24 October, 2015

Postcards from Erraid

I woke up early one morning back in June to the sound of absolutely nothing. The wind and rain had battered our corner of western Mull for most of the night, but with the morning came an extreme sense of silence and stillness. I spent a while in the garden repairing the netting from a fruit cage that had been damaged during the night, watched closely by an inquisitive flock of Twite that would inevitably find their way to the redcurrants, netting or no netting!

I checked the weather forecast - which on Mull means looking at how much cloud is on the horizon - whipped up a pack lunch, pumped some air into the bike tyres and left the croft for a day of exploring.

Cycling towards Fionnphort and taking a left turn just before reaching the village had me passing Fidden, a popular family campsite and the last real sign of habitation on the south west corner of the Ross of Mull. From here it was a three mile uphill cycle to the idyllic beach at Knockvologan; a sheltered cove with numerous small islands all connected at low tide by hundreds of metres of white sand. The comparison between Hebridean beaches and those of the Carribean may have become a bit of a cliche, but it seemed more than fitting here.

The small island of Erraid lies a few hundred metres out to sea from Knockvologan, isolated at high tide but connected by a long stretch of beach at low tide. By the time I'd arrived, the sea had only recently receded, and I was greeted by a huge expanse of fresh sand. Apart from the footprints of Eider ducks it was completely untouched, and I made my way across the beach excited by the possibility that I might have Erraid all to myself.

Erraid on the left, mainland on the right 

Sea Mouse-ear

I made landfall on a rocky shoreline and headed inland through eerie woods; each tree warped and twisted into unusual shapes by years of exposure to the elements. The air had once more gone completely silent, and only the seldom 'tick' 'tick' call of a distant Robin reassured me that I hadn't lost my hearing.

Looking back towards the mainland

The coastal woods were carpeted in unusual mosses, lichens and low-growing ferns

Cochylis nana

Actenicerus sjaelandicus

Warped oaks

Whilst only small in size, traversing Erraid's many hills and gullies makes it seem bigger than it actually is. I spent hours walking up and down the island, admiring a fantastic array of heathland flora and fauna before remembering that the island was tidal, and that I'd be stranded until morning if I didn't beat the tide! Not necessarily a bad thing - I'd have happily slept there all night amongst the heather - but I was expected at a local village ceilidh that evening. Hard life.

I headed back in the direction of home, stopping briefly to watch a distant Merlin hunt over the cliffs.

Hedya atropunctana

Epinotia bilunana

Satyr Pug

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Late night sunset

19 October, 2015

Balcony moths

Yesterday evening epitomised the beauty of autumn for me. It was still and calm with no wind to rattle the wilting leaves. Having been overcast for the majority of the day, a small break in the clouds on the horizon allowed the sun to ever so slightly display itself low in the sky. It pierced through a thick layer of cloud, turning the grey sky overhead into all shades of pink and illuminating the tops of trees with a warm autumnal glow. This whole spectacle lasted no more than a minute, but an orange-red hue remained tinged against the side of buildings and trees long after sunset in a way no camera could capture.

Darkness came without the big temperature drop I'd been expecting, and out went the moth trap for the first time in a few weeks. It was a busy night by balcony standards, with 19 moths of 13 species recorded. A beautiful and pristine Merveille du Jour stole the show - they don't come much better.

1 Merveille du Jour
1 Dusky Thorn
1 Blair's Shoulder-knot
1 Lunar Underwing
1 Barred Sallow
2 Lesser Yellow Underwing
2 Large Yellow Underwing
1 Setaceous Hebrew Character
1 Angle Shades
1 Black Rustic
1 Red-line Quaker
5 Common Marbled Carpet
1 Prays ruficeps

Merveille du Jour

Angle Shades

Black Rustic

Barred Sallow

Common Marbled Carpet

Dusky Thorn

17 October, 2015

Summer's last laugh

Ivy Bee

These autumn-flying pollinators have been utilising every sunny moment to feed on the ivy flowers at the bottom of our garden in recent weeks. Colonies materialise in early September so as to coincide with the flowering season of their favourite plant, and they'll remain on the wing into November. A decade ago the Ivy Bee was a rare sight in the UK - having only been described as a species in 1993 - but nowadays they have become so plentiful that it's hard to find flowering ivy that isn't brimming with these frantic little workers.

Well and truly the last taste of summer - it only gets colder from here.

01 October, 2015


The village we stayed in whilst holidaying in France at the end of August was so beautiful and typically French that I couldn't resist swapping the 90mm macro lens for a wide-angle lens.

Back alleys

A dried up river gorge

Mountain spring

A late night thunderstorm

The macro lens seems to be almost permanently attached to my camera these days, so it was nice to mix it up a bit and attempt some landscape photos. I don't think I've taken a photo of a bird since last winter.