I will start with a a few nice positive headlines to kick things off but don't worry I have plenty of depressing stories to follow so keep the oven simmering.
A continued great spell of weather in the Hebrides will be giving the birds of prey more chance of breeding success along with all the species as a whole. It is fantastic to see Butterflies and Dragonflies out again and I will be again trying to focus on them and take advantage while they are out for the next few months. Marsh Fritillary and Golden Ringed Dragonflies have been the early highlights.
Killer Whales have been photographed attacking a pod of White-Beaked Dolphins in the Pentland Firth off Scotlands north mainland coast. While Karen Munroe was watching the dolphins, 6 Orcas surfaced in unison attempting to prey on one of the White beaks. It would be a dream to see an Orca off the British coast...one day. Link.
Right now go and check if the ovens hot because 2012 seems to get worse for our raptors with Defra attempting to introduce a study to control our native Buzzards breeding in area where they could have an impact on the mass introduced alien pheasant numbers. The plans were later condemned and cancelled because of a large public outcry to stop the insanity. Link.
A greedy money driven estate owner on the isle of Lewis has said that the island will become a bird sanctuary with no people if the planned wind farm extension is opposed. He must be forgetting that the main drive and attraction for people visiting and living in the Hebrides is the remote, peaceful wild areas and the species on offer as well. As if he gives a dam about the communities on the island, he will be keen to make a quick buck and effect the experiences of hundreds of thousands of visitors a year as well as threatening our rare Golden Eagles. Link.
To my own recent happenings now and after a hot sunny whale watch at the start of the week, the sls crew along with Cat and Craig headed to the black beach round to the the west of the island for a bbq. Craig brought the kayak as well and we enjoyed riding the surf with not much elegance. Not much happening on the wildlife front with just Rock Pipits and Mergansers. We spotted a rope swing up the hill inland and after the bbq we headed on up to have a closer look. A few of us had a go which was good fun and next I decided to have a go starting from higher up the slope which took me what felt like vertical to a 90 degree angle and when momentum swung me further round I ended up getting stuck 7-8 feet high up wedged in a branch. I hung there for 5-10 min as everyone took photos of me before Craig found some extra line washed up which he used to pull me free! I thank my lucky stars that I was wearing my St Peters (the doorman at heaven) necklace that I found on the boat and clearly saved my life.
|Cairns of Coll, our lunch spot on WW trips|
As the weather continued in good vane so did the wildlife as a Whale watch trip the following day produced over a hundred Common Dolphins followed by a cloud of Gannets. 2 Basking Sharks and a WT Eagle added to a superb trip.
|Salen Bay at sunset|
On the evening after the trip we arranged a spot of camping with me, Dunc, Craig, Ruth and Jayne. We chose to pitch up on the south Loch na Keal stretch at the bottom of Ben More. We got a fire going and had a nice bbq in the retreating sunshine. Craig brought the kayak again but before taking it off the Landy he took it for a spin off road and ended up getting it stuck in a bog. He phoned his dad to come down and try and winch it out but was unsuccessful. We hit some golf balls into the loch and I tried to teach Ruth but she ended up out driving me anyway as I topped two in a row short of the loch! A good night and up at 6am in the morning to head off for another Whale watch with two Minkes on the day.
|Common Dolphins associating with Sula Beag|
|They just look like real show off's with their behaviour|
|Basking Shark with Eigg in the back drop|
|A close up of its dorsal fin|
|Minke whale surfacing with a nice glint on its back|
On the Monday it was another seven hour trip and it started with a bang as we had WT eagle, Porpoise and a Minke whale all up the sound of Mull in the first half hour of the trip! I got a photo of one surfacing off Kilchoan and provided the pic for the popular blog based in the village. A lovely lunch at the usual spot at the Carins of Coll in hot conditions. I checked a photo of the White-Tailed Eagle which flew over the boat and I noticed a small hole in its wing which stood out so I sent it too Dave Sexton and he said it wasn't a gunshot hole and the bird had had the hole for years. It appeared to be carrying a Shag in its talons as well with the birds been easy targets nestled down on their scrape at this time of the year.
|Minke surfacing off Kilchoan|
|WT Eagle with shag in talons, notice hole in right wing as well...|
|Always a pleasure...manx shearwater|
The whale watch the following day produced Common Dolphins and a pair of Golden Eagles with a Minke whale on the way in. There is a video at the bottom of the post of the associating Dolphins.
|Fulmar flyby...ask Ruth to do her impression of one|
Off on the Wednesday and during the day I completed the Haweswater article which I had put a lot of work into and enjoyed doing so much. Visiting Haweswater helped to inspire me about wild areas and eagles as a teenager and will always be a very special place to me along with Geltsdale of course. On the evening I parked up in my little secret upland view point and scanned the heather along with reading my sea bird book. The heathland was quiet with Cuckoo, Curlew and Stonechat.
|Common Seal hauled out|
A WW on Thursday and it was miserable and overcast on the way out west before clearing at lunch time. Storm Petrel and 4 Whimbrels before tracking 30 plus Common Dolphins by seeing congregating Gannets from a distance. We found a Minke on the way back and also some good feeding hurries consisting of Manxies and Kitiwakes.
|Shags with the north end of Coll in the back drop...|
Associating Common Dolphin on a Sea Life Surveys trip on board Sula Beag...
Thanks for looking everyone, As I finish typing up this post the climax of Lord of the Rings was on in the background with the giant Eagles saving the day the second time in the film. The image of a giant eagle flying around New Zealand was not so far fetched as it might appear say scientists as a giant eagle once ruled the skies in New Zealand. Before human settlement around 700 years ago a giant Haasts Eagle was present at the top of the food chain with a three meter wingspan and weighing 30-40 percent heavier than our present day heaviest the Harpy eagle. The modern day fear of birds called Ornithophobia comes from past instincts when larger bird of prey species used to exist and be a natural predator for human beings. Have a look at the youtube video and imagine if Haasts Eagles still survived to this day...and what would the landowners think of them! 8-)