October

31st: 1 immature White-tailed Eagle along the Ensay coast, 1 diver (probably Great Northern) flying north over Treshnish wood, at least 6 Long-tailed Tits at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, 1 Fieldfare at Treshnish wood and 1 (possibly same at Ensay farmhouse).
Dunnock

Buzzard

29th: Flock of 25 Barnacle Geese flew east into Calgary bay, flock of at least 6 Long-tailed Tits by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. A rucass in the wood made me think there must be a Golden Eagle but I think this Sparrowhawk was the culprit.

The female Golden Eagle did turn up later flying around the whole north coastal strip. At least 1 Mistle Thrush, 6 Redwings and 1 Fieldfare in Treshnish wood.
28th: A few small flocks of passerines flying into Treshnish wood including one of 4 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares. Later when I walked around I couldn’t find any. 1 Sparrowhawk in Treshnish wood and a possible Jack Snipe at the boathouse.
27th: Hundreds of thrushes in Treshnish wood. I saw a flock of about 60 (mostly Redwings) enter the wood but when I walked along the farm road the thrushes beside the road were almost all Fieldfares. The noise was great as they chattering away, to each other. It was impossible to count the numbers but there must have been more than 150.

A wagtail flew over our house. I thought it must have landed on the roof but I couldn’t find it. I thought it was mainly yellow but it was a fleeting glimpse. Female Golden Eagle flew from Beinn Duill east along the hills above the farm road.
26th: A fantastic eagle day today. First of all the pair of Golden Eagles just above the ground only 30m from Duill cottage (twice). Then soon afterwards a pair of immature White-tailed Eagles soaring with the male Golden Eagle and then within an hour a juvenile Golden Eagle soaring with the Golden Eagle pair! Five eagles within an hour of each other. I didn’t see any obvious antagonistic behaviour although the immature Golden Eagle didn’t stick around. The Golden Eagle pair were along the coastal strip, off and on, all day long. Unfortunately I was working so had no camera.
2 Lesser Redpoll and 1 Mountain Hare at Treshnish House and another (don’t think the same) at Old Schoolhouse.
25th: At 9.45am the male Golden Eagle was soaring over Treshnish wood with a full crop.

He gained height and flew off in the direction of Cruachan. I am pretty sure he must have been feeding on the rabbit. The kill was made at 5.30pm yesterday so I doubt he could have finished feeding before nightfall.I wonder if he spent the whole night with the rabbit. Last night I looked at the first spot he took it to and saw that with in 10 minutes he had ripped out the stomach.
At mid-day the female appeared over Treshnish wood. I tried using the ‘Al focus’ mode on the camera which is supposed to allow the camera to choose between the static mode ‘one shot’ or the moving subject mode ‘Al Servo’. I did this because keeping the shutter half pressed in Al Servo often results in some (often most) of a sequence of shots, slightly out of focus. Al Focus seemed even worse so I shall shift back to Al Servo for flight shots.

later the pair were soaring together over the northern coastal strip.
Flock of about 150 thrushes of both Fieldfare and Redwing in front of a northerly squall over Treshnish wood
The survey boat has been around at least on Sunday and today. I wonder who the survey is for? Today they were at the mouth of Calgary bay, Dùn Haunn and the Treshnish Isles.

24th: An interesting eagle story today, entitled ‘The trials and tribulations of eagle watching/photography’. The Golden Eagle pair were around the wood all afternoon but this tale involves the male. My first eagle sighting of the day was of the male landing in the conifers in Treshnish wood overlooking the fields below the main road.

I tried to get a shot of him leaving the trees as this would give the best shot of him from above. This is tricky because there is only a second as he glides between the gap in the trees. I have never tried this before as it risks missing other shots from our house and also he may sit there fort hours. The Hooded Crows gave me warning of some activity so I gave it ago but only got one, out of focus, shot. Later I saw him land above the road near Ensay farmhouse. I drove up to get a photograph

but I really blew an attempt to get closer when, rushing, I stumbled on untied boots. I really kicked myself for this as it was perfect light and normally, if I am careful, he allows close approach. Another shot of a lifetime lost. Seeing him land there bolstered my theory that the eagles interest in this area is the rabbits. Soon afterwards he came back and landed on the grass verge of the road just below the previous position. He didn’t stay long, as an incredibly lucky motorist arrived almost immediately and obviously scared him off (Murphy’s Law for me as cars are often hourly at this time of year) . Now I was sure it was rabbits he was targeting because soon after when I scanned the field I could see two rabbits only 30m from where landed. I thought the male was probably up on the sitheans above our house and imagined he could see the same two rabbits as me. I looked for a while thinking how fantastic it would be to see a kill. Then I started to get sensible, ‘come on Prasad, the eagles are around all the time and so are the rabbits so what are the chances’. Yes that made perfect sense. Still, I kept half an eye out and of course there wouldn’t be a story if the inevitable didn’t occur. 45 minutes later I happened to glance up at the field and what did I see but the male flying out of the field with a rabbit dangling from his talons! I had missed the strike by a second. Amazingly there was another car passing and they must have seen the whole thing. What a story to take home!
Excuse the plethora of Golden Eagle photos (the light was good so these are probably my best yet).
Male










Not a great shot but it shows the new tail feathers well

Male and Buzzard

Female





1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (scarce here), at least 30 Redwings, 30+ Fieldfares, c5 Mistle Thrushes & 2 Reed Buntings at Treshnish wood.
Buzzard

Dunnock

Blue Tit
 


Stonechat

23rd: Carolyne saw 8 Jackdaws near Treshnish House and Keith and Caroline Harmer, guests at Toechtamhor cottage, saw about 30 flying west over Haunn field yesterday!
About 250 Fieldfares over Treshnish wood (last seen flying up Ensay Burn),
1 Crossbill and many Blackbirds in Treshnish wood and 2 Reed Buntings by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, 1 Hen Harrier on Cruachan Treshnish. An eagle flew forwards and back low over Treshnish wood. Keith, Caroline & I didn’t get more that a profile view but photos showing the tail make me feel pretty sure it was an immature White-tailed Eagle. Keith and Caroline saw the Golden Eagle pair on the headland walk. 
Coal Tit

1 Bright-line Brown-eye caterpillar squashed but still alive on the road by our house.
22nd: 1 Jackdaw in Treshnish wood (first for the farm although there were 2 juveniles at Ensay farmhouse in May last year). I should have trusted myself more as I heard it in the afternoon but thought, ‘no couldn’t be’ but luckily saw it again at sunset (hence grainy photo).

1 hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow around Treshnish wood.

Hooded Crow for comparison.

At least 1 Gannet off Ensay Burn mouth, at least 3 Black-headed Gulls in middle of Calgary bay out from Ensay Port, 4 Redwings and 1 Fieldfare (my first of the season) at Treshnish wood.
Keith and Caroline Harmer, guests at Toechtamhor cottage, saw what was probably a male Common Hawkernear Calgary beach.
21st: at least 1 male Crossbill in Treshnish wood (scarce here) and 2 Gannets from off Treshnish Point.
Keith and Caroline Harmer, guests at Toechtamhor cottage, saw 2 Whoopers flying south Port Haunn.
20th: 1 ring-tailed Hen Harrier below Toechtamhor cottage, 1 Sparrowhawk in Treshnish wood.
The Red Deer stags still rutting although they are making less continuous noise than 3 weeks ago.
19th: male Golden Eagle in morning flying below Duill cottage towards Treshnish wood and in the evening a Golden Eagle perched on the sitheans behind Treshnish Old schoolhouse, 1 Short-eared Owl above Treshnish House.
At 9pm there was a patch of light green light over Ensay. It wasn’t the moon which had just set in the west and I don’t know what else it could be but a mild aurora although the real time prediction has it as very quiet so I guess it must be something else.
I have just heard about the Environmental Audit Report by Commons Select Committee. It sounds very hopeful for the fight against wildlife crime.
18th:1 ring-tailed Hen Harrier around Treshnish House and about an hour later presumably the same in Black Park and later still in Haunn field, 1 Sparrowhawk and about 10 Long-tailed Tits in Treshnish wood, 6 Redwings (my first of the season) and 8 Mistle Thrushes in wood near Treshnish House. Jan the female sheepdog flushed a bird from the edge of the wood at the boathouse. It was either a Woodcock or Sparrowhawk. I think it was a Woodcock but not certain enough to call it as first of the season. I thought I saw 3 nor 4 Whooper Swans flying south across the mouth of Calgary bay but I wasn’t sure they weren’t Gannets – I think it was on the 18th. Before sunset 18 geese flew over but I think they were just Greylags.
Male Golden Eagle in Skoma field eating a Hedgehog.


I went to tell guests at Haunn cottages but by the time I got back it had flown further away. It flew to the north side of Treshnish Point and then to Treshnish wood (it had a full crop).

Went to explore the prey remains. Interestingly there was an intestine too large for a hedgehog and the fur of a Rabbit or Mountain Hare. There was also an eagle pellet which the guests at Toechtamhor saw had some orange showing. They opened it and found a sheep tag. Obviously at least one eagle had been at the spot for a while. It would be too much of a co-incidence for the hedgehog to be killed at the same spot as the hare/rabbit so I think the Hedgehog must have been feeding on the abandoned carcass when the eagle returned to feed and took the Hedgehog. 
The female was around the north coastal strip, off and on all afternoon.

1 Linnet (I think it was the 18th – certainly about this date). I haven’t seen anything of the Linnet/Lesser Redpoll flock since about the 6th although there a few Goldfinches and Greenfinches around.
 Buzzard

The Rowan berries are incredible this year.

A yellow catamaran looked like it was scalloping right up to the coast in Calgary bay but thankfully I think it was only surveying (see here and here).

17th:1 eagle at Treshnish wood (I was at the boathouse so not sure which species but I think it was a Golden Eagle).
Hooded Crow

16th: 1 Peregrine (it seemed massive so obviously a female), at least 4 Goosanders, at least 6 Slavonian Grebes, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 adult and 1 sub-adult White-tailed Eagle at Killiechronan,

this is the sub-adult hunting the Goosanders


1 ring-tailed Hen Harrier at Lagganulva, 2 Lesser Redpoll at Kellan, Loch na Keal.
Mountain Hare in our garden (so far, hasn’t eaten any of our vegetables).
15th:1 hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow below Treshnish House (definitely not the one seen in the spring) unfortunately a bit too far away for a decent photo,

1 female Hen Harrier above Treshnish House,

1 Gannet off from Treshnish boathouse.
14th: The big three in one day today. 1 sub-adult White-tailed Eagle at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse

and at sunset the Golden Eagle pair over the northern coastal strip.

1 Otter in the middle of Calgary bay between Lainne Sgeir and Rubha nan Oirean (swam to shore just to west of Lainne Sgeir), 1 Mountain Hare at Langamull.


Someone has taken the atlas bone of the Minke Whale (I should have hid it).
13th: 1 ring-tailed Hen Harrier at Haunn.
1 Mountain Hare at Skoma field and another at boathouse field.
A feint aurora tonight 2am (14th) but it was just a slightly pale light green glow in the north.
12th: 1 Golden Eagle from from Duill cottage to Cruachan Treshnish.
11th: Guests at Toechtamhor saw about 12 Golden Plovers and 2 Turnstones at langamull.
1 Mountain Hare in our garden.
10th: 1 Golden eagle flew from Cruachan over Glac Gugairidh, 1 ring-tailed Hen Harrier over Reudle Schoolhouse bog.
Stonechat.

Red Deer stag and harem on Cruachan Treshnish.

I am ashamed to say it has taken me 7 years to notice the 4+ Aspen trees about half way from Port Haunn to Crackaig.

I had noticed the Hawthorn nearby but not the Aspens. I think it is because once you know what the trunk looks like they are very noticeable and it is only after seeing them at Ensay Burn mouth this spring that they are ‘on my radar.’ Since the ones at Ensay Burn mouth are on the Ensay side of the burn this is a ‘new’ species for Treshnish.
9th: Aurora again tonight from 11pm (9th) until at least 2am although the cloud in the north prevented a view but cracks in the clouds and bright green over Ensay showed that it was a reasonable display. At least Jane saw her first aurora. The Realtime forecast was getting higher at 2am but the clouds didn’t look like they were going to clear so I called it a night. My sightings can be seen on this map of recent world sightings. If you click on the map you can see the dates, sites and comments (but not full details).
5 Swallows by Craignure golfcourse. Torloisk Buzzard allowed Jane to get this full frame shot from the car.

8th: Fantastic aurora borealis (northern lights) tonight from 8.30pm (8th) until at least 4am. It was the most spectacular display Leena and I have seen and coupled with the stags bellowing all night long, quite an atmosphere! In the middle of the night there were continuous waves rippling one after another upwards from the horizon. Later. for a long time there were double green bows in the sky one low down and another about 50° from the horizon. Other times there were curtains of beams constantly rising and fading. When it was at its lowest there was always a green glow above the horizon and from this very bright patches would erupt in places some times very low down for example on the north of coll there were often bursts of very local bright green which looked like a green forest fire. The only colour visible was bright green. Unfortunately photographing the aurora is turning out to be much more difficult than I first thought so these photos give only an impression of the least spectacular parts of the display.




I had to wait until the moon rose to get photos as without the moon there was no background illumination. The waves can’t be captured by my equipment as they are too fast. I think when it is dark I needed a slower shutter speed and neither my Nikon Coolpix 4500 or Lumix FZ38 have a slower shutter speed than 8 seconds.
5 Black-headed Gulls off Treshnish boathouse flying towards Calgary (my first here since the spring), 1 ring-tailed Hen Harrier over Treshnish wood, 1 Sparrowhawk at Ensay Burn mouth,

the Golden Eagles pair along the northern coastal strip of am on all afternoon and evening. This first photo below is the male calling



They were calling like mad when they first appeared over Treshnish wood and then 1 possibly 2 flew over the cliffs above Ensay Port which I had never seen the local pair do before and then a pair soared close by above the wood. So that was what all the fuss was about, the other pair were trespassing on the local pairs territory. All the calling was the the local pair telling the other bird(s) to clear off. It succeeded. I should have some photos of the other birds but It will take some studying to figure out which is which although I can see there was one juvenile bird involved.
7th: 1 ring-tailed Hen Harrier by Treshnish House and 1 Otter at the boathouse (slowly headed towards Ensay Burn mouth).
6th: near sunset the female Golden Eagle over Cruachan Treshnish and male over Treshnish wood in the morning, 400+ Starlings at the pre-roost gathering at the cow-barn before roosting at the cave at Treshnish Point. This is the largest flock I have seen. I would love to know how far they come from. I imagine they are coming from as far away as Dervaig (I know for certain they come Calgary).

Mountain Hare outside our garden.
5th: Golden Eagle pair below Duill cottage flew to Haunn, flock of about 20 geese migrating south over Treshnish Point (far away and no camera so no id).
At least 1 Harbour Porpoise heading south around Treshnish Point (my first for Treshnish).

When some whales were stranded last month the BBC news website warned that it is illegal to take any whale parts. This struck me as strange. Is it also illegal to take a bone found on the beach and if not where is the dividing line? I tried to find out more and although my search is not exhaustive all I could come up with, was it as one of UK’s silly laws, such as it is legal to kill a Scot in York if he is carrying bows and arrows. The Law Commission for England and Wales in its 19th report listed as defunct or out-date and that no longer apply to modern society. Apparently the head belongs to the King and the tail the Queen. The BBC even makes fun of it in different news story than the Northumberland breaching.
This article (again the BBC) gives a bit more on the procedure on dealing with dead whales. Apparently the crown has passed the responsibility to Receiver of Wreck, within the Maritime and Coastguard Agency but in practice it is the Zoological Society of London or the Natural History Museum who have first choice.
4th: 1 Sparrowhawk at Lainne Sgier (pronounced Lanshker) – same place as yesterday and again it was hunting right beside me.

I think it is after the Rock Pipits.
1 Otter off Calgary boathouse.
This fungus appears each year in the same spot on the moss on an old ruin under the conifers by Ensay Burn cattle-grid. i still haven’t figured out what it is. Possibly Tan Ear Otidea alutacea. It is a spore and microscope job.

I went back to try and get better Minke Whale photos.
From below (notice broken off chunk on middle left of photo),

from the side

and from above.

I think these are both mandibles of the lower jaw. Wish I had figured it out whilst I was there as I could have put them together to make the jaw shape.


I  also manged to find these parts of the skull.

You can see on the photo of the skull from below that one chunk has broken off. I am pretty sure this is that chunk.

I think this is the atlas vertaebrae.

And I think these are the broken pieces off the lowerside of the skull (not sure where the shell like structure fits though).

Not sure what this is. Probably just a piece of sea worn plastic but I might have to climb down to make sure.

Our neighbour told me that the whale was first seen at Ensay Port (a new place name for me – the small bay beside the fort where the Ensay road hits the coast. On the map it is Poll Erisdail). She also told me the point on the north side of Calgary is pronounced Arin (the gaelic is spelt Oirean or to use its full name – Rubha nan Oirean)
3rd: 3 Mistle Thrushes by Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, 2 female Hen Harriers on way from Croig to Langamull,

2 Dunlin at Port na Bà, Croig, 1 Sparrowhawk at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary in high speed Peregrine type stoop with legs extended (camera wouldn’t fire it was going so fast). This was the beginning of the stoop.

We couldn’t see the Minke Whale from the road so parked and looked to see it it was still there. It is in the same area but at low tide I saw a bone that I hadn’t seen before. I presumed it must be part of the head as that has always been missing (possibly from an Orca attack). I climbed down to try and move it above the high tide but it was too heavy. It must weigh about 60kg. It looks like the top part of the skull.

It is hard to match from this whole skeleton http://biology-web.nmsu.edu/houde/whale.htm
or this head http://davesbigblubberchallenge.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/shetland-013.jpg
http://www.skipaddlenorway.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/day-1392-a-whale-skull-in-a-garden-at-skallelv.jpg
although presumably parts are missing.
These photos show how it fits.
http://museumvictoria.com.au/bioinformatics/mammals/images/acutext.jpg
http://www.barbarahoward.ca/whale2.html
http://www.flickr.com/photos/14508691@N08/5080217497/
I am forbidden by Leena to do this
http://www.leadupthegardenpath.com/files/28.6.11-137.jpg
Gannet

Shag

Heron

2nd: At least 5 Swallows, 6 Lapwings, 3 Redshanks, 1 Greenshank and 2 Turnstones at Croig (beaches),



1 female Hen Harrier and 1 Mistle Thrush along path to Langamull and 1 Greenshank at Langamull.
Probably my best Buzzard shot.

Loads of Fly Agaric in Croig woods near oyster beds.

I was looking at Ewan Miles photos of the aurora to see about his camera and settings (I could only see that he used a 6 sec exposure, F5.6, ISO 1600) and noticed his articles in Focusing on Wildlife. There is an article on his Orca experience last month and an excellent one on the only English Golden Eagle with detailed history of Geltsdale. I saw this eagle when he had a mate so I eagerly await the (distant) possibility of a female turning up but time is running out as it is already 8 years since the female died. The other connection with this pair is that the female reminds me of the local old male. He is very pale like the elderly Geltsdale female and both appeared, latterly, to have fertility problems. When I visited Geltsdale I heard stories about the eggs being infertile and how the male would stay sitting on the eggs weeks after the female had given up. The old age of the local male could be the reason for the pair’s poor breeding record over the last decade.
1st: 2 Lapwings and 1 Greenshank at Langamull.
3 Mountain Hares at Langamull (slap bang in the middle of White-tailed Eagle territory – which I think speaks for itself) and another Mountain Hare beside our house.
1 Barn Owl last night at Treshnish Old schoolhouse (about 3am on 1st Oct)
Last night there was a good Aurora borealis display. First noticed at 2.15am (1st Oct) although I am pretty sure it had been going on for some time (see Ewans Miles blog) because just before this there was a lightning type flash.




The activity was very erratic, the first and most vivid burst died down before I got my camera prepared. I stayed up all night hoping the violent burst would re-occur but it didn’t (at least not whilst the clouds were clear) although there was mild activity until 5.45am. I am excited that the photographs came out OK and look forward to the next display. Although not brilliant I was happy to capture some of the purple, pink and violet not visible to the naked eye.




You don’t need fancy equipment to take photos of the Northern Lights. I used my macro camera, Nikon Coolpix 4500, and set the shutter speed to slowest (8 seconds) and landscape setting. Obviously you need a tripod or some way to keep the camera still. I happen to have a wide angle lens attachment but that isn’t necessary. I found I wasted many potentially good shots by zooming in, I suggest zooming fully out on a zoom lens. The camera I used doesn’t have manual focus but on cameras that do, I think you need to have it on infinity. It would have been interesting to have been able to try a shutter speed slower than 8 seconds. I edited in Photoshop using Image-Adjustment-Levels (shortcut Ctrl-L) to bring out the colours but I didn’t manipulate the colours. I don’t know what the white specks are on photos above but on the photos below I got rid of them using Filter-Noise-Median set at 4 (after making first setting then just Ctrl-F )





Ewan Miles the guide Sea Life Surveys had better views and fantastic photos here.

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