With a good nights sleep behind us we woke refreshed on Sunday morning. The single feeder that we’d put up was already starting to attract birds with a pair of Chaffinches and a Goldfinch stopping by during breakfast, whilst a few meters away a Grey Heron startled us both as it took to the air. Given our height above sea level and the lack of any standing water I can only presume that it was after the same Voles that had so attracted the Short Eared Owl the previous evening. It was certainly a new tick for the sun-porch list as far as I’m aware. Other birds about the place included a pair of Starlings who were gathering material for their nest in the side of the house and a Kestrel that we recognised from last year due to its very pale colouring. Suitably fed we set off on foot to do our first walk of the holiday, and after a slight detour to avoid a Golden Eagle perched on the cliff edge arrived at the abandoned village of Crackaig.
Crackaig was once a crofting village but has been abandoned for many years now, just one of several such settlements around this part of Mull. Unlike the rest of Scotland though it wasn’t the Highland clearances that caused its abandonment but instead a deadly outbreak of Typhoid. For those of you that enjoy a good ghost story there are several substantiated reports of a shadowy figure appearing in the doorway of one of the ruined houses, supposedly the spirit of a final resident who chose to hang himself from the large tree nearby rather then leave his lifelong home. Thankfully we had no such encounters during our time there but it certainly has an atmosphere of immense sadness, a fact that I know several other visitors have picked up on. Life does still go on however as this nicely perched Pied Wagtail and the numerous Wheatears can testify to.
From Crackaig an ancient pathway traverses the cliff down to a raised beach via a series of tight switch back curves. Even in its dilapidated state I always marvel at the effort that went into its construction all those years ago and the way in which it has stood the test of time. There was an added attraction this time round in the form of my first Green-veined White butterfly of the year. This is a first brood specimen as it lacks the black dots that are exhibited by those hatched later in the year.
As I was taking this photo a scream from behind alerted me to the fact that Emma had either fallen off the cliff or something else was afoot. I turned around to find her madly pointing at something dark on the path. As I got closer it became immediately apparent that it was an Adder, and a very angry one at that. It was inflating its body repeatedly and hissing loudly, probably as a result of the fact that we had both nearly inadvertently trodden on it. After fluffing my photos of the only other Adder I have ever seen I was determined not to miss out again so braved the aggression.
Fortunately it soon calmed down but eyed me with a look that kept me on edge. Being a long way from any medical attention a bite was definitely something that I wanted to avoid. With a few nice shots in the bag we finished our descent to find a Great Northern Diver and a few Kittiwakes just off shore. The view from from the bottom is always spectacular and shows off well the raised beach that makes this section of coast such a joy to walk.
A little further along and the coastline continued to deliver with a pair of Otters our next treat. We watched them diving for food a fair way out but they soon caught a monster fish and came into shore, unfortunately out of sight, to eat it. We weren’t too disappointed though as a few moments later a pod of Bottle Nosed Dolphins came racing past. These have apparently been a fairly regular fixture along this stretch in the last few months and certainly made my day. Next port of call was Treshnish Farm where we were very surprised to spot a Carrion Crow feeding amongst a few Hoodies. This is a pretty unusual bird to find up here and Prasad, Treshnish wildlife blogger extraordinaire, has managed to pin it down to a hybrid between the two species.
At this point I guess it would be rude to move on without including at least one of this years lambs. Everyone say ahhhh.
Heading inland we started the return leg of the trip and hadn’t gone far before we spotted a White Tailed Sea Eagle fly overhead and off in the direction of Loch Frisa. It was too distant for photos but was a great find especially so early in the holiday. It looked to have just gone out of sight as one of the island wildlife tours turned up, but they weren’t too hard done by as a Golden Eagle chose that moment to pop up travelling in the opposite direction.
Our return to the house was greeted by a pair of Yellowhammers under the bird feeder, an appearance I’d been hoping for after they kept us entertained so well last year. The evening has to belong to the Short Eared Owls though, five of which were flying around the end of the track just before sunset. The view wasn’t bad either.
As we finally retired for the evening ‘our owl’ could be seen hunting around the house again. Despite my best efforts I never did manage to better the photos I got on that first magical evening though.