Wednesday, 10 March 2021

A Sand Martin, Diver In Breeding Plumage And More

March began like a lamb, with some wonderful bright sunny and warm weather. Rob actually enjoyed a Birthday, which was never a possibility when he worked in the motor trade, as it was the beginning of a new registration, hence incredibly busy. Not this year. No, instead we went for a walk with Arnold along the sands of Calgary Bay, followed by a trip down to Duart Castle. The views across towards Oban and up to Ben Nevis were breathtaking.

And then later in the day, sat out on the patio, and enjoyed a celebratory drink in some most welcome spring sunshine.

The following day we swapped Calgary for Langamull, a more secluded beach, but just as beautiful, and warm.

While there wasn't a massive amount of wildlife around for me, aside for a distant female hen harrier, some buzzards and a pair of ringed plover, it was simply divine to be strolling around a deserted beach in short-sleeve conditions.

There are signs of spring everywhere, not just with the daffodils and crocuses flowering in our garden, but with some of the wildlife being seen. Whilst driving alongside Loch Na Keal I spotted a small bird zipping over a small reed bed. Without anyone behind me, I parked in the middle of the road, and got my invaluable Kite HD+ 8x30 bins on it.

A sand martin! Already. At the time, I wasn't aware of how unusually early it was, as they'd been spotted south of the border already, but after reporting it to Mull Birding, I realised it was remarkably early for the area.

Another surprise for me was on one of the walks on the beach. Mostly, I lug around the 500mm over my shoulder, like I'm armed with a bazooka, and have very little to point it at. Usually gulls, oystercatchers and occasionally an eagle, though usually high up, passing over the area.

But this morning had already offered more promise, with an otter fishing near the old stone quay, and whilst watching that, I saw a bird surface. It was dark coloured, and wasn't a shag. The Canon R5 has a cool feature in the electronic viewfinder, of being able to zoom in on what you're looking at, up to 15x over and above what the lens' reach provides.

A black-throated diver, and in breeding plumage. Fabulous.

Rob took Arnold for a longer walk around the beach that morning, whilst I sat on the rocks beside the bay, hoping the diver would swim a little closer.

It remained a bit distant for my liking, but the pixel-packed sensor on the R5 allows for some hefty crops, so the images ended up looking ok.

Despite visiting Mull so many times over the last decade, some of the views still grab my attention. On an afternoon recently, I'd driven up into the hills near home, hoping to see eagles or red deer. While I did see one young white-tailed eagle fly by, being pursued by a mob of hoodies, it was the view developing over the water, towards the Treshnish Isles that caught my eye.

I had my 24-105mm with me, but found the 100-400mm lens worked best for the scene.

On the way home, I noticed a small flock of common snipe out in the open, feeding in the exposed mud of the estuary in Dervaig. I have been so desperate to "get out to explore" that I'm guilty of overlooking what is on my doorstep, so to speak.

Whilst further afield, I've been watching all sorts of wildlife. I've noticed that the skylarks are around in greater numbers already, and also that the individual ringed plovers scurrying across the shores of the lochs, are now in pairs.

And the oystercatchers are being very vocal, doing their parallel dances and occasionally mating. This sound seems to attract the hunters, and I've seen some of the buzzards try to take them, though I've not seen any success for the hunters yet.

With the frogs starting to breed during this month, sightings of otters are becoming a little harder to come by. But earlier this month, I was seeing them everytime I went out.

The conditions really haven't been great for approaching them lately, but thanks to the silent camera, at least one possible issue has been removed for me.

Even on calm days, when the slightest sound carries for miles, I'm able to take hundreds of images in total silence.

Amusingly, it's not me making the most noise for one otter family. One of the cubs is the squeakiest character I've ever heard, and even when it is already filling its face with a fish caught by its tireless mother, it squeaks constantly with envy at the sight of its sibling being presented with a meal.

I tried to video the scene on one day, as the squeaking began, but as I steadied the camera to press Record, a tractor with metal trailer came clattering by behind me, and drowned out the sounds from the otters completely. And by the time the farmer had faded away, so had the otters. They were back out fishing. Comedy timing. That said, I have seen it catch its own food now, so there's some progress!

Visiting a different loch, we spotted another group of otters. I crept down to hide, as one of the otters came ashore. It was obvious that the otter knew someone was walking nearby (Rob with Arnold) and craned its neck up to see. Thankfully Rob had the sense to move away, and the otter returned to fishing again.

Later, another otter family appeared in the same area, and again I hid to watch.

Mum was fishing for herself, as the "cubs" appeared to be well fed and capable of catching their own meals.

But it was lovely when she was joined by one of them on the rocks, for some mutual grooming.

Closer to home, we watched two white-tailed eagles having a dispute in mid-air over the glen, just up the river from our house. We've seen a pair of sub-adult birds (Dave Sexton from the RSPB reckoned they were perhaps aged about 3 years, so not ready to breed yet) hunting in the same area, and wondered if one of those had strayed into the territory of the adults that have nested across the glen from here? The youngster was sent packing, and the adult spent a few minutes soaring over its territory.

Amazing to be able to watch such action from the kitchen window!

With March coming in like a lamb, I dread to think of what weather we might see if it leaves like a lion. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

WildlifeKate said...

Just wonderful Pete! What a location and fab photos as always xx