Monday, 25 July 2011

Its all about the Birds...

the Summer Season is in Full swing now as were in mid July and I cant believe how quick time flies! I see what all the older generations are on about now when they say it! A visit to Mull from Cain the Hollywell Birder and also more great marine life seen as well as Close up Eagle encounters and a quick trip back home to Glorious Gdale and the Lake District.

WT Eagle!

Another day and another Whale watch on June 30th. My eye was still causing me problems and had my eye patch on but it was doing my swede in so took it off. Also with a stunning new guide called Holly working on the boat today I didn't want to look like a moron! A great trip it was with Whale encounters, Basker Sharks and Common Dolphin Bow riding on the way back! With Holly fast asleep feeling a bit dodgy the shout of Dolphins! soon got a spring in her step and made her feel a lot better!

Lovely Colouration on upper wings....

Friday and short trips day out on the boat. Cain the Hollywell Birder was arriving later in the day for a 2 week work stint for SLS. After the trips we had a Cricket charter involving taking 40 drunken cricketers from Tobermory around to Calgary for an evening of beach Cricket. Jimbo was skippering with Holly, Tash, Abernethy and I on as crew.
We headed off in flat calm conditions around the north west part of Mull. Andy Murray was playing in the semi final of Wimbledon against Nadal and as we lost signal I could not keep upto date with the score! But was nervous for him hoping he did well!
As we landed at Calgary and anchored up we had to take all the Cricketers (if thats what you want to call them) to the beach on the RIB 10 strong at a time. It all went smoothly apart from a couple of people falling overboard! We had a few hours to kill so we landed on the beach and went for a wonder around Calgary. We first checked to see if there was any food going and got lucky with some lovely salmon and trimmings and ate it while enjoying watching all the Sand Martins and a few midgees to go with it! We had a sheep crap fight and had a nice walk around the bay where I got Whinchat and Whitethroat as well as Ravens on the higher ground.
A lovely evening on the boat trip back with the drunken rabble and just as we were loading everyone back on the boat someone told me that Murray lost in 4 sets! gutted, unlucky Andy great effort again! Great sunset as we headed back to Tob and a great game of eye spy on the top deck with Holly having the best answer being Knot! Landed back at the Pontoon at about 1am and as I found out from staying there last year the youth hostel closes its doors at 12 so had to give Holly a boost over an eight feet high wall to get in!

Me and Cainio near Lochdon


Locked! fishing on Loch Na Keal

On the Saturday it was Jimbos birthday and with no trips on we decided an SLS trip to the Cairns of Coll for BBQ and some Shark Swimming action. Cain was here also for his first day on Mull. We headed off at about lunch time and on the way over I picked up a large adult Minke whale heading east towards Ardmore. When we arrived at Coll the first Shark was spotted and we got ready for some more swimming action as a few of us jumped into the RIB and headed towards the huge animal. Just as we were getting sorted another Minke surfaced right off our stern! nuts! Anyway I got my beach body out and jumped in with this particular 4-5 meter Shark and as I looked down underwater I soon watched it head deep and it was defiantly not a player. The Minke surfaced near by again 20 -30 yards from me so you could say I shared the same area of the ocean with a whale as well! amazing.
Onto the Carins of Coll to set up BBQ. Beach wrestling, Frisbie throwing and a bit of Photography was great fun and after supposing to be landing back at Tob at 10pm we were still at it at going on 1am. We eventually headed back enjoying a disco tech on the alf deck and arrived back at the pontoon at 3ish and Holly came back to mine to watch Step brothers after we had been repeating all the film quotes non stop the last few days. "But dad its shark week!"



On the Sunday Cain and I headed down to Berg to do the 10 plus mile fossil tree coastal walk. To be honest I shouldnt of really done it as I was fricking exhausted and hungover from the night before and also a couple of miles in and my feet started killing from running bare foot on all the crushed sea shells on the Carins the day before. It was a good walk non the less but a bit quiet on the wildlife front with Whinchat, Yellowhammer a few Buzzards and Wild feral Goats. The Fossil tree is always impressive at over 60 million years old you can still see the detail in the stem. Holly left to work at knapdale for 2 weeks with the Beavers...Gutted she had gone!

Holly and I looking over Grasmere :-)

Cain on Board for his first whale watch and he also spotted the first whale winning the Mars bar. 5 Swifts out to sea and also a Barnacle Goose at the Cairns. After the trip we were heading out of the car park and Holly and Tash appeared in front of me! There back, wow! They could not be bothered with the Beavers and decided to spend an extra couple of weeks on Mull instead! Class!

Golden Ringed Dragonfly, Kilachronan on higher ground

On the 9th July it was a WW in good conditions and we started off with 3 Peregrine 2 being newly fledged chicks. White tailed Eagle showing well in the trees and a Great Skua to follow. As we arrived to Coll we picked up a small Shark. Had a nice lunch at the Cairns and sat on the Bow with Holly. On the way back it was Dynamite as we got 8 Common Dolphin bow riding and with Holly feeling ill at the time again Dolphins are the best medicine as we watched them on the bow less than a meter from us! BBQ and beach Cricket on the evening with all the SLS crew plus Cat, Paul and Chris.

Me at Fossil tree

A nice close up of a Storm Petrel on our whale watch on the 11th. Also 2 Minke whales and a Great Skua. The last evening for Holly and Tash before they headed south back to Leicester so we went to the Waterfront resteraunt for a meal with the whole SLS crew. Lyida is officially the fastest eater ive ever seen! i thought me and Lee Sturrock were fast but she is at another level!
Afterwards we went to Aros Peir and had ice creams with the highlight Lydia catching Tash with the fish hook when casting out.

in Work mode scanning on the monkey deck

Holly left in the morning as I dropped her off at the bus station :-(. I gave her a collage of wildlife I had taken on Mull this season and hopefully it will remind her of her time on the island. She is off to South Africa for a spell to work with Leopards so as I said before it will be the last time I see her for a while........

Cain and Holly focusing on the wildlife

On the Friday it was an Eagle charter trip with Cain on Loch Na Keal. We arrived at Ulva ferry and went aboard Lady Jayne with Martin skippering. We headed off round into Loch Na Keal and soon picked up 2 Golden Eagle circling on the higher ground. great start! As we moved deeper into the loch we arrived at the potential Eagle feeding area and martin threw out a Mackrel and within minutes the Male WT Eagle moved in to tag the fish. It was a great trip with added historical landmarks and stories provided by Martin. Some people dont agree with the set up of getting involved in nature but in this day and age it is vital that wildlife has its value and I dont see it any different to feeding birds in a garden. Also the pair have raised two chicks this year for the first time and could it be to do with the extra food source available.

Its all about the Mars bar, first person to spot a whale takes the prize....

On Friday evening after seeing Cain off I arranged a last minute dot com trip down to Carlisle to meet Holly half way from Leicester (could not resist!). I got the first ferry down on Saturday morning and arrived back at good old JS just after 1pm with Holly arriving only five minutes later, great timing! We had a walk right around glorious Geltsdale where we seen a good number of Buz and Kes along with Wheatear and Swifts. Geltsdale is such a beautiful place and I was so fortunate to grow up there. Went for a meal on the evening to the duke in the village. Me, Holly and the parents with good food. The only problem was the bar maid working there who served me was out in Carlisle after and told all my mates that she had seen me and as I just came down last minute for a couple of days I didn't tell them I was back home so dont think they were too happy with me!
On the Sunday it was a trip to the lakes with Holly and I decided to head to Grasmere that I know so well. Scattered showers it was and not the best weather really but it would not be the Lake district with out a bit of rain! A lovely walk on the higher ground around Rydal water. On the evening on the way back we popped into Hollywood bowl to see Lee and Scotty for a bit which was great to see them! they rock!
I was on a whale watch the next morning on Mull at half 8!! so we headed home to try and get a couple of hours sleep ready to set off at 2 in the morning in time for a seven hour whale watch trip! A great couple of days with Holly she is Ace! :-)
The journey up went smoothly and I arrived at the pontoon in Tobermory at 8:25am just in time for the trip! I was ready for another whale watch and I have to say I was a little bit tired later on in the trip but it was all great as I hit the hay and had a good 13 hour sleep when I got back to the flat!

Lunch time landing at the Carins of Coll

Thanks for reading everyone. An exciting next few weeks are in store with a couple of special trips with Gordon Buchanan on board. Also 20twenty vision a group of professional photographers are joining SLS for the week to do some environmental filming. I will also be checking up on all the Raptor breeding success for this season on the island.
Another visit to Mull from mum and dad is in store which will be great as well as another of my heroes Gary the Rowlands Gill Birder. It will be great to see him again and we will be wildlifing it up like good old times. cheers :-)

John Miles 'The Solway' book available from Amazon......

Also if you love your birds of Prey and care for their future then this web site is unbelievable and will open your eyes to possible scenarios to come effecting Britain's Raptors......

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A Pair of Short Eared Owls on Mull....

A Pair of SEO just north of Lochbuie, 5 Birds seen on the evening as well as just turning and missing a Hen Harrier food pass!

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Best of British Marine Wildlife...........

Well I promised you smaller species in my next posting and I was pretty much talking drivel as instead I had some encounters with the largest British species there is!! The usual daily whale watch trips along with a five day Shark charter made for some of the best wildlife encounters and experiences of my life! A decent well needed spell of weather made a big difference in the sightings as well as giving the wildlife some well earned sunshine, heat and energy.

C Dolphin associating with boat....

on the 6th June I went for an evening trip south to Grasspoint to look for uplands birds and got Short Eared Owl and a fly over from a White Tailed Eagle while I was driving. 2 Woodcocks and a Stonechat.

Sunset at Cairns of Coll

Ringtail harrier

BBQ and Cricket at Calgary beach with all the SLS crew. A nice evening for it and the Sandmartins were showing well tagging insects around the sandy dunes. there was female Eiders and ducklins out on the water and we had a great game of Cricket but the only problem was that I lost to Craig (a Scotsman!)



On the 9th of the month I headed down to Craignure golf club for a quick 9 holes while enjoying the suplime wildlife they have on offer surrounding the course. So while preparing for my game I always bring my golf bag and my camera bag! my personal course record on the course as I was dialled in and shot 1 over on a tricky little track. White Tailed Eagle admiring my birdies from the trees. Also Artic Tern, Ringed Plover and Willow Warbler chicks nearly fledged. Got shouted off by some reetard for taking pictures of the warblers cos he thought I was going after the eagle nest when I was I was no where near it so I told him to do one. The fella was on the whale watch trip the next day which was a bit awkward haha.

Great Skua!

Artic Skua

Saturday 11th and a big day ahead of me. Started with a seven hour whale watch. Headed off in decent promising conditions as we headed out of the harbour and I had that feeling it was going to a wildlife filled day! Everyone on board was not disapointed as in the space of a 90 minute period we got 2 Minke Whales, 3 Basking Shark and a big pod of Short Beaked Common Dolphin! Golden Eagle on the way back to add to a great trip. As soon as we arrived back at the pontoon we had a staff camping night out on Coll so it was straight back out on the boat again to make the 2 hour journey to the Cairns of Coll. We picked up C Dolphin again on the way over and they were bow riding with us for a good half hour as we sat on the bow a meter from them getting soaked by there splash! unreal....Good night on the Cairns with a spot of beach wrestling and a 3am swim with the seals! The highlight has to be drunken chief guide Ruth falling asleep on the rocks and sliding elegantly into the sea!

Common Sandpiper, Ardmore

Common Dolphin approaching the boat....

14th of the month and a WW with danny naisbitt on board as he was up for the week which was great. He spotted the first Minke whale on the trip and won the mars bar! More Common Dolphins on the trip and also Golden Eagle, Storm Petrel, Great Skua and Peregrine back at Tobermory.

good bit of Air time!


A trip to the North West of the island with Danny and Craignure first of all to see and attempt to photograph the sand martins and then a game of cricket where he beat me ....just. We moved on round the island and picked up a dog Otter in feeding mode showing really well and managed to get some nice pics and a HD video that you can see in one of my previous posts.

Basking Shark


Sand eel in Bill

Ardnamurchan Point sun set to the north

Off on the Saturday and me and Danny headed down to Isle of Iona for a nice day out. After a game of travel Cricketers alphabet game with Danny coming up with all these Pakistani names that ive never heard of convincing me that there real! When we landed on Iona from the ferry we watched all the weird religious people take a sharp right and head for the shitty abbey but we were more interested in seeing Corncrake! we had a wonder with no success but I remembered that Craig Shaw got good success near the crappy abbey itself so we pottered in the entrance with out paying the fee because Atheists get in for I've heard! We got plenty of calling Corncrakes but no sightings but it was soon turned into dynamite when a pod of 20 plus Bottlenose Dolphins cruised down the Sound of Iona while Cornie calling in the background.

Stinkie Minke!

Otter feeding

On it! Shark charter for 5 days and an early start down at the pontoon at 6am. Got a great sunrise photo of the Tobermory harbour. Jimbo and I on board as well as 3 experienced wildlife divers with great shark knowledge. flat calm conditions close to perfect and we kicked off with an Artic Skua dark morph up the sound of Mull. Headed over to the Coll area and picked up 4 Minke whales in the area! just afterwards I got locked onto Dolphin Splash in the distance and ended up having 200 plus Short Beaked Common Dolphin around the boat!
We headed south to look for Sharks as after all thats what we were out here for.
No sharks to be seen but it was not a disappointment with the great encounters with the other marine species.
We anchored up on the Gunna sound and took all the camping gear on the RIB to load onto the beach and after a successful landing we prepared to feed the boat back to deeper water off the beach and back to Sula Crion I reached down with the orr to push the boat out and somat happened and I lost my flaming balance and went head first into the sea like a diving Shag! I struggled back onto the RIB in shock while the three divers were in stitches! We arrived back to Sula Crion and I was looking like a drowned Weasel and Jimbo got a big shock when he seen me dripping wet. I had quite a few layers of cloths on and we had to hang all of them on the railing of Crion to dry.
29 mintes later when I reached over the side of the boat my glasses slipped from my head and in slow motion fell into the sea sinking to the bottom of the sea bed just like jack did at the end of titanic when he was dead. The guys on board quoted to saying I was "a walking disaster"...More to follow as after we had tea Jimbo handed me the grill to clean overboard and as I turned it upside down the handle then dropped off and plopped into the sea! I was getting slated from all angles and deservedly so! I was defending my self by saying "it was just a bad spell, we all have them"

Eurasian otter....

We landed on Gunna Sound and after setting up camp I had a quick scan around the island and picked up some Little Terns in flight and also a Med gull on the other side of the island. Gunna is a lovely place with white sandy beaches and rocky out crops.
After a night camping on the beach on a 45 degree slope we headed back to Crion for Breakfast before a full day scanning for sharks. After a nice fry up the main focus for the morning was to fish out my sun glasses and grill handle and it was a good job we had 3 divers on board to get amongst the sea bed. After Andy one of the divers spent a good 40 minutes scanning the sea bed he popped up with great success retrieving both items! Thanks very much Andy! Also thank you for lending me clothes from when I went overboard and all mine were dripping wet hanging off Crion.

Finnphort with Bottlenose Dolphin by ferry

We headed over to the west of Coll to scan for Sharks and on the way over there I was up spotting beasties on top of the wheel house and I tried to spit off the side of the boat and the wind took it and it flew straight back and landed on one of the divers heads with out them realising! Hopefully they wont read this blog to find out but with GWW getting big through out the UK they could well end up seeing it!
When we got round west of Coll I picked up a Fin in the distance.....Shark!! locked! we headed over and there ended up been a fin count of 41 Sharks around the boat at one point! All the divers jumped in in their fancy wet suits and I just dived in in Skin mode and enjoyed an amazing experience swimming with Basking Sharks a meter from me! While I was back on the boat and assisting the other divers a Shark breached 100 yards from the boat getting good air time and it was an amazing spectacle and what a day! headed back to Tobermory that evening and got 3 minke whales on the way back in flat calm conditions. I was knackered and ended up sleeping for the last couple of hours on the boat after an amazing day. Enjoyed my own bed for the night then back out on the shark charter the next morning bright and early.

Sunrise at Tobermory harbour

Back on the Shark charter the next day with a bit rougher conditions for it to make it a bit more challanging on the shark spotting front! Headed for shelter south of Muck to do some fishing and watch the breeding sea birds there. We headed over to Carins of Coll where we got a GN Diver close to the boat. We anchored up and camped on the beach there and enjoyed watching the terns mobbing the GBB Gulls and also the gull chicks as well. I seen a Brown Rat on the island for the second time which does not bode well for the nesting birds! Maybe Sula could do a job their when we visit on a lunch time trip!

Minke by Coll

The next Morning on the Thursday and a refreshing swim with the seals first thing was a great start to the day! We covered the west side of Coll again and got a few Sharks out there. The main talking point of the day was a huge splash that happened twice that I picked up right out to the west very distant, it had to be bigger than a breaching Basking Shark so I was thinking possible breaching Minke or even Humpback whale that can pass through this way on route to Icelandic waters.

Minke arching back goin down for a deep dive

Common Dolphin seen a number of times throughout June....

half a second too late from a locked photo!!


On Saturday 25th it was a seven hour whale watch with 40 plus Common Dolphins bow riding on the boat and I managed to get some more nice photos of them. 3 Storm Petrels was another big highlight. A guy on the trip still didnt seem to appritiate anything after all the dolphin activity and had a stony face all day and just stood there looking like a cardboard cut out! cant believe how any one can not appritiate wildlife like that!

Basker with Isle of Eigg in the backdrop

The season is flying by and were nearly into July already. It just seemed like last week when I headed up in the first week of March in savage winter conditions with Golden Eagle soaring over the snowy tops.
I found out recently that we have a new addition at home with a black and white cat turning up out of nowhere. This was days after John was moaning about rabbits and rodents destroying his crops then suddenly this cat appears which is always the best solution to the problem. I told Lee the story and he reckoned that John had just found it in the village and took its collar off and said yeah its a stray that will do! haha, Stuz also said there will be a poster up in the post office for a missing cat and John will walk in and buy some Felix and a bottle of milk and wait for the shop keeper to turn around and rip the poster down!

Diving with Baskers, great experience!

The following week I suddenly got a bad eye from nowhere as it started irritating me so on the Monday morning I headed to the surgery nice and early but there was too many old people pottering around so I didnt have time so headed off to work but on arrival Jimbo made a fair point " u dont mess around with your eyes" so he sent me back upto the surgery and for a days rest. I got some drops for my eye and took it easy sitting back and watching Andy Murray at Wimbledon.
The next day my eye ball wasent much better so when I arrived at the pontoon for work Popz had an eye patch ready for me so I popped it on and was ready for all the pirate jokes that would be thrown at me throughout the trip! It was a frustrating trip especially because their could of been Orca breaching on my right side and I would of missed them. I took the eye patch off half way through the trip and my vision was all blurry and I thought carnage! but later found out it was normal when one eye is closed for a period of time.

Sunset from Isle of Gunna!

Thanks for reading! Butterflies and Dragonflies are one of the main focus subjects as well as anything else magical Mull has to offer!

Finally a Blog shout out to Holly Siddons who is demanding a mention in the famous GWW02 blog so there you go Holly! u rock!