Monday, 15 October 2012

Eagle Country...

Worthless, Waste of a skin countryside criminals are at it again. Best of luck to the goldie on a safe recovery... - Shot goldie

Technology on tagged birds can help reveal truth and encourage action to be taken...

One down already, Don't know how reliable the tags are or has one just flown over Mordor?

My Aurora picture made it to the top ones in the country on BBC Scotland. I also had two photos shown on Reporting Scotland which I will provide a link to on my next post.

The SLS trips have quietened down at this time of the year and it has given me the opportunity to cover some wilder parts of Mull. Sunny spells and low winds encouraged me to do a peak climb and after parking at Ben More estate and walking along Loch Ba I started the ascent after picking an appealing route up. Good number of Mippits as I reached one of the smaller summits. A Male kestrel hunting and gronking Ravens overhead. The next thing I got  was a large pale raptor fly by me unaware of my presence, I watched it all the way with the binoculars and I was a bit stumped as it was about the size of a Male Goldie with the same markings on its upper wings but it was just so pale. This is when Its important to photograph these sights for records.
Next I came across a Ptarmigan remains which was likely an eagle prey remains. I have never seen a live bird but it was nice to know there is birds around on the higher parts of the island. More items found were a large pellet, possible Goldie and a feather which after checking up was from a Goldie.

Click on photos for a larger scale...

Higher ground looking towards east end of Loch Ba and Ben Talla beyond,
 a small Lochan in the foreground

Ptarmigan remains near the summit of Beinn nan Gabhar

The summit of Ben nan Gabhar

Panoramic sweep showing Mull in all its glory
The land between the two lochs is debris remain from glacier 10,000 years ago

Cant beat been high up in the Scottish wilderness
My collection of items from out in the field, include Golden eagle feather, pellet and prey remains of Rabbit. Also Ptarmigan feathers...

Goldie feather

On route down, one superb waterfall that I came across which my mate Gary would of loved
The next day I got a call from Ruth in the evening that a Shearwater was reported in the beer garden behind the Mcdonald arms so we headed down to the main street and met Nic Davies there where he retrieved the bird that was boxed in from the higher walls all around the garden. We took it to the ferry slip and Nic took the bird further up the shore away from the lights. He said the bird had good energy levels and its wings were not damaged so it was safe to release the bird back out to sea. After a little hesitation and the bird climbing upto Nics shoulder and then onto his head before heading back out to the ocean. That Manxie could hopefully be off the coast of South America now after been in Ruths car Otis down Tobermory only weeks previous!

Local Otter in Tobermory...
Knobble the minke whale! last sighting of the season :-(
A full day whalewatch trip near the end of the month and three Minke whales encountered was a real treat at this stage of the season. One of the whales was our local hero Knobble who has been seen in our waters on and off all season since May and for the last ten year. The special K now has a facebook page with an impressive 160 plus followers already thanks to a link from Sea Shepherd Scotland after Minke Tetley mentioned the whale on a conference in Newcastle. Here is a link -

Otter porpoising at Croig

Otter on the shoreline after views of it underwater!

Preparing for my Inland guiding trip...
The next day again it was more action with an arranged inland guiding of the island for friends of Terry Pickford. Strong winds blowing but no rain forecast as I met the group of four in Taigh Solais car park as we headed out to do a north circuit of the island. We covered a few moorland sites but no joy with upland species as we made our way round to Croig to do a small coastal walk. As we were getting out of the car I looked back on our selves and at first I thought it was a domestic dog walking down towards us but had to double take as it was an Otter! It slipped into the water as we watched it hunting for the next hour. We worked our way along the coast and watched constant Gannets feeding close to the shore and also got a couple of Ringed Plovers which I was happy with until Tim spotted another Otter which could be seen underwater with the white sandy beach as a backdrop!
Torloisk upland pass for lunch as we watched a herd of Red Deer hinds on the skyline. Next stop to a Beech woodland so Erica could pick some edible mushrooms to forage on. Further round the north west part of the island we stopped at another traditional site and straight away Tim spotted a large bird on the hillside which took flight and was a large Goldie which started getting mobbed by a Kestrel making the bird look even larger. It settled on branch as we got the scope set up and got locked on it to enjoy tremendous views of the bird. I managed a phone scope shot through Tim's Leica scope and it came out nicely. Buzzard after Buzzard started to appear and we got seven in the sky as we watched one pick off a dead Hedgehog off the road and take it to the shoreline to feed off it. A couple of other buz's tried to get involved but the dominant bird stood its ground as a few Hoodies were waiting patiently in the pecking order (video below). After all this excitement a Hen Harrier started mobbing the Goldie before the huge predator came towards us and started circling right above our heads joined by the Buzzards! It was great to see a number of folk stop and enjoy the spectacle with us and after talking to the folk they had travelled from different parts of the UK just to have a sight like that of an eagle. Seeing that is almost as good as seeing the birds them selves and gives me a lot of joy.
Next was a brief view of a WT Eagle and after checking Loch na Keal I got rewarded with a single Common Scoter. A great day with lovely people and I would see them again for the Whalewatch trip on the Thursday. Leeds v Everton in the pub on the evening and the mighty whites put on a great performance to go through 2-1!

Tim, Erica, Janet and Mark enjoying the Otter

Stunning secret beach looking north

Goldie near Laggan Bay
Eas Force waterfall...

An amazing encounter with the group of a goldie and 7 Buzzards overhead!

Looking towards Gribun Cliffs from north LNK stretch

Island of Eorsa on Loch Na Keal, Ben More summit in the back drop... 
A four hour trip on the Wednesday and the winds had dropped but big swells coming in forced us down Loch Sunart which is never a bad thing as the views around the western districts of the mainland are stunning especially with autumnal colours coming in. An Otter was seen and Seals at their usual haul out site. The Scottish rainforests of Sunart are as changeable as ever and so keen to explore some of the rare woodland.

A full seven hour Whalewatch on the Thursday and the strong northerly winds had dropped right down so we could get out to some good grounds. The new found local Tobermory Otter was showing well at the pontoon as we casted off. There was still a bit of sea running but we landed at Cairns of Coll to see the healthy seal colonies and in the second half on the east side of Coll a small group of Common Dolphins came to join us putting on some good excitement for everyone. Erica's home-made soup was again very welcome on a chilly day out at sea and views of a WT Eagle were enjoyed on the way back down the sound. I said my goodbyes to Erica, Tim, Mark and Janet and I really enjoyed their company and the two days together.

Dead Minke whale washed up near Calgary. Tongue and Jaw in a bad way, possible Orca attack?

Otter in Tobermory feeding on a Ling...

Buz eating a Hog with Hoodies in the pecking order pulling Buz tail feathers! (I know it didn't remove a feather it was v windy!)

Common dolphins bow riding on wide angle by Andy Tait

Thanks for looking, as I type this I am sat in the most westerly Hotel on the mainland on Ardnamurchan peninsula, (Not in the Hotel I am in the Bunkhouse next door but stealing their WiFi!) so along with my SLS staff trip to the outer isles I will have plenty of content to add to my next post. 8-)