Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Behind the Fire Station

May 8
The hotel workers, Pam and I, were on the 8.45 ferry to Iona, the first of the day. Straight to the area behind the Fire Station which overlooks a field with patches of already well-grown Iris. Perfect for Corncrakes. There was silence for 10 minutes, most unusual, the island is normally ringing with their call. At first, a very short, unenthusiastic call.....which gradually increased in both volume and frequency. Where was it? Pam walked off to one side, had a short view but it lowered its head before I could see it. They only raise their heads when they call - you have to be quick to glimpse it above the Iris stalks. They're good ventriloquists too.
The next call was ear-shatteringly loud, quite incredible. It must be close. I walked softly over to the corner of the next door garden and a Corncrake shot out of a bush , walked across the lawn, stopped and looked at me for about 5 seconds before running back into the field. Epic. My best views ever - and Pam had good views too. That image of it showing completely will be forever etched in my memory. Where was my camera? On the gritting container where I'd been sitting!
Elated, despite the light shower, we walked up the hill to the Abbey in order to view it without scaffolding for the first time since we've been coming to Mull. 

Another Corncrake called from the Hotel's organic garden, several American tourists from the cruise ship moored down the roads waiting hopefully for a view. They use rubber boats to ferry them ashore. Interesting to watch if the sea is choppy........
A look at our favourite shops, a drink at the waterfront cafe and the boat back to Phionnphort. We were back at the B and B by mid-day.
John and Jane had the 'Green Inspector' there to-day, to renew - or not - their green rating for the sign. It involves all sorts of categories including feeding birds and nestboxes. They have a cunning tent - like thing in the back garden under which they can dry the sheets all year round, that's part of it too. I think it went all right.......
Straight to the White-tailed Eagle nest where a lone bird was very fidgety, constantly looking around. It was an hour or more before the male returned, dropped the food and flew into the top of a nearby tree. We then watched him fly away again, gradually climbing until he was a dot in the sky. Quite an achievement, it's an enormous bird with straight, broad, plank-like wings, very little head projection showing despite the great yellow bill. It's tail looks very inconspicuous too, probably beacuse it's so white in an adult bird.
After putting up my scope to show the nest to two excited women who'd never seen an eagle before, we departed to look for somewhere private - no loos for miles.  Pam had to reverse a fair distance across a humpty bridge to allow a car and then a tractor through. The tractor stopped beside us, the 60+ year old driver opened the door, said thank you very much and.... 'that was an awesome bit of reversing' !!
We chose the secluded parking place for the ranger tours to the nest hide as a suitable comfort station.. As soon as we stopped, cars started coming out of the forest, shutting the gate....... then some more cars etc etc, The last straw was a car full parking next to us and producing a picnic.
Late afternoon at Fidden with the sun shining is magical. Silvern sea, rocks, tide rolling in and birds. 

We drove to the far side of the empty camping overflow area seeing Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Eider, Redshank and three ginger-brown Mountain Hares. Then, two summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits flighted in nearby. Beautiful.


We left reluctantly to return  to our room for supper.
It was very cold most of the day until the sun came out mid afternoon. Still a chilly edge to the northerly wind though.

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