Halfway through our autumn getaway and rain continued to fall with alarming regularity. Every glimmer of brightness had to be seized upon immediately before it was snatched away again on the wind, not conducive to long walks but enough for us to at least get out and about. On Thursday we took the opportunity to head over to Treshnish, my favourite of all Mull’s coastal delights. Whilst the scenery was as dramatic as ever birds were proving hard to come by until a flock of seven Whooper Swans flew overhead on their migration south.
Birds of prey were accounted for with Golden Eagle, Buzzard and Kestrel all being seen whilst wherever trees stood Redwings were never far away. Probably our best bird of the day though came after dark during one of several jaunts out in an attempt to spot the Aurora Borealis. There was no luck on that score but the sight of a Common Snipe sat slap bang in the middle of our track certainly caught us by surprise.
And then all too soon it was our final day. Back at home stress and worry awaited but for the next twenty four hours I was determined to cast all such thoughts from my mind and enjoy whatever Mull had left to offer. In the end that turned out to be quite a bit.
Our destination of choice for that final outing was the series of hills that lie up behind Torloisk House. Unremarkable from the road these rolling moors hide numerous small lochans and being an area we’d not previously explored, who knew what else. In ever changing light we were treated to expansive views across Mull’s inner sanctum with Dervaig off in the distance and the towering mass of Beinn an Lochain ahead.
Then came the star bird of our entire trip, a beautiful male Hen Harrier which rose effortlessly into the air, gave us a long lingering look at its ghostly plumage before vanishing down into the lowlands. Absolutely stunning and a moment I could relive a thousand times over and still be left wanting more.
After that everything else was going to have to work very hard indeed to compete and in Dervaig our second Whooper Swan family of the week were doing a pretty good job. This time there were only six birds, calling incessantly but fortunately close enough to photograph from the car without disturbance. You could always tell however that this was only ever going to be a temporary stopover and as their vocalisations increased the group lifted as one into the air. There’s something about the sheer power and audacity of a Swan’s flight that gets me every time.
Our final stop was over at Croig, home to a colony of Common Seals of which we could see several hauled out on the rocky islands mid-channel. There were birds too including a roost of ten Ringed Plover, many Greylag Geese as well as a lone Red-breasted Merganser. More unusual was the pair of Treecreepers in a nearby bush, hardly the towering woodland with which we normally associate them. Another Greenshank was nice too before a commotion at the waters edge demanded our attention. Initially I couldn’t see what had caused such a fuss until a Common Seal popped up mere metres away. Shocked at its seemingly brazen attitude we initially held back but it soon became apparent that this Seal cared not a jot at our presence. The result was one of the closest encounters with this species I’ve ever had as this photo undoubtedly shows.
When we eventually left the Seal was still there, feeding in the shallows amongst seaweed and white, sandy beaches. Perhaps that was the best way to sign off on our week, man and nature sharing a moment in mutual respect and peace. It had been another fantastic trip and as we waved goodbye that evening to our Golden Eagles, sun setting against a landscape draped in all its autumnal finery, I just knew that it wouldn’t be too long before we were back on Mull again.