Friday, 25 May 2012

Climb back into your time machine and come and join us in the 21st century...dear me

One article which has rattled me a bit and stuck in my mind the last few days was a report on RP that some islanders are saying the Eagles are wrecking havoc with Mull's wildlife and in particular there Rabbit population.....I mean it just gets more embarrassing all of the time, when has anyone ever focused on declining Rabbit numbers? Also someone spouted out that Puffins have declined because of the raptors and Dave Sexton was soon to put it to bed saying that the Puffin populations have increased since WT Eagles have bred on Mull again. If they are so bothered about sea bird numbers then they should fight the cause for over fishing which is having an effect on all marine life and not point the finger at the eagles which I am sure some people will blame for Madeleine Mccann going missing as well. Raptor Politics Link.

Stuart Housdon the director of RSPB Scotland asks where is the logic of wildlife crime sentences? An example is a charge against shooting manager Dean Barr of the Skibo Estate in Sutherland, for the possession of enough of the banned pesticide Carbofuran to kill every bird of prey in Scotland several times over, resulted in a £3,300 fine. Nobody was charged with the deaths of two golden eagles and a sparrowhawk poisoned with the same pesticide, or the laying out of a poisoned bait found on the same estate. 

Sharp-eyed residents on a Scottish island National Nature Reserve (NNR) helped catch one of Britain’s most notorious egg thieves. Police arrested Matthew Gonshaw after receiving a tip-off from islanders on Rum. Most of the island is managed as an NNR by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Just 35 inhabitants live amid the mountainous reserve of 10,000 hectares. Rum has one of the world’s largest Manx Shearwater colonies and also hosts breeding Golden Eagles and WT Eagles. Link.

Jenny Wren on Iona

It was an Open day on the Wednesday as SLS invited all local companies to come on a two hour eco cruise around the north coast of Mull. It was a big success with lovely weather along with nice food and drinks all throughout the trip. The highlight was a pair of Golden Eagles showing superbly over Bloody bay. 
After the trip my Dad met us at the top of the pontoon and it was great to have him on the island for a few days! We headed off in the evening to get the last few hours light and Goldies stole the show again as we watched a pair showing very well around their nest site and also bringing prey in. We checked the gulls at Knock but no stand out species. Two Mountain Hares on the way back and a few Red Deer.

Jonny Milo biking round Iona
The forecast was right and the following day was constant rain through out so we decided an inland safari car watching was the best idea so we did the round route around the north stretch of the island. We started with checking down the rut-central road down to Caliach point which dad insisted in doing but I thought otherwise but since he was the guest I thought we might as well do it and we ended up with a very close Male Hen Harrier encounter and two Golden Plover in the grazed fields. We made our way round and ended up getting 3 otters including a pair copulating at Laggan bay. A stunning GN Diver was seen on LNK as well. 

Iris beds on Iona looking towards the Ross of Mull

Corncrake showing well...
The following day as planned we headed down to Iona to explore the different habitats on the Ross of Mull and the famous island itself. A single SEO on the way down and when we arrived at Finnophort we got the bike ready to take across the ferry onto Iona. Some consistent feeding Gannets in the sound of Iona on the way across. We headed towards the abbey as there was some good Iris beds for Cornies there and got a tip off from a passing birder that there had been some near the hotel. We stopped for lunch and heard our first Corncrake a few meters off but nowhere to be seen. The exposed pink granite was lit up by the crisp sunshine but the north wind made it a bit chilly. We headed on the north road with dad on the bike and I got a single Twite on route. We came back on ourselves and headed towards the stretch of beach on the south west of the island where we got up to 15 White Wagtails and over 10 Whimbrels. More Twite were seen. On the way back we called past a few Iris beds where a couple of birders were watching a Cornie as it showed well in the less dense Iris beds. lovely birds and there colouration with the sun on their backs was superb.  
More feeding Gannets on the ferry back and you can see why the Bottlenose's like feeding down at the sound of Iona. We checked out Fidden where we got a Ringtail Harrier and 2 Mountain Hares along with more Whilmbrel. We took the wilderness scenic route back and took in the breathtaking landscapes especially when you come round to Gribbun and the south LNK road. We seen WT Eagles on a nest with at least one chick showing. A great day seeing the variety of Mull in all its glory.

Iona and the famous Abbey...

Abbey, birch place of Christianity in Western Europe
Saturday morning and John left at lunch time as the forecast was awful for the Sunday. It was great having such a superb passionate naturalist like dad on eagle island. Today was a seven hour whale watch with Jimbo, Ruth and Andy T on board. Superb feeding Shearwaters off Ardnamurchan point with the first Basking Sharks seen in among them! We headed west and got a single Minke whale.
Up at 5am on Sunday for a 6am departure to Coll with Jimbo, Ruth and Tom for a charter down to the Treshish isles and possible island landing. Big swells on the way over with everyone felling a bit dodgy but the arrival of 10 Common Dolphins soon cheered things up with their usual association and amazing behaviour. The conditions calmed down as we collected 12 Colluchs from Arinagour and headed south. We planned to land them on Lunga 'Puffin Island' even though the conditions would be challenging. We tried to anchor up but strong winds and swell made it tricky. We took passengers across to Lunga on the rib but the landing was tricky on a rocky shoreline and i took one for the team and got feet and trousers soaked. I hung them up to dry on the mast on the return journey. Dropped the lovely people of Coll back on their island and headed off east back towards Tob with very little action out at sea.   

Up to 10 seen on the way to Coll...

incredible animals

Air time capture!
An evening trip south starting at Lochdon with no sign of the reported Osprey but nice views of SEO and Harriers. Moved onto LNK where I got a BT Diver in winter plume at the head of the loch and two Dunlin. Got a WT eagle fishing in the loch and the Bluebells are at their peak in the surrounding woodlands.

Mountain Hares near Knock taken by R Molloy

Sat 19th and a 7 hour WW in nice calm sunny conditions. More great consistent feeding by Manxies in a number of areas in the northern range of our research patch. The visibility was crisp and you could see the caps of Jura showing well to the south and the snowy tops of Skye to the north along with the higher ground of the outer isles. A minke whale out to the west and the Tern colony is building up at the Cairns of Coll. The usual sighting of Porpoise and WT Eagle added to the trip.

Manx Shearwater - superb sea birds
Bluebells near Knock
Sunset looking over Tobermory and Ardnamurchan behind...
four travelling Gannets
An early start on Sunday to prepare for the visit of the Springwatch team and their charter to look for basking Sharks. Iolo Williams was on board as the presenter and after hearing a lot of great things from my dad about him it was good to meet Iolo and share his enthusiasm for British wildlife and its current problems. He has a real natural drive and passion and he is another inspiration to me for the future. 
The springwatch team got a report from an RSPB warden on Tiree via Dave Sexton saying that up to 50 Basking Sharks were showing at the north end of the island the day previous so that was the destination for the day with all the gear on board Sula Beag we headed south with Jimbo, Ruth and the researcher Sam on the RIB to cover the grounds before we arrive. 
It took us three hours to get down to Gunna and north Tiree but the Sharks were there already and after getting the camera gear ready for action the bbc team realised they had left the main underwater body back in Tobermory so they sent the RIB all the way back to get it. It was quite exposed and choppy on the east side of Gunna so we headed for shelter round on the west hoping to pick up sharks there. The RIB arrived back with the gear and Iolo and the team got the dive gear ready as we picked up some sharks south west of Gunna. Up to 12 were seen through out the day as it was all a big success with the team getting all the footage they wanted with the Sharks been star performers. 
A three hour return leg trip back to Tob and I scanned hard to see any more marine life to add to the SLS data collection for the day but although the sea state was good I couldn't find any larger beasties. I tried to persuade the Springwatch producer and researcher to plug my blog on Twitter to there 300,000 followers but it didn't happen although I will keep trying! look out for the Mull Springwatch episode been broadcast in the coming weeks.

Springwatch cameraman filming Basking Shark

SLS team with presenter and naturalist Iolo Williams

Iolo in the water with near by Basking Shark
Thanks for looking, superb forecast for the days ahead, get out and enjoy our countries amazing wildlife 8-)


  1. Great informative blog, makes some of my "long ones" looklike Newspaper fillers.


  2. ha cheers john, it took me ages to type up though! thanks for looking :)