Sunday, 30 December 2012

RSPB Troup Head promotional film by Cain Scrimgeour

Cain the Hollywell Birder has released his promotional film he captured on the Aberdeenshire reserve of Troup Head in the summer, for the organisation RSPB. Just amazing footage of the wildlife present, and in particular the iconic sea bird Northern Gannet.

Watch it here...

http://cainscrimgeour.co.uk/rspb-troup-head/

Thursday, 27 December 2012

River Gelt Photography - xmas day

A trip down to the river Gelt on xmas afa before fodder to do some photography along the stretch. Came across an impressive waterfall to start with which is normally just a trickle but emulates the persistent rain in the last few days which encouraged me to go down with the camera and do some slow shutter shots to capture the strong current in motion.

Wildlife sightings included 3 Roe deer, Treecreeper, Woodcock, Grey Squirrel.

A v good xmas day with the family. 5 billion spent on presents in the UK on the weekend before xmas, imagine what the human population could do for our deteriorating planet with all that wasted money on a mythical celebration...shame.

Boxing day and headed to the Scottish coast with friends Andy Mc and Rachel.

Wildlife sightings on the Scottish Solway at Balcary included Peregrine, Raven, 15 plus Fulmars, 30 plus Guillemots  Raft of Common Scoters 50 plus, 5 Whooper Swans, Teal, Buzzard, Linnets and feral Rock Doves.

A strong current from the heavy rainfall in days previous... 
Miranda in the gelt...

1 sec exposure, 200 ISO, 20 F-stop


Water falling up stream...

Lovely bend in the gelt with an overhanging Oak...

Thanks for looking...


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Isle of Mull - Eagle Country

My experiences on Mull in 2012, articles published in... 




Isle of Mull - Eagle Country

It was the first week of March on the wintry island of Mull and I was out in the field to focus on a local pair of Golden Eagles to monitor their early season behaviour. The usual persistence was required to see these elusive birds and once the snow eased off, in classic Mull fashion, blue skies arrived and the sunshine lit up the white landscape.

As the sun appeared so did a pair of Golden Eagles with the male performing some spectacular sky diving displays including holding a tree branch or stick and dropping it in mid air before stooping at great speed to catch it again. Later on the male bird continually patrolled his territory boundary appearing to pass over the exact same tree, taking the same route over half a dozen times. It was a coastal eyrie so potentially there could be a lot more to defend their territory from, for example, Herring and Black-backed Gulls.


Perched Golden Eagle - Terry Pickford

After these events a male Hen Harrier was seen fighting the icy north winds before the Eagles appeared again, with the female Eagle landing on a mature Sitka Spruce and the male coming to join her as copulation took place. Fingers crossed for a successful breeding season for the first time in nearly a decade.

Mull is an island driven by wildlife tourism and sets an example globally of the value that certain species can have. The eagles bring in millions of pounds annually and produce over a hundred jobs on the isle. This second biggest Inner Hebridean island has enjoyed a lot of positive media attention which has helped to enhance the island’s reputation over the years and the eagles’ many TV appearances have put the island on the map for general awareness and tourism. The RSPB and all the conservationists involved deserve huge accolades for the success of the White tailed Eagle re-introduction and the positive effect it has had on a large number of people’s livelihoods, and the economy as a whole.

The island’s reputation was in jeopardy in 2012 after a tiny minority of islanders spoke up claiming the eagles were causing havoc with wildlife on Mull. A 70 year old resident calls for a cull and describes Sea Eagles as dangerous beasts and believes it is only a matter of time before a bird picks up an unattended baby or toddler. Obviously this is nonsense and unfortunately for him and the Scottish papers that printed this, they have embarrassed themselves in front of the nation. The only problem is that less educated people might actually believe it.

Goldie circling in wintry landscape...

A local farmer voiced his concern over possible livestock loss and he later confessed in a community meeting that he simply just didn’t like Eagles. The council also contacted the RSPB regarding worries of declining Puffins on Lunga from Eagle predation and RSPB Mull eagle officer David Sexton put that to bed straight away confirming that Puffins have increased since eagles colonised the island again. A desperate comment by a community councillor expressing the decline of Rabbits in the south of the isle was not taken seriously. Grazing Rabbits are competing with sheep so who is complaining!? Incredibly, some of the outspoken residents run tourist reliant businesses such as B and Bs and catering facilities.

Back to the local Eagles and mid way through spring we had enjoyed some fantastic spells of weather with plenty of sunshine hours and low winds to help increase the birds’ chances of success. I left them alone and monitored them from sea as our boat excursions passed near to the birds’ territory. After a spell of a few weeks with no clues to whether or not the incubation was a success and chicks had hatched, I was slightly concerned. A few days following,  as we were passing the territory on another trip I saw two Golden Eagles in flight as the male bird suddenly started doing strong sky dive displays as another two Goldies approached from a greater height. This behaviour told us that they were protecting something and as one of the birds dropped down to reveal the location of the eyrie, there was a healthy looking eaglet on the edge of the nest cup, flapping its wings to strengthen its flight muscles.


Goldie soaring over the isle...

Mull has no records of illegal persecution of raptors on the island. A significant reason for this is that there is no land managed for Grouse. The west of Scotland is naturally a lot wetter than the east and therefore less promotion of heather so Red Grouse are a scarce species. The island’s reputation as a persecution-free zone further promotes the area for wildlife tourism. The largest Hebridean island, Skye also sustains breeding Golden and White-tailed Eagles. Skye seems to lie in Mull’s shadow when it comes to wildlife tourism and one thing that could affect the island’s reputation is instances of persecution and in particular one record in recent years when a dead White-tailed Eagle was found at the bottom of a cliff. It had been decapitated and later found with traces of gun shots in the bird. The story made the national media and what message does that send out to potential visitors when they know that there has been criminal activities like that undertaken by natives of the isle?  

Towards the end of another season on Mull, I ventured out to see if there would be a positive outcome for the local eagles this season. I picked my usual distant vantage point, blending into the environment to wait for activity. After a good hour scanning, a bird appeared over the sky line and when I got it in the scope it turned out to be a newly fledged Golden Eagle presumably from the local pair! I watched the bird soaring in the Hebridean sky with the Atlantic ocean as a backdrop. The bird suddenly started drifting my way, it got close enough to make eye to eye contact before moving on. Whether it was an association, curiosity or just a co-incidence, what an ending and a huge privilege to watch a successful breeding season of the iconic Golden Eagle and it is just the beginning now for the fledged bird and I wish it a long and successful life.


Eagle country...

The population of Mull used to be at around 10,000, but in the 18th and 19th centuries there was the infamous highland clearance which caused a lot of the landowners to replace their tenants with sheep which had more value to the land. The potato famine and also the collapse of the kelp industry were also the cause. Landowners on the north of the isle built a new stately home during this time and named the house Glengorm which means blue smoke named after all the burning peat used for destroying crofts, with some being burnt minutes after families had left. A lot of the homeless highlanders left the isle from Calgary Pier to attempt to start a new life as far away as America and Australia as Mull’s population dropped by around 75%. The increase in sheep added to the grazing pressure on the land decreasing the available live prey for the Golden Eagles but increasing carrion as a food source. The large reduction in people decreased possible conflict, and disturbance of the Eagles.

This year RSPB Mull Eagle Watch got awarded with only the second 5 star wildlife attraction in Scotland. The partnership project which is run by Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Strathclyde Police, Scottish Natural Heritage, Mull and Iona Community Trust along with local volunteers. This is further evidence of what White-tailed Eagles and general wildlife tourism can do for a rural economy.  


White-Tailed Eagle overhead...

Of the 25-30 Golden Eagle pairs on the island, 9 young fledged in 2012 which is about average compared to previous years. White-tailed Eagles had a bumper year with 18 pairs producing 19 fledged young. It sounds like a healthy figure for one isle to produce but is it just replacing illegally persecuted eagles in the UK for that year or worse a percentage of lost birds? The fledged Eagles in 2012 have a huge challenge to survive in a country with one of the worst illegal persecution records in Europe and a planned severe rise in wind farm sites increases the threat. However, locations like Mull set an example of the value attached to birds of prey and give us hope for the future.


Ewan Miles

Friday, 14 December 2012

Simple Science...

A great article from Ireland showing the positive effects the increasing Pine Martens are having on decreasing invasive Grey Squirrels. Millions spent on killing Greys when Pineys and Goshawks can do it for free...

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/sciencetoday/2012/1115/1224326599383.html

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Armchair birding...

Some strange people in Cumbria say "what a whitey!" which I think when translated means "Oh Gosh that's a pity" I am referring to the colour of the landscape around me as the winter season has kicked into gear.
More local sightings included in this post with some great species seen from the kitchen window with a cup of coffee in my hand. Some football fans get referred to as armchair fans if they never go to the live games, well I felt like that a bit this week but jesus did I get some great bird sightings.

Johns exciting new children s book Kitty the Toon is available and is the first in a fact & fiction story based series aiming to inspire kids about some of Britain's famous bird species. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kitty-Toon-Worlds-Inland-Colony/dp/1904078532/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355068784&sr=8-1

This is one of my favorite sites, by Roy Dennis, a man who has done a huge amount for British raptors in a number of ways. His web site is well worth a look as it emphases the use of modern technology to discover so much about our raptors. You can follow the progress of a number of British species with consistent live updates of their movements. It is also a way to help protect them and should be used in the future as that important bit of evidence that always seems to be missing to catch countryside criminals. If a tagged bird fails on a shooting estate then landowners should be held responsible and prosecuted for illegal persecution of protected species.

The Raptor e-petiton finished this autumn without the support of any organisations which with the members votes would of easily made the 100,000 needed to get a reaction. A few weeks later and the RSPB are asking for £600,000 from the public to help save Hen Harriers.
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2012/12/04/rspb-campaign-requesting-600000-of-public-money-to-help-save-the-hen-harrier/

Sat Tagged Red Kites exploring brave new world and you can follow their where abouts online...
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2012/12/02/sat-tagged-red-kites-explore-brave-new-world/

Some amazing sightings of great Whales off the west coast of Ireland in the last few weeks with Fin, Humpback and Minkes feeding near by.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20580373

Stunning Icicles from overhanging crag...

High up the Old water the Gelt was frozen with some impressive icicles...

Weeks sightings from the Computer room hide have been Ringtail Harrier, 4 Waxwing, juv Goshawk, 9 female Black Grouse (Grey Hens), 2 Black Grouse cocks, Goldcrests in the garden, Buzzards and male Kestrel.

4 Waxwing in the garden on Hawthorn before heading east up the valley...

On Simmerson Ridge up the valley looking west...
Headed up the valley last Sunday to look for activity on a crisp frosty day with not a breath of wind to be felt. Very quiet to start, with just a few Red Grouse up Simmerson ridge. Two young Stonechat also seen sat on the frosty heather. I arrived round at the old water and headed up the valley past the old eagle owl nest to arrive at some incredible ice structures with the flow of the river halted by the big freeze. Amazing icicles on the overhanging crag which can be seen on the photos above.

Working my way west back down the valley I got 14 Black Grouse cocks in flight and a male Peregrine. Small flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing were also seen overhead. As the sun dropped I flushed a woodcock and also watched 16 Jays going into a conifer plantation to roost. 

Middle Gelt...
A trip across the border to see the famous Starling murmuration with Danny and a lovely sunset accompanied it well. A Kestrel hunting the rough Grass and a Buzzard sat waiting patiently as well. Two Sparrowhawks also seen lingering near by. 

More snow arrived later in the week as Geltsdale looked stunning and I love the way the reflective light brightens up bird plumage to look even more spectacular!

Starling Murmuration with nice Solway sunset...

Female Kestrel hunting the rough grass...

Patient Buzzard eyeing up a Starling at Gretna...

Ponies up the valley...
A white winter wonderland up Gdale...


Just as I finish this post I hear about the passing of the legendary astronomer Sir Patrick Moor who died at the age of 89 and gave a life time of encouraging viewers and readers of his books of the fascination of the night sky. His bbc show 'Sky at night' was constantly broadcast by the BBC at a disgracefully late time even though the content is the most fascinating subject there is as I am sure a lot of people will agree. RIP and thanks for everything, clear skies forecast tonight as I am going out for a night shift and will be thinking of the great man.

Thanks for looking...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Night shifts up Gdale and Martin Mere...

A night shift on the fells earlier in the week as clear skies were present along with a strong moon to light up the way, natures torch! I knew there was a couple of CMEs (Colosal Mass Injection) earth bound so there was a chance of Aurora as well. 

Faint Aurora on the horizon looking from 'the Cairns'
I had a fox barking and also a Short-eared Owl. Amazing atmosphere again as I had the moors all to my self for the night. The aurora didn't last for long and also a constant movement of cloud cover disrupted things. A couple of shooting stars added to the show.

Looking south towards Orion and Sirius the brightest star in the night sky

Back at the house after the moon dropped at 3am the stars visible multiplied
Barn Owl calling as I arrived closer to home after a great night out!

Martin Mere WWT reserve
A trip to Martin Mere on the Sunday with Cain. It was the north west bird fair so It was a busy event and we met Ruth Molloy and Rachel Lainsey down there as there living in the region. 3 Peregrines, female Marsh Harrier and Ruff were the highlights. Watching the Pere's in hunting mode is always a great show and feeding time at the reserve at 3pm brought chaos as all the birds came in very close showing well in the crisp light.
Castle Carrock reservoir with shelter belt of Scots Pine
Recent trips to the village reservoir have produced a female Scaup and a single Pinkie been the highlights along with a juv Cormoront, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Little Grebe, Canada and Greylag Geese.

At the back of Tesco on the Eden...
While I popped into the big city of Carlisle I covered my usual stretch of the Eden river where I encountered a female Kingfisher sat close in the willows. Also 3 Snipe and Lapwing on the flooded fields. Big number of 100 plus Fieldfares overhead and 20 odd Redwing. A few Goosander on the river along with Mute Swans. 



Martin Mere Time Lapse...


Keswick Time Lapse from Dusk to Darkness...


Thanks for looking...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A quick visit back to Mull...

I couldn't stay away from the isle for long as a couple of weeks after leaving I was heading back to Mull joined by Cain the Hollywell Birder and also Ashley Howe a student at Penrith studying Wildlife and Media. My main purpose of the visit was to do a RYA Powerboat course with the Hebridean Sea School. Cain was focusing on some night sky star trails and Ashley was doing some media work for his course.

We headed up early on Monday 12th after a traditional late arrival by Cain. On his funeral his coffin is going to arrive half an hour in with a post it note on top saying sorry I am late. Anyway we headed north in solid rain with the wiper blades doing overtime and we made it to the Green welly stop for some food before continuing through Glencoe which was still stunning even though we couldn't see any of it!
we safely arrived after seeing a GN Diver from the ferry and a great way to finish the day by borrowing Braveheart DVD from Cat next door. Best film ever along with Dumb and Dumber and Batman Begins.

Tuesday and poor forecast and constant rain as we headed out. We started at Tobermory harbour to look for the local Otter and as we were scanning Ashley got a Firecrest by Ledaig car park which ended up being the first record for the isle! Well done Ash a great find and hell of a start to the week. No Otter but we moved onto do a circuit of the north of the isle. As we stopped to admire the view near Loch Na Keal we had 2-3 Waxwing trilling overhead and 5 minutes later came one of mine and I am sure Cain and Ashley's best wildlife encounters as we watched a juvenile Golden Eagle circling back and forward before going into hunting mode for Rabbits over Killiechronan. It dropped onto one having it in its grasp before dropping the lucky bunny which ran back into its warren! Immense.
On the evening we did a night drive owl prowl to see what nocturnal beasties we could see and got rewarded with Barn owl, 4 Tawnies, Mountain Hare, Red and Fallow Deer. Watched Pirates of the Carribean 9 on DVD and pretty similar to their other movies to be honest with an action packed dramatic start all happy...a kerfuffle in the middle until it ends up great and everyone lives happily ever after!

Tobermory with Northern Lights taken a few weeks back during Octobers Aurora Season!
Wednesday was the start of my Powerboat course with Jimbo and a good first day focusing on safety and handling work of the RIB. The local Otter was seen in the pontoon and a few Waxwing overhead along with a Jay calling in Aros park. Clear spells in the sky meant it was essential to take advantage of so we headed to Glengorm where we got a faint aurora on the horizon, some great meteor displays and the milky way stretching from right across the sky! brilliant night! Greenstreet was the movie selection which is quite good actually all about football hooligans swaggering about kicking the crap out of rival firms.

Thursday and back to the pontoon for the Powerboat course completion with passage planning and anchorage sites. I passed the course and really enjoyed it. A female Sparrowhawk and the usual Ravens overhead were the pontoon sightings today. Ashley got some fantastic Otter footage for his project so that was great. Another very average predictable american film on the evening cant even remember the name. Thats why I love wildlife...so unpredictable and impossible to ever call what is gong to happen next. :-)

Friday and the plan was to get the last ferry home after exploring the isle a bit but it it was solid liquid sunshine flat out so we headed down the ferry terminal and were an hour and a half early for the next ferry so we just sat it out listening to Cains chav tunes with the rain coming down. As the ferry pulled up on the slip and with us first in a long cue, HB attempted to start the engine with no joy as the radio had drained the battery! We let everyone by and then tried to jump start it on the slip but it didn't happen so we watched the ferry depart without us on board even though we were over an hour early! Every attempt to start her sounded better as we eventually got it going in time for the next ferry. WT Eagle and Guillemot form the return ferry and a successful trip back to Cumbria after a great few days with excellent company!

Thanks for looking 8-)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Back to native Cumbria and visits to Lakeland...

An Article in the Scotsman regarding the spread of White tailed Eagles to their former range, fantastic comments underneath to go with the article.

Are we failing to protect our most precious wildlife sites?

Went to the Solway with Dad on a lovely crisp day and we started at the old viaduct with landmass sticking out making a good vantage point watching the tide flood all around you. A good count of Shoveler and GC Grebes coming in with the tide. We moved onto the pools where we got distant views of the GW Egret before going to the Campfield hide where the day finished with a bang as we got a Merlin on a fence post and two Ringtail Harriers. On the walk back to the car we got a hedge hopping Male Sparrowhawk and a Tawny Owl sat on the barn door watching our every move before retreating back inside.


Looking west with the tide in flood...




View from the viaduct looking east...


North end of Bass lake...
A trip to our stunning national park later in the week with Dad who had to cover a few sites for his magazine articles. We came the Calbeck route to get some lovely views of Skiddaw and its snowy summit and we snaked our way down to Crummock and Buttermere. With the Autumnal colours still showing and snowy higher peaks making it a perfect time to appreciate the landscapes of the lakes and at a quiet time of year as well.
The first wildlife encounter was a Peregrine perched high up on a crag lit up by the crisp sunshine. Dad and I did a few autumn foliage shots around Derwent water as the Oaks, Birch and Larch were amazing. We headed through Keswick to finish at Bass lake and we got 12 Waxwings feeding on Rowan near the church in the centre. Bass lake itself had a raft of 12 Little Grebes, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallards and a few Cormoronts on the far side, gronking Ravens overhead. Lovely day in Lakeland.


Crummock water looking north, crsip day...


South end of Crummock water with snowy peaks and rays of sunshine...


Derwent water, Oak foliage lit up...


This picture is Oak-kay


A classic photo capture in Autumn...straight up the trunk, very effective...

Bass lake looking towards Keswick...
On the Saturday I arranged a walk in the lakes with two of my closest friends, Lee and Andy Mc. Lee's new dog Niko came as well and is a stunning Siberian Husky. We went to Aira Force as it is close by and also the autumn colours would be worth taking advantage of. The waterfalls were as impressive as always as we climbed up to the higher ground to follow the beaten track to the summit. Over half a dozen Ravens overhead on the way up and A Kestrel working the rough grass before a stooping Peregrine gave all 4 of us a huge fright as it appeared from over the brow even making the dog jump! Must of been doing over a ton it was pure sweet an that!...on a serious note it was pretty special and I was pleased Lee and Greevy got to experience it as well as we watched the bird travel south over Derwent water. I left some fruit loaf out for the Ravens and you could here the bird calling to each other "gronk gronk" "fruit loaf over here lads!" and they were straight in their like a bull to red rag! Love them!

We were back in Carlisle for 3ish and me and Andy covered a stretch of the Eden where we got a Pinkie in with 3 Greylags, 100 plus Lapwing in the fields and 6 Wigeon on the water. We headed to Gretna to catch the Starling roost and you can read all about that encounter in my previous post. 


Andy Mcgree delighted to be above Ullswater...


Greev and Stuz two of my oldest mates! great to be all together in beautiful Lakeland...


 A bit of fun to finish, How many British species can you get here?? The winner will receive a personal shout out on my next blog post to 10s of readers around the globe!


 
Here is that famous Common Dolphin encounter from October in the sound of Mull, strong associations!


Thanks for looking!, future posts are a trip back to Mull with HB the Hollywell Birder and also my top 20 Mull highlights of the season 8-)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Starling Murmuration at Gretna...


Pulling some shapes before roost, a single female Sparrowhawk for company also.


Numbers starting to build up with Andy doing an accurate count, 300,000 predicted but I was never that good at counting either!

Any ideas on what the shapes look like?? T-Rex on the left was my first thought!...and looks like
the batch of Starlings on the right are coming out of that guys chimney!
Thanks for Looking 8-)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Saying goodbye to Mull & 100th GWW Post!

I am typing up my 100th blog post and I am raising my keyboard to the readers. I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging for the last four years and I see it as a modern way of recording wildlife sightings and encounters from the traditional notebook format. If other people want to read my blog then that is a huge bonus. 

I started a wildlife blog back in 2009 along with my friend Gary after we were following the Wild about Mull blog based in the south of the isle and preparing for our own trip to Mull. My blog name was decided at a similar time when my brother Jamie arrived back from Australia and his present to me was signing me up to become a 'Wildlife Warrior' at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo helping to protect species and wild areas. I thought the name was fitting for my area of Geltsdale with all the intense illegal persecution the reserve has had to put up with from the surrounding 'Mordor' estates. 

click on photos for a larger scale...

WT Eagle and Raven feeding on some washed up Carrion...

Sunrise in Tobermory...
An Eco Cruz on the 3rd week of September in nice sunshine. A small personal trip with two teachers from Aberdeen and a photographer from Leeds. They were in for a treat as we encountered a pod of 40 plus Common Dolphins entering the sound of Mull and staying with us for over an hour. Even when we stopped the engines they still associated with us playing around the boat. Another trip that I wont forget in a hurry and very fitting for Ruth's last trip of the season! 



Glen More with building remains...


Carsaig...
On the 21st-25th I had 5 days of inland guiding planned with Guy and Shonna Broome from Cumbria. It was photography based and the main objective was to target the main iconic species on the isle like Eagles, Harriers, Otters and Red Deer along with anything else we would encounter.

On the first day we started with a viewpoint at Glengorm to see the island as a whole to understand its habitat and landscapes. A brief view of a Male Harrier was seen before in classic fashion it disappeared over the brow. We moved onto a coastal walk and seen a brief Otter before it disappeared again in a flash! We spent a long time in mid afternoon driving around looking for opportunities but it ended up being hard work with the highlight been two Swallows at Laggan Bay before we took the Torloisk upland road getting nice views of a male Harrier. A Ringtail was seen shortly afterwards and we finished the day with great views of an Otter at Croig. 


Lochdon with hunters moon...


Calgary sunset...


Tob sunrise from higher up...
Day two and we headed down to Grass point first thing and the crisp morning light was stunning as we got Red Deer blending into the rough grass. A distant Otter at the point along with Twite, Redwing and Fieldfare. We took a break in the middle of the day as it can be quite flat and in terms of photography getting that nice light at ever end of the day can get some great images. We headed to the north shoreline on the evening to get the crisp westerly light on our side. A distant Otter and a distant GN Diver seen while we sat patiently   


Sunrise down the sound...


Mackerel sky at Calgary


Mackerel sky above Tobermory harbour...
Day three and Grass point again at dawn with more good Red Deer action. A super close encounter with a White-tailed Eagle feeding on washed up carrion on the shoreline was special. Unfortunately Guy was parking the car and missed the encounter. 
I was guiding on a 4 hour trip with Sea Life Surveys at half 11 and Guy and Shonna were keen to come on board as well so that was the plan for the afternoon as we headed out of the pontoon to a calm sea state in the sound of Mull. Our first encounter incredibly was a young Minke whale which came right into us. Our last whale was seen a month previous and traditionally they tend to move away at this time of the year. Some healthy groups of Porpoise were seen as well. On the way back in things exploded into life with two close WT Eagle encounters and when back at the pontoon while taking the team photo an otter swam meters away from us! What a trip and made so much more special that it was this late in the season. Brilliant ..as unpredictable as ever the magic of wildlife!


Popz getting Sula away from the Dolphin!


Spoilt for choice!


Struth and Sula scanning for Dolphins!


Sharky and I on her birthday




Ringtail working the rough grass...


Otter in Croig...


Redshank in Dervaig...
Day four and I had another four hour trip at half 11 so I drove down seperatly to meet Guy and Shonna at Lochdon where we got Deer, Otters and Eagles again at a distance. A group of 15 Jackdaws was a good record for these parts. I headed back up to Tob for the trip and again sunshine and low winds made for great conditions as we managed to bump into the young whale again along along with Porpoise, Eagles and Otters! Wow.  


Stag rounded up some hinds...



What a king!!
Day five and again crisp glorious sunshine with a bit of heat. We covered the south part of the isle this time and got three distant WTEs through Glen More. Loch Schriden produced a BT Diver and Mergansers. We were steadily driving under Gribun cliffs and on the verge was a Chough probing the short grass!! We had been reading about them in the bird report and it is the first record on the isle in 5 years!! They attempted to breed 10 years ago and failed so hopefully its a sign of attempts on the isle in the future. Slav Grebes on Loch Na Keal and round to Treshnish we checked out the dead Minke whale to see if there were any eagles on top of it but no joy and the unattached atlas bone was gone as well. 

A great five days with Guy and Shonna and some superb sightings with the highlights been a Chough and a young Minke whale! I really enjoyed their company and thanks to them both. I am sure I will see them back home in the autumn. 


Chough, Gribun


GN Diver in Eclipse
Mum and dad came up for a few days and sunshine on Monday so headed to the Ross of Mull on the south. WT eagles on the shore south of tob, lochdon fieldfare and redwing and a single Greenshank. Juv golden eagle going through glen more. Went to Finophort but did not bother with Iona and took south road to new territory of Carsaig. Crazy single track road with passing place very 500 yards! Dramatic cliffs all along southern stretch. Took dogs for little walk on the shore. Will be back to check out Carsaig arches! Male Harrier quartering rough grass roadside on way back and two Goldies off to roost through glen more.
Got a takeout from Goldon dragon Chinese and it was the worst food i have had in my life full stop. Utter crap and am not getting any foreign muck to take out again...They even screwed up the prawn crackers! nearly resorted to the weeks old moldy stuff in my fridge.


Fieldfare feeding on Rowan berries


Red Deer stag and hind blending in to the autumnal colours
The next day was wet but we covered a few sites starting with coastal walk at Croig where we enjoyed great views of otter hunting. Walked to small beach to west and it stayed dry. Headed to Calgary beach afterwards but rain came in heavy so quick walk on beach where we got ringed plover and Turnstone in small numbers.


Greenshank, Lochbeg
Had a couple of Eco trips on Sula Crion the following day where we got good porpoise action and superb Otters in the harbour. After the trips we headed down to Killiechronan for the evening and got 4 whoopers Swans landing on Loch Na Keal and also great views of the local Fallow Deer.
A meal at the Western isles and had good old fashioned Fish and Chips! lovely few days with parents and dogs and said goodbye to them on the morning.


Male Harrier, Ross of Mull
One last Eco Cruz on Sula Crion with a female Long-tailed Duck! Also good Porpoise action again. I headed for the ferry after the trip to go back to my native Cumbria after an another incredible season with Sea Life Surveys on Mull. I cant thank them enough for the experiences and opportunities.


Hunters Moon...used power of light before artificial light to target nocturnal species for survival through the harsh winters
Parents and dogs at Croig!
Young Minke in the sound! photo by Guy Broome
You can read head guide Ruth's excellent season review on the SLS web site here http://sealifesurveys.blogspot.co.uk/

Keep upto date with all Mull's sightings here http://www.mullbirds.com/LATESTREPORTS.html

Thanks for looking 8-)