Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I checked out of my cottage and hit the road about 9:30 this morning.† Completely contrary to the forecast, the weather was great.† It was sunny with clouds, and looked like it would be showery.† There were dark clouds over the mountains, as usual, but I was heading the opposite direction.


I had had a couple of brief showers by the time I got to the turnoff to Loch Ruthven, where I wanted to stop to try to see the Slavonian Grebes that are there.†† It was looking pretty good by then, so I took the turnoff.† It was mostly a single track road with passing places, but that doesnít bother me much now, when there arenít stone walls on the sides and you have visibility a little way ahead.† I did have to stop and back up once, for a couple of pieces of farm equipment, but it wasnít a problem.† It was 8 miles of that road, and I was able to go about 40 most of the time, slowing down for the blind curves.


Then it was a one mile drive on an even smaller road, but I didnít meet anyone on that road, fortunately.† So, I parked in the little parking area, got out my scope and my birding bag and walked the 500 yards to the hide.† There were three people there, and they had seen a couple of the grebes, but they didnít say how long they had been there.† After about ten minutes, another couple came along, and the new guy spotted a grebe way across the loch, and I got onto it with my binoculars.† It was probably 300 yards away, but they are very colorful and unique, so it wasnít a hard identification.† I took some pictures, but they will probably only show a blob of red and yellow.† You can see the distance in photo number 3276, which was the view from the hide.† The grebe was almost to the far shore.† Photo 3284 is the best one from that distance.† Not very impressive, I agree, but it is just a little point and shoot camera.


I wanted to see one closer, to get a picture, so I waited some more.† After another half hour with no joy I decided to throw in the towel and I left.† Interestingly, as I was walking along the shore trail, back to my car, I saw another one, much closer.† I looked at it for a few seconds with my binoculars and then I got out my camera and tele-extender lens and got off three pictures.† I was hand-holding it, though, and it is hard to hold it steady while standing, without anything to brace against, so they might very well be too motion blurred to be of any interest.† But, I saw the Slavonian Grebe, and I even saw one on my own, rather than one that someone else had spotted and told me about.† (Those last three pictures are numbers 3284, 85, and 86.† Not bad for hand-held shots while standing, about 50 yards away.)


There were a few more rain showers, and I continued on through Inverness on my way to Ullapool.† I stopped and had my lunch at a nice place by a series of small waterfalls, but just as I stopped, a heavy shower started, so I ate in the car.† The rain stopped about the time my lunch was finished, so I took a couple of pictures of the river and little waterfalls.† I stopped a couple more places on the way into Ullapool, because it was such beautiful countryside.


When I got to Ullapool, I had two matters of business to take care of.† One was to reserve a spot on the ferry tomorrow and buy a ticket, and the other was to hit a grocery store.† I had looked it up online, and I knew where the store was.† I found the ferry terminal and found a place to park my car a few blocks away.† When I got to the counter I got cold feet, though.† I mentioned here before that I get seasick sometimes, and I have been obsessing over it for the last few days.† It is a completely irrational thing, but I really hate to throw up, and the thought of this 2 hour 45 minute crossing was really bothering me.† The weather has been very unsettled, with wind and showers.† I asked the guy about the prospects for tomorrowís crossing, but he wouldnít commit to anything.† He did say that this morning ďthere was a bit of a swell out thereĒ.† That sounded like a classic piece of Scottish understatement to me, and I told him I would think about it and come back.


So, I drove around and I walked around a little, and I thought about it.† I could just cancel the Outer Hebrides part of the trip and spend the three days going somewhere else.† There are a couple of interesting sounding places I could go, including the Isle of Mull, which involves only a short ferry crossing on a much more protected inlet.† I would save the cost of the ferry trips, which would just about cover any cancellation charges I might incur on the islands.† I wavered back and forth, and finally decided that reason should triumph over irrational fear, and I went back and got my tickets and made reservations for the three ferry trips.† If I get sick, then so be it.† It really isnít that big a deal, and I can handle it if it happens.† I feel pretty silly even admitting that it was such a big deal to me, and Iíll feel even sillier if I back out tomorrow morning, but Iím reporting it all anyway.† I know that most or all of my readers will think it is pretty dumb to worry about it so much, and I fully agree.† We all have our irrational fears, though, and throwing up is one of mine.


While driving around Ullapool, I saw some crows, and in this western part of Scotland, they look different.† They have gray on them, in addition to the black.† They used to be considered the same species as the Carrion Crow, which is the common corvid in the rest of Britain, but they have been spit off into a new species called Hooded Crow.† Iíll get pictures of them eventually.† It was a lifer for me today, though.† As I mentioned yesterday, the Slavonian Grebe was only a trip bird, not a lifer.


I went to the grocery store and got supplies for a grazing dinner in my room, and then I had a little more time to kill until the appointed check-in time of 4 oíclock, so I drove down along the waterfront, hoping to see some sea birds.† No sea birds, but there were a couple of interesting little birds on the rocks and grass along the water.† One was a Wheatear, I found, a species I have seen several times, but the other one was very interesting.† It wasnít anything I had seen, but I wasnít sure what it was.† I considered Lesser Redpoll, but kept getting more looks at it, and finally decided it was a Twite, which was another lifer.† So, for the day, I got three trip birds and two of them were lifers.† I was expecting the Hooded Crow for sure, thought I had a good chance at the Slavonian Grebe, but my assessment of my chances of seeing Twite was only about 20%, so that was a nice surprise.† I now realize I should have gone for pictures, but I was so busy trying to ID it that I didnít think of pictures, and I had no place to park my car near there.† I was doing all my observing out the car window, while stopped in a no parking zone.† It wasnít a very inspiring looking bird anyway.† A little dark brown streaked bird, with a streaky breast, a small finch bill, and a forked tail.† His rump was reddish, too, like a Twite is supposed to have.


So, I checked into my B&B, and now I am writing this.† I have had trouble connecting to the wi-fi network, and I had to ask the hostess to reboot the router a couple of times.† It is still a weak signal, but for now, at least it is holding out.


I guess I might as well look at my pictures, I have the whole evening to kill.† Maybe I will even process them, make an album, and post them.


LaterÖ† OK, I processed my pictures from today, and Iím happy with the grebe pictures, considering the distance.† It is a small album, but I will put up Photos18 along with this Ramblings, if the wi-fi connection holds out.† Tomorrow is the ferry crossing, when I have to confront my fear of being sick.