On the 27th it was a good eagle day. There was a pair of Golden Eagles over Treshnish wood.
This is the old male
and this is the female.
Twenty minutes later an adult White-tailed Eagle flew east over Treshnish wood and there must have been another below it because there were 2 by the time it got to the cliffs by the road. They both soared there and then continued towards Calgary. I couldn’t see any wing tags in the poor photos. Five minutes later the male Golden Eagle appeared from Treshnish lochan behind a pair of frantic Mallard.
There was a beautiful male Bullfinch in and by Treshnish wood, at least 3 Greenfinches and 1 Goldfinch in Treshnish wood.
On the 26th I think I got my best shots of a Dipper just up from Ensay Burn mouth. I didn’t spend long there because if they are breeding I don’t want to disturb them. I was shooting through branches and grass but got a couple of clear shots.
I had a brief view of a large bird which may have been a White-tailed Eagle near Ensay Burn cattle-grid. There was a Sparrowhawk over Treshnish wood and again later and a Redshank at Ensay Burn mouth.
Usual suspects include these Cormorants
On the 25th the first Gannets (3) of the year were seen off from Ensay Burn mouth. This is the earliest date I have for north Mull the previous being on 8th March 2008; I consider it a summer migrant but this will put it into the new winter Atlas.
There were also several (5+) Kittiwakes which I haven’t seen for about 6 weeks and also at least 6 Razorbills which I haven’t seen since the autumn but I haven’t really been doing any thorough seawatching.
There was also a Sparowhawk at Ensay Burn mouth, a Wood Pigeon in Treshnish wood and 2 Golden Eagles over Ensay farmhouse.
There was a Ruby Tiger caterpillar near Ensay Burn cattle-grid. This is by far the earliest date I have for this species, previous earliest was on 17 April 2009. It overwinters as a caterpillar so this sunny day must have brought it out. At night the earliest ever Pale Brindled Beauty came to our window (11th of March being the previous earliest and about the time I normally first see them).
Colt’s-foot was flowering at Ensay Burn mouth. I am not going to record earliest flowering this year but this was one where I had obviously missed the flowering time as the earliest I have is on 6th April.
On the 23rd I spent an hour and a half photographing a Dipper just up from Ensay Burn mouth. It was singing and as on other days, the sound often sounds like two birds but as I could only see one, put it down to some kind of ventriloquist quality. I managed to get quite close and after an hour and a quarter a second bird appeared and they chased each other for a couple of seconds and then sat close together for a while. A little later the birds got excited again and one performed a wing fluttering display. Obviously this is a male and female!
I had brief views of 2 Wood Pigeons and what looked like a Mistle Thrush in Treshnish wood.
On the 22nd the Dipper was re-found just below the waterfall at Ensay Burn cattle-grid.
On the 21st the Pink-footed Goose was with 21 Greylags near Calgary cemetery.
There was a Goodsander at Loch Carnain an Amais, Mishnish and the usual Goldeneye at Loch Peallach, Mishnish.
Presumably the same Red-throated Diver as yesterday was close in shore below Treshnish House. At one point it was only about 4m from me but we were both so shocked, a photo wasn’t possible. I got off a couple before and after but it was too far off in twilight conditions. The same thing happened with an Otter, the day before yesterday. I thought it was close to me in the water and as I crept over the last small cliff, it was right in front of me, on the rocks about 3m away. Of course it bolted. If I had just sat still it would have approached me and the shot could have spectacular but the trouble with Otters and divers you never know where they will resurface and with otters it can even be on land!
There were 2 Skylarks below Treshnish House.
Usual suspects include this Buzzard.
I was told by a local there were about 4 dolphins (presumably Bottle-nosed) near Ensay fort.
On the 20th there was 1 Red-throated Diver at Ensay Burn mouth,
and 6 Turnstones and at least 2 Purple Sandpipers at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
Usual suspects included this Shag.
On the 19th there was 1 Pink-footed Goose with 21 Greylags in front of Calgary cemetery and 1 Mistle Thrush singing in the wood behind the cemetery
An Otter caught a fish on the east side of Lainne Sgeir.
On the 17th I went to one of the nearby Golden Eagle nest areas again. This time I saw a pair soaring at the site and took some photos (not great shots as they were a long way away).
Zoomed in I can see that one is definitely the old male! I can tell with certainty because of his white chin.
Usual suspects include:
Alan Spellman and Arthur Brown saw 5 Purple Sandpipers at Lainne Sgeir and 1 Pink-footed Goose and 1 Jack Snipe at Caliach (www.mullbirds.com).
There was a Fox Moth caterpillar at Achnachaoil ruins.
On the 16th there were 3 Purple Sandpipers at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
The Ringed Plovers with them are attaining breeding plumage.
Arthur Brown reports that the Pink-footed Goose was at Calgary along with a Bullfinch at Calgary Farmhouse (www.mullbirds.com).
Usual suspects included this lucky shot of Great Black-backed Gull yawning and showing its tongue.
An Otter at Lainne Sgeir first alerted me to the Purple Sandpipers they moved a little when it came onto land. Again Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers just made way for it. They weren’t alarmed.
My first Fox Moth caterpillar was to the east of Ensay Burn mouth.
Sunset just south of Tiree.
On the 15th I went to look and see how one of the nearby Golden Eagle pairs was doing. When I arrived in the area there was a pair soaring together about a km to the south and a few minutes later there was one at the nest site carrying a stick for nesting material. I am not sure this lone bird was from that pair because I think I would have seen it approach. A little 1ater one was again seen at the nest site carrying grass for nest building. The terrain does not allow full visibility and the nest is out of site. Because I have to keep my distance to avoid disturbing the birds (it is also a criminal offence) it wasn’t possible to determine whether any of these lone sightings was the old male but one view of the upperside made me think not and later one approached the nest area from my side and I am sure that was not the female. Again whilst walking home another was seen about 1km to the north and this again was not the old male. Maybe I am making mountains out of molehills but I haven’t seen the old male for about 6 weeks.
On the 14th there were 5 Purple Sandpipers on Lainne Sgeir, Calgary
and 1 Pink-footed Goose
with 22 Greylags first in front of Calgary cemetery which flew to the stream at the beach.
Malcolm Ward also saw the same geese today.
I walked Ensay Burn up by the stone bridges on the Ensay – Burg road to see if the Dipper pair were on their territory. I didn’t see anything so perhaps the one at Ensay Burn mouth is from this pair. Maybe we shall find out later on in the spring.
Usual suspects included this Buzzard.
On the 13th there was a Golden Eagle over the burn beside Treshnish wood. It was not the old male. There were also 3 Wood Pigeons in Treshnish wood
The Dipper was found on Ensay Burn but much further upstream towards the cattle-grid. I accidentally flushed it back down to near the burn mouth, where it began singing. It manages to sing without opening the bill although the first time I saw it singing I am sure I remember it opening its bill at least some of the time. The white on the eye is the eyelid; flashing the eyelids seems to be part of the display.
At night Tawny Owls were heard by Treshnish wood.
Malcolm Ward saw a female Hen Harrier flying east over Ensay Burn towards Calgary and a female Red-breasted Merganser and a Redshank at Lainne Sgeir. he also saw a female Golden Eagle nearby and 25 Greylag Geese at Calgary cemetery but no Pink-foot and 2 Otters playing in a rock pool 100m to the west of Lainne Sgeir who after 5 minutes swam to the west.
This Red Deer Stag was on the wrong side of the deer fence near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
There was a Mountain Hare on the edge of Treshnish wood (Ensay side).
On the 12th again no sign of the Dipper. There was a flock of over 20 Chaffinches and a flock of about 10 Sylarks at Ensay farmhouse These are the first Skylarks I have seen since about the 15th of December. There was 1 Wood Pigeon in Treshnish wood.
There were 11 Greylag Geese at Lainne Sgeir but no Pink-foot.
A Great Northen Diver was very close to shore opposite Calgary pier. There was too much glare too manually focus (no autofocus with digiscoping) so I clicked away changing the focus with each shot. Luckily one was OK.
Usual suspects include this Buzzard
and an immature Common Gull which I tried unsuccessfully to turn into a Ring-billed Gull.
Malcolm Ward saw an Otter briefly on the north side of Calgary bay.
On the 11th again no sign of the Dipper.
Malcolm Ward and Allison saw and photographed yellow tagged C and E White-tailed Eagles at Calgary beach and the Pink-footed Goose with 36 Greylags on Calgary machair. All on the rainy day I didn’t go! They also saw a flock of about 40 Chaffinches at Treshnish.
On the 10th there was no sign of the Dipper at Ensay Burn mouth but the river was pretty high and it may be further up stream. There was a Wood Pigeon over Treshnish wood. The Buzzard with reddish central tail feathers was again near Calgary beach and possibly the same bird was further around nearer the Ensay fort. It is probably just a normal Buzzard but the Steppe Buzzard which is an eastern race of the Common Buzzard would be remarkable.
The highlight of the day was a first winter female Reed Bunting at Calgary beach, which is rare in Mull in winter.
There was a Golden Eagle along the cliff-tops above Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
Usual suspects include these Common Gulls
There was an Otter opposite Calgary pier
as I was watching it I heard the call of another Otter just behind the rock I was sitting behind. I changed the lens on my camera so I could use auto-focus but by that time the young Otter had joined its mother further out.
On the 9th the Pink-footed Goose was with at least 22 Greylags in the field surrounding Calgary cemetery.
On the 8th there was a Red Grouse on Cruachan Treshnish (it was dark but I thought i saw a patch of white in the plumage. Is Black Grouse really possible?). There were also 2 or 3 Golden Eagles on Cruachan Treshnish. I didn’t get a close enough look at these eagles. It may have been an adult with juvenile but a blow up of the shot I did get makes me think it wasn’t the same bird as yesterday. So I may have be wrong and that the old male is OK. We shall see. My theory is that unpredictability is hard-wired into a birds brain. If they were predictable they would never survive predators. This would mean that predators too, have to follow suite. So the lack of displaying over Treshnish wood could just be part of this seemingly random type behaviour or it could be a result of some other factor. A good source of food somewhere else; change in nest site of a neighbouring pair or the one known change; that they had a successful chick last year. Any number of things may be affecting their behaviour.
There was a female Red-breasted Merganser below Crackaig.
Usual suspects include this immature Herring Gull.
These Red Deer stags were surprised on Cruachan Treshnish
and there was an Otter below Crackaig.
On the 7th Arthur Brown saw at least 2 Purple Sandpipers at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary (www.mullbirds.com).
I am quite concerned about one of the nearby Golden Eagle pairs. Usually they are above Treshnish wood at this time displaying like mad. I have only seem them over the wood once in the last month. I have a suspicion that the old great granddaddy has died. With his pale plumage he looked as though he was pretty old and there is reason to suspect he was less fertile. I will wait and see. If she has lost her mate it won’t take her long to form a new bond. Perhaps that is what is happening now.
An hour after typing the above a Golden Eagle flew past our house. About a half hour later a Woodcock flew in a mad panic zig-zagging down the gully behind our house with a Golden Eagle cruising above and behind it. I think the Woodcock got away but something didn’t because nearly two hours later this bird with a full crop flew to the west.
I am pretty sure this is not the usual male, as that has pale chin, so I presume this is the female. There was no calling or displaying so no male nearby.
This female has some pale above but not as much as the old male. The pale wing tops must be a reflection as it doesn’t show in the second photo a moment later.
This is a photo of the male from a month ago.
Usual suspects today included this Raven
A couple of days ago I discovered that Dipper females also sing so the one at Ensay Burn mouth could be of either sex.
On the 6th a male Red-breasted Merganser was off Calgary beach and there were 1 or 2 Fieldfares at Ensay farmhouse and 2 Goldfinches by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
Usual suspects included this Buzzard on the stack beside the fort on Ensay.
Usual suspects at Lainne Sgeir included this Heron.
The small wintering flock of at least 6 Long-tailed Tits was found near Ensay Burn cattle-grid,
and there were 2 Goldfinches there too. The Goldfinches have been around for a few days and can often be seen on and off at Treshnish House and near Calgary boathouse.
There was a female Otter on the west side of Calgary boathouse.
On the 4th the RSPB satellite tracking tech staff updated the maps so they give dates. Now I can see Midge was at Treshnish on 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th of September.
GoogleEarth maps are not good on Mull. This is the one from Bing
I used a very clever piece of free software RegiStax to merge the photos.
These spots are only where it was at one point in the day but it is embarrassing to see that there was a White-tailed Eagle perched right in front of our house for FOUR DAYS without me seeing it, although ‘farmer’ DID see it on the 5th to the west of the boathouse.
Incidentally RegiStax is a free software that astronomers use to blend a film clip of astronomical objects, for example a planet, into a still shot, to give more clarity. It was mentioned (without naming it) on the recent BBC programme Stargazing Live.
On the 2nd the RSPB fixed the GoogleEarth links to track last years two White-tailed Eagle chicks from central Mull. Immediately I could see that the male Midge has flown right over Treshnish wood but it isn’t possible to figure out the date. Midge was the brother of Venus, a chick from the previous year, who went missing south of Oban in her first year.
On the 1st the sun set north of Treshnish Point when viewed from Lainne Sgeir, Calgary. A heartening sight.
There was a pair of Golden Eagles flying west along the cliffs above Lainne Sgeir and both Hooded Crow and Raven were seen with nesting material.
I couldn’t see any Turnstones at Lainne Sgeir today but this story came into my mailbox about their incredible migration of half a million km in a lifetime! The bad pun on Ruddy is because the international name for our Turnstone is Rudy Turnstone. We only have one of this family in Britain so get away with skipping the Ruddy but its the same species.
The Dipper was seen again at Ensay Burn just up from the mouth. I got very close but it was moving a lot trying to bash something it had caught. Light conditions are also very poor there. Those are my excuses anyway.
I am not really expecting it to stay to breed (hoping yes) because it will presumably be off to look for a mate soon. Dippers breed quite early. A pair were seen with nesting material at Aros estuary old bridge on 19th of February 2009 (www.mullbirds.com). I saw a recently fledged Dipper, much higher up the burn, on 12 May last year which isn’t particularly early.
It was whilst watching the Dipper that I had a fantastic Otter experience. I saw one at the edge of the burn where it meets the sea and so I quickly ducked down and got my camera ready. Then nothing for about a minute and I thought ‘I must have spooked it’. Then suddenly it was diving in the burn right beside me. Surely it will come up again before it disappears around the wee hillock in front of me but no, still no site of it. Then looking up stream there it was about 20 yards away. I couldn’t believe how it could move so stealthily. On land TV commentators always comment on how agile it is but personally I always think it looks completely ungainly. But here in a foot of water as it approached me it covered 100m right in front of my eyes without me seeing it once! Talk about ninja! I am afraid I have the same excuse of dark valley for this shot as it carried on up the burn. But look at the size of the tail muscles!
There were a couple of Snowdrops flowering beside our front door. I have been looking every day for the patch in the wood to see when they flower but so far it isn’t out there yet.
I discovered some more fairly fresh Hazel Gloves fungus less than 100m from our front door!