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Monday, 6 June 2011

Magnificent Mull - (final) Part 3.

By now in our holiday, the worst of the evil weather had passed. The winds had subsided a little, and CalMac ferries were running again (although I'm not sure if the Mull ferries had been affected). It was, however, still pretty wet and dull.

Wednesday 18th May

We had an early start, and my wife spotted a pair of Otters out of the kitchen window. By the time I'd got my shoes and coat on they were far out in the bay, and only a record shot was obtained. This was the only time that we saw more than one Otter at any one time.

Otters - off Grasspoint
 The Otters then made for a distant shore that was accessible by foot from the cottage. Having taken a shot of the rainbow (the Otters are actually substituting for a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow, but you won't see them at this distance!) I set off to try and spot them from the other shore.

View From Grasspoint
It took me a long time to get there as much of the ground between the cottage and there, was bog. I arrived, with very wet feet, to find that they'd already gone. However, there were some Turnstones nearby.

Turnstone - near Grasspoint
 After breakfast we headed out in the car. Before we reached the bridge, I noticed that the male Goosander was out on the water with his mate. What is more, the weather had brightened a bit, and so some images were obtained from the roadside - somewhat nearer than my previous attempts.

Goosander (drake) - from Grasspoint Road

Goosander - from Grasspoint Road
 Our chosen destination for the morning was Fidden, near Fionnphort. On the way, beyond Bunessen, we came across a Buzzard on a fence post beside the road on my side of the car. Stopping is quite difficult on the road as it must be one of the busiest single track roads with passing places in the country. I approached slowly, but trying to drive, keep an eye open for traffic, and take photos all at the same time was not easy. Each time we approached, the bird took off and flew about three posts further down.  This happened three times before we both decided that enough was enough. When I came to look at the results, I found that my camera had misfocused for all the shots. The following two images are all that were salvageable - just!

Common Buzzard - Fionnphort Road
As we approached Fidden, a Mountain Hare crossed the road in front of us. This one was exhibiting a bit more of its winter coat than others we had already seen.

We parked down near the water and went for a look around. I was conscious of the fact that Lapwing nest amongst the Iris plants here, and the birds get agitated as you pass by - which I did without delay.

Lapwing - Fidden
The tide was half out when we arrived, and Ringed Plover were pecking around in the sand and weed.

Ringed Plover - Fidden
A peek through a gap between rocks revealed a pair of Eider lazing around.

Eider (female) - Fidden

Eider (drake) - Fidden
Whilst photographing the Eider, an Oystercatcher had sat patiently on a rock just to my right.

Oystercatcher - Fidden
On the way back to the car, and my waiting wife, I thought I'd just take another shot of a Mipit!

Meadow Pipit - Fidden
Fortunately my wife had taken a book to read, so was quite happy for me to leave her in the car whilst I went off to try and find some Mountain Hare. I found a couple that were reasonably cooperative, and still exhibiting some winter white.

Mountain Hare - Fidden
I'd pretty much decided to call it a day, and return to my wife, when I spotted a hare with a lot of white on. It went over the brow of the hill, and I followed. I was amazed at how close I was able to get to this animal. At one point it got up and ran, as you can see in the second image below, but then it came back even closer to me and started to preen. After grabbing some images (again I had camera problems) I left it still preening itself!

Mountain Hare - Fidden
After more exploration in the south-west of the island we headed back to Pennyghael for another excellent meal at the Pennyghael Hotel, after which we headed back towards Grasspoint. We'd left the hotel somewhat earlier than the previous night, and it was not yet dark as we passed by the end of Loch Spelve. We had been told of Short-eared Owl in these parts, and as we got to a place known as Ardachoil we spotted two - one to the left of the road, and one to the right. Both were very distant, and the light had gone as far as photography is concerned, but I managed to grab a few images of one bird before both birds vanished. The second image is included because it was only after we'd been watching the owls for a little while that we noticed the deer!

Short-eared Owl - Ardachoil (Loch Spelve)
Having left the area, we stopped to talk to two birders on Grasspoint

Further down the road we came upon more Red Deer. It was virtually dark by now. Whilst watching the deer I caught sight of an owl out of the corner of my eye as it went over the top of the ridge. My wife saw it more clearly, but we are neither of us sure what sort of owl it was - Short-eared or Tawny (I fancy the latter).

 Red Deer - Grasspoint Road
Thursday 19th May

From the bathroom window, before breakfast, I got my first image (although not a good one) of a Wheatear at Grasspoint.

Wheatear (male) - Grasspoint
After breakfast we headed off to the north-west of the Island. Our first stop was at Croig. This is a picturesque place, but not much in the way of wildlife was seen. At least we were enjoying better weather!

Derelict Fishing Boat - Croig

Bog Cotton - Croig
Willow Warbler - Croig
Next, we returned to Calgary Beach for a lunch break. From the car, I got some images of the Hooded Crows, including one with the freaky thing they do with their eyelids.

Hooded Crow - Calgary Beach
After lunch I went for a short walk to the Sand Martin bank. I was hoping to get some shots of the birds at the entrance to their nest holes, but they were flying straight in, and straight out again. I stayed there for over an hour, and managed a few images of the birds in flight - not an easy task. One bird did take a rest outside its hole on the furthest part of the bank, and another paused briefly in the nest entrance before taking flight.

Sand Martin - Calgary Beach
We then took the road to Caliach Point, stopping at the end of the public road by a house named 'Sunipol'. Beside the car was a puddle where Swallows were collecting mud for their nests.

Swallow - Sunipol
As we turned the car round to return down the road, we noticed these two young rabbits in holes in the dry-stone wall.

Rabbit (juvenile) - Sunipol
As we were going to have an early start the following day, and had to pack everything up at the cottage that evening, we set off back south, stopping at Craignure Golf Club, where there were Golden Plover on one of the greens. These were not close enough for good photography, but I had to try as I usually only see these near home in winter plumage.

Golden Plover - Craignure Golf Course
In trying to get better images of the plovers, I went round to the beach at the back of the green. It didn't get me any better images. However, there were a few gulls on the shingle that departed noisily as I approached. It was only when I saw that there were a number of gulls scrapes with eggs in that I realised that I'd disturbed brooding gulls and so, having taken a couple of shots, I quickly departed. 

Common Gull Eggs - by Craignure Golf Course

Common Gull - by Craignure Golf Course
Back at the car, I stopped to take some photos of another rainbow scene.

Rainbow - Sound of Mull
There was just time to check out the Short-eared Owl situation at Ardachoil before we had to be back at the cottage. We sat patiently in the car for a while and all that was seen was a pair of Whinchat.

Whinchat (female) - Ardachoil
Then, just as the weather started closing in and the light going, I spotted an owl about quarter of a mile (400 metres) up the road. This bird was a little nearer the road than on the previous night. However, the wind was in the wrong direction so that it was facing away from us for most of the very short time that it stayed relatively near. After what in reality was probably only half a minute, it departed into the distance, and the rain started.

Short-eared Owl - Ardachoil
Friday 20th May

Today was 'going home day' and by 7.00 a.m. we were on the road. As we approached the Grasspoint road bridge we saw the snow that had fallen overnight on the nearby Beinn Bhearnach hills (only 741 metres a.s.l. at the highest point). Photos were compulsory!

Snow on the Tops - from Grasspoint Road
Whilst waiting for the ferry, I noticed a lone Red-breasted Merganser. Previous visits to Mull at this time have resulted in seeing many of these, but this was only the third seen during this visit.

Red-breasted Merganser - off Craignure
The journey back to Oban was relatively uneventful. It was so cold and windy that, amazingly, I was the only person out on deck - it's usually quite busy up there! From the deck I saw most of the usual suspects, and took my first images of the holiday of Razorbill.

Razorbill - from Mull-Oban Ferry
Also from the ferry it is possible to get distant views of the cottage that we stayed at (ours was the small white one on the left). The converse is, of course, also true, and I know which view I prefer!

Grasspoint - from Mull-Oban Ferry
From then on, it was just the hard slog home to the Midlands - nothing exciting seen. I had always wondered how we would fare if we ever had a week of foul weather on Mull. Yes, it would have been great if we had enjoyed sunshine and gentle breezes, but we still had a really great time even if it was a little different to what we expected.

Footnote - for some reason the Blogger editor is doing some unpredictable things with the spacings between paragraphs and images. I'll try and sort it out, but please bear with me if I don't succeed - I don't fancy starting this again from scratch!!!


  1. Some stunning photos there. Yet another place I must visit!

  2. Hi Richard, Lovely, lovely set of pictures from Mull. A holiday in Mull beats any holiday abroad ie Spain (these popular holiday destinations) even when the weather is a little damp and cold.

  3. Thank you Jeremy - you really should visit. There is so much more we could have done if the weather had been more favourable!

  4. Thank you Linda - Yes, I too would much rather be on Mull than in Spain!!

  5. A superb 3 part encounter of your scottish break, made excellent reading, well done Richard.permar

  6. Thank you Paul. And many thanks also for inviting me to join you yesterday for a fantastic evening ringing your owls. It's a memory that will stay with me forever!

  7. Superb entrance, complete,interesting and with cracking birds for me.....


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