April 2009

On the 4th a Merlin was flushed from a hillock beside the farm road half way between Treshnish and Haunn cottages and later a Wood Pigeon was in the same area. No Woodcock have been seen for several weeks and must have left for their breeding habitat in open conifer woodland.

On the 5th Dog’s Mercury (-32), Wood Anemone (-11), Great Wood-rush and Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage (+10) were flowering in Treshnish wood. Lungwort (+21) an introduced species, presumably by the previous owner, was also flowering there. These differing early flowering dates are probably only be due to irregular walks in this area and improved recording of the smaller flowers. Golden-saxifrage certainly lives up to its name at this time of year with the golden flowers brightening up patches of the woodland floor. At Ensay Burn mouth Common Scurvygrass (-10) was flowering abundantly, splashing the cliff with white bloom. The previous earliest flowering was seen in the more sheltered mouth of the ‘Whisky cave’.
On the 5th a Raven was heard next to a large nest close to where a Buzzard attempted to breed 2 years ago. The only two other known Raven nests in this area are on cliffs.
On the 5th 3 Eider Ducks including two drakes were resting on the water at the mouth of Ensay Burn and a Great Northern Diver came very close to shore. It was still in full winter plumage but would have made a great photo. I took a lot of shots but unfortunately I did not have the telescope for digi-scoping! 2 pre-breeding plumaged Cormorants were close by and the clear white patch around the bill which separate it from the much more common Shag was visible. In flight at this time of year the adult Cormorant can also be told apart from Shag by the white thigh-patch visible on the body by the rear of the wing but this disappears my mid summer (from June). The flat forehead of Cormorant is obvious on land but when the Shag is hunting the forehead and tuft can be slicked back making identification more difficult, then we are left with the help of the thinner bill of Shag. Juveniles can also be separated by the larger size of the Cormorant. In all plumages the Cormorant has a pale orange base to the lower mandible.
On the 5th a solitary Lapwing flew over Treshnish boathouse and the Fulmars were back on their breeding ledges at Treshnish Point. There were at least 20 on the sea and flying around the cliffs and 5 sitting on the north-eastern most ledges, this was 15 days before last year, 11 days after 2007 and 9 days before 2006. This is presumably dependent on weather conditions because in 2006 they were sitting on the cliffs as early as 14th March but left when the weather turned bad and did not return until 14th April.
How can one not be impressed by Fulmars? For a start they, along with Shearwaters and Storm-petrels are in the same family as albatrosses! All these species have a long external tubular nostril but the Fulmar is the only British member of this family to come to the nest during the day (diurnal). They spend almost all of their non-breeding life at sea (pelagic) but the most thrilling for me is their aerial dexterity. Watching them gliding with such ease as they aerobatic manoeuvres around their breeding cliffs one has to wonder, are they just showing off! And perhaps they are, to their mates but presumably they fly so close to the cliffs and then now and again down close to the sea to gain lift from air currents next to the cliff and sea. This seemingly effortless gliding and shearing is interspersed with occasional but such rapid wing beats, one hardly notices them. But whatever the reason this display must surely be the highlight of breeding seabird colonies. To me the gliding flight on stiff, straight wings reminds me of the Peregrine another favourite and master of the air.
Also on the 5th there was a constant stream of Kittiwakes passing south across the mouth of Calgary Bay. There is something special about Kittiwakes perhaps it is their pelagic nature which adds a sense of mystery but for me its also to do with their colour. They have no white in the all black wing-tips unlike the Common Gull and along with the slightly darker two-toned grey upper-parts it helps add to the ‘chill’ factor. The white in the black wing-tips of Common Gull may be difficult to see at a distance but the lighter grey ‘hand’ of the Kittiwake is visible from miles. Also on the 5th there was a Black Guillemot at Treshnish Point and a lone Guillemot flying around the point.
On the 6th Common Dog-violet (+20) was flowering along the roadside in Treshnish wood and Colts’s-foot was flowering on a shingle bank on upper Ensay burn. A Golden Eagle was seen on Ensay. Dipper breeds along Ensay burn near the two stone bridges but I have not been able to find proof of breeding despite concerted effort. The forthcoming breeding atlas distinguishes between probable and proven breeding so I searched early before the area is engulfed in bracken to see if there was any early breeding activity. Dipper is one of the earliest breeders but I saw not a single bird. There were however a pair of Grey and Pied Wagtails.
On the 8th Colts’s-foot was found in Treshnish wood near the Ensay burn cattle-grid and near the graveyard but there were no flowers. The sexual shoots of Field Horsetail had emerged near Ensay burn cattle grid. Marsh-marigold (+4) was flowering in Treshnish wood and Treshnish old boathouse and Butterbur (+8) was flowering profusely by the stream to the west of Ensay Burn mouth. Wild Thyme (-41) was flowering by Treshnish old boathouse. Cherry is flowering in Treshnish wood and Blackthorn, Eared and Creeping Willow are also flowering. Bog Myrtle has been flowering for at least a week. Did you ever wonder about the name of the ghost, which haunts the toilets at Hogworts school in the Harry Potter books? Myrtle, in the toilets…Bog Myrtle!
A new patch of Wilson’s Filmy-fern was found in Treshnish wood near the graveyard. I found my first patch last year on the eastern side of the first bridge between Burg and Kilninian. Then, once I knew where and what to look for (in very damp areas it is as small as the moss within which it grows,) it was fairly easy to find more. Lynne Farrell found this fern in 2005 on the walls of Dùn Aisgain at Burg but I could not find it there. After dry weather the fern dries and becomes difficult to find or at least I could not re-locate it on the Kilninian bridge on 17th May.
Also on the 8th a winter plumaged Great Northern Diver was very close in at Ensay Burn mouth, possibly the same as on the 5th. A Grey Wagtail was along the shore below Treshnish House.
On the 10th a Short-eared Owl was hunting after dark on the road between Calgary beach and Ensay.
On the 11th 2 Twites were around Haunn cottages and Lesser Redpoll were heard in Treshnish wood, the first record for this year of these returning local migrant. Several Willow Warblers were found in Treshnish wood. These were also the first records of the year for this summer migrant at Treshnish and a day earlier than our previous earliest year although Malcolm Ward a guest at East cottage, Haunn had found 1 near Calgary beach on the 10th. Malcolm continued to see Twite regularly outside of East cottage, Haunn between 11-17th.
Also on the 11th a Greenfinch and a Wood Pigeon were flying over Treshnish wood. Again the winter plumaged Great Northern Diver was in Ensay Burn mouth and a little further out were again 3 Eider Ducks, these are most probably the same birds that have been present since the 5th. 3 Greylag Geese were in the fields below Treshnish House. Last year there were up to 5 Greylags present on several days from 7th April to 24th May (when on the latter date they were joined by a Canada Goose). Near the cow-barn the usual flock of about 60 Starlings gather at dusk before their final flight to the cave roost at Treshnish Point just before sunset. At least 3 and possibly 6 Mountain Hares were around Treshnish old boathouse.
On the 12th Malcolm Ward saw a rare spectacle of a White-tailed Eagle (with yellow wing-tags) talon grappling with a Golden Eagle along the coast! He also saw 2 pairs of Kestrels along the coast and 2 Pipistrelle Bats at Haunn. Another poor night of moth-trapping with only 9 moths of 4 species.
On the 13th a Great Northern Diver was again around Ensay Burn mouth with another off Treshnish old boathouse. There was only 1 Fulmar on the cliffs at the west end of Treshnish Point with another flying around (the other parts of the cliffs were not explored). A Redshank was flying along the shore below Treshnish House to the old boathouse. A male Reed Bunting was at the usual haunt below Toechtamhor cottage. A Kestrel was making alarm calls at Treshnish Point and between Treshnish and Haunn cottages a Sand Martin was seen hunting (this was the earliest record for Treshnish – 5 days before the previous earliest in 2008). Near the cow-barn the usual flock of Starlings were gather at dusk on the electric wires.
Also on the 13th Malcolm Ward saw about 20 Manx Shearwaters during half an hour of sea-watching at Haunn, which were the first of the year for Mull according to Mullbirds website. The earliest date I have for Treshnish was 1st April 2006. This species would most probably have been seen earlier this year with more extensive sea-watching. Malcolm also saw 8 Black Guillemots and 3 Greylag Geese during this same sea-watch. A Mountain Hare was near Ensay Burn mouth.
On the 14th 3 Manx Shearwaters were seen between Treshnish Point and the Treshnish Isles. A few Fulmars were gliding around the cliffs at Treshnish Point and 3 Ringed Plovers flew backwards and forwards. A female Reed Bunting was below Haunn cottages. A Golden Eagle was seen over Cruachan Treshnish and 2 Drinker moth caterpillars were found near Reudle bog.
On the 15th 3 Great Northern Divers and 2 Greylag Geese were near Ensay Burn mouth and a Wood Pigeon was over Treshnish wood. Malcolm Ward saw the first Swallow near Treshnish cottages (4 days after previous earliest in 2007) and a Sparrowhawk in Calgary bay hunting over the sea! He also saw a Reed Bunting below Haunn cottages. There was a Red Admiral butterfly between Treshnish and Haunn cottages.
On the 17th a Merlin was seen briefly near Treshnish lochan and a Drinker and Ruby Tiger moth caterpillars were found at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
On the 18th because guests at Toechtamhor cottage have been putting down birdseed and 1 Twite, 2 Linnets and a male Reed Bunting were seen feeding there. A Whooper Swan flew northeastwards over Treshnish headland. The first Swallow was joined by a second and both have been here since and are exploring the barn. Peacock butterflies were seen near Haunn (also on previous 2 days), a white butterfly (probably Green-veined White was in the same area) and a Red Admiral was between Treshnish and Haunn cottages. Northern Dead-nettle was flowering in Treshnish vegetable garden. If my identification is correct this is an early date for the flowering of this species.
On the 19th 2 Collared Doves were in Treshnish house garden and flew eastwards over Treshnish wood and later 3 Wood Pigeons flew out of Treshnish wood. JP, a guest at West cottage, Haunn saw 2 Linnets behind the cottages. A Mountain Hare was beside the cow-barn. Cuckoo-flower (+19) was flowering by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. Water Avens (-4) is about to flower above Ensay burn cattle-grid and in the cattle-grid itself Medium-flowered Winter-cress (c. -10) was flowering where it has been for the last 3 years at least. A cotoneaster above the cattle-grid needs identifying. It was another poor night for moth-trapping. Brown Silver-line moths were seen in the daytime around Treshnish graveyard.
On the 20th a Whooper Swan flew north around Treshnish Point (4 days before my personal latest date for North Mull at Loch an Torr in 2007) and Bluebells (+6) were flowering by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
On the 21st an Iceland Gull was in Tobermory harbour and at one time circled the clock tower and chip-van calling out (Mullbirds website reports it has been since at least the 4th when 2 were present). 2 possibly 3 Peregrine Falcons also flew around the harbour area for a few minutes. 7 Sand Martins were hunting around Ensay Burn cattle-grid and 2 Eider Ducks were near Calgary beach campsite. JP saw 3 Eider Ducks and 4 Puffins from near Haunn.
On the 22nd a Red-throated Diver was off from Ensay Burn mouth. A Sparrowhawk was hunting along the cliffs at Treshnish Point. 30 Starlings were on the electric wires at the cow-barn. At least 1 Linnet and 1 Siskin were at Treshnish House. A Mountain Hare was seen above Treshnish boathouse, which is the best spot for this species. A large tabby-type cat was here the previous week but I didn’t get a good enough look at it. Now I know what to look for to identify Scottish Wildcat; separated rings (i.e. not joined to dorsal stripe) of the bushy blunt tail and lack of flank spots are the main diagnostic features. See http://www.scottishwildcats.co.uk/identify.html for more subtle characteristics. Yellow Pimpernel (-58) was flowering by Treshnish House burn.
On the 23rd at least 2 Siskins were again on the Treshnish House bird-feeder.
On the 24th a Wood Pigeon flew out of Treshnish wood. There has been no confirmed breeding in Treshnish wood and I have not heard it calling. A Sparrowhawk was over Ensay and a flock of 15 Sand Martins and 7 Barn Swallows were hunting and resting on the electric wires near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. This was the largest number of Sand Martins recorded at Treshnish. JP saw a Black-throated Diver from near Haunn and at 10pm from the cottages heard a Snipe and also a grouse calling (from the hill to the south), which she later identified as a possible Black Grouse. This would be the first Mull record since 1 in 1993 at Glen Forsa (Argyll Bird Report 10:39). The last record from Treshnish was of 2 at Reudle in 1990 (Argyll Bird Report 7:25).
Also on 24th Common Field-speedwell was flowering by The Studio, Treshnish. Bugle (-13) was flowering along the farm track in Treshnish wood and Smooth Lady’s-mantle (-9) was flowering in the same area and must have been flowering for a few days. The vegetative shoots of Field Horsetail were emerging near Ensay burn cattle grid. [As a beginner I am taking a stab at grasses, sedges and rushes and have tentatively identified Common Sedge and Field Wood-rush as flowering throughout.]
On the 25th 4 Twites were at Toechtamhor cottage and at Treshnish cow-barn and a Hen Harrier was on Beinn Duill. A Green-veined White butterfly was at Toechtamhor cottage and Welsh Poppies were flowering around Haunn cottages.
On the 26th there were 3 Sand Martins above Treshnish wood. A drake Eider Duck and a Common Sandpiper were at Ensay burn mouth (first of year, 6 days after previous earliest in 2006). Common Sandpiper is the most reliable of the returning summer migrants, arriving at about the same day each year. A Great Northern Diver in spectacular breeding plumage was near the shore to the west of Treshnish old boathouse and 2 Greylag Geese were below Treshnish House. Nick Evans and Bundy Riley, guests at East cottage, Haunn saw a Ringed Plover on raised beach beyond Haunn, 3 Twites at Haunn cottages (and throughout week – 25th April-2nd May). There was a Mountain Hare below the graveyard and at least 3 (possibly 5) near the Treshnish old boathouse with another by the cow-barn!
Also on the 26th Early-purple Orchid (-4) and Bitter-vetch (+1) were flowering along the stream immediately to the west of Ensay burn mouth and a patch of Thrift (+16) along the shore here was in full bloom and must have been flowering for a few days. Woodruff (-11) and Ramsons (-2) were flowering and Lemon-scented and Beech Fern and new shoots of Hard-shield Fern had emerged in Treshnish wood. Also in Treshnish wood, Common Twayblade was in leaf and the flowering stem was just emerging. Lousewort (+2) was flowering at Treshnish old boathouse.
On the 27th Sedge Warbler was heard in low-lying wet area below Toechtamhor cottage, Haunn and 2 Great Skuas were to north of the Treshnish Isles (to date, these are the first of the year of both species for Mull, according to Mullbirds website). The previous earliest date for Sedge Warbler at Treshnish was 5 days later in 2007. A Snipe was drumming below Toechtamhor. At least 3 Sand Martins were hawking insects over Treshnish wood. 3 Greylag Geese were below Treshnish House and a Grey Wagtail was near Treshnish old boathouse. There were 13 sitting Fulmars visible on cliffs on the east side of Treshnish Point with 5 more on the sea nearby. 2 Eider Ducks flew north around Treshnish point into Calgary bay. The Iceland Gull was still present in Tobermory (Mullbirds website).
Also on the 27th Early-purple Orchids were flowering on the slope up from the gully to west of the east-most nesting Fulmars. Sea Campion (+3) was flowering at Treshnish old boathouse. This is the host plant of the caterpillar of The Grey, a rare moth, which is found on Treshnish farm.
On the 28th at least 3 Sand Martins were over Treshnish wood. 2 Greylag Geese tried to land below Treshnish House but were put off when they saw me and continued into Calgary bay. 4 Golden Plovers were below Toechtamhor cottage and 4 Greylag Geese flew overland towards the north-east there. A Red-throated Diver was near Treshnish old boathouse and a Mountain Hare was near there. Jen and Tom Rochelle guests at Toechtamhor cottage, Haunn saw a White-tailed Eagle and a Golden Eagle over Treshnish.
Also on the 28th a Green-veined White butterfly was along the farm-track in Treshnish wood and a Drinker moth caterpillar was seen below Toechtamhor cottage. Herb-Robert (-14) was flowering in Treshnish wood and Heath Milkwort and Common Chickweed were flowering at Treshnish old boathouse. Marsh Violet was flowering below Toechtamhor cottage.
On the 29th Nick Evans and Bundy Riley saw 5 Golden Plovers at Haunn. They also went to Loch Frisa and saw 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Black-throated Diver in summer plumage and the White-tailed Eagles. At Glen Aros they saw a Merlin and a few Lapwings and at Calgary bay a White-tailed Eagle flying inland and 2 Great Northern Divers (1 summer and 1 winter plumage). At least 1 Cuckoo was heard at Loch Frisa. A Green-veined White butterfly was near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
On the 30th Nick Evans and Bundy Riley saw the first Whinchat of the year at Haunn (to date this is the first of the year for Mull according to Mullbirds website although 6 days after our previous earliest in 2007). They also saw 2 Golden Eagles over the hills around Calgary bay, a Sedge Warbler at Haunn, heard Snipe drumming at Haunn and saw a Peregrine Falcon at Haunn cliffs at dusk. Jen and Tom Rochelle saw a White-tailed Eagle over Beinn Duill. They also saw a Hen Harrier on an unspecified date between 25th April-2nd May above Crackaig.