Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Crex Collective - Mulling it over

This years 'Big trip' for RSPB Liverpool saw sixteen birders land on the Scottish isle of  Mull, the 'Crex Collective', as we were known!

Staying at the glenforsa hotel,  
The Crexers in the Glenforsa upstairs lounge (Laura-photographer being eaten alive outside)

Our aim was to see eagles, crakes, otters and anything else that flew overhead or crossed our path! (And to avoid being eaten alive by the great whites of the Scottish insect world, midgies)

Here follows some re-collections, thoughts, magic moments and tall tales from our happy band!

'Chaff McVey'

16 off us set out on the Isle of Mull for hopefully a good days birding.  The weather was good, midgies not so good.  We were excited with the prospect of seeing more Golden and White Tailed eagles and any other birds for our count.  We arrived at a good location provided by a local farmer.  Other enthusiastic birders were already there, they had binoculars and scopes focused on the side of a mountain where a pair of Golden eagles with chicks could be clearly seen.  All 16 of us lined up and trained our bino's to see these spectacular birds and their nest with chicks inside. I stood back from the line to take in all of this majestic moment.  Then I noticed a Chaffinch only three feet from the line of birders on the ground.  There he was bobbing and fluttering up and down to show off, but no one took any notice of him because all was focused on the eagles and their chicks.  But I liked the Chaffinch and named him 'Chaff McVey'. Chaff was a cheeky little fellow, demanding he got noticed, then suddenly he must have had an idea and he flew of only to return within the minute, again he landed no more than two or three feet away from the line of birders, only this time he was wearing a 'kilt' in fine tweed and said to himself "Och I this will get me noticed".  
Chaff McVey
He stood there chest out and started dancing the highland fling, jumping up and down, turning and singing his heart out to a beautiful Scottish melody.  Still no one noticed.  Chaff stood, wings folded across his chest with his beak snared, clearly annoyed after all his efforts.  Then he had another thought and flew off, came back in front of the birders but this time he had 'bagpipes' under one wing and a tube connected to it in his beak.  He said " right laddie's and lassies wait till you hear this".  He closed his eyes, pulled in air, tightened the bagpipes closer to his body and played to the tune of ' Mull of Kintyre'.  When he finished he heard No clapping or shouts for "more, more" only to open his eyes to see no one had noticed him.  I could see a tear run down his cheek flow down his beak and spatter on the ground. He took of the bagpipes and threw them to the ground.  Shoulders slumped he turned and walked away, I thought he has not got the will to fly.  Watching him move away from the crowd, looking back occasionally to hear if anyone saying "did you see that Chaffinch" but to no avail.  I went after Chaff and caught up with him, knelt down in front of him, he lifted his head slowly so our eyes met.  I told him "wonderful, wonderful you were fantastic, I have never seen any bird do what you did".  Chaff smiled and said "was I that good", "Yes, Yes" I replied, you are a star I told him. I told Chaff " because others did not see you perform, I know all the people love all the birds all the same and just be yourself and you will get noticed".  With this Chaff was now happy and was fluttering about, then he flew of singing only to return soon with no kilt on, landed two to three feet away from the birders hoping in front of them.
On the way back to our hotel in the mini bus the other birders was happy and sharing a good days birding, someone said " did you see the Golden eagles taking turns on the nest, what a sight to behold".  I said "did you see the Chaffinch play the bagpipes in a kilt", to which I got no reply, only a few strange looks. Then I put my head back in my neck pillow and went to sleep.
So my favourite bird of the 'Crex tour' was 'Chaff McVey' the Chaffinch who gave me 'Magic'.

Chris McMelia.

The entire Mull experience with Shedluck Tours was just amazing.
A lovely group of friends doing what they enjoy. My highlight was when I 'finally' spotted the Short Eared Owl, and the mighty cheer that went up from the group. 

Thanks to the Shedluck Sixteen.
Rhodie Mc

Loch Ba
Loch Ba

One moment I would like to highlight was our walk beside Loch Ba. This is a large freshwater loch, surrounded by woodland, as well as having views out to a high ridge. We were duly excited by one of our first proper views of golden eagles early on, and 
enjoyed a beautiful walk, but the bonus came on our way back to the minibus, 

just as we were nearing the end of the path, when one of the group spotted a small group of crossbills and we were all able to watch them feeding high up in the larches.   
Annie Mc

Loch Buie

Apart from all the wonderful wildlife, scenery and laughs along the way, I was really impressed with the honesty shop on the shore of Loch Buie, what a lovely idea in this remote part of the world.  Restores your faith in human nature.
L Buie
My favourite little bird was the common sandpiper chick which was no more than a few days old with the characteristic little bob which gave its identity away, apart from the alarm calling parents.  It instinctively knew to go for cover, brilliant!

Carry on driver!




Oh Crex you have me vexed
Crex, crex you are my quest
Amid the swards of yellow flag
Your hiding in the grasses
The buttercups and nettles sway
Alas there is no finding you this day

Elusive Corncrake - RSPB images
Oh rasper, croaker of the corn, lift your head and make your call
Your summer home, on sacred ground, once sought by Scottish kings renowned  
Bewitching Iona your beauty sings loud
On this holy isle, peaceful solace can be found
A protected land, bonny and wild
A sanctuary for corncrakes; despite the pilgrim crowds

September will wane, no rasps are heard, our birds have flown to warmer climes
The meadow's quiet, but soon will know more, as wintering geese return to these shores.

And so I must leave you
My quest in defeat
My little corncrake teaser, deceiver
You kept me late
Yet, your call remains with me and perhaps
In a while, I'll return to Iona and we'll make it a date!

Laura, Lowra, Lol or McBimo!