Sunday, 29 September 2013

Living outside the rat race...

Why focus on endangered species around the planet when some of our very own British predators are under severe threat like Hen Harrier and Wildcat...
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/09/13/willie-or-wont-he-prince-william-to-take-up-work-with-animal-charities/

A disturbing read and moving video regarding the state of Peregrines in their native upland haunts in England...
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/09/17/bowland-raptors-the-final-solution/

A very rare Cetacean sighting in Irish waters...
http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/trues-beaked.html

Interesting discovery about Goldies breeding maturity age...
http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/young-eagles.html

The village diaries of Kilchoan here... 
http://kilchoan.blogspot.co.uk/

Rachels latest article on the Kestrel ...
http://focusingonwildlife.com/news/windhover-woes/

Another update mainly focusing on marine excursions with Sea Life Surveys as we have had a few great late season trips taking place. On the 14th of September we had a Whalewatch Explorer in lovely sunshine as we headed out towards Coll. The highlight was 2-3 Minke whales surrounding Sula Beag drifting with the engines off. One whale was identified as Wrinkle who has been seen at least 5 times this season. 
There has been some good movement of GN Divers heading south on the second week of September and a pair settled in Ardmore bay. I got onto a skein of 300 plus Pink footed Geese heading south over Coll as well. 


Gannet over the Carins...

Commons approaching Sula Beag

Our female White-tailed Eagle...we have followed the ups and downs with the pair since they first bred

WTE...

Harbour Seal in moult...

Minke whale surfacing, Ardnamurchan in the back drop...

Minke we know as Wrinkle...seen at least 5 times this season

Suil Ghorm lighthouse with Harbour Seals hauled out in the foreground...

On the 17th there was no trips but we were set a mission to retrieve a detached Basking Shark satellite tag which was recorded washed up on the most inaccessible shoreline on the isle in Ardmeanach peninsula right on the point...also known as 'the wilderness'. The tag will hold valuable data and also be valuable cost wise! Myself, Ruth and Richie headed south at about lunchtime equipped with a gps to pin point the tags location. 
It is a 7 mile walk to the famous fossil tree with the tag been recorded in the next bay round. 

We traveled in Richies pickup to drive further down the track and cut off hiking time to only an hour or so from the point. We tried to get greedy and travel even further down the track but when we parked up a rechid old crofter came stembling out of his house and sent us back east. As he was telling Richie I was putting my boots on and lost another buckle so got richies knife and tried to pierce a hole through the leather and followed through slicing my finger with a deep cut. Luckily Richie had a first aid kit at hand and I wrapped it up well as we set off on the stunning coastal stretch. 


On route to the fossil tree...

A convocation of Goldies overhead!

We had a break about half way through just before the walk drops down to shore level and three Golden Eagles appeared right overhead! A pair of Ravens were working the cliff face while a few Rock Pipits were calling down at water level. We hit the site on high water and had to take shoes/socks off and wade a few parts before making it to the fossil tree and being less than half a mile off the bay we discovered that it just was not accessible by land on any state of tide so gave up and headed back. A great walk and challenge in one of the most beautiful places on the isle.
The plan now is to head round to Ardmeanach using a RIB on Wednesday 25th in the morn to see if we can retrieve the tag...watch this space.


Ruth next to the fossilized tree...

Common Dolphin adult and calf surfacing seen on the 20th Sept...

A couple of days later we had a four hour wildlife adventure trip and bumping into a group of 25 Common Dolphins was a nice surprise. A healthy number of calves and juveniles included which was a good sign. Other sightings included Porpoise, WT Eagle, Golden Eagle, Arctic Skua and good feeding Gannets..another great autumnal excursion! 

Ewan

Monday, 16 September 2013

MULL@NIGHT

I have started a project for this autumn/winter on the isle of Mull to photograph the night sky in 20 iconic locations on the island. I will be doing this for a number of reasons including to help improve my photography skills in the challenging conditions of the night time environment. Also to help me increase my knowledge of the night sky and all it has on display including the constellations, individual stars, meteor showers and the unique experience of the aurora borealis.
Another reason is I hope to promote night sky viewing on Mull using the still images and a time lapse sequence. If the completed result is up to standard it will hopefully be displayed in the cinema room at the Tobermory harbour visitor centre along with other locations and also online. 
The main reason to do it is because I love being out in a wild area under a full star lit sky. The experience takes my breath away every time (sometimes because its that cold!) and I always feel so relaxed and peaceful like I am the last person on the planet. Astronomy fascinates me, not just to look at but to think about...we know very little, that is the beauty. 



Star trail and sunset remains with boat traffic...

My first location was from earlier in the season from the north shore of Mull looking across to the Ardnamurchan peninsula. I was wanting to capture boat traffic going up and down the sound of Mull along with a potential Aurora display. I shot 160 frames and managed to get the motion of vessels underway but no dancing lights. The great thing about photography is you can always improve your results and I might head to the location again at some point.

My next location I chose was Tobermory on the 9th September because of the conditions with no moon light present I shot a location with artificial light. It was difficult getting the balance right between exposed street lights and enough stars visible and my result was a slightly over exposed urban lighting to produce more stars in the frame. Another problem I had was the strong artificial light enhancing the dust spots on my sensor causing blemishes in the frame which was very frustrating. After a light cleaning of my sensor it seemed to improve results a small amount. A Barn owl flying right over my head a few times added to the experience along with 2-3 fledglings calling from the near by crag. 




The higher ground looking over Tobermory...


My third location I photographed was on the 13 September and with a 35% moon crescent on my back and 25% cloud cover I chose Aros castle to give a bit of natural painting on the building and a bit of dramatic cloud to create a nice effect. I had a problem with condensation even with the heat packs as there was low lying mist and a lot of vapour in the air but quick intervals throughout the sequence meant I hopefully got away with it. I captured an iridium flare and a bit of air traffic to add to the interest. I was joined by Rachel French and while the camera was automatically shooting frames we did some constellation ID work.
On the wildlife front we had Greenshank and Curlew calling at dusk, Pipistrelle bats which seemed to appear from their castle roost site and Barn and Tawny owl calling later in the night.



Aros Castle under the stars...the main constellations on show include Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Hercules, Corona Borealis and Lyra with the brightest star Vega...


More updates on MULL@NIGHT results will be published int he coming weeks...

Ewan

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sula

A very sad time on the isle of Mull last week as on Thursday 5th September Sea Life Surveys famous dog Sula was hit by a car and died instantly. 

The early years with Sula in her life jacket...

I first met the beautiful Sula in 2010 when I started working for SLS and she was great company for me when leaving home as she would help make up for missing my two border terriers back in Cumbria. My early memories would be on mornings before a Whalewatch at Taigh Solais seeing her jump out of Popz's car to come and greet everyone with that cute little teddy bear like face running towards you. A noise I will never forget is the sound of her feet and claws trotting along the wooden pontoon at the start and end of every trip, it will stick with me for life.



Popz and Sula scanning the seas...

As I came back for a second and third season on Mull I would (like a lot of people) be attached to Sula spending long hours at sea with her as she would provide fantastic company to all on board. I will always remember being sat alone on the bow with her as we would be sailing into the cairns of coll and I would be waiting to drop the anchor and Sula would be interacting with the seals.


Myself and Sula...

I remember when she used to chase flies in the saloon during Popz's introductory talk making everybody laugh. The passengers would grow fond of her throughout the trips taking lots of photos as sometimes it would seem that they would give more attention to Sula than the wildlife on show!


Ruth and Sula on the bow watching Common Dolphins

Another memory is when she turned up for work one morning covered in honey as Popz explained that she got into one of his bee hives and had a forage. She would still be covered for the next few days as Popz just let it come off naturally. 


On the way back from the Cairns...

At the end of every trip as we pulled up to the pontoon Sula would always be first off as she would head up the ramp and have a sniff around and do her business  As it was time to head out to the mooring Popz would stand on the aft deck and scan the area and say 'wheres that girl?' before raising his fingers to his mouth and blowing a very powerful whistle and within a few seconds she would always appear at the top of the ramp sprinting down the pontoon like a bullet before leaping on board Sula Beag (named after the great dog).


Popz chasing Sula and Sula chasing a Dolphin!

On the 9th September we had a Whalewatch and Popz's wife Judy was on board to pay tribute to Sula. We arrived at the sunny Cairns of Coll for lunch and all signed a memorial card for Sula and had a glass of champagne while Judy sang a beautiful song. In the afternoon we encountered up to a hundred interacting Common Dolphins in two separate pods as we could hear their clicks and whistles from the bow. A fitting tribute to Sula...

Photos and messages for Sula from all around the world flooded in to Sea Life Surveys facebook page which you can view and contribute to here...https://www.facebook.com/sealifesurveys


Jimbo with a very young Sula...photo by captain Lewy

We will miss you Sula thanks for all the happy memories :)

Ewan

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Whales love the rain...it tickles them

M&S to sell Grouse meat in London. Read the letter of reply from a representative of the supermarket chain... 
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/08/31/marks-and-spencer-grouse-sales-to-the-public/

Mark Averys blog post on the M&S decision clearing up the points on why it is such a controversial move...
http://markavery.info/2013/08/20/marks-spencers/

The start of the badger cull...please sign the petition...people power always wins...anyone can get involved and make a difference...
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257

First WTE chick fledged on the east coast in over a century! great news and well done to all involved. Work will only be done when they have colonised the whole country again.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-23761051


Shooting star over the Ardmanurchan peninsula

Basker off the shore of Coll...

A mixed bag of weather in August and I was flat out with SLS trips throughout. The main bird records of interest were an Adult Med Gull off Calliach point on the 6th. A non breeding GN Diver on the 15th. Wader movement on the 23rd consisting of 25 plus Ringed Plovers, 10-15 Dunlin. Had a White Wagtail at Treshnish on the 17th. A solitary Sooty Shearwater off Glengorm on the 28th. 

Richie doing sunset seascapes at Glengorm...

Common Dolphin off west Coll...

The highlight of the month was the visit of Gary Storey who was crewing with SLS for the week. On the Sunday we had short trips with a jabbly sea state and a Minke whale at the entrance to Tob harbour was the surprise sighting of the day. 
On the Mondays whalewatch we had a Minke off Coll and some good Basking Shark sightings which really increased and came in shore as the month progressed. 
Tuesdays WW was one we won't forget as over 150 Common Dolphins interacted with us in 2-3 separate pods. Healthy sharks again along with storm petrels and arctic skuas in hunting mode. 


Gstoz and I in a sea cave at treshnish...

On the Wed it was an inland field session which consisted of Goldies and fledged juvenile in flight along with a fourth bird (a convocation of eagles!) Common Hawker, Common Blues and Small whites along Loch Ba. Twite, that White Wag and a lot of rain at Treshnish as we sheltered in a cave and shot some seascapes. 
Great to see Gary again as he had to leave early because of the 5 day return calmac tickets. A very close friend, always learn from the lad and will see him again in the aut/win. 


Garys capture on board - https://www.facebook.com/GaryStoreyPhotography

Myself surrounded by Baskers!

Top shot - Bottlenose dolphins finding air time in the sound of Mull. Photo
 captured by Ruth Molloy


Great shot by John back in Geltsdale...


Great video by Andy tait of Wrinkle the Minke whale who came into see us...what a blow!

Raise the Ruth...

We said goodbye to Ruth Abernethy on the isle after she crewed for another season with SLS. Her big smile and positive nature will be very much missed around the place. She is a very practical lass who is always keen to head out in the field. Look forward to seeing her again for the end of season get together and also for some geese and starling action down in the borders this winter. Also many happy returns for sunday winky hope you had a good day!

Ewan