The Skies are Alive

The sun was shining for the first time in days after constant wind and rain had been soaking the islands. Everything now had a fresh feel to it. Perhaps I was just happy to see the sun, but as I sailed between the islands, the trees looked greener, the water calmer and the sky bluer than I’d seen in several weeks.

“This could be a great day for birds of prey” I said over my shoulder to my guests. I scouted the skyline with my binoculars. Birds of prey don’t like flying in the rain much – they prefer to perch on a sheltered branch somewhere and wait it out. So the first clear day after several days of rain is usually the best for bird of prey activity as they’ve grown hungry in the meantime and are soaring over the islands looking for food.

We’d only been out on the water and travelling down Seil sound for 10 minutes, but already a flapping of wings had caught my attention. Silhouetted against the bright sky, a bird slightly larger than a buzzard hovered over the water in the sea loch. I’d only seen this particular flight pattern twice before – different from a buzzard’s (which is quick with rather stiff wing beats), this was strong and powerful. Now it was time to get excited!

With a sailing glide the bird made a turn towards us and I fixed my eyes on it hoping to glance the underside…yes! It was white!

“It’s an osprey!” I shouted, totally elated – only the third time I’d ever seen one. Flying towards the boat and over our heads it perched in a branch of a wooded area by the water’s edge.

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Osprey migrate to Africa at the end of summer, so this one may have been fattening up before starting its journey. It stayed perched on its branch looking over the water as we went on our way.

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The day turned out to be just as good as I’d hoped – not only did I spot the (now huge) sea eagle chick soaring high in the thermals above Jura, but I also saw one of the adults (mum I think?) perched on a cliff top on Lunga. She stared down her beak at me with utter disinterest before spreading her enormous 2.5 metre wings and taking off over the cliffs.

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After she’d left I spotted a male sparrow hawk (my first ever!) which was darting in between the trees (no doubt terrorising small birds), a pair of hen harriers and a pair of peregrine falcons which were grappling talons mid-air.

I was really sorry to be missing the Rutland Birdfair last weekend – but at least I seem to have plenty of my own up here!

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Until next time!

Sara

 

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