Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A quick visit back to Mull...

I couldn't stay away from the isle for long as a couple of weeks after leaving I was heading back to Mull joined by Cain the Hollywell Birder and also Ashley Howe a student at Penrith studying Wildlife and Media. My main purpose of the visit was to do a RYA Powerboat course with the Hebridean Sea School. Cain was focusing on some night sky star trails and Ashley was doing some media work for his course.

We headed up early on Monday 12th after a traditional late arrival by Cain. On his funeral his coffin is going to arrive half an hour in with a post it note on top saying sorry I am late. Anyway we headed north in solid rain with the wiper blades doing overtime and we made it to the Green welly stop for some food before continuing through Glencoe which was still stunning even though we couldn't see any of it!
we safely arrived after seeing a GN Diver from the ferry and a great way to finish the day by borrowing Braveheart DVD from Cat next door. Best film ever along with Dumb and Dumber and Batman Begins.

Tuesday and poor forecast and constant rain as we headed out. We started at Tobermory harbour to look for the local Otter and as we were scanning Ashley got a Firecrest by Ledaig car park which ended up being the first record for the isle! Well done Ash a great find and hell of a start to the week. No Otter but we moved onto do a circuit of the north of the isle. As we stopped to admire the view near Loch Na Keal we had 2-3 Waxwing trilling overhead and 5 minutes later came one of mine and I am sure Cain and Ashley's best wildlife encounters as we watched a juvenile Golden Eagle circling back and forward before going into hunting mode for Rabbits over Killiechronan. It dropped onto one having it in its grasp before dropping the lucky bunny which ran back into its warren! Immense.
On the evening we did a night drive owl prowl to see what nocturnal beasties we could see and got rewarded with Barn owl, 4 Tawnies, Mountain Hare, Red and Fallow Deer. Watched Pirates of the Carribean 9 on DVD and pretty similar to their other movies to be honest with an action packed dramatic start all happy...a kerfuffle in the middle until it ends up great and everyone lives happily ever after!

Tobermory with Northern Lights taken a few weeks back during Octobers Aurora Season!
Wednesday was the start of my Powerboat course with Jimbo and a good first day focusing on safety and handling work of the RIB. The local Otter was seen in the pontoon and a few Waxwing overhead along with a Jay calling in Aros park. Clear spells in the sky meant it was essential to take advantage of so we headed to Glengorm where we got a faint aurora on the horizon, some great meteor displays and the milky way stretching from right across the sky! brilliant night! Greenstreet was the movie selection which is quite good actually all about football hooligans swaggering about kicking the crap out of rival firms.

Thursday and back to the pontoon for the Powerboat course completion with passage planning and anchorage sites. I passed the course and really enjoyed it. A female Sparrowhawk and the usual Ravens overhead were the pontoon sightings today. Ashley got some fantastic Otter footage for his project so that was great. Another very average predictable american film on the evening cant even remember the name. Thats why I love wildlife...so unpredictable and impossible to ever call what is gong to happen next. :-)

Friday and the plan was to get the last ferry home after exploring the isle a bit but it it was solid liquid sunshine flat out so we headed down the ferry terminal and were an hour and a half early for the next ferry so we just sat it out listening to Cains chav tunes with the rain coming down. As the ferry pulled up on the slip and with us first in a long cue, HB attempted to start the engine with no joy as the radio had drained the battery! We let everyone by and then tried to jump start it on the slip but it didn't happen so we watched the ferry depart without us on board even though we were over an hour early! Every attempt to start her sounded better as we eventually got it going in time for the next ferry. WT Eagle and Guillemot form the return ferry and a successful trip back to Cumbria after a great few days with excellent company!

Thanks for looking 8-)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Back to native Cumbria and visits to Lakeland...

An Article in the Scotsman regarding the spread of White tailed Eagles to their former range, fantastic comments underneath to go with the article.
http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/where-eagles-dare-sea-eagles-look-set-to-spread-their-wings-all-over-scotland-1-2613918 - superb comments

A great article by a naturalist highlighting the state of affairs in our countryside...

Are we failing to protect our most precious wildlife sites?


Went to the Solway with Dad on a lovely crisp day and we started at the old viaduct with landmass sticking out making a good vantage point watching the tide flood all around you. A good count of Shoveler and GC Grebes coming in with the tide. We moved onto the pools where we got distant views of the GW Egret before going to the Campfield hide where the day finished with a bang as we got a Merlin on a fence post and two Ringtail Harriers. On the walk back to the car we got a hedge hopping Male Sparrowhawk and a Tawny Owl sat on the barn door watching our every move before retreating back inside.

Looking west with the tide in flood...

View from the viaduct looking east...

North end of Bass lake...
A trip to our stunning national park later in the week with Dad who had to cover a few sites for his magazine articles. We came the Calbeck route to get some lovely views of Skiddaw and its snowy summit and we snaked our way down to Crummock and Buttermere. With the Autumnal colours still showing and snowy higher peaks making it a perfect time to appreciate the landscapes of the lakes and at a quiet time of year as well.
The first wildlife encounter was a Peregrine perched high up on a crag lit up by the crisp sunshine. Dad and I did a few autumn foliage shots around Derwent water as the Oaks, Birch and Larch were amazing. We headed through Keswick to finish at Bass lake and we got 12 Waxwings feeding on Rowan near the church in the centre. Bass lake itself had a raft of 12 Little Grebes, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallards and a few Cormoronts on the far side, gronking Ravens overhead. Lovely day in Lakeland.

Crummock water looking north, crsip day...

South end of Crummock water with snowy peaks and rays of sunshine...

Derwent water, Oak foliage lit up...

This picture is Oak-kay

A classic photo capture in Autumn...straight up the trunk, very effective...

Bass lake looking towards Keswick...
On the Saturday I arranged a walk in the lakes with two of my closest friends, Lee and Andy Mc. Lee's new dog Niko came as well and is a stunning Siberian Husky. We went to Aira Force as it is close by and also the autumn colours would be worth taking advantage of. The waterfalls were as impressive as always as we climbed up to the higher ground to follow the beaten track to the summit. Over half a dozen Ravens overhead on the way up and A Kestrel working the rough grass before a stooping Peregrine gave all 4 of us a huge fright as it appeared from over the brow even making the dog jump! Must of been doing over a ton it was pure sweet an that!...on a serious note it was pretty special and I was pleased Lee and Greevy got to experience it as well as we watched the bird travel south over Derwent water. I left some fruit loaf out for the Ravens and you could here the bird calling to each other "gronk gronk" "fruit loaf over here lads!" and they were straight in their like a bull to red rag! Love them!

We were back in Carlisle for 3ish and me and Andy covered a stretch of the Eden where we got a Pinkie in with 3 Greylags, 100 plus Lapwing in the fields and 6 Wigeon on the water. We headed to Gretna to catch the Starling roost and you can read all about that encounter in my previous post. 

Andy Mcgree delighted to be above Ullswater...

Greev and Stuz two of my oldest mates! great to be all together in beautiful Lakeland...

 A bit of fun to finish, How many British species can you get here?? The winner will receive a personal shout out on my next blog post to 10s of readers around the globe!

Here is that famous Common Dolphin encounter from October in the sound of Mull, strong associations!

Thanks for looking!, future posts are a trip back to Mull with HB the Hollywell Birder and also my top 20 Mull highlights of the season 8-)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Starling Murmuration at Gretna...

Pulling some shapes before roost, a single female Sparrowhawk for company also.

Numbers starting to build up with Andy doing an accurate count, 300,000 predicted but I was never that good at counting either!

Any ideas on what the shapes look like?? T-Rex on the left was my first thought!...and looks like
the batch of Starlings on the right are coming out of that guys chimney!
Thanks for Looking 8-)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Saying goodbye to Mull & 100th GWW Post!

I am typing up my 100th blog post and I am raising my keyboard to the readers. I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging for the last four years and I see it as a modern way of recording wildlife sightings and encounters from the traditional notebook format. If other people want to read my blog then that is a huge bonus. 

I started a wildlife blog back in 2009 along with my friend Gary after we were following the Wild about Mull blog based in the south of the isle and preparing for our own trip to Mull. My blog name was decided at a similar time when my brother Jamie arrived back from Australia and his present to me was signing me up to become a 'Wildlife Warrior' at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo helping to protect species and wild areas. I thought the name was fitting for my area of Geltsdale with all the intense illegal persecution the reserve has had to put up with from the surrounding 'Mordor' estates. 

click on photos for a larger scale...

WT Eagle and Raven feeding on some washed up Carrion...

Sunrise in Tobermory...
An Eco Cruz on the 3rd week of September in nice sunshine. A small personal trip with two teachers from Aberdeen and a photographer from Leeds. They were in for a treat as we encountered a pod of 40 plus Common Dolphins entering the sound of Mull and staying with us for over an hour. Even when we stopped the engines they still associated with us playing around the boat. Another trip that I wont forget in a hurry and very fitting for Ruth's last trip of the season! 

Glen More with building remains...

On the 21st-25th I had 5 days of inland guiding planned with Guy and Shonna Broome from Cumbria. It was photography based and the main objective was to target the main iconic species on the isle like Eagles, Harriers, Otters and Red Deer along with anything else we would encounter.

On the first day we started with a viewpoint at Glengorm to see the island as a whole to understand its habitat and landscapes. A brief view of a Male Harrier was seen before in classic fashion it disappeared over the brow. We moved onto a coastal walk and seen a brief Otter before it disappeared again in a flash! We spent a long time in mid afternoon driving around looking for opportunities but it ended up being hard work with the highlight been two Swallows at Laggan Bay before we took the Torloisk upland road getting nice views of a male Harrier. A Ringtail was seen shortly afterwards and we finished the day with great views of an Otter at Croig. 

Lochdon with hunters moon...

Calgary sunset...

Tob sunrise from higher up...
Day two and we headed down to Grass point first thing and the crisp morning light was stunning as we got Red Deer blending into the rough grass. A distant Otter at the point along with Twite, Redwing and Fieldfare. We took a break in the middle of the day as it can be quite flat and in terms of photography getting that nice light at ever end of the day can get some great images. We headed to the north shoreline on the evening to get the crisp westerly light on our side. A distant Otter and a distant GN Diver seen while we sat patiently   

Sunrise down the sound...

Mackerel sky at Calgary

Mackerel sky above Tobermory harbour...
Day three and Grass point again at dawn with more good Red Deer action. A super close encounter with a White-tailed Eagle feeding on washed up carrion on the shoreline was special. Unfortunately Guy was parking the car and missed the encounter. 
I was guiding on a 4 hour trip with Sea Life Surveys at half 11 and Guy and Shonna were keen to come on board as well so that was the plan for the afternoon as we headed out of the pontoon to a calm sea state in the sound of Mull. Our first encounter incredibly was a young Minke whale which came right into us. Our last whale was seen a month previous and traditionally they tend to move away at this time of the year. Some healthy groups of Porpoise were seen as well. On the way back in things exploded into life with two close WT Eagle encounters and when back at the pontoon while taking the team photo an otter swam meters away from us! What a trip and made so much more special that it was this late in the season. Brilliant ..as unpredictable as ever the magic of wildlife!

Popz getting Sula away from the Dolphin!

Spoilt for choice!

Struth and Sula scanning for Dolphins!

Sharky and I on her birthday

Ringtail working the rough grass...

Otter in Croig...

Redshank in Dervaig...
Day four and I had another four hour trip at half 11 so I drove down seperatly to meet Guy and Shonna at Lochdon where we got Deer, Otters and Eagles again at a distance. A group of 15 Jackdaws was a good record for these parts. I headed back up to Tob for the trip and again sunshine and low winds made for great conditions as we managed to bump into the young whale again along along with Porpoise, Eagles and Otters! Wow.  

Stag rounded up some hinds...

What a king!!
Day five and again crisp glorious sunshine with a bit of heat. We covered the south part of the isle this time and got three distant WTEs through Glen More. Loch Schriden produced a BT Diver and Mergansers. We were steadily driving under Gribun cliffs and on the verge was a Chough probing the short grass!! We had been reading about them in the bird report and it is the first record on the isle in 5 years!! They attempted to breed 10 years ago and failed so hopefully its a sign of attempts on the isle in the future. Slav Grebes on Loch Na Keal and round to Treshnish we checked out the dead Minke whale to see if there were any eagles on top of it but no joy and the unattached atlas bone was gone as well. 

A great five days with Guy and Shonna and some superb sightings with the highlights been a Chough and a young Minke whale! I really enjoyed their company and thanks to them both. I am sure I will see them back home in the autumn. 

Chough, Gribun

GN Diver in Eclipse
Mum and dad came up for a few days and sunshine on Monday so headed to the Ross of Mull on the south. WT eagles on the shore south of tob, lochdon fieldfare and redwing and a single Greenshank. Juv golden eagle going through glen more. Went to Finophort but did not bother with Iona and took south road to new territory of Carsaig. Crazy single track road with passing place very 500 yards! Dramatic cliffs all along southern stretch. Took dogs for little walk on the shore. Will be back to check out Carsaig arches! Male Harrier quartering rough grass roadside on way back and two Goldies off to roost through glen more.
Got a takeout from Goldon dragon Chinese and it was the worst food i have had in my life full stop. Utter crap and am not getting any foreign muck to take out again...They even screwed up the prawn crackers! nearly resorted to the weeks old moldy stuff in my fridge.

Fieldfare feeding on Rowan berries

Red Deer stag and hind blending in to the autumnal colours
The next day was wet but we covered a few sites starting with coastal walk at Croig where we enjoyed great views of otter hunting. Walked to small beach to west and it stayed dry. Headed to Calgary beach afterwards but rain came in heavy so quick walk on beach where we got ringed plover and Turnstone in small numbers.

Greenshank, Lochbeg
Had a couple of Eco trips on Sula Crion the following day where we got good porpoise action and superb Otters in the harbour. After the trips we headed down to Killiechronan for the evening and got 4 whoopers Swans landing on Loch Na Keal and also great views of the local Fallow Deer.
A meal at the Western isles and had good old fashioned Fish and Chips! lovely few days with parents and dogs and said goodbye to them on the morning.

Male Harrier, Ross of Mull
One last Eco Cruz on Sula Crion with a female Long-tailed Duck! Also good Porpoise action again. I headed for the ferry after the trip to go back to my native Cumbria after an another incredible season with Sea Life Surveys on Mull. I cant thank them enough for the experiences and opportunities.

Hunters Moon...used power of light before artificial light to target nocturnal species for survival through the harsh winters
Parents and dogs at Croig!
Young Minke in the sound! photo by Guy Broome
You can read head guide Ruth's excellent season review on the SLS web site here http://sealifesurveys.blogspot.co.uk/

Keep upto date with all Mull's sightings here http://www.mullbirds.com/LATESTREPORTS.html

Thanks for looking 8-)