Written on 28/09/2014, Isle of Mull
Having recently purchased for myself an army surplus camouflage jacket there were really only two ways that things could have gone down. Either I’d end up sitting in hides talking loudly about past sightings but lamenting the lack of birds currently on view, or else I’d go all Rambo and start creeping about through the undergrowth (though preferably without the death and bloodshed). Thankfully I’ve chosen the latter route and have spent much of the past week standing against various types of vegetation and asking Emma how well she can see me. Apparently this can get rather annoying after a while, especially when the person asking said questions is stood no less than two foot away. Who knew? My new undercover look has certainly been working its magic on the local Red Deer however allowing me to creep in closer than ever before. Their numbers around the valley have been increasing steadily since our arrival with this group found grazing on the hillside opposite.
Why go all that way however when the Deer are perfectly content to come to us. As evening fell we spotted this individual just up beyond the house and I was able to get within twenty meters on a couple of occasions. I can certainly see the attraction in tracking animals but photographs are definitely all that I’m willing to take.
Deer aside our real purpose for the day had been to try and work out what has been keeping the Golden Eagles so enthralled. We’ve spent hours watching them perch above and fly over a similar area so it stood to good reason that there had to be something there. Making sure we kept to a well-publicised footpath the best answer we came up with were a trio of dead sheep. One in particular was more than a little fresh and would be a prime feeding opportunity for the Goldies. From the position of each animal I think it’s fair to assume that they all died either from illness or falls rather than a direct eagle attack with two lying at the base of very steep cliffs and the other tucked well away under a rock. As if to prove a point one of the birds came soaring overhead so we left the area and continued on our way.
Later on we made a trip out to the Dun Aisgain, an ancient fort dating from Pictish times and one of the best preserved examples of its kind on Mull. Although you have to battle through dense bracken to reach it the views once there are spectacular. Stretching away before you sits Loch Tuath, Ulva Ferry and Loch na Keal beyond. It’ll probably come as no surprise to learn that this locality has been designated a national scenic area.
The prominent outcrop upon which the Dun sits seemed to be doing a good job of attracting birds with a first winter Wheatear representing only our second sighting of the species this trip. Also flying along the coast was a Grey Heron which looked suitably prehistoric against the low clouds which still hadn’t fully lifted following another foggy morning.
The way our luck has been running this holiday it came as no real surprise to find yet another Otter exploring the rocky coastline beneath us. Not being a million miles away from Torloisk we can’t rule out this being the same individual as seen yesterday though in truth I have no idea how dense their population may be. Whatever its identity we had yet more great views as it hunted amongst the exposed kelp before once more doing a disappearing act. Either our observation skills need some honing or Otters have suddenly become magicians!
Keeping with tradition I’ve continued to be side-tracked by all manner of creepy-crawlies with this Slug in particular catching my eye.
I think it’s a Spanish Slug (Lehmannia valentiana) although the bands on this individual look somewhat thicker than on any reference images I’ve been able to dig out. Saying that the species does appear to be very variable and there’s nothing else a closer match. If I have indeed got my identification correct it’s an interesting record as this species has only been present in Britain since 1948. Since 1980 its population has exploded dramatically and now even seems to encompass Mull! I’d be grateful if anyone with expertise in this area could confirm my suspicions as I’d love to be able to mark this up as another new species. Can I feel a pan-list waiting in the wings (though excluding flowers obviously)?