Tuesday, 21 December 2010

This is a real winter season...

Well December is here and another year is drawing to a close even faster then the one before. I now understand what them older people were on about when they talk about the years flying by! A true winter season really does change the perspective of everything with the extreme temperatures and tough tackling surroundings regarding the snow and ice.

Sunset Just outside Castle Carrock

When the snow did arrive on the 25th of November, its always a nice surprise to see and creates a whole new world out there! I was straight out there in amongst it enjoying the refreshing scenery and landscapes. Again I was snap happy with the camera...camera at the ready...fingers steady....shoot!

Jackdaw, Castle Carrock

A nice sighting when I was driving through Carlisle with my golfing buddy Andy Oliver, we were heading through Rosehill to get to the town centre and we seen a potentially fit girl walking on the side of the road in the distance and then suddenly a small flock of birds flew right over the car landing in nearby Rowan that also had potential to be something good! So I had a tricky decision to make weather to check out birds to the right feeding by the car park or carry on and get closer look at the single bird of the non feathered variety walking near the road to the left. As I am a male human being the natural and normal instinctive thing to do would be to carry on and get a closer look at the female human being species...but like a true wildlife warrior I couldn't resist and took a sharp right heading into the car park and end up sitting 30 foot from 20 odd Waxwing feeding on a Rowan tree which was a fantastic sight! Was very happy with my decision to take a right and check out the birds and in the end we still got a glimpse of the lass as we headed out the car park and she was not that special and had a face that would make onions cry and looked like she had a tin of Ronseal smeared over her face! Rather look at Waxwing any day they are stunning!

Greenwell, Collie dog checking on the Shickens

Gary Storey (AKA Rowlands Gill Birder) came over in the 1st week of December for a birding trip out. I gave him three options for the day cos I like to be organised and know whats going on! We could go see Hawfinch down at Sizergh Castle, Look for Eagle Owls that can be seen in the area or we could go watch H Harriers coming into roost at Campfield Marsh RSPB reserve near Port Carlisle. We decided to go for the Harrier option and John Milo decided to venture out as well and battle the savage icy conditions.
When we arrived at the hide we sat and scanned for a while and plenty of Wigeon and show, Pintail, Shoveller, Pinkies and Barnacle Geese flying overhead. half an hour in and the main event had arrived to the left a female ringtail turned up working its way up and down the game crop for 20 odd minutes! in between that a male Sparrowhawk was sat on a fence post near by. A couple of Buzzards were circling in the distance and a Kestrel was on show as well. Then another triumph when I picked up a Male Hen Harrier in the scope working its way right to left over the long grass. It was Gary's first Male Harrier sighting so a good day all round. Another plus point to add to the good news day was that the RSPB animal pin badges in the Campfield Marsh hide had been topped up and there was some good new badges including Otter and Merlin!

BG! A lovely Black Cock!

Some sightings in the area during mid December were 2 Red head Smew at Tindale Tarn, 20 plus Black Grouse on Gdale and 5 Short Eared Owl, 200 plus Brambling by Talkin Tarn, 30 plus Waxwing at Dalston and Wetheral.

Male Yellowhammer in CC

An exciting encounter on the 15th of the month, had a free afternoon in the diary so headed up the valley and John sent me up the new water which I haven't covered that much compared to the old water that forks off to the left.
I walked all the way as the roads were carnage so it took a good hour to get to the water works and beyond. I reached a small mature Oak plantation and discovered a large raptor nest up one of the trees and just as I was about to climb the tree to inspect it more.........a monster of an Owl takes off from the tree next to it 15 feet from me!! it was the superb Eagle Owl, Largest of all Owls and I just admired the bird as it flew off up the valley and it was a huge object in flight! I didn't know what to think as I was in shock for the next 15 minutes. I went to check if it was sat on a large crag further up the valley but didn't want to get to close to disturb the bird (shut up Gary!) I didn't have any other sightings but I dint give a rats butt cos that was and will be one of my best wildlife experiences of my life full stop! I got a pellet from the tree it was roosting in and when I inspected it back at Jockey Shield headquarters it contained rabbit fur which makes sense as over 80% of their diet is researched to be Rabbit.

Starving Marving eyeing up the bird feeder in CC

A trip to Haweswater was arranged for the following day with Danny Naisbitt on board who is growing an interest for wildlife and the natural world and I think has very good potential. he was keen to have his first Golden eagle experience and Haweswater is the best and sadly only place in the county to see this special species.

On the journey there its amazing what wildlife you can see from the car as we had 3 Red Squirrels!, 5 Buzzards and a Rook which nearly caused me a major road accident as when I stopped to describe to Danny the differences between a Rook and a Crow I did not realise I was in the middle of the road and a car came wizzing round the corner smacking my wing mirror and missing my car by a fanny hair!

When we got to Hwater it was straight to the valley of the eagle as we didnt want to miss a trick! we put in a good 3 hour stint but the eagle was having a lazy day and didnt make an appearance so went off to explore around the waters edge and do some photography and some photos I got are further down the page. We did get 20 plus Red Deer deep into the valley and also another two Red Squirrel so over all a good day!

Frozen pond in Birch woodland in Geltsdale

A funny debate occurred the other week on the social network web site Facebook and it was regarding the good old fashioned debate of fox hunting! I had just updated my status in excitement of seeing a fox on my way home from work and the usual comments were flying around like 'you should of ran it over' and 'I shot one the other day' and then it all kicked off regarding the social hunting of the species. Now I know everyone is entitled to their opinions but in this debate there was a lot of twoddle said when Brunskill got involved it went to a new level. My side of the story was the mentality of treating it as a pleasure to kill these beautiful wild dogs and some people need to climb out of their time machines and come and join us in the 21st century where we have Ipods and sat navs! anyway to put it in a nutshell if we were all the same then life would be boring as hell!

Nailed it as G Storey said! just oppisite the house looking upto Castle Carrock fell

A journey south to Grasmere on xmas eve eve! I was accompanied by Andy Mcgreevy and Rachel Robson back from Edinburgh. When we arrived in the village first port of call was co-op for some crisps and the world famous gingerbread shop which was delightfully chewy and crunchy!
We headed on up towards the slate quarry looking over Rydal water and 2 Ravens was the first sighting on the board and a Kestrel in a hurry after that. Redwing and Fieldfare overhead in small flocks. A Buzzard when we reached the summit and heading down towards the Rydal waters edge. The main highlight came when we got to the slate quarry cave when straight over head a Peregrine was showing really well and then generated pace in a split second to flush a tit flock from some bushes, always a pleasure! five minutes later and a distinctive high pitched trill call over head with a small flock of Waxwing heading north in the Grasmere direction. As usual a traditional fall on my arse moment with my new Asolo boots on and Andy did his famous burst of laughter and said "the boots are no good take them back"

800 year old Sessil oak tree in CC, Beauty!

The plan to play golf on xmas eve was down the swanny as I arrived in the car park to see the signs 'Course Closed' So I hit some balls on the driving range with James Wilkinson and Andy Mcgreevy. Wilko decided do go to Gretna Gateway shopping centre for some last minute xmas shopping so we decided to tag along since there was nothing else going on.
On the journey over we literally lost count of the Buzzard sightings and also got to see one tagging a prey item road side.
I bought a new Jelay jacket (sleeveless waistcoat) from Gap and it ended up been my new lucky item as he seen a Red Fox on the way home with its head down looking in the tall grass!
Also got Brambling going home through Castle Carrock so good day again! :-)

A Buck Roe deer up in the moorlands of Gdale

Xmas day and Merry xmas everyone! I got up at around 10am and im not the type to sit around watch films and eat chocolate so I got my gear together and headed out in the wilderness planning to be back in time for the big feast later on! Seen 10 Black Grouse within 5 minutes of leaving the house, they were showing really well sat on a hawthorn. Red Grouse were to follow and also good numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare passing through. Roe deer are in good number all around the reserve and the sightings continues as I made my way around the fell and upto the Gairs. Lovely peaceful conditions with not a sole in sight I felt like the last man on earth!
Had 2 Buzzards and 2 kestrel and as I headed back round to the house I had 2 Brambling and a Treecreeper near the house. I got back for 2pm in time for the fodder! and had a great day with the family and watching the Ashes cricket on the TV on the evening.

The Gairs view point up in Gdale

We got some bird feeders for xmas and straight away we put them out on the washing line with immediate success attracting upto 7 Long Tailed Tits and also GS Woodpecker, Marsh Tit and Nuthatch.
After seeing the effects of the feeders I am going to purchase more feeders and fat balls and also look to make a couple of feeder tables to go with it, Jockey Shield nature reserve!

looking across to Connifer plantation

Red Grouse taking off from stone wall

High up Gdale old water, River Gelt in the great melt!

Duck pond frozen solid

Gdale old water, slow shutter speed creating different effect

the mighty Hawewater! looking towards Rigingdale from roadside

In my oppinion the most beaufiful location in England...even though I havent seen most of Cumbria yet alone the most of England!

Haweswater looking north

looking into Rigingdale Valley home of the last Golden Eagle in the country

What a place, I love it! Hwater rocks!!

Just to let any readers know if they are followers of Rowlands Gill Birder and are wondering why there has been lack of updates this year, well to my understanding the blogger himself has been very busy eating Pizza and watching internet downloaded video content while acompanied by a box of tissues. If we are lucky there might be a blog posting in 2011 or maybe when the next blue moon appears and he can write about seeing it in his blog!

Thanks for reading..........

Wildlife Sightings: November 25th - December 28th.....

  • Eagle Owl
  • Short Eared Owl
  • Waxwing
  • Black Grouse
  • Hen Harrier gray and ringtail
  • 2 Red Fox
  • Red Deer
  • Roe Deer
  • Buzzards
  • Kestrel
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Brambling
  • Treecreeper
  • Marsh Tit
  • LT Tit
  • Red Squirrel
  • Grey Squirrel
  • Yellowhammer
  • Red Grouse
  • Raven
  • Redwing
  • Fieldfare

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Autumn Photography and Sightings

*-Every year when the summer season is coming to an end you seem to automatically think thats it for another season and the best of it has past regarding wildlife, sightings and weather, but you soon realise thats no way the case as a lot of migrant birds are on the move and anything can crop up which makes for exciting times, also the days are shorter so there is less daylight hours for animals to feed and hunt which provides a better chance of viewing certain species. And as for the conditions and weather my own personal opinion is that I prefer the Autumn/winter period compared to summer with the main reason being the scenery, landscapes and beauty in colour variations is outstanding as summer merges into Autumn and then Autumn blends into the extremes of winter.

Another reason for the preference is the cooler temperatures and some what freshness about the conditions that I enjoy and being a true northerner I have adapted too them down to a tee!Also I always think that the summer has always to much expectancy and over hyped way in advance (just like England football games) and when summer does arrive its always a bit of a let down i always recon!

In terms of Wildlife sightings the last few weeks we have had some nice records with the main one being the large number of Waxwing on the west side of the country. Upto 4 Hen Harriers coming into roost at Campfield Marsh. A Rough Legged Buzzard at Tindale Tarn on the 1st December. 4 Short Eared Owls also on Tindale reserve. A Great Gray Shrike spotted at Coanwood. Me and John went to see a Slovenian Grebe sitting on Tindale Tarn in Mid November.

Here are some of my photos I have captured in the last couple of weeks.......with a small caption on each

My official first Waxwing! beauty! Went out birding on dads birthday and after wondering about the streets for an hour perving into peoples gardens we got the call right above my car when we were about to leave and managed to see a flock of around 20.

A pair of Long-tailed Tits at Dalston cemetery. Graveyards really do create good nature reserves as they are untouched with minimal disturbance so that wildlife can thrive!

A Male Kestrel sat on a Hawthorn in Geltsdale

What a view, up at 'the cairns' in Geltsdale looking out west towards the Solway and bonnie Scotland!

'Ewans Cairn' as it is known globally in all walking books for the area

While I was watching Hen Harriers coming into roost I took this snap of the moon

Autumn colours on the east side of G reserve

Angles Angles Angles!

Closeup of Oak leaves...

Wildlife bay at Talkin Tarn....I just love the sign name

T Tarn and boat house

Mallards in army training...

Mistle Thrush feeding on rowan berries

Waxwing at Wetheral showing well sat on a birch

Fieldfare lit up by the sun

Larch plantation at CC reservoir

800 year old Sessil Oak at reservoir

My weekly Sunday Wildlife trip with the students was taking place and we had a car full heading north to the scots side for a change instead of a visit to Lakeland. A request off one of the regulars Danny Naisbitt to see Red Kites was accepted and we visited the RK feeding station near Castle Douglass. A 2 oclock arrival in time for the feeding to take place and we were greeted by good news from the RSPB warden as he informed us that 102 RK chicks were bred this year in the area which is a good number. It makes me happy when you hear such positive news like that.
We moved onto Thrieve castle and visited the hides there and got treated to a brief Kingfisher wizzing past, also an unidentified Mustleid species in the reed beds. At first glance I thought it was a Mink but soon realising it was the wrong colour being a dark brown colour, It was too big to have been a Water Vole so I would of said it was a young Otter but cant confirm anything as it was a split second view. A successful trip to Dumfries and Galloway which is a fantastic area for wildlife with great potential! Look out for John Miles newly published book hitting the shelves called - Best Birdwatching Sites: The Solway: Cumbria / Dumfries and Galloway.....
Thanks for looking....My next update will have some Winter Photography from the area and also hopefully some Wildlife sightings and stories to tell you from the coming weeks!

Monday, 8 November 2010

A breif visit to Mull....

A phone call last friday evening while I was hitting golf balls at the driving range allerted me as it was from Jimbo the chief of Sea Life Surveys regarding traveling up that weekend to help host the Autumnwatch team whilst they do some filming for the current series. And as soon as I pressed the red button on my iphone I gave the guy next to me the rest of my golf balls and was off home to pack ready for an early trip north on Saturday morning.

On my journey up on saturday morning I soon realised that Autumn was the best time of the year for scenery, colours and beauty. It looks a whole new world during this time of year and I actually thought I was lost for a spell when I didnt recognise the surroundings.

I arrived on the island safely and everything went smoothly until I got to Tobermory and parking upto get cash out and I cerbed my car and front left tyre expldoded! I was going barmy and got it sorted with a little help from a passing tramp but at least I did it on the island and not half way up Scotland mainland.

Sunday morning was here and an 8am start down at the pontoon to get the boat ready for the filming to take place. When the Autumnwatch team arrived it was a quick introduction then we set off around the harbour on the smaller boat of Sula Crion as the film crewe filmed Chris Packham and Martin on the kayaks.

It was a lovely sunny morning which can be a rarety up on mull and one quote which Chris Packham said during filming was "282 days of rain a year and 1000 hours of sunshine". That says it all for Mull because I believe that statement, no problem! Filming was done by 2pm and as the clocks had gone back an hour it only gave me 2-3 hours of light left and as it was decent conditions I was off in a flash to my favourite place on the island in Loch Na Keal where you can get a bit of everything there with all sorts of beasties on show as it is a deep sea loch you can even get Dolphins and porpoise showing well into the passage out water. You can also get Goldie Eagle in flight over the mountainous skyline.

A pair of Red Deer hinds showing well roadside on my way to LNK. they blend in really well with the orange bracken at this time of year. The annual Deer cull on Mull between Aug - Oct is very benefitial to the resident eagles on the island as the Deer carion is left out for the eagles to feed on during the lean winter months.

After being parked at my favourite viewing point and scanning for birds on the water for around five minutes I looked to my left and seen an Otter shaped rock and after a double take and looking again I realised it was a large Dog Otter stood out on the sea weed and after watching it go under water to catch a fish and then surface on an island to feed on it, I managed to get some nice record pics of the mammal. It was a beauty!

Further along the Loch and a nice photo oppertunity when I seen this juvenille Cormoront with its wings stretched out to dry and with the still reflection it made for a nice image. I also had 3 GN Divers in summer plumage, 8 Little Grebes and 15 Turnstone.

I was wondering what the flmaing hell it was from a distance...I thought it was Batman at first!

The next day and the weather was a bit dodgy so I thought photography isnt going to be worth it and Wildlife wont be showing too well so I commited to tackling Ben More the Munro 3000 ft mountain that towers over the island. The start point for the climb is on the southern LNK road and even when I was at sea level low down it was blowing a shahoola with low sitting cloud. I was thinking of changing my mind and going to find a bird hide and sit nice and sheltered watching the wildlife while tucking into my Chicken Tikka sandwitch but I stayed dedicated to the challange.

I started the climb in savage conditions and decided it will not be very enjoyable but more of a mental and physical test to endure! but the chance of Ptarmigan and Mountain Hare kept me going all the way! After I discovered in the summer Mull is not really a hotspot for fell walking as all the land holds the water so well and is far too wet for hiking, I realised as well that the paths are not worm at all so are not well used. So Mull is world class for wildlife yes...but fell walking...not so much! Anyway I slowly battled my way up the slope into an oncoming wind which was blowing a 50 draft! I was 1500 feet up and if id pissed down wind it would of landed on my car at the bottom. The rain got worse and as I reached the summit I got blown over twice so decided even though I didn't make it to the trig point or official peak I headed back down on all fours for the first part and made it back to the car like a drowned splinter off Ninja Turtles. Back home to Tobermory for a shower then off out again too look for Seagulls and Eagles!

The next day I had a quick wonder around the island but the rain was on the way so I was ready for the off and headed too Fishnish to get the ferry back to the mainland. I stopped off at a few places to get some nice scenic shots and also found a dead Otter on the road, and later I read that they suffer badly from road kills at this time of the year when the water levels increase and they have to travel longer distances in search for food. A good journey down with the usual water droplets pelting down from the air and the wiper blades doing over time but a great few days back in the legendary isle of Mull. Done!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Geltsdale update Summer 2010

A full summer update of sightings and stories from the whole season on my local patch of glorious Geltsdale. Sorry for the lack of updates regarding the Geltsdale area, summer is a funny time as when the season is here there is that much going on in terms of sports, holidays and also as you have seen from my previous blogs my time away on eagle island.

I am going to cover the sightings and happenings wildlife related in the north eastern part of Cumbria and to kick it all off the swallows have had a successful breeding season around the house with 3 nesting pairs fledgling a good number of chicks and during September the peak number of Swallows seen together was 96 on the wire outside the house. The latest Swallow sightings for the year was a group of 15 seen on the 15th October.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting John and I put up some Swift boxes at the start of the breeding season to try and encourage them to use for nesting as they have been in decline and struggling due to modern house designs and lack of suitable nest sites. Unfortunately by the end of the season the boxes still had the 'to let signs on them and even though we had Swifts passing through and we tried to lure them in with the iphone call it just didn't happen but hopefully next year.

Onto the other bird species boosting success during the summer in the Geltsdale area the Kestrels nested just down from the garden again and had 5 chicks again for the second season running and were and are still very active out of the kitchen window showing in the area. The breeding Buzzards had two chicks in Geltsdale wood and at Brampton Golf club which creates a fantastic nature reserve for the wildlife, it had 3 pairs of Buzzards with at least one chick with each pair. At the golf club I always follow the progress of the wildlife while I am playing and this season all raptor sightings have been good with increased Sparrowhawk sightings and moderate Kestrel showings. Stoat and Wiesel numbers have been down on previous years and nesting birds around the clubhouse included two pairs of swallows and a pair of House Sparrows nesting under the roof tiles. The pair of Swallows nesting around the back were in full view of the clubhouse window and the members enjoyed watching their progress throughout the season. I always made sure I got the best seats in the house right next to the TV and it was normally far more entertaining watching the birds than what nonsense was on the tele like the football results coming in and Leeds loosing again.

Back to Geltsdale and I was informed that their was 9 pairs of nesting Short Eared Owls on the reserve and I had some nice views of them throughout the summer but one view in particular when I just got back from Scotland was extra special! I had an evening walk round the fell to see what was about, with the main target bird being the SEO itself. When I made my way to the top of the fell side and to my very own SEO view point ( where I have had good success in the past) I stopped and scanned for around 5 minutes until suddenly an Owl came and landed on the wall about 20 yards to my right. It was curious about my presence and get glancing over at me....and then suddenly it flew right towards me lifted above my head and started hovering only a couple of meters above me staring me out and saying hello! it was unbelievable and even though I had my camera on me I just took in the moment as I watched it fly on its way to a near by stone wall to carry on glancing at me. What an amazing experience and just days after I had arrived back from Mull and had an associating Minke whale communicating with me and the passengers then I get an associating Short Eared Owl approaching me to say hello!

Long Eared Owls also seen to be on the up with 2 pairs in the conifer woodland near by and a reported third pair also not far away. Again I had some nice views of them in the early summer season but just relying on reports and other people to keep me updated on their progress.

The Barn Owl pair occupying the box by Jockey Shield had a single chick this year and have had a few sightings of the birds hunting in recent weeks. Their is also supposed to be a pair up at the Gairs but I haven't followed their progress this year. Tawny owls are in good numbers judging by their vocal noice on an evening and also seeing them sat road side when driving in the area under headlights. I also got a good view of 3 juveniles sat on a Hawthorn one evening and they were being very vocal.

Spotted Flycatcher have nested successfully next door in a hanging basket and Pied flycatcher sightings in the garden in July. Black Cap sightings in August and Green woodpecker heard a number of times in Sept / Oct.

Badgers, and one sett I was monitoring had at least 3 cubs and had some good views looking across the valley at them, I feel so privileged to be able to do that.

im going to go through a few of the scarce and rare sightings witnessed by myself or John Milo on the Geltsdale patch and surrounding area during the last few months. Starting with a special moment for me being an avid Raptor fan, I was washing the dishes one day in August and as usuak was watching out for wildlife towards the fell side when I seen a large pale bird flying left to right just over the skyline towards Talkin Head. I ran to get the binos and straight away it was an Osprey getting mobbed by some Crows! it was my first one seen in the area and I watched it as it headed east towards Tindale tarn.

Two Marsh Harriers, a single Hobby, Peregrine and a number Merlins conclude the Raptors seen during the summer 2010. A number of Lapland bunting were seen in the Tindale area during August and John and I went to Talkin tarn to watch a Black tern.

A couple of exciting sightings in September with the first being a Chiff Chaff flying into the greenhouse as John was grafting away and at first glance he didn't think anything of it until he heard its call...and it was like a thin pipping like Bullfinch call. As soon as John heard that he locked it into the greenhouse and called for back up. The sighting ended up being debatable as juvenile plumage can cause confusion and also other reports online of Chiff Chaffs with a strange one toned call again adding to the mystery. Also the Siberian version having very dark legs and beak and we just didn't see that on this particular bird.

A confirmed sighting at the end of September was again a call picked up by John whilst amongst his crops in the garden and it was from a warbler that he spotted, again having a closer look and the unique call gave it away as a Yellow Browed Warbler! you beauty! got a glimpse of the bird as it was in neighbours garden with its lovely colour pattern and petite size.

A funny storey to finish with and it was on the week I came back from Mull and it was a strong westerly wind and when I entered the house there was a phone call about a strange bird that had turned up on Geltsdale farm just up the road. It could hardly walk and looked very much out of place...when the bird was checked out it was confirmed that it was a Guillemot! blown in from the crazy strong winds. I had just come back from the Hebrides where I had seen them every day out to sea and one must have followed me home back to glorious Geltsdale. It was kept at Ashleys house up the road and me, Gary and Emma (Garys bird) went upto feed it one night with some mackerel. Ashley showed us his superb slideshow of photography he did in S Africa last year which was great to see.

So....a Guillemot on Geltsdale...its a funny old world.....next posting will be photography of Autumn Colours and wildlife sightings for Oct / Nov.......

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Working for SLS on Eagle Island 2010

Hello everyone I am going to go through a few of my highlights from my time working up in Mull, but to be honest the whole experience was one big highlight but im going to break it down into smaller bite size chunks to make it easier to take in! :-)

Getting the chance to work for Sea Life Surveys was a fantastic opportunity as I have being following there research and sightings on the website the last few years and I was fully aware of their top reputation and experience. On the first week up we had a mixed bag of weather and some good trips to go with it with whales, sharks and eagles showing well. As far as the work was going I was getting into the routines and it was slowly all becoming second nature like tying certain knot types and driving greenie the boat and the RIB (rubber Inflatable Boat).

The second week the number of punters was really picking up and two trips a day was on order which was great to see. Public awareness is vital for wildlife and conservation and it is important to get people on their side because in this day and age the most important thing is their understanding of the importance to help protect and improve the wildlife and their environments.

At the end of the week on the Sunday it was Lifeboat day and it involved raising money for the lifeboats in a number of different ways and SLS provided half hour seal cruises throughout the day. I helped on a couple of the seal cruises early on and in the afternoon I was a high Flier!.....I said to people High..do you want a Flier? So basically I was handing out leaflets in Tobermory with Frazer trying to encourage people to come on the seal trips.

At the end of the day it was a big success and I think we topped the money raised on last year. To celebrate we had a BBQ on the boat with the SLS staff and the Lifeboat staff on a lovely sunny evening and did a spot of fishing and munched on a few burgers which was brilliant!

Andy Tait, Yorkie (sarah), Me and Sam

Week 3 and some more magic trips and sightings but one that stands out more than others was a 7 hour whale watching trip. The RMS Titanic (Sula Beg) set off at the usual time of half 9 for Whale trips and it was stunning blue sky, Sunshine and calm sea like a pond! The only thing we needed now was a bit of wildlife to go with it! Jimbo the skipper and Boss man of SLS decided that we would head towards the Isle of Muck. On our way there it was like an episode of Planet earth with Minke Whale surfacing either side of the boat and 40 plus sharks surrounding us along with porpoise and the classic Gannets diving more impressive than a pro football player! It was some spectical and makes you delighted to be alive! A quick pit stop at the island for a Big Muck burger! and it was time to head back for the second half of play. It was just as good in terms of sightings but an unfortunate incident hampered it as a lady fell over in all the excitement and was in a bad way and had to be rescued by the lifeboat rescue team which was funny timing after raising money for the organisation! it was a shame as it effected everyone else's spirits for the trip back and put a bit of a downer on the day but I suppose you have to take the shit with the sugar and as far as I know she was recovering well last I heard.

Lets play!...Sunday was my day off until I got a phone call asking to play in an annual cricket match for Isle of Coll against a Loch Buhie team on the southern part of Mull. I met the team at the mini bus by the harbour visitor centre and I did not know what to expect at all but when I met my team mates they were all delightful chaps especially team captain Archibold Toffell.

When we arrived at the venue It was like I had turned my clock back 40 years as we were at a huge old fashioned estate house with Heartbeat cars parked out the front.
I got the house tour when I went inside and it was spiffing to see the Billiards table and all the dead animal heads winched up on the wall. Also the stuffed birds of Prey looked as ugly as fook!

We got invited into the dining room for lunch and the Salmon and trimming were a delight! They did not warn me about the dress code though as they were all wearing smart green blazers and shiney clean boots and I was there in my Sports World Umbro Sweat pants and Topman Grey Hoody...I looked very much out of place, like a fish up a tree.

On to the match and we fielded first getting them out for 68 I bowled two overs getting 0-6 bowled ok considering it was my first sport played for 4 months since I did my ankle ligaments in. Onto the batting and I came in at number 5 when we were 25-3 and I hit a quickfire 25 not out having to retire with a 6 that nearly took out Archibolds fancy Landrover.

We won the match and took the trophy back to Coll. It was a great day all round and I met a lot of lovely people.

Found this mag when I went to use the toilet in the house and went for a wonder...

This is the magazine you want to be purchasing next time you call into Tesco......NAT! Forget about National Geographic and FHM! It is a yearly magazine and somehow I dont think they could change it into a weekly or monthly addition.

On the forth week the weather turned a bit wet and miserable but it did not effect the sightings on the boat as we had Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin and on one special trip where it rained for 7 hours solid we got 3 Risso's Dolphin by Kayak point which was the first sighting of the species in a number of years. The guides my self Frazer and Especially Ruth were delighted to bits as she smiled for the remainder of the day and the week probably! It was great to have Andy Currie on board for the week as well who is a friend who works at the uni with me back home.
The week continued with great success as we were getting fantastic punters on board, very enthusiastic and keen to see any forms of wildlife big and small. And the people who weren't so interested and excited it was our challenge and test to turn them around and make them see the fascination in the natural world and the wildlife within it.

The more trips we did and the more we got talking to all the different punters it was funny how many people know John Milo! I felt like the son of a celebrity! I was getting plenty of stick from the guides about it with quotes like "Oh my God John Milo is your dad!!" Ive told everyone that he will be up next season to make a special celebrity guest appearance on the boat and do a signing of his new book.

Me on Cairns of Coll

The superb trips and sightings continued and one trip on week 5 it was time to unleash team Yorkie for a 7 hour whale watch and as we were both fairly new this was our time to shine! One concern was that if we did an island landing on Coll then we would need to drive and control the RIB that neither us had done before so that would be interesting with 20 plus passengers on board. Pops would decide when we got out to the more open ocean so he always does to asses the conditions and weather possibilities.
The decision was made and Coll it was and when we arrived in the area I threw down the anchor and was still worrying about looking like a complete anchor when driving the RIB for the first time! Me and Yorkie did our prayers then we got ready to set sail on our maiden voyage with me driving and Yorkie controlling the engine. The whole thing was actually an overall success apart from us getting the RIB stuck on the beach with all the passengers on board twice! and also loosing Sula the dog on the island for a good 20 minutes but pops called me into the captains lounge afterwards to say what a good job we both did so happy happy happy!

Another highlight on the 5th week was getting to drive Sula beag for a spell while Pops had a break and again it was a completly new experience to me although it wasn't exactly difficult in all I had to go was steer her in a straight line and aim for the lighthouse in the distance without crashing into any other boats.
For most of the trips on the 5th week I was in charge of doing the photo ID shots for all the wildlife using a Cannon DSLR and a 400mm lens and as I was a keen photographer this was a great experience and very rewarding.

The last two trips were really special as on the Thursday we had a 4 hour trip to start with where we got Rissos again spotted by Sam the Mackam who had eagle eyes just like Andy Tait (burger Barry), it must be something about people from the north east having sharp eye sight. Then on the 2 hour eco trip on a beautiful sunny evening with only 5 passengers on board we got WT Eagle, Porpoise, Basking Shark and a Young Minke whale off Ardmore point for about half an hour! We also got bait balls, large schools of fish being pushed to the surface by predators below.
The next day another 4 hour Wildlife explorer and my final trip we got Assossiating Minke circling the boat at Kayak Point! Now this is special to see...really special...An animal in the wild of 8-10 meters in size actually relating to humans and greeting us in a form of communication. what a final day of the season for me, and to top it off we got WT eagle on the way back to see me out :-).

Here is some links to superb Video footage by Andy Tait on some of our Sea Life Survey trips......

My on my last trip of 2010

Wildlife seen during my time on and around Mull 2010: -
  • Minke Whales
  • Risso's Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Bottlenose Dolphon
  • Basking Shark
  • Oceanic Sunfish
  • WT Eagles
  • Golden Eagles
  • Hen Harrier
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Great Shearwater!
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Corncrake
  • Ospreys
  • Great Northern Diver
  • Great Skua
  • Arctic Skua
  • Storm Petrol
My top 5 personal Highlights: -

5. My first whale experience on my first trip back in June, a minke whale surfacing close to the boat, I will never forget it
4. great Shearwater, as a birding enthusiast this was a special moment for me to see a fabulous bird like this and also a good rarity and record for the area.
3. Risso's Dolphin in the seven hour shower, They are a joy to watch and very sociable putting on a great show.
2. Working with and meeting such fantastic like minded people during my time on Mull.
1. Seeing such beautiful wildlife in their natural environment is the most rewarding thing for me knowing that they are safe to live, breed and rule in their habitats and I cant wait to go back :-)