Thursday, 2 October 2014

Loch Leven, Kinross-shire - 2nd Oct

Photos from this morning's walk at Loch Leven.  A cool morning, with blue sky, calm before the storm if tomorrow's forecast is anything to go by!

The Pink-footed Geese have returned!
Panorama of the Loch
Ripples on the surface
Looking across to Bishops Hill - a mass of wildfowl on the water
View to the Ochil Hills
Mallard, Tufted Ducks
Geese galore

Family of Whooper Swans over the Loch 
Mute Swan 
View to Bishop Hill
Black-headed Gull
Video of the Geese

© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Balnakeil Bay and Faraid Head, Sutherland

30th June 2014

One of the most stunning walks we did during our holiday to the far north west was on Fariad Head. The walk crosses the pale sands of Balnakeil Bay, onto a surreal sand road through vast white dunes, before suddenly arriving back on tarmac surrounded by grassland, and to the perimeter of the MOD facility!

It was a very warm day, and it felt like we were walking through a desert at times.

The rock outcrops were home to nesting Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittewakes, and Puffins.  I also saw Puffins darting out from the cliff face, whirring low over the water on their tiny wings.

Returning along Balnakeil Bay, I spotted a Red Throated Diver not too far from the shore.

Corbie Labrador enjoying the beach, Balnakeil Bay 
Balnakeil Bay, the sand just keeps going!
Walking along the sand road and through the dunes
Balnakeil Bay
Cliffs of Faraid Head
View back towards the hills and Durness
Sea cliffs and dunes, Faraid Head, with view across the water to Whiten Head
© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Return to Mull, September 2014

I finally made a return to Mull this year after my earlier week there in March. This time I was camping, so only managed a night's stay, but there was plenty of White-tailed Eagle action for me to enjoy during my short visit.

Within half an hour of arriving, we were walking alongside Loch na Keal and two White-tailed Eagles flew over, heading out across the loch.

Settling down on a rock on the shore, I started scanning for White-tailed Eagle Yellow Black Spot (so called because of her yellow wing tags with a black spot) or any of her family.  I didn't have to wait long, in fact it was minutes. There above the hillside was a juvenile!

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle 
As if that wasn't exciting enough, there was a herd of Red Deer on the hillside and the eagle was flying over their heads.  Then another eagle came into view! You can view a short video I took of one of the juvenile's soaring over the deer on YouTube here.

Two juveniles soaring by the Red Deer, a great size comparison
Just when I thought things couldn't get any better .... three White-tailed Eagles!

Three White-Tailed Eagles, note the one on the right has something in talons
How could I top that? Well, soon they were joined by another! The whole family together. You can view a short video of them together here.

Four White-tailed Eagles!
The male with one of his two youngsters, just perched below left of him
The other youngster perched in a nearby tree
Before the youngsters perched, one of them was chasing its dad on the wing whilst calling to him constantly, funny to watch.

The day was not quite done and we went for another walk, keeping my eyes peeled for the big birds.  I spotted a diver on the loch, and then a juvenile White-tailed eagle soaring above the hills, possibly the offspring of a pair I had seen in March, so that was exciting.

The next morning, I spotted Yellow Black Spot (YBS for short) herself perched in the conifers preening.  I stood watching her through my scope as I ate my breakfast. Not a bad way to start the day.  YBS has a bit of a reputation as a fiesty lady, but you wouldn't think so to have seen her on that particular morning!

Yellow Black Spot perched in the conifers. (just see her almost centre of photo)
While I was reluctantly packing up the tent, my other half shouted at me "Karen, look behind you!". I turned to see the male eagle flying almost above me!  He eventually landed in a tree close to his mate (YBS).  It wasn't the first time he had caught me unaware; the previous evening while putting up the tent I was shouted at again to look up. I was busy trying to bash in the tent pegs around stones, and right across the loch in front of us he flew.  Why I was doing all the hard work and not eagle watching, I don't know...

"He's behind you!"
All packed up, we headed around to Loch Scridain to see if any of the Mull Eagle Watch eagles were out and about.  We sat in the car for about half an hour when I realised there was one perched in a tree near the loch. I can only hope it hadn't been there all along, I'm usually good at spotting them!

One of the Mull Eagle Watch adults (Fingal or Iona?!)
Thumb-sized sketch of the adult as it was watching a tractor in a nearby field
We had a drive around via Glenmore, and parked at the car park by Garmony Point.  As we still had an hour before the ferry, I managed to spend some time watching the wildlife.  I saw Gannets diving in the Sound, Red Breasted Mergansers, plenty of Oystercatchers and an Otter.  I got the scope focussed on it and saw it munching on something it had just caught.  The water was calm, and the Otter was happily swimming along.

Spot the Otter! (it's just above the seaweed line)
Soon it was time to queue at Fishnish for the ferry back to the mainland. Hopefully I'll catch up with the Mull Eagles again next year!

Here comes the ferry
Bye bye Mull
Thank goodness I have the east coast Eagles to give me my 'eagle fix' in the meantime ...

Female Turquoise 1: "Ever get that feeling you're being watched?!"

© Karen Hartnell & Graeme Low - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Smoo Cave, Sutherland

30 June 2014

The day started overcast as we arrived at the car park for Smoo Cave.  Having walked down the flight of steps, we were greeted by the huge entrance to Smoo Cave, carved out of the surrounding limestone.

Smoo Cave
Inside the cave, we walked to the viewing platform and saw the waterfall, cascading down from the river above.
Inside the cavern

The cliffs echoed to the sounds of nesting Fulmars.
Nesting Fulmars
Looking back to the cave entrance
Allt Smoo
Nesting Fulmars
We walked along to the coast after visiting the cave, and the sun appeared.  I spotted a Gannet flying over the sea, various gulls, and Oystercatchers, who gave us a noisy flypast.

© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Red Kite Drawing

Over the last few months I have been working on a drawing of a Red Kite around my other work and I have now finally finished it. I am really pleased with the result.

The drawing was done using a variety of graphite pencils on A4 (approx 210 x 297mm / 12 x 8.5") cartridge paper.

I'm hoping to auction this off in the near future to raise funds for the Red Kites in some way, after the awful incident in the north of Scotland earlier in the year when 16 Red Kites and 6 Buzzards were found dead.

Drawn from a photo by Ian Paterson ( and used with his kind permission.

© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Scourie Bay, Sutherland

29 June 2014

One of the first places we visited on our recent holiday to the far north west of Scotland, was Scourie Bay. A beautiful inlet of turquoise water, surrounded by a rocky coastline. A stunning sandy beach lines the head of the inlet, and there is also a hide filled with useful information on the area and its wildlife.

Scourie Bay
Ringed Plovers scurried across the white sands, their little legs seemingly moving at warp speed!

Ringed Plovers 
Ringed Plover
We walked to the headland, overlooking Eilean a' Bhuic, a small island inhabited by various seabirds, including Great Skua (Bonxies), Great Black-Back Gulls, and lots of Cormorants bobbing in the nearby water.
Eilean a' Bhuic
There was a good view across the water to the Point of Stoer and the Old Man.
Old Man of Stoer
The 'Bonxies' were putting on a good show, often seen standing on top of the nearby rocks and summit cairn.  At one point one flew just a few feet above our heads.  Thankfully they weren't nesting around this area, otherwise we would've ended up with a headache: having experienced diving bombing Arctic Terns on the Isle of May, I really didn't fancy the same with a much larger Bonxie!

Great Skua, aka 'Bonxie'
A lovely walk out to the headland gave good views of the distant Assynt hills including Suilven, and nearby Handa Island, with scores of sea birds swirling around the cliffs.

View towards the Assynt Hills
© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.