Mull again? I know, I am visiting this isle quite a lot of late, though this latest trip was different in that it was my brother's idea, and Dad had, after some hesitation, decided to come along too. Rather than being a visit focused almost solely on the wildlife, this would be more of a family break, and as such, we had booked a place in Tobermory, so we'd have access to more tourist-type attractions. We would also have Rob's dogs with us, something I wasn't overjoyed at, but he'd promised they would be no problem...
The drive up was wet, and as the ferries were busy, we didn't arrive in Tobermory until early evening. After settling in, we made our way down into the town and straight into the Mishnish pub, where we had a good meal and a couple of pints. Amusingly, the walk down the steep slope had convinced Dad (who is still recovering from cancer treatments) that he'd never make the return trip, so we grabbed a taxi up the hill again after - something that became a regular thing for the week!
Our first full day was blessed with sunshine, and I was keen for Rob (who had never been to Mull before) to see as much as possible while the weather was fine. Unsurprisingly he was blown away by the beauty of the isle, the variety of vistas, the peace and tranquility of it all, and of course the wildlife. That first day yielded views of two golden eagles, six white-tailed eagles, loads of divers, wheatears, waders and an otter. Not a bad introduction to Mull!
It wasn't a total write-off though, as I saw another golden eagle battling the vile conditions, and giggled at some of the sun-loving birds looking somewhat unhappy with the spring weather.
More eagle sightings continued throughout the day, with both white-tailed and golden eagles showing well. Then, late afternoon we spotted a couple of tour buses watching something in the water of a loch. Parking up some way off, I scanned the water and soon realised they were watching an otter.
I said to Rob and Dad that there was a good chance that the otter might come our way if it saw all the folks from the tours, though it didn't seem to mind and came ashore not far from them! I decided to climb down on to the rocks to hide and wait. As the tours continued on their way, the otter returned to the loch and promptly brought ashore a large crab, right next to where I was hiding!
A fantastic day, and one that confirmed my statement about the weather and seeing wildlife!
One of Rob's dogs is knocking on a bit and has trouble walking on rough surfaces, so he was keen for them to perhaps visit a beach. I suggested Calgary, and when he wandered off with his happy hounds, I went for a walk along the path that runs alongside the water. I had spotted it from the shore, and was keen to get a bit closer... a great northern diver, and it was almost showing breeding plumage.
Being based in Tobermory meant we generally explored the northern side of the isle, so on the penultimate day, I suggested we travel right down to the other end, to at least see Iona, and let the dogs run about on the beaches. Several common seals were playing in the shallow waters beside the beach, so I set up to watch them in some rocks, and was beginning to get some images when I noticed Iona had vanished behind a wall of cloud, and I got soaked as I made my way back to the car!
Sailing down into Loch Na Keal, we were soon watching one of the resident eagles approaching. Alex warned us that this individual, the male of the pair, was very proficient at taking the fish, and he wasn't wrong. No messing, just fly over, dive down, take the fish and off again!
While the boat trip for the white-tailed eagles undoubtably provides about the best opportunities for images of these magnificent birds one could ever hope for, seeing them hunting in the wild is something else. Some years ago I was fortunate to watch a pair hunt and take a grey heron, and have seen numerous attempts to catch prey since.
The white-tailed eagle caught our attention as it circled fairly high up over the hills beside the loch. As we considered driving closer, it went from a slow glide into a steep and very rapid dive, hurtling down towards the hillside, and at the last second angling back towards the roadside, where it swooped down on to something in the vegetation. Incredible to see, and as it took off, it started to fly towards us. I jumped out and grabbed some shots as the eagle flew around us and up towards the hillside once more.
What an amazing end to a week of exploring Mull, and something we will all treasure in our memories. Though the week had also provided me with some great evenings spent in Tobermory, with fantastic meals in the Cafe Fish, Macgochans, Spice of Mull and Crystal Palace restaurants. Cafe Fish was exceptional though, and despite being so early in the season, we had to book a table. The Mishnish pub was where we ended most nights, and had a good atmosphere, decent beer and was always welcoming. I'm certainly missing the view from the window looking across Tobermory harbour.
And as usual I'm already missing being on Mull. My next visit is during the summer for the first of four weeks of tours there this year, and I can't wait.