Tag Archives: events

Springtime Raptors & Reptiles

Springtime Raptors & Reptiles – 4th April 2017

Mull Eagle Watch reopens for trips on 11th April 2017 (bookings now being taken on 01680 812556)
Fresh faces
After a year and a half working locally at Ulva Primary School, I’ve returned to the Seasonal Eagle Ranger Post, which I filled during 2014 and 2015. I’ll be working for the Mull and Iona Ranger Service and the Mull and Iona Community Trust. Meryl Varty has taken on the RSPB Community and Information Officer post. Between the two of us we’ll be providing daily guided trips to view White-tailed eagles at two different community owned sites. You can join us at West Ardhu (North West Community Woodland) or Glen Seilisdeir (Tiroran Community Forest) to learn more about the local community forest practices, the eagles and other local wildlife species whilst hopefully viewing the eagles in the area.
Eagle Viewing Hides – ‘incubation initiated’
I’ll mostly be based at the West Ardhu viewing hide near Dervaig in the North West of the island. This area is now my home patch, having moved away from the ‘big city lights’ of Tobermory last year. This area of the island is home to brilliant wildlife, beautiful beaches and the community managed woodland in which Star and Hope have been nesting since 2014.
Hope, the female White-tailed eagle is now incubating on her nest in the West Ardhu. Along with her mate, Star they’ll share the incubation duties (although the female often does more) and we’ll expect the hatching to take place toward the end of April.
Meryl will be based at Tiroran Community Forest, where eagles Iona and Fingal are also currently incubating and hatching should take place at the beginning of May. Mull Eagle Watch has viewed this pair since 2011 and they’ve been really successful since then, raising a chick each year.

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West Ardhu Viewing Hide (North West Mull Community Woodland)

Spring Sights
Spring is a great time to explore the island, whether you’re a visitor or a local. The wildlife bursts back into being busy, making the most of the longer days and abundant food. Both White-tailed eagles and Golden eagles will be active, and often you’ll spot adult territorial eagles defending their patch from younger individuals.

12SP

2-3 year old White-tailed eagle (Image: Ewan Miles)

Other raptor species including Hen Harrier and Buzzard will be preparing for the breeding season ahead – watch out for the famous sky-dancing male harrier. Ravens, the honorary raptor species should be breeding in full swing – they can be very early to nest.

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Raven on a Mull territory

Reptiles are a wonderful group to focus on in April, with male Adders emerging earlier than the females. We spotted two male individuals basking in the warmth of the sun at the end of March, along with a few speedy Common Lizards. Adders are highly unlikely to cause you any harm, unless trodden on and it’s a thrill to see one. Slow-worms are our third and final reptile species here on Mull and they’re harmless too – a legless lizard rather than a snake or worm!

Loch Torr roadside - same place as previous years. March 26thMale?

Male Adder

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Common Lizard

Thanks for reading! We’ll be back soon with more on our eagles – trips start from 11th April (book now on 01680 812556). See below for upcoming Ranger Service event details.

Egg-ceptional Events
The Mull and Iona Ranger Service are running a couple of events for the Easter school holiday. Our Easter Egg Hunt is in conjunction with the Glengorm Wildlife Project – come along and have some fun!
Bunessan Birdsong – Wednesday 12 April
A gentle walk around the village, listening and learning to identify the distinctive spring songs of our local birds. You don’t have to be up at dawn to appreciate beautiful birdsong!
9.30-11am
Meeting in main car park, Bunessan
£5 adults £3 children

Glengorm Easter Egg Hunt – Wednesday 12th April
Starting at the Glengorm Wildlife Lab, next to the Coffee Shop. Come in your home-made Easter bonnet to win prizes!

Activities include:
Egg-citing Scavenger Trail
Make you own basket
Egg-cellent Easter Crafts

11am-3pm
£3

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Eagle Watch Update

Working with wildlife

Whoever said working with children and animals was a bad idea almost hit the nail on the head. They should have emphasised working with wildlife can also be very trying. We’re waiting patiently to see whether Cuin and Sula decide to settle on their previous nest site, they’ve been very busy having territorial disputes with a neighboring eagle pair and so have been slightly distracted. We won’t know anything further until Sula actually sits down and lays an egg, so Mull Eagle Watch is waiting with baited breath. We’re hopeful and we should know fairly soon, some birds have laid already and are now incubating eggs but each pair are quite faithful to their timings each season.

Gribun

Loch na Keal and Gribun Cliffs

Booking for 2015

We’re aware that many of you are looking forward to your visit this season and many of you have already tried to book in. Unfortunately we can’t take any definite bookings yet, until we’re 100% sure of an opening date. So, if you’ve already called the Visitor Information Centre in Craignure the best option is to wait a few more weeks before calling back – and keep an eye on our social media too.
Don’t panic; if you’re trying to book well in advance you won’t miss out if you don’t book now. But we’re sorry for those of you that are visiting in the next few weeks as we might not be up and running quite yet.

Meanwhile…

I thoroughly enjoy working with our local schools and children, and I’ll visit as many as possible throughout the season to run sessions on both of our eagle species. This allows me to help dispel myths about our birds. These include “the birds are big enough to carry off children and dogs”, “eagles eat all the lambs on the island”, and “white-tailed eagles are bad news for golden eagles”.

In the last few weeks I’ve had the chance to do some bird box and bug hotel building with Lochdon and Ulva primary schools. This is great fun and gets the children outside and excited about our smaller wildlife. Getting muddy to create a bug hotel is especially fun. This is a brilliant way to collect up unwanted garden materials or items – just add them to your bug house. The kids will be able to enjoy this year round and continue to develop it.

I also joined up with Emily, the NTS Ranger for the south of the island to run a mountain session in Bunessan Primary school. We worked together to learn about mountain climbing and human needs, and how we must take the correct equipment otherwise things could go drastically wrong. This led nicely onto our mountain wildlife and the adaptations they need to allow survival in a difficult habitat.

 

Go geocaching

“Geocaching?” I hear you say.
Geocaching is a worldwide game revolving around GPS and hidden boxes. It can be accomplished with a simple and free app on a mobile phone or tablet device and a bit of fresh air. It’s a great way to encourage families to spend more time outdoors, bringing a tiny bit of technology into a regular walk. The excitement of hunting out a hidden box without being caught by “muggles” is brilliant for children and whilst they’re out there nature might catch their imaginations too. I’ve been out and about to hide some more geocache boxes which are hidden and maintained by the Mull and Iona Ranger Service. It’s a good excuse to get out of the office and I’m now hooked on geocaching.
If you’d like to know more head to the geocaching website.

River Seilisdeir

River Seilisdeir

Springtime wildlife

If you’re heading to Mull soon, or are lucky enough to live here this is a great time for our wildlife. Eagles are busy all around the island. You might catch either species displaying, or defending their territory. I was privileged enough to witness a male golden eagle displaying recently whilst the larger female soared above. Buzzards and hen harriers are also more visible right now. Meadow pipits, pied wagtails and wheatears are arriving on our shores, just in time to provide a tasty snack to our raptors. Alongside voles and mice these small birds are highly important for hen harriers and buzzards. Adders and slow worms will be warming up and considering emerging from hibernation. Other amphibians are already busy; frogs and toads have laid their spawn in most cases.

Bat Bonanza

Lastly, if you’re on the island around Easter time look out for our Ranger Service events, the first one is an evening bat walk in Aros Park.

Wednesday 1st April at 6.30pm – join us for a walk around the part with bat detectors! All welcome. £5 adults £3 children. Please call 07540792650 for more information.

You can find more event information on the ranger service blog.

Further adventures on Mull

Well the weather here recently has been classic Isle of Mull – very changeable with heavy showers and sunny spells. July often seems to be monsoon month here but often the wildlife appreciates the downpours as they create short spurts of activity. Insects launch themselves into the skies when the rain clears and the swallows, house martins, pied wagtails and more all follow to cache in on the bounty. It also designs some impressive landscapes with rushes of water tumbling down the hills and over our many cliffs, quickly reaching the lochs. We all crave those perfect days with clear blue skies and sunshine, but I find that our dramatic weather can remind you where you actually are, matching our mountains and rugged coastline. We should learn to appreciate it that little bit more.

Caliach Point

Last Thursday I ran a guided walk and sea-watching session from Calgary Bay round to Caliach Point. It was a great trip despite it being extremely windy; the sea was pretty choppy making it hard to spot any marine mammals. We had a lovely walk though, focussing a lot on our wildflowers. We were joined by a pair of kestrels whilst they used the wind to look for prey linking back to their very apt name; the Windhover. Great to see this little raptor, we don’t have huge numbers here on Mull and they are declining fairly rapidly across the UK. Lots of ravens and hooded crows about and we had some good sightings of gannets, Manx shearwaters and kittiwakes over the sea. This area is usually a nesting site for fulmars, but not one was seen. I did hear of two American mink spotted there the same week though.

Perseverance paid off…

Friday morning was a wash out but thankfully we weren’t running a trip, any sensible eagle would have been sat patiently waiting out the weather. But we persevered for the afternoon session, and four hardy visitors joined me with their fingers crossed it would clear as forecast. And it did! We had a great afternoon with both adults about the area giving us some fantastic sights through the scope. We even had Iona and Fingal perched side by side companionably, we don’t see that very often. Another visitor we’re seeing a good deal at the minute is the wee sparrowhawk, a brilliant raptor. We had a close encounter as the male shot by the shelter, making a dizzying turn when he realised we were all engrossed, he then flew up above the hide to alight on a tree branch for a second, maybe recouping his nerves before powering off again. It’s always a privilege to have a visit from these birds of prey.

Growing up fast

Our chick will be nine weeks old later in the week and coming up to an important time. Fledging probably won’t take place until week twelve but, prior to that nerve wracking moment, the chick will begin to exercise, pumping those wings to develop the all important flight muscles. We’ll see the chick ‘branch-out’ too, exploring of the nest area and close braches will give the chick some experience in moving about and managing that huge 8ft wingspan. This is all rather edge of your seat, it’s very easy for this to go wrong when you’re pretty high up in a tree and still learning so we’ll be keeping a close eye on our youngster over the next few weeks. Later in the season we’ll have a local primary school group come up with a name for the eagle hide chick to go with Orion, our chick from last year. This is another brilliant way to get local youngsters enthused about the eagles and our wildlife. Don’t forget though we’ll be giving you the chance to name Sula and Cuin’s chick – the webcam star.

Coming up…

This week we’ll be at the hide enjoying our eagles, and there are plenty of spaces left for our trips. They run daily, Mon-Fri at 10am or 1pm. Easy access to our hide with binoculars and telescopes is provided. We’ll tell you all you need to know about white-tailed eagles and any other wildlife we might encounter. Lots to see and do and we’re great for children too! Call 01680 812556 to enquire or book in.

Also, Thursday this week join me to hunt for some otters on the shores of Loch Na Keal. It’s another event that’s great for all, everyone welcome. We’ll spend some time looking for otters, learning about them and we’ll also seek out some tracks and signs along the coast. For some more info call 07540 792650.

Adventure of the Week goes to…Loch Sunart & Garbh Eilean Wildlife Hide

Garbh Eilean Wildlife Hide

Not too far from our lovely isle, you can visit Loch Sunart – an absolutely breathtaking sea loch and the Forestry Commission Scotland’s wildlife hide. Loch Sunart stretches for around 20 miles, bordered by stunning scenery of Morvern and Ardnamurchan, it is a brilliant place for wildlife and has recently been proposed for a Marine Protected Area for its important marine environment and the impact it has on the wider seas nearby.

Garbh Eiliean Wildlife Hide

The FCS wildlife viewing hide is superb and having spent some time there in February this year I can highly recommend it. The hide fits in perfectly with the surrounding environment, made from all natural materials. With the comfort and protection from the often harsh weather the hide offers you can happily enjoy species like otter, white-tailed eagle, common seals, red-breasted merganser, divers, the local heronry and more. Well worth a visit and great for all; binoculars provided and you’ll also have the added benefit of a ranger’s knowledge if you pop by on a Monday!

Thanks for reading as usual – Rachel

Eagle Antics

We’re still speeding through the season, into July already and we’ve even had some glorious sunny days to show for it. Our eagle chick is eight weeks old on Wednesday this week and seems to be doing very well. Just yesterday I had some great views of it stretching and exercising those huge wings in the nest. On very hot days it often hunkers down into the nest to keep cool, raptors can only pant to lose heat, they aren’t able to sweat like we can. Despite the nest being quite sheltered from most conditions it is difficult to shelter from the sun at the very top of a tree! Still a few weeks left in the nest, most chicks fledge at around 12 weeks old and even after that we’ll still get brilliant sightings in the area. Other wildlife sightings at the minute include some brilliant dragonflies with lots of golden ringed – the longest British species. We’ve also had a small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. Plenty of buzzards and golden eagles, but also some great views of both male and female sparrowhawks with a few sightings of prey being carried.

Seasonal Seals

Every year white-tailed eagles make the most of seasonal food and at the minute we’re seeing Iona and Fingal bring in common seal afterbirths (the placenta and other gory treats!). Lots of people find this a bit disgusting, but if you take it from an eagles point of view it’s an excellent food source; it won’t run away, not too heavy to carry in flight to a nest and it’ll be extremely nutritional for our chick. Iona dropped into the nest on Friday after approaching the area like an arrow; she was going so fast we couldn’t tell what she had been carrying. She was closely followed by Fingal carrying a rather unpleasant looking food parcel which he ungraciously dumped with the youngster. We had great views of his very red feet whilst he perched nearby. We often see “red-tailed eagles” about at this time of year instead of that lovely crisp white tail. This demonstrates how adaptable the generalist predators are, taking what they can when it’s available.

Mugshot of the intruder

Mugshot of the intruder

Head for heights?

Our webcam proved extremely useful over the weekend, giving us a valuable insight into what can go wrong at eagle nest sites. First of all we had someone share a screen grab of the nest site with an intruding bird sat on the nest. We’ve seen this couple of times at the hide but the adults were always on hand to defend the nest and chase off the intruder. We’re not 100 per cent sure if the intruder is related, but it was action stations yesterday to rescue the chick. Unfortunately it had fallen about 30ft from the nest to the forest floor below. It could be that the intruding bird spooked the youngster or actually pushed it out; we’re hoping we can recover some footage and check what happened. Thankfully because of the webcam we could rush in with a rescue bid on Monday. The chick appeared healthy and was returned to the nest by FCS climbers. It was left happily feeding on some rabbit and salmon. Great outcome as every chick is important in a population of eagles – they take such a long time to build up their numbers. Thanks to everyone that was involved!

Mystery Shopper

Great news for all of us involved with Mull Eagle Watch as we flew through our mystery shopper visit and report again. It’s a brilliant feeling to know all that hard work pays off. The hide and trips are highly rated and we hope this shines through to all of our visitors. We’re into Scottish school holidays now, shortly followed by the English kids, so July and August will be busy which is great, just need some nice weather to go alongside.

Coming up…

Tomorrow I’m running a Ranger Service event starting from Calgary Bay. We’ll head off for a wander towards Caliach Point and stop plenty of times to “Sea Watch”. We’ll look for marine life including minke whales, basking sharks, dolphins, porpoise, seals and seabirds. Often scanning the area from the shore is just as productive as watching from a boat with the added bonus of wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies and more. If you’re reading this and would like to come along give me a call on 07540 792 650 for some more information.

Next week on Thursday 10th I’m running “Out and About for Otters”. This one is great for both adults and children – a definite hit with families. We’ll spend some time on the shore of Loch Na Keal learning about otters, looking for signs and playing some games.

“Adventure of the Week” is going to be a new little feature for MEW. Every week we’ll recommend a reserve, forest, woodland or beach to visit. Some may be local to Mull; others might be further afield in West Scotland. This is a great way to support similar sites across the area that provide amazing places to view wildlife, get outdoors and enjoy the summer. Look out for our info board at the hide and our posts on Facebook/Twitter for these ideas.

Adventure of the Week this week goes to…Scottish Beaver Trial – Knapdale

european beaverA great family adventure for the beginning of the school holidays. Get outdoors to enjoy the beaver trail, explore the area and become beaver detectives to spot busy beaver signs. The Beaver Trial has been a great success, similar to our white-tailed eagle reintroduction – amazing to get some of our lost species back into the UK. Visit for the insight into a stunning mammal and the chance to see them in action – if you’re very lucky and patient!

See the Scottish Beaver Trial website.

The Beaver Trial is run in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland (just like MEW), Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal ZSL.

Thanks for reading as usual, hope you enjoyed it – Rachel

Protective parents

Almost two weeks on and things are still going well with Iona, Fingal and the offspring. John managed to get a glimpse of at least one chick in the nest for the first time this week when Fingal perched his heavy weight on a branch, giving us a clear view in. So we know one chick at least is doing great. We have our suspicions that we do have two youngsters but still cannot say for definite. Now that the chick(s) can maintain their own body temperature a little better, the adults are incubating far less. They still work hard to keep them dry in our rainy weather but now spend a lot of time sat on favourite perches nearby, keeping an ever watchful eye over the territory and one adult will always be on hand to defend the chick(s). Despite growing quickly they are still very vulnerable at this stage, species like hooded crow, raven, buzzard, golden eagles or intruding white-tailed eagles pose a threat if the chicks were left unattended for long.

Very damp Fingal

One morning last week we had a great deal of action. Both Iona and Fingal were getting pretty agitated by an intruding sub-adult white-tailed eagle. They have been fairly tolerant of the birds that hang around but it must have been pushing its luck this time. It took to flying around directly above the nest, often stopping briefly to perch nearby, but not for long before it was pestering the pair again. We heard lots of vocalisation from Iona and Fingal, both showing their annoyance at the bird. With one parent on the nest the other took to the air multiple times, we had no real conflict – often you see things like talon grappling in similar scenarios. Maybe they settled their differences amicably?

I had an extra special moment yesterday during lunch, so unfortunately I was the only one to witness – a golden eagle flew right overhead and the best part was the constant calling coming from it; so rare to hear this species, they are much less vocal than our white-tailed eagles. I know people who’ve watched eagles for a long time and still never heard one!

Tripadvisor certificate

Certificate of Excellence

We’ve just been award a Certificate of Excellence 2014 from Tripadvisor. This is brilliant and really shows our hard work and efforts put in. Thank you to everyone who has left us a review – it means a lot to everyone working here, and of course Iona and Fingal are thrilled too!
We are also applying for the Scottish Thistle Awards this year which will be very exciting if we are shortlisted. Right now, I’m working on our green tourism file – we are currently rated at silver although we’re always trying to improve things to reach for gold.

Another eagle education

Since my last post I’ve been to another of our primary schools; Lochdon Primary this time. Another great group of children and they enjoyed learning about the island’s wildlife, eagles and how predators and prey link together to keep everything running smoothly. I love working with the children; they are always enthusiastic and come up with brilliant, interesting questions that I try my best to answer.

Lots of scopes and cameras

I also had a visit from George Watson’s college. We got some views of the eagles and nest through the scope before building up our eagle nest – this proved to be exhausting as they’d already climbed Ben More – our only Munro – earlier that day. Unfortunately I discovered that our life size nest might be out of action for a while due to our very bad tick year.

Wonderful wildlife

Other sightings at the hide include our local golden eagles and buzzards, often perfectly timed to arrive just at the end of our trips. We have a large herd of red deer feeding on one ridge line. We’ve lots of flying beetles around, including the tiger beetle. Many more butterflies around making use of our sunny spells. Greenfinches have been joining our regular chaffinches and siskins. I’ll also take the time to mention midge repellent for anyone that is due to visit us – thankfully most days we have a nice breeze to keep them at bay but if not they can make a lovely meal of us all.

Brilliant bats

This week in addition to the hide I am also running a ranger service event, if you are about come along to my bat walk – we’ll spend some time leaning about our island bats and take a walk with detectors to listen and see them. We’re meeting in Aros park, one of our lovely forestry commission sites near Tobermory at 8.30pm, give me a call on 01680 300640 or 07540792650 to book for the session.

Thanks for reading again – Rachel.