May 022017

Extremely good news for Scottish raptors today although very disappointing that the SSPCA have not been given extended policing powers.
This follows on from other good news last week concerning a review of game bird licensing in Scotland.

31st: 1 Mealy Redpoll in Treshnish wood showing signs of breeding (needs conformation from ABRC). It has the strongest tramlines I think I’ve ever seen although the overall colour is quite brown rather than grey. The wingbars are almost pure white and the rump is lightly marked. John Bowler often refers to streaking on the underparts being confined to the flanks and a ‘fluffy’ appearance, which this bird shows although it could just be the wind. It is showing signs of breeding: excited calling and either food or nesting material in its bill. I would not be at all surprised they were proven to breed at Treshnish.

The mystery of the small size of the Garden Bumblebee on the 29th is solved. I postulated that it must mean that all the other bumblebees I’ve seen this year are queens. That seemed bizarre but now I’m as certain as I can be, that that is the case. Today there were many more small bumblebees of both the carder group and white-tailed. There were probably more of these small bees than the larger ones. This must mean that there are many small colonies of these bumblebees unlike honeybees with large colonies. As python goes ‘that is my theory and it is mine’.
Only saw one Garden Bumblebee today although the small size does make identification more difficult and I would have to have taken tens of thousands of photographs to be sure. The central band spanning the join between the thorax and abdomen almost make it look like 4 bands.

A new hoverfly species for me today. I am pretty sure it must be Helophilus hybridus. I have seen other hoverflies from this family before but the females are difficult to identify to species. Luckily this one is a male showing the diagnostic lack of a black band between the yellow on segments T2 and T3 on the abdomen.

Also another new colourful insect. I thought it was a wasp but I am pretty sure it is a true fly (Diptera) of the Conopidae family (or something very similar). I am hoping that the black ‘man’ in the centre of the white face is diagnostic. An hours internet search hasn’t come up with a result. I will get back to it.
Best match so far is Physocephala nigra.

29th: At least 3 Herons calling as they flew from Treshnish wood up the burn. I think this must have been a maiden flight from one of the nests.
28th: The nearest Golden Eaglee pair have failed. The nest was deserted and no adults nearby although I did see the very young female three hours later.
Kestrel nest on the way down had some activity. It looked like 2 young had fledged.
[Note to self: In March I saw the old nest had collapsed and the pair were flying  a lot around nearby crags to north but it appears that they have nested on the usual crag]
1 Short-eared Owl over the hill at 8pm.
This Blackbird could sing even with this in its bill.

Green Hair-streak

Garden Bumblebee on our Kale. So far I am only seeing these occasionally (one per year). I don’t quite understand how come it is so small. That would mean all the other bumblebees in our garden right now are queens. They are much larger (at least 30%). The long face, I think, rules out Heath Bumblebee.

The central band crossing the junction of thorax and abdomen separates it from the Bumblebees of the White-tailed complex.

27th: family group of 5+ Long-tailed Tits with parents feeding young. Definite proof of a new breeding species for Treshnish.
Male Bullfinch around Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
Whinchat singing at Toechtamhor and Sedge Warbler singing in wetland below (I am sure they have been there for a while).
26th: I have been told about a Turnstone which has been at Langamull for at least the past week
25th: Juvenile Buzzard calling from Treshnish wood.
Mountain Hare near Treshnish lochan.

Small Heath at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (first of year)
22-24th: Bullfinches heard every day around Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
20th: Pair of Bullfinches an and around Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
17th: Bullfinch heard in front of Treshnish Old Schoolhouse
14th: 2 House Martins near TH, Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit both heard in TW
16th: 2 House Martins flying west over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (maybe still a chance they will breed), pair of Bullfinches seen and heard and Long-tailed Tit heard in front of Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
Male of what I take to be a Mealy Redpoll at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. There was a female with it but I didn’t get shots.
It doesn’t have the white tram-lines on the mantle but everything else fits. Pure white wing bar, tertial and primary edges, greyish head and ear coverts, lack of rump streaking and restricted streaking on underparts.

Yesterday I sent in to Argyll Birds Records Committed a patch of submissions (only those with photos) so we will see what they say (dates: 07/05/2016, 09/05/2016, 12/06/2016, 01/05/2017, 03/05/2017)
Common Gull


14th: 2 House Martins near Treshnish House (first of year and hopefully will breed), Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit both heard in Treshnish wood.
13th: 1 or 2 Whinchat in Black Park (first of year)
I was very late strimming this year at Treshnish House and so accidentally found three new White Ramping-fumitory plants.
I first found one plant in 2009 and had it identified by Heather McHaffie of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It is a rare plant on Mull with only one other location and so I have tried to make sure it survived here. One year when I was again late strimming I noticed many small seedlings so from then on I knew what to look out for. From some of those seedlings I created another small colony at out house and they have, I’m happy to say become a real weed, turning up in our veggie plot after I accidentally must have put some seeds into our compost heap.
Heather encouraged me to rough up the ground where they have seeded. I found this very unnerving especially as the seedlings can emerge throughout the year and are very delicate so it would be very easy to damage them. First of all I started just raking but now I have seen how they spread I really am rough. I treat the area as if it was arable cultivation and weed it heavily just making sure not to put the weeds on our compost heap!. I originally planted them in overgrown gravel beside our house which I thought would resemble their natural habitat but once they got into our veggie garden I realised how I was stunting their growth. Last year I put a few (including some massive ones which appeared in our cold frame) onto two patches on our lawn and they produced a lot of seeds. So last autumn I dug up that area and made a special compost heap with the turf. This spring I put back the partly composed turfs back and I also moved a massive flowering plant which had again established itself in the cold frame. That plant will produce hundreds of seeds and now I see clusters of seedlings coming up from the old turfs. I would have liked all the turfs to have broken down completely but perhaps that would have produced just too many seedlings. This way, I am sure there is a dormant seed bank in and under the turfs which can be dug over in the future.
The newly found plants at Treshnish House tells me more about their ecology. I didn’t think they could compete with lawn grasses but these three have done so. Fumitory seeds are quite large and the way they spread is mainly through falling straight to the ground as they creep. They can grow to at least 2m across. The three new plants at Treshnish aren’t obvious descendants from the plants at the original spot which makes me more convinced that these are wild plants and not garden escapes.
This is a shot from the 3rd. I am not sure I’ve seen bumblebees feeding on them before. I assume they are pollinated usually by much smaller insects. The bee is probably a Cryptic Bumblebee.

12th: 2 Mountain Hares above Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. I seem to have stopped them getting into our garden after they found a way last month.

11th: 2 new Broad-leaved Helleborines below concrete ramp on farm road.
Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit heard in Treshnish wood.
1 Whitethroat (first of year) near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.
10th: Long-tailed Tit in Treshnish wood and 10 Whimbrel flying to lochan
9th: 1 Black-headed Gull flying towards the lochan, Also saw 4 about 10 days ago but wasn’t sure as I only heard the call and the rear profile.
At least 2 Long-tailed Tits in Treshnish wood and at least 2 active Heron nests in the usual trees although in the last month or so I have seen one coming to land further to the east. Perhaps there is another nest or it could be just roosting.
A lot of pellets under the Tawny Owl box in Treshnish wood. I am sure it is or has been occupied.
Helleborine notes to self:
1 Narrow-leaved Helleborine emerging near owl box (too early to see if is has flowers)
At least 1 of the ‘twin’ Narrow-leaved Helleborine is going to flower – too early to see the other). [ED: days later both seen to have flowers.]
1 Broad-leaved Helleborine in wire cage near runnel near owl box
1 Helleborine emerging near concrete ramp on farm road. It is tricky to look carefully without trampling on everything. This site has had both species.
8th: At least 2 Long-tailed Tits in the same area in Treshnish wood. I looked through all my records for Treshnish and until this year I’d never seen a Long-tailed Tit here in the March-August period (except 7th March last year). In fact I’ve never seen one anywhere else on north Mull in May, June or July. It really looks like they could be breeding. Exciting.
1 Chiffchaff singing below Treshnish Old Schoolhouse.


7th: Tawny Owl calling at 2pm and later at 7pm both from same place and both the wowoo call.
I have heard daytime calling of Tawny Owls on 14 days (on two of those days heard twice) between 28th March and 28th July. Breakdown of days per month March (1), April (5), May (5), June (2), July (1).
Male Hen Harrier over Treshnish wood

1 Speckled Wood at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (first of year).
6th: 1 Peregrine over Treshnish wood, 1 Green Hair-streak at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse
5th: 1 Chiffchaff in Treshnish wood, 1 Merlin, 2 Arctic Terns & 6 Whimbrel at Langamull, 1 White Wagtail and pair of Grey Wagtails at Alt Crossapol
4th: 1 Peregrine over Treshnish wood (immature?) and pair of Bullfinches in Treshnish wood.
3rd: I found at least one of the sources where I was reading about the redpoll ‘lumping’. It seems that the Common Name for all species will be lumped as Common Redpoll. Until it becomes final I will continue to use the names Lesser Redpoll (previously Carduelis cabaret now back to Carduelis flammea cabaret) for the common resident subspecies and Mealy for the subspecies seen on passage at Treshnish in the spring (remains Carduelis f. flammea).
It will get confusing if Britain does start to use the name Common Redpoll. Previously on this blog Common Redpoll referred to the subspecies Mealy and Greenland Redpoll. After this becomes official ‘Common Redpoll’ will refer to what used to be called ‘Lesser Redpoll’ and I will use specific subspecies names for Mealy, Greenland etc.
This shows the previous situation and gives good background info.

Here are a few from today. In the shots with two birds, the second bird is a Lesser Redpoll which has a clear buff gradiant in the wing bar. It is also more brown coloured.

2nd: 1 Whimbrel flying over Treshnish wood towards the lochan *a garden first), 2 Golden Eagles over Treshnish lochan. One was a juvenile and the other looked like an adult with some traces of sub-adult plumage. At first I thought this was the ‘nearest’ pair, which would have meant a nest failure but one was chased by a Raven in the direction of the other pair so probably not. The juvenile could be the female from the ‘nearest’ pair.
Willow Warbler


1st: 1 Sparrowhawk with prey over Treshnish Old Schoolhouse so probably breeding nearby.
1 Mealy Redpoll in Treshnish wood. I am pretty sure it is now again being treated as a subspecies of Lesser Redpoll rather than Common Redpoll but can’t find where I read it so will come back to that. Either way it is still an Argyll rarity and needs acceptance from Argyll Records Committee although John Bowler (a member) has OKed it.
John noted the following features, all good for Mealy:
relatively large head, white looking underparts with bold dark streaks on the flanks only, white-looking wing bars, quite a lot of white on the rump and on the mantle “tram-lines” and fine tipped, broad based bill.

Record shots:

 May 2, 2017

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