May

If you would like to make it clear that culling Buzzards is not acceptable in Scotland, sign here.

31st: The highlight of today was that at 11.30pm Leena was outside looking at the night sky and came rushing back in. I took off my headphones and she very excitedly shared that an owl had flew straight at her from the Treshnish wood direction up the small valley behind our house, calling a loud shriek. She said she could still hear it. I rushed out but saw nothing. I couldn’t figure out what she could have seen. Meanwhile she was still exhilarated from the experience. Smart readers will have got there already but I waited for 10 or 15 minutes and then from the crags behind our house, just from where Leena had said it flew, the unmistakable call of a Barn Owl. I rushed to get a microphone and tape recorder but it took too long to set up. After another long silence (maybe 20 minutes) I went down towards the cattle-grid and sure enough a fairly quiet calling was coming from near the Barn Owl box just up stream from the cattle-grid. I messed around with tape recorder but it is so long that I used it I was pushing all the wrong buttons and got nothing. A few minutes later I crossed the Ensay Burn and it called again, again from the owl box area and again not loudly.
Now I realise I have heard this call at least once before around out house in the last 2 weeks but I have never heard the call before and I didn’t recognise it (bit thick, yes). I also use insulated headphones at night otherwise I am sure I would have heard it more.
I looked at the raptor monitoring book and it says peak egg laying Early April to late May (range March to July). So presumably we have breeding Barn Owls. The thing that most puzzled me last year was that no one heard the pair calling. The only explanation I could come up with was that the pair had called before they had been first seen and either no one had known what it was, not heard it or didn’t know what it was. But there had been some birder guests earlier so it didn’t add up. With hindsight as the pair last year didn’t breed they probably didn’t call either.
Please observe and listen from the road and don’t approach the owl box which is the most likely place for the nest. If you see anyone other than the farmer approach the nest box please remind them that it is illegal to disturb breeding Barn Owls.
Oh and later Tawny Owls were also heard which made it a three owl night!
Adult White-tailed Eagle with prey flying over Cruachan Treshnish towards sitheans.
At 10pm 1 Short-eared Owl flying with prey to the Cruachan Treshnish and 20 minutes later it flew back over Reudle Schoolhouse to Ensay Burn plantation. I looked back at previous fledging times and in 2011 they didn’t fledge until late July so presumably there is a nest on the Cruachan. Twice in the spring we saw a Short-eared Owl fighting with another on the Cruachan but on subsequent evening walks saw nothing so I gave up on them, hopefully I was wrong.
Haunn guests saw a White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle and male Hen Harrier at Haunn.
30th: Haunn guests saw a White-tailed Eagle flying east over Haunn, 1 Greenfinch heard in Treshnish wood, Red Grouse heard near Reudle Schoolhouse at 10.30, 1 Short-eared Owl at Reudle Schoolhouse at 9.30 pm but none seen in next hour, pair of Golden Eagles on crag at top of hill behind Short-eared Owl nest area and Tawny Owl kwik-ing in Treshnish wood at dusk.
I am now almost certain the Kestrel young near Ensay-Burg summit have fledged and probably a few days ago. What I thought was an adult on the 28th, must be at least 1 fledgling. They have fledged earlier than last year which was in turn earlier than in 2011 when they fledged on the 12th of June.
Narrow-leaved Helleborine near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.


29th: 1 adult White-tailed Eagle flying over Cruachan Treshnish over the sitheans above Treshnish lochan, 1 Wood Pigeon flying into Treshnish wood, 1 Short-eared Owl at Reudle Schoolhouse at 10.30 pm and Tawny Owl kwik-ing in Treshnish wood at dusk.
I am strongly suspecting that the Kestrel young near Ensay-Burg summit have fledged. I am surprised that they are not more noisy but perhaps there is only one that has survived. The light was in my eyes and from a distance it is hard to see detail when the food passes are so fast but it seems to be the male bringing the food (small rodents) but I think i am seeing the more rounded wings of juveniles (the rounded wings was also possibly seen yesterday but with such fast cation it is hard to be sure).
Ben More from near Ensay-Burg road summit.

The Magpie moth I am rearing is doing fine. Preferred foods so far are Wild Angelica and Blackcurrant leaves. It hasn’t shown an interest in the heathers provided.


28th: I went to the nest area of the Golden Eagles which visit Treshnish in the non-breeding season. I watched with a telescope and a far off distance. To disturb breeding Golden Eagles is illegal.
Both birds were at the nest area but the female only landed for about a minute when she called (the male was not around at this time) and after being hassled by Ravens, flew off. She was around the least probably less than 10 minutes in total (mostly soaring and ighting Ravens).

The male was there for about 45 minutes fighting with Ravens, calling and diving and landed on 2 of the nests for a minute or so. He perched nearby to the nests for the rest of the time. For about an hour none of them were around or, if they were, they were far off.
I couldn’t see anything in any of the nests and none with a lot of bird dropping. The nest that seems to be their favourite nest, beside a small tree, had a top layer of finer material. I am imagining that the male landing on 2 nests is the sign of a confused eagle and that they have failed again.
My theory is that the male is only slightly fertile due to old age, this pair has only raised one chick, that we know about, in about the last 13 years. If so this is a similar story to the last Lake District pair where the female was old and infertile. She has since died and the male has had no mate for several years so there are no breeding eagles in England.
Yesterday I saw a male Kestrel bringing a mouse/vole to a nest in some ivy. I knew Kestrels nested here but I have never seen the actual nest before.
I spent about an hour waiting for a Short-eared Owl sighting at Reudle Schoolhouse but I probably didn’t wait long enough. Our neighbours say they saw one there recently, about a month ago, but this is the first time I spent any time looking. No sign of the Dippers on Ensay Burn but I only checked near the road. I also went to a nearby Kestrel nest, active for at least the last 2 previous years. I saw a male bringing prey to a female near the nest area and I missed where she flew from to take the food and I didn’t see either of them actually on the nest. The female went off to hunt a few times but not for long and she came back 2 or 3 times when the male brought back food for her. At the nest area she landed either near the nesting crag or out of view. If there were chicks they were well hidden and well fed.
Male and female Hen Harrier near Ensay-Burg road summit (35 minutes apart). They must be breeding close by this year.

27th: 3 hours sea watching today at Treshnish Point with no notable species.
There were recently fledged Stonechats in the reed-bed below Haunn blackhouses and a Raven fledgling at Treshnish Point (they can’t croak until they reach adulthood) flying to Skoma field. A male Whinchat was very visible at Haunn.
There were 5 Fulmars on ledges at Treshnish Point which looked to be inhabiting 5 nests. This one has occupied what looks like an old Raven nest. It might even be this years Raven nest.

Mike Porter a botanist friend visiting Mull came across this juvenile White-tailed Eagle on 20th May at Gleann Seilisdeir. David Sexton did some detective work and found out it is a 2012 female from the east coast Scotland release. She was last recorded in the Monadhliath mountains last month.


Meadow Pipit

Found a new patch of Scots Lovage at the limit of the raised beach at Treshnish Point (south-west corner). There were at least 23 plants. This is definitely attributable to the Treshnish managed grazing scheme.

There are also burrows here.

One night I must come out and check to see if there any Manx Shearwaters or Storm-petrels in these burrows. I have seen theses burrows also below Crackaig but I have never seen rabbits at these places. Maybe rabbit holes last a long time but I would have thought that nature would reclaim them very quickly.
26th: 3 hours sea watching today at Treshnish Point with none of the smaller skuas only 6+ Great Skuas.
An adult White-tailed Eagle flew from above Treshnish lochan towards Calgary. Amazingly I saw it before the Common Gulls. It is carrying a bird with webbed feet, possibly a Fulmar.

This Cuckoo caught 3 Garden Tiger moths in under 2 minutes and probably more before I arrived!




2 terns (probably Arctic Terns), 8 Common Terns, 1 Great Northern Diver & 1 male Hen Harrier off/at Dùn Haunn.

Black Guillemot at Dun Haunn.

First Small Heath butterfly of the year at Treshnish Point.
There was a pinkish Early-purple Orchid by cliffs at deer gate past Haunn. I’ve never seen this pale form before.



The Narrow-leaved Helleborine plant near our house is going to have a flower. I can just see the tips of flower buds peaking out through the rolled up sheath of leaves. Great that it hasn’t been nibbled at all this year. I have a cage around it to protect it from larger grazers (hare and larger).
Still the Spring Squills are not peaking. I found a couple of more small spots with flowers (one with only one flower) but so far not abundant except at one spot which has over 200 flowers. I am waiting until it peaks before searching for new sites.
24th: Sea-watching between 18.00-21.00pm with most skuas seen in first hour: 84 migrating skuas estimated by flock type and flight style as 72 Long-tailed (large tight flocks close to sea) and 12 Pomarine (small groups 1-3 and in calm wind flight higher than previous) as well as 6 skuas heading south towards Treshnish Isles presumed to be Arctic and about 8 Great Skuas north of Treshnish Isles.
1 Great Northern Diver still at Port Haunn and Fulmar close in too cliffs at Treshnish Point, male and female Hen Harrier along Treshnish north coast.
1 adult White-tailed Eagle with prey flying from Cruachan Treshnish towards Calgary direction. I didn’t have a camera to see tags. I heard last week that the new yellow-tagged pair in north Mull have failed but don’t know any details.
1 Blackbird fledgling near Treshnish House.
At night (2am on 26th) there was a 5kp aurora. The sky was overcast except the northern horizon which was bright green but at this time of year the sun hardly sets so I was not sure if it was the sun rising again or not. As I type it is 10.37pm and the sky is still blue and red.
23rd: 5 hours of sea-watching at Treshnish Point resulted in: about 108 skuas (estimated from photos) as 29 Pomarines (including adults), 44 Long-tailed Skuas (including adults) and 35 unknowns. 18 skua flocks flew north with a flock of 10-15 birds with gaps of 5-10 minutes between watching the last of one flock to the start of another. This continued from when I arrived for over an hour, after which it slowed down. Most of the photos are too distant for positive identification. Presumably the unknowns were Long-tailed Skuas judging by the flocks reported by other observers in the hebrides and Argyll coast. The estimate of Pomarines was based on the fact that there were Pomarines seen in that particular flock which was then assumed to be all Pomarines. This may therefore be an overestimate. I think that most observers were seeing a higher proportion of Long-tailed than me.
I looked up the status of Long-tailed Skuas in Argyll in Birds of Argyll. The highest number recorded in Argyll up until this year was 4 and the total number of birds recorded between 1968 and 2006 is 33! It is becoming more frequent with 2 records in the 1970’s and 11 in the 1990’s. I am pretty sure I saw at least 79 on the 23rd and another 72 on the 24th so this is an event that is unlikely to occur again although with climate change, who knows.
I was looking through a telescope with x30 magnification and these photos are originally about x8 so this is a poor version of the real thing. The positive thing is that with freeze frame the photos show the long tail streamers which I couldn’t see through the scope. I could however see the spoon tail of the Pomarine (also scarce around Mull).
Firstly, atmospheric shots of Long-tailed Skuas


and zoomed in Long-tailed Skuas


and Pomarine Skuas

Also singles and pairs of Arctic Skua and only about 1 Great Skua. Also over a thousand Fulmars and over a thousand Manx Shearwaters. All these were heading north. I have never seen adult Long-tailed or Pomarine Skuas before so it was a great experience. I would have liked to have seen them close up but the shear numbers made up for it.
1 juvenile White-tailed Eagle flying over Treshnish lochan, this is the juvenile with missing primaries which has been seen often by others over the last month.
I am totally shocked at the news today of the government secretly promoting the destruction of Buzzard nests to protect a Pheasant shoot. This was all after they climbed down after public pressure last year. If you would like to respond to the DEFRA minister responsible e-mail richard.benyon.mp@parliament.uk
22nd: Green with envy, I report that guests at Middle cottage, Haunn saw a flock of 8 Long-tailed Skuas, including one adult over their boat, whilst on a whale watching trip to the cairns of Coll yesterday.
I have been out again looking today but only Bonxies and far off skuas. I may actually have seen a juvenile Long-tailed yesterday but I don’t have the experience to be sure. It was quite pale brown and flew past the flock of terns, continuing north. I was sure it would harass them but it paid them no attention at all.
Disturbed this Heron on Ensay Burn bridge by the cattle-grid

and later one flew beside last years nest. There a lots of fresh dropping below so I am now sure it is in use.
I was surprised to find Thale Cress at the same spot as last year. There was no sign of it a couple of weeks ago and last year it was flowering on 11th April. I just presumed it was an annual.
Even in a strong wind one shot turned out OK. This is a scarce plant on Mull.

I also found that another one of the Narrow-leaved Helleborine plants is emerging. There are only 4 known plants at Treshnish. This plant was only discovered 2 years ago when it flowered but it didn’t emerge last year. Amazingly enough the following year, 2 Bird’s-nest Orchids (one new and one old) and 2 flowering Broad-leaved Helleborinmes were found within 20 paces of this plant.
The other Narrow-leaved Helleborine spot near our house sometimes has two plants but neither have emerged since 2010 and it doesn’t look as though they are going to emerge this year either. The one nearest to our house reported last month and earlier this month is growing nicely but the leaves are still all tightly rolled up.
There are is another colony of Narrow-leaved Helleborines nearby but it is very easy to step on non flowering plants so I won’t monitor those until later on. I went to check on the colony in Calgary wood a few days ago (keeping to the paths) and couldn’t see any at all but the leaves are very difficult to see at this stage.
21st: Flock of 33 Common Terns far out off Treshnish Point and later presumably the same flock between Port Haunn and the Treshnish isles, 1 Great Skua, 4 Arctic Skuas (getting verification) and 1 unid. skua (not Great) and at least 5 Great Northern Divers off Treshnish west coast.
This at Port Haunn looks good for Scandinavian Rock Pipit.



I will ask if it is good enough to submit to the Argyll Rarity Committee. It has the grey head, white supercilium and hint of a buff flush to the underparts. Last years a bird from the same spot (and another at Langamull) are still awaiting the ARC decision but they had much more clear diagnostic features.
Female Stonechat

Swallows

Herring Gull with damaged wing.

Otter at Lòn Reudle.

Spring
Sitting at home I found a Magpie moth caterpillar crawling on me.
I am feeding it up and will get a photo later. This is a photo from 4 May 2007 the only other time I have seen as a larva.

Found the first flowering Spring Squill of the year.



I may have missed it last week as it was in a spot I may not have checked but it has probably only been flowering a few days because there were many flowers still in bud

and it was only flowering at this one spot. There were about 100 flowers.
Last year it must have only been in flower for about 2 weeks because of the very dry spell.
20th: Over 2,000 Manx Sheawaters flying north and 1 Peregine at Caliach Point. There were also 2 or 3 distant skuas, too far off to identify but not Great Skuas. I also caught a glimpse of a possible Sabine’s Gull but it flew behind the islet there and I lost it, so can’t be sure.
Bryan Rains saw about 40 Long-tailed Skuas at Loch Assapol today. I have never seen an adult, so would love to see one, but 40! It must be one of the most beautiful birds.
White Wagtail at Calgary beach.
Starling

19th: 2 Common Terns at Calgary beach and 2 (possibly same) at Treshnish boathouse and another 4 at Croig.





Still lots of Great Northern Divers around with 2 at Calgary and 2 at Croig. 1 White-tailed Eagle at Quinish Point.
Cuckoo fanning its tail.

1 Otter at Calgary boathouse.
18th: 1 adult Little Gull, 1 Peregrine, c15 Arctic Terns, at least 20 Fulmars, Gannets, hundreds of Kittiwakes, Manx Shearwaters and auks, at Caliach Point. Little Gull is rare in north Mull (last record in 2006) and this is my first here. 1 Whimbrel by Ensay farmhouse.
At least 1 Whinchat in Black park field and 1 Fulmar on the nesting cliffs on north-east side of Treshnish Point.
Cuckoos are very hard to get close to.

Red Deer at Bennan.

17th: 3 Twite at Duill cottage were within 6ft of the window. Unfortunately I had no camera. Someone must have been putting out seed. My first Linnet at Treshnish House although I have heard them in last couple of days.
16th: 1 Peregrine and Greenfinch at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. I think the Greenfinch might be a first for our garden.
15th: Heard my first Chiffchaff of the year, my first Wood Warbler (which appears to be the first of the year for Mull) near Quinish pier and my first Whinchat, 2 Whimbrel and 3 adult White-tailed Eagles at Quinish Point.
One of the eagles looked like the same bird we saw over the ‘caliach’ standing stone (white tags just visible) and the other two were a pair (one of which had a pale blue tag). The bird from the standing stone flew with fast wing beats at the pair but that was all apart from a lot of quiet calling (quiet compared to a goldie). The single bird soared around Quinish Point whilst the pair soared a little inland. After more than 5 minutes the single bird made a couple of attacking dives at shorebirds (I only saw Oystercatchers from a distance). No kill was made and then all eagles flew off.
14th: 4 Turnstones,
(male)

(and presumed female)

2 Whimbrels, 1 Great Northern Diver at Croig. These are my latest dates for Turnstone although Treshnish guest, Dianne & Phil Marsh saw 1 at Langamull on 23 May 2010. It is a real treat to see them in breeding plumage.
1 Black-headed Gull, 1 White Wagtail and 2 Great Northern Divers at Calgary beach.
The Common Gull nest found at Croig on the 9th has been predated. This spot is very vulnerable to mink and dogs.
At Treshnish lochan I found a nest with one cold egg (I think that they might wait until the clutch is laid before incubation).

This nest had warm eggs.

An adult Heron flew into Treshnish wood to the area near the nest from last year so they must be going for a second breeding attempt.
2 Mountain Hares at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (morning and evening).
Whilst watching the Turnstones at the Croig oyster beds an Otter swam towards me. After this shot it completely disappeared.

13th: 1 adult White-tailed Eagle flew west, low over Treshnish wood, 1 male Hen Harrier at Haunn, several Lesser Redpoll in Treshnish wood (my first of the year), pretty sure I heard Linnets yesterday and on 11th at Haunn, 6 Whimbrel at Dùn Haunn – Port Haunn.

This female Pheasant is on eggs (I have made a dark ring around the visible egg).

Wheatear

Ringed Plover

Typical Manx Shearwater view

Gannet

Guests at Middle cottage, Haunn saw a Swift at Mishnish lochs (first of the year for Mull).
2 Mountain Hares at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
12th: At least 5 Whimbrel at Port Haunn.

Lots of sea bird activity with Hundreds of Kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters off shore.
Fulmar


Gannet


Great Skua

Twite


11th: 1 Spotted Flycatcher by Ensay Burn mouth (my first of the year and possibly the first for Mull),

1 Black-headed Gull at Haunn (scarce in north-west Mull although common at Knock), a pair of Greylag Geese tried to land in the conifer by the Ensay Burn mouth owl box so presumably they are getting ready to breed.

10th: Mountain Hare

Ruth Fleming and Stuart Gibson have done it again. They were at Haunn on the 8th and saw 1 Bar-tailed Godwit again (mullbirds.com). They saw also 3 at Haunn on 20th August 2011. I have never seen this species at Treshnish! They also saw some Lesser Redpoll which I haven’t seen yet this year.
9th: A juvenile White-tailed Eagle flew low over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse but it was fast for a photograph.
1 drake Tufted Duck (rare in north Mull) opp oyster beds, 10-16 Dunlin,

4-6 Whimbrel, 2 White Wagtails, 3 Common Terns, 1 Great Northern Diver at Croig.

2 Dunlin & 1 White Wagtail at Calgary beach.
Common Gulls mating near Ensay farmhouse

and Common Gull nest at Croig.

8th: I thought I heard a House Martin whilst passing Treshnish House and later saw 2 at Treshnish Point. They didn’t stay to breed last year so we have our fingers crossed.
1 Sedge Warbler at the reedbed below Toechtamhor, Haunn (my first of the year).
Walks along the coast near Treshnish Point and Haunn have resulted in at least 1 Fulmar but today there were none. This may not mean anything because they often disappear and come back later to breed.
Female Reed Bunting at Haunn.

Raven

Bitter Vetch and Cuckooflower flowering at Treshnish Point.
7th: At least 3 of 6 terns at Croig were Common Terns (my first of the year),



there were also at least 3 White Wagtails, at least 2 Whimbrels, at least 14 Turnstones, (I have never seen them in breeding plumage before but too far off for decent photos), 25 Dunlin, 1 House Martin, 1 Great Northern Diver all at Croig.

I am pretty sure it is a Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Croig.

1 Whitethroat at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (my first of the year), male and female Blackcap in Treshnish wood, 1 Lapwing at Ensay Burn mouth.
The Herons appear to have abandoned the nest Craig found. The nest is virtually non existent and there is a broken egg below the nest, the old nest from last year looks in good shape and there are some dropping below but there was no sign of the birds unless one was sitting tight.
Several unid. orange butterflies from Treshnish Old Schoolhouse to Calgary (Small Tortoiseshell?)
A lamb determined not to lose mum.

6th: Very drizzly, misty day so photography extremely limited.
c250 Golden Plovers





and 11 Dunlin at Haunn, flocks of 30, 43 & c25 Dunlin migrating north at Treshnish Point. I have only had 2 counts of over 100 Golden Plovers here (100 & 116) and both of those were in the autumn. I have also only seen Dunlin 3 times at Treshnish (6 birds in total) and only once inland (1 at Treshnish lochan).
Also 4 Whimbrel and 1 Great Northern Diver at Port Haunn.
5th: 1 Mountain Hare in our garden again (I won’t mention it any more here unless there are more than one).
The bluebells are starting to flower alongside the road in Treshnish wood (they have been flowering for a while to west of Ensay Burn mouth) so I went to check the Spring Squill along the coast. I couldn’t find any.
In 2012 Bluebells flowered on 10th April at least (and probably at few days earlier). That was the earliest ever date. This year they first flowered on the 21st which is about average except now I know where to look for the first flowers whereas it was all pot luck until about 3 years ago.
I did find a few Early-purple Orchids flowering beyond Haunn cottages.
My earliest date for a flowering Early-purple is on 20th April but again now I know where to look for the first flowers.
The Narrow-leaved Helleborine near our house is probably about an inch high so about the same stage as it was last year on 23rd of April i.e. about 2 weeks later than last year. In 2011 on 2nd May one the plants here had emerged enough for me to see it had a flower bud, in 2010 one was in flower on 17 May, in 2009 one was in flower on 14 May, in 2007 2 were flowering on 27th May (but probably much earlier). The one emerging now is unlikely to flower (if it has a flower within the next 10 days) and any other nearby plants have not emerged at all (if they do at all).
4th: 1 Mountain Hare in our garden again. This is not the same one that was visiting about a week ago. That one had a more reddish brown coat.

Late at night about 2pm on the 5th a flock of waders flew low over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. I am not good at wader calls but I think they may have been Redshanks. I grabbed my camera (the film mode has a microphone) but I was too late. The call was a continuous loud trilling, tititititititututututut.
3rd: 1 male Hen Harrier at Haunn, 1 possible Sedge Warbler heard at Haunn but it seemed not raucous enough.
I was told of about 13 Golden Plovers above the upper cliffs at Port Haunn.
2 eco-friendly lawn-mower Mountain Hares at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse in the morning and evening.


2nd: I was told of 13 Golden Plovers in Skoma field.
1st: 1 White Wagtail beside road behind machair at Calgary and 2 at Langamull. 2 male Reed Buntings at Haunn, one in reed-bed below Toechtamhor and another in reed-bed below the black-houses. The latter had a mate.
1 male Hen Harrier and adult White-tailed Eagle at Langamull.
Great Northern Diver

Ringed Plover

Greylag Goose
Guests at Toechtamhor saw a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins breaching in Calgary bay.

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