Words and images from 28/03/2018
The last few years have found me in the privileged position of being able to see Eagles almost on demand. Yes there may be a days travelling involved but I know exactly where to go and have as a result been witness to some truly memorable moments. Knowing that should perhaps make it all the more notable when I say that today was easily one of my best Eagle days to date. It seemed almost as if every time we glanced skywards one or other of Golden or White-tailed Sea Eagle would be there, the latter living up to their flying barn door nickname whilst the former still retaining their ability to invoke that same sense of excitement within me as on my very first encounter all those years ago. As best I can tell there were at least five separate birds on the wing including a gorgeous adult White-tailed Sea Eagle and strongly marked juvenile Goldie, but in truth that number could have been even higher. Numbers though tell only part the story as it was the combination of these magnificent birds, as well as a supporting cast of other raptors, which will really last long in the memory. At one point alone there were both Golden and Sea Eagle sharing the same airspace along with three Buzzards and a Raven. If ever there was an opportunity to compare these kings of the skies then this was it and I was over the moon to capture all three on camera together.
Such close proximity led to some interesting interactions with the two Eagle species in particular seen to flip onto their backs, talons turned upright on several occasions. I later saw one of five Buzzards do a similar trick when harassed by a troupe of Hooded Crows and believe this to be a sign of submission rather than an act of aggression. A plea for peace if you will. Either way it made for a spectacular sight as our two biggest bird species threw themselves around the sky as if it was no effort at all.
Before all this avian excitement we’d begun our day at Crackaig, one of numerous abandoned settlements that dot Mull’s landscape. Crackaig was the very first place I ever visited on the island and as such is a must do destination as soon as the weather allows. Today was that day.
Traditionally the close cropped grass around the ruins here are a haven for Wheatears, but alas not today. There were however a couple of Stonechats and down in the bay a lone Black Guillemot and calling Curlew. We stopped to scan the sea for a while hoping to see yesterday’s Otter but either it was tucked up at home or else fishing other waters. We did though get excellent views of a Gannet which spent several minutes patrolling back and forth along the coast, no doubt enjoying this glorious morning as much as we were.
Lunch was taken in one of the numerous small bays which dot the coastline here, hidden from all but the most curious of observers. Sheltered from the ever present wind it served as the perfect sun trap, black volcanic rock bouncing back warming rays. This particular bay also harbours an added secret in that behind a high earth embankment, nestled within a sea cave sits the well preserved remains of an illicit whisky still. Used by residents long since gone to avoid the dreaded tax man it’s the most complete example I’ve yet come across.
Under way once more we continued along the ancient raised beach which stretches towards Treshnish, smooth grassland which is an absolute joy to walk. A pair of Eider and distant Guillemot along with a Great Northern Diver sat offshore whilst along the cliffs our raptorfest continued with at least three Kestrels and an absolute brute of a Peregrine Falcon. The Kestrels I presume to be a separate group from those which currently occupy territory in our own valley which puts the local population at a very healthy level indeed. Really though only one bird, Eagles excepted, could steal the show and that was at last our first island Wheatear. A lovely male it played hard to get but in the end I left pleased with this shot. Let’s hope more are close on his tail.
At this point I realise that I’ve not yet included many scenic shots so here’s a gratuitous selection of what is easily Mull’s most attractive corner.
Leaving the coast behind we climbed steeply before entering the fields surrounding Treshnish. In a few weeks time this area will be a riot of colour as wildflower meadows spring into life but for now they retained the same golden hues as elsewhere. An approaching Black Headed Gull was unusual not just for Treshnish but for the entire island whilst off in the distance we caught our first glimpse of the tropical white sands at Calgary.
Now came the long slog back up the road to our starting point, hardly a chore with Golden Eagles to our left and right and even the occasional herd of Red Deer up in the hills. All around us Skylarks sang and you know what? It felt so good to be back on Mull, our break now truly underway.