Thursday, 31 August 2017

Aug 30th Strumpshaw Fen

It was kind of strange returning to Strumpshaw after just arriving back home from my holiday in Scotland yesterday, but it is great to be back all the same. Though it appears that I have brought the Scottish weather with me. It is raining! Thankfully, I entered the Fen Hide before it got really chucked it down. The only thing though, was that with the wooden flaps of the hide open, the rain was coming in. I kept my camera away from getting wet as best I could and for the time being, it was working normally as I snapped away at the kingfisher, water rail, heron and everything else willingly showing themselves despite the rainy conditions in front of the hide. The kingfisher in particular was coming back and forth during the time I was there, occasionally returning with a fish to either eat now or to position it in it's bill to take away to feed a chick somewhere.
Water Rail
Grey Heron
Little Egret

At Reception Hide, my good fortune took a bad turn. Though there were plenty of gadwalls, shovelers, mallards, a couple of little egrets, a heron or two, cormorants, the odd visit of a kingfisher and a few marsh harriers to look at and enjoy, it was all marred by my camera. It was working like normal to begin with, taking a few good shots of little egrets, but then when turning it back on to try and photograph a kingfisher at a nearby perch, it went faulty. The lens was going in and out uncontrollably before it went black with a message about there being a problem with the lens and to try again later. Then it turns itself off. It appears that moisture had gotten inside the camera just like it did back in January when snow caused it to not work completely until two days of drying out later.


Grey Heron
My camera was having me worried throughout my shift and I wasn't enjoying being there because of it. Amazingly though, after around an hour of checking and getting the same message, a small miracle happened. It was working again! However, there is still something wrong with it. Before it's malfunction, the image would fill the whole screen at the back of the camera, now it isn't. If you can imagine watching a movie on a widescreen TV with those black bars at the top and bottom of the screen and tip it on its side, that is what the image of my camera looks like. I don't know how to get it back to full screen again. If anyone knows what's wrong and has any advice in fixing it, please let me know. It still works, but I would prefer it to work at its best.

My Scottish Adventure (Part 6)

A Scottish marching band at the Highland Games!
Day 6 in Scotland and we did something that had nothing to do with wildlife watching, but ended up being just as enjoyable. It was Saturday 26th and there was a chance to watch a local Highland games in action at Drumnadrochit, a town close to Loch Ness. I can't say I ever imagined that I would see a Highland games while we were in Scotland, but I'm glad I have now as it was a lot of fun. It was like a school's sports day and the Olympics all rolled into one. There were a lot of events to watch and both adults and children were competing in them. The competitors were all local, but the crowd was international with tourists from around the world watching them. The events ranged from running to playing a bagpipe in front of a judge. There was Highland dancing, Scottish marching bands playing and a carnival. There was just so much going on that it was hard to decide on what to see first.

Highland dancing

The piping competition

Tossing the caber
Of course, the main highlights of these kind of games were the throwing competitions. Out of all of them was tossing the caber. Watching big, burly men in kilts attempt to throw something that's pretty much a giant tree trunk around was quite something to witness and most of them found it hard to get it over to it's other side. There was one young competitor who made a name of himself at these games. His name was George Evans and he was a bit of a superstar in the making as he broke record after record in almost all the heavy events in the young heavies category and even successfully tossed the caber three times in a row!

The Hammer
The Throwing Hammer
Weight Over the Bar

Shot Putt
There were other unique events that you can only see at a Highland games, too. These included tug-o'-war, the Achmony hill race (which is a 3 mile run from the arena up a nearby hill - which is more like a mountain - and back) and the Auld Scottish race, which ended the games and was where all the competitors had to wear a kilt. I felt a bit Scottish myself after leaving these games. It was a fantastic day and it was also the nicest days of the holiday with hardly a drop of rain in sight (just a couple of unusual stray spats all day!).

Auld Scottish Race

The locks at Fort Augustus

Day 7 was a bit of an uneventful day out. We were almost aimlessly driving around the Highlands, failing to find a golden-ringed dragonfly (my only insect target that I was hoping to find while in Scotland). The only thing that was of any note of interest was watching boats go through the series of canal locks and under a revolving bridge at Fort Augustus. Not the most memorable of days to end a holiday on, but at least it wasn't raining that much.

Going under the revolving bridge
Bumblebee Bombus muscorum?

Red Squirrel
The final two days of my adventure was the long ride home, stopping in Yorkshire for the night. I won't bore you with the details of this journey back to Norwich, but there was one last surprise just before we left our chalet at Glengarry Lodge for good. After dropping off the chalet key, we were about to start the long drive out of Scotland, when a red squirrel ran across the road in front of our car. It was as if it was representing the whole of Scotland to see us off on our way!