March 2010

On the 31st there was a Golden Eagle over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
On the 29th there was a Common Shelduck at Lainne Sgeir and a Great Northern Diver opposite the ‘pink-pier’, Calgary bay and a flock of about a hundred Meadow Pipits near the Ensay Burn cattle-grid. The last time I saw large flocks of Meadow Pipits here was on about the 25th of February.
On the 28th at about mid-day there were 2 immature White-tailed Eagles flying west low over Treshnish wood and at dusk there were 2 Golden Eagles above Treshnish wood. A Curlew was calling near Treshnish wood. Colt’s-foot , Primrose and Golden Saxifrage were flowering at Ensay Burn mouth. The Colt’s-foot had obviously been flowering for a few days but the earliest date I have so far managed to ‘catch’ this early flowering plant is the 6th of April. Note the leaves have not yet appeared.
Primrose can be found flowering in mid-winter.
On the 26th there was a Redwing at Treshnish House (first for 3 weeks, which also were the last of the season) and there were 2 Greylag Geese at Haunn field.
On the 25th Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were singing at Treshnish House. 21 Rock Doves flew over Treshnish wood. Daffodils were flowering at Haunn.
On the 24th there were 2 Lapwings in the field below Ensay farm-house (these are probably from the 2-3 pairs which breed above the house). So far none have been found to breed on Treshnish farm. There were 2 Woodcocks in Treshnish wood and 2 Song Thrushes fighting there. This is the latest Woodcocks I have seen here. It is possible that these are Scandinavian birds left over from the cold spell as it is more likely that local birds will already be on their breeding grounds. 
On the 21st there were 4 Gannets flying across the mouth of Calgary bay (first of the year).
On the 20th a Wheatear, the first summer migrant, was seen just by the east corner of Haunn field. At least 7 Common Gulls were dive-bombing a Raven near the Common Gull colony at Treshnish lochan and there were a pair of Pied Wagtails at Haunn (the first of the year). There were also 2 Golden Eagles on Cruachan Treshnish. Between 6-20 of March JJ & ?J saw Golden Eagles every day along the Treshnish coast. Incidentally I noticed that Brèagha, the most adventurous of the satellite tagged White-tailed Eagles of Mull, has returned to the island, in fact she is the only one of the 4 here at the moment. Still no sign of the Rothes the Loch Garten Osprey heading north on migration and it looks like Mallachie, her sister, has either died or has lost or damaged her collar as there has been no apparent movement since the beginning of December. AM saw a Red Admiral at Croig.
On the 19th 2 Lapwings flew over Treshnish lochan towards Haunn. I could see no Wheatears along the road beside Calgary bay but there was a Turnstone at Lainne Sgeir. Sky Larks were singing at Treshnish farm (LS).
On the 18th a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were flying over Skoma field (the first of the year). JJ & ?J saw 3 Otters at Knock and Goldfinches at Treshnish House bird-feeder. In 2007/2008 Goldfinches were not present in the winter months at Treshnish but this year they have been coming to the massive bird-feeder there quite often and they were also noted as occasional in the winter of 2006/2007. In 2008/2009 Goldfinches were also present in the winter at Burg. Incidentally Greenfinches which only occasionally appear at Treshnish, appear to be resident throughout the year at Calgary.
On the 17th there were at least 13 Fulmars paired up on the ledges at Treshnish point, 2 Common Gulls were at the colony site at Treshnish lochan and a pair of Herring Gulls were perched near Haunn cottages – all signs of spring. A Woodcock was flushed below the cow-barn and a Snipe was calling at north of Reudle Schoolhouse bog. No Wheatears were seen along the Haunn-Crackaig coast (the area where they are usually seen first). A single Lesser Celandine (+5) flower was just opening at Dùn Haunn.
On the 16th and for the last couple of days Buzzards had been very vocal above Treshnish wood. An adult White-tailed Eagle was watched for 10 minutes between Rubh’ a’ Chaoil (Port Haunn) and path up to Crackaig (LS). The first flower buds of Dog’s Mercury were opening in Treshnish wood. This plant had visible flower buds as it unfurled above the ground on the 6th of March.
On the 15th there were 2 Wood Pigeons in Treshnish wood. At night 15 Mottled Grey moths came to a lighted window at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse and 21 came to the black-light trap which was on for only 3 hours. So a total of 36! This is my 4th spring of moth-trapping at Treshnish but I have never had more than 5 in one night before. There have also been large numbers of The Chestnut moth coming to light-traps in Scotland this spring with someone getting over 300 one night at West Lothian (2 traps). It seems likely to be a result of the extended cold weather followed by sudden warmer days. The Chestnut hibernates over the winter and so flies in the autumn and spring. To gets things into perspective, I have never had more than 8 Chestnuts in one night and my average for this species is 2 per successful night! A Mountain Hare was in our garden at dawn at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (our first).
I also had 1 Chestnut and 1 Dotted Border on the window (the latter only my second at Treshnish).
On the 14th there was a Golden Eagle on Beinn Duill. JJ & ?J saw Fulmars at Treshnish Point.
On the 13th I found my first neolithic flint at Treshnish. Our neighbour collects flints and finds them common in this area. I was surprised to find what looks like a small meat cleaning tool after kicking over only about a half dozen mole hills.
On the 12th there were a pair of Golden Eagles between Treshnish wood and Haunn both in the morning and afternoon so the female could not have laid eggs yet. There were a pair of Greylag Geese on the pond beside Duill cottage. Between 6-12 of March JJ & ?J saw White-tailed Eagles almost everyday from Burg to Treshnish Point and also at Caliach Point and Quinish Point and environs.
On the 11th there was a Mistle Thrush and Wood Pigeon in Treshnish wood, neither of which I have found breeding here.
On the 10th there was 1 Golden Plover flying around Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, 15 Rock Doves flying west over Treshnish wood, 1 Wood Pigeon, 1 Woodcock, 2 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares in Treshnish wood. On each day (and all day long ) between -8-19 March JJ & ?J saw a Snipe beside Duill. Today I found out that the Winter Moths which came to our window on the 4th and 8th of March are extremely late (previously my latest date was 1 on 23/02/2009). I knew from the books that January is supposed to be the last month for this species but the books are often not accurate for the north and particularly with the changing climate. Other Scottish moth-ers, have not been seeing them this late so it is noteworthy.
On the 9th there were 5 Wood Pigeons and 1 Woodcock in Treshnish wood. The reason the Wood Pigeons are mentioned is that they have not yet been known to breed in the woods so I want to keep track of them. The Woodcock is mentioned because they will be leaving Treshnish soon and I want to note the last date seen.
On the 8th a frosty night was followed by a sunny morning and new birds singing joined to make a fine chorus: Goldfinch, Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Great Tit all joined the list of previously heard singing birds. 4 Siskins were also heard calling and were the first seen this spring. 2 Chaffinches were singing away by Ensay cattle-grid (must be prime habitat) only 10 yards apart, which seems like a good way to settle a dispute. The Ravens and Hooded Crows think otherwise and are busy jostling for space with the Buzzards. Rant Alert: The Chaffinches reminded me that nature and science programs always misrepresent the meaning of Darwin’s ‘Survival Of The Fittest.’ Even relatively good documentaries have editors who think that a description of the adaptation of the evolution of The Peppered Moth, which had to learn to adapt to the effect of industrial pollution on  the colour of it’s resting places, had to be illustrated with scary music and birds attacking like the Luftwaffe. Of course it doesn’t make exciting TV but the real hero of that story was the Peppered Moth which because of a minor variation, just sat there a little better camouflaged that it’s neighbour and survived, mated with another survivor and reproduced. Fittest isn’t the strongest it is the one most able to survive, whether it is by cunning (as in man), stealth, camouflage, heightened senses etc. Most of the fittest in nature are the slow (and fast), tiny, well camouflaged critters we never see. They are not top of the food chain but the food chain itself. So ‘lets drink to the hard working people, lets drink to the salt of the earth’ lets drink to the unsung heroes of the survival of the lowliest and fittest.
Later on in the day Wrens were heard singing at different locations on Treshnish farm. A walk to Crackaig resulted in virtually no birds so away from the woodland birds are still very scarce. There was however 1 Golden Eagle on Cruachan Treshnish and what was presumably a Woodcock, flushed in the dark, above Treshnish Old schoolhouse. There was an Otter at Lòn Reudle.
On the 7th there was a female Reed Bunting by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, which is only very occasionally seen here during the non-breeding season. It is more commonly seen at Haunn. Other birds seen on the tree tops of Treshnish wood include: 2 Mistle Thrushes, 3 Fieldfares, 2 Redwings , 1 Wood Pigeon and a singing Blackbird. On about the 7th JJ & ?J saw a Grey Wagtail at Duill cottage and a pair of Reed Buntings on the farm road by Treshnish wood.
On the 6th There was a female Hen Harrier where the Ensay road meets Calgary bay and 10 Wood Pigeons and singing Goldcrests and Song Thrush were heard in Treshnish wood. JJ & ?J also saw a Hen Harrier at Crackaig.
On the 5th a Red-throated Diver was seen briefly where the Ensay road meets Calgary bay and near the beach a pair of Golden Eagles flew southwards across the bay (one had a hole in the left wing tip and I think a damaged primary on the right wing). There was a Greenfinch in the garden of first house at Calgary coming from Ensay. A Lapwing flew over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, my first of the year at Treshnish. My first moss species was tentatively identified as Loeskeobryum brevirostre Short-beaked Wood-moss.
On the 4th there was an Otter on the south side of Calgary bay not far from the beach, whilst on the beach itself there was a flock of (roughly 20) Greylag Geese.
Nerd Alert: Excuse the nerdy diversion but today I received my copy of the new Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland by the British Bryological Society which is a real treasure. Earlier I had very kindly been given another book on mosses thinking I might cut my teeth on it only to discover that it was more like a text-book and a microscope would have to be the next purchase and so I gave up. This book is a different kettle of fish and if you were ever tempted to have a go at mosses this is the book. Beautiful photos and turning the pages I would be saying out loud ‘oh I know that… oh that too’ and on. Of course I may have been saying that to too many but I let my excitement have free reign. The only daunting thing is that there are a lot of Mosses (547 pages), Hornworts (4 pages) and Liverworts (200 pages) but that also makes a real chunky book and at 848 pages and only a penny under £25, so a steal too. If that is not enough the pages can also be viewed for free here
I wouldn’t even be mentioning this if it were not for the fact that I already have a rough list of the Mull Liverworts and Mosses which I have extracted from the Mull surveys of Averis and Averis who are bryophyte experts and I also have a copy of The Flora of Mull by Jermy and Crabbe. So now I know what to expect I can work backwards from that. I have copied the Averis data into MapMate my mapping program so I know they mentioned 246 Mosses and Liverworts and I have maps of their records. Although they don’t mention when a species is common they give grid references for all species and mention the rarities and Mull specialities. on Mull there are 570 species of Mosses and Liverworts listed in The Flora, oh, what am I getting into. Incidentally there are according to The Flora 715 species of lichens on Mull (Averis and Averis give grid references for 38 species).
On the 3rd there were 2 Fulmars flying close in at Treshnish Point but there did not appear to be any on the ledges. There were several Shags on their breeding ledges at the Starling roost cave at Treshnish Point and one may have been on eggs. I checked in BWP (Birds of the Western Palearctic) and see that they lay in the British Isles and southern Norway ‘from late February (mainly mid-March)’. 240 Starlings came to roost at the cave at Treshnish Point (1 flock of 100 and another of 140). Although not the mass cloud formations seen on television, this is equally spectacular. These smaller flocks every so often glide and turn in synchronisation appearing like one rotating organism where each bird is a part of the mosaic, suddenly all together they start beating their wings again as they twist and change direction and the pattern is repeated. This can go on for several minutes but that could be because you are standing too close to the gully, a few steps away from the cave mouth and woosh they sweep down in an unbelievably steep arch into the cave. Mesmerising and finally breathtaking. At dusk there was a Woodcock by The Studio garden. JJ & ?J saw a pair of Golden Eagles over Duill for an hour.
On the 2nd there were 2 Golden Eagles on Beinn an Lochain which flew to Burg (the female had a hole in her right primary feathers) and at dusk there was a Woodcock beside Treshnish wood farm-track. There were no Woodcocks flushed on Beinn an Lochain and Carn Mòr. This is about the time when they leave Treshnish.
On the 1st there was a Chaffinch singing at Treshnish House, 1 Wood Pigeon in Treshnish wood and 7 Common Scoters at Treshnish Point.