Written on 24/09/2014, Isle of Mull
A few early morning showers quickly cleared away leaving us to enjoy breakfast in the presence of our three Golden Eagles. Once again they were patrolling the valley mouth, silhouettes clearly visible against a shimmering sea, their relief at improved conditions no doubt similar to our own. Earlier Emma had watched a female Hen Harrier (presumably the same individual as seen on Sunday) quartering the hillside opposite and with a Peregrine Falcon spotted on the way to Calgary, the tone for the day had pretty much been set. Indeed we’d only seen the Peregrine on account of having stopped to watch three White-tailed Eagles soaring above Cnoc Udmail, an unexpected and impressive tally even for Mull. The hope was that they’d follow the coast to our destination at Langamull where forestry work in the last year or so has completely opened up what was once a dark and forbidding landscape.
Upon leaving the car we almost immediately spotted a White-tailed Eagle being harangued by two Hooded Crows, the actions of which quickly took all three below the horizon and out of sight. Moments later though and the former was back, this time with two more White-tailed Eagles as backup. All were untagged and gave a staggering display as they flew circuits low overhead, often close enough to be able to hear the wind rushing through their wings. Of course close is a relative term with birds this big but they certainly made it easier than normal to get a frame-filler.
Elsewhere the remaining trees seem to have concentrated bird life significantly meaning that Great-spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Crossbill were all ticked off in quick succession. There were probably a lot more of the latter present than the single individual we saw but they still proved difficult to spot even in the thinned down vegetation. A couple of Buzzards were also present and remained a fairly constant sight until we got to Langamull beach itself. With the tide well out we picked a suitable spot for lunch which of course had views of a perched White-tailed Eagle around a mile off to our right.
Looking down into those clear waters I was somewhat relieved that the weather had proven a little chilly for Emma’s much vaunted swim. Everywhere you looked revealed another large Lion’s Mane jellyfish with potentially hundreds of younglings floating in-between. Unlike our regulars back home these venomous beings give a sting that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. Needless to say I kept my distance.
Out at sea things were again disappointingly quiet with a few Kittiwakes, Cormorants and Shags about all that the gentle swell could muster. Not to worry as the White-tailed Eagle chose to give us another flyby, its wing tags clearly marking it out as a different individual from the trio seen earlier in the day.
Heading back through the forest (remains of) we couldn’t help marvelling once again at the sheer number of fungi species on offer. In contrast to the rainy conditions of yesterday there were no hindrances to photography so I got to work.
Back at the car another two White-tailed Eagles flew over (new individuals or not I can’t be sure) before we made the short journey to Croig. This is usually an excellent place for watching Common Seals hauled out on the rocks but today’s low tide meant that they were significantly more distant than expected. That didn’t stop a couple of inquisitive individuals from coming to say hello however, though I’m not sure if we should take exception at how often they seemed to be sniffing the air. We can’t smell that bad already, can we? Attention was quickly taken by a flock of eight Eider swimming into the loch which, judging from their plumage, looked to be this year’s offspring.
Further back in the direction of Dervaig six Red-breasted Mergansers and numerous small flocks of Greylag Geese could be seen whilst closer to hand Grey Heron numbers seemed to be extremely healthy. Judging from the number of youngsters present we had wondered if there was a heronry somewhere on the Quinish estate but I’ve yet to find any information to support that hypothesis. A single Redshank in Croig harbour added another wader species to our Mull tally and of course there were a further two adult White-tailed Eagles low over the opposite shore. The shadows cast from their enormous wings were almost as fascinating to watch as the birds themselves, white tails shining like beacons whenever they caught the light.
Back at the house and in glorious evening sunshine we spent over an hour watching two Golden Eagles soaring up and down the valley. There were clearly thermals a plenty with both birds covering great distances horizontally and vertically with the mere minimum of effort. Better was to come though as one individual initiated a series of climbs followed by steep dives on swept back wings. An awe inspiring sight that easily bettered anything I’ve seen on recent wildlife films from Mull. When two large birds appeared a little later it was therefore fair for us to assume that the Golden Eagles were back. But no! Instead we were confronted with two White-tailed Eagles, an adult and juvenile, once more making incursions into traditional Goldie territory. Unlike last time they didn’t seem to be hanging around but it would appear that ‘Eagle Valley’ just got a whole lot busier.