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 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 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...... - Risso's Dolphin & Minke! - Basking Shark & WT Eagle - Oceanic Sunfish and Basking Shark

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 :-)

Monday, 6 September 2010

Scenery and Landmarks on Eagle Island Summer 2010

The scenery on Isle of Mull is truly spectacular especially when the sun comes out and lights everywhere up. You also get the west coast sunsets and and a large veriaty of of landscapes and habitats to choose from. I tried to see most of the landmarks on the island when I had days off and a bit of spare time.

West coast sunset

This photo was taken just south of the Ulva ferry crossing looking out towards the atlantic ocean with Isle of Ulva on the left and the west part of Mull sticking out on the right. Me and Yorkie (Sarah Blake) followed the sun around the island one evening to get some cracking scenic oppertunities with the different shades of light.

Looking out towards Ulva

Again same location but with different light levels creating magic effects. The location is a good all round spot where we stopped as just on the other side of the road is a good area to see Golden Eagle with myself having a few good sightings of the birds. You just have to sit and scan the area and with a bit of patiance you will get success. Also its a good spot for Otters and waders as well as the west coast sun sets that we have seen. Easy access roadside and parking makes it a good all round spot.

Crofters house by Loch Na Keal

On our way around the island I spotted this nice photo oppertunity of a crofters cottage with the livestock in the foreground and the typical rugged Mull terrian in the backdrop.

A view out south west from the Loch Na Keal road. A superb sea loch it is which I have had success with sightings such as Bottlenose Dolphin, WT Eagles fishing, Arctic Tern, Red Throated Diver and Osprey in the few times I was there.

A momument dedicated to a lord of the isles

A day off and an organised large costal walk to get to a Fossill tree that is 50 million years in age! I bought a little 'guided walks of Mull' book and this was one of the recommended routes, and it wasent just a great tracks to do with scenery and wildlife on the way but it had a superb landmark and an incentive and purpose to complete the route in a 50 million year old fossill of a tree trunk!

basalt rock columns

Isle of Mull was created by volcanic upeavals millions of years ago and all around the island there are these natural basalt lava formations in the most beautiful shapes and sizes. They are created by the slow cooling process of the volcanic lava.

The last stretch of the walk follows the west coast along and I needed to check the tide tables to make sure I wasent going to catch the tide coming in!

It was a walk of great variety which started with upland and heather continuing down to the coastal track and then down to the shore line. I didn't pass any other walkers during the whole journey and I discovered during my time that mull is not a big attraction for walkers and that the recommended routes were not well worn or used and also never walkers in sight. Im guessing Ben More would be the big attraction as it is one of the munros.

Some fantastic wild flowers on route but its a shame I could not identify them but they were impressive anyway!

Photography is done in rule of thirds! superb high cliff faces towering over you as I followed the path along with waterfalls flowing down and both Goldie and White-tailed Eagles soaring overhead showing really well! it truly was a quality day all round!

Fossil tree....done!

I made it after a long 7 mile trek on all sorts of uneven terrain and my ankle was feeling strong also so that was great! The tree itself has been raided from fossil hunters in the last few decades but still is an impressive spectacle when you look at it and broaden your mind a bit to think of the remains of this free dates back 50 million years on the planet! this sort of thing fascinates me! not how much did your car cost or my suit cost over a one cares move on!

Working on the boats all the time gave me some good opportunities for ocean pictures and it didn't disappoint when the sun was out the effects were stunning.

Ardamurchan lighthouse with a sale boat to the left. The point of land is the most westerly part of mainland Britain. This was a good area for Minke whales this summer with a lot of the sightings been in these waters. Ardamerchan itself is an area I want to explore a bit more as I had a brief visit their in autumn 2008 to see Pine Martin I would like to have a good luck around as it is a remote area where wildlife rules so their good be some good sightings made like Scottish Wildcat!

Some days we had trips where the sun was shining a bit of heat and the water was like a pond and there was whales surfacing either side and sharks surrounding the boat and gannets dive bombing! :-)

High Scottish mountains all around makes the scenery twice as good and ive heard that views in the winter time with the snowy mountain tops are a little bit special.

This farm was in a very remote area on the southern fiohnphort road and had tremendous secenry looking out to the mouth of Loch Na Keal and also looking inland was huge steep terrain where I got two Golden Eagles circling above the skyline. I was on my way to visit the Mcminans sea cave on the south west part of the island.

After a two mile trek I made it to the cave and it was an impressive sight with a high waterfall to the left. I went into the cave and it was about 75 / 100 yards in depth but I didn't go to the far end as I had just watched the film 'The ring' the night before so was still a bit freaked out by that! I sound more like Wildlife Worrior' but thats the way it is, honesty is the key!

Another special location in the area and it is Cairns of Coll. It is a small collection of islands off the northern part of isle of Coll I mentioned it in my earlier posting. It is a two hour boat trip to get their from Tobermory and you cover some good whale grounds on the way to it.

Loch Na Keal, Hot spot for all sorts of wildlife....

Ben More Mountain range behind the sea loch....

Map and layout of Mull pointing out a few of the landmarks and locations I visited ( Click on image for close up)

Tobermory where I stayed for my time, Lovely little place with a smashing bakery, chicken tikka sandwitches are a great success! also Peregrine Falcon nesting on the church tower :-) :-)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Wildlife on and around Eagle Island Summer 2010

Minke surfacing by Ardamurchan lighthouse (5)

Game on! hello everyone first of all sorry for the delayed updates throughout the summer I have got an OK excuse to go with it which you will find out as you read the updates of my postings. To kick it all off I went to Isle of Mull at the end of July to work the remainder of the season up there as a Wildlife guide on a whale watching research boat called Sea Life Surveys. As soon as the offer came in I was quick to agree to it as I knew what the job entailed after my two week trial period there in June. The potential wildlife and sightings that I could see as well just added to the excitement of getting started.

Osprey over Loch Na Keal (2)

The first week I worked their I camped about 12 miles from Tobermory in a more central part of the island. The weather was the usual mixed bag but I got used to it as the week went on and with a WT Eagle nest 300 yards away and sightings like Osprey over the sea loch It made things a lot easier!

Manx Shearwater

One double shafter I had on the first week was forgetting a camping mat and sleeping bag! I did do a list of what to bring trying to be organised but I forgot to skwiggle those items on it! This made it more of a Ray Mears survival week making a tent out of my underpants, but I made it through and here I am typing it up on my blog, of course you can laugh at it now its over!

Manxie in good numbers on trips

The Wildlife trips that week produced some good sightings with Minke Whale, Good number of Basking Sharks, Common Dolphin bow riding, WT Eagle, Porpoise, Great Skua and Sooty Shearwater.

Great Skua

The week went fast and on the friday I planned to go home for the weekend as I had a physio appointment about my ankle and also golf club championships on the sunday as well as Leeds on tv as well. The camp site fella did not ask me for my money for the whole week so I just took off and spent my extra £15 on crisps and the annual Mull bird record book. It ended up not been the best weekend in the world with the golf going bad even though I was one under after 9 holes I managed to cock it up! also Leeds lost at home to Derby. Never mind im sure people have had worse weekends but....I was going to say 'worse things happen at sea' but that wont be the best phrase to use in my situation.

WT Eagle 1st Year molting

My second week up there was very busy being two trips a day with 30-40 people in each trip so very hectic and no time for photography or my own trips looking for birds and wildlife. I did have a day off where I explored the northern part of the island doing a lap of honour and stopping off a number of times to scan.

Red Deer

Red Deer are plentiful on the island and I got this photo on the way to the fossil tree. The golden eagles on the island and in Scotland as a whole have had a good breeding success this season because of the hard winter and widespread snow producing a lot of Deer carrion a vital food source for the birds.

Juvenile Kittiwake

More Minke whale sightings on week 2 and you never ever get bored of seeing them. Watching them is such a joy the fluency and beauty of them as they surface, breaking the water. Also Basking sharks in good numbers and the reliable WT Eagles at Ardmore point the most northern part of Mull.

Map layout and numbers displaying labelled locations

I lodged a room at a b&b in Tobermory for the second week and at £50 a week it was a steal. It fetl like staying at a Hilton hotel after camping on the first week. I had a chair! I had a bed! and their was also a Border Terrier living their and a stunning tabby kitten next door so it was all gravy!

Wild Farrell Goats near Fossill Tree (4)

Moving into week three and a day off at the start of the week produced an exciting wildlife related day. When you have a full day and the weather is good on Mull you are literally spoiled for choice with where to go and I am no good at making decisions in a bakery between steak pie and chicken and mushroom! I committed to a decision of going to the fossill tree but a quick drive round the Goldie territories first as it was prime raptor weather with a strong wind and a heated sun.

Golden Eag! (6)

I headed up the north Loch Na Keal (2) towards the Ulva ferry and I was doing my usual scanning the skies and horizons nearly crashing my motor on every corner and then booom!!!...I didn't crash I just spotted 2 Golden Eagles (6) 100 yards up over the car! unreal views.....have a shmigal at the photo, I shouted 'I Love you' at the birds when they were at their closest, could not help it just instinct.

WTSE (4)

On to the main event of the fossil tree (4) and to kick off the large 15 mile walk I got two red deer by the car park. Birds on the way to the tree included Yellowhammer, Goldcrest, Stonechat, Wheatear, Buzzard, Merlin and onto the main event of Juvenile Goldie Mobbing a WT Eagle near the Fossill Tree!

Juv Goldie Mobbing its larger cousin

Golden Ringed Dragonfly on route to 50 Million year old fossil (4)

Another good spell of weather produced cracking wildlife sightings for the boat trips including Common Dolphin Bow riding, Bottlenose Dolphin, Sooty Shearwater, Minke Whales and Sunfish. I will discuss the sightings on the boat trips in more detail on my next blog going over the work involved on the trips.


Week four on the isle of Mullock and it just gets better and better really with sightings. Very busy with two trips a day in mid August, Prime time for tourists and the weather was producing some good spells. Sightings on the boat included possible Baleric Shearwater, Storm Petrol, RT Diver, Minkes, Basking Shark and to top it all off 3 Rissos Dolphins (5) spotted by head guide Ewan Bernard Milo! success! first sighing in a few years of this species! they were a joy to watch and very curious and sociable following the boat for more than 15 minutes! For the whole whale watching explorer trip that day it rained flat out for seven hours ( seven hour shower) but the wildlife was on top form as were the conditions for spotting stuff with a calm flat sea and no glaze from the overcast clouds meant we also got Minke whale, Bottlenose Dolphin, Porpoise and Basking Shark. It was special to have such a successful trip even though the rain was pelting down.

Minke Whale!

WT Eagle

Week five on the wildlife front and and more success as the weather cranked up another notch to scorchio and getting the sun lotion out on every boat trip! I was made head Guide on the Monday so more responsibility and it made me try extra extra hard to spot stuff and make sure everyone else seen everything on show and got the best out of the experience. The trip was not a let down as we headed past Ardemurchan point and towards the isle of Muck we got a magic couple of minutes of birding action with the first sighting being one of my all time highlights on the birding front as a large patterned bird cruised past the bow of the boat where I was sitting on the monkey deck, at first glance I thought it was a Juv Gannett but looking closer it was a large Shearwater species! I got enough colour and markings off it to ID on my iphone app right there and conformation was it was a Great Shearwater (1) as it had a black cap and white neck sides! A great record and a joy to watch a bird that size skating the calm seas with such fluency! success! Hold the phone it didnt end their as a Great Northern Diver flew past minutes later followed by 7 Arctic Skua (1) light morph, What a spell! Dont think all the passangers seen the action but ti was great for me personally! The passengers did get good views of Minkes and Sharks on the trip back though and the voyage was a great one!

You Beauty! Minke surfacing inbetween two sharks :-)

The wildlife action continued through the week with a day of two shorter trips providing 3 Risso Dolphin! again at the same place near Kayak point. To add to that we got a young Minke whale (7) on the 2 hour eco trip at Ardmore point to go with Sharks, Porpoise, eagles and seals! their was only 5 passengers on the short trip but you know the term 'getting your moneys worth' well fook me did they!!

Harbour Seal at the Cairns of Coll (3)

On my last outing of the season me and Yorkie were the top guides and we had a 4 hour trip to find some beasties and again it was gravy all round with top sightings with the highlight being an assossiating Minke (5) whale near the end of the trip circling the boat just meters off and surfacing right up close! I was in charge of the photo ID shots of the dorsal fin and couldn't miss as any old retard could of got good photos with a disposable camera from Boots. it was some spectacle but no photos to show as they all went to the company's database! The memory is the most important bit though and I will certainly remember it for life!

Basking Shark! (5)

An end of season staff do was on the cards in mid September to travel to the isle of Muck and do a bit of island hopping to go with it. Again I was on alert at all times as I did not want to miss a trick! especially in this part of the world anything could pop up!
On the way to Muck we got Minke always a super sight! Mint! when we landed on the island itself I went for a wonder to check the potential of the island and got waders such as Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew. Also Rock Pipit, Pied Fly and Common Seals by the shore. I headed inland and within two minutes I knew that I was gonna see nowt in terms of raptors and other predators on the island cos the place was full of pheasant pens and rearing red legged partridge coups. Went for a wonder round the quite deserted landscape, apart from a fucking annoying pheasant jumping out on me every two minutes. The scenery was obviously nice and looking out to sea and the other hebridean islands. I kept a look out for migrants especially Lapland bunting as their had been an influx in the area in the last week or so but no joy.
So overall quiet on the wildlife front..muck by name and muck by nature. It was great to read about Rum and Egg the other small isles in the inner Hebrides being complete nature reserves and being full of life.
We headed over to Eigg the next day and I was really excited about the place. When we arrived we walked up the Skerr the highest point and after talking to some wildlife guides from Mallaig thry informed me that the place was a haven with 10 pairs of Hen Harriers, 2 pairs of Goldies, SEO and LEO, Merlin, Tawny. Barn owl. I scopped an Otter down by the cafe but did not see an awful lot more but its just great to know that there is wildlife there!
On the trip back got Storm P, Great Skua, Fulmer, Gannetts, Basking Shark.

My blog posting update of all my work related experience will be uploaded in the next few days so look out for that! thanks for looking :-)