Mull and Ardnamurchan Part 3 – Fields, moors and heaths

A much smaller post today than yesterday’s minor epic on seabirds. Much of our time was spent at the coast, so really the ‘inland’ birds we saw were incidental (and generally near the sea too).

There’s plenty I didn’t photograph, like all the various tits and finches we saw. Oddly, despite being a near-constant presence, I don’t seem to have bothered to photograph any Rock Pipits either. There’s also plenty we didn’t see that we’d have enjoyed, like Crossbills and Crested Tits, but that was as much about us never going anywhere to see these species.

There’s also the omnipresent cuckoos we encountered by sound alone, that I never got a clear enough view to photo.

Anyway, on with a few that we did see.

Among the first smaller birds we spotted, near the B&B in Onich, was a classic ‘little brown job’ in some female finch/bunting type birds. It wasn’t actually till I got back and looked at the photos I was able to ID them as Redpolls:

Bird on the Wire (fence) Redpoll, Onich

Bird on the Wire (fence)
Redpoll, Onich

That is often the value of photographing the birds you see, it allows you to check IDs on birds that may, for whatever reason, be harder to get in the field.

One of my favourite birds is the Wheatear, and Scotland is a great place to see them. I once had one land on my foot, while I was having a lunchtime doze during some fieldwork (presumably mistaking my muddy booted foot for a rock). I’ve had a soft spot ever since.

Anyway, the population there was in decent shape and we saw several pairs taking food back to the nest:


Wheatear, Lunga

Wheatear, Lunga

I think you’ll agree they are a wonderfully dapper little bird.

Of course, not all the birds you see around the fields are smaller. We saw several corvids, in particular Ravens, and Hooded Crows.

Hooded Crow, Kentra Bay

Hooded Crow, Kentra Bay

In the highlands of Scotland, and in much of Ireland, Hoodies have replaced the familiar black Carrion Crow of England. In fact, until very recently, they were regarded as merely a subspecies of Carrion Crow. So rather than being Corvus corone cornix, they are now Corvus cornix in their own right.

They are a striking bird, with a slightly harsher call than Carrion Crows. They are also incredibly misleading, and widespread. We saw them everywhere we went and nearly always with a cry of “What’s that? Is it a… oh, wait, it’s a Hoodie”. Which is not to dismiss them as in any way disappointing!

We end with one of the smaller birds around, the wren:

Wren, Lunga

Wren, Lunga

While waiting for the boat on Lunga, this little wren landed quite close to me and started singing. I have a tendency to talk to animals I encounter at any reasonable proximity, so I started chatting to this little chap, much to the amusement of the American couple next to me (the puffin couple mentioned yesterday). He seemed to be listening, cocking his head one way and the other, and staying for quite a while (in fact he was listening for his partner, but the Americans didn’t know this). I heard singing off in one particular direction, and said to the Wren “I think you may want to try that way”, pointing. Off he went, to the amazement of my American friends who seemed amazed I could make birds do my bidding!

Anyway, on that little story we end for today. Tomorrow we’ll have some mammals (and a lot of frustration and disappointment).


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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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