Thursday, 8 June 2017

Mull in May pt2, all the birds ..Eagles, Divers and the rest.

Ok folks, following on from my location, land and seascapes post from our week on Mull, here's the wildlife bit. I think in general we were pretty pleased with a haul of 109 bird sp. in 7 days, if I remember I'll include a list at the end; we got all of our 'must see' birds - Golden & White Tailed Sea Eagle, Hen Harrier, Corncrake, Wood Warbler & Redstart and given that many relatively common birds such as Moorhen, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Green Woodpecker, Jackdaw & Jay and most of the duck species in the breeding season, I reckon the lads did ok! We had a couple of good Otter sightings - one splendid view of one catching and eating fish in the rain at Fishnish, but precious few butterflies and although there were many common wild flowers, our 'flora' expert had to drop out, so we probably missed a lot whilst scanning the skies!

White Tailed Sea Eagle, Loch Spelve, 13/05/2017
Alright, let's start at the top, top of the food chain that is, and if you want guaranteed Golden & Sea Eagles then Mull is THE place. One of us had either one or the other every day we were there and for me, getting to grips with these mighty aerial hunters was the most satisfying aspect of the whole week.







Sea Eagle harried by Hooded Crows, Loch Tuath, 17/05/2017
To be brutally honest though I wasn't pleased with my photographic efforts .. the one time we were treated to a close encounter with a pair of  'Goldies' the light was totally against me and most of our Sea Eagle's were beyond the range of my lens. That said, I think the following collection conveys a sense of the eagle presence on the island ...


White Tailed Sea Eagle, Loch Spelve, 13/05/2017
Golden Eagle, Knock Bridge, 13/05/2017
 
Golden Eagle, Knock Bridge, 13/05/2017
Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017
 Driving back from a trip out to Tobermory we screeched to a halt after seeing a couple of big hovering raptors, too big for Buzzards we thought and we were right, it was only a pair of Golden Eagles hunting by the roadside and seemingly oblivious to our presence as they came ever closer ....


Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017
My best ever Golden Eagle experience in the UK by a long way, these were full grown experienced adult birds, not particularly bothered by us and we were just gobstruck by the way they just floated around, came right over the top of us, eyes on some land borne prey that we had no knowledge of.

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017
Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017
 The light was poor and I remember wishing for a shaft of sunlight or a patch of blue sky, but that didn't detract from the moment, we were in the presence of master hunters, on their patch and they chose the moment, so no complaints and hey, like I'd argue the toss with this thing coming at me!









And just when we thought the show was over, back round they came, even closer and lower .. there must have been something highly interesting to them on one of the hillsides .....

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017


Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017


Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017

Golden Eagle, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017
Slightly disappointed not to get a decent shot of both of them together but hey I can have no complaints - what a show they gave us! Going almost unnoticed at the time the unmistakable and eerie call of Red Throated Divers on the adjacent loch ... obviously unnerved by the eagles, they were miles off by the time I managed to get a record shot off.

Red Throated Divers, Mishnish Lochs, 17/05/2017
Black Throated Diver, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017
They turned out to be the only R.T Divers of the trip and this poor shot of a passing Black Throated Diver was equally lonesome.

Totally different story as far as Great Northern Divers, the 'daddy' of UK divers, with numerous records and all looking resplendent in full summer plumage. They don't breed on the island but many non breeders stay all year round.

Great Northern Divers, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017

Great Northern Diver, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017

Great Northern Diver, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017
Otter
Otter, Fishnish (courtesy of James Roddie)
At Fishnish, a well known Otter watchpoint, we did indeed see a big dog Otter swimming around and catching fish after fish in the rain. Sadly no pic so here's someone else's from the same location.
When the skies cleared and I was patiently scanning across the Sound of Mull looking for something of interest, I spied what at first sight looked like an immature gull species but the flight was all wrong...too much glide, wings too broad. It was distant but I'd already made up my mind and shouted out to all in the hide - "Hen Harrier coming in low over the water!" Luckily I was right otherwise I'd have looked a proper charlie and had I not rushed out to alert Mark I might have got some closer pics but hey ho, on this occasion the moment outweighed the need for a great photograph.

Hen Harrier crossing from the mainland over the Sound of Mull, Fishnish, 16/05/2017
Corncrake, Iona. (courtesy of Neil Duggan)
 On Iona, a small and beautiful island off the extreme southwest of Mull, we heard the rasping call of a Corncrake in somebody's back garden! Granted they had a pond and many Iris beds but wow, what a garden bird. No chance of a pic without disturbance so once again here's somebody else's lucky shot at the same location

A single, late staying Pink Footed Goose in amongst breeding Greylags was a good record for the trip and we also recorded our only Great Skua, Manx Shearwaters and Rooks on Iona.






Pink Footed Goose, Iona, 18/05/2017

Ringed Plover, Iona, 18/05/2017
Back on Mull, here's a passage migrant - its a Whimbrel on its way up to the Arctic Circle or maybe Shetland or Orkney, the nearest breeding grounds for this smaller relative of the more familiar Curlew.
Whimbrel, Laggan Bay, 16/05/2017
 Lots of Curlew breeding on Mull as you'd expect, likewise healthy populations of Lapwing, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher ....


Lapwing, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017
 Rather smaller numbers of Common Snipe & Redshank plus passage Sanderling, Dunlin & Turnstone and we picked up all of these.
Turnstone, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017
Passage Dunlin, Dervaig, 15/05/2017
Common Gull, Calgary Bay, 15/05/2017
We got all the auk species including Black Guillemot, we had Gannets aplenty, Kittiwake and Fulmar but we struggled with Terns - almost all were Common Terns with only a few 'probable' Arctics and no decent pics of any seabirds I'm afraid except this squawking Common Gull at Calgary Bay.




Willow Warbler, 'Dalmacre', 14/05/2017
According to the info we had, the most numerous bird on Mull is the Chaffinch and this may well be true, we had plenty, but just strolling about and driving around the island we found Willow Warblers to be the most prevalent and obvious - they were singing it big just about everywhere, even in poorly wooded areas. This was one of a pair in our back garden ...
Willow Warbler, 'Dalmacre', 14/05/2017


Willow Warbler, 'Dalmacre', 14/05/2017
Song Thrush, Knock, 13/05/2017
Lots of Meadow Pipits of course and pleasing to see Rock Pipits in good numbers too, no Yellow Wagtails (rare here) but Grey Wagtails common, Mikey had a Dipper, Stonechats and Whinchats were common as were Lesser Redpolls, Linnets and we had one small flock of Twite. Song Thrushes were surprisingly obvious too, more of them than Blackbirds & Mistle Thrushes put together!

Stonechat, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017

Grey Wagtail with fledgling, Knock bridge, 13/05/2017

Rock Pipit, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017

Linnet, Iona, 18/05/2017

Grey Wagtail, Ulva, 19/05/2017
 Northern Wheatears are one of my favorite birds and they're a common breeding bird on Mull so here's a couple of nice ones plus a few wild flower pics, the rest of the birdies and a few odds n sods.

Northern Wheatear, Iona, 18/05/2017

Northern Wheatear, Calgary Bay, 15/05/2017
Thrift, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017

Primroses, Oban, 12/05/2017

Milkwort, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017
Greylag Goose, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017

Greylag Geese, Loch Tuath, 14/05/2017
Cuckoo, back of the house, 18/05/2017
Wood Warbler, Ulva, 19/05/2017
 It was nice enough to be sat right underneath a singing Wood Warbler but after an hour these pretty average pics was my only reward!
Wood Warbler, Ulva, 19/05/2017

Redstart, out of the van window, Loch Tuath, 19/05/2017
Raven, Knock bridge, 13/05/2017
Common Buzzard, Grass Point, 16/05/2017
 Ravens and a Common Buzzard as 'sillhouettes', not great pics but nice shapes!
Raven, Knock bridge, 13/05/2017
 
What's that coming over the hill?...Mikey at Grass Point
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Me at Calgary Bay, 15/05/2017