Thursday, 17 September 2015

Scotland 2015 Part 1 - Mull

It's been on our list for a long time, and we finally made the trip to start exploring the beauty of the North and West coasts of Scotland. Our starting point was Mull, with only one thing in mind... Eagles. After a very enjoyable trip from Oban on the ferry which produced plenty of Manx Shearwater, we headed to the south-western tip of the island to set up camp. There were plenty of Stonechat and Golden Plover around, but the weather soon turned and a drizzly haze descended, severely hampering our chances of seeing any eagles.

The view was spectacular looking over to Iona, but we suffered from the lack of shelter....

This handsome fellow joined us for breakfast 

After a fairly sleepless night largely due to the wind, we decided to head to a more sheltered spot near Tobermory and explore on the way. We struck gold almost immediately, as we found a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting over some grassland near Pennyghael. Every time I am lucky enough to see one of these magnificent birds I can't help but think of their current plight in England and how we must continue the fight to protect them. We managed some great views of an Otter as it swam along just off the shore, and it wasn't long after that we connected with not one but two of our target birds. As we drove along the North coast of Loch Scridain two huge birds dropped over the tree line and cruised a little way before settling in some pines. We screeched to halt, then released we needed to get the car off the road first. There was some frantic reversing and soon we were looking through our scopes at a magnificent pair of White-tailed Eagles. Nothing that you hear or read can prepare you for just how spectacular these birds are, in size, structure and plumage. Wow! It was a joy to watch them from less than 200m away as they preened, every now and then stopping to observe their surroundings, check that we were staying put and then carrying on. From a bird on the brink to a conservation success story in 10 minutes.... Pause for thought.

There will be no digiscoping awards for this, but you can make out what it is. And what a bird..... White-tailed Eagle

Incredibly satisfied we continued North on the road towards Knock. The drive takes you through some beautiful scenery; steep hills rise on either side of the road, interspersed with grey scree contrasting with the vibrant flowering heather, while ahead sheer cliffs fall away into what on that day was a sea as smooth as glass. Scanning the hills we were rewarded with countless Buzzards and a pair of screeching Peregrine, but then something else appeared. It was being mobbed, and after a brief glimpse from a moving car the first thought was Buzzard and Crows. As one of the smaller birds banked, it had the unmistakable shape of a Raven, and then the excitement set in. There was more screeching of brakes and frantic parking, and this time we were watching a Golden Eagle being mobbed by Ravens. You can't write it. We watched as the party drifted along the top of the hill before dipping over the top and out of view. This is what all the hype was about. Soon after, the rain set in, and as it did a second Golden Eagle drifted over as we had stopped to look at a Black Guillemot on Loch Na Keal.

A very imposing silhouette, a pair of Golden Eagle

Beautiful scenery of Mull

The sun was shining in Tobermory and we got a much better nights sleep. We spent our next day exploring the North of the island. The whole island was littered with Buzzards and Ravens, and Stonechat and Wheatear were common too. We added another pair of Golden Eagle along the road from Salen to Dervaig. Mull had well and truly delivered, and very happy we took the ferry from Tobermory to Kilchoan and made for Fort William.  

A very welcome sight was a flock over 25 juvenile Mistle Thrush


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