I have an incredible drive to and from work everyday and I admit I tend to take it for granted some mornings as the 45 minute route can be tedious during the busy tourist season. So, I made an effort to take notice during a drive home more than usual. I always have an eye out for birds and other species, but I never write them all down and I see a huge variety some days.
Wheatear, pied wagtail, meadow pipit, common buzzard and hooded crow are regulars at the moment. I also often see ravens – I drive through a coastal territory where earlier in the year the off-duty bird would perch on the cliff top. Lapwings and curlew are both nesting in the fields by the school itself and are regularly visible from the car as they defend their youngsters from the plundering crows. Oystercatchers and common sandpipers are also a daily sighting. I also pass through both a white-tailed eagle and golden eagle territory. The birds were more visible to me during my journey throughout the winter months but I do still spot them sometimes. One of the golden eagle pair was seen above their distant ridge line with smaller corvids harassing it.
You see so much when you take the time to notice it.
Today we went to a local golden eagle territory to see how things were going. The site is wild and rugged, away from the busy roadside viewing sites on Mull; it really shows the adaptability of the species, and hints at their secretive nature. We hunkered down in the bracken at a safe distance so as not to disturb the pair. The wind was very much in our favour and the male raptor was soon mere metres above us, using the easterly breeze to his advantage. We had multiple fly overs, admiring the silhouette of an amazing 6ft wingspan.
The eagle covered a large expanse of his territory in seconds and disappeared over a forestry plantation, to reappear soon after and power in our direction. When they choose to really flap, these raptors can fly with great power and speed; it may have been a white-tailed eagle from a nearby territory to encourage this burst of energy in defence and dominance. Whatever the cause, we had breathtaking views, almost at eye level. I could see the beautiful golden nape and the dark eye with clarity. What a privilege to share space with these birds of prey.
Eyeballing an Oil Beetle
After our eagle encounter we continued on for a walk and spotted an oil beetle on the footpath. These creatures are fascinating, with an extremely interesting life cycle. They are also declining fast, becoming rare and some species have already gone extinct in the UK. If you do spot an oil beetle, the charity Buglife would love to know and you can submit your sightings online. The beetles rely on solitary mining bees to complete their life cycle, and so their fate is intricately connected to the fate of bees and wild flowers. Oil beetle larvae hitch a ride with a bee to its nest, where the larvae then munch their way through the bee’s eggs, pollen and nectar, before emerging as an adult beetle. Our land management and loss of meadows, rich grasslands and open woodlands mean solitary bees and oil beetles are struggling, so what a treat to get up close with a stunning specimen! Interestingly, the beetle was being made a meal of too. Numerous midges were covering the back of the beetle, presumably for food. I’m fairly sure this individual is a violet oil beetle.