Friday, 1 October 2010

Big bang.

Tuesday was a bit of a breezy day with the threat of rain from the grey skies. We started off well with a nice view of a Mountain Hare before we moved along to try to get Golden Eagle before the weather closed in too much. A Whooper Swan was a welcome addition to the list but it wasn't a migrant as this bird has spent the Summer with us.
The first site we visited drew a blank but the second site was a bit more productive. We scanned around the blank horizon for about 10 minutes before a shout went up for a large bird clearing the horizon. Not a Golden Eagle but a 3 year old White-tailed Eagle sporting white tags. I couldn't get a proper view of the tags when the bird landed but it could have been White L which was the youngster from my local pair in 2007. A few Swallows were still flying around to see us away from the eagle spot. Small birds were keeping us going as we moved on with the likes of Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Great Tit etc all picked up along with plenty of Chaffinch and a few Buzzard. A group of eight Mistle Thrush were nice to see as they fed on the Rowan berries then perched on wires. It was all looking a bit quiet after lunch but the big bang was soon to come. As we drove slowly along the shore of the loch it was only a matter of time before we picked up Otters. Cormorant, Shag, plenty of Grey Herons and Hooded Crows all caused a bit of a stir before finally found the furry beasties we sought. Two Otters together, mum and cub, gave us the slip before putting on a fine display but just to add to the mix two WT Eagle had cleared the ridge behind us. We didn't know where to look! As the WTE's soared around and everyone watched the Otters cavorting on the seaweed covered rocks while I kept an eye on the big birds. As the eagles came together and started interacting, talon touching and formation flying, I would get everyone to turn around to see the action. Another bird cleared the ridge to join in the mix. The wing profile was flat so it looked like another WT Eagle but as the bird approached and banked around the wings took on an upswept profile and you could also see the longer tail of a Golden Eagle - result!! We moved on when everything had cleared off and got cracking views of another WT Eagle perched up in the trees. As we moved back along the way we had another display of the WT Eagles flying around this time without the Goldie.
We'd checked for waders on the tidal part of the loch when we'd first came around and there was very little but as we checked again we could see there was a bit more action this time. A good scan through gave us a healthy list that included 1 Greenshank, 10 Dunlin, 6 Turnstone, 10 Ringed Plover, 12 Wigeon and 6 Teal. What a finish to the day!
We'd had rain overnight and the island was looking very atmospheric on Wednesday morning as the weather started to clear.
With the guests on board and a big request for Otters as some people had been coming to Mull for a while and not seen them we headed out to track them down. As you can see from the photo above it was quite calm so a bit of a quicker drive around soon had us viewing mum and cub but not before we'd had a juv WT Eagle fly over us! We settled down to watch the Otters feeding in the hope that they would come to shore. I managed to get this bit of video of the two of them together in the water.
Our viewing was spoilt just as the Otters started approaching the shore. We'd been spotted by passing tourists who, in their excitement, got out of the cars and started slamming as many doors as they could find! The Otters just moved further and further out with each slam of a door and then further away again as they charged down the shore - thanks people. We'd had the best of them so we moved on as the Grey Heron moved off.
We picked up the juv WT Eagle again on our way back but this time it was perched on the hillside. As we watched the bird it took off and headed away from us and landed across the loch where there was another WT Eagle already sitting! I managed to get the tag details off these birds and they are a 2 year old on the left, and a 3 year old on the right both from the East coast introduction.
There was no sign of the previous days waders but that wasn't going to put us off. A Common Buzzard had draped itself on a telegraph pole to dry off after the rain.
I managed to pick up my first returning Great Northern Diver of the year at our next stop and then a long wait for a Golden Eagle to give us some good views. Near the end of the day we were basking in sunshine and just enjoying being out when we came across not 1 but 2 Hen Harrier. The photos were hopeless but the female bird was really close at times and the juvenile bird was a bit more distant. Here's the best effort on the female...
...and the Buzzard that was watching the proceedings with some amusement.
We struggled with some distant Mountain Hares before finding this one at the side of the road minding it's own business.
I had my highest count of Tufted Duck on Mull when we located 18 birds together along with 8 Wigeon, 1 Little Grebe and the Whooper Swan on a freshwater loch. Just to finish the day off nicely we found another WT Eagle sporting a tag. This one is a 2006 Skye bred male who has been seen on Mull every year since it fledged.

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