• Ewan Miles

March Overview - Tour Sightings and Spring Arrivals!

Updated: Apr 10

I hope everyone is okay during these troubling times. With all tours cancelled for the foreseeable future as we 'hunker' for 'lockdown', it provides an opportunity for myself to keep busy with some other things.


One of these jobs is to do more blogging so I will start with an overview of last months tours and general wildlife encounters. As I write this blog post it is early April and a warm southerly wind is blowing hard outside, with gusts reaching 50mph!


Package expedition with Iolo Williams (very brief overview!)

Anyway, thinking back to early March is seems a very long time ago now with all that has happened since. We started the month with a Mull Package expedition led by Iolo Williams which consisted of 7 guests plus Iolo and myself. It was a very enjoyable 5 days and we were very lucky with the weather as it was mainly dry with some sunny spells. We also manged to encounter most of the 'spotlight species' including Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Otters and Hen Harrier.


We failed in an attempt to see Adders in some traditional sites with Iolo saying that the ground was still too wet with lower temperatures at that level. We checked the moors at low light for potential Short-eared Owls but did manage a perched up Tawny Owl near Torloisk. We also got to see the wintering male Kingfisher in Lochdon.


Overall a great week and a fantastic team. Many thanks to all the guests for joining us! Also to Iolo for all his expertise and Jane for providing all the amazing food throughout the 5 days. Another thanks goes to Dave Sexton for popping down on the final day to talk all things eagles!


Iolo and guests watching WT Eagles and Ravens over Dervaig...


Some daily tours before 'Lockdown'

During the middle of the month I provided a few daily tours on Mull whilst things were still 'normal'! One thing of interest was the lack of Otter sightings along the coast which always ties in with the years first frogspawn records. At this time of the year the mustelid species take advantage of the increased food options inland and venture into the moors and mountains to feed on frogs in the bogs, ditches and high lochans. The timing is perfect for the Otters as food may be deceasing in coastal habitats towards the end of winter and also the sea temperature is at its coldest as we approach Spring so more energy would be lost feeding and foraging in these relatively icy waters.


During the middle of March all tours were then cancelled due to COVID19 and further updates will be announced in due course.


A Common Frog on the road during a night walk


A new Mull species for me...

On the third week of the month whilst out doing a shop I had a quick look on Lochdon and saw a bird that I had never seen on Mull before. It was a Grey Plover and after reporting it into 'Mull Bird Reports' Alan said that there has been very few records on the island in the past.


Grey Plovers are high Arctic breeders and can be seen wintering along UK estuaries, normally in small groups or solitary, like this sighting. Mull does not have large expanses of mudflats with Lochdon being the most productive feeding option for these winter visitors. I have only seen Grey Plovers on the Solway and also on Loch Gruniart, Islay in the past.


A Grey Plover with an Oystercatcher on Lochdon


Adders!

We did eventually mange to see our first Adders of 2020 on the 14th March. This is my latest annual record for 7-8 years and potentially due to the wettest February on record. Photographed is a male in a traditional site basking out and trying to build up sperm for the breeding season ahead. It is essential that these snakes are left to bask and not disturbed. If you encounter an Adder and they start to lift their head, please move away slowly and leave it in peace. My photos of Adders are taken with a strong telephoto lens to avoid disturbance.


A Male Adder coiled up in the sunshine...


Grey Wagtails are simply stunning!

During the third week of March I was restricted to local areas due to COVID19 which encouraged me to explore and learn more about my 'home range'. I spent a bit of time covering a nearby stretch of river and got rewarded with superb Grey Wagtail sightings with two pairs battling it out for the best breeding areas!


On the 24th March while sat by the river I had my first 2020 Sand Martin go over and two days later I had a Chiffchaff outside the house. This male Chiffchaff is still here into April and continues to sing. It is a bird that I have never seen/heard in Dervaig before as they are not that common on Mull.


A first summer Grey Wagtail ...what a stunner!


This was an interesting find during March. A dead Curlew in an open field which appears to have succumb to a Peregrine Falcon. You could see bill notches taken out of the breastbone where the raptor was feeding on the bird.


Short-eared Owl & Water Rail!

Towards the end of March we managed to see our first Short-eared Owl of 2020! It was seen in very low light on the moors near Loch Frisa. We also had Woodcock roding overhead.


Back to Dervaig and the reed beds are alive with the sound of Snipe at dusk! It is amazing to experience and I also recorded about three Water Rails calling as well! Another sighting of interest was a Pied Wagtail roost of over one hundred birds going into the reeds.


Thanks very much for taking the time to read this blog update from Mull. I hope everyone stays safe in these challenging times.

Ewan

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