The eagles have landed

The Eagle has landed!

 

White-tailed eagles are long-lived birds, with an average adult life span of 21 years.. The oldest pair on the Isle of Mull ( thought to have been 37 years old) used to be regular visitors to the rocky outcrop in the field next to our B & B but sadly they died a couple of years ago. We now have a new pair making their presence known and we have witnessed recent courtship displays.

The breeding season is characterised by frequent loud calling, especially by the male in the vicinity of the eyrie, sometimes taking the form of a duet between the pair. We are often notified of their arrival by them calling rather than seeing them.

Eagles have a characteristic aerial courtship display which culminates in the pair locking claws mid-air, whirling earthwards in a series of spectacular cartwheels, and separating sometimes only a few feet above the ground or water and soaring upwards again.
Both birds build the nest from twigs and branches, lined with rushes and grasses. They use the nest on and off for many years, and since new material is added every time, it can attain an enormous size.

The new pair to the area nested in a tree across the fields from us in 2017 but moved further away to a lochan on the hill in 2018, however we are hopeful that the amount of recent activity we have witnessed and also seeing them in the same stand of trees that they nested in previously that they might move back into the area.

The female lays two or three dull white eggs 2-5 days apart in March or April, and starts to incubate with the first egg for 38 days per egg. She does most of the incubation. The eggs hatch a few days apart. Although the chicks are quite tolerant of each other, there is competition between them, the older one being dominant.

The female does most of the brooding and direct feeding of the young, but the male takes over now and then. He provides the female and the young with all food for the first three weeks after the chicks hatch, after which the female joins in hunting. The young feed themselves in the nest when they are 5-6 weeks old. They fledge at 10-11 weeks and remain close to the nest, dependent on their parents, for a further 5-6 weeks.

We have watched the fledglings hanging about their parents territory until they get chased off. At one point there was a wee gang of 10 juveniles around Lochdon but they were eventually removed by the resident adults.

Newly fledged Juvenile from 2017, max pull on my camera from the house to avoid disturbing it so not the best quality photo.

Some text attributed to the RSPB website.

High Oatfield beekeeping – Mike’s memories

In my early days in my village in North Lincolnshire there was a man called Mr Teesdale who kept bees in the orchard next to our garden.

His six hives were traditional WBC hives painted white and they were my first insight into bee keeping rather than looking in a book.

Every time Mr Teesdale inspected his hives and he saw me, he would wave me over to take a look with him. I gradually learnt a lot about them and how to stay very calm and to do things nice and slowly.

Mr Teesdale used to wear his tweed jacket with no gloves or veil and he treated his bees with the upmost respect. He had infinite patience, with me as much as the bees. He would patiently explain to me about worker bees, drones (male bees) and the Queen all the while having picked up a handful of bees that would crawl around on him without once getting a sting

My job was to smoke the hives when he opened them, this would calm the bees down and they would drop down into the lower frames when he wanted to check how the hive was doing.

I remember the first time I saw him catch a swarm that had formed on a branch of a plum tree. He walked up to it and knocked the swarm into an open box , again with no protective gear just his trusty tweed jacket. He then calmly walked to a nearby empty hive, surrounded by thousands of flying bees, and placed the box on the ground. Placing a plank from the box to the entrance of the hive the bees walked up it and into their new home.

After I left school I went to horticultural college in the Isle of Ely where there was an apiary with ten hives. There we had ‘proper’ instructions on how to keep bees, a very different method than Mr Teesdales.

The college apiary was very formal, we wore full bee suits, gloves and veils and they were treated as a means to pollinate crops and produce honey. This was not my idea of the way to keep bees.

From my childhood time with gentle Mr Teesdale and after college I have always wanted to try my hand at keeping my own bees, finally realising this last year in 2018 when I bought my first National hive and nucleus of bees from Colonsay.

The Colonsay bees are native black bees and are free of a parasite called Varroa Mite. The rest of mainland UK is infected by this mite so bees can only be brought onto the Isle of Mull from this one source.

As with many deliveries to the island the bees came by carrier. They were despatched from Colonsay in their travelling box one evening and delivered into Oban, I had to go over early in the morning the next day on the ferry to collect them and bring them back to Mull.

The bees settled very quickly and started to forage within a day or two of their arrival. Initially as they had very little honey reserve they were fed on sugar water but were soon seen returning to the hive legs laden with pollen and full of nectar, the frames started to fill up with honey for the colony.

To enable the bees to have more flowers to visit we have planted a large herbaceous border at the front of the house with over 500 plants suitable for bees, mostly single fowered plants as these are better for the bee to drink nectar and collect pollen from.

The bees took to the hive about mid November to over winter, they all form a large ball to maintain their heat and live off the honey made in the previous season.

We are hoping to see a huge improvement in the pollination of the garden this coming year as well as some beautiful, golden jars of honey in the Autumn.

If, whilst you are staying with us you, would like any further information please feel free to ask.

Self catering studio at High Oatfield

 

sdr_HDRB

We have been very busy over the last 12 months building a garden studio and the end is in sight!

With the arrival of our grandson we initially decided to build a studio to enable the family to come and stay during what has become our busier and busier season. As the building has progressed we have fallen more and more in love with it  (I want to move in but Mike is frowning on that idea) so we have decided to offer it as self catering in 2019 when our young family are not here.

It has been a labour of love, starting from absolute scratch we have created a wonderful space for a couples retreat.

Having built the majority of our own house 16 years ago we had a fair idea of what was involved. Mike sat and designed the building one evening, we wanted a natural timber  Larch cladding and a traditional tin roof with big French windows to make the most of the stunning view of the hill and passing wildlife. The idea was to have a small kitchen area to one end, comfy leather armchairs in front of the 3m windows and a king sized bed all in the same open plan space with the en-suite shower room and entrance porch to the rear of the building.

Working from Mike’s sketches we started by installing the waste system, water, electric cable and all services in the same trench then built block pillars to stand the floor base on. A lorry load of timber shortly arrived and actual construction soon started. We sourced some wonderful windows and doors from www.velfac.co.uk and the day they arrived was like Christmas (I am easily pleased it seems)

 

It has been a real family affair with our nephew coming over from Ireland to help build the framing and our daughters lovely French boyfriend helping me with building the trusses then erecting them and finally insulating the frame and roof. Charles was like a monkey, he works on French tall ships so leaping about on the trusses was child’s play to him whereas I needed 3 points of contact at all times. Mike did the internal partitions and put the windows in, then did the roof once the trusses were up. Our son came home to help lay the floors and a mezzanine for our grandson as he gets older and it suddenly started to look like a proper studio.

Mike and I worked long hours getting the Larch cladding on and with each day the look of the studio changed. 3 lots of timber treatment later, to ensure the larch colours down nicely, and the external bit was finished.

Once we had first fixed the electrics and plumbing the next job was completing the 200mm insulation (it is so warm) then plaster boarding and timber lining the ceiling. The kitchen went in next followed by en-suite shower room.

As I write this down it seems to have all happened in the blink of an eye but it has been a bit all consuming, not that we are complaining I would do it all again (not sure Mike feels the same though).

We are shortly into the finishings -furnishing and curtains and flooring. What am I going to do with myself once it is finished? ……..  Mike is going to play with his bees for a while.

Feet up we have finished and what a view to relax with

 

 

Short eared owl, Skylark and Hare

We had the very good luck of a sighting of a short eared owl in the field in front of the house the other day, it was early evening and we had gone for a wander on a hunt for hares. A bird flew past us at some distance but it had the unmistakable body shape of an owl. Fortunately I was able to follow it by eye and it landed on a fence post out in the moss. My friend was able to pull it in with her camera and it was easy to identify the short eared owl by its flat face and distinctive facial feathers.

Short-eared Owl

After watching the short eared owl for a while and as it showed no signs of taking to flight again we carried on with our wander in the search for Hares. This gave us the second wonderful photo opportunity of a Skylark with Lismore lighthouse in the background, we had watched the Skylarks undulating flight up into the sky singing its heart out and then it glided back down to once again land on a fence post. Using me as a steadying tripod my friend snapped off several photos with the resulting photograph here.

2master skylark

We were to have no luck with Hares that day but the following evening about 6pm I was  suddenly aware of movement just outside our fence and there was a hare sitting and grooming itself not 30 metres from the front room window. The Hares haven’t been quite as prevalent in the past few years perhaps that coincides with the arrival of a pair of Sea Eagles across the field towards Duart castle. What hare in it’s right mind would want to be in it’s white winter coat in a green field with not a hint of snow anywhere with resident Sea Eagles in the area? This particular hare just had the remnants of its winters coat down its back legs so wasn’t quite as obvious.

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