Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Auror-ing Success back in Cumbria!!!

Back in Cumbria for the week and I cant really find words about the nights events on Geltsdale in the early hours of Tuesday morning, I think the pictures say it all...

Click on photos for a larger scale...

only 6-8 second exposures used as activity was very strong...

who needs to go to Iceland and Norway...Gdale, what a place!

At its 'Storm' level with change in coloration and vertical streaks...

Birch and Corsican Pine along with Alder in our garden with Strong Aurora behind  Talkin Fell...
An amazing night joined by Andy and Danny that I will never forget! It defiantly made up for missing the Red Kite and Marsh Harrier that were reported in the valley during the day and watching the spectacle with calling Barn and Tawny Owls along with a meteor shower all added to the showing. One of the best natural phenomena on the planet and it makes a mockery out of those expensive noisy embarrassing things called fireworks. I found out afterwards that I missed Made in chelsea and Only way is essex on the TV while I was out watching this which put a bit of a downer on things but never mind you cant have everything in life!

The only thing missing was having Gary here to see it as he has inspired me and taught me so much about the natural world the last few years, but I am sure we will get some great Aurora showings in the future together.

Look out for the full article and photographs in tomorrows News and Star.

Thanks for Looking 8-)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Im not a bad driver, im just dodging Short-Eared Owls...

April continues to produce glorious sunshine and calm winds creating safe nesting opportunities for all the islands birds. Last May a savage three week spell ended the breeding hopes of a certain percentage of nesting birds in the area. All Skye's Harriers failed and Mulls were effected, further south in England Cumbrias only Harrier pair failed and the pairs at Bowland struggled. So this early season weather is vital to give our under pressure raptors the best possible opportunity.   

If you don't live anywhere near Bowland and would like to Follow Eagle Owls through the breeding season then click on the link to watch live streaming of a nest site in the Netherlands. Since our pair were taken away from us at Geltsdale I have started viewing this web cam. Its like having a wife similar to Megan Fox and then she leaves you for someone else so you resort to constantly watching Redtube on the internet...no way near as good but will have to do. Link.

A disturbing Headline on RP regarding a Golden Eagle been poisoned Link. Also a positive headline regarding new Peregrine Falcon behaviour and another reason why they are superstars in urban areas Link.  

please click on photos for larger scale...

An amazing Hen Harrier encounter on the road down to salen...
my favorite species on the planet
Eagles get all the glory but sweet baby jesus these birds are special...
Headed down to one of my local stomping grounds in Loch Na Keal on Monday with Ruth. A few miles south of Tobermory we watched a bird take off from a roadside crag and after getting a proper look at it it was a Male Harrier! It ended up flying south following the car for over a mile working the rough grass on its way. At one point it came within 2 meters of the car, amazing sight. We stopped further down to watching it flushing Pipits and unsuccessfully hunting. I managed a couple of photos and I am particularly delighted with the one above!

An amazing calm evening atmosphere down in LNK. I got my first Sand Martins of the year by the camp site. We had a walk on the higher ground above Killiechronan admiring the superb panoramic views. On the way back we got Fallow Deer and a single Mountain Hare.

Grey Heron in Salen...
Higher ground on Killiechronan
LNK Sunset
On the way back from LNK on the same night I got an Aurora report on my phone saying there will be activity in 45 minutes! great timing! Headed to the flat to make a flask of coffee and charge the battery and we headed straight out again. There was nothing for the first 15 minutes but a pale band on the horizon with the naked eye and a green colouration picked up on a 30 second exposure (photo below). A few vertical shooting stars to the north and Venus shining as strong as ever. I was chuffed I didn't fall 5 foot flat on my face this time either so all was good.

Faint Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) from Glengorm looking over Ardnamurchan
GND, Loch Mingery
The trips have had some nice sightings in the early weeks with great views of the resident Porpoise and Eagle double act. 2 Black Throated Divers in Loch Mingery were good to see. Some good feeding taking place by Kitiwakes and Manxies was promising early signs for the season ahead and the Popz the skipper says there is loads of food picked up on the fish finder in the wheel house. Minke whales have been reported already in the last couple of weeks and two separate Humpback reports have came in which is very exciting. A Basking Shark reported by a creel fisherman was another point of interest.

Kilchoan Ferry with Loch Sunart and western highlands behind
Pony Trekking on low tide at the head of Loch Na Keal, Snowy tops on Ben More mountain range
On a day off on Thursday I headed down to Killiechronan to look for Adders as the sun was shining with a nice bit of heat producing good reptile conditions. I arrived at the camp site to watch the WT Eagle feeding on the loch from Lady Jayne's Mull Charters. The tide was low and the Pony Trekking was taking place on the head of the loch in stunning crisp morning surroundings.
I headed to the higher ground to cover an area of south facing hillside with Bracken and plenty of rocky basking spots and cover sites. A good few hour shift produced only one Common Lizard and a flushed Snipe. At one point a Golden Eagle appeared right overhead before been mobbed by a territorial Buzzard. Got back to the car and as soon as I was about to get in...'Cuckoo'...fantastic great to hear again! In the car on the way back driving through Salen I got two Swallows and the first of the year!

Goldie getting mobbed by a territorial Buzzard
Puffin taking flight
Bloody Bay, Kilchoan and Isle of Rum behind
Basalt lava rock formation with Bloody Bay behind
Calmac ferry with Kilchoan and Rum behind
Fishing vessels tied up at Tobermory
A few trips out to my new moorland vantage point produced huge numbers of SEOS (as you can gather by blog title) Good Hen Harrier action and a huge number of Willow warblers arriving on the island. A Common Sandpiper at Loch Frisa as well. We watched a figure appear from the rough grass which we could not identify but as it appeared closer it was just Nick Davies carrying a Deer antler and a wheel trim...

What is it?? its Nick Davis emerging from the rough grass with a wheel trim!
Kilchoan ferry
Pony trekking with Gribun cliffs in the back drop
looking south west down Loch Ba 
North Face Tent!!! forget the Gilets this is the real deal!
A wise old Owl thinking outside the box!
On saturday evening Ruth and I headed to croig on ANOTHER lovely sunny day on the isle. Just outside of Tob we got very excited as we seen a North Face tent in yellow! Of course the logo was huge and I am sure there will have been some hard core adventurer inside ready to tackle the slopes of....Tobermory main street. I checked the Boxes near Dervaig to find a wise Barn owl thinking outside the box! First Barnie on the island. great to see. We arrived at Croig and started heading west and straight away got a single Swallow overhead. Further down the lane a lovely pussy cat came to say hello, it was very friendly and had a lovely personality.
A rain shower came in producing a nice rainbow. A single Ringed Plover was on the beach as we waited to watch the sunset. The rain picked up and we sheltered in a near by cave before carrying on. Our friends from last year Peter and Beverly weren't in the house that we met them in last year so we carried on back to the car. One sighting on the way back was...you guessed it a Short Eared Owl. We sat on the fore shore at Croig to look for Otters but no joy, only thing that happened was Ruth slipped on her bum.

Beach at Croig, Ringed Plover nesting there
Sunset over Coll...
Thanks for looking everyone, I am going down home to Cumbria for a spell next week so looking forward to covering a few sites down there. I would like to see the Ospreys at Threave or Bass lake as well as checking up on the local Gdale wildlife including Pied Flycatcher, LEOs and the Badgers. Cheers

Sunday, 15 April 2012

I could watch Hen Harriers all day long...

The sun is making a great appearance hear on Mull just like the islands raptors who are into the breeding season. The Easter holidays provided some great weather as the tourists flocked to the wildlife hotspot to see the superstars in action. The Sea Life Surveys trips have got going with some good early sightings of Porpoise, sea birds, seals and Eagles. I still haven't encountered many returning migrants with just Wheatear of note. You can follow all Mulls latest reports here.

A positive wildlife headline regarding Englands Hen Harrier hopes. The seven thousand plus acre RSPB reserve at Haweswater is now under their management after water company's concern over the quality of water which arrives at their resivoirs from upland areas. Mardale valley was flooded early in the 20th century to create Haweswater resivoir to provide a water supply to greater Manchester. The uplands will be managed to reduce stock and re-planting to provide potential new Hen Harrier habitat. Link.

Another headline of interest created a lot of publicity on The One Show with the convicted Gamekeeper who was superbly caught trying to lure in Birds of Prey using illegal live prey in crow traps. The criminal based in Derbyshire was heavily fined and ordered to do 1000 hours community service. A powerful message displayed to anyone thinking of illegally killing our protected raptors. Link.

Police, Camera...No Action The headline says it all regarding the possible shooting of a WT Eagle in Skye last Autumn which has been a well kept secret for almost a year. Click the link to go to the article on the raptor persecution Scotland web site.

An interesting article on focusing on Wildlife regarding Wind turbines and there effect on North Americas iconic Eagles...More dead Eagles from Wind Energy Projects

Here is my latest Focusing on Wildlife article regarding the possible introduction of WT Eagle to Cumbria...Cumbria Could Soon be a Sight for Soar Eyes

Click on photos for larger scale...

Male Hen Harrier, the greatest animal on the planet...full stop

Just a pleasure to watch....flushing Pipits in the rough grass

Tobermory at night B & W, Church highlighted 
Does this photo get your creel of approval?

I Spent a few evenings at a new view point looking out to vast open moorland getting more views of SEO with calling and male birds signing. Hen Harriers hunting and interacting with SEO was also a real treat. Stonechat and Skylark signing was other notes of interest.

Me scanning the sound...Ben Hiant of Ardnamurchan in the back drop
On the 7th we had a seven hour trip with Popz as skipper and also Andy Tait joining us. The trip started with some great Porpoise action with up to 13 counted around the boat including some superb underwater views. The WT Eagle was also showing in its usual location. We headed south towards the Treshnish Isles to see if we could pick up an early whale. Puffins, Manxies, Gannets and  a couple of Bonxies were seen on the sea bird front. A nice lunch stop with the seal colonies but no whales unfortunately but its still very early days! 6 Minute video of the trip filmed by Andy Tait can be seen at the bottom of the post.
Watched the Masters on the evening but was disappointing to see a few of the Europeans drop away but my favourite Lee Westwood was still in the hunting pack so fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Easter Sunday was mostly spent sheltering in the car with Ruth  in a lay-by playing iphone games. We headed out after lunch down to the LNK area but the showers came in so we loaded up Trivial Pursuit on the iphone and let the games begin. Even though the weather was savage we still managed to see a Golden Eagle appearing above the skyline. Couldn't wait for the golf to start on the evening and it started with a bang with Lois Ouzie getting an albatross to get right into contention and Westwood on the birdie hunt giving himself a chance. Unfortunately there is always one prick of an American up there and Bubba Watson went on a back 9 charge to beat Lois in a play off.

Grey Seal 1st year pub on Cairns of Coll
Raven in crisp light
Beautiful Young Lamb
Evening light to the east down Loch sunart, faint rainbow showing
On the 10th the weather continued to be glorious sunshine and on the evening Ruth and I headed out to Bloody bay to check on Ravens and Peregrines. We started with 5 Mountain Hares as we made our way west. The Ravens were in good number tumbling and circling in the winds and watching their playful behaviour was fantastic. Amazing crisp evening light shining down Loch Sunart with a faint rainbow showing.

Low flying Goldie, dont often see that!
Short boat trips on the 11th starting with a four hour with 16 on board. Porpoise, Golden Eagles and a Peregrine. A two hour eco trip on the evening with an incredible close encounter with a WT Eagle sat on the rocks 20 meters from the boat. Went out on evening to do a bit of star gazing and night time photography around Tobermory.
Short trips again on the 13th with Popz and Nick. More WTE and Porpoise action and some very positive feeding of Gulls and Shearwater right down a tide line made for good early season progression. The highlight of the trip was when a passenger asked me 'is there a bird called an Auk?' and I said Little Auk and there was a Great Auk and then Nick responded 'There is also the sparrow-auk!' Aurora reports on the evening so I headed out and picked up faint Northern Lights from Glengorm. The strong winds blew my tripod over during a long exposure and it produced a lot of dead pixels on following images so I was not best pleased. Camera seems to be working better now so I will keep check on it.

Puffin taking flight away from Sula Beag...

What a bird, Manx Shearwater

Manxie taking flight...
A 7 hour trip on the 14th in again stunning sunshine with the moderate north winds been the only problem. Skipper Jimbo decided to head north towards the small isles and Muck. We arrived at a small amount of feeding in the middle ground consisting of Shearwater, Puffins and Kitiwakes where I managed to capture some action shots. We landed on Muck for lunch and headed straight for the famous tea room where we caught up with the famous Muck Ducks (mallards) half way down the track. Greenfinch, Dunnocks and Chaffinch calling outside the tea room with a few Pheasants which get reared on the island. Amazing Scottish landscapes all around with a covering of snow on the peaks towards the western highlands.
Today was 100 years since the Titanic sank in the middle grounds of the Atlantic ocean so it was quite nice to be out in the ocean on this day.

Kitiwake, voice of the toon!

Clowns of the sea...

what bird is always out of breath?....Puffin

Manxie with Muck in the back drop...

Sula Beag tied up on the ferry birth on isle of Muck...

SLS cheif guide ruth after landing on Muck

Kilchoan ferry heading to the mainland with Ben Hiant behind...

Andy Taits footage of early season trip to Treshnish isles...

I hope you like the new blog layout, thought it was time for a change and needed a fresh professional presentation...dont worry the content in the blog will still be as unprofessional as always!

Thanks for Looking 8-) ....that is my new birdwatching face symbol, me looking through binoculars smiling!

Friday, 6 April 2012

There is moor to life...

Its Thursday the 5th and just after coming in from the action packed moorlands on Mull watching 6 Short-Eared Owls, 3 Hen Harriers and a Golden Eagle in a less than two hour evening spell I log onto the internet to read this article regarding Englands Harriers..Hen Harrier Update...where have they all gone?.
A huge high to a huge low thinking the birds I watched tonight could consist of the whole English population in the future or worse if they are to be extinct as a breeding species. The moors were brim full of life this evening with SEO courtship behaviour with a male bird signing and I also witnessed a male Hen Harrier protecting its nest site by harassing and display calling at a Red Deer stag...amazing.

The English White-Tailed Eagle introduction program has taken a step forward (Link) With the University of Cumbria getting involved in the research and effects of the scheme if it was to go ahead. With the Bassanthwaite Ospreys bringing in 2 million a year during their 6 month visit the income the eagles will bring for 12 would certainly be huge figures. As it is quoted in the Cumberland News article these birds are our lions, people pay huge money to see Lions in Africa, England should have their huge Eagles again.

Anyway the Easter holidays are upon us and the tourism is hotting up along with the wildlife. Also a 20 degrees shift in temperature, more eagle encounters, great sunsets and early season Sea Life Survey trips... 

click on photos for larger scale...

Port Langnamull sunset...
Wispy clouds saturating sunset colouration
On Saturday 31st I headed out with Struth to cover a few sites down by Loch Na Keal. WT Eagle showing well finding good hight with a moon in view on a clear blue sky. 8 Slav Grebes on the sea loch with half in full breeding plume. 4-5 GN Divers and a pair of Buzzards circling overhead. We headed round to the other side of the loch and watched a pair of Golden Eagles with the sun lighting up their stunning plumage.

The sun was starting to drop so we headed towards Langnamull on the glen road and reached the woodland car park in good time to head down to the shore line. Half way to the coast and I realised I had left my iphone back at the car so I ran back to make sure it was safe and there it was lying on the car roof...idiot. I ran back down to meet Ruth and we caught the sunset just in time to capture some nice colours. A flock of 10 Grey Wagtails flew overhead heading east and a single Mountain Hare was down on the beach. As dusk appeared we heard a distinctive squeaking call behind us...Otters! we headed over and watched a family of three working the rock pools for any crustations they could feed on. Back at the car and 5 Tawny Owls were interacting very loud in perfect still conditions.

WT Eagle close showing at Ardmore

This one is for John Milo

WTE and half moon crescent

Over LNK...

Fresh water stream running into the sea...

Rock pools on Langnamull, Otters seen feeding in them later on

Another angle on Langnamull

myself Kayaking on LNK
Me, Craig and Ruth headed out Kayaking on LNK on a lovely flat calm sunny day. Great Northern Divers were heard calling from a number of angles around the loch and a Golden Eagle was yelping on the higher ground on Ben More mountain range, the first goldie I have ever heard! superb. The seals were as curious as ever as we were out on the Kayaks.

Slither moon crescent with Venus

Full night sky over Ben Hiant, Ardnamurchan
Rhuba Na Gall lighthouse with Sound of Mull and Ardnamurchan in backdrop
A clear sky with a small cresent moon showing provided a great opportunity to take advantage of the night sky again. I headed out with Ruth at 8ish after filling our flask of tea we covered the north stretch of the island close to Tobermory to the west of the golf course. I took a few pictures above Ardnamurchan and its highest peak in Ben Hiant. There was a lot of shooting star activity with Ruth and I having a  competition for who could see the most. We headed down the path to Rhuba Na Gall lighthouse and did some more Astrophotography. The atmosphere was amazing with the full night sky, lighthouse in action, still winds and noise of the ocean. A great night and Ruth won 13-6 in the shooting star comp and also 2-0 in the satellite spotting event. When lying in bed afterwards I heard a screeching Barn Owl close by outside.

LNK Sunset with Ruth on Kayak

LNK portrait

Gribbun cliffs on the left, great light
Craigs Landrover parked by LNK at dusk

Goldie through the conifers...

What a bird...

WTE, blue wing tag, female at Ardmore
On an overcast afternoon Ruth and I did a couple of small walks near by starting with the creator walk which is near the Mishnish lochs and is a small climb to a creator loch. A few Meadow Pipits and Ravens on the way up and 2 Ringtail Harriers at the top! Had our packed lunch by the loch and headed back down in the light drizzle. We headed to the west end of the lochs and did another small climb looking over Loch Frisa. A male Harrier appeared from over the crag and Ravens overhead were interacting with their variety of calls. A single Kestrel appeared briefly as well.

SEO, one of six seen in a two hour evening spell

Looking across to Isle of Iona and its famous Abbey...
My friend Rachel from Dumfries and Galloway came to visit for a couple of days and on Tues 3rd we headed down the south part of the island with Craig. We took the scenic route from Salen to Burnessan and with the fresh snow fall the scenery was excellent. We visited the beaches at Fidden briefly and at Fionnphort I got a 2nd year Glaucous Gull near the ferry terminal. Driving back through Glen More we got a displaying Golden Eagle which was Rach's first eagle. She was convinced it was just a Kestrel though!

Durat Castle with Cal Mac ferry snowy western highlands

Durat castle panoramic 

Tobermory looking north
The first SLS trips of season were here starting with a 4 hour on the 1st April. It was a good start as we got 4 WT Eagles in flight together, a single Goldie, Porpoise, GND and Seals. A 7 hour trip a couple of days later in calm overcast conditions produced our first Manxies of the season and also Puffins. We got Porpoise and WT Eagle and it was great being out around Coll again. One of the passangers on board Angella was sea sick for most of the trip and she was very enthusiastic about birds and in perticular Owls. she had never seen a Short eared Owl and was desperate to see one so I offered to take her out after the trip to go and look for some owls. We headed off at 5ish to a vast open moorland not far from Tob. We parked up and straight away we seen a SEO working the heather! We stood and watched on as we got some fantastic view of SEO and 6 in total as I mentioned at the top of this post. Also courtship behaviour and calling from a male bird which again was the first singing from a SEO that I had heard. 3 Hen Harriers showing also with a Male bird harrasing A Red Deer stag producing display calls while doing do as the Deer was obviously grazing too close to the nest site. We watched on as 4 Deer worked there way closer to where I seen a Ringtail drop in and at this stage the Male was nowhere to be seen as 4 huge stags were feeding all around the site.
We headed back after an amazing couple of hours and as I stopped to take a picture of a Raven before realising I didnt have my camera, gaad I left it back where we were watching the owls! I headed back in the car and there the camera was lying on the side of the track, lucky. I am getting so forgetful I think if you had to screw your limbs in place every morning I would just forget too and roll down the stairs ready for the day ahead.
Got back to the flat to find Lydia and Ruth there and we watched Lost Land of the Wolves with Gordon Buchanan. As we watched it I kept thinking about those Deer by the harrier nest and how much Mull could do with a few Wolves to balance things up!

Fulmar showing well from boat

Beautiful bird...
Thanks for looking, our Sealife Survey trips will be going out on a daily basis now so please follow us on Facebook or Twitter for sightings and photography updates throughout the season. cheers