Friday 21 May 2021

Crewing And Guiding

Looking through the windows of the Lady Jayne as she chugged into Loch Na Keal, on a blissfully calm day, could have been any other trip with Mull Charters, but this was different. I was sitting in the "driving seat" steering her as she headed down the loch in search of white-tailed eagles, and anything else that might be around.

Admittedly I didn't move to Mull to be a part of the team that is Mull Charters, but after Martin asked if I'd be interested in helping out from time to time, I jumped at the chance, and it wasn't long before I was called upon to act as a part of the crew.

Alex was the skipper for the day, and it's a role he's clearly good at, not only for being great with all things technical aboard the boat and of course informing the punters of what they're seeing and what might be around that day, but also at helping a novice like me with getting the basics sorted.

Needless to say, the eagles made the job easier, by coming out to the boat several times on each trip, and we enjoyed some cracking views.

While the trips this past week were my first as a crew member, I'd already been out aboard the Lady Jayne this year, both with family and friends, and also with clients.

The R5 does seem to struggle to identify the head and eye of the eagles as they approach, often picking up the wing tips or the tail, though to be fair on it, that's still a massive improvement on the older cameras I've used, that would focus on the sky, water or hillsides.

The images from the trips haven't disappointed though.

I've also been out for my first puffin-fix of the year, visiting the Treshnish Isles of Staffa and Lunga. The latter being the favourite location for seeing the charismatic characters themselves.

Here, the R5 was jaw-droppingly good. It picked up flying seabirds from a long way off, and maintained focus on them constantly, regardless of the background, or how good or in most cases, bad I was at tracking them, and keeping them in the preferable part of the frame.

I can't wait to get back out there to play some more.

Aside from trips, I've been looking out for great northern divers, as they're in splendid breeding plumage at this time of year, just as they fly off north to breed.

They're not easy to get close to, and serenely drift away from the shore if they spot you approaching.

Of course the otters are still around, and I was pleased to catch up with one of the families I'd been watching during the lockdown period, and the mother still has both cubs in tow. They were busy hunting one rainly afternoon, hauling out fish, crabs and even lobsters!

Not quite the incredible view I had just over a year ago with one, but great to watch and photograph, and interesting to see how they handle such potentially dangerous prey.

Mull is now feeling more like its old self again, with plenty of visitors, businesses back open again, pubs and restaurants operating almost normally, trips to see wildlife all up and running and some of the sounds of the island, such as the chattering of barn swallows, filling the air again. Let's hope some of it remains that way.