On the 14th of this month our neighbours sent me a photo of an insect which had crawled onto their camera bag at Ardalanish. They wanted to know if I had any idea what it was. I hadn't a clue but the next day had a look through my general insect book to see if that would point me in the right direction. After about half an hour I couldn't even see a likely candidate family but in the back of my mind I had an idea it could be a female flightless moth. There are very few of this kind of moth and the ones I was aware of were all very drab but even so it took no time at all to find a flightless moth which fitted, Belted Beauty. I still wasn't 100% sure because the illustration in my moth book didn't show the colours bright enough but after a search of the internet and a read through the species habitat, I knew it was definitely this species. But this is only half the story. Reading through the species account I realised this is no ordinary moth but a Red Data species, a rare moth. I contacted Alan Skeates our vice-county recorder and he confirmed the identification and informed me of known sites and sent me some excellent photos. Unfortunately it was not a new site (although only discovered at Ardalanish in 2010). The only other site on Mull is at Ardmeanach and also on Iona. but maybe someone reading this will find a new colony at Calgary or Langamull as the habitat where it is found in west Scotland is on machair.
This is one of Alan Skeates photos of the flightless female.
and pair together.
The White-ramping Fumitories which over-wintered at our house are doing extremely well, so much so that their flowering stems have outgrown their protective cages. I watered them yesterday as the leaves looked faded. Today I realised what is happening. All the plant's energy is going into flowering and the leaves look as though they are starting to die back. Last week 2 of the unprotected plants at Treshnish House had one floret almost in full flower and so unless they have been eaten they should be doing well by now. A third plant at Treshnish house overwintered as little more than a seedling so I imagine that will flower later. I can't take decent photographs because of the cages
and I can't remove the cages without damaging the plants. Next year there should be a decent seed bank and they will have to manage without protection. The transplanting experiment has been a success as one flowering plant in 2012 has expanded to 6-7 flowering plants, 4 of which are flowering profusely.
Went to see if the Bird's-nest Orchid in Treshnish wood is emerging yet but still no sign. The nearby Narrow-leaved Helleborine is about 4" of leafy sheath. This plant was later that the one beside our house which has hardly grown since the tip was eaten which shows how badly the latter plant has been affected.
29th: 3 White Wagtails,
2 Whimbrels, 3 Dunlin at Langamull.
Rock Pipit with some features of Scandinavian Rock Pipit at stony beach at mouth of stream to west of Langamull.
1 Black-throated Diver off Calgary pier.
We saw a pair of Herons flying to the nest site so I must have been wrong about them sitting on eggs (unless the have had a people like last year when the first clutch were found by regular guest Craig, on the ground). I won't disturb them to check.
Early-purple Orchid flowering at Langamull (my first of the year).
28th: Heard a Tawny Owl hooting during the day, once at 16.15 and again at 18.30. Both (at this time of year) in broad daylight. Both times there was a short hoo which is hard to recognise followed a couple of seconds later by one typical full wavering hoot.
I have heard them before calling in the daytime but at first I couldn't quite believe myself particularly as it doesn't appear to repeat and as the short hoo is not easily recognisable.
A paper is being written on this subject in British Birds magazine so it will be interesting to see, from the records sent in by people like myself, if there is a seasonal or regional pattern.
These are my previous records when I have made a note of the date. [Not including daytime calling of young birds or adults with young birds]:
Also today 2 adult White-tailed Eagles on hill behind Ensay farmhouse (1 was yellow tagged C and the other was untagged). These eagles are from different pairs and I have just heard that the yellow tagged pair are now on eggs at a new relatively close by site from the nest that fell down in the winter storm. This pair from 2006 have only tried to breed once, last year, but failed.
Sparrowhawk again over Treshnish wood and Bullfinches heard.
27th: At Loch Frisa: at least 1 Common Sandpiper at fish-farm (and another at Dervaig - my first of the year), 1 Tree Pipit and 2 Chiffchaffs (my first of the year), 1 Lapwing beside main road at north end, 1 male Hen Harrier at usual spot.
At Treshnish, a pair of Bullfinches in Treshnish wood (I have heard them for over a week and saw them yesterday but today was the first day I was 100% sure).
This Sparowhawk flew from the Sitheans behind our house into Treshnish wood.
I am pretty sure it only flew to a safe place to eat it because there has never been any indication of breeding in the wood and 20 minutes later presumably the same flew towards Calgary.
It was very disappointing to see that something has nibbled to tip of the emerging sheath of Narrow-leaved Helleborine neatest our house. Stupid of me to think it could survive without protection. Now it has a cage an plastic collar and hopefully it is only the leaf tips that have been damaged and not the flower buds. Last year I protected it and it flowered and produced 3 fruits. It has flowered on its own in the first year we found it but it has been damaged enough to prevent flowering on at least 2 other years.
26th: I was politely asked to get off the lawn so dinner could be eaten.
25th: 4 Twite at Duill cottage.
24th: 1 White-tailed Eagle on Beinn Bhuidhe and presumably the same an hour later.
Heron returning to nest.
23rd: Heard my first Cuckoo today at Treshnish wood (Leena tells me she heard one in last few days).
21st: 1 juvenile Golden Eagle flew south over Treshnish wood, chased by a Raven. High up, it was being watched by another 2 Golden Eagles as it flew up Ensay Burn.
My first flowering Bluebell near Treshnish wood Nissen hut.
20th: Linnet and Lesser Redpoll at Treshnish wood (my first of the year).
Lesser Black-backed Gull
19th: 1 Twite just a few feet from the van near the cowbarn but I had no camera.
18th: 1 Twite calling on the Studio roof.
Carolyne told me a Cuckoo was heard at Crackaig today (the first of the year)
17th: 1 Mountain Hare in our garden.
I was happy yo see it eating the docks.
16th: Went quickly passed last years Heron nest site and they must be on eggs by now. Both birds were flushed. One came back very quickly as I kept on moving.
2 Willow Warblers in Treshnish wood (1 singing, 1 silent), my firsts of the year, 1 Canada Goose flying west passed Ensay Burn mouth (they are scarce in this part of the island).
Guests at Duill cottage saw a flock of 15+ Swallows flying by below the cottage.
A pod of at least 5 Bottle-nosed Dolphins swimming east passed Ensay Burn mouth into Calgary bay.
I had a look to see if the Bird's-nest Orchids had started to emerge yet. Not so far. I have only ever seen old stems in Treshnish wood (both of which are still standing plus another old 'bird's -nest' of roots). It didn't flower last year, so I'm looking forward to seeing it as it emerges.
Butterbur by Ensay Burn mouth is flowering.
15th: 2 Sand Martins at Dervaig (my first of the year), 1 Otter off Pennygowan (the one south of Salen).
2 Mountain Hares on our lawn in the early morning sun.
14th: Carolyne told me about seeing the first Swallow at Treshnish House so I went to have a look.
1 male Hen Harrier at Creag a' Chaisteil (above Ensay fort).
My first Twite of the year, a male calling below the cow-barn.
1 Mountain Hare at our house
and presumably this is another unless it circled right around me and the house.
First sign of leaves emerging on the Narrow-leaved Helleborine nearest Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
It was too small amongst the vegetation to get a photo but it is coming from exactly the same spot as the old growth from the last 2 years.
11th: Malcolm has been seeing the Peregrine since that first sighting on the 7th.
10th: 1 immature White-tailed Eagle flew west below Treshnish wood and 2 hours later 2 on Beinn Bhuidhe.
9th: Mountain Hare grooming by our back door.
7th: 1 immature White-tailed Eagle flew over Treshnish wood towards Treshnish House.
Malcolm Ward saw a female Peregrine and untagged White-tailed Eagle in Port Haunn area (possibly same eagle as my photos above?).
The Mountain Hare is on our garden every day.
This from near our house looks like flowering Ling! I will check tomorrow with a magnifying glass to check it isn't the dried flowers from last year but I don't think it is.
We have has some heathers flowering in our garden for a few weeks but I presumed they must be artificial varieties. Now I am not so sure. We have had a very warm winter.
5th: Guests at Haunn saw reported seeing a female Otter with 2 large cubs at Port Haunn this week, possibly on the 4th).
We are seeing 1 Mountain Hare in our garden every day (morning and evening today).
4th: 3 Redwings in Treshnish wood.