Saturday, 28 February 2009

Warning! Birds are dangerous!

Well - having got the school children interested in birds and keen as mustard - they are now tripping over themselves to be bird feeder monitors - so on Wednesday, instead of playing footie, two of the boys desparate to help, assisted me in filling up the feeders. So far so good. As we walked towards a tree at the bottom of the garden, which is reached via a small grassy slope, I said "dont run or you will slip" as they were so keen to get to the feeder! As the words left my lips, I ended up in a heap at the bottom of said slope, very unladylike, covered in mud and unable to move! I had heard a noise like something snapping - "please dont let it be broken" was all I could think - the boys, bless, were saying "are you OK?" - as I tried to look "normal" with a smile on my face but in excruciating pain, I said "think you better get help". They were very calm and collected and help duly arrived.

Well, to cut to the chase, its a bad sprain "anything from 3 days to 3 weeks" said the Doctor twisting my foot in all directions (especially painful!). Oh dear - I am working my Notice period at the moment - bad timing!

So this afternoon, instead of tearing round doing things that dont really need doing, I sat with my foot in the air, and watched from the window a female hen harrier - incredible to think that this species is in grave danger due to persecution (please sign the RSPB pledge I also saw our friendly buzzard, Bertie, ferreting about in our fir tree - wonder if he/she is nest building. The sparrowhawk put in an appearance too, swooping down on the bird feeder but no success. Then as the light started to go, the kestrel that is now a regular visitor sat perched on top of a spruce nearby. On top of that, the hundreds of chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, robin, starlings, blackbirds, dunnock, greenfinch, goldfinch visiting the bird feeder provided great entertainment for a Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, hubby has started to assemble a hen house - our next project - to keep hens! Add to the list of birds of prey above, the sea eagles which occasionally fly over the garden - are we providing a snack?? Suggestions for hen names gratefully received! Hopefully back to work on Monday with the aid of a crutch for the final 2 weeks.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Love lift us up where we belong!

Sorry about the title! Was all I could come up with - well for what seems a long time, finally a simple weekend at home. Handed my notice in at work on Friday with a new challenge starting mid March - will tell you more in due course - Saturday finished painting the doors in the hall (I hate the smell of gloss paint) - took wee one swimming - while she had her lesson, just wandered down to the local beach - a flock of about 50 Canada Geese with greylags keeping them company - whilst down on the beach several oyster catchers just chilling, ring plovers, a green shank, a pair of mute swans, shag, great black backed gull and a flock of starlings lined up on the telegraph pole like something out of a Disney movie.
Sunday was back to the swimming pool for wee one's belated birthday party - her birthday is 1st January but the pool has been closed for refurbishment (it only opened on 1st April last year - seems a bit soon for refurbishment??) - has only just re-opened - a fine time had by one and all.
Late afternoon decided to have a drive to a couple of local spots - saw a lovely group of fieldfare - then in the field opposite - large bird sitting on the ground with something lightly coloured lying in front of him - crept up to see a dead greylag with Bertie Buzzard - never thought a buzzard would take a greylag - that must have been a battle - glad I didnt witness it. Then drove to a secret glen - the light was getting poor but on the horizon, first spotted 2 sea eagles, then another 2 - seemed to be all in one group, then 2 paired off and seemed to be playing tig - just stood watching them as my eyes watered as I strained to see them in the poor light and as they grew smaller and smaller! I'm guessing there were 2 adults and 2 youngsters - such a grand sight watching them soaring ever higher.

The final picture has now been hung in the hall - I can officially say, the hall is finished. The next project is the lounge - now that is going to be fun!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Pea Soup and Red Kites!

Apologies for the poor quality of photos - this is my attempt at the red kite

Grey lag goose

this is what the photo should look like!

Donkeys at the Red Kite centre - aargh!

Well another mad weekend - what happened to moving to this Island and taking it easy - I have bookcases full of books I had planned to read when we got here but have hardly made a dent yet!

Friday evening was our Bird Club meeting - we had a talk by the Rev Tony Budell who runs British Humanitarian Aid which had some very moving stories and photos. His talk ended with a show of his wildlife photos which is a love of his - fantastic photos.

Then on Saturday morning, my youngster and I were up disgustingly early for a Saturday to join a keen group off to see the Red Kites at Argaty, near Doune. As we waited for the ferry to arrive at Fishnish, we were delighted to see a whooper flying up the Sound - meanwhile, the other party who were travelling from Craignure, our other ferry port, were entertained by 6 dolphins frolicking in the bay "within touching distance" they said. En route to Argaty we made several stops to check out the birds - a dipper up close and personal than I've ever seen before - mute and whooper swans, grey lag geese, eider duck, guillemots, shags, cormorant, long tailed tits and something we dont get on Mull, magpies.

As we got nearer to Doune, the mist descended - the fog got thicker (try saying that after a pint or two) - we arrived at the Red Kite centre - with visibility very poor - but as we got out of the car we could hear the call of the Kites - I have only ever seen one before which was on the Black Isle whilst we we driving down the dual carriageway - so unable to stop the car and have a good look (well, I would have stopped but he who should be obeyed didnt think it was a good idea).

The display went ahead with some food being put out in various locations - first the buzzards appear followed by the kites - we could hear their cries for sometime which made the atmosphere quite spooky in the mist! Finally we saw them appear, first one or two, then finally about 20 in the sky together -really magnificent - unfortunately due to the mist we couldnt appreciate their beautiful colour but could see their silhouette and size. Must do a return trip - hopefully in better weather. On the way back we stopped at The Really Good Food Cafe at Tyndrum (opposite The Green Welly Stop if anyone is familiar) - great home cooking, great price and really friendly staff - well recommended. Think I've got a weekend off this week so may go and check out the sea eagles to see if Cupid has fired his arrow (if you know what I mean!)

Monday, 9 February 2009

Hearts, Otters and good company!

What a weekend! One of those weekends that you just dont want it to end. It started with the alarm clock going off at 6am on Saturday morning - it was pitch black and the rain was lashing against the bedroom window. I was going to Iona for a geology field trip and had to catch the 9am ferry. I dashed to the computer and double checked the weather - yes - it was going to fine and clear and cold - so why could I hear rain lashing? Decided to ignore the rain, although half expecting the phone to ring to cancel the trip - but the call never came. Met the rest of the gang - all 3 of us and that includes the tutor! - and we set off as light was breaking the eastern sky. Glen More was stunning - snow had fallen and the mountains were glistening as the sun slowly rose in a pink and clear sky - phew - the weather forecast was right! We arrived on Iona and went to St Columba's Bay, the marble quarry and a couple of other small bays. The sky was blue and the sea matched it - the sand is white and just stunning. We saw Lewissian gneiss which is seriously old rocks - older than the dinosaurs by miles! In one of the Ross of Mull granite boulders is a heart shaped xenolith which is just amazing.

After the Geology trip, hubby, daughter and I stayed with some friends near the Ross which was a great experience for us - great company, telling tales into the wee small hours and then waking up to Ben More and an otter in the Loch (plus Great Northern Diver, Goosander and Red Breasted merganser to name a few).

On the trip home, we were treated to a flying display by 3 golden eagles - just jaw dropping stuff and another otter, eating his lunch. We arrived home weary but my daughter's words "when can we do that again?" - think it was a big hit!

Next Saturday - another early start - we are off to see the red kites at Algaty - cant wait for the alarm clock to go off!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Just Popping to the shop!

The kids enthusiasm at school hasnt waned! At lunchtime we spotted a grey wagtail, who has become quite a regular visitor to the school swamp! Another great sighting was two wrens - we had a little chat about how fragile wrens are during winter so they were really pleased to have two in their garden. We had the usual chaffinches, a greenfinch, blackbirds, great tits and blue tits and a bird that has done really well lately is the coal tit. We dont have squirrels on Mull and explained to the kids how, like squirrels, coal tits will hide their food and save it for later - just like a squirrel! (I try doing a similar thing with chocolate but it only stays hidden for a matter of minutes). The homemade fatballs we had made earlier in the week had been trashed by the deer so a new supply was hung out in a different spot to try and beat the stag's antlers. I wish I could bottle this new found enthusiasm - it would be priceless.

About 200 yards from home, spotted a buzzard on the side of the road, sitting on something furry! Dived in the front door, shouted to him who must be obeyed "quick - grab the camera - bertie's caught something on the side of the road" - we thought we would drive the 200yards back as if we walked we might spook him - we drove slowly past with me driving and hubby trying to take a photo - unfortunately I slowed down a bit too much and he flew onto the telegraph wire (swear words!) - we pulled into a layby a bit further down and sat and waited - and waited - and waited - even without bins I could see his crop was bulging - he was in no rush to return to his feast.

So returned home mumbling about the "one that got away" - as the cupboard was beginning to look a little bare decided to pop to Tobermory - our local shopping outlet - with the choice of the Co-op or the Spar!

The drive up is quite stunning - along The Sound of Mull, getting higher and higher - the views are stunning and still after all this time - it takes my breath away - a photo cannot do it justice - you have to experience it - a far cry from my shopping trips to Asda on the Isle of Dogs or Sainsburys at Stratford.
Saturday may be a trip to Iona for a geology field trip - it contains Lewissian gneiss which are some of the oldest in the world! Also known for corncrake in the summer - I've managed to hear them but never seen one - bit early and cold for them at the moment! Also home to Rock Doves (I got told off for calling them pigeons - what do you expect from a Londoner!!)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Our future Birders!

Our little village school of 11 children took part in the RSPB's Big Schools Birdwatch last Friday.For the last couple of weeks, they have taken turns to come out with me and help fill the feeders and have a little chat about what birds we might see, how they live and then we would stand for about 10 minutes still as statues waiting to see what would fly down on to our freshly filled feeders. The excitement of a robin arriving to inspect the table and to chase off the chaffinches just filled them with such delight it was a pleasure to see. They were so excited at our chaffinches (of which we have thousands on this island) that it made me realise perhaps we take some of our common birds for granted. It was like seeing them with new eyes. They would rush back into school and tell the Head what they had seen. On Monday we were lucky to have a visit from Dave Sexton, the RSPB Officer for Mull (and local filmstar from Springwatch and Autumnwatch) - he showed them how to make fat ball feeders with yoghurt pots and a bit of string - they were in their element (and so was I). We then had a competition to see what type of bird would land first on their fatball feeder - so at break time today the fat balls were hung and instead of running round playing football etc they all huddled on their bench, telling each other to "shush", "keep still" while we waited for the birds to arrive. We didnt have to wait long - "it had a yellow belly with a big black line down it" - even I knew that one without referring to my Collins Guide - break continued with them sitting as quiet as children can - I'm amazed how they have all embraced this project - they all want to be my monitors everyday that I wish I could take them all out - some have said they have put up feeders at home and can name some of the birds - what a fantastic start and long may it continue.