December 2010

On the 31st there was a flock of at least 5 Long-tailed Tits beside Ensay Burn in the wood below Treshnish graveyard, a Sparrowhawk at Treshnish House and at Ensay Burn mouth. I had brief glimpse of pale grey bird in a tree on the edge of the wood at Treshnish house, it followed a small group of Starlings flying from the wood. The colours for no common bird but I think it must have been a melanistic Starling. I tried to re-locate it amongst the starlings but couldn't find it.
A very confiding Purple Sandpiper on the rock immediately to the west of Treshnish boathouse is a new species for our 10x10km square. It was very dark, too dark to see anything with binoculars but I got quite close and this photo with Carolyne's camera clinched the identification.

On the 30th there were at least 6 Long-tailed Tits along the edge of Treshnish wood and 1 Peregrine overhead. Before sunset there were c300 Starlings at the pre-roost congregation by Treshnish cow-barn.
There was a Dipper on the bridge at Lagganulva (Mike Shepherd pers. comm.)
On the 29th there was a Pink-footed Goose with 17 Greylags and 2 Red-throated Divers (calling quietly to each other) at Calgary beach and 3 male Teal at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
There was an Otter on the west side of Lainne Sgeir, which swam to the west where I lost track with it after about 250m.
At night a Tawny Owl was heard from Treshnish Old Schoolhouse and a Red Sword-grass moth came to the black-light. If this was not in my trap it would pass quite easily as a piece of wood. According to my books it is not supposed to fly in mid winter so I am checking with other moth-ers to see if they have any winter records.

This is the fruiting body of a Cladonia lichen at Lainne Sgeir.

On the 28th 4 Lapwings flew south over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse and there were 3 Redwings at Treshnish cow-barn.
On the 27th there was a Redshank on the shore below Treshnish House and a Dipper at the small stream immediately to the west of Ensay Burn mouth. This is only the second sighting from Treshnish farm although they breed higher up the burn near the bridges on the main road.
On the 26th there was a Wood Pigeon in Treshnish wood and round about sunset there was a flock of about 60 Starlings flying west at Ensay Burn mouth. This is the first flock I have see flying in the direction of the roost cave for some time. Presumably I have just been unlucky in not seeing them although it is possible that when the weather is very cold they change roost sites away from the cave. There were also a couple of small groups of c5 heading in the same direction.
On the 25th there were 3 White-tailed Eagles at Creag a' Chaisteil, Ensay.
There were 2 adults both with yellow wingtags and a juvenile with green (possibly larger) wingtags. At least 1 bird called whilst for several minutes one of the adults chased the juvenile. The adult was not successful at scaring off the juvenile so presumably it was just play fighting? During this fighting the other adult gradually soared higher up above.

There were 2 calling Tawny Owls (both using the oo-oo-ooo call) at Langamull forest car-park. There were 5 Woodcocks along the track down towards Langamull beach.
There was a Mountain Hare on the north side of the Langamull forest track.
On the 24th there were a male and female Teal at Lainne Sgeir, 1 Eider off there and a Lapwing flying east over the rocks and presumably the same bird on Calgary beach.
We watched an Otter to west of Lainne Sgeir bringing a fish to the shore and then grooming for some time on the rocks. It was great it close up close up with the telescope, scratching itself with its feet. A little later possibly the same Otter swam very close to the Teal and 3 Mallards. One of the Mallards was very slightly alarmed, quacking a little as they moved away slightly but there was certainly no panic. A little later and close by, there were 2 Otters swimming hunting along the shore. After a while I thought there was a third Otter as 2 began to fight roughly on the waters edge but I think that I may have been mistaken about the third Otter because the fighting eventually ended when one squealed loudly and they swam together a little further along the shore and followed each other onto the rocks. I think this was just rough play-fighting!
Regarding the Mallard's reaction: when I have seen Otters in the summer at Leighton Moss in Lancashire, the birds go absolutely berserk. Obviously in the breeding season birds will be more protective but even in the summer I haven't seen birds show a great fear Otters and it seems that they are not considered a high threat by the birds.
On the 23rd 5 Whooper Swans flew west from Calgary over Cruachan Treshnish and there was 1 Sparrowhawk over Treshnish wood, 1 Golden Eagle over Treshnish lochan and 1 Eider to west of Lainne Sgeir.
There was a flock of c15 Long-tailed Tits on the Glen road from Derviag to Craignure (NM4845).
On the 22nd there were 6 Turnstones and 1 Eider to west of Lainne Sgeir, Calgary, 1 Red-breasted Merganser near Calgary beach and a calling Great Northern Diver to west of Calgary pier. I thought I heard one calling yesterday but wasn't sure it was not coming from a Red-throated Diver. I don't think I have heard them calling before. There was a Lapwing at Calgary pier and another flying east over Lainne Sgeir.
On the 21st it was a glorious Yuleday (winter solstice).

There was a male Bullfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker along the farm road beside Treshnish wood. The latter is a new record for our 10x10km square although it breeds in Calgary woods and I have seen a possible nest hole at Kilninian.
There was a male Sparrowhawk, 2 male Teal, 1 Eider and 1 Turnstone at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary and 1 male Red-breasted Merganser off Calgary beach. There were 2 Great Northern Divers opposite Lainne Sgeir and 1 near Calgary pier. I will not mention the latter again until it is nearer their northward migration time as they are regular along the coast.
There was an Otter about half way between Lainne Sgeir and Calgary beach.
On the 20th there were at least 4 Bullfinches and at least 8 Long-tailed Tits along the farm track beside Treshnish wood.
There was 1 Red-throated Divers to west of Lainne Sgeir, Calgary which flew calling to another at Treshnish boathouse and there was also another to east of Lainne Sgeir which was presumably the same as one which flew calling around the inner bay. There were also 3 Great Northern Divers in Calgary bay, 1 Eider off Lainne Sgeir and a male Red-breatsed Merganser at Calgary beach. Carolyne took a fantastic photo of a Golden Eagle at Treshnish Point.
There was an Otter on the east side off Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
On the 19th there were at least 4 Bullfinches near Ensay Burn cattle-grid, a male and female Hen Harrier flying from Ensay west across Ensay Burn and at night Tawny Owls in Treshnish wood.
There were 2 Great Northern Divers and 1 Eider off Lainne Sgeir, Calgary,

2 Teal at Lainne Sgeir and 1 male Red-breasted Merganser flying towards Calgary beach.

On the 18th there were 3 Wood Pigeons over Treshnish wood, the first I have seen for a while. I walked to Calgary beach but it was snowing too hard to see anything.
Today I found out that one of our rarest plants has been misidentified by an expert. We are still thinking there may have been a mix up of specimens but what was thought by an expert to be Small Adder's-tongue Ophioglossum azoricum has now been identified by DNA analysis as Adder's-tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum. Since both are rare on Mull it is still a good record.
On the 17th there were 2 Golden Eagles over Treshnish wood.
On the 16th it was another fantastic Golden Eagle day with 2 pairs over Treshnish wood. One pair was extremely excited calling and displaying which seemed to have the desired effect as 1 of the second pair flew over to Creag a' Chaisteil where it too began undulating dives (I lost track of the third bird).
The male Teal was at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
On the 15th there was a pair of Golden Eagles over Treshnish wood with the male calling and displaying at also chasing a Buzzard with another over Creag a' Chaisteil, Ensay.
[In retrospect there were 2 or 3 Skylarks at Treshnish cow-barn on about his day. These were the last of the year and the last up to at least 1 Feb 2011.]
I found a healthy Hazel Gloves fungus on a fallen branch beside the road above Lainne Sgeir, Calgary.
On the 14th there were 2 Great Northern Divers off and opposite Calgary pier, 1 male Red-breasted Merganser off Calgary beach, 1 male Teal at Lainne Sgeir, Calgary and a Black-headed Gull flying east past Lainne Sgeir. I have only seen Teal once before in Calgary bay and Black-headed Gull is scarce in north Mull.
There were 2-3 adult Otters between Lainne Sgeir and the Calgary boathouse. At one point the (female?) Otter seen opposite the pier came to the shore half way to Lainne Sgeir and was met by a much smaller animal (about half the size). The adult otter was moving to the west searching in the rock crevices and the small animal appeared behind it about 2m away and very quickly disappeared again back into the same rocks. The adult otter circled around for a minute and then continued moving to the west amongst the rocks and the small animal followed for 5-10m (not closely and not immediately afterwards) before returning to the same spot it emerged from. I lost track of the adult a few times but a few minutes later it was seen again still exploring the rock in the same area.
The smaller animal was either an Otter cub or a Mink. I am pretty sure it was a young Otter because the coat was the same colour as the adult Otter and Mink is, in my experience, a more chocolate brown. The puzzling thing was that there was not much inter-reaction between the two and if it had been a Mink I would have expected some aggression and if it had been a re-union of mother and cub I would have thought there would have been more greeting behaviour. I do not know if a mother would leave her cub alone. I suspect it was a cub from another female and it came out from the rocks to greet a familiar Otter.
At night 1 Scarce Umber moth came to the 25w black-light. This is only my second ever for this species.
On the 13th there were 2 Red-throated Divers off from where the Ensay-Calgary road meets the coast, 1 Great Northern Diver off Lainne Sgeir, Calgary, 1 Turnstone to west of Lainne Sgeir and 1 male Red-breasted Merganser off Calgary pier.
There was an Otter to the east  of Lainne Sgeir and another opposite the pier.
Over the last couple of months I have written about the only publicly know satellite tracked Osprey that I know about.
I didn't update the information because instead of continuing on its heading towards the coast of Nigeria, as I had expected, it turned to the south east into northern Cameroon. I haven't received any updates on my programme since the 24th of November and was waiting for it to finish it's migration before spreading the news of its arrival on its wintering grounds. This morning I still hadn't received any updates and wondered if there was a malfunction with my programme or with the birds transmitter so I searched the web and found some news from the Finnish satellite tracking website.
The reason I was not receiving updates is that it HAD arrived at its wintering grounds and they were using another URL for tracking its wintering movements. The Osprey is a second year male Jukka, from 2009. It is interesting that it returned to Finland after its first year not like the Loch Garten bird Rothes which is the same age.
I was right to be worried about him crossing the Sahara, apparently only one third of young Ospreys survive the crossing! Fascinating details of Jukka's 2010 migration ordeal and comparison with his 2009 migration can be found here.