Like all good things our Mull adventure had to come to an end at some point (much as I wish it didn’t), making Saturday our last day on the island. If anything the weather was even nicer than that which had graced our trip to Loch Ba, with temperatures at a suitable level to allow t-shirt only walking for the first time all week. Our plan was to take the coast path from Calgary to Caliach Point, another of my favourite routes, where we would hopefully get to enjoy a successful hour or two of seawatching. On the way out though we couldn’t help pausing to take in the valley and house in all its glorious remoteness.
At Calgary the Great Northern Diver was still out in the bay and still keeping its distance, but it was nice to see a few more Sand Martins starting to return to the dunes where they have a large breeding colony. A pair of Rock Pipits remained elusive near the old pier, as did a male White Wagtail, whereas a pair of Stonechats couldn’t have done more to show themselves off. Frequently pausing on prominent perches they were continually chatting away to each other and allowed me to get reasonably close for some good photo opportunities.
At Calgary head an outcrop of rock held seven Shags and one immature Cormorant that absolutely dwarfed the other birds around it. I’d never quite realised the difference in size between the two species before but it was remarkably pronounced to the point of being almost comical (to us at least). A single Gannet could be seen fishing a little further out and it conducted a couple of immense dives while we watched. Back on dry land Wheatears and Meadow Pipits were absolutely everywhere whilst the view was as stunning as ever.
The walk out to Caliach included a pair of Snipe which erupted from our feet and another Grey Heron in a location that was somewhat unexpected. I presume it was after Voles again as I could see no other reason for it to be stood in the middle of a field. As we came over one particular rise in the landscape the usual flushing of Meadow Pipits ensued, but this time something was different. An unfamiliar call mingled amongst the noise of alarmed Pipits and three birds seemed to be standing their ground. In fact they continued standing their ground until I was within a couple of meters and could clearly identify them as Twite. They barely acknowledged my presence and continued to feed as I fired away. Needless to say Twite are now at the top of my favourite small brown bird list.
As we drew closer to Caliach farm a flock of waders took to the air and quickly landed behind a large stone wall which provided great cover as we crept up behind it. What we saw spread out in front of us was eleven summer plumaged Golden Plovers, stunners every single one of them.
Leaving them to their feeding we settled into a sheltered spot on Caliach Point to see what was about. Gannets were immediately visible in good numbers with one flying past at just a few meters distance and roughly parallel to our eye line. A single Black Guillemot flew beneath us whilst much further out a feeding frenzy was under way. Over thirty Kittiwakes, fifty plus Manx Shearwaters and a smattering of Guillemots were all concentrated in the same area with the Gannets carrying out the occasional precision dive between them.
We’d been wondering where the usual Fulmars were when I looked over the edge to find a pair sitting snug against the cliff. They seemed very settled but as far as I could tell didn’t appear to be nesting just yet.
With that it was time to head back to the house so that we could prepare for our departure the following morning. As always though the island had one last surprise in store. Looking out from the sun porch we spotted one of the Short Eared Owls heading from right to left which in itself was a great way to end the day. At the same time however a male Hen Harrier popped into the valley and started to quarter the same hillside. The two birds got closer and closer to each other until what we had been hoping for finally happened. Both birds went talon to talon as they battled for dominance with the Short Eared Owl ultimately proving victorious. There can’t be many people who have had the chance to witness such an encounter. What a way to end the holiday.