We’re deep into autumn here in the Hebrides, battling regular gale force winds and torrential rain. We’ve had some flooding across Tobermory main street and drastic landslides along the Gribun cliff road just showing how powerful weather and nature can be. I enjoyed my first wintery frost on an early morning start this week too, something I always relish; it just feels so fresh, although it was a one off and we were quickly back to the warmer rain. I thought I’d give you all an autumn blog post, despite Mull Eagle Watch being closed for the season. We’ll be opening again at the end of March 2015 – please check details closer to the time, for trip times, locations and bookings. In the mean time though I thought I’d share some goings on from Mull and the Hebrides.
David Sexton our Mull RSPB Officer, Stuart Findlay our Mull FCS Forester and myself attended the Scottish Thistle Awards regional ceremony on Friday 7th. We were shortlisted under the “Warmest Welcome” category and so off we went to the big city lights of Glasgow to enjoy a lovely lunch and the awards themselves. Mackinlay Kidd were the winners of our category, and a big well done to them. Despite not winning, we are still thrilled to have been shortlisted and of course we’ll try our luck again next year! The lunch menu was fantastic, with local Scottish produce and mouthwatering venison, worth the journey.
We’re now looking forward to November 20th when the whole partnership are off to Edinburgh for the Nature of Scotland awards evening, we’re shortlisted under the innovation category. It’ll be a great night no matter the outcome and a brilliant chance to meet lots of likeminded organisations working to save nature across Scotland. Chris Packham is host, which is very exciting, a well-known figure in nature conservation.
Community wildlife hide
Back on Mull itself and exciting things have been happening here too. Laing O’Rourke and Scottish Water have donated a brilliant new community wildlife viewing hide to the island following the ongoing water and road works between Salen and Craignure. The hide is situated at Fishnish overlooking the Sound of Mull. Mull Otter Group, Mull and Iona Ranger Service, Mull Eagle Watch, RSPB, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and the Forestry Commission Scotland are all involved. We had a great opening day with lovely food from the Isle of Mull Hotel and stalls from all organisations, despite the horrendous weather the day was a success.
The hide is now open for everyone, drop by and watch out for otters, eagles, seabirds, and cetaceans like harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphins. If you do go by be sure to send us your sightings via Facebook – soon we’ll have a sightings board and visitor book inside. Next season the hide will give some new opportunities for school use and events too, brilliant for the island and its visitors. Read more about the hide in this Argyll News article.
This is a tough time for many species, but especially for this years youngsters as they fight to learn the all important life skills needed to survive. Over the last week I had three barn owl sightings in two days which is great news; ongoing wind and rain is bad news if you happen to be a barn owl. Silent flight means the species loses out on waterproofing, and they weigh very little, most of the body being feathers! Needing food everyday to survive, these owls can succumb very easily during poor conditions. Thankfully when things look up they can breed as early as January or February, depending on food availability and body condition, they can often raise two broods, very unlike our eagles, limited to one clutch and usually only one or two eggs.
Despite being a tough time for wildlife, autumn is also a perfect time to get outside and enjoy it. It’s a season of change and movement. An array of species arrive, whilst others leave to grace warmer shores. Migration is a natural wonder and the species are always eagerly awaited, whatever the weather. The arrival of the swallow heralds spring just as whooper swans, redwings, fieldfare and geese brighten up those increasingly shorter days in autumn. Ospreys leave us for colder months, heading to sunny and fruitful Gambia and Senegal, but thankfully our white-tailed eagles brave the wintery weather and hold their territories all year round. Juveniles and sub-adults are less tied, able to cover huge areas, but often they group together in a communal roost, offering up a chance to see maybe five or six domineering eagles at once.
Our other iconic Scottish species don’t pack their bags either, so otters, golden eagles and red deer are still easily spotted if you look in the right places. Even better though, are the less admired seasonal highlights. As the trees lose their foliage an awe inspiring range of lichens and mosses are exposed, with fascinating life cycles they deserve a look. Fungus push through the leaf litter all over the woodland floor and deadwood, as always, is teeming with life. Even moths are still active, some right through December despite the temperatures. So use autumn as a great excuse to get out there, to get muddy and to learn.
Iona, Fingal & Thistle
I took a drive to Glen Seilisdeir over the weekend to see if I could spot any members of our eagle family. The sun was already dropping by the time I reached the territory; as always I got sidetracked on route, but I can’t complain because the Mull wildlife didn’t disappoint. A golden eagle was showing brilliantly through the glen road, very low and close. We also spotted a male hen harrier and a further two harriers which were probably a juvenile male and female with a definite size difference. No sign of Iona, Fingal or Thistle but undoubtedly they’ll be around. It might well be that Thistle, by now has left home and is probably fending for herself. Iona and Fingal will continue life in the glen, beginning territory defence, nest building and courtship during the winter.
Thanks for reading as usual and I’ll aim to post another blog in December or January, not long till we’re back in full swing in March! Rachel 🙂