I’m heading to Mull for a week on Sunday so wanted to write a quick blog to cover what’s been going on before I’m distracted (hopefully) by pictures of puffins and other amazing Mull/Treshnish Isle wildlife.
I’ve been spending vast amounts of time in the pine wood which is home to my pine marten site. I’ve not photographed the marten again. I tried once but she came in too late sadly. Monitoring the site on my trail camera shows that she’s actually started appearing later over the past few days, not earlier, and the badger is beating her to it on some occasions. I put an old broken lens in my hide a few weeks ago so that she can get used to that view and she seems fine with that now so hopefully, on my return from Mull I’ll find she’s back out in daylight.
However, pine marten or not, this area is a real goldmine. I was trying to work out what species I’ve seen now and this is what I can remember (I’m now logging sightings every visit):
(TC – trail camera, S – seen, not photographed, P – photographed)
- Pine marten (P 1, TC 2-3) –
- Badger (TC 1)
- Red deer (TC 1)
- Roe deer (s 3, TC 2)
- Red fox (TC 1)
- Red squirrel (p 3)
- Toads (p lots)
- Newt (s 1 in puddle)
- Tits: great, blue, coal, long-tailed and crested (p)
- Warblers: wood warbler (p) and chiff chaff (s)
- robin (p)
- blackbird (p)
- dunnock (p)
- wren (s)
- goldcrest (p 1, s lots)
- meadow pipit (p)
- wheatear (p record shot)
- cuckoo (p record shot)
- yellowhammer (s)
- goldfinch (s)
- siskin (s)
- greenfinch (s)
- crossbill (s)
- red kite (s)
- buzzard (s)
- mallards with ducklings (p)
- stonechat (p 2 pairs)
- carrion crow (s)
- great spotted woodpecker (s)
- treecreeper (p)
- jay (p)
Lots of ticks too which is not such a good thing!
Quite incredible really. I was excited to hear and then see the cuckoo earlier in the week, I hadn’t expected that. Hoping I get some photographic opportunities over the next month or two.
After I’ve visited the pine marten site I tend to spend an hour or two wandering along the paths and through the wood listening out for and spotting the birds. I see a lot of goldcrest, but so difficult to photograph, and there are quite a few willow warblers now as well. Most of those have proved a bit elusive too, but I did capture some images of this one having a preen.
My primary photographic subject however has been one of the two pairs of stonechat. I love these little birds. Not only are they very attractive, but they tend to stick to a relatively small territory and perch on top of shrubs and gorse for long enough to allow photographs. Fabulous. One of the two pairs is in fairly unattractive ground but the other pair live in an area which currently has large amounts of flowering gorse which can be really photogenic. I find a spot, sit down and just wait for the birds to land. Most of my images are small-in-the-frame, something I enjoy doing and it’s especially good when the colours are this vibrant and the surroundings pretty.
The male sits for ages without moving, other than to rise into the air and back down again when his mate comes near. Unfortunately his favourite perch is on dead gorse – typical! However, on occasion he has landed somewhere better. The last of these 4 photographs is one of my 2022 favourites so far.
The female tends to flit about much more but does land in some lovely spots.
They appear to have young in the nest now and are collecting bugs (very efficiently I might add), so I’ve decided to leave them be until I return from Mull as they are hesitant about returning to the nest when I’m there, even if I’m a fair distance from the nest location. Hopefully by the time I’m back the young will be fledging.
I was surprised and delighted to see mallard ducklings on a pond in the area. There were eight ducklings, still very young, but oh so speedy. They were running across the water, it was very amusing. They never came very close, but here are a couple of images. Sadly when I returned a few days later I could see no ducklings.
Closer to home my red squirrel family are back on form which is brilliant. There are two lactating females (Patty and, I think, Emmylou) and Sam has disappeared so she’s maybe off having babies now too. Other than when there’s snow on the ground, this is my favourite time of year to photograph them. The squirrels still have their tufts; the lactating females spend ages sitting scoffing nuts; the old beech leaves are still hanging on and giving a gorgeous burnt orange backdrop; and the new foliage is pretty but not yet a problem (although I’m already having to start controlling the bracken which is beginning to appear).
It’s been great to introduce a couple of recent clients and The Drey Inchberry cabin guests to the squirrels, both of whom, of course, loved them.
I introduced both those cabin guests to mountain hare Bo as well and she now has two more members of her ever-growing fanclub. I’m actually considering a Bo 2023 calendar, but we’ll see… Every time I go to the site I worry that she’ll have moved on, but fortunately she’s stayed put. She has a few forms but mostly chooses one. It’s really hard to see her there though and at times I’ve thought she was awol. It’s interesting watching her transition into her summer pelage and I hope she sticks around for long enough for me to see her completely brown.
On the 19th April I went up for some one-to-one with Bo and on this occasion she was in a new form. Frustratingly the grass made this challenging for photographs although I do like this one – such a sweet expression..
After an hour or so she rose, stretched and ambled off to the right, over a hillock where she began to graze. I gave her a few minutes to settle and then followed her. This spot has its challenges too as she was hidden by the heather but it was certainly better than the previous form. I photographed her from the side to begin with, sometimes almost entirely losing her in the heather except for her ears!
These shots, and Bo herself, remind me of the late great Mrs G and some images I took of her one October. In this one, Mrs G is nibbling on the heather as I lie on the ground in front of her.
I was back with a client a few days later and Bo had returned to her usual spot. Every visit she’s a little bit browner.
Almost two weeks passed before I went again and this was with another client. When we started ascending the hill and were in the approximate locality of Bo’s form we spooked a hare who ran off to the left and disappeared. It was uncharacteristic behaviour for Bo (and too low down) but I was concerned that that had been her, especially as I was struggling to see her in the usual form. On one scan with the binoculars I thought I’d spotted her hunkered down, but couldn’t find her again, so suggested we climb closer just in case she was there. She was! Huge sigh of relief from me as I both wanted to introduce her to Jane and because I love to spend time with her. Her face is so brown now I’d never have seen her if I didn’t know where to look. We approached slowly but, as usual, Bo was so relaxed, regularly grooming, pellet grabbing and fidgeting that we were able to get within a decentworking distance. It’s more difficult to take good images now due to the fact Bo and the area surrounding the form are all shades of brown, but she does have the most wonderful expressions.
I filmed this little video of her too. (no sound)
One final Bo image – this is a montage of some of her expressions. It’s available to purchase on my website (as are a few of the other images in this blog).
So now I’m just looking forward to Mull even although the forecast is horrible, but also (of course) fretting about leaving my wild friends for a week. They’ll be fine, I’m sure!
For information about the workshops I run please check my photography website. Prints are available for purchase here too. Cards can be purchased in my Etsy store and details of my rental cabin are on The Drey Inchberry website. Cabin guests receive a 10% discount on all workshops.