Thursday, 27 May 2010

More Mull

I'll pick up today where I left off yesterday, on Lunga in the Treshnish Islands, Inner Hebrides. I've resisted the temptation to post more pictures of the Puffins, you can have too much of a good thing you know!

We walked round to the far end of the island to find somewhere peaceful to eat our lunch, passing Harp rock on the way which is a massive sea stack, home to thousands of breeding Guillemots and Razorbills. You need three hands here really so that you can put a finger in each ear to cut out the noise and the other hand to hold your nose to cut out the smell of the guano, it makes your eyes water.



We found our lunch spot but soon had to move when we realised we were sitting close to a rather irate Shag (above). We didn't want to disturb her any more so I took a quick picture and we moved away, leaving the Emerald eyed lady to nest in peace.


Further along the path we came across this abandoned egg which I think is a Guillemot's. Their eggs are laid on bare rock ledges with no nest usually and it's thought that the eggs have evolved with a rather pointed end which means that if they roll on the rock ledges they roll in more of a circle, thus having a better chance of staying put. This may or may not be true but I choose to believe it because it makes for a good story!


Later in the week we decided to do one of our favorite walks from Langamull and back via the tiny, picturesque harbour at Croig. This is a great walk, we'd seen a dozen or more Crossbills before we even got our boots on in the small car park. The walk takes you down to the deserted white sand and rock beach at Langamull where we saw Common Sandpipers, Curlew, Rock Pipits, Buzzards, Pied Wagtails, Black Throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Gannets and loads of Wheatears amongst many other species.
Continuing on to the back of Croig where the seals haul out on the low rocky outcrops, the Red Breasted Mergansers dive in the shallower water and the Lapwings and Oystercatchers nest in the tussock grass and beds of flag Iris. At this point we had walked probably four of the circa seven mile round and had not seen another soul. Such is Mull.

Of course one of the wildlife stars of this part of the world are the elusive Sea Otters. We usually manage to find one or two but it's by no means guaranteed so we were excited and a bit relieved to find this one below on a trip south from Dervaig on the shore of Loch Beg. I spotted it from the car as we were driving along and we managed to get on to the rocks undetected to take some pictures of him lazing on the seaweed covered rocks. Even better was to come when he decided to go hunting and every time he dived we edged a bit closer and eventually managed some closer shots of him eating his catch. Some of the pictures make him look fierce but this was just where he was chewing his food. Having said that I wouldn't want to be bitten by those ferocious looking fangs.

Without a doubt the avian stars of the area are the White Tailed Sea Eagles. In all we managed to see seven of these awesome birds, plus two Golden Eagles. There are ten nesting pairs on the island at the moment plus immature non breeding birds. Unfortunately the most famous pair who reside on Loch Frisa have failed in their attempt to breed this year. The first chick died in the unseasonally cold weather and the second egg failed to hatch despite the female sitting on it for the best part of sixty days, I think it usually takes less than forty days. Fortunately at least eight of the other pairs are currently successfully raising chicks. The pictures below were taken by me from a boat on beautiful Loch Na Keal and the male Eagle is picking up a fish thrown overboard by the skipper and taking it back to the nest in trees visible about 3/4 of a mile away to feed to the chicks. To say that this was an exciting moment wouldn't do it justice, I really struggled to hold the camera steady in hands that were shaking with excitement. That and the very poor light made it difficult to capture but i'm pleased with what I got. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.


The Isle of Mull is without doubt one of my favourite places. This is how I would like more places to be, places where you don't feel that wildlife takes second place but where you feel it's an equal partner and isn't consigned to reserves and small parcels of habitat surrounded by 'civilisation' and can be seen in places where it chooses to be, not where we choose to place it. I've been lucky enough to go to a lot of locations in the world over the years and the only other place where the feel is the same as Mull is Stewart Island off the southern tip of South Island, New Zealand. Luckily The Isle of Mull is a good deal closer!


Steve Sharp said...

Simply stunning Phil,
You really are setting the standard!!
This site is turning out to be a real "must visit" page.
Have been a regular from day one, keep the good work up mate, hopefully I will be able to walk with you one day soon.
Pictures get better and better too!
Bro Steve

Greenie said...

Phil ,
What a fantastic trip . The Otter and WTSea Eagle shots are great . Can well imagine trying to stop shaking with them about .
My Observers Book of Birds Eggs says yes to your Guillemot egg .
Re. the Seals , my thoughts are that the single is an Atlantic Grey and the group are Commons , but don't take that as gospel .
Thanks for taking us on your trip with the great pictures .

Phil said...

Steve, you silver tongued beast! I haven't stopped blushing yet. I'll hand over the twenty quid when I see you on the meantime get your boots polished mate.

Steve said...

WOW! Mull is one of my favourite places. Haven't been since we had the kids. Can't wait to go back. Your post makes me want to book NOW!! Guillemot is a bridled morph which is scarcer than the common. Love the White Tailed Eagle pics. In fact love the whole where is my credit card??

Sharon said...

Mull is one of those places where I think everyone has to visit at some time in their lives. Unfortunately I've still not been but after seeing your photos I simply have to go, the sooner the better!
Great shots Phil!

ShySongbird said...

Oh Phil!!! Magical Mull indeed (sorry I missed commenting on your previous post), what an incredible place. I would so like to go there! You describe and illustrate it beautifully.

So many goodies, Seals, WT Eagle and my very favourite bird, (although I have never yet been anywhere where I could see them) Puffins :)

Just wonderful, Phil and I absolutely agree with your sentiments about how places should be.

alan woodcock said...

Phil,Great place,great pics,must go sometime.