On the first day of our holiday, we spent most of our time travelling, but we did stop for lunch at a big house, where there was a bone exhibition, called bare bones. There was an osprey skeleton, which was in the position of when it caught a fish, a heron, a couple of frogs, a meerkat, a coypu (about the size of a beaver), and replicas of a lion, horse, dolphin, gorilla and human. We arrived in Perth quite late that night.
Day 2: Red kites
We were staying in quite a small lodge in Perth for another night, and then travelling up to Arisiag. On day 2 we decided to go to the Argaty red kites feeding station. When we drove in, a flock of mistle thrushes flew past us. They are the biggest of our native thrushes (including winter visitors). The kites were being fed at 2pm, so we had our lunch and then went to the hide. The big birds of prey were already screaming, and it seemed they new it was feeding time! We went up to the hide, and there were ravens calling, and bullfinches on the berry trees. Some people came round and put a bucket of meat out for them, and they were all watching from telegraph poles or pine trees. I got a really good film of one on a pole. None came down, but they seemed like they wanted to. We did at least see some magpies and carrion crows come down for the food. After some of the people in the hide went, the red kites started swooping down to get the food! They didn’t even have to land to eat, but just ate in the air. We saw a juvenile land (they can’t eat in flight), and we noticed it had a wing tag, and and I took a good film of it. So this year, I can definitely tick off red kite on my year’s list.
Day 3: Loch of Lowes
Before travelling up to Arisaig, we went to Loch of Lowes nature reserve, where they have breeding ospreys. They had a lot of feeders out, and there were quite a few siskins, another species for my year list. There were also pheasants and mallards feasting from the feeders. We went to the hide, and there was already an osprey on a dead silver birch tree, preening its brown and white feathers. It stayed there for quite a while, before taking off, beating its long, heavy wings, only about 100 metres from the hide. We went down to a different hide, and there were some mute swans. In the same hide, we also saw a female scaup diving, which is a duck I haven’t seen for about four years. Some fallow deer also came out of the woods, a female with a calf, and these were my first of these types of deer and the first new mammal species of the holiday. After about 5 minutes they leapt of into the woodland, but popped up again in a few minutes. When we went back to the car, in the bit of woodland were some roe deer (also a female with a calf) which looked straight at my camera when I was filming! They were not my first roe deer, but only the second time in my life, so it was an extremely good sighting. We got to Arisaig at about 8 o’clock.
Day 4: Hooded crows and Morar beach
On day 4, we went to Morar Beach. When we were driving through Arisaig village, we saw a pair of hooded crows perched in a dead tree. They are a variant of the carrion crows common in England but have a grey body and black head, giving them there name. They were the first of the holiday and another on my year list. On the beach, we made a sand otter!
Day 5: White-tailed eagles and common gull
On day 5, we went to the Arisiag Marine Centre to book a boat trip, and we heard that a pair of white-tailed eagles had set up a nest on a nearby loch, so we went to see if they were there. We walked down a road next to the loch, and there was lots of herons. Suddenly, some of the herons flew up and we looked up to see a pair of eagles flying reasonably close to us, and we thought it must have been an adult and a youngster. I got a really good film of them (its lucky my camera was charged because Mummy’s kept focusing on one of the numerous midges)! It was an extremely good sighting and one of the brilliant encounters we’ve had with them, and the 3rd time I’d seen them. When we were driving to the beach and away from the loch, we saw a big group of five or six young and female red-breasted mergansers that all swum towards a rock and squeezed together (the rock being far too small for them)! After this, we went to Morar beach again, and we saw some common gulls (not common, but reasonably numerous on the west coast of Scotland) and I made a sand fox with its pigeon prey!
Day 6: Boat trip
On day 6, we went on the boat trip we had booked. The boat was going to go to Eigg and Muck and we were going to be dropped off on Muck for a while. We set of at about 11am from the harbour, and after only about 10 minutes we saw some guillemots bobbing about (mainly young ones) and some grey seals and shags on an island, the first shags of the year. We saw some manx shearwaters a distance away, and these were the first of the year for this species as well. After about 10 more minutes, we started to see a few gannets, flying extremely close to the boat. They are our biggest seabirds, with a wingspan that can reach almost two metres. They didn’t dive, but they did land and bob about close to the boat for a while. There were also quite a lot of kittiwakes, a type of gull, closely related to the common but they have black legs. These birds often nest in cities like Birmingham, but we’ve only ever seen them in Scotland. It wasn’t the first time we had seen these birds, but another bird for my year list. In a few minutes time, the shout went up that there was a minke whale close to the boat! It soon popped up, very close to the boat. It broke the water a few times, and then disappeared beneath the surface. I was trying to film it, but failed miserably, because if I’d been looking at my camera screen I wouldn’t have seen it very well. It wasn’t a new species because we saw them a few years ago on a boat trip, but still an extremely good sighting. We went out of the unusually hot cabin and back into the seating area of the boat. Soon, another surprise flew past; a great skua! It was a new species for all of us, and so close to us! It was so bulky, and bigger than I would have expected. Apparently, they can force birds as big as gannets to sick up there food! I went over to the other side of the boat, and saw the big seabird flying around, and managed to get a film of it (unfortunately through the window of the boat, so it was fairly blurred). After a bit, some bottlenose dolphins had started appearing over the other side of the boat! We rushed over there to see, and we soon saw them breaking the surface of the water, not too far away. They were my first ever dolphins, and the second new mammal species of the holiday. It was only a short while until we dropped some people off on Eigg, and we arrived on Muck at about 1:30. We had lunch at a cafe, and were lucky to see another pair of guess what: white-tailed eagles! They were flying above a woodland, but no one else who was eating at the cafe who’d been on the boat seemed to notice! It was unusually warm, and we we ended up putting shorts on. We walked up the road, and we could see Rhum and Eigg. We soon had to go back to the boat. On the way back, we saw the usual seabirds again, and were lucky to see another group of bottlenose dolphins. But the real highlight was that some common dolphins started jumping right next to the boat! They were also a new species for me. They were surfing in the swell of the boat, and jumping out of the water. It was quite a big pod, and one of them jumped completely out of the water, which I managed to film. The water was so clear that we could see them swimming underwater next to the boat. When we got back to the harbour, we saw a female wheatear on the rocks, the first one I’ve seen this year.
Day 8: Three new species
On day 7, we went into Arisaig. I got a book by John Gooders called the Birds That Came Back, and it’s really good. After this, Redwin and Daddy went back to the cottage and me and mummy went to Traigh beach. We spotted an unusual bird flying into some gorse, and when we stopped to have a look, we figured out it was a whinchat, my first ever. They are related to stonechats. When we got to the beach, we saw quite a few little waders, and when we zoomed in on them we found out they were sanderlings, also a new species for me. We also saw some common gulls, and some ringed plovers, the first for the year. Later me and Daddy drove round the Rhu Peninsula, and we saw a lot of whimbrels probing their beaks into the mud. They were really exciting to see and they were a new species for me and Daddy. They are related to the much more commoner curlew (curlews are in steep decline but not as uncommon as whimbrels), but are a bit smaller and have a sort of blueish tone to their legs and a prominent eye stripe. We drove a bit further, and saw some curlews and a herd of red deer. They crossed the road and the males jumped up at each other.
Day 11: Greenshank and sand martins
On day 11, we went to Morar beach. We went to a different area of the beach and we found some sand martins, and we also found their nesting holes in the bank side. We managed to film them going in and out, but we weren’t sure why they were doing this because we thought it was to late to be feeding chicks. We also saw hooded crows, common gulls (not actually very common) and a greenshank wading about in the shallows. This was the first I had seen this year.
Day 12: Glen Coe
On day 12, we drove back. When we were driving towards Fort William, we saw a golden eagle quite a way off circling about. We stopped off at Glen Coe and went for a walk. We found a knot-grass moth caterpillar on a fence post, and some hawker dragonflies.