Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Another peak tackled...time to buy a North Face Gilet

A great spell of weather in the middle of March with clear blue skies and temperatures reaching 16 degrees on the island. Perfect weather for the eagles displaying and riding the thermals. Some amazing eagle associations happened that I will never forget. I climbed Ben Talla (2500ft) the second highest peak on Mull enjoying the superb panoramic views of the Hebrides and highlands. 

I have written some articles for Focusing on Wildlife which is a web site using naturalists input and photography to promote wildlife conservation and change peoples attitudes towards nature helping people imagine people and wildlife living in harmony.

 Here are the links to my articles...

Click on photos for a larger scale...

Hoody! love them, full of character

Waiting for me and Ruth to finish our packed lunch!

have a seat, Calgary bay
I headed off with Ruth for an afternoon covering the north west stretch of the island starting at Calgary bay. we had lunch on a picnic bench while admiring the character and intelligence of the Hooded Crows. They were playing in the wind while waiting for messy tourists to leave them an opportunity and then they would move in to feed. No Sand Martins yet but I wasn't expecting any.

We headed to Port Langnamull which is further east than Calgary and is a lovely little secret stretch of beach. A Mountain Hare near the shore still showing patches underneath from its winter coat. A Stonechat signing and a few Meadow Pipits in the area. We headed east to check out an old village remains in the woods that we were supposed to check out last year but there was not much to see and lets just say we wont be back anytime soon. Although we are delighted we went as on the way back we had a WT Eagle and got great views of the bird. Another WT Eagle sighting back at the car but not sure weather it was the same bird or not.

Calgary beach, the beach cricket season is nearly upon us!

In the words of John Miles...Hare today gone tmoro...

Mountain Hare at Langnamull, still got a small amount of white from winter coat

Port Langnamull looking north...

Red Deer stag...

On the way back to Tobermory with Ruth we got a herd of Red Deer stags near Loch Torr and also my first SE Owl on Mull this year and also just further along past we got a male Hen Harrier hunting close to the car...what a bird!

My favourite animal on the planet, Male Hen Harrier...

Short-Eared Owl quartering the rough ground near Loch Frisa
Another splendid day on the 22nd and after tackling Ben More the week previous, Ruth, Craig and myself decided to go after the second highest on the island, Ben Talla at over 2500 feet. The main reason I was excited about going up Ben Talla was because the mountain had a history and story of an RAF plane crashing near the summit in 1945 on its way to Prestwick and remains of the wreck can be seen high up on the mountain.

On its way from Dorval near Montreal in Canada to Prestwick in Scotland, the Dakota landed at Meeks Field (Reykjavik), Iceland to refuel. The aircraft then proceeded towards RAF Prestwick, passing over the Western isles. Unfortunatly, during atrocious weather conditions and while approaching a 2,500ft high peak on the isle of Mull, the pilot lost his bearings. With insufficient height to clear the mountain, the Dekota crashed 200ft below the summit of Ben Talla and then slid a further 500ft down the mountain on snow and ice.

climbing Ben Talla looking north up Glen Forsa

stood on rocky out crop half way up, sound of Mull and Morvern district in back drop

Brear (Craigs dog) having a paddle up Ben Talla...

Loch Ba and head of Loch Na Keal beyond, amazing sight

We took Craigs landrover and got permission off the Estate Gamekeeper to drive down the glen and park at the Bothy to start our climb. We checked out the bothy before getting going and it was very impressive with plenty of sleeping space. We looked at the visiting book to see if many people have used the bothy recently and a 22 year old lass had wrote in it plugging her blog and also seeking a male who loves the outdoors and is aged between 20-40 so Ruth and Craig were going barmy saying its my ideal woman and the jokes continued throughout the day.

We started our climb up the steep terrain with a few Meadow Pipits and a good number of Voles been disturbed in the rough grass. Got our first views of Golden Eagles as we stopped for a brake half way up. The strong light creating haze and glare was causing problems with my landscape photography but I managed to get some nice shots.  

looking down on eagles is a special view...

WT Eagle

Immature WT Eagle at the summit of Ben Talla...
An amazing eagle association at the summit of Ben Talla as an Immature WT Eagle appeared out of nowhere and just held over our heads before heading west. I managed a few nice pics but the experience was amazing. I find all the birds of prey on the island are less bothered by human presence and it must be to do with the lack of persecution problems compared to the mainland. Not one Raven seen today though which was strange.

We did not find the plane wreck remains with the only view been a propeller monument down by the bothy. A fantastic walk again and the highlight on the way down was me beating Craig at the boulder rolling competion. It was soon game over when Craig nearly took out a sheep!...lets move on. Arrived back down the valley at the bothy and I went back in to check the book thoroughly to see if there was any more sheilas looking for hot dates but no joy...great day.   

associating with us as a lot of the raptors do on Mull with no persecution...

team Mc Molo...Craig Mc, R Molloy and myself...

Bothy in Glen Forsa, Gary would be impressed with this one!
An early start on Saturday 24th to focus on Golden Eagle behaviour and try and learn as much as possible about their actions and movements at this important time of the year. Great conditions again with clear blue skies and a warm sun gave me hope of Goldies showing well.

I settled down in a distant position so I would have no chance of disturbance and waited to see what would unfold. The first hour was quiet but I knew when the sun got up and warmed up the land a bit the bird(s) should show better. A Buzzard appeared in the area circling for up to a minute before a Goldie appeared and chased it away. The male bird then begun to patrol his territory circling a large area 5-6 times taking the exact route over the same tree every time. The next excitement was a WT Eagle arriving in the area and again it only took a minute and the Goldie appeared again chasing the huge raptor away. The male began its display producing amazing dive bombs and a great sky dancing performance. An hour or so later the female appeared and proceeded to copulate with the male bird on a conifer tree. An amazing morning session, I have read all about these behaviours but to experience it for real was special.

Golden Eagle...Wow

Goldie circling above the conifers

All paired up ready for the breeding season...

Shortly after copulation...

Displaying male bird...

Off hunting over young plantation and rough grasslands...

Distant goldie riding the thermals...

Cant leave out this bird...overhead Raven...

Thanks for looking, The Sealife Surveys trips start on the 1st April so some marine excitement should be included in weeks to follow. Looking forward to watching the Magical Manx Shearwaters again...I have missed those birds!



  1. Great stuff!
    What a landscape!
    A lovely series of pictures!
    Well done! :)

  2. thank you for the very kind words, looking forward to reading your blog when I have time later on :-)

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