Friday, 11 May 2012

What is the future for Britains Eagle Owls?

I have experienced some fantastic British wildlife encounters the last few years including associating Minke whales, swimming with Basking sharks, being surrounded by 200 plus interacting Common Dolphins and White-Tailed Eagles fishing meters from me but one experience tops all of those and that is having the privilege of watching a breading pair of Eagle Owls through out the season a few miles from my house. Those birds were later removed as certain people weren't happy with their presence even though over 90% of their prey items were Rabbits. There was a worry that the birds would take a few precious Grouse and effect the welfare of a few dozen people practising their 'sport' on the nearby moors.

The Owls at Bowland are under huge threat as the usual greed, corruption and politics are involved. The video above shows two sides to the story with Tony Warburton promoting Eagle Owls quite rightly saying "how can you look at these birds and say you don't like them". Tim Melling who represents an organisation for the 'protection' of birds gives his views on the possible impact the birds could have if their range expanded.

Here is a link to John Miles article on Raptor Politics regarding the Possible Last Chapter for Britain's Eagle Owls. These personalities like John, Tony and Terry Pickford devote their lives to making a difference in the awareness and protection for their beloved bird Species without looking for publicity or financial gain, just in total commitment for the welfare of the animals they love. Their passion and dedication inspires me and encourages me to drive on all the time.

Back to the island of Mull but staying with a similar situation regarding unwanted species with the news that the first Pine Martens have produced kits on the island after somehow finding there way from the mainland. I personally think it can only be good news to have this fantastic mammal on an island that is driven by wildlife and the tourism it brings. Pineys get a hard time on the mainland with their range being cut back from many parts of Britian through illegal persecution and habitat loss. I have only been lucky enough to see them once but what an experience. They can be baited in as well to give some consistency to their sightings unlike the illusive very unpredictable Otters that are on high demand to see on Mull. Here is a link to the article and please ignore the comment made by one of the locals... 'It is beyond belief to let a dangerous killer onto an island with small birds on'...dear me...embarrassing.

News on a slightly different subject with the rare occurrence of a perigee moon which is a full moon on the same day that it is at its closest point to the earth in a year. It creates a moon that is up to 15% bigger in the sky and is an impressive sight that I managed to capture on camera (photos below).

Sunset from Bloody Bay
Ardmore woodland and Lochaline Quartz sand cargo vessel
I arrived back on Mull on the Tuesday with nice Goldie and WT eagle sightings going through the district of Morvern. On the evening I got rewarded with 2 female ring Ouzels by the Mishnish lochs and the usual Harriers and SEO on the open moorlands. On Wednesday morning I headed to Ardmore and enjoyed some good views of Cuckoos and a male Hen Harrier.

amazing sunset lasting hours...
On Thursday we had a 7 hour whale watch and we got rewarded with our first Minke whale of the season in tricky spotting conditions. One time it surfaced it caught a wave and produced a 2-3 meter high spray making me think it could of been another great whale species. Consistent sightings of Auks and Shearwaters all through the trip and a Great Skua along with Black back Gulls harrasing a Kitiwake to drop its catch making for a great spectacle.

Ben Hiant and Cal Mac passanger ferry 
First whale of 2012!
Juv Black Backed harrasing a Kittiwake for its Sandeel...
Kitiwake getting bombarded by predatory Gulls..
Common Sandpiper LNK
Saturday was another whale watch trip which started with a signing Wood Warbler heard in Aros park from the pontoon. On the way up the sound we got a dancing Skua heading north / west and after getting one photo record I could confirm it as a Pomerine Skua! The great run continued with a couple of Minke whale encounters and it got even better as we got a third whale further west and after photo identification again we confirmed the return of Knobble a whale that has been seen in our research patch since 2002! We seen it in the same area as it was seen for most of last season which is incredible. On the way in we got a group of 40 Arctic Terns heading north on migration.
Headed out on the evening down to Loch Na Keal and got a drake Long-Tailed duck at the head of the loch.  A Whimbrel and 2 GN Divers also on the loch. Another huge highlight was seeing the Perigee moon rise to the south after 9pm.

Ben More mountain range, full moon
LNK and Ben More
Pomarine Skua off Glengorm 
Common Guilimot
A four hour trip on the Sunday with Porpoise, WT Eagle, Goldie and Gannets feeding. On the evening I headed south to Loch Na Keal with Ruth and Andy Tait. We got the Drake Long-Tailed Duck at the head of the loch and also great views of a WT Eagle along with powerful calling. We walked up to the higher ground on Killiecronan and the woodland Bluebells were very impressive en route. Cuckoo calling at the top and the usual breathtaking views. We headed round to the Knock area and got rewarded with Mountain Hares, Fallow Deer and Red Deer with Andy getting some footage for his Youtube account. On the road north back to Tobermory we got a Tawny Owl sat on a roadwork sign to finish the night off.

Knobble our very own Minke Whale!
Knobble surfacing with Isle of Rum and Skye beyond
Full perigee moon 
Shag remains and Pellet all left by an Eagle species...
Bluebells in broad-leaf woodland at Killie
Two superstars....Andy and Ruth
Herring gull with sand eel getting hard pressed by a Great Skua...
Cairns of Coll with Isle of Eigg in the back drop...

Thanks for Looking, Here is a treat of a link to a web cam of a Goshawk nest site in the New Forest. Its all go in the next couple of weeks with dad coming up for a few days and Springwatch film crew coming on board to do some filming for the latest series. cheers 8-)


  1. hope your going to drop me a cheeky plug with Springwatch crew !

  2. Take no notice of Cain Ewan, just brush that red carpet off ready for next Saturday and I'll treat you to your fav. tiple in the ale house of your choice. Fantastic pics again by the way !!
    Keep up the good work Gordon.

  3. i will ask them which blog they prefer cainio! i will tell them that you have got 'proper millions' of potential! lol
    ha ok gordon see you next week, we wont mention football while you are up!! :)

  4. Some excellent images Ewan.:-)
    Interesting and balanced discussion about the Eagle Owl too. So the government sit on the fence and don't move in either direction then! Surprise surprise. Mind you I kind of sit on the fence with this one too. E E Os are magnificent birds which I've seen breeding in the UK as well as parts of Europe. I'm not convinced that the UK birds got here naturally, but I'm prepared to be proven wrong on that one day. I'm quite sure litle harm will be done with birds numbering what they do at present, but the future may be a different matter. I would have thought however that Hen Harriers and the like face far worse prospects at the hands of the regular persecutors (and not enough is ever done to tackle that problem) than they do from Eagle Owls. I too hope that the situation is well monitored and that 'monitoring' is not Government speak for 'doing/agreeing nowt'. I need to do a bit more reading to fully understand the RSPB role in all of this, especially at Bowland. Cheers Brian.