Monday, 25 April 2011

Spring Sights....First Whale!

Hello Everyone, Things are starting to hot up on the wildlife and weather front as migrants are all starting to arrive ready to breed and the tempretures and day lengths are increasing meaning more time to look for wildlife....Great!

Leo the Gdale Owl - Photo taken by John Burton Miles

I will try and keep you up to date with all the sightings down that way as Johnny Milo is keeping me posted.
The main highlight so far has being a Long Eared Owl roosting in a viewable location and in the last couple of weeks over 200 people have been upto see the stunning owl. That can be the value of wildlife....
Other spring sightings on Gdale have being Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Garden Warbler,
Short Eared Owl and Redstart.

GN Diver, Loch Spelvie

I went down to Croggin with Criag McD on my day off. Croggin is down in the south east part of the island in a very remote area with only a few crofters living off the land present there. We had a walk onto higher ground when we arrived to look for some old house remains as Craig is a true Mulloch and his family have lived on the island for generations and his great grandparents lived in Croggin and he had a photo from back in 1910 of the location they lived so we went to find that spot.
We had Goldie and WT Eagle in flight on the other side of Loch Spelvie and a Great Northern Diver in breeding plumage showing well on the loch itself. Chiff Chaff singing as well.
We found a good number of croft house remains with fantastic views looking across to the mainland and Oban. There was over 10,000 people living on the island towards the end of the 19th century and after bad harvest and crop seasons which created famine the land owners removed all the lodgers and replaced them with sheep which would have more value to the estate tenants.

Red Throated Diver, Aros Peir

Large Cat sighting

On an evening jolly to Langnamull beach on the north part of the island I got the fright of my life as a huge cat ran past me and into the Larch woodland. I managed to get a record shot before it went into the dense woodland and automatically I thought it has to be close to being a Wildcat. After looking into it more I think it is something different as it has not got pure tiger stripes or the clear thick bands on the tail. The size was good enough and the cat seemed very wild. When I sent the photo away to get checked the response was a possible Norwegian Forest cat! Which can be bred for pets in the UK and of course could now be an escapee.

Found this article that got me really excited -

Glengorm is not far from where my Cat sightings have being and also near to where I am staying on the north part of the island so I am going to spend some nice summer evenings up there! I have got a carmoflarge top and a decent torch to try and pick up eye shine at night so im good to go!

I was sent this image by the Wildcat Association - Norwegian Forest Cat

Bottlenose Dolphins, Tobermory Harbour

For the second time in a few weeks a group of Bottlenose Dolphins popped into Tobermory harbour to entertain the people in the area. There was at least 7 counted putting on a great display for a good half hour. There has been other reported sightings of Bottlenose Dolphins off the coast line of Mull ranging as far down as Iona which could well be the same group.

Razorbill near treshnish isles

male Wheatear

Was off on the 16th of the month but decided to go on the 7 hour whale watch trip anyway and help out. A nice trip to the Cairns of Coll with only a small number on board. Still a bit early for Whales as did plenty of scanning with no joy. Nice views of WT Eagle, Great Skua and also a single Common Scoter.
On the evening we had a BBQ at Jimbo's house with their family and other SLS guides. Nice food and plenty of games of Swingball in the garden. It was nice to meet Gordan Buchanan who's sister Maggie is married to Jimbo the SLS head Skipper. Had very interesting talks with him regarding Wolves and the potential of a future introduction to Mull or Isle of Rum. I showed him my blog as well and he looked impressed.....or he pretended to look impressed anyway!


An eventful trip on the 21st of the month and it was a 7 hour Whale Watch with 11 punters on board but it started on a sour note as the trip had to be delayed by an hour because of very poor visibility with the thick low lying fog. We eventually got away after 10am as the fog had lifted slightly but when we arrived at Ardmore point it had got worse and half an hour in and were yet to even see a Gull!
The sun burnt through and it was clearing up as we made our way around the north west part of Mull and I could finally point out some landmarks as well as appearances by Porpoise and Fulmar got us going!
We arrived at the Treshnish isles for lunch and as popz the skipper walked back up into the wheelhouse to get going again.....Whale!....done. A Minke whale breaks the water 100 yards from the boat! I knew the day would get better! It surfaced a couple of times but with food very scarce this time of the year it was doing a lot of foraging under the water. The only downfall was that two lovely enthusiastic older people at the back of the boat did not get to see it as they couldn't make it up the stairs and the whale was surfacing in front of the boat. I was quite upset they missed it but I think they had a great trip anyway.
On the trip back there is always a lot of pressure off when you get a great sighting like that. started talking to one particular lass on the way back and found out that she only came upto Scotland to try and see Wildcats! and you know that I'm mad on Wildcats at the minute, and she was hot...and from Yorkshire! So I was like come on Ewan get it locked...but then I noticed she was with a lad that I didn't know if he was brother or boyfriend? So I kept an eye on it (while I was scanning for whales of course!) I later seen them shnuggling up on the seat so I was pished off! I was going to kick him overboard but I'm a professional Guide and that would not be the best move! :-)....Oh well plenty more whales in the sea.....I hope there is for this season any way!

the island of Eorsa on LNK

On the Friday bank holiday we had two shorter trips and an amazing experience with associating Porpoise on both trips. This is where they will approach the boat and swim around it very close to the surface as well as coming upto breath. The waters were really flat calm so you could see them swimming under water which was a joy to watch!
Leeds drew 0-0 with Ricky Gervais Reading on tv and we were out of the playoffs for the first time since November.

GN Diver, Loch Na Keal

On the Sat 23rd I met up with Craig Shaw and his wife Rachel at Salen as they were up for a few days during easter. We spent a good hour at Salen where we got GN Diver, RT Diver, Whimbrel, Wood Warbler and Black Cap singing. We moved on and Craig demanded WT Eagle and Goldie so we headed off to the best potential spots to see them and within minutes of arriving to our first port of call a WT Eagle flew directly above us showing really well...great timing. We headed off to look for Goldies and after visiting a couple of sites we got success when 4 appeared over the higher ground and I had 3 in my scope at once! They locked talons for a split second as well.
A great few hours birding and Craig improved on his impressive list while in Scotland where he got the first Gargany record for Mull as well as all 4 Grouse species, Crested Tit, Osprey, Corncrake and Ring Ouzel.
The following day I met Craig and Rachel in Tobermory and we went for a wonder down the main street before they kindly invited me for a meal at Mcoggans in Tob which was v nice! cheers again lad!

Croggin looking out to Loch Spelvie

Monday the 25th and it was off to Kilhoan, Ardnamurchan to see Cain and friends who were up doing some filming for their degree course. Got the ferry over in the morning and when I met them at the camp site we headed off to the point and the lighthouse to look for Otters and anything else. We had Gannet and GN Diver out to sea and we came across a Mink that they got nice footage of. Onto Sanna bay next where we got Sand Martin, Greenfinch and Buzzards on higher ground but no Otters or eagles. Went for a swim on the beach which was very refreshing but testicles disappeared into their shell which wasn't comfortable and mouthfuls of sea salt is never good! Got the last ferry back to Tobermory and finding out Leeds had lost to Palace 1-0 had dampened my spirits a bit after a good day.

Golden eagle at Croggin getting mobbed by two Hooded Crowes

On the Tuesday it was a 7 hour whale watch and we where joined on board by Cain, Rachel, Ciera and Steve. It started well with Porpoise and WT Eagle. We headed round the north west part of the island towards the Treshnish isles. When we stopped at the collection of islands for lunch we got Great Skua and Dunlin before moving north again in search of a whale. We got a tip off from another whale watch boat that there was a whale seen just off north mull so we cruised up to get to the area asap but by the time we got there the whale had moved on. We got a 2nd year WT Eagle in flight right next to the boat which was a big highlight on the way back. It was a good trip all round and it was great to have Cain on board even though I think his ginger beard put off some of the other punters! he will be back to help out on the trips in July for a couple of weeks and I cant wait. We are going to be out every evening til dark and beyond looking for Wildcats, Eagles and a lot more!
BBQ on the evening at Aros park with Ruth, Lydia and Ruth. We played cricket afterwards and Lydia the beaver monster is surprisingly good with the bat.

Croggin, Croft house remains

I was off on the Thursday So I headed off to see Cain and crew at Kilhoan. When Cain picked me off from the ferry we got Golden eagle straight away in the higher ground. Also a Red Throated Diver in the bay which Cain got some footage of. We decided to tackle the biggest peak in Ardnamurchan which was Ben Hiant at just over 500m. A good climb up and superb views at the top in every direction. A great game of eye spy to go with it which I dominated. It was quiet on the wildlife front with just Gropper Warbler by the car and on the way to the ferry for my return to Tob we got a male Sparrowhawk road side on the fence praying on a Warbler in our view.

Mishnish Loch


Thanks for looking and my next update in a week or two will have all the latest sightings from up on Mull as well as Back down in Gdale where I will hope to get down to at some point. A new camera could be lined up also in the coming weeks so look out for some improved photography skills! You can also follow the Sealife Surveys blog that I will be doing throughout the summer as well which includes sightings and happenings on the trips. Cheers!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Mull Rocks!

Otter on LNK

Headed back up to Mull on the 29th. Nice conditions for travelling and I called into the Red Kite centre at Argaty, Sterling while I had my packed lunch and I was surprised not to see any Kites at all so I moved on and around 30 miles north of the area I had a single Red Kite circling in the sky!
On the Corran to Lochaline road I got two Golden Eagles showing well up in the higher terrain and it was my first sighting of a Golden Eagle on the UK mainland apart from the special male bird down in Haweswater :-)

Looking east into LNK

I was off on the Friday and I started off at one of my new local patches in Ardmore. I got a distant male Hen Harrier and plenty of ravens on show but no pussy cats today. I headed round to the Ulva road and I got a nice view of a GN Diver in Eclipse and a Goldie showing well in the scope up in the hills. I also got Goldeneye and Red Breasted Maganser in Laggan Bay near the Ulva ferry crossing.

Calgary beach...great for beach cricket


On the Saturday I watched mighty Leeds beat Forest 4-1 on the BBC. Great second half performance by the lads in white. I headed down to Salen in the afternoon and got female Sparrowhawk, Yellowhammer and Cormorant but no sign of the Pied Billed Grebe which is a sneaky little bugger. Got some nice scenic photos which I was delighted with.

Redshank at Croig

On one evening the following week I did a lap of honour of the north part of the island starting at Glengorm and I went to check out the view from the huge huge satellite masts on the summit and the view is spectacular from up there looking in 3 directions onto the lower ground and out to the sound of Mull and Atlantic ocean. I was hoping for Harriers but no joy though I did get a distant eagle either an immature WT or a Goldie. I moved on but then realised I had lost my new sunglasses from Cotswold so I headed back up the masts and after scanning for 10 minutes I found them on the ground near the trig point so I was relieved to have found them again!
I made my way round to the north Loch Frisa road and watched a pair of Harriers hunting on the heather....always a joy......special birds.
Heavy rain in the afternoon and after taking pictures of the savage waves on LNK an Otter appeared showing well while I was sat in my car just about to leave. Called in to Salen on the way home but still no Grebe...the bugger!

Glengorm summit looking north west


Whist I was painting on the boat on the top deck one day I was easily distracted as there was a lot of bird activity going on with a Peregrine keking towards the main street and a Sparrowhawk circling above me. We have peregrine showing well daily in Tobermory with plenty of food for them in and around the church tower.
A hero's return on the Monday the 4th as Ruth returned for her third season.....great to have her back :-)

LNK sunset

moments later....

First trips of the season on the 6th of April. An Eco cruise to start with where 4 people on board enjoyed Golden Eagle and some Common Seals and a four hour trip afterwards rewarded WT eagles and Porpoise!

Salen where the Pied Billed Grebe i've heard

A seven hour whale watch the following day with four people on board. Nice weather and nice people as we made our way towards the Cairns of Coll. Good views of Porpoise and nesting WT Eagles at Ardmore. Cairns of Coll was as stunning as ever and on the way back in glourious sunshine we all scanned for a good couple of hours covering the whale grounds but no joy im afraid and it wasent through lack of trying. It still could be a little early for Minke whales but hopefully they will return again!

Salen looking across to the mainland

On the trips a few days later we had special views of White tailed Eagle right over the boat close up. A good number of Puffins on show and also Great Northern Diver in breeding plumage. On the evening I went down to Salen to look for the Pied Billed Grebe again but no success the crafty Bug! As I was down there minutes after I arrived I got a text beep message....7 Bottlenose Dolphins putting on a great show in Tobermory harbour...dam I had just left there 10 minutes ago! Never mind thats wildlife watching for you...right place at right time and all that!

daffodil island at Salen harbour...this photo is for my good friend Shibu!

Rainbow over SLS mothership Sulabeag

painting on boat all day sat 9th, went to salen to look for grebe but after about 7 attempts, no success! leeds lost to millwall 3-2...good days and bad days....move on

LNK in rough conditions

I was off on the Sunday so headed out to Calgary and beyond and got Merlin but nothing much else. Still no Short eared Owls seen since I have been up which I am surprised about. Made my way round to Loch Na keal and got 7 Slavonian Grebes in Breeding plumage and it is the first time I have seen them in this condition so great treat. Also 4 GN Divers and WT Eagle and single Goldie up on the mountain peaks. Went down Loch Ba with Mike Shepherd a birder from Hampshire who stays up on Mull for a good spell each year. Quiet sightings with one golden Eagle and Slav Grebe on Loch Ba. Nice to have company when i'm out as its usually just me, myself and I. There doesent seem to be a great deal of local birders on the island which is a surprise with the main interest been boats and cars and drink also of course!

GN Diver in Eclipse, love this bird

Watched the masters golf on the evening and was excited to see if Rory Mcilroy could hold onto his 4 shot lead in the final round and take the green jacket. He started badly missing a shmiggle on the first and that set the tone for the rest of the round as we continued dropping shots all over the course especially in the back 9 where he collapsed and ended up shooting 80. Golf can be horrible when that happens I have done a similar thing in Brampton monthly medals over the years! And speaking of Brampton and Golf the new web site is up and running for Brampton Golf Club with all my very own on course photography used all over the site...I must get a free membership or something for my troubles!!

Black Guilimot at Oban Harbour

I completed my first Sealife Surveys blog of the new season and I attempted to make it a bit more professional choosing my words carefully and making sure spelling and grammar is correct with a little help from my Mum! Speaking of my parents the White tailed Eagles nesting at Ardmore have been given new names of John and Thelma with Thelma having the blue wing tag. They had not been named and noticing the Loch Frisa pair on the island have well used names I made a move!

Thanks for looking :-)