I think everyone who follows this blog and me on social media knows my affection for the Isle Of Mull, and having spent a week there in March, I was keen to return at a more familiar time of year. Prior to the trip, as usual I had checked the weather forecast and been disappointed to see a rain symbol for every single day of the trip. It's an island, I thought, things change.
The drive up was pleasant enough and it was a relief to find that the road around Loch Lomond has finally been completed, which had often been a hold up on previous trips. As usual, after dropping the luggage into the B&B, we strolled around Oban for a short while before settling into the quayside pub, indulging in some of the ales on tap and scoffing down a meal. The weather seemed pretty changeable, and we watched the harbour briefly disappear behind a wall of rain.
After filling our stomachs with breakfast, the car with diesel and its boot with shopping, and we were soon sat on the ferry heading over to Mull. First birds seen included black guillemots, terns, gulls and gannets. And it wasn't raining either. Having sat rather impatiently waiting for someone who thought it'd be ok to be the last to return to his car despite being almost at the front of the ferry, I was soon lapping up the views along the road between Craignure and Salen. Dad adores this stretch of road, as the views are fabulous and it seems to have a micro-climate whereby we virtually always see it in sunshine.
As is tradition, we parked up at Kellan where we soon spotted the first white-tailed eagle of the trip. Soaring around the back of the trees, it was a brief view, but never a bad thing to see. As were the hen harriers I spotted on my tour of the marshes later that day. As in March, there seemed to be a number of them around, including males and at least one juvenile. Calling into another favoured area for white-tailed eagles, I managed to find the family group sat in the tall pine trees, though the constant calling of the juvenile was a bit of a giveaway! Eventually one of the adults dropped something over to the juvenile, and flew off, leaving the other adult to feed whatever it was, possibly a mountain hare, to the noisy youngster.
Wednesday morning's drive was wet and aside from some uncooperative ravens, I didn't get much to write home about. However, the skies soon cleared and we chose to stay on the south side of the island, and see what was around locally. And it was a day of mistakes by me that caused frustration. There are many buzzards around, and where we were sat, they were constantly gliding back and forth across the glen. So much so, I foolishly took them for granted and chose to ignore them as they went. Huge mistake. As two "buzzards" went overhead, I only gave them a cursory glance, only to then see them across the glen start to circle over the trees, gaining altitude. They looked pretty big for buzzards. They weren't. A pair of golden eagles had just gone over and I'd missed them. What a prat I thought. By the time I caught up, they were soaring high up.
Then to compound my mistake, I repeated the ID error. Sat in the top of the valley, we were laughing about the horrid sound that ravens make, and seconds later, the ravens appeared, chasing two "buzzards" down the hillsides. Initially I chose to watch but then alarm bells went off as I realised these buzzards were over twice the size of the ravens. Double dose of being a prat. The same eagles I'd missed before, and again were too far away in seconds for decent shots. Argh! Awesome to see but I so wish I'd had the camera ready.
The wet weather promised before the trip seemed to be making its way on to the island, and Thursday's dawn trip almost didn't happen. I peered through the curtains and saw the rain lashing down; it was very tempting to stay in bed. I didn't, and as is sometimes the case on grim days, it was a wise move.
Along the shore from the digs was a lone whimbrel, initially snoozing on the seaweed. After waking, it then pottered around the small boulders, and soon plucked out some crabs trying to hide in the shadows.
On the north shore of the loch, movement in the seaweed caught my attention. An otter. About time I caught up with one. Initially I tried to predict where it might come ashore, had some success but it doubled back, and swam past my hiding place, and further down the loch. I followed, and after settling into a hollow in the rocks, I was glad of my Paramo jacket, as the rain started to pour down once more. The otter appeared nearby, and for a moment, as I glanced upwards to see one of the local white-tailed eagles going over carrying prey, I considered following that. I didn't, and sat to see what might happen here. So glad I did, as seconds later, another otter appeared.
Driving round and past, I parked up outside the cottages, and opened the door slowly, craning my neck to peer out and upwards. She was sat there, looking out at the loch. Initially I took some pics from inside the car, and with a torrential downpour, had to sit and wait. I hoped the weather wouldn't rob me of this opportunity. It didn't, and she was still sat on the branch after the rain passed, and I tried to get out. She didn't bat an eyelid, so I grabbed my monopod and started to get some better angled shots.
Friday already, and we chose to try the road to Lochbuie and Croggan as I've seen plenty there in the past and the area by the huge yew tree and graveyard is often a sheltered but stunning location to simply admire the view. Whilst scanning the shore along that route, I spotted a rock that was moving. Now normally rocks don't do this, so I took a closer look and confirmed my suspicion. An otter, and this time Dad was with me to enjoy the view.
The end of a packed week of wildlife on Mull and only halfway through the trip. More of the same, I hoped for the second week.