April

30th: 1 Twite drinking right beside the track at Haunn (but no camera) and 2 Greylags in Haunn field,
29th: 1 Green Sandpiper flying from Duill pond. The calls fits Green Sandpiper although it is rare as a spring migrant in Argyll with only one record since 1980. All the same with the call of ‘TuWeee’ it cannot have been a Wood Sandpiper (which is also scarce but with most records in late spring – into July).
1 Whitehroat by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (my first of the year) and 3 Greylags flew over Treshnish wood (also heard last night). Mike and Joanne Gurney saw and heard a Garden Warbler at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. This is new species for our 10x10km square although I have seen one at Calgary on 3rd June 2008. They also saw a Golden Eagle on Cruachan Treshnish and 3 Otters at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
Usual suspects include this Lesser Redpoll.

This is a male with the crimson breast.



28th: There were at least 2 Short-eared Owls and the 1 or 2 adult Dippers at Ensay Burn.
When all else fails there is always Pied Wagtails. This is the male

and this is the female



Mike and Joanne Gurney saw our first Whitethroat of the year (1 day before our previous earliest) on the Haunn track where they also saw Stonechat and Linnet and at Toechtamhor cottage they saw Twite. At dusk in Calgary bay they saw an Otter or Mink.
At night this Emperor Moth came knocking on our window.

27th: There were 2 Short-eared Owls and 1 male Hen Harrier up Ensay Burn. I couldn’t find any Dipper fledglings but I am pretty sure they have all left the nest. One adult was singing.




Usual suspects: Skylark


Willow Warbler


Wheatear

Leena spotted this lizard, Usually they are too fast to photograph but this was pretty obliging.

Later I found this brown Adder



and as it moved off I noticed it was moving towards a black and grey one.  This first photo has both. The head of the black and grey one is in the middle left and part of the body of the brown on is below it.

Our neighbours at Frachadil saw a Green Hairstreak butterfly by their house. This is 2 days earlier than my earliest record.
26th: There was at least 1 female Bullfinch beside Treshnish wood and near Ensay farmhouse there were 4 Greylag Geese and further up Ensay Burn there was 1 Golden Eagle being harassed by 4 Short-eared Owls and another raptor (possibly another Short-eared)

and the Dipper family (although all I could see of the young was the tip of a beak).



I am sure to get better shots but this Buzzard is flying on its back to present its talons to 2 Hooded Crows


Mike and Joanne Gurney saw a Golden Eagle from Haunn cottages.
Usual suspects:
Hooded Crow

Lesser Black-backed Gull at Tobermory

Sand Martin by Calgary machair (it appears to have a double eye!)


Buzzard


Wheatear

Starling at Ensay.

25th: At least 1 or 2 of the Dipper chicks have fledged at Ensay Burn. This fledgling was sitting above the nest hole. Even on ‘Spot focussing’ the Lumix wouldn’t focus even though it was extremely close. I forced it to focus on the rocks at its feet and so got one shot before it relieved itself and flew off.

Battery was getting low so I rushed get my Nikon DSLR before sunset but at first couldn’t relocate the fledgling and finally found this one back at the nest site. It looks like a different bird.

This is a photo of one I found at the same site on 12 May last year. This one also must have been newly fledged so this year they have nested a couple of weeks earlier.

I was planning to look for Whinchats near Reudle Schoolhouse on the track to Crackaig (a good spot for them) after failing to see any at Haunn yesterday but the Dipper kept me busy. In the evening I saw that Arthur Brown beat me to it. He saw them at Reudle Schoolhouse on the 24th.
This leucistic Hooded Crow was on Bennan.


Patience at Calgary beach should provide some good Sand Martin shots. This was a quick preview of possibilities.

Mike and Joanne Gurney saw one of the nearby Golden Eagle pairs, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting at Haunn reed-beds and a male Hen Harrier flying from Treshnish Point to Haunn cottages.
Usual suspects included:
Lesser Redpoll


Goldfinch

Blackbird

and a Chaffinch looking for our green manure seeds.

24th: There was 1 singing male Sedge Warbler below Toechtamhor cottage, my first of the year and another below Haunn black-houses.

A Great Skua flew from the Treshnish Isles towards Treshnish Point (my first of the year). At Treshnish Point there was 1 ‘White’ Wagtail and these Fulmars were mating.









Usual suspects: Willow Warblers



Also in the second field below Toechtamhor cottage there were 6 Greylag Geese.
At Treshnish House there was 1 Collared Dove (which visits occasionally)

and at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse there were at least 31 Sand Martins.

My first Green-veined White butterfly of the year was seen in Haunn field.
23rd: There were 6 Greylag Geese below Toechtamhor cottage, Haunn and at least 3 Twite at Haunn black-houses.
A White-tailed Eagle above Port Haunn was mobbed by a pair of Ravens and flew out towards the Treshnish isles (SC), this is presumably the same bird seen flying out to sea by the guests at Duill cottage.
Carolyne saw a pair of Mountain Hares near Treshnish graveyard.
22nd: There was 1 Twite in Treshnish farmyard beside the Sheiling. This pair were near Lainne Sgeir on the Calgary road. They have no pink rump so must be females.

Keep an eye out for coloured leg rings on Twite. There are many ringing projects on the go, trying to understand more about this scarce species.
Usual suspects: Hooded Crow

and male Wheatear.

This Mountain Hare at Bennan is unusually white, this is more like a winter coat.

There was 1 Otter on the west side of Lainne Sgeir.
21st: Leena pointed out a pair of Bullfinches in front of Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (surely they are intending to breed here?). There were also Twite and Lesser Redpoll.
In mid Ensay Burn there was at least 1 Short-eared Owl

1 ‘ring-tailed’ Hen Harrier and the Dippers bringing food to the nest. The fledging period is on average 22 days (20-24).
Near Ensay farmhouse there was what I take to be a ‘White’ Wagtail the alba race of Pied Wagtail.


In the morning a Mountain Hare was on our lawn.
A walker on the headland walk told me he had seen a large cetacean from the Port Haunn area, which he thought was a Minke Whale.
12 Ravens flew high up from Calgary bay to Cruachan Treshnish. The raven news must have told them about carcass.
20th: A pair of Bullfinches were still in Treshnish wood. A White-tailed Eagle was seen flying from the Cruachan Treshnish to Beinn Bhuidhe and there was at least 1 Wood Pigeon in Treshnish wood.
A Tawny Owl was heard making the ooooh call in the middle of the day near the Ensay Burn cattle-grid!
I was playing around with a Lumix FZ38. It is not supposed to be good at taking birds in flight. I am happy with this Common Gull

this Swallow is not pin sharp but with patience I am sure it is possible

same for this Sand Martin.

At night it was warm and drizzly, a perfect moth night. The best moth was this Dark Sword-grass

It is a migrant. In  6 years I have only caught 6 and none since 2009.
There was also an Early Thorn.

The first Early-purple Orchid was flowering in a spot I don’t remember seeing them before (this is 6 days before our previous earliest in 2009).

19th: There was at least 1 calling female Bullfinch near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (heard again just after sunset).

Greylags were heard at dusk from Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, 1 Wood Pigeon and Lesser Redpoll flew over the wood and there was 1 Twite and 2 Reed Buntings near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
In mid Ensay Burn there was 1 male and 1 ‘ring-tailed’ Hen Harriers, 2 Short-eared Owls and a Kestrel taking food to the nest at Crackaig cliffs,

Dippers



and I heard my first Cuckoos (SC heard one yesterday at Crackaig).
Willow Warblers give a very taiga like feel.

I had fun trying to capture Sand Martins in flight, the closer they get the harder it is!




A Swallow was with them.



18th: Everywhere is full of singing Willow Warblers.

A flock of 31 Greenland White-fronted Geese flew north over Treshnish,

2 Greylags were below Ensay farmhouse and a Wood Pigeon in the wood.
I looked for my first Common Sandpiper at Ensay Burn but couldn’t find any but did see 1 at Loch na Keal and 2 males chasing after a female at Garmony (the first for Mull were on the 15th).
The Great Northern Divers are almost in full breeding plumage but I hope to get closer before they head north.

I am also still looking for the ‘perfect’ Heron shot

and Wheatear shot.

I went to Craignure to look for Orange Underwing moth which flies in the daytime over the birch woods there but I must have been too late in the season. They fly until the birch is out.
There were at least 2 Peacock butterflies at Treshnish and another at Scallastle woods. This one was taken on the old daffodil field beside Treshnish burial ground.

A Water Carpet came to the black-light

and also an Early Grey.

17th: There was a flock of about 40 birds below Ensay farmhouse which contained at least a few Twite. There was 1 Short-eared Owl on the base of Beinn Bhuidhe and in the new plantation but it was far off. There was a pair of Dippers bringing food to a nest in mid-Ensay Burn and Arthur Brown and Discover Mull tours saw a Hen Harrier and Golden Eagle from the road.
No sun today and I have read that a 500mm lens cannot be hand-held at a speeds of less than 1/500th sec so I didn’t hold out much hope when my camera ‘wanted’ to shoot at 1/80th sec. So I set the speed to around 1/200th sec, braced it and got my best yet Dipper shot.



Pointed more towards the sky I could get faster speeds of these usual suspects:
Willow Warbler,

Meadow Pipit,

and Sand Martin.

There is a report of a Hawfinch at Glegorm on the 15th (Alan Spellman in litt.).
16th: 4 Greylag Geese flying north-east over Haunn cottages.
15th: At least 1 Twite and 1 Linnet in front of the Studio garden.
14th: There was 1 Peregrine again at Tobermory church. I think this is the male. Other photographs of the pair together show that the female, which is always the largest, has small vertical black lines on the upper breast and sides of the neck.
This top photo shows blood around its legs so I guess it wasn’t that hungry. It stayed for about half an hour.





The pigeons also had to contend with a Hen Harrier and  Sparrowhawk.

There was also a Hen Harrier

and Buzzard near Mishnish lochs

but no sign of any of the wintering Goldeneye.
Usual suspects included this Rock Pipit which was having a dispute with another Rock Pipit and allowed me to get unusually close.


13th: 3 Black-headed Gulls flying from Calgary bay around Treshnish Point (scarce in north-west Mull), 1 Manx Shearwater flying south past Treshnish Point (first of the year for me and I think for Mull), 1 merganser species flying around Ensay Burn mouth and flying up Ensay Burn was probably a female/immature male Goosander, 4 Greylag Geese at Ensay Burn mouth and at least 1 male Reed Bunting at the shore below Treshnish House (where I have heard them singing in previous years).
There were at least 4 Fulmars at the north-eastern end of Treshnish Point and at least 1 pair was on a breeding ledge
A Bluebell was flowering near Ensay Burn mouth (1 day before my previous earliest).
12th: a pair of Bullfinches in Treshnish wood

and yesterdays Lesser Redpoll were confirmed today with at least 3 including a beautiful male.
Usual suspects included Goldfinches which were performing a body twisting display as they sang.

One of the Swallows came to visit our house.

There was a Hen Harrier on the right side of the road down to Sunipol (I didn’t get a great view but I think it was an immature male) and Golden Plovers were heard on the hillock there.
No sign of the Pink-footed Goose at Calgary or Bennan.
It seems you can’t leave anything lying around without some beastie checking it out. This is a Garden Tiger moth on our garden trowel.

11th: 1 male Blackcap in Treshnish wood (our previous earliest was 3 weeks later on 3rd of May 2010!). I heard it yesterday (or day before) but wanted to wait for a visual confirmation.

I am also pretty sure I heard the first Lesser Redpoll yesterday and possibly Linnet, both flying over the wood. Leena saw 2 Greylag Geese at Duill cottage pond.
I found the Dipper nest-site in mid Ensay Burn. Here is the adult bringing in food (I don’t know how the nest stays dry!).





I got increasingly excited as this bird did not seem to fit the illustrations for Reed Bunting in my books and I persuaded myself it was a Little Bunting (only one Argyll record). I guess I was thrown by its creeping behaviour and what appeared to be very small size. I should have just looked at my own photo on the right!
It took 6 books to find out it is indeed a female Reed Bunting and the most clear book was the old Macmillan Field Guide to Bird Identification by Alan Harris et al.  I am happy with the shots.


There was a Yellowhammer at Burg.
Usual suspects included:
Dunnock

and Wheatear

More excellent Tobermory Peregrine photos taken on the 1st by Angela Mercer of Glenloy Lodge can be seen here.
10th: A Golden Eagle flying at Burg was relocated at Tostary. I watched it for 10 minutes before a female appeared but I was not in focus (as I was also photographing a singing Yellowhammer) and on manual focus missed the shot of a lifetime.

She stayed for a minute




The male stayed for another hour and a half in which time he moved a few metres,

was checked out by a female Hen Harrier,


relieved himself

and eventually took off.

Here is the Yellowhammer

Below Tostary Red-throated Divers could be heard calling and there was a Puffin and Razorbills at Laggan bay and 2 Black Guillemots at Ulva ferry.
At 8pm there was at least 1 Short-eared Owl opposite Reudle Schoolhouse and 1 Dipper at the stone bridge below there.
There were 2 Swallows over Treshnish wood (no more mention unless they disappear for a while).
I thought the larger Greylag flocks had broken up but there were 30 on Ulva.
I heard the Peregrine was in Tobermory in the morning.
9th:  Pair of  Goosanders at Salen, probable Hen Harrier flew from Cruachan Treshnish out towards Coll (Graeme Hutchinson & Angie Craft).
1-2 Willow Warblers in Treshnish wood (our first of the year), 2 Swallows over Treshnish wood (if they stay  this would mean very early breeding for us), 2 Sand Martins over Treshnish wood with 2 plus 4 plus 6 over Haunn, 1 male Reed Bunting beside East cottage, Haunn and 2 Golden Plovers below Toechtamhor cottage, Haunn. Also 4 possible Twite flying over Haunn cottages and 1 probable Grey Wagtail at Treshnish House and 1 probable Lesser Black-backed Gull below Black Park Haunn. 3-4 Siskins and Goldfinches in Treshnish wood were not unusual as both these species are occasionally seen in the wood in winter. No sign of the Short-eared Owl up the road for last three evenings.
Usual suspects included
Buzzard

and Meadow Pipit

A dark butterfly near east of Treshnish cow-barn was probably Small Tortoiseshell.
8th: 2 Greylag Geese below Toechtamhor cottage & 1 female Goosander at Loch Cuin, Dervaig (Graeme Hutchinson & Angie Craft).
The Swallow is still around and visiting the old barn. Last year when one came early it disappeared for quite some time. There were 13 Redwings and 1 Fieldfare behind Shian cottage.
Found 1 Dipper by the waterfall at the stone bridge below Reudle Schoolhouse (where I have seen them with recently fledged chicks last year) and 1 female Hen Harrier in the plantation opposite the Reudle Schoolhouse.
The Pink-footed Goose was still at Calgary with 5 Greylags below the castle and 2 more Greylags below Ensay farmhouse (we have no confirmed breeding in our 10x10km square).
Martin Ward saw a Merlin on the Ensay to Calgary road.
7th: 2 Short-eared Owls opposite Reudle Schoolhouse, 4 Sand Martins at Ensay Burn by Treshnish wood (Graeme Hutchinson & Angie Craft).
Our first Swallow at Treshnish house (also the equal first for Mull this year). It sat on the usual place on the wires by the recycling shed so it might be one of ‘our’ breeding birds. This is 2 days earlier than our previous earliest which was last year.
2 Greylag Geese flew around Treshnish House and settled in front of Duill cottage.
My first butterfly of the year at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse but it was too fast to see any details.
6th: A Greylag Goose flew past our window as I typed.
At sunset the sun appeared briefly.




I drove quickly up the road to see if it was bright enough for a Short-eared Owl photo but I only had time to get this shot before setting up the tripod by which time it had flown.

On the way there were some stags which did not spook but again to dark and a stag is less likely to allow a tripod!

5th: 4 Bullfinches near Treshnish burial ground, 2 Otters near Ensay Burn mouth & 2 Mountain Hares below Treshnish House (Graeme Hutchinson & Angie Craft).
Arthur Brown and Discover Mull tours saw the Red-necked Grebe at Laggan bay (Alan Spellman pers. com). You can see photos on Arthur’s blog.
Found some other photos of the Peregrines at Tobermory. Island Craft has them as a mother and ‘baby’ but nice photos here, which were presumably taken on the 23rd of March.

I spent some time looking through ‘Raptors a field guide to survey and monitoring’ by Jon Hardey et al. to see what I could find about breeding sites and times of the nearby raptors, particularly Short-eared Owl, Tawny Owl, Hen Harrier and Peregrine.
 
Peregrines lay eggs from Mid March to early May with a peak from early to late April. Dates are generally later for northern Britain (but possibly not so much on the west coast and a young pair may breed later, my thoughts only). So the Tobermory Peregrines will probably not lay until about mid April.
Short-eared Owls lay eggs from late March to early May with a peak in late April and with occasional second brood in June/July . So the Short-eared Owls near Reudle Schoolhouse are unlikely to have laid yet and will be incredibly vulnerable to disturbance so please do not look for nests in the plantation. Good views can be had from the road.
Tawny Owls lay eggs from February to mid April with a peak from mid March to early April. So the Tawny Owls in the nest box below Treshnish cow-barn are probably already sitting on eggs.
Hen Harriers lay eggs from mid April to late June with a peak from late April to mid May. So Hen Harriers are not sitting on eggs yet. I have found that a good site is on the Dervaig – Tobermory road between Loch an Torr and Mishnish Lochs and closer to Treshnish a good site is the Ensay Burn basin the east of Reudle Schoolhouse (Short-eared Owl, Kestrel, Merlin, Golden Eagle and even White-tailed Eagle have been seen from the road here). Another good site for Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl is the road from Torloisk to Dervaig where I have heard there have also been sightings of Long-eared Owl.

Here are other raptor breeding dates:
White-tailed Eagles lay eggs from late Feb to late April with a peak in mid March (first time breeders are amongst those late dates, David Sexton pers. com).
Golden Eagles lay eggs from early March to mid April with a peak from mid March to early April.
Buzzards lays eggs from mid March to early May with a peak in mid April.
Merlins lay eggs from late April to early June with a peak from early to mid May.
Sparrowhawks lay eggs from late April to early June with a peak in early May.
Barn Owls lay eggs from from March to (second clutch) August with a peak from early April to late May.
Long-eared Owls are scarce/rare on Mull and lay eggs from late Feb to early June with a peak in early April.
Ravens lay eggs from late Jan to May with a peak from late Feb to late March. 
4th: 1 Peregrine over Tobermory harbour (Graeme Hutchinson & Angie Craft).
Went to see if it was bright enough to photograph the Short-eared Owls in the plantation opposite Reudle Schoolhouse. Light conditions were poor so better photographs should follow.


This is a photo from 2008, the last ‘vole year’.

There was also a female Hen Harrier in the same area.
Martin Ward a regular guest, sent me a photo of 5 Canada Geese below Toechtamhor cottage, Haunn, which was taken today.

This is only our second record at Treshnish, the previous being 1 on 24 May 2008.
Andy Mortley saw the pair of Peregrines above Mackay’s garage in Tobermory and one of them was calling loudly! I wouldn’t normally post details of a possible breeding Peregrine but if they do breed here it will be impossible to keep private.
3rd: A day of misses. Went to look for Peregrine at Tobermory, Pied-billed Grebe at Salen, Slavonian Grebe at Loch na Keal and Red-necked Grebe at Laggan Bay, dipped (missed) all of them.
I did see a male Hen Harrier to east of Loch an Torr and my first Sand Martin at Loch an Torr, a Sparrowhawk at Dervaig and 2 Short-eared Owls in the new plantation on Ensay Burn, which I am hoping will give good photo opportunities. The Mute Swan was still at Aros castle so makes it into the breeding atlas.
Usual suspects included this Curlew

Teal at Loch na Keal,


and Shelduck.

2 Greylag Geese below Toechtamhor cottage (Graeme Hutchinson & Angie Craft).
I saw this young Red Deer on the Tobermory-Aros road and 2 more fawns at Loch na Keal.

I saw my first lamb of the year near Ballygown.
1st: a male Hen Harrier flew west just behind West cottage, Haunn. A possible Bullfinch heard in the evening at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. I notice that Jon and Angela Mercer of Glenloy Lodge, nr Fort William saw the pair of Peregrines at Tobermory church, click here and here for photos.

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