November 2010

On the 28th the 2 first winter Whooper Swans were seen at about 2pm on the nearly iced up Treshnish lochan and then 10 minutes later they were seen flying south over Crackaig. They were on the lochan for 22 days since the 6th of November.
There was a Golden Eagle over Treshnish wood and 2 Great Northern Divers off the coast between Port Haunn and Crackaig.
On the 27th the Whooper Swans were still on Treshnish lochan and there were a pair of Golden Eagles from Treshnish wood to the boathouse.
On the 26th the Golden Eagle pair were low over Treshnish wood but so far this week they do not appear to be calling and displaying.
There was 1 Redshank, 1 Eider and a male Red-breasted Merganser off Calgary beach and at dusk a flock of about 25 Greylag Geese there.
At Port na Caliach there was a pair of Gadwall.
On the 25th there was a Fieldfare flying over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse and a pair of Golden Eagle low over Treshnish wood. The female has a very worn tail.
The Whooper Swans are still on Treshnish lochan and there was an Otter fishing on the right side of Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
In the evening a new moth for Treshnish appeared on our window. It is a male Scarce Umber which has only been recorded by the old forestry commission trapping scheme and is therefore a new moth for me.
Despite the name this is a common moth in England but local in Scotland. It is one of a handful of British species where the females are flightless and do not look like moths because the wings are either tiny or non existent (see here).
On the 24th a Golden Eagle was low over Treshnish wood. It is the first Golden Eagle I have seen near the wood since the 5th so it will be interesting to see if the Whooper Swans are disturbed by them. The Whoopers have been there since at least the 6th. Presumably the Whoopers will not fly off if disturbed because then they would be vulnerable to attack.
There were 2 Golden Eagles and tame Robin (or Robins) was on the Tobermory lighthouse walk. There may have been more than one bird involved because in one spot it was exceedingly tame.
On the 23rd the Whooper Swans were still on Cruachan Treshnish. There was 1 Turnstone and 2 Redshanks on Lainne Sgeir and an Otter was near the holt on the east side of Lainne Sgeir.
On the 22nd I went to Caliach to look for Jack Snipe, Pink-footed Goose and Gadwall which Arthur Brown, the Discover Mull tour-guide had told me had been seen there in the last couple of days. I got there quite late because I was having a fantastic Otter day at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary. First there was one Otter fishing for over an hour on the left side of the rocks and then a little while after it had gone to its holt on the right side, 3 more appeared from the Calgary direction. 2 of the 3 were swimming neck and neck and the third was right behind them. All 3 came onto the rocks beneath, calling away, and then the pair continued on the holt and left the other behind on the rocks about 100m to the east.
There was also 2 Great Northern Divers between Lainne Sgeir and the ‘pink’ pier and a Guillemot there too. I found the Pink-footed Goose with the flock of Greylags at Caliach and also 1 Jack Snipe but there were no Gadwall.
Soon after dark a Tawny Owl was calling by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
On the 21st there were 2 Redwings at Ensay farmhouse, 1 or 2 Redshanks at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary, 1 or 2 Great Northern Divers near the ‘pink’ pier, an Eider at Calgary beach and a probable Peregrine at the cliffs above Lainne Sgeir.
At the east side of Lainne Sgeir a small Otter approached me quite closely and gave a chattering call and about half an hour later another was seen off the end of the rocks.
On the 20th the Whooper Swans were still on Treshnish lochan. They have now been here for at least 14 days.
A Raven on the electric pole beside Ensay Burn cattle-grid was heard making the same low guttural call that I heard it making last week in the conifers here and last week I also heard a Raven making the same call on the cliffs to the west of Lainne Sgeir. This time I could see that it also powers its head and back as it makes the call. I presume this is pair bonding display.
There were 2 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Turnstones and 1 Redshank at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary and a small duck (possibly a Wigeon) swimming from the east to the west of the ‘pink’ pier but it was to for identification. There was also a diver off Lainne Sgeir which looked like a Red-throated Diver but again it was too dark to be sure.
There was 1 Redwing at Ensay farmhouse and after dusk there was a pair of Tawny Owls were dueting along Ensay Burn in Treshnish wood.
The satellite tracked Finnish Osprey entered the river system of Nigeria a couple of days ago. I had underestimated the size of the deserts in Niger so I last left it in the middle of this desert. But now it is really true to say it will be safe and sound from migration hazards until its return journey, probably in 2 years time.
Satellite tracking is opening up many bird secrets. A particular favourite bird of mine is the Amur Falcon. It was until recently considered to be the same species as the Red-legged Falcon, another stunning bird which we rarely see in the UK but which often passes through continental Europe.
Until very recently no one knew for sure how this bird which breeds in the far east, migrated to Africa. It was generally assumed that it must migrate through the Middle-east but then why were large numbers seen occasionally on the west coast of India. Bird watching in India is till a very rare pursuit so migration events are very under-recorded. I never saw large flock on western India but the only time I saw this bird was 1 hunting dragonflies in Autumn on a coastal hill in Goa. Now with the first satellite tracking it has been proven that they migrate straight across the Indian Ocean a distance of 2500 kms which were covered in two days non-stop flight.
Another study of dragonflies has found that they too probably migrate across the Indian Ocean and the Amur Falcon may be using them as a food source during the journey. There are 8 other Indian bird which winters in Africa, including 3 cuckoo species, 1 roller, 1 bee-eater, 1 nightjar and 2 more small falcon species..
Even more revolutionary is the advances in much smaller tracking systems. These tiny devices can  be attached to the legs of our smallest birds and if these birds are re-trapped and the device has been working properly the whole time (many malfunction) then the whole journey of the bird can be calculated from the time and daylight hours given by a clock and a light sensor chip and powered by a battery. This has enable us to know for the first time the destination and duration of the Nightingale migration. Eight British birds were re-trapped and one worked well enough to give the information that it had taken several weeks to reach Guinea-Bissau (the wintering grounds of the only remaining Loch Garten Osprey from the previous 3 years). Then to me the most amazing thing is that after only 6 weeks it started its return migration. Then the tag ran out of power. You can see the route here and you can read more here (although the title is surely wrong; do Nightingales sing in their winter quarters?).
On the 19th there was a flock of 9+ Long-tailed Tits near Ensay Burn cattle-grid.
A flock of the northern races which have an all white heads and are rare, was found at Craignure last month.
There is also a possibility of getting continental birds but these appear to be of the British race.
There were 2 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Turnstones at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
On the 18th the 2 Whooper Swans were still on Treshnish lochan,
where there was also a Woodcock (the first of the winter and 9 days before my earliest record at Treshnish).
There was 1 Purple Sandpiper and 2 Turnstones on Lainne, Sgeir, Calgary and 3 Wigeon opposite the ‘pink’ pier Calgary. Purple Sandpiper is scarce on Mull and these are my first Wigeon for the Calgary-Treshnish area. There was also a Great Northern Diver opposite the ‘pink’ pier and at least 90 Herring Gulls at Treshnish boathouse and at least 20 Kittiwakes along the coast of the bay.
On the 15th the 2 Whooper Swans were still on Treshnish lochan
and there were 3 Redwings and 1 Fieldfare at Ensay farmhouse. There were no Red-breasted Merganser, Eider or divers in Calgary bay but I did see about 60 Starlings flying along the coast of the bay towards the Treshnish Point roost cave. This was a different flock from the 100 or so which were feeding at Ensay farmhouse.
A Tawny Owl was heard making the ‘oooh’ call at dusk near the newly erected Barn Owl nest-box along Ensay Burn. Soon after the more common ‘kwik’ call was heard.
I saw that the Finnish Osprey has successfully crossed the Sahara and the Tenere Desert in Niger and is heading directly for the coast of Nigeria (830 miles away). It must be plain sailing now as it only has one hill range in Niger to cross before entering the river systems of Nigeria.
On the 14th there was 1 Sparrowhawk at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse and 1 Red-breasted Merganser (a male as on all previous visits over the last 10 days) and 2 Red-throated Divers off Calgary beach.
The most recent news on the unidentified Lactarius (Milkcap) fungus found under a row of young pines on the edge of Tobermory golfcourse on the 2nd (photos on 5th), is that it is neither Lactarius deterrimus nor L. deliciosus but L. quieticolor which is a scarce Red Data species and would be a new for Mull. I have looked at the spores at x1500 magnification and although it does not look exactly like L. quieticolor that appears to be the best match and I am ending it to an expert for a definite identification.
On the 12th the 2 Whooper Swans were still on Treshnish lochan and there were at least 3 Redwings in Treshnish wood.
Nothing to do with Mull but I have been watching the migration of a Finnish Osprey on GoogleEarth (no Scottish Ospreys were publicly track-able this year). The Osprey which I have personally nicknamed Finn crossed the Mediterranean (by a circuitous route) 3 weeks ago and the after attempting to immediately fly south appeared to have second thoughts as it approached what looks like a sandy desert and then flew north again to a large coastal lagoon to the east of Tripoli where it found good fishing grounds and spent the next 20 days. Now it has started heading south again across Libya and looks like it is going to miss the desert it was heading for before. A desert shouldn’t be an obstacle to a well fed osprey so I think it should be fine but still I will be relieved when it gets to central Africa and on to its wintering grounds. The Scottish Ospreys have all kept to near the western coast of Africa so this migration is, as far as I know, new information unfolding.
You can click on this (and all other images in the diary section) to get a greater (x10) resolution
In Treshnish wood I found these 2 fresh Hazel Gloves fungi only 100m from our house,
and also found this Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon which I had seen on the Tobermory lighthouse walk, so obviously it is common on Mull.
This looks like White Spindles Clavaria fragilis. but it was under conifers so different habitat than those that I found on the clifftops on the 6th so it may be Wrinkled Club Clavulina rugosa.
This is another shot of the Tan Ear Otidea alutacea from yesterday.
This is probably The Deceiver Laccaria laccata or a closely related species,
and this are probably malformed individuals of the above,
and this was found on dead wood.
On the 11th I looked closely at the footage of a possible Hobby on the Autumn watch programme on Mull last week. After looking at a replay I was at first convinced it was a Hobby, but Eleanora’s Falcon has been suggested so I froze the frame and measured the wingspans. The falcon is less than one third of the wingspan of the Golden Eagle. Now I think it may have been a Kestrel and the thin wings and short short tail may have been caused by the angle of view.
These measurements rule out Eleonora’s Falcon (a vagrant) and probably also Hobby. For it to be a Hobby it would have to be the smallest possible Hobby and the largest possible Golden Eagle and still it would be a little too small so my measurement (of less than one third) would have to be slightly out too.
I took measurements from Birds of The Western Palearctic (including updates).
Golden Eagle wingspan is 204-220cm, which means the wingspan of the falcon has to be below 73.3cm
In order of size:
Eleonora’s Falcon: wingspan 110-130cm, tail 14-18cm
Hobby: BWP Update wingspan 74-84cm (mean 78cm), tail 8-10cm
Kestrel: wingspan 71-80cm, tail 12-15cm
Red-footed Falcon: wingspan 66-78cm, tail 10-11cm
Merlin: wingspan 50-62cm, tail 8-10cm
I found some interesting looking fungi under the conifers near the farm road over Ensay Burn. This looks like Tan Ear Otidea alutacea.
On the 10th the Whooper Swans are still here.
There was 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Great Northern Diver and 1 flying Black-headed Gull off Calgary beach. The latter is scarce in north Mull.
There were Otter spraits next to Treshnish Old Schoolhouse on a path up to the lochan.
On the 9th the 2 first winter Whooper Swans were still on Treshnish lochan.
There were 3 or 4 Redwings at Treshnish house, a flock of at least 50 appeared to be arriving over Treshnish wood and possibly the same flock was feeding almost immediately after above and around Ensay farmhouse.
At night Tawny Owl could be heard beside Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
There was 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Eider and 1 Great Northern Diver off from Calgary beach.
On the 8th there was 1 Eider off Calgary beach (I am trying to see if they stay the whole winter) but there was no sign of the female Common Scoter there. The Birds of the Western Palearctic states that females are flightless ‘for c 3-4 weeks’ from ‘September to October, some later,’ so I presume they were moulting flight feathers whilst here.
There was a pod of at least 5 Bottle-nosed Dolphins performing beautifully at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary at sunset. After at least 10 minutes of jumping in pairs over each other and clean out of the water they moved over to Rubha nan Oirean (northern reef of Calgary bay mouth).
On the 7th there was 1 Redshank, 1 Eider and 1 Great Northern Diver (mostly summer plumage) off Lainne Sgeir, Calgary, 1 Red-breasted Merganser near the beach and again only 1 Common Scoter opposite the ‘pink’ pier. This was the last day for a Common Scoter which was one of a pair which were present from 24th October and possibly the same pair which were present from the 2nd to 20th of November last year.
There were 2 Otters fighting on the south side of Calgary bay near the dun. They may have only been play fighting but it was certainly rough. I don’t think there was an adult male involved. Unfortunately I failed to see the outcomes as I took my eyes off them when I tried to point them out to a passing motorist. The last I saw was one disappearing into some large rocks.
On the 6th there were 2 immature Whooper Swans on Treshnish lochan,
and at least 30 Redwings and 10 Siskins in Treshnish wood.
At Calgary there were 2 Eiders and 1 Red-breasted Merganser near the beach, only 1 Common Scoter off the ‘pink’ pier and 1 Great Northern Diver moving around in the bay (still retaining a lot of its breeding plumage).
All these club type fungi were found within about a 1 sq.m. patch near Lainne Sgeir and the first is a new one for me and I think it is White Spindles Clavaria fragilis.
probably Dark-purple Earthtongue Geoglossum atropurpureum
probably Yellow Club Clavulinopsis helvola
Meadow Coral, Clavulinopsis corniculata
On the 5th I went back to the Tobermory lighthouse walk because last time was an impromptu visit whilst I waited for our MOT and I had no camera to identify fungi. There was an incredibly tame Robin,
(yes that is my hand but since I had nothing in it, it wasn’t fooled).
I walked along about another hundred yards and again found a Robin at my feet. I thought surely it must be another bird but it was also remarkably tame. So when I walked back along a lower track I watched behind me and sure enough it was following me. It followed for about 250 yards until I could hear another Robin calling so presumably it was entering the territory of another bird and didn’t enter it. I presume someone is feeding it or perhaps walkers are feeding it as they sit at the bench near the lighthouse
There was also a flock of at least 6 Bullfinches (2 at NM5156 & 5 at NM5155 – I have seen Bullfinches on most visits here).
There was a Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Eiders and 2 Common Scoters near the beach at Calgary.
At Treshnish at about 4pm a Golden Eagle was calling very loudly and sky-diving low over Treshnish wood. I could also see another sky-diving high up over the Ensay coast road. I rushed out and only managed to get one shot.
A few minutes later and 2 were circling low over Treshnish wood and they soared towards the south. I think these very loud displays are triggered by another pair and that I was seeing 3 eagles, but I can’t be sure.
There was also a flock of 15 Whooper Swans flying over Treshnish farm (SC) and a Redwing was heard at dusk in Treshnish wood.
There was also an Otter again on the lighthouse walk but this time closer to north end.
This is the fungi I went back to look for on the Tobermory lighthouse walk. It was thought to be appears to be False Saffron Milkcap Lactarius deterrimus but recent evidence points to L. quieticolor; both would be new species for Mull but Quieticolor is a Red Data species.
False Saffron Milkcap L. deterrimus has only recently been split from Saffron Milkcap L. deliciosus which was recorded in the ‘Mull Flora’ and is listed for Mull in ‘Fungi of the Hebrides’. L. salmonicolor is a possibility but that is very rare (although it has been recorded on Mull). I was a bit confused last time I visited because it is supposed to grow under pine and all near relatives also grow under conifers but this was growing on the edge of a golf-course and all I remember was a low hedge. But sure enough it was a low row of small pines.
I also found some other fungi. This is probably White Coral Clavulina coralloides,
and this still need identification.
On the 4th there were 2 Common Scoters in Calgary bay (off the Dun to east of Lainne Sgeir), 1 Eider off the ‘pink’ pier, a merganser species flying out from the beach and a flock of about 60 geese flying west over the south side of Calgary bay (they were either Greylag, Pinkfoot or White-fronted).
On the 3rd there was a pair of Golden Eagles over Lainne Sgeir, Calgary (female with moulting left primaries) which at on point made a failed attack on a passing flock of geese. There were 5 flocks (totalling about 100) of geese flying in a south-westerly direction out of Calgary bay.
There was 1 Great Northern Diver and 1 Eider near Calgary beach and another Eider to north-west of Lainne Sgeir. I didn’t see any Common Scoters but before I am sure they have gone I will check tomorrow. There were 3 possible Black-headed Gulls flying west over Lainne Sgeir.
Still can’t manage to get a whole Alder catkin in focus, but here it is anyway.
This is, I am pretty sure, Lobaria virens a common lichen. The sexual bodies should separate it from other similar species.
On the 2nd there was a ‘ring-tailed’ Hen Harrier hunting on the Tobermory side of the campsite there.
There were 2 Common Scoters and 5 Eider off the pink pier, Calgary.
There was an Otter (presumably a male) fishing just outside Tobermory harbour near the fisherman’s hut on the lighthouse walk.
The Broad-leaved Helleborines on the Tobermory lighthouse walk are in fruit and some have shed their seed. Some plants are still green. There was Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon on dead wood here.
This is apparently one of the 100 most common fungi in Britain although it does not appear to be common in west Scotland.
On the 1st a Tawny Owl was heard at night from Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.