Thursday, 26 May 2011


There's nothing like a good walk with some unexpected wildlife finds thrown in for good measure. On sunday, we tried just that and decided to give the Treshnish walk a try. This is a superb wildlife walk along the NW coast of Mull, giving good views of the not too distant Treshnish Isles and Staffa, uninhabited except by Puffins, Shags, Razorbills and Guillemots by the hundreds. All you really need is energy, it's quite long, and sunshine, it really needs to be done in sunshine. Then, if you're lucky, you might stumble across an Otter in the kelp and rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, or a Golden Eagle soaring over the crags above. Or even a Basking Shark cruising the surface water, sucking up the plankton like a giant sieve. We were lucky enough to find one near here a few years ago.
Anyway, after parking up at the start of the walk near Calgary, we stepped from the car only to be met with rain and a vicious wind, again. So, it was back to the car safari and a leisurely drive down to Loch Beg, where we were lucky eventually, to spot another Otter, below.

We found it on the shore of the loch, loafing on the seaweed covered rock after probably lunching on a nice local seafood platter. It certainly seemed relaxed, at one point rolling on to it's back and having a good old scratch, again seeming happy despite our presence on the road nearby. All you need to do is keep your distance it seems, although quite often somebody gets too near and off they go.

We stayed a while and watched, in the hope that it would come closer to us but it didn't, it was far too comfortable on the seaweed and looked as if it was yawning at one point. Or was it just baring it's crab crunching teeth at us. Left click to see what I mean. While there we watched this Pied Wagtail apparently nest building, seemed a bit late, maybe it was just running repairs.

On the way back from Loch Beg we stopped at a small layby to scan the distant forest where the White-tailed Eagles frequent and were really excited to be able to see two fluffy grey chicks teetering on the nest while being fed by the female. We had earlier chanced upon the male we think, flying across the loch quite close to us. It was an absolutely stunning sight watching him soar across quite low, his white tail showing really well and as usual being mobbed by the Hoodies who looked tiny alongside him. I would have liked to have got a picture at last, but of course, it was raining again at the time. The next day was the day of the storm and we were seriosly worried about how the chicks would fare with so many trees being uprooted or snapped halfway down the trunk.

Our last stop was at Salen, a sheltered coastal spot looking across the Sound of Mull to the Scottish mainland. This is a good area for sea birds like Shag and Eider, as well as Seals and Otters. We thought we'd found another one of the latter when the chap below popped out from behind the rocks. It looked smaller than an Otter and i'm pretty sure that this furry fiend is one of the many Mink which inhabit the 300 odd mile coastline of Mull.

Well, I finally got my picture of a White-tailed Sea Eagle (below) on Tuesday, just about. It was very distant and the shot is heavily cropped. The bird was sitting in a tree above Grasspoint near Lochdon, south of Craignure. Don't be fooled by the blue sky, a sucker's gap, I think they call it. Five minutes earlier we were sheltering in the car and five minutes later we were doing it again.

Grasspoint is seriously remote and the 'road' to it reflects that. You just keep everything crossed in the hope that you don't meet another vehicle coming in the opposite direction, which I did of course, just as well I can reverse reasonably well. With Red Deer in abundance, Skylarks singing, Buzzards soaring, Cuckoos calling and an Eagle perched in a tree, we could see that despite the weather this is a place to return to, on foot next time, in the not too distant future.

These two sawbills were a nice surprise as we crossed the bridge to rejoin the road towards Pennygael. I'm pretty sure they are Red-breasted Mergansers, I don't see these too often, so correct me if i'm wrong.

Last stop today was about five miles away from Pennygael where we managed at last to see a Golden Eagle, it was quartering the dark crags above the road where we think it has a nest. Once again it was raining and it also hailed so hard it hurt my ears! But a great sight anyway and a bonus was a Peregrine that also flew from round the back of the crag and off to the distance. We had previously seen a male Hen Harrier hunting the rough grass not too far from the road and when we got back to the cottage a Sparrowhawk came gliding over the house to make six raptors for the day. Fantastic.

I forgot to mention, we revisited the Eagle chicks on the way back and they and the nest had survived the weather. They're probably used to it.


Bob Bushell said...

Still raining up there, terrible weather. But, you caught a lot of beast and birds. Fantastic photographs.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Thanks for allowing us to follow your trip , in the dry .
It certainly sounds a magical place , if only the weather had been the same .
It's certainly on my list of places to visit .

Kieron said...

Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle and Sea Eagle in one day - that wont happen in Kent any time soon.

We had a little taste of the heavy rain ourselves last night and long overdue it was too.

ShySongbird said...

A very engaging account Phil. So glad you managed to get your Sea Eagle photo in the end despite the weather. Great photo when enlarged of the open mouthed Otter :)

Such a shame the weather hasn't been kinder to you, it looks like a wonderful place to visit, a real Nature lovers paradise!