Well we've had celebrity dancing, cooking and ice skating. We've had celebrities in the jungle, up Mount Kilimanjaro and making it to the South Pole (probably the North Pole too but I must have missed that one). We've had celebrity ghost hunting, Love Island, men in boats, wife swapping and finally here comes celebrity birdwatching! Yes folks standby for a new look to Sky 1 in the New Year as comedian Bill Bailey and two teams of yes, you guessed it , 'celebrity birders'  try and get to grips with the fun of finding and identifying birds. This week we've had a large crew from Fever Media here on Mull making the series for Sky. They've been at RSPB reserves and other locations across the UK and we're delighted they chose Mull for their Scottish challenge. With help from our friends at Forestry Commission Scotland and a whole host of other local businesses, the two teams were set tasks by Bill and whichever team saw the target species for the day were awarded points and eventually declared the winners. They sailed across from Oban to Craignure spotting seabirds along the way; they mountain biked down from the high tops to sea level and explored Salen bay in kayaks. Each night they all returned to camp (yes they were under canvas) and around the camp fire they compared their digi-scoped photographs and identified what they'd seen. It was all good fun and they all seemed to enjoy themselves, especially on the last day at Loch Frisa where eagles, of course, were top of their lists. Our Mull teams comprised the team captains stand-up comedian Jeff Green and TV presenter Alex Zane with their celebrities Jayne Middlemiss (think Top of the Pops, Love Island and Masterchef - she won that) and undercover reporter/Dancing on Ice star Donal MacIntyre. The whole exercise has been an amazing logistical exercise for everyone involved and with a total crew of 20+, it rivalled the scale of Springwatch at times. And who won? Well you'll have to tune in for that result. And was it all worth it? Well it's always difficult to assess these things. It may introduce the joys of birding to a whole new audience who might not normally watch these programmes. It might make more people join the RSPB and care about the natural world. It will show the autumn splendour of Mull to millions and just a few might decide to visit next year, come to the hide and fall in love with our eagles. I counted up 12 local businesses from boat operators to camp sites, local pubs to bike and kayak hirers who have all benefited in some way from this late season bonanza. If nothing else, a whole group of folk who might never have picked up binoculars before enjoyed the experience and the place. As the director said 'Cut!' after the last scene, Jayne couldn't contain her excitement at having just watched a golden eagle overhead being mobbed by six ravens. She carried on watching and carried on exclaiming in her broad Geordie accent: "Totally awesome!" And it was.

There's always a great sense of relief when a project like this (which could go badly wrong) goes so well. The sun shone, the rain held off for the most part despite the dire forecasts and all the arrangements seemed to slot into place. There's always relief when the eagles show up on cue although it's never guaranteed and there were some long, nervous waits. And there is always huge relief when the roadshow finally rolls on out of town and onto the next location - this time it's the turn of RSPB's fabulous Mersehead reserve on the Solway Firth where the thousands of wintering barnacle geese are the stars. They really can't miss them! They might all bump into Simon King on his way to that part of the world for Autumnwatch next week. There'll be more TV crews and celebrities than geese at this rate.

Jeff Green, Donal MacIntyre, Bill Bailey and Jayne Middlesmiss try and identify the bird in a digi-scoped photo

Jeff, Dave, Jayne, Bill, Donal and Alex during a break from filming

 

Debby with her group visiting the hide, trying to act normal!

 

But back to the real stars: Frisa, Skye and Heather. When the crowds had gone I stopped at a look-out on my way home. Frisa and Skye were sitting on the ground, relaxed, preening and looking gorgeous in the autumn sunshine. And there between them, actually lying down and completely chilled out, was Heather. It was the classic family portrait. There's always a slight pang of sadness wishing Bracken was there with them too. Who knows? Perhaps he was.

Dave Sexton RSPB Scotland Mull Officer

The satellite tracking map on my laptop seems to be down at the moment so I can't see if the latest data has been uploaded but I can report that all is well with our four satellite tagged 'chicks'. Mara is still resident around Loch Sunart and Morvern/Ardnamurchan; Breagha is still in the far north-west and island hopping from Raasay to Skye; Venus is mostly in central Mull around Loch na Keal but Oran has become the first of this year's chicks to really go exploring and has made it to the mainland, not far from Mara. Let's hope they meet up and compare notes and that they all stay safe.

A special thank you to Carrie for the fantastic range of eagle mugs, coaster and key ring.  Ever considered trying out your entrepreneurial skills in 'The Dragon's Den'?  Added to the delicious chocolates from Jillian a while back (which I finally managed to get Debby to relinquish), it's been a great season. Many thanks!

Anonymous
  • Sooty - ah, I understand now about the hotline. A lil joke... :o)  

  • Sounds interesting! I have never been into Celebrity BB or love island or dancing etc! But this may be one to watch!!

    No news on Blue Peter yet? ... shame.

    Can't wait to see (or hopefully see) these magnificent birds a couple of weeks.

    See ya soon Heather

  • Mex I mentioned in a blog in response to someones question about wing tags that the head of Norwegian equivalent to RSPB who is more or less responsible for sending these Sea Eagle chicks to Scotland was not happy with wing tags and considered that a ring on the  leg was enough for any bird.Now I believe I read this in a RSPB booklet but obviously if I am wrong would apologize for misleading people,Dave made a comment that I must have a hot-line to Norway(WHOOPS)so is Sooty's little joke but it would be nice to know Half Pints name if he or she has another one.I think I have probably upset Dave and probably lots of other people about wing tags and must own up to hating them as I don't believe you can put weight on a birds wing without affecting the performance of that bird and the argument one person comment that they have done o k doesn't mean anything as maybe they would have done much better without them.

    Sincerely hope I haven't upset Dave more.Sometimes people who all love Sea Eagles have different opinions but still think I saw about wing tags in RSPB booklet unfortunately 540 miles away so can't check.

  • May I ask Sooty and Sweep what the 'Norway hotline' is (if it's public) ?

  • That all sounds just great Debby....I really will have to persuade my other half that a holiday on Mull is what we need!!:)