Thursday, 26 March 2015

Isle of Mull, March 2015 - Part 2

Sunday 8th

The morning dawned bright and sunny, a far cry from the weather of the day before.  I spotted several Greylag Geese and a male Red-breasted Merganser swimming in the calm bay below.  Behind the house, a Red Deer hind was grazing on the ridge of the hill.

Garmony Point - Fishnish circular


View across to Lochaline
Beautiful views across to the mainland, unlike the day before when we struggled to see a few metres. Seaweed, in various shades of green and orange, contrasted against the blue water.  There were many Oystercatchers, Curlews, and Cormorants.  I spotted a Great Northern Diver in the Sound and a couple of Canada Geese on a skerry.

A Robin in fine song
A juvenile Cormorant was standing on a rock, wings spread, drying off in the morning's sun.

Grey Herons were frequently spotted.  We came across one standing ahead of us on the forestry track, as another flew off.  The track Heron flew up to a nearby conifer and attempted to balance atop the spindly branches, a most unnatural looking pose!  The noise coming from the heronry hidden among the trees had a prehistoric tone to it, Jurassic Park sprung to mind!  Eerie, but fascinating to listen to, shrieks and growls emanating from the depths.

Grey Heron undertaking a tricky balancing act
Visiting the new hide at Fishnish turned up a Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant standing on a nearby partly submerged reef, behind which the Loch Fyne chugged past.  Herons were standing in the shallows.

Raptors (and Hoodie) glide above in the new Fishnish hide
Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant, with the 'Loch Fyne' heading into Fishnish
On the way back to Garmony Point, I spotted a pair of Wigeon bobbing along the shoreline, the male's pale head stripe alight in the sunshine.  Six Red-breasted Mergansers (two females, four males) were swimming nearby. The males were having a dispute with each other, giving chase, splashing and diving, before they carried on with their snorkelling.

Wigeon
Above and below: Red-breasted Mergansers

A boardwalk over boggy ground, oozed with frog spawn, some of which was drying up in the sunshine.

Frog spawn
A lone Ringed Plover, a bird which is usually running about so fast you can't keep up with them, was standing motionless upon the weed. Nearby, Oystercatchers poked around the shoreline with their long orange beaks, beady red eyes keeping watch.

Ringed Plover
Oystercatchers
Scallastle Waterfall Walk
Corbie, Labrador, leading the way
The sun had reappeared after a heavy rain and hail shower. Snow patches clung to the corrie's higher slopes.  Heading up the forestry track, I heard then spotted a couple of Long-tailed Tits.

Two Ravens cronking to each other came into view in the distance, and I watched them fly across.  I lowered the binoculars, until out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the Ravens swoop down to the hillside, and disturbed something large that moved off.  A Red Deer?  Up came the binoculars once again, to discover that it was in fact a Golden Eagle that the Ravens were mobbing.  Up flew the Eagle, soaring and trying to rid itself of its corvid companions.  A heavy hail shower came on, and I lost sight of the Eagle.  Once the hail had eased off, I retuned to the binoculars and caught a brief glimpse of the Eagle again as it drifted down and settled just below one of the snow patches.

The distant Golden Eagle

The hail shower passes
Returning along the path, bathed in sunshine once more, I spotted a Buzzard perched. It took off as we neared closer along the track.

Buzzard
Back at the House ...

I watched a couple of Buzzards flying towards the hillside. Then things started to get exciting...

White-tailed Eagle spotted, first of the holiday!  One wingtag on its wing, confirmed this was the female. She soared above the forest, then I watched as she turned and started to head towards my direction.  Soon she was above the plantation next to us, and we watched as she flew past along the tree line, and out of sight. Relax... but not for long...

The Eagle's white tail highlighted by the sun against a dark grey sky
Female White-tailed Eagle gives us a fly past
Minutes later I spotted the Eagle on her return journey, and once again she soared above the forest. This time she had company: a Buzzard and Hooded Crow.  This gave me some fantastic action as I watched through the scope. The Eagle performed 360 degree barrel rolls, legs and talons outstretched as the Buzzard mobbed, over and over she went. Each move appeared so effortless, despite her huge size.  Wings flipped, and over she went, legs in the air!  They evenutally flew off out of sight, her foes still in tow.

A few images, taken over a distance, of White-tailed Eagle versus Buzzard
Then another large raptor appeared - a juvenile White-tailed Eagle!  It flew above the Sound for a while, travelling a mile or two, then came back, turned and descended to the water, making a grab for something in the bay.  I didn't see if it was successful, but it did attempt to perch in a nearby conifer at the edge of the forest.  I say 'attempt' because, as if that action wasn't enough, another raptor appeared and it wasn't too happy by this youngster's intrusion. Up it flew, it's black wing tips and pale plumage instantly recognisable as a male Hen Harrier!  The birds flew higher, the smaller mobbing the giant. The sleek grey Harrier pursued the larger Eagle until they disappeared from view.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle
To end that amazing day, the sky was very clear and the stars shone bright. Jupiter was visible, as were its four moons.

Read more about my week on Mull:

Part One - Return to Eagle Island
Part Three - Weather Extremes
Part Four - coming soon
Part Fivecoming soon

© Karen Hartnell & Graeme Low - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.

Isle of Mull, March 2015 - Return to Eagle Island

Saturday 7th

A wild wet day didn't bode well for having to get a ferry across to the Isle of Mull. In fact, it was a year to the day that we nearly didn't make it home from Mull due to the same kind of weather!

We planned to travel across from Lochaline to Fishnish, as that ferry had more chance of running in that weather than the Oban one.  Thankfully, the smaller vessel that had been on the route beforehand, had been replaced that morning with the usual Loch Fyne.  We packed the car, set up my phone to receive any sailing notifications from CalMac and kept our fingers crossed!

The flooding in the glens and fields from Callendar through to Ballachulish was extensive.  At one point, it covered an area of the road and we were very lucky to get through when we did. It was later closed!

Flooding either side of the road by Loch Tulla (right of photo, which is usually
beyond the trees!
Waterfall on the Glencoe road, and some mad fool standing on it!
Water cascading down the Three Sisters
The Corran ferry was running ok.  While we were sat on it waiting for the off, Loch Linnhe below was making us roll about a little too much for my liking - memories of a very rough Isle of May crossing back in June were springing to mind!

Thankfully, once we got moving, the up-and-down motion eased.  One ferry down, one to go.

Arriving at Lochaline, the Loch Fyne was moored.  We drove on around 2pm to be told the previous sailing hadn't left and they would be reviewing the situation at 2.45pm - wild squalls across the Sound.  An anxious 45 minute wait later, and the engines started... but we were not out of the woods yet. Would it make it all the way across to Fishnish? Over half way, and the point of (hopefully) no return, tickets were bought, and I counted down the metres on the SatNav until dry land.

We finally breathed a sigh of relief as the ramp came down and we drove onto terra firma once again.

"Hello Mull!"

Read more about my week on Mull:

Part Two
Part ThreeWeather Extremes
Part Four - coming soon
Part Five - coming soon

© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.