Friday, 11 March 2011

Eagles Galore and Hybrid Wildcat

GN Diver on Loch Na Keal

Well I headed up to the Isle of Mull on Sunday the 6th March. I got up early on the sunday to pack and prepare to make sure I bring everything I need. I set off north at around 10am. Had a good previous day on the saturday Jonny Cowan arranged a golf competition where you are only allowed to use 5 clubs! and it was a great success accept I got pipped at the post for the winners honour by my brother Tommy Milo with 39 points to my 38! never mind great day as a send off

Sunset on Kerrara

First day on the island and wet stuff pelting down but it didnt stop me getting out there as I headed down to my new local patch of Loch Na Keal where you can get all sorts of birds and marine life on and around the sea loch and then raptors galore in the mountains either side of the loch. I got 5 GN Divers, WT Eagle and 2 Goldies to kick start the sightings on Mull.

Turnstone on Oban Harbour

On the Wednesday I decided to cover new territory and headed upto the most northern part of the island in Ardmore. Constant rain again and I put on my new karimor rain hat from sports world and soldiered on! 2 minutes after leaving the car and heading towards the Forestry Commission woodland Bingo! a pair of Hen Harriers showing well fighting the strong wind. As I reached the end of the forest and looking north out to sea I got a WT Eagle right overhead and then discovered a hide looking north across to Ardemurchan and I later discovered that it was put there to monitor Black Throated Divers in the bay. But it will be great in the summer months for looking for Whales, Dolphins, Sharks and Eagles! Its ideal for the tight people that will not pay to come on our trips!
And do you want to hear something crazy.....from what I know that is the only public free to use Wildlife hide on the island! Mull has on average 288 days of rain a year and is the wildlife hot spot in Europe and yet lack of hides is crazy. Its so simple but effective to pop a few wooden shacks in the key wildlife areas would make a world of difference.

Well back to the days excitement and it was defiantly first time lucky with my sightings at Ardmore as on my way back to car going through the dense woodland I came across a Cat and I only had seconds to react to get a decent record photo before it was off in a flash! when I checked the photo back there and then I noticed interesting tail markings, shape and size which made me look into it on the internet as soon as I got home I sent the photo to the Scottish Wildcat association and the response the next day confirmed that it looked like a hybrid Wildcat! There has been a few Hybrid Cats reported on the island - But know one knows about a Pure bred cat ever being there as Mull has never being part of the mainland hense no Foxes or Badgers, but Wildcats are supposed to be excellent swimmers so weather a desperate cat has swam across the sound of Mull could be a possibility.

Hybrid Wildcat.......

Hybrid confirmation.....could be a generation or two back....

The next day I was off again as the weather was no good to work on the boat so I decided to visit the Glen More estate and go for a little jolly to see what I could find. RB Maganser and Slovenian Grebe on Loch Ba. More Eagles seen by LNK and after showing an elderly couple the WT eagles sat in the trees they invited me into their camper van for tea! great success! had a nice chat about there travels and experiences on Mull over the years. Oh well I got a free meal out of it all :-)

Stunning scenery on the north Loch na Keal road...

rain again so no work but headed out to try and cover new ground and target bird today was Hen Harrier! I headed down to Lochdon a small sea loch on the south east part of the island. When I arrived I got great views of Red deer and on Lochdon there was Curlew, Oystercatcher, Teal and Slav Grebe. I decided to check out Grasspoint which was reccomended as a good birding spot. As soon as I pulled into the turn off.....boom....Male harrier hunting in the long grass and it was soon joined by a kestrel and Buzzard with all 3 birds flying together at one point! i wonder why they call it Raptor island??

Red Deer Hind, Glengorm

My first visit to Oban on the Saturday 12th and its a v nice place with a chance to see good wildlife in the area. Eider and Black Guillemot are in good number as they breed on a near by island. I also got a Common seal and great northern Diver near Kerrara an island just off Oban.

I was happy with the outcome.....

On the Sunday a good covering of snow meant one thing for me...photog opportunity! My main target was to get a Goldie eagle in flight with a snowy back drop which i think realtes to the Goldie so well with the rough, savage and extreme condition of a snow covered mountain. I headed down to the Glen More estate where I thought I would get a good chance to get a goldie in a steep snowy back drop. After walking to Loch Ba and heading back I had no joy but then too my left up in the mountains I spotted a huge bird that stood out v well in the white surroundings and it was a goldie! I was happy with my photos that I got overall and a good day all round as my target was met :-)

Loch Ba, looking south

The start of another week and had more time to go out wildlife shmeegling with a good forecast I headed out to do a lap of honor of the north part of the island covering some upland heather areas on the Torloisk road in search of Harriers but no success today. I worked my way around to the Ulva ferry crossing and I got a Goldie up in the mountains. Working my way around to Loch Na Keal and I got more Goldies enjoying the perfect raptor flying conditions and as I arrived at my fave hot spot I got 2 WT Eagles sat in a tree with a Buzzard constantly mobbing the birds from above with the eagles calling at the Buz! great spectacle.
Headed on round to Knock and the fish farm to look for white winged gulls which you are meant to have a good chance of seeing there with the big congregation of gulls but I did not get any today. Walked down to Loch Ba and got RB Maganser, S Grebe and Teal. Also Fallow deer and red Deer on lower ground to avoid the snowy higher ground.

Goldie! beaut!

Up at half 4 to head down to Oban to work on the boat and the weather was fairly wet so painting inside the boat and down in the engine room. Got a GN Diver by Kerrara the small island where the boat is based.

Ben More Mountain range looking stunning with snow covering...

The following day and it was off to Craignure again and get the ferry across to the mainland. It was my turn to drive and Jimbo asked me some birding questions from the bird bible in the front seat and he kept firing the questions at me and I kept knocking them out of the park! (well most of them) I had breakfast on the boat cos I had ran out of Weetos in the flat. Nice weather Buzzards and Ravens displaying above the boat while we worked. At the end of the day Jimbo asked me if I wanted to stay in Oban with him and lippy to save on all the traveling back and forward so I got treated to a gay fancy 4 star hotel and a pub meal after work. Jimbo rocks!

Loch Na Keal, looking south towards Ben More Mountain range

early start for breakfast at hotel, I had grapefruits for starter by mistake thinking they were pineapples they are horrid! (in my opinion) good day working on the boat Jimbo asked me again if I wanted to stay another night and apart from missing a clean pair of underpants and iphone charger I was fine to stay again. Jimbo treated us to an Italian restaurant after work which was nice. I had ham and Pineapple pizza which was good. I also got a massive clump of red paint in my hair after dipping it in the paint tray but I wasn't too bothered.
Watched Liverpool game in hotel on evening before bed time.

GSW, Glen Forsa Estate

Up early again for a big day as Sula Beag the boat was going back in the water and we were driving her back to Tobermory. It all went well and we headed north on the evening. Great west coast sunset on the evening and the wildlife was quiet with a few Shags about and also Eider and B Guillemot near to Oban.

Loch Ba, named by the local estate sheep

Boat back in Tob and I worked on it from 9-6 with a trip down to Criagnure in between to get my car. Baby sitting duties on the evening for Jimbos two young kids and it was safe to say it was the most responsible job i'd ever had! Thankfully it all went well and I just watched a film and typed some of this blog up.

Juvenille Goldie right overhead!

Off today and typical that it was been stunning all week and on my day off God decides to pish on me! Never mind I got on with it and again covering the northern part of the island I got plenty of Crossbill's at Ardmore and also my first Mountain Hare!
Worked my way round and got Ravens and a single Goldie at Ulva ferry crossing with great views of it in the scope! At LNK watched a Peregrine tag a pigeon and feed on it in front of me on the rocks! Also got a single WT eagle and a quick view of an Otter as well as a GN Diver. Met a guy buy the Loch from Hampshire and as I walked upto him he seen my hat and shouted Leeds Leeds Leeds! a keen football and an avid wildlfie enthusiast it was safe to say we had a little bit in common and I stopped and had a crack with him for a good few hours before moving on....

GE, Snowy backdrop

On the Tuesday 22nd it was up at 5am to get the boat down to Oban to get a safety check done. Had 2 WT eagles sat out on the rocks in the Sound of Mull Fishnish...great views and great start to the day. 2 Porpoise on the way back which was great to see especially with trips not too far away. Was watching peregrine back in Tob on the evening flying above the church tower.

Male Hen harrier, Lochdon

Did half a days work on the boat before heading home for a few days. A dead Mink on the road and great scenery through Glen Coe were the only happenings on the trip down. got back at 9ish and went straight to the sport centre to play cricket with the lads, great to see them again! When I got in I found out that a Pied Billed Grebe had been reported in Salen and I had just gone past there in the afternoon! A bit frustrating but great to know that its there and hopefully will still be around when I get back up :-)

Red Deer stag, stunning beast

Thursday and Friday involved golfing in Lancashire at Wallersy and St Annes. a Kestrel and plenty of Mipits and Skylark which are always a joy to watch. On the Friday at St Annes I had Coot, Mipits, female Sparrowhawk by the clubhouse and a Frog that I found on the fairway which I carried around for a few holes that I named Shmiggle!

WT Eagle at LNK

WTE, snow covered Ben More mountain range

Ardmore woodland looking towards Ardermurchan

The golf was great and I came 2nd overall with 36 and 38 points playing quite solid overall. Andy Oliver blitzed the field with 43 and 41 the flaming bandito!

WT Eagle, Loch Na Keal

Thanks for looking and with the boat trips starting in the next few days I could get some interesting sightings to follow hopefully some good marine life!

Finally I have been given the responsibility of doing the Sealife Surveys blog updates for this season...after nagging the boss for a bit! so you can follow the updates on again :-)