Written on 27/09/2014, Isle of Mull
After yesterday’s exertions we chose to take things at a slightly more leisurely pace today, starting with a sea watch from Caliach point. With the wind blowing strongly from the west the hope was that a decent passage of birds would be on offer including those so far elusive Manxies.
A couple of hours later and our wave skimming friends remained conspicuous by their absence but as a consolation prize a quartet of diving Gannets is always going to take some beating. There was a mixture of adult and juvenile birds in and around the coastal waters, most diving close enough to see each splash and almost feel the resulting impact. Keeping them company were a decent number of Kittiwakes (again adults and juveniles) plus Common Gulls and the occasional Guillemot/Razorbill. More unusual were a female Red-breasted Merganser and two Mallards, the latter perhaps wisely retreating back towards the farm instead of heading out to sea. Speaking of which the farm proved to be a goldmine for harder to find Mull species including our first Linnets of the trip as well as two overflying flocks of Golden Plovers. There was even another Snipe which again managed to evade detection until we were literally within touching distance before erupting into the air. I swear they’ll give someone a heart attack one of these days. Best of all though was an Otter which swam around from the bay before hauling out onto rocks beneath us. After finishing off whatever juicy morsel hung from its jaws it spent the next ten minutes or so fishing in a large rock pool before disappearing after one final dive.
Suitably chilled (both mentally and physically) we moved on to Torloisk via Dervaig. For those of you who know the island this may seem a somewhat roundabout route but I really wanted another attempt at finding the Kingfisher which has been hanging around the bridge at Dervaig for the past couple of weeks. As it turned out ‘eagle eyed’ Emma had spotted the bird even before I’d stopped the car so apologies to anyone who saw my somewhat haphazard parking. Our alertness proved worthwhile however as the Kingfisher only stayed put for a brief time, always distant, before flying off up the loch. No matter as we’d finally nailed one of Mulls’ rarest birds, even scarcer than the Eagles but certainly more common than a Magpie. Strange how bird sightings take on differing significance depending upon where you are in the country.
At Torloisk the black sands were, as usual, in complete contrast to the more traditional white beaches found elsewhere on the island. Formed from weathered basalt they held a surprise Dipper, not to mention the day’s second Otter which swam ashore carrying a large fish. We watched it frolic in the surf for a good while before finally crawling out onto some rocks. A Landrover being driven across the beach meant that we lost contact for a short while before relocating the Otter entering what we presume to be its holt. I’ve often wondered where Otters spend their sleeping hours along Mull’s exposed coast and at last it looks like we’re starting to uncover some answers.
Back home and with no White-tailed Eagle incursions over the past couple of days the Golden Eagles have been left to go about their business. This evening for instance has seen all three birds engaged in yet more ‘play’ including some truly impressive dives from height vertically down across the cliff face. Such activity has certainly been keeping the local Red Deer on their toes who are no doubt still on edge after being deliberately harassed by one of the Goldies last night. Our best guess is that they were checking to see if any of the Deer were carrying injuries or other ailments, or maybe it was just for the pure mischief of it all. I’d like to think the latter.
Perhaps the day’s best sightings though belong to a male Hen Harrier, first seen mid-morning from the end of our track and then later crossing the valley within spitting distance of the house. There’s just something about that grey and black plumage that makes them seem almost otherworldly, a thought probably best left well alone before another night spent in the wilderness.