On Tuesday the island tried to give us all four seasons in one day; when it wasn’t blowing a gale with a bitingly cold north wind or throwing it down with rain the sun was blazing from a clear blue sky. To make the most of the changeable conditions we headed further around the coast from our base of operations to Langamull. Here forestry plantations lead down to a gorgeous white sand beach that under the right conditions could almost be mistaken for being located somewhere far more exotic.
Our first new species of the day were numerous Coal Tits flitting through the treetops, but it was as we emerged onto open ground that things got a lot more exciting. I happened to glance behind us and caught sight of a huge White Tailed Sea Eagle gliding down the valley in our direction. We had just time to take in its massive head and expansive wing span before it was lost from sight behind a hill. We hurried down to the beach hoping that it would come along the coast towards us in its search for food, but alas we were out of luck. However that was not to be our last encounter of the day with this iconic Mull species.
As is often the case here we didn’t have long to think about what privileged views we had just had before the next amazing encounter was upon us, and trust me this one even I can scarcely believe and I was there! Swimming just off the coast were two Otters that looked to be relatively young. They were clearly relaxed and enjoying themselves so we crept between two rocks on the water’s edge in the hope that they would come closer. At first they headed out to sea and we thought that that was that, but a few minutes later they both started swimming right at us at great speed. As they got closer we could see that they had a large Starfish gripped between their teeth and were clearly racing back to shore to devour it, though which one would have got the spoils is anyone’s guess.
Each time they got to a rock that was sticking above water they simply dived straight over the top of it, a moment that I fortunately managed to capture on camera.
As is sods law the Otter’s chose just about the only place on the rocky foreshore that we couldn’t see to make landfall and devour their catch. It can’t have taken long to eat as moments later they were back in the water and swimming alongside us a few meters away. They made their way along the shoreline again before hauling themselves out a little further away. Here a large buttress of rock was no obstacle as they simply scampered up its side and were lost from sight. I looked at Emma in a shared sense of amazement that was only momentary as the Otter’s then reappeared and went straight back into the water where they started to play. This went on for a good few minutes before once more they headed up the large rock buttress and out of sight.
Feeling more than satisfied with what had been our best ever Otter encounter we cracked open the packed lunch. We were barely through the first sandwich when another, much larger, Otter swam right past where we sitting. This one was occasionally making high pitched calls which we presumed were signals to its cubs that we had just been enjoying, a feeling that was enhanced as it headed straight up the same rocks that the others had previously used. It clearly didn’t find them though as it soon reappeared but this time its calls were more insistent. Hearing no reply it went back into the water and swam around into the next bay.
Three Otters is more than special but we turned around to see yet another sat on rocks just behind us. This one slipped into the water, having seen us or not I can’t be sure, and then swam right past us closer than all of the others before it. It had a good look around before heading off in the same direction that the others had taken.
We quickly finished our lunch and decided to see if we could find where the Otters had gone. As we rounded the corner into the next bay it wasn’t an Otter that we saw but the Sea Eagle from earlier sitting on a rock. It was well over four hundred meters away but it was straight into the air and over to the next headland where it was still clearly visible with the naked eye due to its sheer size. Down below us a familiar squeaking heralded the arrival of one of the Otter cubs, and for the first time we were actually spotted for sure. Amazingly the cub ran and put its head behind a rock, completely forgetting that its body and tail were still right out in the open. The ridiculousness of the situation was compounded as the cub popped its head out from behind the rock to see if we were still there. An absolutely classic moment that had me laughing out loud. It was at that instant our attention was drawn skywards once more as the Sea Eagle had managed to slip over to our right unnoticed and was now soaring with another adult bird. The gulls were trying to give them a hard time but they paled into insignificance against their much bigger targets.
Once the Eagles had gone the Otter cub calls could still be heard but they were again out of sight. Moving quietly towards the edge from where we were stood I peered over to find one of them cleaning in the sun beneath me. It gave me a quick glance but then went right on with what it was doing. I grabbed a few shots before retreating to leave them in peace.
The walk back through the woods was almost as productive as the beach had been if not quite as impressive, with the trees holding Crossbill, Goldcrest and a female Sparrowhawk on its nest.
Wednesday was spent in Tobermory, the main village on the island, where activities were limited due to me coming down with an illness.
We did squeeze in a walk around Aros Park where we saw difficult to find island species such as Blackcap and Blue Tit, while in Tobermory itself this very abiding Shag was fishing.
On Thursday we walked out to Quinish Point with me returning to something like full strength. It was a good day for new holiday species including Collared Dove, Treecreeper, Siskin, Red Breasted Merganser, Chiffchaff, Whinchat, Mistle Thrush and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. We also had another fantastic view of a White Tailed Sea Eagle as a juvenile bird flew above the estate woods, and another Otter was fishing off the point itself. The day was finished off nicely with a Red Throated Diver in Calgary bay, once again proving its worth as an excellent location to spot sea birds in close to shore.