The second week began with sunshine, and after failing to see any otters along the lochside, I headed to look at the marshes. At the end of the road, some of the cattle had made their way from the enclosures and out in a bid for freedom, blocking my route. As such, I diverted down the old road track and then spotted something dark perched on one of the posts. Handbrake on, bins up and a gasp of delight, as I realised I was looking at a perched merlin.
Not a bad start to the day, which would mark the beginning of Steve and Ann's first visit to the Isle, so we headed up to the agreed rendez-vous, and from there, to Salen, as they wanted to photo the boats. With that tourist visit out the way, it was over to Kellan to tick off WTEs from their list. With 2 sat in the trees, that was easy and Steve managed to spot the local otter heading out of the loch shortly after, to address that tick too.
A short drive away and we were in an area I know is good for golden eagles, and with their beginners' luck in fine flow, we spotted a pair of adults with a juvenile, soaring over the hillsides. I gave chase along the coast, but a group of ravens headed the eagles off, and they all flew inland.
Scanning the trees along the hillside revealed one of the local WTEs perched, eating something among the branches, and the continous calls lead me to another, further along the treeline, perched on some dead branches. Oh to have seen these when it was nice! Even so, a scramble up the road resulted in some close views of one perched, which got better when it flew towards me.
More WTE antics entertained us on Tuesday, again near the cottage. Steve spotted one of them perched in a tree behind the road, but it flew out into the loch channel in search of food. Steve was watching from one location and me from another, and when it moved, I let him know, assuming he'd join me. Before he could reach me though, the eagle took off, and flew low across the water, right at my car, before diverting along the loch. An awesome sight, and he got so close I could see some seaweed on his beak!
With a stroke of luck, I bumped into a local handyman at the store who gave me some strong tape, and moments later, in a Blue Peter style, I'd taped the hood to the lens. Not great but better than not having it in place. Another example of how friendly folks are on the isle. I owe you a pint, kind sir!
Lens sorted, I rejoined Steve, Ann and Dad who were tracking an otter down the shore. Steve had got right to the shore, whereas Dad, Ann and I stayed a little further back, though none of us had great views as it repeatedly came ashore to eat its catch.
We carefully moved around for a better view, and were hoping for decent shots when the otter suddenly seemed spooked, and headed out. Looking back to the road revealed the cause. A pair of tourists in brightly coloured coats had decided to walk over the rocks towards us, in plain sight. Great. Without thinking about the fact they might undo our stealthy approach, or wonder why we were all crouched amongst rocks and seaweed, they just strolled on over. It'd be nice if folks watching photographers engaged their brains before approaching. Photographing wildlife is a test of patience at the best of times with the subject, other wildlife, weather, light and luck involved, without having to contend with muppets too.
We had been booked to be on the Lady Jayne this week, but the inclement, stormy weather at the start of the week had pushed the trip back to the Thursday. Having whet their appetite for seeing the WTEs, I had had all fingers and toes crossed for the boat trip, as it's an experience to treasure. Sadly on Thursday morning reality bit. Ann had suffered a relapse with her bad back, and when I got up she'd been unable to even put her socks on it was so painful. And Steve was apparently suffering with an upset stomach, which transpired to be from his own greed; he'd scoffed an entire box of fruit breakfast bars the day before.
So neither could make the trip. I consider cancelling our booking completely then thought better of it, and zoomed over with Dad to meet up with Martin aboard the boat, though I'd text him to alert him to the reduced booking. It was sunny. Not particularly windy either, though we'd not seen the eagles at Kellan on the way there. I hoped we'd go to the other site again, but we headed to the usual site...
On arrival, we eventually spotted the pair high up above us, circling. Despite the gulls taking the bread, the eagles continued to circle, before one headed off, at speed out towards the coast. I have to admit, I feared the worst. Floating in the loch, we had a drink and I started to wonder if I could persuade Martin to try the other site - maybe offer something towards the diesel! But I didn't need to. Martin had already decided to chance it, and he set sail as fast as the LJ could go towards the other site, calling the shore along the way to delay the second trip.
Approaching the cliffs, despite the trail of bread on offer, no gulls were around to alert the eagles to our presence, and I was about to comment on this to Dad when we caught sight of it, hanging in the sea breeze, only a few feet above the boat, looking well, enormous!
Saturday morning, time to leave. It was pouring down. Made it easier, but I was still gutted to have to go. And as I thanked the new owner of the cottage for the stay, I accidentally made a booking for next year.