Monthly Archives: July 2018

Tern after tern this season

As you’ll know, it has been a rollercoaster of a season here at Mull Eagle Watch this year.

However, for our terns at Craignure, it has been slightly smoother.
SSSI Tern

The picture above is of Scallastle bay, the beach that surrounds Craignure Golf Course. This area has been designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) because of the ground-nesting birds such as the two tern species we get here, arctic and common, as well as ringed plover and common gulls.

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Ringed plover

There was quite the storm here four weeks ago when, unfortunately, some of the nest sites were washed away with the tide.
A few nests on the beach closest to the golf course remained unscathed and are in a great place for us to observe them at a distance without causing disturbance.

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Although, even when walking on the golf course and away from the beach, the terns do come and say ‘hello’!
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These arctic terns tend to nest in the same area where they hatched themselves. So there is a good chance some of these birds hatched here, at least three or four years ago, as it takes that long to reach sexual maturity.  They will then return to breed once every one-to-three years, depending on their mating cycle.

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If you look at the photo above, you might be able to make out the speckled beige egg hidden amongst the pebbles below the tern.
This nest appeared to have just the one egg in but they can lay up to three. The incubation takes between 22-34 days depending on levels of disturbance.

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They share incubation duties and feed one another during this period.

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Yesterday, we were finally lucky enough to get a glimpse of the chicks. At less than a week old, they won’t be fledging for at least another two weeks.

Tern feeding chick

These chicks are so camouflaged that it was a real struggle to pick them out. Luckily, the parents have to check on them, so we just waited for them to show us where they were hiding!

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We will keep an eye on these chicks for the next couple of weeks and see how they get on. Hopefully they’ll be joined by ringed plover chicks this week!

If you want to come and see these wonderful birds, get booked onto our Craignure Golf Course coastal wildlife watch tours through the Craignure Visit Scotland iCentre.

We hope to see you soon!

Cian

P.S All photographs are taken with a 600mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter, this means the subjects are photgraphed from distance without disturbance.

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Tiroran chick post-mortem

2nd July 2018

Sadly, on Thursday 14th June, the Tiroran chick was confirmed dead. It had only been ringed on the Monday and the team remarked at how placid it had been when being handled.

The Tiroran chick being ringed

Looking back, that wasn’t a good sign. Cian had been watching the chick all week with visitors and had seen it feeding well on Monday and Tuesday but hunkered down on the Wednesday during storm Hector. By Thursday afternoon, it was apparent to him that the chick was lifeless.

The ringing team were visiting their last nest of the day when they were informed. Instead of clocking off at 6pm, they journeyed back to Tiroran to retrieve the body.

It was sent off for post-mortem and the results suggested that it had a birth defect or a chest infection and it is likely that the storm was the final straw. It also had no food in its crop (the pouch in the throat used to temporarily store food) which suggested it had not been feeding despite there being food in the nest and the parents attending to it.

A very sad tale for Fingal and Iona this year. I had the honour of watching them raising their chick, Arwen, last year and seeing her go from egg to fledge in such a short space of time was very special. But they aren’t alone. Sadly a higher-than-average 9/20 white-tailed eagle nests have failed this year on Mull.

Despite having lost their chick, Fingal and Iona are still around Tiroran and have even been seen sitting in the nest tree on our tours.

Iona sat above the nest having lost her chick

 

If you would like to book on a tour here or at Craignure Golf Club where we are running coastal wildlife watches, please call the Visit Scotland Craignure iCentre on 01680 812377.

Thanks for reading,

Meryl

RSPB Ranger

Open Farm Sunday at Treshnish: farming, flowers and fantastic food!

 11th June 2018

The Mull Eagle Watch rangers attended the beautiful Treshnish (and Haunn cottages) Farm on Sunday 10th June for their Open Farm Sunday event. This national scheme run by LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) gives farmers an opportunity to show people how they are farming in an environmentally-friendly way and for us, as consumers, to learn about where our food comes from – one of the most beautiful places on Mull apparently!

The farmers, Somerset and Carolyne, gave us an interesting insight into their annual itinerary regarding lambing and meadow management before guiding us around their land.

The meadows looking over to Calgary Bay

And their meadows host the most magnificent myriad of wildflowers you can imagine!

We had orchids (butterfly, heath spotted, common spotted, fragrant, northern marsh to name a few).

Northern Marsh Orchid

 

Heath Spotted Orchid

 

Butterfly Orchid

 

Me smelling the Fragrant Orchid

And the most colourful swathes of other flowers including the pink lousewort, white burnet rose, blue speedwells, yellow buttercups, purple vetch, red sorrel, heaps of wood bitter vetch and even a rare moonwort.

Burnet Rose

Moonwort

We finished the walk with a delicious Moveable Feast by Jeannette’s at Ballygown which we all tucked into on the array of multi-coloured picnic blankets that had been laid out down the lawn, giving us a superb view across to the Isle of Coll. We were joined in our picnic by a group of porpoise who were feeding in the sea below us!

A fantastic event; great farming, great wildlife, great people and great food!

If you fancy seeing this wonder for yourself, why not take a peek at their cottages for your next holiday!

Thanks,

Meryl

RSPB Ranger

Trouble at Tiroran!


Due to the nest failure at Craignure Golf Club, we have now re-opened tours at Tiroran Community Forest! We are still running tours at the golf course but sightings of eagles can, sadly, no longer be 100% guaranteed.

The first week of tours at Tiroran are now over and Fingal and Iona have not disappointed!

We’ve watched as the eagles fly in to feed the chick who’s now stumbling around the nest and slumping face-down, exhausted from the heat.

But yesterday, on arrival, I was greeted with a view of two adults. Iona was on the nest but it wasn’t Fingal perched above. It was another eagle!

Iona nervously stared up at the bird, intermittently calling for over an hour until Fingal finally smashed into the top of the tree to shoo the intruder away. As it flew, I noticed it’s tail – white with a dark terminal band, making it a 4 year-old/sub-adult. Was this their young from a previous year or a stranger thinking of moving in?

And so the drama continues…

  

 

With thanks to Viking Optical and Swarovski Optik for the annual loan of their amazing telescopes, allowing us to capture these moments!

Meryl

RSPB Ranger

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