Catering Holiday Cottages Mull - Ardrioch Farm
Dervaig, Isle of Mull
From my recent blogs you might think the only weather we get on Mull is rain, think again tomorrow we are due to get gale force winds with the rain, so working on the principal that only rain was better than both I went birding in the rain today and Pam (bless her) went swimming. There was very little to report from the birding trip although given the weather I managed to take a photograph of rainbow as the sun was trying to put in an appearance. My other photos of my trip as my friend Alan Spellman tells me were all to fuzzy through the raindrops and ended up binned. Back home I contented myself watching the birds in the garden from the comfort and warmth of the kitchen and took a photo of a very obliging Great Tit, what I really wanted was one of the several Coal Tits flying in and out but they don't hang around for very long but I will keep trying.
Today was supposed to be dry but the morning was wet with mizzle rain thats gets you wet without you realising it, not great for glasses wearers or birding optics.We did go out and about and saw a Kestrel on a wire looking as if it had been promised better weather but like us had been fooled. Pam went sea swimming this afternoon and saw better wildlife than me as she had 2 very close Great Northern Divers swimming across and back in the bay with her, as they drifted away their haughting calls hung in the air. I took the photo of the Trees Bracken and Rock whilst I was waiting for Pam to finish swimming, just because I thought it made an interesting shot.
Another wet day but at least it was warm and there was little wind in the morning enabling me to go round the larger block to Salen to fill up the car. At Lagganulva Bay a productive spot for me at the moment I saw a pair of Dippers at the Laggan Burn estuary, this often happens after prolonged heavy rain. I took several photos and the picture below was the one not to end up on the cutting room floor. Also in Lagganulva Bay was a female Scaup and I managed an identification shot through the telescope but won't inflict that one on you. At Killiechronan 2 White Tailed Eagles were sitting out on the spit, now I am not doing tours I don't often take photos of these birds but I know readers like to see them so this picture is just for you.
I had a lovely e-mail from Pam Bennett a regular Mull visitor who due to Covid could't come to Mull this year about how much she was enjoying the blog and updates from Mull, I have had a few such e-mails and it is gratifying to know someone out there reads them. The difference with Pam's e-mail was the reference to my occasional music related blogs and here was I thinking only myself and Blake and Sheila appreciated these efforts so as not a lot was happening today I thought I would have another go. Last night the weather forecast was for heavy rain and they were right 'A Hard Rains gonna Fall' (Bob Dylan), So I went to check if there was flooding at Dervaig and went across the 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (Simon and Garfuncle) and stopped to watch the 'Water Under The Bridge' (Adele). Back home I had to 'Feed The Birds' (Julie Andrews) which include a 'Blackbird' (The Beatles) and a (Rockin Robin) Jackson 5. I have mentioned the Autumn colours and now the (Autumn Leaves) Nat King Cole have started to fall and I have the job of clearing them from the drive and I can't wait for the 'Last Leaf' (Tom Waits) to fall. I have been keeping a wreck of a buggy in my shed for a friend, he was going to do it up but didn't in fact it was 'On The Road To Nowhere' (Talking Heads) but today someone took it away to try to get it 'On The Road Again' (Canned Heat) but even if they do I can promise you it will never be a 'Fast Car' (Tracy Chapman).
When we woke up it was raining steadily, when we went to bed it was still raining steadily. I think you could say it is very wet so battened down the hatches and had a day off.
We went out early today looking for the Red Kite that had been seen and although we did not see this particular bird it was definately a good day for our Mull species bird list 2020. The weather was perfect, no wind and this for Mull is little short of miraculous, the sea was glass calm. There was very little in the way of wildlife at the start of our jouney, so much so that we got excited to see a Buzzard, that was all to change at Grasspoint where we saw a very large flock of Redwings and Fieldfares winter visitors from the North. Shortly after on a walk with Lucy to the point at Grasspoint we saw or should I say Pam spotted a pod of Porpoise and on the way back to the van a pod of Common Dolphins, she was made up. On our way home we saw 4 Whooper Swans flying down the Sound near Craignure and at the golfcourse a very close juvenile White Tailed Eagle. We decided to go home via North shore of Loch na Keal and Loch Tuath and in a field full of Greylag Geese we saw 2 Pink Footed Geese and although we had seen skeins flying over Mull earlier in the month this was confirmation. We eventually arrived at Lagganulva Bay and here we saw a Red Necked Grebe and 2 Common Scoters both new for the year. We spent a lot of time identifying these birds but the Common Scoter is the only completely black Duck and we both saw the hint of yellow on the bill and the general impression size and shape was that of Common Scoter and caused us to pay more attention to these birds. It was centainly the case for the Grebe, as soon as I saw it I thought Red Necked and after studying it which was quite hard as it kept diving both Pam and I concluded it was another first on Mull for the year. On arriving home Pam picked up a What's up or something like that on her phone, picked up her swimming gear disappeared out of the house leaving me to get my own lunch, charming I thought, but it was a good job because on her way home from swimming, over the hill road she saw 4 Red Grouse a bird that had eluded us all year and luckily for me they were still there when she took me back to see them. The overall bird numbers today was poor given the great conditions but the quality for us was off the scale.
It has been a quiet few days weatherwise but you could say it's the calm before the storm with heavy rain forcast for Sunday night, so today I spent the morning doing heavy lifting in the burn above the dam getting rid of some silt brought down in the last monsoon which was at the beginning of October. I had little time to get out and about although I managed to get as far as the end of Loch Cuin at Dervaig which was enough really as I saw Buzzard, Little Grebes, Mallards, Greylag Geese, Common Gulls, Redshank, Greenshank, Ringaed Plover, Curlew, Snipe, Rock Doves, Great Black.Backed Gull and Goosander, we are very lucky to live in such a beautiful place with wildlife at our fingertips. The Rams are resting up during the rut as it will soon be their turn with the ladies.
Late news that I forgot yesterday and it's about Bats (no not Pam) but a Pipistrelle Bat that she found when she opened the bedroom window yesterday morning, I took it to the shed for safe keeping but it will probably return to hibernate over the Winter. This morning there was a very cold white frost and as the sun came up I was able to take a couple of photographs of the Autumn Colours and the white frost on the ground. I did not get much wildlife watching done today although I did manage a quick trip to Cailaich and saw 2 Golden Eagles, Kittiwake and Guilliemots.
Oct 14th and 15th
Coldish, calm weather on both days and little in the way of wildlife watching but I was able to get a couple of jobs that I have been putting off done. Firstly we have changed the gate off the drive into the property, the handle now works after a little WD40 and a drop of oil and it opens without having to be lifted. The first major leaf fall of the Autumn has been picked up and put into the compost heap which should help the invertabates. Finally the holes that had appeared in the drive have now been filled although like the potholes on Mulls roads it remains to be seen how long they last. A trip around the block as I had to go to Salen today did not prove to be overwhelming wildlife wise as the tide was so far out we could nearly have walked across Loch Na Keal. The highlight for me were Golden Plovers seen at Killiechronan, even at the distance they were off there is just something about Golden Plover that lifts my spirits. I took a photo of Beinne Taladh (Hill with a View) from the North shore of Loch Na Keal and of Aros Castle and the White House during our trip out.
Little to report wildlife wise today except we keep seeing Sparrowhawks, one flew through the garden again today. On a quick run down to Cailaich I took these photes of the Monkey Puzzle tree and a Dry stone wall. The Red Deer rut is still in full flow with stags roaring in several areas around Ardrioch at the moment, thank goodness for double glazing. A trip to Tobermory tip was the highlight of my day today as Pam wanted to get stuff for the 'shoe box appeal' which sends a little joy at Cristmas to people who have so little. www.shoeboxappeal.org
After a couple of days wildlife watching today we caught up with a bit of work, clearing space in the shed for our vehicles this winter for me and Pam starting to prepare for what increasingly looks like lockdown Christmas. I am going to have to work out a scheme for losing weight between now and Christmas which will take at least 2 months and then with all the food she is preparing putting it back on again in 1 week. I know this sounds like hard work but someone has to do it. We could now be in a position where we have not left the island at all in 12 months, anywhere else this might be a hardship but if you have to be in lockdown Mull is as good a place to be as any I can think of.
A day of cloud but light winds so we decided another day to the Ross of Mull might be a good idea and it certainly was with 62 species of birds and 6 mammals seen during the day. Golden Eagle, White tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Buzzards, Kestrels and 4 different Sparrowhawks were seen as well as Seals, Otters, Red and Fallow Deer. My highlight however were 4 Skylarks seen at Fidden Farm, and 2 Whooper Swans flying over Inch Kenneth which was looking particularly lovely in one of the few moments of sunshine we had today. A walk to Ardalanish Beach which gave us great views of the Islands to the South of Mull and also the geological rocks on the beach. I took the photo of the Rook because it is a bird of Southern Mull which we seldom get in the North.
Like a lot of you we have had to cancell this years holiday although unlike a lot of you we live on this beautiful Island of Mull so we have decided to holiday at home this year by visiting places we have not been to for a long time on the island. Today we took Lucy for the walk from Reudle Schoolhouse to the village of Crackaig, luckily we made it between two heavy showers. The views were excellent and the wildlife not too bad either with a Golden Eagle flying over our heads and at one time we were surrounde by at least 3 roaring Red Deer stags and their harems. The photos today are of the village and the islands of Lunga and the Dutchmans Cap.
A day of heavy showers brightened up by the appearance of 6 Whooper Swans at the Dervaig end of Loch Cuin which also had the effect of getting me out of more gardening. We did go to Cailaich to see if the Sabines Gull was still around, it wasn't but we nearly got blown off our feet looking for it. At Lainne Sguer looking across to Tiree the clouds had a very moody look about them with the sun trying to get through but the darker rain clouds were winning out. As the song says here comes the rain again and Zebedee said 'Its time For bed'
Firstly we must thank Valerie Goodenough for her lovely email about the blog, not just for her kind words but also it is nice to know that someone out there actually reads and enjoys our blog and we are not just doing it for ourselves, it makes it all worthwhile. Today I went round my local patch, that is Dervaig, Calgary, Lainne Sguer, Reudle and Cailaich, when I mention round the block that includes going from Reudle to Torloisk and back over the Hill Road, just a bit of geographical information for you all today, now if you get out your map books? Back to the birding, to be fair it was not too exciting until I got to Cailaich where almost as soon as I got out of the van I spotted a Gull which looked unusual. On further inspection I found it had noticable black forwings and a black line across its tail and when it dropped down in front of the rocks it had a v shaped notch in the tail. My first thought was it was a juvenile Sabines Gull as it also had a brownish back and shoulders, this was totally confirmed when I looked in 3 seperate bird books and as it not a bird often seen around Mull was another addition to my Mull bird list, sorry no photo to busy identifying it.
Oct 3rd to 7th
The weekend was a bit of a washout curtesy of storm Alex and on Monday I went for a final fishing trip of the year on a glass calm, sunny day and although the fish eluded me for the most part I had a lovely day out on the water and did see a flock of about 15 returning Whooper Swans. Pam and I went to get our flu jabs on Saturday morning and both had a small reaction so felt a bit off on Sunday although I had to deal with effects of storm Alex on the water supply, filters blocked up with leaves again. Wednesday was a day in the garden for me as Pam was doing the mid week cleaning of the Sheiling for guests arriving on Saturday. It is strange having to social distance from guests for the whole time that they are here which I must admit is not easy for us as we like to talk to our guests about the wildlife they are seeing and the best places to go to see it, but that's the world we live in at the moment, we must all keep safe. I have not done much wildlife watching for the past few days so I have continued the theme of view photographs in this blog post, to wet your appetite for next year maybe? or just to show you how beautiful Mull is. The pictures are all taken within a mile of Dervaig.
This strange year rolls on and Autumn is now well under way and I had two experiences which brought this home to me today. Firstly on the bird feeders, since they left to breed I have seen hardly any goldfinches in the garden, today I had 7 on the feeders at the same time. Secondly it is noticable that the leaves are now changing colour fast and are becoming yellow and light brown, you can see it in the photo. I also took a photo of the river where it passes the reed bed before it goes under the bridge at Dervaig. At Dervaig there was a single Dunlin and a Black Headed Gull joining the usual Curlews, Redshanks, GreenshanksSnipe and Common Gulls.
A trip out with Pam this morning and fishing probably the last time in the boat this year. We saw a few White-Tailed Eagles, a distant Otter with a fish and found the Grey Plover was still occupying the same beach area we had seen it on earlier in the week. Other notable bird sightings were a single Bar Tailed Godwit at Aros and some very close Gannets and Kittiwakes seen when out fishing. I took the photo of Ulva and Loch Tuath as I had spent many happy hours on tours looking for wildlife in this location and not really had time to appreciate the view.
A very wet day and Pam cleaned the self-catering Inch Hame after leaving it for 4 days after the last guests left in line with the guidelines. I went and checked the water supply which tends to be worse after heavy rains block the filters particularly at this time of year with fallen leaves in the burns. I went back 20 years to my farming days today as I helped Fiona walk the cattle which had been grazing our fields back up the road towards their home pasture. Todays picture is a bit of a spot the ball moment but in this case it's spot the Golden Plovers, Turnstones snd Ringed Plover. If you think it's difficult in the photo it was just as difficult in reality.
Pam was drying Salmon skins for Lucy as treats and a bedtime snack, Lucy loves them and they make her hair glow but during the drying process the kitchen reeks of Salmon so I decided it would be prudent to work outside. I pruned back the border at the back of the house, now those of you readers who have stayed ay Ardrioch will know this border is not full of lovely plants but mainly consisists of Rose Bay Willow Herb which grow to about 7 feet. In the Spring the border is full of beautiful yellow Daffodils and then comes the purple pink Willow Herbs which provide good cover for the birds. This is my type of gardening, you just cut down to the soil and clear in the late Autumn and then let it take care of itself for another 12 months. We went out this afternoon for a couple of hours and I took some photos which will appear on todays and tommorrows blog as the forecast is for heavy rain and strong winds tomorrow, a day for staying at home.
Pam spent the morning filiting and breading the Pollock I caught and putting it into the freezer, we now have a plentiful supply for fish and chips throughout the winter. I had a fairly quiet day doing my regular jobs and playing about with my photos from previous holidays now I have some idea what I am doing. We managed a couple of hours birding in the afternoon and saw none of Mulls famed species. I did manage to get a few photos for this blog, a male Stonechat at Cailaich and a very close Grey Heron, 2 Snipe and a Herring Gull which took off just as I was about to take its picture.
A calm but cold day so I went fishing to try and get some decent size Pollock for the freezer, in the event I came home with 7 which with what we have already got in the freezer should last us well into the winter. We went out to the Ardnamurchan lighthouse a new fishing ground for me and I took a close up photo of the lighthouse, much better than the ones from the Cailaich Point road which I normally get in good weather. I had a real suprise in Croig Harbour as we were rowing out to the boat, a single Brent Goose not a bird I had expected to see on Mull this year as previously I had only ever seen Brent Geese in spring.
A quieter day today although we did have a couple come to the Shieling our smaller self-catering cottage which has not been occupied for over a week. It is quite strange having to social distance and still give instuctions about the cottage to our guests, I am thinking of getting a loud hailer just to be on the safe side, not to avoid Covid but to try and keep up with the ever changing rules. Does anyone really know what's going on? Pam did get in a swim today and I got the large lawn mowed although I think it was a 50/50 split between grass and leaves.
Pam and I took Lucy for another birding trip to the south of Mull and although it was cool and very breezy the sun was out for the most part and so it wasn't too cold. Best sighting of the day was a Grey Plover, spotted by Pam as you probably guessed and the first Grey Plover we have seen on Mull for a few years. On our way towards Loch Harrison and Scoor down the rough track we saw a lovely pair of Grey Wagtails and shortly after 2 Golden Plovers always a nice bird to see. The other highlight on a day of over 50 bird species was a Golden Eagle, a bird we don't see so often now we are not doing tours. Lucy enjoyed herself, particulaly when we let her have a good run on Ardalanish beach although meeting a bigger dog made her jump back into the van quickly and that had nothing to do with social distancing.
A day of chores, Pam wanted to get stuff from Tobermory, ie,shopping and most importantly getting more salmon fish skins for Lucy. I needed to get some fencing materials, petrol for lawn mower and boat and a new gas for the midge machine for next year. As it is getting colder there are a lot less midges about now so this afternoon I cleaned the machine out and put it away for the winter. The reason for having a gas ready for next year is if you put the machine out early and catch the first midges you stop them breeding and get less midges for the rest of the summer season. It is the earlier the machine goes out the less midges tou get, hopefully?. We had fresh cod for tea, it was lovely, a propper Cod dish and not just with chips, Pam excelled herself.
After the rain of yesterday a beautiful day today and a chance to go out fishing, it was so calm we managed to get out to Coll for the first time this year. The plus of getting out to Coll the scenery is fantastic with views of lots of Mull's surrounding islands and then of course were the Dolphins, loads of Common Dolphins, everywhere we looked, sorry my photos don't do them justice. The downside no fish, they were probably keeping out of the way of the Dolphins. Back near Mull I did manage to catch a couple of fish, 1 decent size Pollock, a keeper as we say and then to our suprise I caught a large Cod, the first and probably the last I will catch. Cod and chips for tea tomorrow night methinks. To finish off a lovely day we had a mild Aurora about 10 pm with a green glow to the north and the sky was so full of stars with a beautiful Milky Way.
Up early to go with the mechanic to fetch the van back as it had developped a problem that had been fixed, the car was having a new tyre and was being re-tracked, so my intention was to go birding on my way back home. I hadn't factored in the high winds and driving rain which made wildlife watching very difficult and not very pleasant. I did see a close Gannet, Mergansers and Goosanders and also a flock of Teal hiding on the sheltered side of some rocks, still getting very wet though. My highlight were my first Wigeon which have returned after breeding in the north.
I spent most of the day at home as our fishing trip was cancelled because it was too windy. There was not a lot to report as I have nearly run out of bird seed and so am rapidly running out of birds in the garden, i hope the new order of seed arrives soon. I did have to go down to the shop and on my back took a photo of the Greylag Geese in Cuin Bay.
Another morning at Cailaich and another Ruff, this one much closer than the one at Ardalanish a few days ago. Ruff are becoming like buses for me and Pam, you see one and don't see another for years and then 2 come along within 3 days of each other. Also at Cailaich this morning were Twite, a flying White-tailed Eagle amd the Peregrine Falcon once again sitting and admiring the view. Over the water were Gannets and Kittiwakes and of course Shags. On our way out of Cailaich I stopped and took a photo of the Ardnamurchan lighthouse in front of the scoor of Eigg, the same view being enjoyed by the peregrine.
Another beautiful day and I was out early doors birding locally, it was at Cailaich that I had my best sightings, particularly a very close female Sparrowhawk chasing Meadow Pipits right in front of the car. I saw the male later as I was on my way home in roughly the same spot. At Cailaich Point was a Peregrine Falcon sitting on the top of the hill, we saw 4 Peregrines, a family off the back of Cailaich when fishing a couple of weeks ago. Other bird of prey sightings were a Kestrel and a Buzzard and of course at that time in the morning there were plenty of Red Deer about.
Today I had to finish the clearing of the long grass which I had left uncut all summer, it is very hard work but well worth the effort as leaving wild parts of the gardens benefits both yourself and nature, the cattle in the field enjoyed the new cut grass as well. When I went out first thing this morning I was struck by the quiet beauty of the early morning mist rising from Loch Cuin and took a photograph and this evening as the sun was setting I had gone out for a bit of birding but was struck by the setting sunlight on Beinne More from the top of the hill at Reudle.
Today we had a full day birding and what a good day we had. Leaving
home at 8am we got down to Pennygael just after 9am and saw 2 Otters
which gave us great views. At Fidden we saw a single Barnacle Goose with
a large flock of Greylags, lots of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Lapwings
and to Pam's delight a few Twite, another bird for her Mull year list.
We found a Wheatear which looked different from our usual Wheatears and
found out from our bird book it was of the Greenland race, unfortunately
I did not get a photo but you will find what it looks like in a good
bird book. On to Ardalanish and another good find a single Ruff only
the second one I have seen on Mull, on the beach were Dunlin and Ringed
Plover. Uiskin for lunch with 2 annoying Goats which wanted to share
lunch with us. After lunch at Uiskin we saw a very close Sparrowhawk,
Kestrel, Buzzard, and better still a pair of hunting Hen Harrier. On our
way home we stopped for another look on Loch Scridain and Pam saw
splashing and there to our astonishment were a large pod of Common
Dolphins which we watched for a long while as we also picked them up
again going into Loch Na Keal. Finally to end a great day birding White
Wagtail and Curlew. Home again and after re-united
with Lucy who had spent her day with the neighbours whom she adores we
got a welcome take away from the Bellachroy a much needed pint and
relived all we had seen on a fantastic day of birding.
Sept 1st to 16th inc
Grandchildren recovery took a little time and to be perfectly honest the poor weather here didn't help, that and I had a lot of gardening to catch up on. We had some cattle on our land and they ended up breaking into the wood, whether this was a good thing or bad remains to be seen but after a fortnight or so they came back out and are now in the front field where there is plenty of grass. There might be plenty of grass but the cattle keep reaching over the fence and eating Pam's herbs and apples, I always thought that grass as a feed needed a little spice, it seems the cattle think likewise. Seen below are the view of Ulva Ferry from Reudle, Gannet in Cailaich Bay and Bell heather and Ling.
August 24th and 25th
NEWS FLASH NEWS FLASH NEWS FLASH
A TWO BARRED CROSSBILL was spotted on our feeders by DAVID MITCHELL who is a friend and staying in INCH HAME with his family, not only is this a very rare bird for Great Britain but a first for Mull. The bird appeared again on the morning of the 25th and it was a first for both me and Pam, check out the photos below and note the 2 white bars on its wing, now back to looking after grandchildren.
The Cheshire family are up for the whole of August, well at least our two youngest grandchildren are, Nia aged 5 and Rishee aged 3 so no wildlife watching this month too Kna..ered. The wildlife blog will resume at the start of September if I can get out of bed. ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz?.
July 27th to July 31st
Enjoying the rest of July with our Devon family.
July 16th to 26th
We spent the first few days getting ready for the arrival of our family from South Devon, Simon, Becky and our three grand daughters who, like a lot of Grand Parents, haven't seen family since Christmas 2019. I have been cleaning through the water supply and putting new filters in place and making sure the garden is looking good. Pam, she has been cleaning and baking for all she is worth. For relaxation Pam has been swimming in the sea with her swimming buddies on as many days as the weather would allow and I have had a couple of days fishing with Nick. It was lovely to welcome the family and we have been on some nice walks down Loch Ba and to the beach at Langamull. We went out for a meal at the Hebridean Lodge and had a great meal thank to Helen, the chef and proprietess and as we were the only paty allowed in we did not have to safe distance. Last evening Pam dressed the Grand Children up in clothes she had made and worn herself nearly 50 years ago, Mary Quant and Twiggy eat tour hearts out. The photos are of some of the time and things we have seen and done with our family during their visit this week.
July 5th to 15th
It is very quiet wildlife wise at this time of the year so I have been out fishing 3 times with Nick. Even out at sea there are not many birds about although we have seen a few Guillemots, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Gannets and Kittiwakes. On one trip despite it being a little rough we did see a Great Skua my first of the year so I was really pleased. On the fishing front we are catching a few Mackeral now and I caught a decent 4 pound Pollock which should keep us well fed for a few meals. We are getting ready to welcome family up for the next few weeks, we are really looking forward to it as we have not seen any family since last Christmas, only on zoom which although better than nothing it is just not the same. I have taken a few photos of wildflowers and other flowers growing in the garden at the moment see if you can spot the odd one out.
July 2nd to 4th
3 days of no wildlife watching except in the garden and a late evening trying to see a Long Eared Owl but only succeeded in seeing a Tawny on top of a Fir Tree. The first day was spent working, in particular fencing the field in front of the house after a tree had fallen across the fence and broke 4 posts last winter. We decided not to graze the pasture until the Autumn but at least it is now stock proof once again. In the afternoon I put some fencing around the new bird tables with the help of lucy our dog, for those of you who remember the cartoon the wakey races, I was Dastardly and Lucy Mutly the dog and it was a case of 'STOP THE PIGEONS' or in this case Rock Doves. Friday we went to Tobermory and Salen for stuff we can't get in Dervaig like gas for the Midge Machine and fuel for the car and boat. Friday evening we looked for the Owls and I took some sunset photos over the Loch at Dervaig. Saturday it rained for most of the day and we stayed at home recovering from the late evening which because of lockdown we definately we are not used to.
Pam and I went fishing with Nick, another great day for me but a red letter day for Pam as we saw our first Bottle Nose Dolphins of the year. They came really close to the boat leaping out of the water so she was delighted as seeing Whales and Dolphins is her main reason for going out on the boat. Thanks once again to Nick and to Catherine who looked after Lucy for us whilst we were out. Lucy for first time readers is our dog who loves Catherine nearly as much as she loves us. Fencing tomorrow but I will try for some photos as it was too rough on the sea to take any of the Dolphins.
The weather is dry and I spent the day mowing lawns which as the grass had grown so long meant several trips with the wheelbarrow full of grass to the wood. No doubt the workout did me good but by the end of a warm afternoon I was knack...., erm tired. Over the last few months Pam has made plenty of trips over the hill road for her swimming only seeing Hooded Crows, Stonechat, Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and a pair of nesting Curlew, today she was pleased to report a hunting male Hen Harrier.
All I can say it was a very wet day. The upside the burn is full, the downside,the grass is growing, the lawns need mowing and it is to wet to get the job done.
Just a short trip out and about today and an Otter at last, close, but not that close, enough to get a photo. We also had a great view of the Stonechat and I thought this will be a good photo, but you what thought did, it did not take into consideration the background light, so this is the result of the picture I got. The rest of today was spent doing very little although we did meet up with our friends for a social distancing coffee and catch up this morning now we are allowed. Good news Pam has started to make some more curtains which allows me to watch croudless football on TV.
A trip around Loch Na Keal and back home through Glen More brought us an unusual sighting for June, a Whooper Swan seen shortly after we came to the water on the south shore of the Loch just past Knock House. A little further down the south shore at Gribun we found the Peregrine Falcon on its usual stamping ground giving us a very good view through the scope but to far away for even one of my fuzzy photos. After we had got throgh Glen More and past the Inverlussa Mussel Farm we stopped to look for Short Eared Owls and Hen Harriers and were really lucky to see both check out the photos. Sorry about the Short Eared Owl taken at distance through the telescope, very fuzzy, Alan Spellman will be pleased to see I still have my fuzzy photo skills.
Today I went fishing with Nick and Catherine and caught quite a few fish including 5 Sand Eels which Nick said he had never caught before, I have to say they were a lot bigger than the ones I have seen Puffins carrying, before you get too concerned we threw them all back. Icaught a few Coly and some Pollock of varying sizes but only one keeper as Catherine the size controller was only allowing 3 pound and over to be kept, so Nick and I got to take home one each. As I was out at sea around Cailaick I was able to take a few photos of birds, which was not easy as the boat was moving on the waves but at least they were resonably close.
Pam and I went to Calgary and Cailaich this evening and had a lovely couple of hours seawatching and although we saw only a few birds it was just great to be out on a beautiful evening with only the farms barking dog to spoil our enjoyment, he seemed to be having a great time as well. On the bird front we saw our first Manx Shearwater of the year and a Gannet flew past the point and we might have seen a Puffin another first for 2020. On our way home we had to stop for a Hedgehog ambling up the road, when we stopped the Hedgehog shifted gear and almost ran into the grass on the verge and dissappeared.
June 23rd and 24th
Lots of rain and so we spent most of the time indoors watching our garden birds although I did manage a couple of hours strimming Rushes and Bracken and I got a photo of a Meadow Brown Butterfly which unfortunately closes its wings almost as soon as it alights. I did not have too much patience to hang around as I was being eaten alive by Midges at the time as they love the moist still air.
Yea, it has rained and more is expected, at last the burn is filling up and hopefully we won't have to worry about water again this year, well about a shortage of water anyhow. We went out with Lucy today on the regular lockdown walk and although there were not too many birds about (they are all in our garden) we did see lots of wild flowers so todays photographs are of some of the most beautiful we saw. Talking of birds in the garden we had 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers today at the same time on three different feeders, and then just like children one youngster decided that it would join dad on his feeder, no social distancing there then.
The longest day of the year, fathers day and a visit from our local Jay and for once it stayed around long enough for me to get a photograph. Pam and I went to Cailaich to look for seabirds and we had a very good sighting of a Fulmar, not as common at Cailaich Point as they used to be when a few pairs used to breed on the cliffs there. Pam is now one bird ahead of me on her Mull list for the year on 129. At Cailaich we saw a Common Snipe on a fence post calling to its young and Pam took the photo through her telescope with her phone, I took the the photo of the Rock Pipit through my scope with my camera. There were a few Gannets going past the point and a few Auks and we think we saw a Puffin amongst them. There were lots of Gulls at Calgary includind Black Headed and Lesser Black Backed. We saw Swallows, Sand Martins and a House Martin hunting insects that were being disturbed by the Gulls from the seaweed line. Finally at Lainne Sguere a pair of Shelduck with six well grown ducklings.
A lovely day and football is back on th TV so I watched the sport and Pam went swimming, a typical Saturday. This morning we went to our friends garden and had an enjoyable couple of hours drinking coffee and chatting, I must say it is nice to have a little normality back in our lives although we must not take liberties this desease is not over yet and we should try to get back to a new normal for everyones sake but without taking unnecessary risks.
A red letter day for me as I went fishing with Nick as he has now got his boat in the water and I was able to try out my new rod a reel given to me for my seventieth birthday. I have to say the rod was great but the reel was fantastic, particularly for a beginner like me. I had caught my first Pollock in no time, a nice size but not a keeper but I did manage to catch 3 reasonable ones and one much larger one which I must say made my day although I can't say the same for the Pollock. Thanks to Nick for his help and I promise to get better at handling the fish that I catch as I get more experienced.
We went to get fuel for the mower and strimmer today and as it involved going to Salen we stopped in and had coffee with our friend Jaquie, we took our own coffee in flasks and social distanced in her garden, it was great to see her again after several weeks. The trip brought us our first Otter sighting for some time as well as both types of Deer and Seal, a pair White-tailed Eagles, we also had a great view of a Whinchat which is a bird I always like to see. I managed today to get photos of two birds I hadn't managed to photo before this year, A Cuckoo and a Willow Warbler. With the lawn mower filled up there were no more excuses and I had to mow lawns this afternoon.
A sad day as it was the funeral of a friend but even in this time of social distancing it was nice for the family that several of us who knew Bev chose to have their excersize by walking to the graveyard where the service was held and social distancing in the field surrounding the graveyard were also able to say our goodbyes. Back at Ardrioch a new visitor to our bird feeders, a Herring Gull, not a bird I have had in the garden before, and don't particularly want, where are the lovely Common Gulls we usually get.
A driech day of low cloud so we went out locally to see what was about and saw a pair, well there were 2 of them, Black Guillemts in Calgary Bay and just outside the bay were 2 Razorbills. On the beach again deserted of people there was a large line of fresh seaweed which was covered in a mixed flock of Gulls, mainly Herring Gulls and Common Gulls but there was also a couple of Lesser Black backed Gulls amongst them. A family of Rock Pipits on the crash barriers was followed by a young Red Deer stag. The mist decended making it almost impossible to see anything although I did take a photo of a Meadow Pipit on a twiggy bush in the mist, a bit atmospheric for me.
June 14th and 15th
We had a lovely morning on Sunday with friends for a social distancing chat and afterwards just enjoyed a Lazy Sunday (Small Faces) I threw that one in for you Blake and Sheila and thanks for the lockdown George Formby diities, they kept us amused during this unusual and trying time. On the 15th I took Lucy on a long walk, well I say it was long, for me it was for Lucy probably a short stroll. This is all well and good but Lucy is nowhere to be seen when it comes to strimming, might have something to do with her being a dog.
Today I joined my mate Nick for a fishing lesson from shore, I have never fished in the sea from shore before only from Nick's and Mikes boat so it was a lesson in the art of casting for me. Although I can't say I was the perfect student I was able to cast a reasonable distance and managed to catch 4 fish, 3 were Coly, 2 of which were thrown back but I did manage to catch one to bring home big enough for eating. The other fish I caught was a Pollock but that was only a tiddler and would hardly have made a fish finger. This Oystercatcher which was a spectator for most of the morning.
I finished the strimming this morning and have decided to have a long weekend off, so a long relaxing bath listening to my music. Now I don't want you all thinking I'm a slacker, after all I am supposed to be retired. I have taken some photos of the property to show what we have been up to during lockdown, ENJOY.
Above our Birch and traditional woodland after we have removed the plastic guards
and below the sun coming through the trees by our garden gate and Lucy completing her jumps.
Today I started to strim the orchard not an easy job as it is on a bank and quite tiring for my ageing bones but needs must particularly as the solar panels are also in the orchard. we are still in the midst of some very dry weather and so Pam and I spent a couple of hours working on our water supply. Now I would like to say it was 2 hours well spent, in the event after we had finished nothing had changed which means a daily walk up to the dam for me and Lucy. Oh well back to the strimming.
Today I mowed the lawn in front of the Sheiling and a few paths through the other lawns to the bird feeders as we are leaving chunks of the lawn for the wildlife. I am not being too altruistic but more in hope that with the grass going to seed it might cost me less in purchesed feed. The theory behind the plan was good in practice they are just getting more food and still eating at my 5* seed restaurant. We also have no sheep this year and just letting the fields grow wild, I must admit the meadows do come up a treat.
Pam has another pet project at the moment, it involves re-covering a large lamp shade for a standard lamp in our living room. I don't know much about upholstery although I have leaned some things about it during lockdown. The main rules appear to be stitching fabric and then unstiching fabric, this latter part involves some bad language. The next step involves stretching the said fabric around a frame, if the fabric is too short even more bad language is required. Finally upholstering requires a lot of pricking of fingers which can turn the language quite blue, me and Lucy prefer mowing lawns when this his happens.
In my defence I have not covered a lampshade in about 40 years and am kind of making it up as I go along. I had to take the old covering off very carefully to make a pattern for the new covering and lining which you can see I am sewing on at the moment. Pam
Today I mowed our lawns which took longer than expected as after the rain the grass had grown considerably, although it is not my favorite job it does look good when I have finished.
The photos below are of Thrift or Sea Pinks which are blooming great this year and do look spectacular, The Flag Iris are also in bloom now and add to the overall beauty of Mull. The wind dropped today after the gales and Pam managed to get a swim in which always puts her in a better mood. Unfortunately gales at this time of the year do damage the trees which are covered in leaves and often lose branches, the leaves also get salt burn from the spray carried on the wind and they seldom recover.
Today was a very good day as a couple of friends of ours rang and told us of a place on Mull where we might see A Redstart, yes it was a little more than 5 miles but as we have been mostly keeping to the government guidlines we thought we deserved a little treat. We were very fortunate and were able to find the bird and I managed a few photos to prove it. We have seen Redstart on Mull several times before but not in this location and as it was our first for the year and probably the only one we will get we are very grateful to our friends. On our way home we saw this lovely Wheatear, and for the first time this year I got a photo of it. Back home Lucy and a neighbours cat met up, please note they kept strictly to the two metres social distancing guidelines.
June 4th to 6th
June is well under way and the weather has turned, we have had a much colder 3 days, it was bound to happen Pam put the Summer sheets on the bed and we are having to wear thermol pyjamas. As well as it being colder we are also getting gale force winds so most of the little birds have gone into lockdown, it is a good job that I continue to feed the birds in the Summer even if they are eating us out of house and home. I have not been able to take any photos for 3 days so the ones below are pictures I took before the weather changed. the forecast is better for the beginning of next week so I hope to get out locally again then.
June 2nd and 3rd
As lockdown has eased slightly we went on a couple of walk/drive excurtions on one of them to try and see Redstart, the mission was a failure but not a total one as we did manage to see our first Arctic Terns of the year. The machair at Calgary is starting to look good and I took some photos of some Northern Marsh Orchids along with Birds Foot Treffoil and also a picture of Pam and Lucy walking on an otherwise deserted Calgary Beach, lockdown in action. On our travels and walks we noted the amount of wildflowers coming into their best and I took quite a few photos to show you guys who are usually here at this time of year what you are missing. More and more birds are appearing with young and at Calgary I watched a pair Blue Tits feeding chicks in an old field gate. I took 2 pictures of different Waders in different locations but holding similar poses on small mounds.
Today like everyday recently I was woken at 4-30am by the Hooded Crow in the photo below. The Crow lands on our house roof and runs across it, it is very loud, not satisfied with dancing on the roof the Crow heads off to the metal chimney from the boiler and proceeds to play the drums on it for several minutes. To think I used to get woken up by a Song Thrush blasting out its lovely song like a ghetto buster (you have to be a certain age to know what they were,) now its a drum solo....Ahhhh. The other photo is of the sunset over Coll and the Outer Hebridies seen tonight as I have not been out since I hurt my leg and it is within the 5 mile rule.
May 29th to 31st
We got the midge machine going check out the photo. As I was still a little incapacitated I took a few photos of things in the garden, hope you like them. Hopefully I will be more mobile next week.
May 26th to 28th
First the good news, on the way to Tobermory today Pam spotted this Osprey and after turning round and going back to Dervaig we were able to get great views of it flying over Loch Cuin being mobbed by gulls and Oystercatchers. I took about 30 photos and there were only two that were passable and one is the picture below. Now the bad news and the reason for our trip to Tobermory, if you haven't already guessed the Midges have put in an appearance and they are definately not social distancing and so we were off to get calor gas for the midge machine. More good news, we collected another 5 bags of plastic guards on Tuesday. Bad news in the evening I pulled a muscle in my calf which has left me somewhat
incapacitated. The good news; I now can't mow the lawns, the bad news the grass is growing fast. Good news we have a pair of swallows nesting just outside our bedroom, well it's certainly better than on the inside. Finally we are seeing more fledglings in the garden with the first Goldfinch on the 27th and the first Greenfinch today the 28th.
May 23rd to 25thBank holiday weekend and a bit of good news for those of you who should have been on Mull this weekend, the weather was awful high winds and rain, the bad news it's looking good for the rest of the week. My new bird table is proving a hit, particularly with the Siskins, we regularly have 8 of them on the table at the same time, the roof is great as it overhangs and the birds can keep dry in wet weather and get a snack at the same time. I managed to take the photo below of a Lesser Redpoll on the table through the kitchen window and the little bird did not seem bothered at all. Today, the 25th we had a rare treat as I had to go to Craignure for a MOT blood test, don't get excited, just routine but it meant we could go for a walk with the dog in a new area as since lockdown we have been restricted to the Dervaig area. We went for our walk up the Grasspoint road and got a good view of a Wood Warbler in the trees, no photo as it was flitting about in the trees now covered in leaves but nice to see none the less. Further on we saw a Garden Warbler, a bird we don't always see on Mull but again although we got good views the little blighter never stood still long enough for a photo. Both these species were firsts for our Mull lists this year, which despite the lockdown is coming on better than we could have hoped. On our way home Pam spotted this Dipper in the photograph below on the Aros River and unlike the Warblers this bird was a little poser.
May 18th to 22nd
A shorter epistle after last weeks epic as we have done very little birding except watching the birds in our gardem, (see the birds on my new feeding table below) although on Monday after a grocery shopping visit to Salen I did see my first House Martin of the year. On the subject of grocery shopping we went to Salen and the Co-op in Tobermory, not on the same day to try and get stuff that Dougie hadn't got in his wonderful store. We got none of what we wanted in either Tobermory or Salen, the moral of this story if Dougie ain't got it neither has anyone else and you don't have to travel so far. Another epic has again reared it's head, yes the Deer saga has not yet been sorted, we saw a deer in the field on Monday evening and so Tuesday was spent once more try to drive out what we hope is the last Red Deer on our property. There is a little bit of evidence that it has gone out but the odds are still in its favour and not our trees. Whilst on Deer patrol we did find a Buzzards nest in a glade at the far end of of the woodland and we suspect it has chicks, I will keep you informed also lots of bright Marsh Marigolds. We have just seen the weather forecast for the weekend and have decided to go into lockdown.
May 10th to 17th
I have spent some time up the jungle which is our burn this week but can now report that I have reached the point where the burn leaves our property, an lengh of some 400 metres is now devoid of vegetation. You know the saying do a job, make a job, well at the fence where the burn goes out of our property the burn gate, which keeps the Red Deer out of the woodland was pretty useless as the burn had dropped 3 feet during the very wet winter and Deer, if they so wished, could just walk underneath it. I had to carry a sheep hurdle up over half a mile and secure it to prevent another Deer invasion. Talking of Red Deer, which we thought we had got rid of, well it seems we had only halved the problem as we found fresh prints by a stream. Now here's the thing, try finding a single Red Deer in 35 acres of mainly woodland when there is only 2 of you and a little dog, not easy. Another morning of walking and trying to drive it out of the gate at the far wnd of the farm which we had opened. We had a couple of brief views of the Deer after we had disturbed it then nothing, even after 2 extensive searches round the property. Back at the gate which is at the far end of the property we saw a scuff mark and a couple of new, although fairly indistinct, hoof prints due to the dry weather and are hoping the blo..y Deer has found its way out, time will tell. The air has been blue in our house this week as Pam has been making more face masks, apparently it is a fiddly job with many pricked fingers, lots of cotton reel, and broken needles, It doesn't help if you make them back to front and have to unstich and start again, cover your ears Lucy. She has made 50 face masks for the NHS and volunteers. There were a few wildlife moments this week, we saw our first Bullfinch of the year, it is a lovely bird to see although it was taking to good a look at our apple blossomed trees for our liking. Another first a Spotted Flycatcher, seen in its regular haunt, this one is for David Yates, a regular guest and friend who usually finds it first but of course can't be here due to lockdown. We are seeing a few youngsters in the garden, a baby Mistle Thrush, a baby Robin and a baby Siskin and the Bluebells are now flowering. I will finish this epistle with 2 unusual birds seen on Mull this week, A Hoopoe and a Hawfinch.
The pictures are from the night camera, the ones of the Hedgehog were taken when it was still dark and is a bit like spot the Hedgehog. The pictures of the cat, the Blackbird and the worm told there own story after daybreak. There is a saying, the early bird catches the worm, if they survive the cat. I spent most of today totally knackered after c hacking through the jungle on either side of the burn, I should not have to work this hard at my age, Coronavirus has a lot to answer for, I cannot escape. On the wildlife front, we are seeing a lot of Orange Tip Butterflies now and today a Green Viened White.
May 3rd to 8th
I spent most of the week working on the burn where I get my water supply from, due to the dry weather I could get right up to our boundry fence with waders on, it was quite entertaining with at one point only enough room to put one foot in front of the other, in other places it was a metre wide. at some points the water was barely one inch deep but at one point it 3 feet deep. The reason for going up the burn was to get rid of the overgrowing vegetation, Gorse, Briers, Grasses, Bog Myrtle and any other stuff which prevents a steady flow. It took me all week but I finished at late lunchtime today the 8th. Pam put out the night camera and we discovered we have a Hedgehog in the garden, joining the numerous Rabbits and Moles which we don't see but there is deffinite evidence. I put up 3 new bird tables this week a present from Pam made by my good mate Nick with help from my other good mate John. (social distancing was observed)
Today I became an endangered species, yes I have gone from middle age to old age overnight, I have reached the ripe old age of 70, I actually feel great although some of my bones feel like they reached this age many moons ago. Thanks to my family for the zoom conference, it was great fun, now will somebody tell me what the heck is zoom. They tell me that we are all going to be kept in contact through an app on our phones, where the dickens is my phone and what is an app? Thanks go to Pam, Nick, Catherine and John and Jo for the new birdtables, fishing rod and beers. Thanks also for Dougie at the Dervaig shop for the Fillet Steak for my special birthday stroganoff which was brilliant. This morning we added 2 more birds to our year list a Whitethroat check and Eider Ducks taking our Mull year total to 120 mostly seen in the Dervaig area, particularly since lockdown. Another first, we had a Grasshopper Warbler in the garden for a short while this morning and I took a photo of one of our regular Dunnocks.
We made it to the big city this morning and Tobermory was deserted, so this is what lockdown looks like in the city. We decided to take Lucy for a walk in Aros park and even that seemed deserted of wildlife although it was early and perhaps they were having a lie in. On our way out I heard the call of the bird we had been hoping to see and lo and behold there it was a Chiffchaff another first for 2020. Whilst in the park I took a couple of photos not of birds but of Tobermory from the Aros pier and one of the lower Falls in the park. We then went into Tobermory to our brilliant pharmacy and Brown's hardware and everything else, another great shop and also the co-op where Pam was only the second person in and because it was way before 10am they took the bottles of cider off her which I can assure you went down like a lead balloon.
The strimmer started without a kick and I strimmed the areas around the solar panels, if you hadn't guessed ours are not on the roof. When the vegitation grows back I shall hit it with weed killer before re-newing the black covering to stop vegitation growing at all which means more light on the solar panels and more free green power for us, shame we have an oil fired aga. We give with one hand and take back with the other, the aga however does make exceedingly good toast which was great until I bacame a bit allergic to yeast, so my toast days are now more limited. More plastic work today on our trees not our bodies. We are going to Tobermory tomorrow, this will be somewhat of an adventure, we haven't been since lockdown, I hope we remember the way.
Tomorrow I'm going to kick the strimmer to see if I can spark it into life so that I can keep the grass from growing over the solar panels, I could have done it today but why not put off till tommorow what you can leave today. Today however we took Lucy for a walk to Loch Frisa, isn't it great to be able to walk the dog in these troubled times. On the walk we had a very special view of a male Hen Harrier hunting, Hen Harriers are so persecuted by shooters in this country that we on Mull where there is little shooting are extremely fortunate and must look after their habitats. On our way back we saw our first pair of Whinchats and got a nice photo of the female on a post. I took another picture of a Black Tailed Godwit as they are a scarce Mull bird. Back at the farm I managed a photo of a female Yellowhammer and at last saw a Cuckoo although it was not the one that has been driving me mad playing a game of heard but not seen.
Firstly today the downside of Spring, yes the grass grows and that means that the lawns have to be mown however there is always a chance the lawn mower won't start after winter hibernation, damn it, it started after only one kick. We have decided not to graze our fields this Summer to leave more seeds for the birds, we are also leaving some parts of the lawn unmowed for the same reason. We shall get our local farmer to put cattle on the fields in the Autumn to eat off all the grass which will have accrued, notice I got all 4 seasons mentioned in this blog. There are a few pictures of what birds are doing during the lockdown, some athletic ones are excersising like the Tree Pipit and Grasshopper Warbler in the photos and this is after migrating all the way from Africa, I call it showing off. Then there are the ones who prefer relaxed gluttony, like the Whimbrel and Black Tailed Godwits which were certainly not wearing themselves out. For your information all pictures were taken locally as we were excersising the dog.
I thought I would share a few pictures of what Pam and I have been doing during the lockdown in our woodland. There is some debate about the amount of plastic guards left on trees planted in government schemes, so we decided to do something about ours, although it is a pretty back breaking job. To date we have half filled a holding pen, filled a sheep feeder, 6 large dustbins and 32 bags and have cleared 4 acres since lockdown began. Pam has also sewed 18 cotton face masks for the NHS and a couple for our own use if the government says we can't go out without a mask on. Pam says she misses her trips to the hairdresser as I'm thinking of standing her in a plastic bucket as her hair has started to look more like a bush, if she's not careful one of our birds might try nesting in it.
April 19th to 24th
The plastic removals continue and isn't nature wonderful, we take the plastic off a seemingly dead tree and there is a green shoot as the root still intact as it tries once again to produce life, it makes the back breaking task seem worthwhile and gives us pause for thought about the frontline NHS staff doing something similer, although obviously more important trying to save their very ill patients lives. Last Sunday morning we took Lucy and walked to the Dervaig Reedbeds and saw our first Grasshopper Warbler of the year, I say first but we are delighted to see one a year as they are annoying little critters who prefer to be heard and not seen. We also saw our first Common Sandpipers and a pair pair of Redshanks full of the joys of Spring if you get my drift. Swallows are now back at Ardroch and we have several Willow Warblers in the woodland and the Cuckoos are back and just starting to call in earnest. We are seeing Butterflies and Bees and other insects but fortunately for the plastic removal people there is so far no sign of Mulls favorite insect The MIDGE.
April 6th to 18th
Pam and I are very busy during the lockdown removing plastic guards from around the trees which have survived the Red Deer debacle, we had got all the Deer out of the wood from when some kind people opened a gate and let some back in, as you can imagine we were thrilled. I made a blockade around the gate to try and drive them out but Red Deer can be very crafty and difficult to find when they don't want to be seen and we could not find them although when we went back to close the gate we saw Deer footprints in the gateway and as we have not seen hide nor hair of them since we hope they found their own way out, hence the tree guard removals. Birdwise we had a pair of Linnets in the garden, which as it is my favorite bird was a real treat. The Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker are also daily visitors and we heard our first Cuckoo of the year yesterday. On our search for the Red Deer we stumbled across the Slow worm in the woodland which looked as if it had not long woken up from hibernation. We stood outside last evening and watch as the bats flew arond the house and Woodcocks roded over the garden it was a real treat in these difficult cercunstances.
March 21st to 5th April.
We are strickly observing the lockdown restrictions however we did manage to see a Wheatear on our way to get our medicines from the surgery in Salen the other day. We are very lucky in having 35 acres to wander around in, that's a pretty large garden and of course it means we can get out and about to try and find a few species of birds and to that effect I have taken a few photos of birds seen in the garden since lockdown. The most unusual was the Redwings, 5 of them turned up briefly and gave us great views from the kitchen window. I would advise anyone with a garden however small to put out food for the birds and other wildlife, it is surprising how much nature in all its forms is so uplifting.
I am sorry for all of you who can't get your Mull fix this year but I hope the blog helps to get you through these difficult times. Today we took Lucy, (isn't it great having to walk the dog) down Loch Ba and the weather was perfect, check out the photos. On our way and on the walk we saw a female Hen Harrier, an Otter, Red and Fallow Deer, a hunting Golden Eagle and a White-tailed Sea Eagle, all of Mull's target species in one morning. At the end of Loch Ba were Skylarks, Lapwings, Curlews and Snipe. On the lochside were lots of Pied Wagtails and a pair of Grey Wagtails. All in all it was a 'perfect day' (Lou Reed), just slipped that one in for you Blake and Sheila, keep well.
More SUNSHINE spoiled only by one very small shower. Apart from taking Lucy for a walk today we remained at home and contentented ourselves with watching the birds in the garden, as mentioned in the blog on many occasions we have zillions of Chaffinches so I took a photo of a few to put on the blog. As I was watching the birds I noticed that the Daffodils have started to appear and it brought to mind the Wordsworth poem (yes more poetry) so once again I took to the internet to read the poem, you can also listen to it on the link below and in this time of self isolation and worry it is very uplifting. I think nature in all its forms is a panacea for lots of ills and misery, enjoy the photo and read or listen to the poem. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/video/77369/daffodils
Yes, there is something to smile about, SUNSHINE, except for the 5 minutes hail storm on my newly shaved head, it bl...dy hurt. We took Lucy for a walk to Croggan again and after some searching we found the Purple Sandpipers hiding behind a rock and if you look at the photo I took you can see why it was difficult to see them. Oystercatchers are looking good at the moment and this one in the picture was very obliging. The views today were spectacular and the sheep photo is for all holiday makers who can't make it to Mull this year due to the unmentional virus. We stopped on the way home to check for Snow Buntings but only got Skylarks which are brightening our time in isolation with their lovely singing. If you cannot get out to hear this wonderful bird you could go and read The Lark ascending by George Meredith on your computer or whatever device you use, it is very uplifting and describes the bird complely.
March 11 to 17th
The weather is still fairly poor with lots of wind and rain so birding has been a bit of a premium. I can say that although I have not been out to much we have seen a few new birds for our year list and Pam has at last seen a Grey Wagtail and typically once you see one like buses see one see lots more. I have seen the Jay only briefly but glad to have seen it at last as it was driving me crazy as I had heard it a few times. Today the 17th a Yellowhammer appeared in the garden the first we have seen this year, well I saw it as Pam was out walking Lucy. On her walk she watched 2 courting Goldcrests with the male showing off its orange crest in a beautiful display, I was slightly jealous until I remembered the Yellowhammer. We went out to try and see snowbuntings again without success although this was more than made up for with lovely sightings of lots of Skylarks and their singing always lifts the spirits. A mention of the Coronavirus do take it seriously, follow the guidelines and keep well.
March 8th to 10th
After a heavy weeks birding last week and the weather changing for the worse again this weekend we had a weekend off birding although we did have a new visitor for the year in our garden, a Mistle Thrush. So instead of a long blog just some more pictureas from last weeks birding. Pam did manage to get her first March swim in on Sunday although she said it was a bit choppy, like swimming in a washing machine.
March 1st to 7th inclusive
I did manage to get to all parts of Mull except Carsaig and Glengorm and in total saw 85 species of birds and as the weather was on the whole very wet and windy I was pleasantly surprised. All Mull's notable bird species were seen including birds of prey - White-tailed Sea Eagles, 14 on one day, Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk. 4 types of geese including Barnacle and Greenland White-Fronted Geese. All 3 types of divers were seen with the almost breeding plumage Black Throated Diver the highlight. We saw 9 species of waders the most interesting a single Sanderling off Craignure golf course as well as 19 Dunlin at Loch Don. Early sea watching prodeced Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills. Small bird highlights were very good numbers of Skylarks in several locations and an influx of Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails as the weather improved later in the week. Finally on the bird front a Barn Owl at Dervaig, we hope it is using the box we put up for the bird club earlier this year. On the mammal front 2 Otters on Loch Pottie, a first for us was a surprise, as was the Polecat Ferret that ran across the road just south of Salen and of course Red and Fallow Deer.
I am hoping to get round the whole of Mull this week to see what bird numbers I can find in the week so a trip morning round the North West Of Mull and a list of these 49 birds.
Great Northern Diver- Black Throated Diver- Little Grebe- Slavonian Grebe- Gannet- Shag- Grey Heron- Mute Swan- Greylag Goose- Canada Goose- Mallard- Wigeon- Teal- Red Breasted Merganser- Golden Eagle- Buzzard- Kestrel- Pheasant- Oystercatcher- Lapwing- Curlew- Bar Tailed Godwit- Kittiwake- Black Headed Gull- Common Gull- Herring Gull- Great Black Backed Gull- Guillemot- Rock Dove- Skylark- Rock Pipit- Wren- Dunnock- Robin- StoneChat- Blackbird- Song Thrush- Blue Tit- Great Tit- Coal Tit- Hooded Crow- Raven Starling- House Sparrow- Chaffinch- Goldfinch- Greenfinch Siskin- Lesser Redpoll.
These photo's are from yesterday showing some typical trees by a stream covered in lichen the views were from just outside our friend Mari's boundry fence
A trip around the block this afternoon and we saw Barnacle Geese at Ulva Ferry in a field with Greylag Geese and Canada Geese and I managed to get a photograph and in the same field were these Lapwings. The other highlights White-tailed Sea Eagles and some Red Deer.
Yesterday someone saw the Kingfisher again at Loch Don and as Pam had not seen it this year off we went in search of the dratted bird again. As you can probably guess it was not there, so we went in search of Snow Buntings and Whooper Swans in Glen More, no luck with the Snow Buntings but we did see 5 Whooper Swans and also got a fabulous sighting of a Golden Eagle. I decided to take a photo of Beinne Taladh covered in snow and as we got out of the car a Common Crossbill came into a tree right above our heads. Back at Loch Don another look for the dratted Kingfisher and yes you guessed it, THERE IT WAS HOORAY.
Today was somewhat of a mixed bag, we had to go to pick the van up after its service and MOT so decided to take the bank bus bag to Tom at the Bellachroy to save us a job, no one was in. Never mind we have time to go to Calgary to look for the Grey Wagtail for Pam, that was not there either. Back to Dervaig and the bank bus was late so into the shop for milk and Pam got stuck behind a couple of people doing a big shop which made us late, at least the bank bus which had now arrived was a quick stop. We got to the garage at their lunch time fortunately there was someone there but the van was trapped in by 4 other vehicles which all had to be moved. When I got the van started the tyre warning light came on, they had not fixed a slow puncture and so the mechanic who moved the cars from in front of the van then had to mend the tyre in his lunch hour, so his day was not perfect either and he had not worked on the van in the first place. Tyre fixed and van fueled up we went home, many thanks to the very friendly mechanic who must have been really annoyed but just got on with the job without any fuss. All's well that ends well.
The weather was better than forecast, which is not saying much although it did allow me to get out in the garden to start clearing up after the storms this morning. As Pam was entertaining the book club this afternoon I decided to forget the cold and get out birding locally. At Cailaich I saw a White-tailed Sea Eagle which drifted across the cliffs being harrassed by Herring Gulls. On the hills were some Red Deer and as I was watching them a flock of 4 Skylarks flew past. Out at sea were Shags, Guillemots, Razorbills, a single Black Guillemot and a single Gannet. At Calgary there was the usual Greylag Geese, Oystercatchers and Curlews although I did see a Stonechat and the lovely Grey Wagtail in the photo below. The highlight 0f the trip were 9 Rock Pipits, I cannot reca. ll seeing so many together in one place at the same time. On my way home I took a photo of some of the many Redshanks at Dervaig.
Today we went for a walk down Loch Ba in search of Snow Buntings, in the event we did see a Bunting, not Snow but Reed in fact we saw 6 Reed Buntings and no matter how much I tried I could not turn one into a Snow Bunting. On the walk we also saw a pair of juvenile White-tailed Sea Eagles and also a flock of Fieldfares, up to 20 Lapwings, about a dozen Skylarks, Chaffinches and Great Tits. On the Loch itself we saw Goldeneye Ducks, Red Breasted Mergansers, Mallards, Wigeon and Teal. Lucy had a great time on what was for her a new walk, lots of new smells and even another dog to be frightened of. On our way home we stopped and were looking at an Otter when one of Pam's swimming buddies came and offered us a lovely warming cup of coffee.
Feb 21st and 22nd
Gale force winds and sleet, rain and hail showers mixed with occasional thunder and lightening not the greatest for wildlife watching.
A trip to the tip today and I took Pam and Lucy, No not to the tip but so they could go for a walk up the Glengorm road to look for the Common Crossbills. Pam had not seen Crossbills last year but she has seen them this year in the same group of Pines I saw them in a few days ago. We also went for a walk to Loch Frisa from the Dervaig end car park and on our way back to the car we saw 4 Golden Eagles 2 of which were displaying in the beautiful sunshine (it didn't last) and they were joined by a passing pair of White-tailed Sea Eagles and a couple of noisy Ravens.
We took the van for its MOT and sevice today coming home via Loch Na Keal and Loch Tuath and Calgary with not a lot to report unless you count the awfull weather. White-tailed Sea Eagles and a few Great Northern Divers, Red Deer and Seals were the only notable sightings, oh and a couple of Kestrels. I was more excited by the 2 Collared Doves that landed in the garden as these were the first Collared Doves we had seen in the garden this year.
A trip around the block today in cold showery conditions and although I did not see a lot except Gulls of which there were plenty. A couple of sightings made the trip very worthwhile. Firstly about 20 Lapwings which took off as I approached in the car with their spectacular flight, they flew round for a few seconds before alighting again on the field which allowed me to get this photo. Later at a known site on Loch Na Keal a White-tailed Sea Eagle flew over its nesting area as if there was no wind at all, its grace for such a large bird was a joy to behold.
Stormy weather and just a bit of local birding today at Calgary and Cailaich, there was a lot of Auks going through Cailaich, Guillemots, Razorbills, a Black Guillemot and possible Puffins although through the drizzle it was hard to make them out and standing upright was difficult in the gale force winds. At Calgary there were 7 Great Northern Divers in the Bay and I took this Photo of Curlews with Oystercatchers in the field opposite the Machair.
I try to get out birding most days but even in retirement work can get in the way so today I have been tidying the hedge, overgrowing trees and gorse up our drive. That was the first job, the second was cleaning the path outside Inch Hame the larger self-catering, it is now pristine, well as good as it gets anyway. The third job clean the windows so when they arrive in the Spring the guests will be able to see the array of garden birds that we have. Pam is also busy making new curtains to go in the newly decorated Self-catering living room, gosh you can get very busy in retirement.
The night before the storms so we went for an evening drive in the local area and saw not one but two Barn Owls, we also stopped to admire a white plastic bag stuck on barbed wire that looked remarkably like a Barn owl, we didn't count that one. Although it is very windy it is not too bad, anyway we are used to windy conditions living on a west coast island and the rain is only showery and not bad unless you get caught out in one as they are heavy but relatively short. Pam and I and Lucy managed to get out for a walk but we saw little in the way of wildlife although the Great Tits were in good voice with their spring calls.
A windy showery day, just a warm up to storm Dennis although it look like we could miss the worst of it. After a bit of gardening in the better weather I went out to see what I could find for todays blog even though it was difficult to stand up in the wind. On my way to Cailaich a squall went through and I managed, for once, to get a half decent photo of a double rainbow. At Cailaich I watched facinated the wonderful flying artistry of Kittiwakes in very strong winds, it was like watching an air ballet, mesmorised I forgot the cold and just watched the action for over half an hour. Also at Cailaich given that it was Valentines day I took the touchong photo of a mum Highland Cow with its newborn calf. On my way back home I picked up Pam who had taken Lucy for a walk and had a very close view of a Woodcock.
A beautiful day so Pam and I went round the block to see what we could see, we saw over 40 species of birds but considering the beautiful weather we were quite disappointed. As we got back to Dervaig there was this very close Goldeneye in the photo below and the Treecreeper landed on a tree in the garden just after we got home, always a lovely little bird to see. Taking advantage of the beautiful day Pam and her friends from around north Mull went for an Arctic swim off Kininian Beach as it will be their last chance for a few days as we await storm Dennis this weekend.
A decent day weatherwise and Pam went for a walk with Lucy and I decided to go and see what was about in the Tobermory area. To start with apart from a couple of Gulls on the Mishnish Lochs there was very little so I decided to go to the tip and see if any rarer Gulls were there. Lots of Gulls but none that we wouldn't expect to see on Mull although The Ravens were very impressive. I went on down the road towards Glengorm Castle and stoped for a listen at a forest track crossroads and heard the familiar chip chip of Crossbills, it took awhile but I eventually saw them in a thick pine tree eating the seeds from the pine cones another good bird for my Mull year list. A walk around the loch in Aros Park brought 2 very close Dippers but guess who had forgotten his camera. In the late afternoon up on the Hill Road I saw these Red deer in the photo below as the sun, yes sun went down.
Out with Pam in still very windy conditions and she saw the Black Carrion Crow in a field with lots of Hooded Crows, she also saw her first Fieldfares on Mull for the year and has nearly caught up with me now. With the Fieldfares there were some lovely Redwings along with starlings and Chaffinches. We saw an Otter on the North shore of Loch Na Keal in a sheltered spot, Fallow Deer at Knock and a White-tailed Sea Eagle in the same vicinity. On our way back through the Glen from Salen to Dervaig we saw a beautiful male Hen Harrier hunting between the showers.
Out and about locally in pretty unpleasant conditions and although we did not see much we did see a field in which there was several yellow coloured sheep which brightened up a dull day. The treecreeper put in an appearance today clinging onto the tree like grim death in gale force winds and the other birds on the feederes are more like acrobats as they try to get out the seeds.
Not a lot of change from yesterday but we have managed some work on Inch Hame in readiness for the new season. As far as I can tell only small branches have s fallen off the trees in our garden during the gales.
Let the wind blow high let the wind blow low I can't wait wait for Ciara tomorrow, it will be attrocious if it's worse than this and on top of that I have an aching mouth and jaw
Many thanks to the dental practice for fitting me in even if today I am one tooth less than I had yesterday and I am sure the pain of extraction will soon be less than the pain of the toothache. As you can imagine birding wasn't high on my list of priorities today although like always I took my binoculars with me just in case. Nowt showed.
A trip down to the Ross of Mull today which was quite dissapointing birdwise as we expected a few species which we rarely if ever see in the north of the island, in the event we only saw Rooks and Skylarks which we have not aready seen north of Loch Beg this year. One bird we did see a lot of was Songthrush, we saw several of them so now we know where they have been hiding since the turn of the year. The highlight of the day had to be the 2 Hares at Fidden, we don't often see Hares so to see 2 together was a bonus. The standing stone photo at Pottie was taken when we were unsuccessfully looking for White-fronted Geese. The worst part of the day, I had a tremendous toothache, a visit to the dentist beckons tomorrow.
A new bird for the year and for our garden a Song Thrush, 36 days into the new year and our first Song Thrush sighting, that's how birding is sometimes. We went looking for the Kingfisher for Pam today and drew a blank we did see lots of other stuff however with the highlight being Hen Harriers both male and female giving great views at Grasspoint, unfortunately no photos. When we returned home Pam spotted the Treecreeper in the garden always a delightful bird to see just ask the presenters and viewers of this years winterwatch.
A wet day and Nick came round and erected the table that goes with the chairs from an earlier post it looks fantastic and now just needs a polish to match the chairs. This evening we went out looking for Owls and Woodcock, no sign of Woodcock but we did get a terrific view of a Tawny Owl.
Another wet day so we stayed home and got on with chores and self-catering, mainly re-hanging pictures after the redecorating of Inch Hame.
It's raining again with gales forcast for tonight so Pam and I escaped the house for an hour and went to see if the Barnacle Goose was still at Calgary, it was but now it seems to have been sent to coventry by the Greylag Geese as it was in a seperate field on its own. We both managed to see a tiny Goldcrest in trees by the bus stop at Calgary another new bird species on Mull for the year and one I often have trouble seeing. Also a Great-northern Diver close enough in to photograph. As I am writing this the rain is pouring down, anyone out there with plans to make an Ark.
At last a break in the rain, today it was dry between the showers. I took the opportunity to get out and about seeing an Otter, a White-tailed Sea Eagle, 2 Golden Eagles, Red Deer and both types of Seal. The highlight for me was not the 80 Barnacle Geese on Inch Kenneth, no it was the single one in a field full of Greylag Geese at Calgary, I can't remember ever seeing Barnacle Geese at Calgary before. I saw my first Fieldfares of the year at Knock associating with Redwings and Starlings. At the Knock Salmon hatchery there was a black Carrion Crow a scarce bird on Mull as we have Hooded Crows and I found the Jackdaws at Torloisk that Pam has been seeing.
Surely the weather will be better in February Rain all day again. You can tell how bad the weather has been in January Pam only got in 2 sea swims.
Rain and wind not great for my optics
After the snow comes the rain, it is pouring down but I can't let my blog readers down so I vertured around the local block, my patch to bring you news of what wildlife had risked the weather. An early appearance of the Woodpecker in the garden started the trip followed by 4 Red Deer across the road. At Cailaich I saw a lot of Shags, a Gannet, Great Black backed Gulls, a Buzzard being harrased by a bored Hooded Crow and an inquisitive Grey Seal. At Calgary 17 Oystercatchers in a field, a Great Northern Diver in the Bay and this lonely Curlew on the beach. Back at Dervaig, Common and Herring Gulls, a Goosander, a Greenshank and 3 Little Grebe and Greylag Geese.
More snow and I decided that apart from a visit to Dougies store in Dervaig that discretion was the better part than valour. So it was just the birds in the garden and hammering tacks into chairs for me today, this was after lifting myself up from the guttering after I had cleaned it out on the big shed, the water now goes into the downspouts which is what it is supposed to do. The tacking is on the six oak chairs which we brought back from our son's after Christmas and which Pam has made a great job of re-upholstering.
Snow today although not to bad and I did manage to get out for a few very cold hours this afternoon. The purpose was to try and see the 3 Jackdaws which Pam sees when she goes sea swimming mixing with Hooded Crows at Torloisk, the Jackdaws not Pam. Through luck and a farmer moving cattle I was able to find the Jackdaws but they flew off as I tried to get a photo, maybe a sparrowhawk was about. At Killiechronan I saw 2 new birds for the year, a flock of Meadow Pipits flying north associating with a small flock of about 8 Pied Wagtails. In the same field were Greylag and Canada Geese and a flock of 14 Redwings and a single Mistle Thrush, and then a Sparrowhawk flew throgh and off went everthing but the Geese.
At Ardrioch we know we have a visiting Sparrowhawk although we hardly ever see it, because occasionally all the other birds disappear for about 15 minutes before spasmodically reappearing. Today however we were doing the big garden birdwatch hour and our Sparrowhawk decided to do it as well in it came scattering all the birds everywhere and proceeded to sit in the tree where a lot of my feeders are hanging. It sat for some time before flying off and 15 minutes later just as the little birds had started returning back it came and sat in the same position as before. The dratted bird flew in and just sat 5 times in the hour, have you ever tried to count traumatised birds that won't sit still for more than a few seconds, it is almost impossible, one bird we did count, A SPARROWHAWK, thanks a lot.
Another attempt to see the Kingfisher and yea, success, check out the not great photo but certaily a Kingfisher. On my way back at Garmony a very large flock of Turnstones and I got my first Dipper of the year although my photos were so bad they didn't even make my cut. I walked to the sewage outfalls at the Salmon hatchery but did not see the Shoveller Duck that has been reported, although there were a few Teal and Mallards there. On my walk I saw my first Pied Wagtails of the year taking my Mull yearly count to 76.
Nick and I spent the morning finishing the guttering and putting up the second Barn Owl Box which Nick had made from his old post Box. I have to say it is really sturdy and heavy and would keep any wildlife that cared to use it warm in winter. I took Lucy across the road today and we saw 11 Greenshank a large number for Mull.
With big garden birdwatch this weekend I decided to clean my bird feeders a chore I had been putting off which I shouldn't as it is important to keep feeders and water containers clean to avoid disease in birds. In the afternoon my mate Nick came down and helped me fix the guttering on the big outside shed which had suffered in the recent gales.
A slightly better day and a trip to look for the Kingfisher, once again unsuccessful although at Garmony we saw 3 Knot amongst the Turnstones and Ringed Plovers. Just off the coast on an island of seaweed were 2 Otters, Pam's first of the year. On islands from Craignure Golf Course was a White Tailed sea Eagle, also seen there our first Red Throated Diver of the year. Finally shortly after leaving home we saw a couple of Red deer stags and I managed to get a photo of one of them. Pam took lucy for a walk across the road after lunch and saw a Dipper on the burn near the first cottage.
Another day of very warm drizzle and cloud although I did manage to get a photo of one of our Lesser Redpolls in the garden.
A very driech day with low cloud and heavy drizzle even birding was not possible so I stayed in.
Before going to look for the Kingfisher and Iceland Gull which we did not see I took Lucy across the road for a short walk and see if there was anything about locally. On the beach was a White tailed sea Eagle on prey with 4 Hooded Crows looking on hopefully and on the field before the Loch was a herd of Red Deer and a few Greylag Geese, we also had a good view of a very busy Greenshank. We saw a total of 6 Golden Eagles and 4 more White Tailed sea Eagles in the day but my highlights were my first Guillemots and Razorbills of the year, some very close Kittiwakes and my first Merlin which flew in front of the van no more than a couple of feet from the front window, that was a wow moment.
The first half decent day of weather for some time and Pam got in her first sea swim of the year off a beach which had been cleaned of litter before christmas, after the storms she and her friends had to climb over the seaweed which was covered in plastic and rope to get to the water to swim, she showed me a picture on her phone and it was awful. On a more pleasant note I went birding for a few hours and whilst watching a Black Throated Diver and Great Northern Diver at Calgary a White Tailed sea Eagle flew past. There were Kittiwakes at Cailaich and a Flock of Golden Plovers with Turnstones at Killiechronan. A lovely Grey Wagtail interacting with Stonechats on the north shore of Loch Na Keal and from the south shore Black Guilliemots and Slavonian Grebes. Mammals seen today Red and Fallow Deer, Common seals and of course Rabbits.
A trip to Tobormory and we managed to see and photo the long staying Nuthatch at the theatre. This evening we went for dinner with friends in Salen and saw a Barn Owl our friends have returned to the wild after it was injured. The Owl has lost the sight in one eye but is attracting the attention of another Barn Owl, perhaps it thinks it is being winked at. Dinner was great, the company great but I am certainly not used to such a late night and with Lucy wanting her breakfast little chance of a lie in.
The weather remains bad although the weekend looks brighter. Pam braved the elements and took Lucy for a walk to the Croig turn and saw a flock of Long Tailed Tits. A Barn Owl was seen hunting the area where we have put the Barn Owl box up so that is a promising sign. Iwas able to get up to my water supply today, the first time since my fall and I hope to get some birding in tomorrow.
There is good news and bad news, first the bad news I took a nasty fall yesterday when I slipped on some wet leaves and my left leg went backwards at great speed and I felt my thigh muscels go and thought I had torn them. The good news the thigh is badly bruised but not torn although quite painfull if Lucy jumps on it. More bad news the weather is still awfull with rain, gales thunder and lightening. The good news having a bad leg means I have a perfect excuse not to go out in the awfull weather, you see every cloud has a silver lining. On the bird front an Iceland Gull was reported on Loch Scridain today and leg permitting I will try and see if it is still about at the weekend.
A day similar to yesterday with the only difference add hail and snow showers, at least it's more like Winter now. Still its a very good day for spring cleaning the self-catering cottages. This winter we have had Inch Hame redecorated throughout, I (Pam) have been busy making new curtains and brightening it all up and we look forward to our guests coming to enjoy their stay with us.
I had to go to Salen today and thought I might get in a spot of birding but gale force winds and driving rain soon put an end to that. Even using the van as a hide still did not help as the sea was just a mass of waves and white water.
Today was windy and showery, no change there then and as we were expecting visitors but did not know when we were hampered somewhat on what we could do, so between the showers we managed to take Lucy for a walk arriving home just before the heavens opened. On the walk we saw a Buzzard and Kestrel, the Kestrel being my first on Mull this year so I was quite pleased. Back home I took a couple of photos of bird in the garden, including one of Chaffinches feeding on the floor under one of our feeders, there are over 35 birds in the photo, there were more in the tree which the feeders hang from, another two feeders in other parts of the garden with as many chaffinches in and around them and yet we still get quiries about the number of Chaffinches I put on the BTO weekly garden bird count. I put 100+ Chaffinches which is a very low estimate but have you ever tried to count in and around 3 feeders at the same time. Once we had friends staying and conted 4 seperate parts of the garden at the same time and the count when added together was 160 Chaffinches. This week the Goldfinch count was 24 and the Greenfinch 16, with Siskin numbers rising each day my bird feed bill is astonomical.
As predicted it rained all day and although it has not flooded yet it is still very wet with water everwhere, check out the photos.
The day began not to bad weatherwise but in the afternoon the wind got up and the rain started and as I write this 18 hours after the rain started it is still raining although the wind has dropped a little, there could be some watery photos on tomorrows blog. Back to today and Long Tailed Tits, a large flock in the woods on the farm was a great start to the day, I managed to get Pam to see them but they had moved to far away for a photo opportunity. Whilst the weather held this morning I went with my friend and neighbour Nick to put up a new Barn Owl box in the tree in the field opposite the electric sub-station on the Calgary road just a mile out of Dervaig. The original box which had been used for several years had produced around a dozen fledged chicks over the years. The Isle of Mull Bird club had provided the box so we put it up in the same tree as the original box so that it could be viewed at a safe distance from the road to avoid disturbance if Barn Owls choose to use it.
A lovely cool, bright January day so we went out birding and had a lovely day, the highlights of which were, Black Throated Diver, Great Northern Divers and A White-tailed Sea Eagle near Crainure from the golf course 8th green. Ringed Plover and Turnstone at Garmony and a Golden Eagle on a hill over Loch Spelve. We looked for but did not see the kingfisher at Loch Don bridge but did see a Buzzard there. I took a photo of mist in front of the trees going through the Glen from Dervaig to Salen nearer the Salen end. At Aros Bay under the castle was a Bar-tailed Godwit and at the Salen end a Whimbrel.
Little improvment in the weather still wet and windy although it became drier as the day went on. In the morning we worked on some chairs we have aquired from our son and Pam is going to reapolster them but first we have to take the old seat bases off, that's where my distructive gene come in handy, pliers and hammer, man that's me. Before lunch we went with my mate Nick to look at sights for the new Barn Owl boxes that we are going to put up soon, both will be local to Ardrioch, Pam saw a White-tail Sea Eagle and a female Hen Harrier hunting the area where the Barn Owl box is going on her return from a walk with Lucy. This afternoon we went to Cailaich Point and saw Gannets, kittiwakes and a female Sparrowhawk.
This morning when I got up it was still (Black is Black - Los Bravos) or maybe we are on the (Darkside of the Moon - Pink Floyd) we are certainly on the (Darkside of the World - Diana Ross). I hope the weather doesn't try to (Keep it Dark - Genesis) I am certainly not (Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springstein) but hope to soon be (Coming out of the Dark - Gloria Estefan). As well as dark it is still very (Windy - The Association) it is not unusual to get (Winter Winds - Mumford and Son) on Mull and the birds are all flying with the (Wind beneath their Wings - Bette Midler). The birds are in fact trying to (Reap the Wild Wind - Ultravox) as it is a very mild (Mistral Wind - Heart). When will this weather stop? I ask myself, well I suppose the answer is (Blowing in the Wind - Bob Dylan).
Much ado without nothing, another driech wet windy day, just a few outside chores and put my feet up listening to my new music. Oh the joy of retirement. The rain stopped for an hour so I went out with Lucy to investgate tree sightings for the new Barn owl Boxes.
A driech wet and windy day and I eventually went for a trip out and although I did not see anything really exciting I did see some decent stuff including the Hebridean Sheep on a mound with a tree as the backdrop. I took a photo of them, trying to be a bit arty for me. Other birds seen were 6 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Turnstone flying with Teal at the Salmon Hatchery and a flock of Ringed Plover at Killiechronan. I had a brief view of an Otter but lost it in rough water and I took lots of photos most of which were rubbish which is why I did not make a career out of photography. With the arrival of a House Sparrow bird species regularly seen in the garden in 2020 has now reached 13.
Brambling and Jack Snipe seen across the road towards Loch Cuin today, Pam also saw a Jay, I didn't. there were 14 Redwings in a local field and down by the Loch 2 Canada Geese associating with a much larger flock of Greylags. There were not many ducks about although Pam saw 2 Mallards, I didn't, I did however see 2 Goldeneyes and a single female Goosander, and at least 6 Little Grebes. Waders seen today were 4 Redshank, 2 Greenshank, Curlews and Oystercatchers in good numbers and 5 Snipe. At Loch Cuin this morning I saw an Otter and on my way home 4 Red Deer.
We returned home from our Christmas Travels yesterday and today the first bird we saw in the garden was a Treecreeper, not a bad start to my 2020 Mull and Iona bird list. After I had refilled the bird feeders the birds returned throughout the day with zillions of Chaffinches, loads of Goldfinches, lots of Greenfinches and these were joined by Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Lesser Redpolls, Siskins, Dunocks, Robins and Blackbirds. As the day drew on the Rock Doves started to appear, I don't know how they know when we get back home but they do, they must have spies.
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY BLOG READERS
Dec 12th to 17th
You might have noticed the none appearance of the Hen Harrier photo which could have won prizes (not) but some numpty forgot to save it or if he did it is so well hidden nobody (Pam) can find it. Not much birding in the last few days as the weather has not been too kind and I have been enjoying myself on the delights of such things as cleaning out gutters, voting in elections and making sure that the water system keeps working as all the rain keeps bringing more leaves down to block up the filters. In the garden Siskins have returned in good numbers and Chaffinch numbers now total more than 100, we now have 14 species of birds in the garden daily and also Rabbits. We did do some birding today, the 17th, and the highlights being A Shelduck at Killiechronan, an early return for this species, MistleThrushes and Redwings.
Today was the day we went for our flu jabs, tonight we are trying to decide which of us has the sorest arm, if Pam's is worse than mine it must be bl..dy sore. After the jab attack we went delivering Christmas cards and birding and the highlight was a male Hen Harrier just before we got to Ulva Ferry School I even managed a photo which for me and Hen Harriers is a bit of a novel experience. Other good sightings were 2 White Tailed Eagles, Grey Wagtail, Turnstones, Stonechat, Mistle Thrush and Dipper. Finally a lovely view of the top of Beinne More in a covering of snow.
Batten down the hatches, gale force winds and driving rain all day, so I stayed in and Pam cut my hair once we had charged up the machine.
A good day weatherwise sandwiched between some dire days so I took the chance to get out and about. I was rewarded with a special sighting of a Velvet Scoter, which was later confirmed by Jaqui Murphy of (Enjoy Mull Wildlife Tours) please take pity on me and not laugh too much of my photo it was taken through the scope quite a distance away. Other notable birds included Turnstones and Teal although their photos ended on the cutting room floor. White-tailed Eagle, Otter though did make the cut... just. I had a lovely 4 hours and saw fifty bird and mammal species in total.
Just a wee note about Whooper Swans which should have been in the last blog post, a large flock landed for a few hours on Loch Cuin, some of them visible from our kitchen window, about 7 I think, you could say there were 7 Swans a swimming. It is Pam's birthday today and last night our lovely friends and neighbours invited us for supper and games, I won't say the game wasn't easy to follow but I found some of the questions on only connect easier, great night.
Dec 1st to 7th inc
November was a great month for Mull weatherwise the first week week of December has returned to winter normality, gone are the crisp cool but sunny days to be replaced by driech wet and windy days, yuk. On a happier note I did finish the gardening between the showers as going out in the wet windy weather birding did not really appeal although we did try on a number of occasions without seeing a great deal. We went out for lunch at the Bellachroy at the start of the month and had a lovely meal with friends and later in the week a trip to the Isle of Mull Hotel at Craignure for the bird club Christmas dinner and had a good meal and a lot of laughs. I went out with friends on the 6th and we saw White-tailed Eagles, 2 Otters, Red and Fallow Deer and 3 Dippers. The Dippers were forced to come down to the burn and river estuaries as the were all in spate after heavy rains. The forecast for next week is not looking promising but I will try and get out and photograph some wildlife for my next post.
Nov 25th-30th inc
Just local birding between gardening except for one day trip down to Finnaphort on a very cold but still day. Near Finnaphort in a field and on telephone lines were more Jackdaws and Rooks than we have seen on Mull in a very long time, a bit of good news on the birding front for a change. At Fidden at least 100 Lapwings also a very good number and in a field on the way to Ardalanish beach a very large number of Golden Plover. In the day we had good sightings of 3 different Otters, several Red Deer and some Fallow Deer that walked in front of the car although the Mammal sighting of the day were number of Common Seals along Loch Scridain. Pam conted over 50 in the largest group but there were many more in smaller groups. Near the boathouse for Inch Kenneth were a good number of Barnacle Geese and we saw a Golden Eagle sitting on Eorsa. Waders included lots of Ringed Plovers and Turnstones at Loch Beg opposite the old Kinloch Hotel. Finally at Loch Pottie Tufted Ducks, Goldeneye and a single Whooper Swan.
A wildlife watching morning with 52 birds and 5 mammals seen. The mammals seen were Otter, Red and Fallow Deer, Common and Grey Seals. The highlight of the birding had to be the pair of long Tailed Ducks in Lagganulva Bay, a most unexpected find, if I did emojies imagine smiley face and thumbs up. A mixed flock of Fieldfares and Redwings were nice to see as were the Lesser Redpoll associating with large flocks of Chaffinches and Goldfinches. 3 Lapwings and lots of Curlew in a field by Ulva School and Whimbrel at Salen were also good spots. In the garden a Great Spotted Woodpecker was present shortly after sunrise. Todays photo Red Breasted Mergansers at Lagganulva and Long-tail Ducks (taken in Spitzbergen)Nov 23rd
A short trip out and about the highlight of which was a Golden Eagle at Calgary, there were 3 Great Northern Divers here as well and the long staying Black Throated Diver was still there. Snipe were amongst the waders seen at Dervaig with an unusually high count of 15 Little Grebe at the Dervaig end of Loch Cuin
We had friends around tonight for a meal and a film show of our trip to Spitzbergen find below some of photos from the trip of birds (Pomerine Squa and Northern Fulmar) that can also be seen on Mull and Polar Bear and Arctic Fox.
No birding today although I did see this Hooded Crow in our field and they are now turning up in the garden. I spent the day gardening in between putting my feet up, gardening has that effect on me.
Our van had to go to the garage at Salen for a brakes check and I had to give blood and pick up meds from the doctors also in Salen so Pam and I decided to go and try to see the Loch Don Kingfisher whilst we were down in that area. After waiting around which was no great hardship as we spent some of the time watching a couple of female Hen Harriers hunting on the left side of the Grasspoint road just up from the bridge, we managed at last to see and get some photos of the Kingfisher with a catch in its bill. Another single Whooper Swan at Loch Don, Gorten end and to complete our morning a Dipper at Garmony.
A trip to Tobermory brought 2 surprises, firstly a single Whooper Swan on Loch Torr see photo and then no fuel at the garage the main reason for the trip. I took Pam to the Mull theatre to see the Nuthatch even though it was perishingly cold and the Nuthatch, for a laugh, kept us waiting for half an hour before it put in an appearance, I an shocked that I could hold the camera I was that cold. We did make the most of our journey to Tobermory with an exciting trip to the tip, we really know how to enjoy life.
Birding locally this morning in great weather, yea... Gardening this afternoon too. The birding was not bad nor were the views in stunning weather, at Cailaich a Peregrine Falcon on top of a hill my photo got vetoed as it was pretty rubish. On my way out at the gate a Meadow Pipit and to my surprise a Grey Wagtail. On to Calgary and the Black Throated Diver was there with a single great Northern Diver I just got a photo through the scope of the Great Northern with a fish. Oystercatchers and Shags at Lainne Sguer and a few Ringed Plovers on the beach at Calgary. Back at Dervaig and the Common Scoter still present as were 2 Greenshank, 2 Redshank and a Snipe, an Ok morning now that gardening.
I decided to go birding this morning but did not get too far as I spotted a bird on Loch Cuin that although distant I thought looked a bit like a Red Necked Grebe ... it wasn't. After trying both sides of the Loch I eventually got close enough to realise it was a female Common Scoter, my first of the year and another bird which is not seen that often on Mull and I have never seen one on Loch Cuin before. The Treecreeper was back in the garden again this afternoon and so was the Great Spotted Woodpecker, more birds are returning to the garden now as other sources of food become harder to obtain. The first Common Scoter picture taken with the phone through the telescope by Pam as it is too technical for me to do.
We put out a night camera trap which our lovely friends Pete and Jenny gave us when we retired and found that a Woodcock had visited the garden in the early evening. Yesterday my mate Nick kindly took a trailor load of scrap to the tip for me, I followed in the car to get a fill up and to go to the Mull theatre, not for a play but to see the Nuthatch which has been in the vicinity of the car park for three weeks. Thanks to Debbie who put out some peanuts on the bird table which allowed me to get some great views of this scarce visitor to Mull.
I was cleaning a bedroom window yesterday when I found this little Pipperstrell Bat having a lovely sleep inside the opening window, he squeaked at me when I put him on the window sill for safty, probably feeling the cold a bit. After giving the window a good clean I moved him on the outside window sill to where he could crawl back inside again and it wasn't long before he'd dissapeared into the window again. Note to myself - don't open this window again until spring. Pam
this week I have been out on a couple of birding trips in variable weather conditions, once in drizzly rain and wind and once very cold with a lot less wind and on this trip Pam came with me with Lucy our dog. On the two trips White-tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles, Otters and Red Deer were seen although not all on the same day. The highlight for me was a Black Throated Diver in Calgary Bay and other highlights were to see Common Snipe back at Dervaig along with Ringed Plovers, Greenshank and Redshank. We had great views of a female Kestrel at Reudle near the Old Schoolhouse and Slavonian Grebe on Loch Na Keal. There are less birds than normal in our garden but we hope this improves as the Winter really gets going, we will just have to wait and see. We are having dinner parties at the moment and showing friends some of our photos from our holday to Spitzbergan and I will inlude one or two in following posts.
I took a trip around the North West of Mull yesterday and was quite dissapointed at the number of species that I saw with only 30 bird species seen in the day, this does not include the 11 species seen in our garden which is also down on previous years. I am not the only one who has noticed that species numbers are down as some of my neighbours have benn noticing less birds in their gardens as well. A friend from down in the South of England has also noted that birds are less prevalent, lets hope it is a blip and not a permanent trend. The three photos below are from my trip out.
Arthur and I are now taking a well earned rest from work and family commitments. We are pleased to say that our daughter-in-law is now well on the way to recovery and planning to go back to work. Their daughter has now started the local school and the little boy is in the nursary attached to the school making life easier for the whole family and they now need time to themselves to get back to normal life.
Arthur has been doing some jobs around the farm, working on his dam, mending fences and tidying the big shed, all jobs that have been put to one side when he was working. He has also been able to return the kindness to our neighbours by watering polly tunnels and feeding cats whilst they have been on holiday. He has taken a total break for a couple of months from bird watching but I'm sure he will be back to it soon when he will then resume writing his blog.
The last time I returned from Cheshire I brought back with me a large bag of material and have been making new curtains for my self-catering cottage which I am having decorated this winter and I have also been swimming in the sea whenever I can making up for the lost time in the summer.
As our regular readers can see I am in the prosess of making a new page for Arthurs blog and below you will find just the hightlights for 2019 which I will be putting in during the next couple of weeks. We are still keeping the old email address of email@example.com if any of you wish to drop us a line, we'ed love to hear from you.
We have been seeing large flocks of Fieldfare and Redwings at Ardrioch for a few days now, they have been feasting on the Rowen berries on our woodland, then a couple of days ago they came onto the tree right infront of our kitchen wndow which although it was laden with berries there were so many of them they stripped it in 2 days, on the 3rd day they came back and cleaned up all the berries that had fallen on the ground. The trees are now completly bare and the flocks have moved on, maybe you will see them in a few weeks time!
Out and about
early again this morning and
there is still not a lot about
although for those planning on
coming to Mull I did see an
otter today and I wasn't even
trying. My sighting of the day
was by the Killiechronan
campsite where a flock of at
least 70 Ringed Plover flew in
to feast as the tide went out,
they were joined by a few
Dunlin. The Autumn flowers are
out in abundance now with Grass
Of Parnasus seen as well as the
Bell Heather and Ling. On my way
home I was able to photograph
the Goosanders on Loch Cuin,
they would be some of the same
ones we saw when out walking
with Lucy on Moday.
This morning I
went out early in lovely
weather, light breeze, sunshine,
4 degrees centigrade, I was
wearing thermols for goodness
sake, talk about climate
change. Being out and
about on Mull in such calm
conditions was wonderfull and
the views even more so, with
Coll and Tiree looking
resplendent from Calgary Bay, I
felt I could reach out and touch
them. On the birding front the
highlight of the morning had to
be the flock of approximately 20
Twite seen at Cailaich Point,
Kittiwakes, and Gannets here as
well. There are lots of Meadow
Pipits everywhere and Pam and I
saw at least 12 Goosander on
Loch Cuin and also 3 Greenshank.
Red Deer and of course Rabbits
were the Mammals seen but really
it was just being back on Mull
that was the real highlight of
my morning. This afternoon once
again the weather has
intervened, I was supposed to be
mowing lawns but it is pouring
down, the suns still shining
Last night we
had a retirement party at the Hebridean Lodge for our
friends and all the people who
have helped us with Discover
Mull Tours. Helen, our host at
the Hebridean Lodge did us
proud, the food was amazing and
more than enough for at least
another half dozen guests, many
thanks Helen from us both. The
harp was played by Becky Roth,
one of Pam's swimming buddies
and was absolutely beautiful,
many thanks Becky for adding a
touch of class to the evening.
Thanks go to everyone at the
party for all your help you all
know what you did, but you
cannot know how much we
appreciate all your love and
friendship, We hope that last
night showed how much we value
everything you have done for us.
On a birdy note one of our
neighbours died earlier in the
year and he used to feed the
Rock Doves which meant we shared
this chore, now I feel we are
feeding all the Rock Doves on
Mull in our garden as well as
all the Chaffinches.
The second day
of our retirement and we went
out in Nick and Mikes new boat
which spent the winter in my
shed. It was lovely day
weatherwise and we saw lots of
great wildlife, mainly seabirds.
Guilliemots, Black Guilliemots,
Shags, Cormorants, Gannets, Manx
Shearwaters, Kittiwakes, Herring
Gulls, Great Black Backed Gulls,
Grey Herons, Oystercatchers and
a White-tailed Eagle sitting on
an Island. Both types of Seal
were seen and now there are lots
of baby Common Seals are out and
about with their mothers. The
main purpose of the trip however
was to do some sea fishing and
Pam caught a good sized Pollock
with her very first cast. Pam
obviouly has a penchant for
fishing as she caught by far the
most fish on the day although
Nick caught the biggest. A
wonderful day was had by all and
Pam and I would like to thank
Nick and Catherine for giving us
such a great day out and a
fishing lesson, we could be
eating fish for some time as Pam
is now preparing the catch for
We have now retired
from doing Discover
Mull wildlife tours
and would like to
opportunity to thank
all our guests for
their support over
the past 18 years
and the kindness of
guests who have sent
us cards and best
wishes on our
retirement. Pam has
been away for most
of the Spring as a
close family member
was diagnosed with
very bad cancer just
after Easter and so
we decided to only
do tours which were
already booked and
to that end we must
thank our friends
and neighbours who
have helped both
with the tours and
whilst Pam was away.
The news now is more
positive and Pam was
back for our last
tour and we will be
having a celebration
party for both our
retirement and 46th
later this week.
Many guests have
kindly told me how
much they have liked
my blog and how much
they had missed it
in the last few
months so I have
decided to continue
to do a blog about
what Pam and I are
up to and wildlife
happenings on Mull
although it probably
won't be done daily.
Photo's taken of our
final tour, we had a
great day out.
A tour today in cool windy
conditions with both types of Eagles seen
well, a brief Otter sighting, both Fallow
and Red Deer and both types of Seal.
Whinchat and Dunlin were seen which were
two birds Sue one of my guests really
wanted to see. The Highland Cows and
calves were a highlight for some of my
guests as was the lovely Bluebell wood. May 2nd
A lovely day for a tour although
it got a bit colder later in the day. We
saw several Golden Eagles and White-tailed
Sea Eagles in one location they were
flying together and interacting giving my
guests a great chance to see the
differences between the two species. 2
seperate Otters were also seen although
one was quite distant. My guests enjoyed
seeing the new migrant and passage birds
including Whimbrel, see photo below,
Wheatear and Common Sandpipers appearing
everywere and we now have more Whinchats
joining their resident cousins the
Stonechat. Finally Willow Warblers, we
don't see many but they certainly let you
know they are there with their constant
A trip with Pam and Lucy to Iona
to try and see a Corncrake, they should
have started to arrive but nobody had
reported any so it was a bit of a shot in
dark. On our way across to Iona on the
ferry Pam spotted a couple of Common
Terns, my first of the year and the first
reported on Mull this year. On Iona no
sound of Corncrake near the Abbey or
around the fire station so we decided to
go to the beaches on the north of the
island. On our walk we saw lots of little
birds including Skylarks, Meadow Pipits,
Wheatear and Linnet as well as Rooks and
Jackdaws. At the gate at the end of the
road Pam thought she had heard a
Corncrake, I on the other hand hadn't and
as I have better hearing we went on. Then
we both heard the distinct sound of a
Corncrake and the rest as they say is
history, check out the photigraphs.
Another Mull first for Pam and I this
year, we were really pleased and then a
Merlin appeared chasing small birds
another Arthur first of the year, the day
was going spectacularly well.On our way
back to the ferry we saw a pair of Twite a
first for Pam this year and on our way
back to Ardrioch we found a Tree Pipit a
bird that had been eluding us this last
week and Pam at last got her Common
Whitethroat. Lastly Lucy loved her time on
Iona, not sure about the ferry journey