Monday, 7 October 2013

Muck, Soay, Skye and Rissos...

Time to sign...need to push on

Unbelievable political decisions in Sweden...disgusting

A potential new species of Owl!

Boat props an increasing threat to our Seals and Porpoise...

On the 22nd of September my self and Ruth had a rare day off together so we headed out in the field for a good few hours. We walked along the estate track on Loch Ba before heading up to the higher ground towards eagle country. We came across a couple of fungi in the birch woodland which were of the Boletus group. Higher up above the tree line we found a Froglet resting on Sphagnum Moss and also a Fox Moth Caterpillar. A single Red Deer hind disappeared above the skyline as we tackled the scree towards the summit.   

Fox Moth Catterpiller on Sphagnum Moss...

Looking over Loch Ba and Ben More estate


We made our way up across the ridge and an adult Golden Eagle appeared to the west soaring above the skyline before dropping out of view. Sea Pink growing in the scree as we approached the summit of Beinn a'Ghraig and the visibility dropped down to 100m. The goldie came into view again as we retreated back down and we flushed a single female Red Grouse from the ling heather as well. As we made it back on the estate track we saw 6 Fieldfare take off from a Rowan and also a Common Hawker dragonfly. Back at the car there was Fallow Deer again and Crossbill chipping overhead. 

Birch Boletus...

In the Boletus group...

Good SLS trips on the Monday and Tuesday of the following week as we enjoyed views of Common Dolphins, Porpoise, Great and Arctic Skuas and healthy numbers of Gannets feeding. No sign of Eagles on the north side but a male Peregrine showing well on both trips.

A curious Bonxie checking out the boat

Gannet taking flight...

Commons off Ardnamurchan point


One particular Common doing air time side slapping constantly...

A close surface...

Male Peregrine...

On the Wednesday - Friday it was the pre-arranged SLS end of season staff trip to the isle of Muck for a couple of nights. We had an assignment to do first which involved heading round to Ardmeanach on the RIB to try and retrieve the detached Basking shark tag which was recorded on the inaccessible shoreline. 
We arrived in just over an hour and waded to the shoreline as 5 of us searched the weed and kelp on the high tide mark for a few hours to no avail. 
On the RIB trip up to Muck it was full of action as we spotted 6-10 Rissos dolphins off Calgary, (a scarce cetacean in these waters). Further north we saw Commons and Porpoise before arriving on the north side of Muck in the evening. 

Record shot of a Rissos off Calgary...

On the first morning the cloud cleared later than forecast and it was beautiful blue skies instead of beautiful starlit skies. It was a stunning sunrise over the western highlands with Greylag geese travelling overhead. I walked round to Port Mor to see Steve the Herring Gull before doing some sea watching looking towards Rum and Eigg. A cloud of Gannets feeding very hard along with Kittiwakes was seen but no Cetaceans than I could see. Redshank and Ringed Plovers on the shores. I enjoyed photographing a White-tailed Bumblebee feeding on a Devils-bit Scabious. 

White tailed Bumblebee feeding on Devils bit Scabious on Muck

We headed north on the RIB at lunch time and the first port of call was the island of Soay which has an old Basking Shark processing plant on it which ceased in the 1940s. The name Soay is an old Nose name meaning sheep island and the population peaked at 158 before the clearance of the land. In 2011 the population was just one individual! The island is also famous for having the first solar powered telephone exchange in the world. We stayed for about an hour and it was a good experience with amazing views looking north to the Cullins mountain range of Skye. 

We headed north east to land on Skye itself and the first time I would set foot on the Hebrides largest isle. I cant even describe how stunning the scenery was so I will leave it there. The only distraction was the 2-3 rescue helicopters patrolling the Cullin mountains with purpose. We all had a brief walk to Loch Coruisk to a breathtaking view point before boarding the RIB and heading south back to Muck.

Linnets on Muck...

I found out a few days later that close friend of the family John Hamer had tragically died on the Cullins of Skye with his body discovered on the Thursday (same day I was there). A true gentleman, experienced climber and all round naturalist. My thoughts are with Betty and Paul. RIP...

On our RIB ride back to Muck we bagged another great cetacean encounter with a Minke whale surfacing consistently off the south shore of Rum. Also a large group of Porpoise consisting of potentially 25 animals was a great sight. 

The next morning on Muck I covered the north shore with the highlight being eight species on wader...Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Oystercatchers, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Redshank and Dunlin. 

Great to experience a traditional way of life on the island. Whenever I arrive on the isle I feel like I have arrived in a delorean with Marty Mcly. There is 38 residents on the isle and it is privately owned by the McEwan family who manage it like an island farm. They are currently advertising for a primary school teacher there Around 6 children attend it! 

Dog Otter on Loch Na Keal just before saying goodbye to Ruth...

That weekend (28th sept) after an eco cruz I met up with Stuart Gibson and we headed up to Aros Park where he introduced me to the huge variety of fungi growing there. Some of the groups and species we saw were...

- Milcaps and fibrecaps
- Script Lichen
- Hedgehog fungus
- Russula
- Oak Galls
- Chanterelle 
- Beard Lichen
- Candle Snuff fungus
- The Deceiver
- Silly piggy back fungus
- Birch Polypore
- Jellybaby fungus
- Dog Lichen
- Tree Lugwort
- Crust fungus
- elastic saddle fungus
- coral fungus
- birch boletus
- frilly lettuce lichen
- ugly milk cap

Thanks very much to Stuart of Mull Magic I learned a lot from the fieldwork.

On the 29th Sept we said goodbye to Ruth after she finished her 5th season with SLS. Again it was a pleasure to crew alongside her for the third consecutive year as we must have clocked up a lot of sea time on Sula beag together! When I first started crewing for SLS in 2010 she was extremely patient with me as I learned the ropes and in the early days I would just observe everything she did in terms of crewing, assisting the skipper, guiding and how to deal with the people. She loves everything from Herring Gulls to Amphibians and has an excellent all round knowledge especially marine life where again I have learned a great deal from her. One of her biggest skills is the way she portrays information to people in a very natural and patient manner even if she is saying it for the thousandth time. Good luck Struth and thanks for everything.

Ruth doing her plankton talk...



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