I had barely had time to unpack from my Highlands trip before I was back running workshops for otters here on Mull. Those run at the beginning of the month went well, but while I was out walking on a day off, I spotted the dreaded frogspawn. Why is it so feared? Well, this indicates the start of what we otter guides call "Frogging Fortnight" and refers to a period of time, usually around two weeks, where the frogs spawn.
Most otters that visit the sea lochs here on Mull, do so via quite a hike from their holts, which might be a couple of miles from the shore. As they scamper along, they will pass through meadows, woods and through bodies of freshwater, and if they encounter something else they can eat along the way, then they'll not bother going all that way to the loch. So, imagine their delight when they spot a pool of frolicking frogs, effectively a soup of frogs for them to gorge themselves on.
Having invested in a new RF 100-500mm lens for my mirrorless camera, I felt more comfortable going for long walks with just that in the bag. Before, with the 100-400mm lens, I always felt like I might miss out with an encounter, by being short by a few mm's reach. This meant I could scramble up the hills in search of harriers and eagles, and not fear for my safety when lugging around the big prime lens. It was great, and I was rewarded pretty quickly.
A raptor that has teased me for years now is the hen harrier. Every holiday I spent here on Mull would see me spending hours, dawn and late evening, waiting at harrier hotspots, hoping to get a close encounter, and I can count the number of those I enjoyed on one hand.
When I spotted several harriers circling over some hills, I decided it was high time I put in some serious time with them, and with perfect conditions for a few days, I set up in a meadow, sitting beside a rock for a bit of cover, in a load of (probably tick-infested) dead bracken, and waited.
It was late in the day and not a great deal had happened for a few hours. Everything was distant, so I had considered leaving. But I figured I ought to see the day out and sit tight, and boy was that a good move. One of the raptors hunting not far off was different, and I soon recognised the flight of a short-eared owl. It perched up on a fence post, and as it was so quiet, I decided to try to squeak it. As is often the case, it seemed to ignore the sound I was making.
I glanced away from it, to see if any of the harriers were flying nearby. Then looked back and realised the owl had flown off. Where though?
I looked down the side of my lens and realised it was flying right at me. Thank goodness the camera locked on, and because the R5 is silent, didn't spook the owl as it virtually flew down the lens.
Needless to say, after seeing my shots of hen harriers and short-eared owls, some of her time was spent in the same spot as I'd used, and while we didn't get a ludicrously close encounter with the short-eared owls, we did see some breathtaking sky-dances from the harriers, which put a smile on her face that only special wildlife encounters can do. That expression of unbridled joy from friends and clients alike, at seeing something magical like the sky-dance of hen harriers, never grows old.
The breeze that had kept the heat haze away the previous week had all but died off, so we focused on subjects that were close, and were really fortunate to find (Lyndsey spotted them) two neonate adders basking out in the open. These tiny brown adders would have been born last August or September, and she amusingly named them Baldrick and Blackadder.