but there was plenty else to see with a bit of searching. Birders are not normally out on the island this late in the year so Mark and I were surprised to see so many birds about. The light east winds had brought in a drift of migrants from Scandinavia and over the two days we found some gems of birds. The most exciting, due to rarity rather than beauty was the dusky warbler as only a handful are recorded in the UK each year. But for me the most awe inspiring were the long-eared owls, one of which we managed to catch to ring. These birds have followed the migrant blackbirds across the North Sea like a donkey following a carrot and when seen close up they demand attention and respect. The woodcock that we caught look a bit more worried about life but they have patterns on the feathers that have a warmth, depth and detail that can never be fully captured on paper. Behind every bush and crag were blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings looking strangely out of place away from the gardens where you normally see them. Mixed in with them were a black redstart, blackcaps, bramblings, chaffinches, dunnocks and robins. For variety there was an extremely wary little grebe on the lochan, a lonely European white-fronted goose and a bean goose, a merlin, 2 peregrines and a kestrel. All of them eating or being eat, desperate for food to make their next step of their journey.
It was a privilege to see the island in this hidden season on its year and learn a bit more about its life and character. The great thing about picking up a bit of knowledge is that it allows you to see more. After what I have seen and learnt from this visit my next visit I will look at the birds with new eyes and the seals with better understanding.

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