Written on 21/09/2014, Isle of Mull
Our first full day on the island and the weather gods had chosen to treat us with blue skies and blazing sunshine. The cool breeze of yesterday had died away under cover of darkness leaving us to greet our morning visitor’s safe in the knowledge that we were in for a scorcher. Why is it that no one back home believes me when I tell them it’s always sunny up here?
Today’s walk would take us along the coast to Treshnish and we’d barely got going before our first Golden Eagle sighting of the day. Soaring up from the cliffs it was soon joined by a second bird and together they climbed high up into the sky. A Kestrel was doing its up-most to harry them along but as expected this minor irritation was having no noticeable effect. On Mull even Golden Eagles sometimes have to play second fiddle however as my attention was drawn to a disturbance in the millpond like sea, one which quickly resolved itself into two Otters. They were busy fishing some distance off shore and gave great views as we worked our way along the cliffs. By the time we’d dragged our eyes away the Golden Eagles had taken their leave but I had no doubt they would be back again soon enough.
Dropping down into the abandoned village of Crackaig a Snipe startled us both as it erupted from the undergrowth mere feet from where we were standing. How is it that they can remain so camouflaged at such close distances? Here, as at the house, Wheatears were entirely absent, a symptom of the later season for this year’s visit. The result was an altogether quieter scene though I did get to enjoy my traditional run-around as I attempted to photograph one of two Stonechats present. Far more obliging was a Wren inside one of the old black houses.
Taking a well-constructed track down from Crackaig delivered us onto the raised beach which so typifies this corner of Mull. Once used extensively for crop growing it now offers the walker a gentle route with stunning scenery in every direction. It would have been rude not to stop and take it all in, a wise decision as it turned out with three more Otters frolicking half a mile or so off to our right. Unlike the earlier pair this group seemed to consist of an adult and two cubs, an excellent population for such a short stretch of coastline. Judging from the regularity with which they were returning to shore, mouths full, the fishing today was clearly very good. Further out several Guillemots were visible, most by now in winter plumage, plus the occasional Gannet and a group of migrating Swallows heading strongly south. With none at the house we’d wandered if any of the latter would still be around.
Heading further along the raised beach revealed little else of note until four Wheatears near Treshnish headland. Emma was particularly pleased as she’d missed the individual from yesterday though true to form they kept well away from anything remotely resembling a camera. It was at this point that the pair of Golden Eagles reappeared traversing the cliff top behind us and giving stunning views in the process. Judging from their plumage we aged them as an adult and juvenile, almost certainly two of the three birds seen yesterday evening.
When they did eventually drift back off we turned our attention once more to the coast where a couple of White Wagtails and three Goldfinches were feeding. Even better though were four Twite, a species I have yet to see anywhere else other than on Mull. If we thought that was good it was nothing compared to the huge mixed flock of Goldfinches and Twite which were feeding along the Treshnish farm track. Constantly a few steps ahead of us they filled the sky with both bodies and noise each and every time the group took flight. A truly spectacular mix of colour and sound.
Skylarks, House Sparrows, Coal Tits and a Buzzard made up the bulk of other birds present though there was also plenty non-avian interest including this tiny Toad. Not only have I never seen one so small before but it’s also my first ever sighting on Mull.
Heading back inland another Golden Eagle could be seen way off in the distance whilst quartering the Millennium woodland was a completely unexpected female Hen Harrier. With all the recent attention being on the desperate plight of these birds it was fantastic to find one out in the wild and putting on such a good show. Given its proximity to the house there’s always a chance that we will get even better views during our stay as well. Fingers crossed.