Mull Here We Come

P1140184 - Lismore Lighthouse
Words and images from 26/03/2018

It was minus two when we waved goodbye to the little corner of east Scotland which had been home for the past few days, sad to be leaving but excited for what lay ahead. On the ground a thick frost sat heavy but with the sun already climbing into another crystal clear sky that wouldn’t last for long. Perfect conditions for a journey right through the heart of the highlands to where the ferry waited at Oban to whisk us off to Mull, that Hebridean wilderness which keeps calling me back time and time again.

Red Squirrels, Loch Leven and an Aquatic Stoat

P1140079 - Red Squirrel
Words and images from 25/03/2018

Of all the things I’d expected from this trip a slightly tender forehead was not one of them. And can you really blame me? Barely a week ago we’d been battling through blizzards and now sun-cream and hats were order of the day. Not that I was going to be complaining as with another glorious morning underway more of the same was promised. Once again the Pink-footed Geese were feeding out in the fields and this time we managed to get to them just before the farmer, at least a hundred birds looking resplendent in the morning light.

West Lomond and Bunnet Stane

P1140007 - West Lomond Trig Point
Words and images from 24/03/2018

I was awoken this morning by the honking of Pink-footed Geese, a wonderful sound and the surest sign yet that we’d left Swansea far behind. At the foot of our bed bright morning sunlight streamed in through picture windows revealing a crystal clear sky of a blueness that if painted that way you’d swear blind was simply unrealistic. Stock Doves milled, Lesser Black-backed Gulls patrolled and off in the distance, standing stark on the horizon, were the white capped peaks of the Cairngorms. Oh yes my friends, this was Scotland and ahead of us lay a fortnight in which we planned to make the most of our well earned break.

Swansea Vale - My New Patch

Suburban, residential and business park. Three phrases which you might not necessarily associate with either me or this blog but that's exactly the kind of place which I've recently adopted as my new local patch. Never fear, the likes of Cefn Drum and Bryn-bach-Common will still be featuring regularly but thanks to an office relocation I now have the opportunity to get out at lunchtimes as well in habitat quite unlike that which I have ready access to at home. There's woodland, rivers, ponds, marsh and, perhaps best of all, fresh air, the one thing that any office dweller really craves. So where is this place I hear you ask? 

Nestled between the M4, Swansea Enterprise Park, Birchgrove and the River Tawe you'll find Swansea Vale. One hundred and sixty acres of mixed-use land designed to bring posterity to the area but not at the complete exclusion of nature. Tree lined paths are the norm, ponds numerous and its crowning glory? The six hectares of land which make up Swansea Vale Local Nature Reserve, an oasis away from the hustle and bustle that surrounds it and one of the few remaining wetland habitats in Swansea. An extensive board walk takes you on a loop around the reserve boundary and even though still early days I've already seen a wealth of species with the promise of many more to come.

Swansea Vale

My best sighting so far? Probably a flash of blue as a Kingfisher shot off along one of the drainage channels or perhaps the Fox which I watched brazenly walking about in broad daylight. Then of course there's the Bullfinch pair which are often to be found outside my office window and the Dipper which I've seen only a handful of times along the Tawe. Needless to say I have every intention of spending as many lunchtimes exploring this area as I can. The only challenge really is going to be making sure that lunch hour stays at just that. An hour.

Only this week I've spotted a lone female Goosander on one of the ponds, a colleague has seen Sparrowhawks and rumours of Otters persist. The Frogs also look to be getting down to business at long last and I can't wait to see what the rest of this year brings.

Autumn on Mull Part 2

Halfway through our autumn getaway and rain continued to fall with alarming regularity. Every glimmer of brightness had to be seized upon immediately before it was snatched away again on the wind, not conducive to long walks but enough for us to at least get out and about. On Thursday we took the opportunity to head over to Treshnish, my favourite of all Mull's coastal delights. Whilst the scenery was as dramatic as ever birds were proving hard to come by until a flock of seven Whooper Swans flew overhead on their migration south.

P1120789 - Isle of Mull

Autumn on Mull Part 1

P1120696 - Isle of Mull
Mull. Home from home, place of natural wonder and the closest I'm ever likely to get to true wilderness. Regular readers will be familiar with our numerous jaunts up to this island paradise by now, a jewel off the west coast of Scotland and a place to which I find myself being inextricably drawn time and time again. We spent a couple of weeks last summer birding its cliffs, kayaking its lochs and walking its hills and still left wanting more. Is it any real surprise therefore that last October we were back again, a week ours to spend amongst the Red Deer, bronzed bracken and soaring Eagles.
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