Friday, 19 August 2011

August is a funny month.....

The month of August has always being a funny one in my experiences. It is always very hectic and busy with it being the peak time for the holiday season. The weather is normally a let down and even though there is plenty of day light hours in the month there always seem like less time to do things. In terms of the wildlife although migrants are starting to move and exciting species can crop up. I think its better to focus on the Butterflies and Dragonflies as it is the peak period for them and they will soon be going for another year.

Mountain Hare!

Great Cloud formation over Kilachronan, what type of cloud Gary?

Off on Sat 6th and it was a quick trip to Ardmore in the morning where I got Common Hawker, Speckled Wood and a Golden Ringed Dragonfly. Watched Leeds first game of the season on the evening where they lost 3-1 to Southampton. After the game Ruth and her friend Katy were keen to see some Eagle action so I took them around the north part of the island to see what we could find. We started at Killiechronan where within minutes we got a WT Eagle showing well in flight! We moved on around the island admiring the views on the north Ulva road and we decided to take the upland route from Torloisk to Dervaig hoping for some Harrier or Owl action. 5 minutes in a Short eared Owl started following level with us as we were driving in the car for a good 400 yards! great views! After that Ruth spotted a bird to the left and it was a Ringtail Harrier. She also spotted another SEO and as we made our way back round to Tobermory that was a great success! Just as I dropped them off and was heading round the corner I nearly ran over a baby Hedgehog crossing the road so I took it back too show the girls.

Ruth A and Sally on higher ground looking over Loch Na Keal

Looking across to Ben More Mountain range and Loch Ba

Another Whale watch on Monday 8th and savage conditions with Lewy as skipper and Ruth m, Andy, Sally and myself on as crew it was going to be an interesting trip. only 8 punters were on board as we started with covering the stretch along Ardnamurchan where Andy spotted a potential Eagle sat on a Cairn, with other punters quite sure it was just a human Andy kept an eye on it and suddenly these huge wings came out and it started flapping! We Shouted...Eagle! and we all watched the bird flying on the higher ground and it was an immature Golden Eagle with a strong white band on its tail and white markings on its wings.
It was far too rough to head west towards the open sea so we headed down Loch Sunart which is a deep sea loch that goes into the east. fantastic rugged highland terrain and it is a lovely change from heading out to the open sea. Andy spotted an Otter near Glen more which was being its usual sneaky self and not everyone got to see. We landed on the isle of Carner which is a very small island with a rickety little pontoon. As we parked up and secured Sula Beag we all jumped out and there was a family there fishing off the pontoon and they had a dog that approached us and Andy got a shock and shouted "that dog stinks"! which the family could easily pick up on haha. As we were having lunch a Sparrowhawk flew over which everyone got to see. One of the punters found a Slow worm on Carner as well which was great. Got Porpoise on the way back and a good trip overall.

Cheif Guide and Number two......

Saturday 13th and a Whale Watch explorer with Lewy as skipper. A small number on board and savavage conditions but still ventured out towards Coll. On the way over I seen what I thought at first glance was a Fulmar but after doing a double take I realised it was a large Shearwater species! It would either of being a Great or a Cory's but after looking into it it had a bit more colour to it and what seemed like white markings on its neck so I would say if anything it would of being a Great Shearwater. Landed at Cairns of Coll for lunch and then headed out for the second half and picked up Storm petrel and Minke Whale straight away.
On the evening I headed down to Knock with Andy Tait and we had a walk down the Ben More estate down to Loch Ba where we seen a pair of Sparrowhawks circling above along with a Buzzard. We seen some Lapwing by the loch and then on the way back we got Fallow and Red Deer. On the car journey back we got 3 Mountain Hares just outside of Knock! its the first proper views I have had of our only native Hare and I was delighted to see them! They soon ran off so it was a case of Hare today gone tomorrow!

Minke Whale surfacing just north of Sanna Bay

Me and Hannah on Muck!

Riff, Susan, Ruth, Hannah, Sally and dougie at Muck tea room

Sunday 14th and a busy day ahead with a cruise ship in at Tobermory so it was a 7am start to get Sula Beag ready to collect the first 50 batch of people straight from the ship. As we were pulling up to the ship Lewy was telling us a story about last time he was picking up punters from a cruise ship he bashed the side of the boat as he came in too hard......and guess what happened this time he strikes the side of the cruise ship at pace! I couldnt not notice the smell of human crap as we pulled alongside the ship! I could of spewed! I acted professional though and braved the smell to load all the slow moving punters on board Sula Beag. By the time we loaded everyone on it was pretty much time to drop them off again but we managed porpoise and great views of WT Eagle before then! We picked up the second load of 50 at 11am and got more great sightings with the only problem being a couple of the guests sat inside and read a book the whole trip when there was 8 feet eagles flying over the boat and they were reading about fricking shakespeare or something! does my head in like.
On the four hour trip in the afternoon we had another 40 plus on board and we got the WT Eagles again along with an Otter and Porpoise. During the whole day Sea Life Surveys had over 200 punters on board including the Seal cruises that Jimbo and Sharky were doing throughout the day!

Fulmar assosiating with boat!

Minke surfacing in great light

Tuesday 16th and Riff was on the island! I was off today so we headed down to the south part of the island and across to Isle of Iona. It rained on the way down and I told Riff it would clear in early afternoon and it did that! right on cue. We brought the football with us to kick about throughout the day. We got the ferry across to Iona and had a wonder around before going to check out the abbey. It cost £5.50 to get in but we just cruised in for free and decided if any bible basher asked us for money we would just say we had a word with God and he said we could get free entry.....cheers G!
Played football on the golf course and tried to hit the flag with free kicks but were no Robert Snodgrass and didnt succeed with the best efforts landing on the dancefloor.
On the way back we popped in to Craignure Golf Club for a quick 9 holes. Both played ok although we nearly ran out of Golf balls at one point but thanks to Susan finding some for us. The shot of the round was defiantly my well struck shank that landed straight in the swamp! Meal at the Waterfront afterwards and my throat started hurting and glands got really swollen.

Surfacing right by the baot


Whale Watch on the 18th with Riff on board! Felt crud in the morning but soldiered on. Perfect flat calm conditions and with over 30 on board it was going to be a good day. Headed north towards Muck with lewy as skipper and I picked up the first whale very distant towards Canna. We spent nearly an hour with this whale enjoying great views before moving on to Muck for lunch. In the second half we got another whale and also a Shark as well just for Sharky who was on board with her parents. I seen Riff off after the trip and it was great to see him and look forward to Riff and Raff Re-United in the autumn.
I went round the north part of the island on the evening with Ruth A and Sally to show them some wildlife and the main highlight was great views of WT Eagles.

Tob Harbour with a new bench looking out to it!

On the Friday I woke feeling poorly and went straight to the Docs where some guy just threw me some penecelin and said I would notice the difference in 24 hours, I was not convinced. He said a mild case of Tonsilitis and just rushed the whole meeting and didnt give me much information at all. After researching the internet I found out I had Glandular fever and a nasty case of it.

Morning time at Tobermory

Parents arrived on the Saturday and it was pretty much the worst timing for it as I was just reaching my peak of sickness. Stayed in all of Saturday suffering and on the night time I did laps of my flat all night walking back and forward from my bedroom to the kitchen. On the Sunday watched West Ham v Leeds on the coach and was a great game and a 2-2 draw.

Isle of Iona

Tuesday 23rd and feeling a little bit better. I seen Ruth A off as she was leaving Mull and finishing work for the season. It was a shame to see her go and she was a fantastic guide and very enthusiastic. I went to Port Langnamull with my parents as I was feeling a touch better but it ended up being a stupid idea as the more I walked the worse I felt. It was a beautiful day and we Seen WT Eagle right above us on the beach and we also seen Common Hawker, Common Darter and Golden Ringed Dragonfly. Scots Argus was the best Butterfly we seen. When I got back I spewed up and ended up feeling worse than previous days.

Friday and I was getting back fit again so headed down to loch Ba and Loch Na Keal area with Mum and Dad. Goldie over Loch Ba also Cormorant and Lapwing. 3 WT Eagle feeding on a carcase with Ravens waiting in pecking order near LNK. A merlin flew over as well!

interesting article regarding Englands only Eagle....(click for larger scale)

Good article on Eagles controlling cormorant numbers in the Lake District National Park ......

Thanks for looking everyone! My next posting will include a visit to the island from Gary 'Rowlands Gill Birder' Storey for a few days. Also all the wildlife sightings from the first couple of weeks of September which is a great time with Birds on the move and also other wildlife feeding hard to prepare for the winter season. Hopefully some attempted photography thrown in as well!

Cheers :-)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Orca Alerts.......Plus Gordon Buchanan trips

Hello everyone its been another exciting couple of weeks on the 'I love Mull' along with a hot spell of weather which was well needed for the wildlife but with factor 50 sun cream being £17.50 on Mull it was all a dear affair!
I was Soooo close to encountering the top predators in the ocean and also some more great trips and stories with Sea Life Surveys including a couple of special guest trips with Gordon Buchanan.

Minke Surfacing in front of a raft of Shearwater

Photo taken by Chris when himself and I were on the RIB

2020 Vision on board for the week beginning 18th July and they are a multimedia based project that communicates the link between peoples well being and the restoration of natural systems. A few of their photographers were on our trips including Alex Mustard who is regarded as one of the best underwater photographers around and Ruth Molloy is on love with him! Also Chris Gommersall an RSPB photographer who knows my dad well from back in the 80s when he used to visit Geltsdale reserve for his photography work. He also stayed at our house when I was a young sproglet!
The main highlight of the week was on the Thursday when we were coming on our way back from a quiet trip out to the Cairns and just coming into Ardmore point we got breaching in the distance and there was 8 Bottlenose Dolphins putting on a great display! They started bow riding and the length and girth of the buggers was unreal! The Scottish population of BN Dolphins are the biggest in the world growing up to 4.5 meters! The next move was for me and Chris to get in to the RIB and to take pictures of their bow riding action on Sula Beag and the photo above is Chris's best result! Amazing experience as the Dolphins started bow riding our RIB and they were the same length at nearly 12 feet! " 2 Golden Eagles circling above made for an unforgeable wildlife experience......

Wildcat drawing Holly sent me....Class!

Day off on the Saturday and it was off to my new local patch Ardmore to search for Dragonflies. I ended up getting Golden Ringed and Common Hawker. I love my Dragonflies like! Great birdie action as well with Ringtail Harrier working the rough grass while a Goldie circled high above!

Possible Hybrid photographed by Tash near Loch Frisa

On the Sunday it was a special 8 hour whale watch trip with Gordon Buchanan on board. Lovely sunshine but a bit of a northerly chop to add to the challenge! quiet on the way out to the Carins with just the magic of Shearwater and Gannets to keep us entertained. We landed at the Cairns of Coll for lunch and Gordie got his underwater HD camera out (the same as Cains) and got in amongst the seals while I just went in for a dip...fresh! Just Porpoise on the way back as the conditions beat us but a great trip with lovely people and Gordon did a great job!

Gordie at the Carins filming the Seals

Team photo with different weather! 24/07

On the 26th is was another WW with Lewy as skipper and Abernethy, Sarah Blake and Holly ( a new volenteer) helping as crew. We headed north to Muck in decent conditions picking up quite a few Porpoise on the way. We landed on Muck and I think I have explained in a previous post what I think of Isle of Muck and sack it I will tell you again that I dont like the place for the simple reason that most of the island is managed for game birds Pheasants and Red Legged Partridge which is all a complete waste of time for many reasons but especially on a Hebridean island which are so important in providing a safe heaven for otherwise threatened wildlife species on the mainland with prime examples being Hen Harriers and Corncrake. Its a good island for Dragonflies but on your normal trek to find the shallow ponds you end up getting shocked by flushing game birds out of the long grass every 5 yards so basically the whole place is a load of monkey spunk and a waste of a good island. I am sure it would be ok for tourists to have a potter around and go to the tea room though. And surprise surprise there are no Raptors to be seen on the island. Anyway back to the days whale watch and we all went to the tea room where I sat outside with my bait box watching the glorious Swallows in action on a nice warm sunny afternoon. We all headed back to Sula Beag ready for the second half of play! I managed to pick up a sneaky Minke just north of Sanna Bay but not everyone on the boat got to see it which was frustrating. Golden Eagle at Ardnamurchan and Peregrine back at the pontoon to finish off a good day. went for a run on the evening to Ardmore with Ruth A and Holly and half way through went for a nice swim in the sea at Ardmore bay!

Sooty Shearwater! was delighted when I seen this!

On the Saturday it was a charter day involving taking the family from Glengorm castle to Coll for a day out there. Dragon as skipper and Ruth m, Nick, Stu and myself on as crew to look after everyone on board and find them some wildlife along the way. We started with a male Peregrine harrasing Gulls above the pontoon and we also got White tailed Eagle sat on the sea stack at Ardmore point! When we here heading past Port Langnamull one of the younger girls on board was bragging how when she was on this exact charter 3 years ago she got Orcas whilst on the way to Mull! Very jealous and I was thinking I hope she is a lucky omen! When we reached the middle ground we came across a small hurry of feeding birds along with Porpoise and in amounst a raft of manxies.....Sooty Shearwater! great to see and also managed to get a record photo to go with it....

it was amongst a raft of Manxies just east of Coll

Gannet feeding in a small hurry

When we landed on Coll I was expecting a hero's welcome from the Coll people after my 25 runs not out to win the Cricket for them but there was no Collucks in sight which I thought was discraceful after all the good ive done for the Island. Anyway the Glengorm clan headed sharp right straight to the pub and I knew where I was going straight away and that was sharp left to see the Blue Whale skeleton near the ferry terminal. Popz was telling me that a Mail Boat struck the Blue Whale back in 1895 and caused it to beach. Another sign that the great Whales were in our British waters before the disgusting whaling industry took its toll. As Ruth, Stu and I were walking up the hill to see it....ring ring ring on Ruths cell phone....Orcas sighted near Langnamull 20 minutes ago! Wow! really bad timing as we had just anchored up and everyone was in the pub including our skipper! We must of just missed them by a matter of minutes! I scanned and scanned from land to try and pick them up but no joy. We moved on to Carins of Coll before heading east back to Tobermory. The highlight on the way back was Nicks amazing joke as he went to the bar to get a drink and instead of lifting out the tuck sheet Dragon lifted out the eco book with a Puffin showing and Nick said 'Can I have a Puffin plesae'........and after that I will ask for the Razorbill!' haha genius....Nick is my idol.

Blue whale spine on the isle of Coll

On the Friday it was a Whale watch with 2 Minke's and a juvenile Shark off Ardnamurchan. On the evening I met Lise Hume Simpson who was up for the weekend from London, a friend who I met on a trip last season. We went to Waterfront for tea and then a walk around Aros afterwards and it was nice to see her again.
Sunday 31st and the second instalment of the Gordon Buchanan trip in savage conditions. over 30 on board again. We had no choice but to go round the north west part of Mull where the conditions would be less choppy. Great Skua and Porpoise being the highlights on a challenging 8 hours.

Team photo of Gordie, Crew and punters, 31/07

Some great wildlife trips on the week starting 1st August. On the Monday it was a WW with 2 Whales and 30 plus Basking sharks!
On the Tuesday with Lewy as skipper it was same again as we headed over to Coll and got a couple of Whales again and a distant Shark. Lunch time at the Cairns and I had a nice swim when I found a spare five minutes.
On the way back there was a problem with the boat so Lewy came up to explain to everyone that the electrics had gone on the boat and the toilets would be out of use and he quickly said for a joke that you could do your business in a bucket and throw it over the side....and we all laughed and expected him to go back into the wheelhouse.....and then suddenly he just carried on talking and was telling everyone stories of different ways that fisherman do the toilet when their out at sea for long spells. "Certain fisherman use a co-op bag or just curl one out straight off the stern of the boat" Then he moved onto tell everyone on the top deck about how he always used to get caught out when at sea and picking up rubbish from the ocean and when he grabbed the bags with his hands he quickly found out it was a bag of crap that a fisherman had thrown overboard hahaha. At this point one of the punters quoted "Stop talking....Stop talking now" and someone had to actually tell Lewis to stop the conversation so he turned around back into his cockpit just before a sarcastic round of applause by everyone! I informed everyone it was back to scanning and Nick quickly replied...Skatting? scanning! haha. I had a severe case of Giggleitos for the rest of the trip because of Lewy's now famous shitbag speech!

On the Wednesday we had two four hour trips and when we were off Croig another phone call this time to Lewis.....Orca reported off Sanna Bay heading south! wow again! great conditions we thought we have to pick them up! Got two Minke's off Ardnamurchan but no Killer Whales! On the evening trip we headed straight back out to Ardnamurchan and it was a feeding frenzy off the point and has to be one of the trips of the season with three Minke's feeding around the mass of Gannets and Shearwater! great stuff!

A couple of Plugs to finish with and first of all Holly who's name might of cropped up on the previous post.....anyway she is in South Africa for 6 months working with and researching Leopards and other big cats and she is doing a fantastic blog called Where's Holly? which is well worth a read.

Also I am updating the Sea Life Surveys Captains Log over the season and my latest posting has all the latest ups and downs in the world of Wildlife along with my latest photography images while on Mull.

Orca's just off the north Mull shoreline recorded by Tim Williams.....

Cheers :-)