Tuesday, 7 May 2013


After a wet, wild, windy, wonderful week on the Isle of Mull it was almost a relief to see the temperatures steadily rising as we headed South last weekend.
Despite the inclement weather the wildlife was typically abundant,although our usual boat trips to the Treshnish Isles to see the Puffins and Loch na Keal to see the Sea Eagles were shelved due to our sea legs not being up to it! 

Highlights of the week were a Golden Eagle seen from the car as we drove from Tobermory to our cottage at Dervaig. Two White-tailed Sea Eagles circling above the cottage on separate occasions. At least three more sightings of Sea Eagles from Loch Frisa and Loch na Keal, one perched in a fir tree and one crossing the loch. At the head of Loch Cuin, visible from the cottage we saw Goosanders, Red-breasted Mergansers,   Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshanks, Ravens and Common Sandpipers pictured above and below.

The largest reed bed on the island is directly in front of the cottage and often contains Grasshopper Warblers and Sedge Warblers. But this year we were a month earlier than usual plus everything was arriving later than usual so these weren't seen. Grey Herons, Greylags, Willow Warblers (at least one in every bush and tree on the island it seemed). Reed Buntings (not a common species on Mull), Buzzards and Red Deer all made use of the reed bed though and were all seen from the comfort of the living room. On our last day we watched a female Hen Harrier quartering the reeds, one of four Harriers seen, the other three being superb males.    

On a particularly wet and windswept day we drove south to Loch Beg and Loch Scridain in an effort to spot an Otter. We didn't. It's not easy any time but it's even harder when the rain is lashing down and the action of the waves makes every small rock and piece of kelp look like Otters moving along the shoreline. We saw plenty of 'rock otters' and 'weed otters' that day.
The birds kept up the interest though. Oystercatchers  are always good value and the one above ignored the rain and carried on regardless. Like water off an Oystercatchers back I think the saying is. 

The Wheatears though, even more abundant than the Willow Warblers, weren't quite so enamoured with the conditions and looked thoroughly hacked off with the constant rain. As were we.

On Monday, in gloriously dry conditions I paid a visit to New Hythe lakes in the hope of finding an increasingly rare Turtle Dove. We only seem to get one or two at most and they don't usually hang around for long. Unfortunately I didn't find one, but it's early days and maybe one will turn up soon.
On the river it was high tide, very high tide and all I could find was a single Common Sandpiper, a couple of Shelducks, a Cuckoo in the trees on the far bank, the usual assortment of gulls and a Heron or two. Abbey Mead lake, like Brooklands, was almost deserted, just a single Tuftie, a fly past Kingfisher and lots of bank holiday fishermen. Nightingales, Blackcaps, Cetti's Warblers and Common Whitethroats made up the avian choir which sang enthusiastically all around the site.

In the country park another Cuckoo was seen and heard and unlike the choir, sounded like he had a frog in his throat or something. A Kestrel hovered briefly over the east scrub but disappeared quickly. Maybe it was the Cuckoo. Other than that the scrub was quiet, apart from the choir, two raucous Green Woodpeckers and a small murmuration of Starlings who were all fossicking around on the floor of the east scrub looking for grubs. Presumably all with new families.
I didn't find any Water Voles here, or the expected Common Lizards but Slow Worms are always good to find. Male, female and juvenile perhaps?

A quick look at Streamside lake revealed nothing to excite. Just this Cormorant who eyed me with extreme suspicion before heading off. As did I, back to the mound for half an hours sky watching. I was glad I did too because it was here that I found my first Garden Warbler of the year and also two or three Hobby's. It  was probably slim pickings for them, no damsels or dragons on the wing here yet. Final stop was the sunken marsh where a Speckled Wood hung nicely in the sun for me and a Buzzard soared effortlessly above. But possibly best of all for the morning was a Sedge Warbler, my third at New Hythe this year (none last year), who joined the choir and sang earnestly from the top of a bush, sometimes making short song flights before returning to its perch. Hopefully it will find a partner and stick around like the Reed Warblers do. 


Greenie said...

Phil ,
Sounds very sensible to do your birding from the warm comfort of the front room . I watched the weather and couldn't believe you were getting soaked again . But at least the wind wasn't as bad as last time .
Wouldn't argue with your Slow Worm sexing and you are added to the list of Speckled Wood spotters that have beaten me this year .
Well done with the Sedgies .

Marianne said...

Sorry it was another wet one on Mull - at least the wildlife performed for you. Great shots from New Hythe too. I also saw my first Speckled Wood today but no photos, it was hightailing it to the top of a tree.

Marc Heath said...

A nice trip and like the Speckled Wood shot, nice and sharp.

ShySongbird said...

I really thought you would be luckier with the weather this year Phil. I imagined you walking around in the sun every day. Anyway, you still saw lots of goodies, particularly the eagles of course, and you obviously had a great time. The cottage sounds perfectly situated. Lovely pics of the Common Sandpiper.

Your visit to New Hythe sounded worth it for the 'avian chorus' alone! Lovely photo of the Speckled Wood.

Jason K said...

Sound like you had a great break Phil!

Cracking photos mate...love the ones of the Wheatears amonst the sea weed!

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Hi Phil.. Great serie of birds.. Love Wheatear and Cormorant.. Congrats and regards