Friday, 25 October 2013

Dark Mull...

I have created a new nightscape photography facebook page which you can see here...
https://www.facebook.com/EwanMilesPhotography

Here is my latest aurora photograph in the Daily Mail...
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2465828/Fireballs-streak-Scotlands-skies-SAME-time-Northern-Lights.html

A high pressure spell with a 4-5 day stretch of clear skies in mid October provided a great opportunity to do some dark sky time lapse sequences along with experiencing the night sky and potential northern lights as we are in 'aurora season'. 


Aurora with the trail of the stars looking over the Sound of Mull...


On Saturday 12th I was at Glengorm estate and after a spectacular sunset I was waiting for the stars to appear so I could capture the bronze age stone circle in the sequence. I try to do most of my photography during the 'blue hour' at dusk when the sky comes out a nice shade of blue on the camera as the sunset remains disappear. It was the second time I had attempted to photograph the stone circle and I chose a different angle looking north westerly and with a weaker 35% moon this time. I shot 300 frames and my star trail version can be seen below.
On the wildlife front there was a Barn owl calling along with Snipe and the bellowing Red Deer around the estate were incredible on a windless night.



Traffic trail down near Pennyghael...
Loch Schridain star trail...


On the Sunday night I managed to cover another four locations as the clear skies continued and my body clock was turning nocturnal. I received reports of a CME been released by the increasingly active sun and it was earth facing so I knew of a chance of aurora borealis been viewed in the days to follow. 

On Monday with a CME predicted to buffer earths atmosphere it meant I just had to work the north shore of the isle looking in a northerly direction. I got in place early and got a time lapse going from dusk to darkness and a green band appeared which really got going for a 5-10 minute spell showing a green high rising halo with the naked eye! During the strong display there was a huge flash which lit up the surrounding landscape and as I looked around to the south I caught the last second of a fireball burning up in the atmosphere! The biggest meteor I have ever seen!...what a spell!...I feel sorry for all those folk stuck in the pub that evening...nothing beats nature.
Solid cloud moved in as was forecast and I headed south back to Salen and continued to get reports of aurora activity so I headed to Salen pier for about 2am and staked out and hoped the forecast stayed true and the skies would clear. At around 3am the skies started to shift to the west and open up the starlit skies again and a nice pale aurora band appeared with dancing columns before easing off again at 4-5am. I managed a time lapse sequence and the star trail image can be seen above. 
I waited around for another couple of hours doing some stargazing while the camera was grafting and the sun started to appear to the east so I photographed the sunrise as well! what a great night...stunning sunset, stunning aurora, stunning meteors, stunning starlit sky and a stunning sunrise to finish.


Aurora at 21:30...In my experience the aurora seems to have more colouration when strong moonlight present

Glengorm stone circle star trail...
My aurora photograph in The Times newspaper...
Light pollution map of Europe...The Hebrides, Northumberland and D&G prime areas for dark skies...
The fireball at half 9 Monday night from Skye...photo courtesy of Marcus Mcadam
 
I got a couple of hours sleep on Monday during the day and I was fresh again for another night shift. I covered some sites in the south of the isle including waterfalls and boat wrecks which produced good points of interest. There was a full hunters moon (when huntsman used to use the strong moonlight to kill nocturnal species for a winter food source) to produce a nice painted landscape and shorter exposure times for my frames so I managed 6 locations throughout the night before retreating home at 5am. It was owl city on the night with sightings of Long-eared, Short-eared, Tawny and Barn owls.

Some great nights with the stars...An amazing atmosphere and I felt like the only person on the isle... 

I was contacted by the national media after my photos were seen on facebook and my aurora picture over the Sound of Mull made it into The Times and the Daily Mail which was a nice bonus. Thanks to Will Lyon for the story.

Ewan

Friday, 18 October 2013

Ptarmigan country...

Follow the movements of the fledged Hen Harriers satellite tagged on Langholm this year...
http://langholmmoorland.blogspot.co.uk/

An amazing article regarding Peregrines in Cumbria, a huge amount of information from over the years...

Icelandic whaling ends for season, 134 Fin Whales killed http://uk.whales.org/news/2013/10/bloody-icelandic-whaling-season-ends

Comet ISON is getting closer...
http://www.space.com/22960-comet-ison-solar-system-facts.html

Follow the Treshnish nature blog here with a frequent update of Mull wildlife sightings, some amazing photos of Golden Eagles included in recent posts
http://www.treshnishbirdlog.blogspot.co.uk/

On Saturday 12th the weather was fantastic so an early start just after sun break to cover the river Aros to monitor/photograph the Dippers there. I have spent a few mornings down there and enjoyed good views of the birds along with Grey Wagtails showing well. Territorial behaviour seen between two Dippers and interactions between the Grey Wags. I always struggle to get good shots of the Dippers as there constant movement along with them been black and white which makes the correct exposure difficult. I got a nice shot of a Grey Wag which can be seen further down.


Grey Wagtail river Aros...


Peacock, Ardmore

In the afternoon I headed north to cover my old local patch of Ardmore, and what a place it is. A pair of WTE overhead when on route down the forestry track. Two species of Butterflies enjoying the sunshine with a Peacock and Red Admiral seen. 8-10 Crossbills overhead along with GS Woodpeckers and Siskin. I had a rest in the woods as I was tired from a long night shift with the stars and when I woke up there was a Common green grasshopper sat on me and as I looked up a lovely Red Deer stag was watching me from near by as I managed a few shots before it moved on.



Red Deer stag...

I headed to the west across to Glengorm estate for the golden hour, sunset and blue hour at dusk when sky is a nice dark blue for photography. I got down the the flat rock on the shoreline and the sunset progressed very nicely with wispy cirrocumulus/altocumulus clouds moving into  soak up the colour. It ended up being potentially the best sunset I have ever seen and I managed to capture a few shots of it...just stunning. While I was admiring the spectacle a dog Otter swam right past me before doing there classic disappearance act. 
As the sunset eased off I headed up to the stone circle to get a time lapse going for my MULL@NIGHT project. 5 Mountain Hares were seen on route and a Barn Owl calling later on. The sound of the nearby bellowing Red Deer was incredible on a windless night! Snipe were also calling in the vicinity. Look out for my latest post on my night time happenings.



Sunset from Glengorm on Saturday...


Another shot slightly earlier as sun as dropping...
Harbour Seals with a Grey Heron in the back drop...


WT Eagle...a good size comparison...

On the Sunday I was invited to go on a walk with Start and Ruth from Mull Magic with the main focus been looking for Ptarmigan around the Ben More mountain range. While driving along the south side of Loch Na Keal Stuart spotted Otters on the shoreline which ended up being a bitch and two clubs interacting with each other. We started the ascent through the boggy lowlands and up to the bracken and heather lines. Meadow Pipits and Wrens and also a Red Deer stag on the skyline. As we reached the scree line we started the search for clues and as Stuart pointed out Club Fir Moss in abundance (food source for Ptarmigan) that was a good start.
Next Ruth found feathers from a Ptarmigan and Start found droppings which were fantastic signs. Golden Eagles hunting low over the summits was another sign that they were looking for something. 8-10 Twite were seen and three immature WTEs riding the thermals together. We did not see any Ptarmigan on the day but some great signs of the birds and an amazing experiecne been up in their harsh environment. Thanks very much to Stuart and Ruth from Mull Magic for a great day. 



On the summit of Beinn a'Ghraig looking over Loch Na Keal...


Adult Goldie...


Looking across to Loch Ba...


Searching for Ptarmigan...

The season has just about come to a close here on Mull...here is a Sea Life Surveys team photo of 2013...


SLS team for 2013 - back row - Andy t, Ruth Mcgee (volunteer), Ruth Abernethy, Ruth Molloy, Richie, Jayne, front - myself, popz, maggie and Jimbo plus kids.


Thanks for looking. 

Ewan

Monday, 7 October 2013

Muck, Soay, Skye and Rissos...

Time to sign...need to push on
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46473

Unbelievable political decisions in Sweden...disgusting

http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/10/03/sweden-to-introduce-major-cull-of-apex-predators-including-golden-eagle-lynx-wolverine-bears-and-wolves/

A potential new species of Owl!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/24374313

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

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/seals-propellers.html

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


Froglet...

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


Kittiwake...


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 http://www.s1jobs.com/job/494215673.html. 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...

Ewan

Thursday, 3 October 2013

MULL@NIGHT - Glengorm, Duart & Salen Bay

I covered another few sites for my Mull@Night project which were well known places on the isle in Glengorm, Duart and Salen Bay. 

On Glengorm estate on the 20th September it was 15% cloud cover and a 95% harvest moon to work with for the night. The main point of interest I chose was the standing stones just down from the castle as I thought with the motion of the cloud and the strong moonlight it would be an eerie effect for the bronze age structure. 

I shot 300 frames using an exposure of only 10 seconds because of the strong lunar light. I used my 10mm fisheye lens, aperture 2.8 and ISO 1600. 

The strong moonlight lit up the landscape nicely but then it produced a lot less stars on show so the balance was not quite right. The stretched fish-eye frame can be a nice effect but I will not use it every time as I don't think it always produces a natural view of surroundings and I think it is always important to keep the realism in photography. I may be back to the standing stones to do another sequence in the next few weeks.

On the 30th September I did Duart castle and Salen bay on a lovely full starlit sky with no moonlight present. I did 200 frames on the castle and apart from Lismore lighthouse providing a bit of light for the building it was not quite enough and it was more of a silhouette. I was hoping to capture some boat traffic working the sound of Mull but it was quiet. I did capture some iridium flares flashing across the sky which came out nice.  

I headed north to Salen bay at about midnight just as Jupiter was arising to the east. One of the most popular places to photograph on the isle has to be the boat wreck at the bay and this was a great place to start. I shot 50 frames before my battery died and it was a good trial to get the best angle and position as I will be back again later in the month.

A strong CME hit the earths magnetic field on the 2nd October producing a strong aurora display seen in some parts of Scotland but solid cloud on Mull prevented any viewing.

Salen Bay boat wreck star trail...

Duart castle...

Glengorm standing stones...fisheye 10mm
Ewan