Sunday, 27 May 2012


After two weeks of continuous rain and the worst May in living memory last year on the Isle of Mull, soggy April didn't bode well for this year's trip. But Mother Nature has a habit of balancing the books and this time    the weather was superb. Well most of the time anyway.

The Sound of Mull is a stretch of water between the island and the Scottish mainland. Willow Warblers, Cuckoos and Oystercatchers like the ones above and below are also the sound of Mull at this time of year. You're never too far from the coast and wherever we went these three species never seemed to be far away.

Last year the poor weather confined us to the car for a lot of the time and because of this we found quite a few Otters while slowly driving along the deserted lochs. This year most of our travels were on foot and we only came across one.

We spotted it lying in the sun on a small outcrop of rocks surrounded by seaweed on the edge of Loch Na Keal, the main loch on the western side of the island. This is a stunning sea loch overlooked on one shore by Ben More the highest mountain on Mull (pictured at the top of the post) and at 3169 feet qualifies as a true Munro. Carol and I, along with two friends, bagged it a few years ago. It was hard going then and I haven't felt the need to do it again since!

With sunbathing and grooming finished our Otter's attention switched to food and a short legged scamper to the incoming tidal edge soon saw him slipping gracefully through the water. An environment much more suited to this semi aquatic animal.

It wasn't more than a minute or two and just one dive before lunch was caught and consumed on a sun warmed rock a bit further down the coast.
Eagles. Otters and Eagles. These area unquestionably two of the main wildlife attractions on Mull. And although we managed to find good numbers of both Golden and White Tailed Eagles ourselves, the only way to get up close and personal to the latter is to go out on the Mull Charters Sea Eagle trip with Martin, the skipper of the Lady Jayne. A most excellent and exciting journey on the relatively sheltered waters of Loch Na Keal.
Last year the weather put the mockers on this trip so we were both excited to be able to get two places on the boat on the tuesday and that the weather would be sunny and therefore pictures wouldn't be too difficult.

Come the day, the cloud came and the cold wind blew and it was very grey. The eagles didn't mind though. I was busy practising with my camera on the local gulls, I think these are immature black backs but i'm not sure, when.............. 

....... a White Tailed Eagle arrived overhead. The pictures below tell part of the rest of the story.

In all the eagle came three times, twice it picked up the free Mackerel tossed overboard by Martin but on the third attempt the fish was stolen from under its beak by an adult Great Black-backed gull. I saw the gull take the fish and swallow it, then fly off nonchalantly, completely unaware that the eagle was not amused and was in hot pursuit. There followed a few minutes of pure wildlife excitement (unless you were the gull) as the eagle pursued it, just a few feet behind. I didn't realise that eight feet of wingspan could fly so fast and be so manoeuvrable. Every twist and turn of the large gull, who looked diminutive by comparison, was matched by the eagle and we feared the worst  as it appeared to gain the upper hand in the sky about 500 yards from the boat. Despite the size of the gull it would have made a nice meal for the eagle, Fulmar are a regular part of their diet too in these parts. But as I watched with bated breath I saw a splash in the sea beneath the gull as it wisely jettisoned the stolen goods and made its escape as the eagle dropped down to reclaim what was rightfully his. Exciting stuff!


Mike Attwood said...

WOW! What do you do for an encore.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Glad the weather was kinder to yourself and Carol this time .
Couldn't believe the charts , given what it was like earlier .
Would love to see Otters and Sea Eagles like that .
Great read and pictures .
Now , get back to the day job .

Marianne said...

Oooh, lovely. So pleased you had good weather this time. Spectacular White-tailed Eagle pics!

Warren Baker said...

Exciting stuff indeed Phil! So close to a White Tailed Eagle, the only one I have seen was stuffed, at the Maidstone museum :-)

Jason K said...

Sounds like a fantastic place and great holiday was had. Those Eagle photos are just superb...nice Phil!

ShySongbird said...

Hi Phil, a belated welcome back! So sorry to be late commenting on your fascinating post and lovely photos. I'm so glad the weather was better for you both this year, I kept hoping it would be, you deserved it after last years challenging conditions.

What a great time you had! The photos of the eagle are superb (the gulls too!) and it must have been an unforgettable incident to witness firsthand. I'm quite glad the gull did the sensible thing in the end :-)

Lovely to see the Otter too!