Author Archives: rangerservice

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

Coastal antics

So… Unfortunately, as many of you know, the first nesting attempt of the Golf Course eagles failed and we were crossing everything in hope that they may re-lay. They teased us with some promising signs such as bringing back nesting material, performing aerial displays and then for four days, they appeared on the nest in the incubation position but… nothing.

Experts were consulted and books were read, all in hope of giving our pair a bit more time to re-lay but we have now truly passed that window of possibility. It’s not all doom and gloom though as Scalla & Anna have used this site for a decade and are showing no signs of moving on. They are still gracing us with their presence on almost every tour, being very vocal and showing their ginormous wingspans!

What we are even more excited about here at Mull Eagle Watch is all the other fantastic wildlife we are seeing. Now that we know they are not going to lay any more eggs, we can cast our eyes towards the coast and watch the nests of ringed plover, oystercatchers and a variety of gull species forming on the beach around us.

Not to mention our first couple of otter sightings! A big shout out to Gill from Devon who was our otter expert for the morning, she spotted an otter from the site for the first time this season. There were in fact two there that morning and we have since seen them on a similar outcrop in the Sound of Mull a few metres away.

The shoreline here is really starting to buzz with the calls of our coastal birds like common sandpiper, turnstone and dunlin. Not to mention the return of the terns! (Excuse the poor joke) We have seen and heard a flock of common and arctic terns on the skerries. Though these may not be the birds that attempt to nest here this year, it’s the start of a very interesting few months at Craignure Golf Club.
We also just wanted to thank NWMCWC (North West Mull Community Woodland Company) for providing our shelter with woodchips to protect us from the mud, thanks!

Cian

Eagle Ranger

A few pictures of the wildlife we’ve been enjoying

The eagles remain a mystery…

It has now been almost a month at Craignure Golf Club and we have no eggs being incubated. However it’s not all doom and gloom, Scalla and Anna have been showing signs they want to re-lay so keep your fingers, toes and talons crossed for our pair!

We’ve been having great views of them around the nest, flying over-head and perching together to be admired by our visitors and mobbed by the resident buzzards and crows. They get it in the wings from just about everything…

Other than the eagles, we’ve been seeing lots of other wildlife at and around Craignure Golf Club including a one off glaucous gull, immature white-tailed eagles, the odd golden eagle, an occasional peregrine, clusters of common sandpiper, turnstones huddling against the wind, ringed plover displaying on the green, curlew calling overhead, reed bunting and siskin at the feeders,  chiff chaffs and willow warbler heard around the clubhouse plus a male hen harrier hunting over the golf course just 30 metres away from us!

Cian

Eagle Ranger

Here are some photos of the lovely wildlife we’ve been enjoying.

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Skylark

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Eider

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Rock Pipit

 

Uh oh! Drama unfolds at the nest…

13th April 2018

On Good Friday, when people all across the country (including myself) were getting excited about tucking into their (*cough* nine) chocolate eggs, we at Mull Eagle Watch were most excited about an egg that wasn’t chocolate at all. It was the first egg that Scalla and Anna had laid in their nest at Craignure Golf Club.

Tours began soon after and our visitors were able to see an incubating eagle on the nest with the telescopes that Swarovski and Viking kindly loan to the project every year.

We were getting great views of one parent flying and of a group of eagle youths that loitered around the area. But there was a third adult around who became a very unwelcome visitor.

On a few tours, this eagle was seen flying around and towards the nest which distressed Scalla and Anna and led them to tackle him mid-air and chase him away. And unfortunately, it became apparent that something had happened in the scuffle which caused this first clutch to fail.

The intruder may well have intended to oust Scalla in order to take over his territory and female. Last year, Anna’s 37 year-old father who lived around Lochdon on Mull, fell victim to this behaviour when the younger male succeeded in killing him.

But don’t fear! Our hopes remain high; we’ve been seeing the pair flying, perching and calling together and even bringing in new nesting material to repair the nest. This is a very positive indication that they will, very soon, attempt to lay a second clutch of eggs!

30768934_10213474568412810_78417691_oScalla and Anna perched together after their interrupted nesting attempt

For now, the pair is wowing visitors by perching in very convenient places and, on occasion, flying right over our heads! It’s just a matter of time before Anna lands in the nest for good.

To book on a tour, call the VisitScotland iCentre in Craignure on 01680 812556

Bye for now,

Meryl

Eagle Ranger

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