Sunday, 12 May 2013

Copulate to Populate

A positive headline from Ireland with the first WTE chicks hatched in over a century...
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/05/08/irish-white-tailed-eagle-reintroduction-historic-landmark-success-as-the-first-chicks-in-110-years-hatch/

Watch iconic breeding raptors live from your sofa, not quite as good as the real thing but ideal for when its raining outside! 
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/05/07/live-web-cams-from-around-the-world-updated/

After getting over 30 ticks on me this article appeared in the media regarding the lack of awareness in the potentially deadly parasite. An important read...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22468181

Cain's Northumberland Dark Sky Project was published on the BBC web site showing his best images from the winter months where he committed a lot of hours capturing the night sky...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-22437365

Spring is struggling to arrive with below average temperatures, a high amount of rainfall and moderate to strong winds. Not ideal conditions for the commencing breeding season and for the demand for our SLS boat trips.

Some good records on the isle in recent weeks have been a Blue-headed Wagtail at Calgary found by Mull Magic, Cock Snowbunting at Glengorm, Dotterel on Iona and Ben More, A pair of Shoveller and a White-billed Diver in Loch Na Keal found by Mull Charters. Check all Mull records here...http://www.mullbirds.com/LATESTREPORTS.html

Still concentrating on a couple of Harrier territories and numbers are starting to build in the vicinity with more birds seen on every visit and some great views of copulation. One site which had a single male on five out of my seven visits (22 hours of field viewing) now is joined by a female as display flight has been taking place and display calls. No Short-eared Owl sightings in the last fortnight which could be an indicator of vole populations. I will write a more detailed article about my Harrier observations in the next few weeks. 


Harrier recordings...


Female Harrier and a Raven in flight over Mull...

A couple of trips out in free time with the first at Caliach point to do some sea watching on the look out for early Minke whales and a possible Skua passage. No Sign of Cetaceans and just Great Skua seen. The highlight was a Male Merlin flying low on the grazed grass right in front of me. A Jay was seen near Croig as well along with a White-Wagtail. 
I headed out with Rach to cover the south part of the isle with the main focus on Harrier numbers at anything else in general. Four females and a grey male were seen during our circuit and a pair of Peregrines holding territory as well. 



Aros Park...

The water in full flow on the isle...

On one particular SLS four hour trip we had amazing WT Eagle territorial action as an immature bird flew over the birds patch and the male performed amazing vocal yelping before taking flight and grappling with the young bird right over the boat! Peter Musson was on board who is a great guy and an SLS regular and you can check out his web site here www.petermussonphotos.com

On the first Friday of May I went with two lovely American ladies down to Iona for some general guidance of wildlife and information of the isle. Persistent rain throughout did not dampen our spirits as we got the ferry across to the famous isle. Corncrakes heard on route to the isle and with the vegetation slow in promoting a couple of birds were showing very well. We paid into the abbey to get a tour which I wasn't really too bothered about but it was a handy place to get shelter from the heavy rain. There was a few people in their doing prayers and trying to find a connection of some sort but all I could hear was the construction workers outside shouting "pass me the f##kin spirit level chief!" Anyway a beautiful old building full of history.

We saw 5 Whimbrel on the way back and 3 Golden Plover. Also a Female Harrier getting mobbed by Curlews. The ladies got the ferry back to the mainland from Craignure and I had a great day and really enjoyed their company. 



SLS team 2013...andy t, Ruth, Lippy, popz, Jimbo, jayne, richard and myself

SLS's Sula Beag was charted out for island baggers for a few days last week as we took them to some remote isles off the west of Mull so they could add the sites to their list. The weather was constant rain again on every trip and big seas as well to add to the challenge. The wildlife highlight was two Pom Skuas heading north in between Treshnish point and the east side of Coll. Cracking birds and great views. A single little Tern off Gunna was also seen. 

My parents and the dogs were up for a few days earlier this week and it was great to see them and have a nice relaxing time together. An evening out with dad got us at least 6 Hen Harriers in close proximity with sky dancing seen as well. My first Whitethroats were seen and heard and a near by pond had healthy numbers of Palmate Newts in. 

On the Wednesday I took Tim, Alice and Katie around the isle who were up from Cumbria and family members of one of my best mates Martin. Constant rain with very little break made it hard to see any eagles as we enjoyed nice views of Red Deer and GN Divers. The highlight for me was a reverse waterfall at Balmeanach which was blowing vertically straight up in the air from the uplift of strong gusts...amazing sight. 



Manxie taking flight...

Manxies...

New kitwear for the season...Dont find this fancy clobber in a lost property box

The following day was a 7 hour Whalewatch with a moderate easterly wind. We covered the Ardnamurchan grounds and watched superb feeding build of Shearwater, Kittys, Auks, Gannets and other gulls. After navigating the area for a while John (Ruths uncle) spotted a whale off the stern and it was the first of the season as all 16 on board got a sight of the mammal! A fantastic experience after tracking the feeding birds and getting rewarded with a magnificent Minke! Good porpoise and eagles made for a great all round trip. Watch Andy Taits video of the minke encounter here...ignore the moron with the bobble hat on... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94RLYTsCc_g&feature=youtu.be


Ruth with John pointing at his well earned Mars bar, Popz looking
 on with Andy scanning

Shearwaters off Ardnamurchan point

Skating over the sea...

Heavy rain the following day as myself, parents and dogs headed down to new ground at Croggan and Loch Buie. Four Harriers on the way down while travelling was great work and with the eagles well hunkered we concentrated on coastal species with good RT and GN Divers. Black Guilimots paired up and Gannets and a single Guilimot. A close Whimbrel roadside was also seen. The best sighting of the day was bumping into Ruth, Patsy and John (legendary auntie and uncle) down at Loch Buie. Together we attempted to walk to the stone circle but the crossing field was a muddy bog as we retreated back to that car after a few hundred yards! A failure but a good laugh any how!



male RB Merganser on Loch Spelvie...

Freshwater Loch Uisg

The  next morning I said goodbye to my amazing parents and hopefully will see them back on the isle later on in the season. I met Ste Hewitt and Barry in the pub, Ste is a mate from back home and the plan was to watch the FA cup final before heading out to see some wildlife as the rain was meant to clear. Always great to see the underdogs beat the wealthy money men and a good result for football in general. After the match Ste, Barry and Richard (new SLS office staff) all headed to a good traditional site to look for some eagles.


On arrival we had a Goldie in flight straight away and as we parked up to watch we saw some fantastic territorial behaviour with the male bird harrasing a Herring Gull before performing some superb sky diving displays. We enjoyed two goldies showing off their aerial skills before we headed west along the shore to look for Otters where we got 3 separate animals and great views as well. Working back we got 7 Mountain Hares along with Red and Fallow Deer. As the light dropped we had views of Tawny and Barn Owl showing v well roadside...After 3-4 days of persistent rain the wildlife really did come out to play on Saturday evening...what a fantastic few hours viewing! Hopefully see Ste back on the isle later in the season. 

Thanks for looking :)

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