Monday, 14 December 2015

Short-eared Owls, Loch Leven

2nd December 2015

I watched three Short-eared Owls patrolling Kirkgate Point at Loch Leven from 2.30pm until 3pm, when the sun disappeared and the temperature dropped.

Stunning aerial displays by the Owls. A couple would interact mid-air, and another was busy dive-bombing a Kestrel, who would fly up to try and see it off.

Here's a few photos I captured:

Sitting in the grass (digiscoped) 
Perching in the afternoon sun (digiscoped)

The perfect photo! I was willing them to fly above the castle

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

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Loch Leven 26 Nov - A Sparrowhawk Surprise

This morning I watched the sunrise above Loch Leven. Skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over the loch to their feeding grounds, the honks often followed by a loud bang from fields where they are not so welcome!
Pink-footed Geese flying over Loch Leven
Redwings, Song Thrushes and Fieldfares were flying around in groups, diving in and out of the berry-laden yew trees in the cemetery.

Fieldfare in silhouette atop a Yew

Yew berries galore
I caught sight of the White-tailed Eagle's (probably 'Turquoise H', she's a winter regular at the loch as soon as it gets cold) large gliding silhouette behind Castle Island, but never to show itself in full view.  A repeat of the outgoing performance when it returned, again just a large, dark mass gliding behind the trees, flying up to a favourite perching spot, only to sit out of view from me.  The joys of wildlife!

Moments later, I heard a commotion in the yew tree directly behind where I was sitting on the grass. Then a bird appeared at the bottom of the tree, flapping about, almost within touching distance of me.  It flew off a few metres to stop under another yew, and then I saw it was a male Sparrowhawk who had just snatched a Redwing.  It proceeded to stand on its prey, pounding its legs up and down on the flailing Redwing, who was desperately trying to escape the embedded talons. Beak gasping, as hawk plucked at its feathers.

You can watch the video on YouTube here or below (but don't watch if squeamish!)

Finally, I watched as the Redwing drew its final breath, it's head went limp to the ground, surrounded by it's own downy feathers.  Within seconds the Sparrowhawk had lifted its meal and carried it off elsewhere to eat.

Sparrowhawks do get a bad press, especially when they go into gardens and snatch the song birds by the bird feeders, but if there was not a healthy population of birds for them to eat, they wouldn't be there - especially with us feeding the birds thereby encouraging a good food source for the hawks! Yes, it was sad to watch as the Redwing succumbed, but the hawk was hungry.  That's nature.

Stunning male Sparrowhawk, with Redwing prey

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

Monday, 26 October 2015

Greylag Geese, Loch Leven

24th October

I went over to Loch Leven by Kinross, on a breezy autumnal afternoon.  A cold wind blew across the loch, winter isn't far away. I'm hopefully of a return by one of the White-tailed Eagle winter regulars once the cold weather really kicks in, but for now I was in search of geese.

There were two large gatherings of Greylag Geese at Burleigh Sands, feeding together on what looked like small molluscs, turning them around in their beaks, while others tugged on weed.

Greylags feeding

A family of Mute Swans were feeding nearby, two juveniles.  Many Tufted Ducks, Mallard and Black-headed Gulls bobbed about and I was excited to see a couple of Pintail, a first for me.

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

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

New Art Work - White-tailed Eagles

It's been a while since I updated my blog, so I thought I would post up two recently completed White-tailed Eagle pieces.

This portrait is mainly completed in HB pencil, with a softer lead for darker areas. I was trying not to be too detailed with it!

A4 size on Bristol Board paper. There will be prints available soon.
White-tailed Eagle drawing

This next painting is of this year's Fife youngster, who's parents are Turquoise 1 and Z.  I couldn't resist painting 'White T' - as the youngster is now known thanks to its white wing tags with a black letter 'T' on them.  I watched this eagle as a little fluff ball with its sibling, who sadly died around a month old. It was first twins to have hatched for 1 & Z.  Thankfully, 'T' successfully fledged. You can read more about 'White T' on the RSPB East Scotland Sea Eagle's blog here

'White-tailed Eagle, White T', acrylic on watercolour paper, 10" x 10".  Reference photo by R Evans and used with permission. I may have prints available of this in due course, I just need to sort out a test print first.
White-tailed Eagle chick, 'White T'

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

Monday, 1 June 2015

Eagle Antics Celebrates Scotland's 100 White-tailed Eagle Pairs

The news broke last week on BBC Springwatch that Scotland's White-tailed Eagle population has reached a milestone, with the 100th breeding pair reached this year.  Not only that, but the 100th pair are the first in Orkney for 142 years!

To celebrate this milestone, I was asked recently if I would create an Eagle Antics cartoon ready for the big reveal.  

Part one: Who will win?!
You can see the full cartoon, complete with the winners, on the RSPB East Scotland Sea Eagles blog here - please go and have a look, and give it a 'Like' or even a 'share' if you enjoy it.

It was fun creating this cartoon, which stars a few familiar Eagles: including Mull's 'Yellow Black Spot', 'Victor' and 'Orla' who are often seen from the Glenelg-Kylerhea ferry and, of course, the first breeding pair in the east of Scotland, 'Turquoise' duo '1' and 'Z'.

Congratulations to Scotland's 100!

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

Friday, 15 May 2015

Gullane and North Berwick - 5th April 2015

Photos taken on 5th April - it's taken me this long to look at the photos!

A warm day and plenty of sunshine once the early fog cleared, and the bonus of a couple of exciting sightings: Red and Black-throated Divers.


Carrion Crows on Gullane Beach
Perfect timing!
Carrion Crows, with Gannets above their heads as they fly in the distance
Red-throated Diver in winter plumage
Roe Deer bounces away over the dunes, its rump like two white pom poms!
Female Chaffinch
North Berwick:

Black-throated Diver off the North Berwick coast
The lighthouse on the island of Fidra 
Bass Rock, turned white by its Gannet inhabitants
© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Fundraising for Scotland's Red Kites

Open Edition Prints

I am selling open edition prints of my Red Kite drawing that was successfully auctioned in September 2014. The online auction raised £70 for the RSPB, and the funds are being used to help monitor Kites in the Black Isle/Ross-shire area.

All profits from the sale of prints will be donated to help Red Kite conservation in Scotland.

If you would like to see one of the prints 'in the flesh', there is one on display at Argaty Red Kites at Doune, near Callander, where you can also witness the spectacle of Red Kite feeding time!

Red Kite portrait

The prints are available in two sizes.

Miniature - £5.00: The print measures 5" x 3" (130mm x 80mm), and is mounted in a white mount. Total size including mount is 6" x 4" / 150mm x 100mm (will fit a standard 6" x 4" photo frame). £2.00 from the sale of this print will be donated to Red Kite conservation.

Miniature mounted Red Kite print

A4 print - £20.00: The print is A4 size (297mm x 210mm), mounted in a white mount with backing board. Total size including mount is 355mm x 280mm / 14" x 11". Profits from the sale of this print will be donated to Red Kite conservation.

Prints can be purchased via my online shop here.

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

Friday, 24 April 2015

Isle of Mull, March 2015: Part 3 - Weather Extremes

Monday 9th

A very wet and windy start to the day, with a new dusting of snow gracing the top of the higher hills. The forecast showed it would get worse as the day progressed, so we decided on a nearby walk along Glen Forsa.

Battered by the wind and torrential rain - we only went out so Mr Labrador could have his walk - I just about managed to spot Curlew, a couple of Greylag Geese, two Buzzards and plenty of soggy Highland cattle.

A wet and windy Glen Forsa
Having forgotten to re-proof my waterproofs before I went away, I arrived back at the car on the soggy side myself.  It was back to the house to get dried off and batten down the hatches for the rest of the day.

Lunchtime, and I was sat on the sofa looking out of the window when I spotted what looked like a White-tailed Eagle flying down into the forest.  A few minutes later, I saw a definite White-tailed Eagle head up into the sky, flying further and further across towards the mainland until it was out of sight.

The wind became wilder as the day went on, and I got a bit of a shock when the garden furniture flew across the garden and impaled itself on the fence!

Water blowing across the water!

Tuesday 10th

Calm returned to Mull.  I had a 7am sighting of one of the local White-tailed Eagles soaring above the forest.

Aros Falls

A short walk down to the Falls, near Tobermory, which looked spectacular after the previous day's rain.

Aros Falls 

Tobermory Lighthouse walk

A pleasant walk to the lighthouse via Tobermory.  The sun appeared, creating a rainbow over the colourful buildings, and the reflections of the primary colours rippled in the water of the harbour.


We crunched our way over a scallop shell-lined pathway to the golf course, and I spotted a Buzzard teeing up on the 10th. This was after I slipped heading down a boggy section of grass, just avoiding a soggy bottom, but my hands and arms didn't escape a soaking! My fall didn't deter the Song Thrushes, who were busy feeding on the fairways.

The Buzzard planning his next shot on Tobermory Golf Course
There was a great view across the water, as the CalMac Tobermory-Kilchoan ferry sailed by.  Then I spotted the bright white-washed walls of the lighthouse, backed by the deep blue colour of the sea behind.  A seal and Oystercatchers were on the rocks below.

Tobermory Lighthouse, with the CalMac ferry in the
distance and a passing fishing boat
Returning back along the golf course, and managing to stay upright this time, I spotted a male Bullfinch in the hedgerow.

Driving to our next walk, I spotted a male Hen Harrier hunting above the heather, near the road, giving great views.

Male Hen Harrier
Loch Frisa

Our next stop was something of a pilgrimage for me as far as my White-tailed Eagle watching goes. It all started 10 years ago, watching a pair called Skye and Frisa on BBC's Springwatch programme - and Loch Frisa was where the action happened.

We started our walk, accompanied by mewing Buzzards who were making the most of the dry weather.  We settled on a bench, and waited, keeping my eyes peeled for any dark blobs in the sky. It wasn't long before I spotted my first dark blob.  A White-tailed Eagle, with sub-adult markings.  It soared along the hillside and out of view.

Another dark blob spotted heading in our direction.  As it got closer I could see it was an adult White-tailed Eagle.  This could only mean one thing, I was finally seeing either Skye or Frisa.  A very happy sighting for me.  It soared past the ridgeline and out of sight, as I stood watching with a big grin on my face.

Skye or Frisa?
A couple of Buzzards appeared, gliding close by and showing talons to each other.  Then from across the loch I spotted the sub-adult White-tailed Eagle again. Having compared photos from the first sighting, the feather patterns/shape confirm it was the same bird. This time it soared for ages above the nearby hill. A Raven accompanied it for a time. Eventually, the Eagle disappeared from view.

One of the Buzzards
The sub-adult White-tailed Eagle
Next, we stopped for lunch in a parking area overlooking Dervaig.  Graeme looked out of his window and asked me 'what's that?'. I couldn't see anything, being sat on the other side of the car to him. He asked me again... I replied: 'What?! I can't see anyth.... ah, an Eagle!'.  Panic ensued as I tried to find a place in the car to safely put down my cup of soup!  Soup secured, I got out of the car and watched the adult soaring close by.  The Eagle then turned, and flew past in front of us across the road and soared some more.  As if that wasn't exciting enough, it turned and then flew low and directly over our heads!  I filmed as the Eagle passed, almost falling backwards at the time!  Given the location, it might well have been the adult male 'Cuin', who appeared on Springwatch last year.  His mate is a female who was released originally on the east coast, but she is wing tagged, so I knew it wasn't her. Having watched last year's Springwatch again since I got back from Mull, I'm not sure it is Cuin, as he appeared to have a bit of tag still remaining on his wing? Whoever it was, it was still a great sight!

Adult White-tailed Eagle passes overhead - watching us as he flies by!
You can view my video on YouTube here: White-tailed Eagle passes overhead

After that overhead pass, the adult bird soared off, but what a treat!  I got back into the car and finished my soup, ready for the next walk of the day.

Cnoc na Sroine Walk, near Salen

Next stop was a walk to Glenaros Farm and then onto the open moor. There are great views across the Sound of Mull and at the walk's summit, you can also see views across to Loch Frisa and Loch na Keal.  It was extremely boggy on the return, but at least the sun was shining!

The much-photographed old boats by Salen Bay

View to Ben More
Read more about my week on Mull:

Part One
Part Two
Part Four - coming soon
Part Five - coming soon

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

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Isle of Mull, March 2015 - Part 2

Sunday 8th

The morning dawned bright and sunny, a far cry from the weather of the day before.  I spotted several Greylag Geese and a male Red-breasted Merganser swimming in the calm bay below.  Behind the house, a Red Deer hind was grazing on the ridge of the hill.

Garmony Point - Fishnish circular

View across to Lochaline
Beautiful views across to the mainland, unlike the day before when we struggled to see a few metres. Seaweed, in various shades of green and orange, contrasted against the blue water.  There were many Oystercatchers, Curlews, and Cormorants.  I spotted a Great Northern Diver in the Sound and a couple of Canada Geese on a skerry.

A Robin in fine song
A juvenile Cormorant was standing on a rock, wings spread, drying off in the morning's sun.

Grey Herons were frequently spotted.  We came across one standing ahead of us on the forestry track, as another flew off.  The track Heron flew up to a nearby conifer and attempted to balance atop the spindly branches, a most unnatural looking pose!  The noise coming from the heronry hidden among the trees had a prehistoric tone to it, Jurassic Park sprung to mind!  Eerie, but fascinating to listen to, shrieks and growls emanating from the depths.

Grey Heron undertaking a tricky balancing act
Visiting the new hide at Fishnish turned up a Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant standing on a nearby partly submerged reef, behind which the Loch Fyne chugged past.  Herons were standing in the shallows.

Raptors (and Hoodie) glide above in the new Fishnish hide
Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant, with the 'Loch Fyne' heading into Fishnish
On the way back to Garmony Point, I spotted a pair of Wigeon bobbing along the shoreline, the male's pale head stripe alight in the sunshine.  Six Red-breasted Mergansers (two females, four males) were swimming nearby. The males were having a dispute with each other, giving chase, splashing and diving, before they carried on with their snorkelling.

Above and below: Red-breasted Mergansers

A boardwalk over boggy ground, oozed with frog spawn, some of which was drying up in the sunshine.

Frog spawn
A lone Ringed Plover, a bird which is usually running about so fast you can't keep up with them, was standing motionless upon the weed. Nearby, Oystercatchers poked around the shoreline with their long orange beaks, beady red eyes keeping watch.

Ringed Plover
Scallastle Waterfall Walk
Corbie, Labrador, leading the way
The sun had reappeared after a heavy rain and hail shower. Snow patches clung to the corrie's higher slopes.  Heading up the forestry track, I heard then spotted a couple of Long-tailed Tits.

Two Ravens cronking to each other came into view in the distance, and I watched them fly across.  I lowered the binoculars, until out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the Ravens swoop down to the hillside, and disturbed something large that moved off.  A Red Deer?  Up came the binoculars once again, to discover that it was in fact a Golden Eagle that the Ravens were mobbing.  Up flew the Eagle, soaring and trying to rid itself of its corvid companions.  A heavy hail shower came on, and I lost sight of the Eagle.  Once the hail had eased off, I retuned to the binoculars and caught a brief glimpse of the Eagle again as it drifted down and settled just below one of the snow patches.

The distant Golden Eagle

The hail shower passes
Returning along the path, bathed in sunshine once more, I spotted a Buzzard perched. It took off as we neared closer along the track.

Back at the House ...

I watched a couple of Buzzards flying towards the hillside. Then things started to get exciting...

White-tailed Eagle spotted, first of the holiday!  One wingtag on its wing, confirmed this was the female. She soared above the forest, then I watched as she turned and started to head towards my direction.  Soon she was above the plantation next to us, and we watched as she flew past along the tree line, and out of sight. Relax... but not for long...

The Eagle's white tail highlighted by the sun against a dark grey sky
Female White-tailed Eagle gives us a fly past
Minutes later I spotted the Eagle on her return journey, and once again she soared above the forest. This time she had company: a Buzzard and Hooded Crow.  This gave me some fantastic action as I watched through the scope. The Eagle performed 360 degree barrel rolls, legs and talons outstretched as the Buzzard mobbed, over and over she went. Each move appeared so effortless, despite her huge size.  Wings flipped, and over she went, legs in the air!  They evenutally flew off out of sight, her foes still in tow.

A few images, taken over a distance, of White-tailed Eagle versus Buzzard
Then another large raptor appeared - a juvenile White-tailed Eagle!  It flew above the Sound for a while, travelling a mile or two, then came back, turned and descended to the water, making a grab for something in the bay.  I didn't see if it was successful, but it did attempt to perch in a nearby conifer at the edge of the forest.  I say 'attempt' because, as if that action wasn't enough, another raptor appeared and it wasn't too happy by this youngster's intrusion. Up it flew, it's black wing tips and pale plumage instantly recognisable as a male Hen Harrier!  The birds flew higher, the smaller mobbing the giant. The sleek grey Harrier pursued the larger Eagle until they disappeared from view.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle
To end that amazing day, the sky was very clear and the stars shone bright. Jupiter was visible, as were its four moons.

Read more about my week on Mull:

Part One - Return to Eagle Island
Part Three - Weather Extremes
Part Four - coming soon
Part Fivecoming soon

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