i n t e r n a t i o n a l !

HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

M U L L

16 Ė 22 June 2002

Loch Spelve – Jane Atkins

Loch Spelve , mull
Leaders: Mark Newell & John Poyner

Guests: †††† Gemma and Darren Webb, Ian Chaplin and Vikki Howells, † Alex Duncan, Russell Ambrose and Lesley Wareham, Anne Selleck, Ian and Joyce Stewart, Peter and Maureen Stanistreet

Day 1

The majority of us meet up in Oban at lunchtime on a warm, bright day, most of us having spent the night here and having bumped into one another on various occasions.† Once on the pier, before boarding the ferry, we see Grey Seal and numerous gulls milling around.† We board the ferry and head out of the harbour around the northern end of the island of Kerrera where we pick up Black Guillemot and further out into the Sound of Lorne the calm waters reveal quite a number of guillemots.† We then pass the lighthouse at the southern tip of Lismore and head up the Sound of Mull seeing a few Arctic Terns and Lesser Black-backed Gull before docking at Craignure. †

Off the ferry we take the quick run up to the hotel to deposit our belongings and get a few things sorted out before going for a couple of hours birding in the late afternoon.† We head down towards Grasspoint, pausing just off the main road to scan over some of the moorland areas here, picking up a singing Curlew, a couple of Whinchats and distant Buzzard and Mallard flying around with numerous Meadow Pipits and a tantalising glimpse of a Hen Harrier.† We carry on down towards the point itself, passing a large number of Red Deer stags which seem totally unconcerned by our presence, only yards away from the road.† Reaching Grasspoint itself we walk out, passing the houses, to the edge of the rocks.† Looking back across the Sound of Lorne there are a lot of Guillemots on the water with an active group of Common Terns feeding in the tidal race with a few Kittiwakes and a couple of Gannets which we see plunge diving into the water.† There are some brief seals in the water and some Shags on a skerrie on the other side of the mouth of Loch Don.† Then Ian picks up a group of waders flying overhead and they turn out to be Bar-tailed Godwit which make several flypasts and appear to be looking for somewhere to drop in and feed before eventually disappearing off to the north Ė a welcome surprise to the trip.† The more familiar Oystercatcher are in the area with Rock Pipit on the shore and an active group of Starlings milling around.† There are also several Hooded Crows and Buzzards and then we spot a Buzzard mobbing something on the distant hillside and training our scopes, we can see from its size that itís a White-tailed Eagle, an adult sat on the hilltop.† Unfortunately itís some distance away and we can only see its head and shoulders, but we patiently wait in the hope that it moves and shows a bit more obviously.† With the wind having dropped, the midges start to come out so we think about moving on having seen a couple of Shelduck and a strange looking albino Mink which appears from the waterís edge carrying a large crab in its mouth as it comes incredibly close before disappearing into some crevice and out of sight.

We head back up the road, pausing to scan around and try and get closer views of the Sea Eagle.† Initially it is just sat in the same position, but we are distracted by a male Hen Harrier that flies along the ridge and we watch this smart bird for a couple of minutes before it disappears out of view.† We then have Raven going overhead and Snipe calling from the marshlands.† With that, the Sea Eagle takes to the wing and does a brief flypast along the ridge before turning tail and heading out over Loch Don where it is joined by a couple of Hooded Crows that pester it, with the hillside backdrop we can clearly see its white tail and enormous wings, before it starts losing height and drops towards the edge of the loch but unfortunately out of our view, as it is tucked in to a little bay.† We decide that this is our cue for leaving as the raindrops start falling and on the route back we see a couple of Goldfinch and an even closer party of Red Deer before back to the hotel with time to properly unpack and freshen up before dinner.

Day 2

The overnight rain has generally cleared away to leave a very blustery day of gale force winds predicted further to our west and on that cheery note we pack up the vans and head past the area visited yesterday on our way to Loch Spelve.† We take a slow drive along its northern shore and then south eastern shore, picking up an abundance of young birds of numerous species from Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Lapwing, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit.† However on the loch itself it is difficult to see very much in the waves, but we do find Shag, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider Ducks and some splendid Red-throated Divers which are milling around having come down from their freshwater loch nesting sites.† We run through the features of Common Gull whilst a Buzzard drifts over with a mob of Lapwing escorting it.† There are a few seals bobbing around on the water and when we reach Croggan at the end of the road we go for a walk amongst the oak woodland, picking up Redpoll and numerous young Blue, Great and Coat Tits, with some Chaffinches and Willow Warblers, whilst out across the mouth of the loch we spot a group of Wild Goats feeding around in the grassland.†

Back towards the van we pick up a young Hooded Crow before retracing our steps and heading over to Loch Uisg where we pause for lunch with a Cormorant on this freshwater loch.† We finish lunch and scan the ridges around us picking out a large nest that can only be a Golden Eagle eyrie.† Sure enough we see movement and can pick out the shape of an adult Golden Eagle which we watch as it moves around the nest before taking off and hanging in the strong winds and then drifting off away out of sight.† Shortly afterwards the second half of the pair appears at the nest and we see the downy, pale brown colouration of the chick as it poddles about the nest.† We enjoy good views before the second adult disappears and we wait around but it doesnít reappear so we return to the vans and head to Loch Buie.

Approaching the sea we come across several Stonechats on the wires and there are Buzzards in the air.† Parking up near the beach we almost immediately pick out a huge raptor hanging over the far hillside - Itís an adult White-tailed Sea Eagle and we watch it as it drifts in front of the hillside and we can pick out its white tail before it disappears out of sight, Lesley picks it up several minutes later and it gives a good fly past being joined briefly by a Kestrel and a couple of Hooded Crows.† It wheels up and eventually out of view.

White-tailed Sea Eagle
White-tailed Sea Eagle – Dave Kjaer

We walk along the track and out onto the sandy beach where several of the Sand Martins are skimming back and forth with Red-breasted Merganser out on the water with numerous Oystercatchers.† Returning to the vans we retrace our steps and upon reaching the freshwater Loch Uisg, we see a very close Black-throated Diver, a real surprise on the trip.† Although it drifts over to the far side, we get superb views in the increasing sunlight, while a little further along the road we see a Tree Pipit.† We stop again at the eagle eyrie hoping for more views and after a little patient waiting we see the adult fly in with a small morsel of food for the youngster in the nest and we watch it being fed for a couple of minutes before the adult leaves the eyrie, drifts up, away and out of sight.† We take this as our cue to move onwards.

We make our way back, picking up a delightful pair of Yellowhammer feeding on the tide line in very untypical behaviour and also a smart male Siskin.† We pause beside Loch Spelve, scan the shore from where we can hear Whitethroat and scan through the assembled gulls, Grey Heron, ubiquitous Common Sandpiper etc, before returning to the hotel with plenty of time before dinner.

Day 3

We wake to a bright and mixed day and head up to Salen where we have a shop stop before driving across the isle to the little stone bridge at Knock.† We get out of the vans and almost immediately a White-tailed Sea Eagle sails overhead, another adult which is being pursued by Ravens and it lumbers off to the south disappearing out of sight.† We stand on the bridge and Lesley spots a Dipper on the waterís edge Ė itís a young bird with its scaly markings and dirty white bib Ė but it shows incredibly well and remains in view during the duration of our stop, whilst Pheasants are finally seen by all in the undergrowth.

Across the bridge and up through the plantation we have several family groups of Coal Tit, hear Goldcrest, watch House Martin overhead and again see the adult Sea Eagle flying low against the hillside, its gleaming white tail showing clearly and proving irresistible to the pursuing Ravens that send it headlong across the valley and way out of sight.† There are a number of Mistle Thrush here and also Song Thrush whilst a Grey Wagtail flies along and perches in view.† Before we reach the end of the loch there are a couple of Common Sandpipers but the rain descends and we return to the vans.

Leaving Knock we drive onto the edge of Loch na Keal and take its southern shore at a slow pace in search of Otters.† We pick up a few Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Oystercatchers along the shore before putting up a Greenshank that flies up and perches on a little promontory of rock, its distinctive coloured legs visible in the gloomy morning.† Thereís also Red-breasted Merganser here but generally itís quite quiet in the blustery conditions so we tootle along with the peak of Ben More hidden in cloud to the south of us.† But as we approach the foreboding cliffs of Gribun, out on the water we see the distinctive diving shape of an Otter.† We screech to a halt and over the next hour or so enjoy excellent views as it swims along feeding, eating as it goes, before we turn the vans around and park up in another lay by, where we hope the Otter may come ashore.† Our plan, surprisingly, comes together as the Otter appears with a huge eel, at least its own body length, from its size and shape we suspect it could be a Conger Eel, or maybe a Ling which after much exertion, it manages to drag ashore and begins to eat whilst the eel is still alive.† Itís in a nice prominent position for us and we are able to enjoy this much sought after mammal at our leisure before it eventually finishes its meal, having consumed virtually the whole eel, then swims off and out of view.† Delighted with our success, itís now lunchtime so we drive around the base of the Gribun cliffs, having seen a couple of brief Twite and over the choppy waters a couple of Greylag Geese fly by.

Finishing lunch we head on past Gribun from where we look out over the open mouth of Loch na Keal towards the islands of Staffa, Inch Kenneth and Little Colonsay and in the murky distance the island of Bac Mor or the Dutchmanís Cap and Lunga and then along the length of the Ross of Mull.† We then turn and head inland across the bleak moorland to the west of Ben More, before dropping down towards Loch Scridain.† We pause outside someoneís little cottage where there are some feeders hanging and numerous Siskins are dropping in, including a delightful male feeding a couple of youngsters, before driving the north shore of Loch Scridain picking up Buzzards and numerous Grey Herons then stopping at the eastern end known as Loch Beag.† Here we scan the rocky islands looking for something a little different and find various groups of Eider and also Cormorant and then over the distant mountains we pick out a White-tailed Sea Eagle which is some distance away and disappears up into the cloud and out of sight.† Ten minutes or so later the assembled Curlews, Gulls and Oystercatchers start alarm calling and we look up to see a superb adult White-tailed Sea Eagle drifting low overhead, giving a superb fly past joined by a couple of Ravens which see it on its way out of view and up into the mountains again.

We leave here and meander up to Glen More, seeing Whinchat en route before stopping at a view point where another brief White-tailed Sea Eagles goes over as we continue on stopping at various lay bys to scan the moorland in search of harriers or Short-eared Owls.† As this proves fairly unproductive, we make a stop where the road bends round and scan out over the young pine plantation, hearing Redpoll, Whitethroat and groups of Hooded Crows.† Our patience is rewarded not by Short-eared Owl, but by an adult Golden Eagle which appears over a far ridge and does a 180 degree tour around our view point, pursued a couple of times by Hooded Crows which gives a good idea of size and scale, before it too disappears up into the cloud.† Shortly afterwards we move on and start making our way back to Craignure, but the day is not over yet as passing the shores of Loch Spelve, a superb male Hen Harrier appears off to the left and drifts lazily over the road before heading up into the hills, escorted by a couple of Curlew and eventually disappearing out of sight.† So a bonus bird at the end of the day and back to Craignure.

Day 4†††††††††††

The plan for the day was to split the group with half of them heading out on the boat to the Treshnish Isles, but unfortunately the wind has still yet to abate and any thoughts of going to sea are quickly dispelled.†

Instead we all head for the Sea Eagle watch point, but again we have to split the group so Mark takes one van load off in the morning up to Loch Frisa where we rendezvous with the Forest Enterprise Ranger who leads us to the hide.† Once inside we are pointed in the direction of the nest where there is one large chick actively munching its way through some prey that has been dropped by one of the adults.† We watch this for several minutes before we hear the sounds of Raven overhead and we peer out of the windows of the hide to see it mobbing an adult White-tailed Sea Eagle which sails over the hide and off to the north, so nice to see the adult and chick.† We stay here for a couple of hours, picking up a number of woodland birds as well with an obliging Great-spotted Woodpecker on a tree, along with Redpoll and Siskin, while on the access track there is a Hedgehog scurrying away into the undergrowth.

Down on the loch there are a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers while Hooded Crows meander about.† We find out a little about the history of these particular White-tailed Sea Eagles and the general introduction programme while a little later on, Lesley picks up an adult White-tailed Sea Eagle which is heading purposely for the nest and we get excellent views but unfortunately a Crow appears and this sets off after the eagle which decides against dropping in on the nest and instead heads off overhead and way out over the loch. †It lands briefly and we are just about able to get a view in the telescopes when a second individual appears and they fly up and away out of sight.† Shortly afterwards they are picked up briefly as is a sub-adult Golden Eagle, which drifts along the ridge accompanied by a pair of Kestrels which eventually see it off.† Back into the hide and we pick up a Tree Pipit before itís time to leave and we head back up the track and off to Calgary Bay.† We drop down into the delightful Calgary Bay where we have lunch under the trees at the back of the beach.† Now that the sun comes out, its even warm enough for a Red Admiral butterfly to flit past but the breeze is still blowing as we have a bite to eat before Russell picks up a Golden Eagle, a youngster this time, that sails over the ridge with an accompanying party of Hooded Crows.

After weíve eaten we go for a walk along the beach seeing a brood of Eider ducklings and a pair of Red-throated Divers offshore and then take a walk along the edge of the far rocky shore, seeing a pair of Kestrel and manage to pick out the nest with a youngster bouncing around inside it.† Having also picked up Common Seal, we retrace our steps and a couple of brave souls go for a paddle in the water, before heading back to the vans with various attempts at leaping the burn before we meander our way back in the direction of Tobermory.† On the Mishnish Lochs we pick up Little Grebe before dropping down into the town to take a slow walk along the shop front, its delightfully brightly painted buildings proving an attractive backdrop.† After a while shopping, crossing the burn in Tobermory we come across a barely fledged Dipper directly below us under the bridge.† We watch him for several minutes before the adult comes into feed and disappears again, only six feet beneath us.† We have a look at the gulls gathered on the bare rocks, picking out the Common, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls, before driving south beside the Sound of Mull.† We pick up some Greylag Geese with goslings, more Mergansers and Grey Heron, while hauled out on the rocks are some Common Seals.

We continue onto Garmony where we stop for half an hour looking at the Common and Arctic Terns, Eider Ducks, a few Gannets offshore and Common Sandpipers on the waterís edge before going back to the hotel at the end of a nice relaxing day.

Johnís half of the group have been undertaking the day the opposite way around.† We first head north through Salen and up through Glen Aros where the weather is quite blowy, clouds are racing and its cloudy and misty on the tops as well.† As we drive up through Glen Aros we stop at a pull in at the side of the road to admire some Sand Martin nests before moving on and a couple of Goldfinch flit onto the fence by the side of us and again some more Sand Martins fly over a small river that we cross.† We make several stops through Glen Aros to scan the horizon for Raptors, but we only manage to pick up Kestrels wheeling around, while Curlew call in the distance, but we donít have any sign of eagles.

We carry on through Glen Aros and stop at the entrance to a hotel where there is a nice garden and a Whitethroat is singing merrily away which we manage to get good views of as it sits perched high upon a spruce tree.† Dropping down to Dervaig where the weather ahead of us looks a little bit brighter, we park up on the little beach at the edge of the salt marsh and scan out across the rocky shoreline.† Looking past the old fish wall we can see a few Mallard idly swimming about, Common Sandpiper call and a few Common Gulls mew around us but it is fairly quiet on the water with not a huge amount of birdlife.† We amuse ourselves watching a householder shoo the sheep away which have been trying to steal his shopping that he left at his gate whilst he was opening his front door.† It is all very entertaining as his poor wife charges at them with a broom!

We move on westwards and drive through Calgary down to the bay where we are greeted by the beautiful sight of lovely blue sky and a really deep blue sea which is spotted with white horses this morning making it obvious the boat would not have got out.† Itís a rather wintry looking sea and not one that you would expect to see in June.

We get out and have a look at Calgary Bay with its gleaming white sand stretching out before us.† Beyond the bay we make a slow drive for just a mile or so up a very windy road which climbs around the cliffs enabling us to get a better view out to sea where we stop and look towards the Isle of Coll which is distantly visible in the haze.† A few Fulmars dash along just above the waves, quite a way out, but itís a bit too difficult to see any other sea birds out there in these conditions and we drive further along passing a car, which has fallen into a ditch.

We turn around and make our way back, stopping at the Ďaward-winningí toilets at Calgary Bay near the little campsite to have a scan around.† We drive on back towards Dervaig and climb up onto the hill and drive onto the viewpoint for lunch before going down to the Sea Eagles.† From here we scan the horizons for any signs of eagles but unfortunately Golden Eagles seem to be in short supply today.† After lunch we drop down to the little lochan below the viewpoint where we find a Whinchat singing away and a small party of Greylags on the loch with goslings.† The two pairs have seven and two young respectively and we again scan the ridges behind for Golden Eagles but donít get anything.

We drive on and meet up with the Forestry Commission Ranger and are escorted down the glen along a track until we reach the little hide that views the nest.† From here we can clearly see a huge mass of twigs amidst a spruce tree, which is the White-tailed Sea Eagle nest and we can make out a very brown mass of feathers sitting there Ė itís the chick Ė nearly fully grown at 8 weeks old!† It keeps flapping its wings and occasionally stands up so that we can clearly see its massive wings with blue wing tag, placed to follow its future movements.† We watch the young bird and get a Cuckoo zoom past the hide and luckily itís not long before an adult White-tailed Sea Eagle flies in and wheels over the trees and gives us fantastic views of all its plumage, a lovely white tail against the dark background, before it disappears behind the ridge. †We watch the young bird and again itís not long before an adult sweeps in and lands on the nest dropping a food item in before flying off and giving stunning views as it climbs above the hide and away.† Itís not long before it reappears with the other adult and the two birds glide gently overhead, surveying the scene around them.†

We spend a good hour or so in the hide and are shown some wing feathers, huge long quills of this massive bird.† We are also shown a pellet as well which is a gigantic bundle of feathers and fur and probably the biggest pellet weíve ever seen. It turns out these birds have been mainly feeding on Fulmars and they have found some interesting things in the nest when its been inspected.† Some interesting items of prey have been identified including a Barn Owl and a cat!

After some stunning Eagles we take a look out at the back of the hide before we leave where there are quite a few Tree Pipits, some of which are flighting from the nearby pines.† We pass the Mishnish Lochs and down into Tobermory where we all have a quick look around the shops and take some shelter as itís nice to get out of the wind in the shelter of this delightful town.

Next stop is Aros Park where again itís nice and sheltered and we enjoy a relaxed walk around the water lily filled loch.† The water lilies have all burst into flower, yellows and whites, and the trees are really lush and green.† There are some quite unusual trees in the park, trees usually associated with southern England such as Chestnut, Beech and Hazel.† A Blackcap sings loudly from the scrub next to the park, Swallows swoop low over the water lilies, Chaffinches are numerous and we also hear Bullfinch.† Itís a lovely relaxed walk after sitting in the hide for a few hours and quite warm in the sunshine away from the wind.

We drive down towards Craignure, taking a stop on the roadside near Craignure golf course to scan out and find some Eider ducklings with a female Eider who appears to be teaching the ducklings how to dive in the shallow waters.† We pass a Common Sandpiper perched on the power lines and we scan out from the roadside looking for any signs of nearby Terns.† There are a few fishing in a distant inlet and we think they are probably Arctic.

From here its back to the hotel with time for a rest before dinner and a chance to catch up with the other half of the group allowing us to compare notes on our differing highlights of the day.

Day 5

We wake finally to a delightful bright, sunny day with only a gentle breeze which is all very fortunate as weíre off to spend the day on the island of Iona.† We set off and head through Glen More and down the Ross of Mull, scenically very different to the rest of the island, with a gently undulating landscape rather than the high hilly areas that stretch through much of the middle of the island.

Eventually we arrive at Fionnphort at the end of the road and wander down to the little ferry.† The 5-minute crossing takes us over the Sound of Iona and we pick up a few Shags en route, before setting foot on the island and we immediately head out of the hustle and bustle of the tourist trap and go off on our quest of Corncrake.† We are barely 100 yards along the road when we can hear the rasping call of this much sought after and very elusive bird, and spend some time scouring the field without any visible success.

We take a slow amble along the road, picking up our first Rooks and Jackdaws of the trip as Linnet fly overhead, before we turn inland and cross the narrow part of the island.† We come across Goldfinch on the wire and young Wheatears flitting around with Buzzard sat on a rocky outcrop while overhead two pure wild Rock Doves zip past.† We drop down to the delightful sandy beach known by its translated form as the Ďbeach at the back of the oceaní and here we have lunch looking out to sea where several Fulmars are milling around the distant stacks and just offshore there are numerous Eider Ducks.† With the warm sunshine beating down itís an idyllic spot looking out to the Atlantic but eventually we tear ourselves away and head back in the direction of the wild meadows in search of Corncrake.† Crossing the middle of the island we look on a fence to see a very close Twite and briefly a young one appears to be fed by the adult and also thereís a Linnet nearby for comparison.† Itís warm enough for the butterflies to be out and we come across Red Admiral and Large White and while looking at these near a small farmstead we glance up to see two Peregrine Falcons diving in pursuit of a Rock Dove.† It seems to be a little half-hearted chase and the Peregrines give up as the Rock Dove plummets earthward and escapes capture, but the Peregrines give an excellent display, wheeling around overhead, gaining height before disappearing.

Back towards the small township we again hear the distinctive call of the Corncrake and Ian Stewart briefly sees the head of one in the vegetation but unfortunately it disappears from view and none of the rest of us locate it before it starts calling further away and out of sight.† Instead we have to make do with a couple of Sandwich Terns which are flying through the Sound of Iona Ė a real surprise in this part of the world Ė before we arrive in the village and have the opportunity of wandering up to the Abbey, around the Nunnery, or continuing in the search for Corncrake.† Those that do the latter return to the shore road and although thereís no sound coming out of the fields, we are delighted to suddenly see a Corncrake take to the wing and fly low across the grassland and drop in out of sightó Brief but worth the effort!† We are now ready to head back for the ferry after a successful, delightfully warm day on Iona.

We take the ferry back down to Fionnphort where we are welcomed by a Grey Seal that is bobbing around just off the jetty and once in the vans, we drive a short distance to a sandy beach at Fidden where we see our first proper views of Redshank and some Common Gulls with chicks.† We then retrace our steps and head back east along the Ross of Mull, pausing at one point to look at a Curlew chick thatís running around beside the road, before continuing on into Glen More and winding our way back to a viewpoint that weíd stopped at a couple of days ago.† Weíre searching again for Short-eared Owl but the species seems beyond us and instead we have to content ourselves with a good display from two Hen Harriers, a pair quartering the hillside and the plantation a way across the narrow valley.† They remain in view for sometime before its time to make the short journey back to Craignure in the evening sunshine.

Day 6

Itís our day for the Treshnish Isles and due to boat numbers we split the group between the two boats, the Flamer and Turus Mara, going from different piers, but both with the similar aim of getting to Lunga.† Those that go on the Flamer leave a little earlier and head north up Glen Aros, pausing at Dervaig where they see four summer plumaged Dunlin feeding on the edge of the mud flats in this little estuary, also Redshank and the first Wigeon of the week.† Some of us are in a sour mood as England have just gone out of the world cup but as we arrive at the little pier at Croig the intermittent rain has eased off and thereís a light southerly breeze blowing.† We meet the crew of Jeremy and Sarah who escort us on board our vessel for the day.

Heading out of the harbour we can see the lighthouse of Ardnamurchan point with the island of Muck beyond and as we turn southwards, the island of Coll comes into view and we work our way out into the open waters, passing some Cormorants on a rock and numerous seals hauled up.† We start picking up our first auks of the day with a few Black Guillemots while the odd Fulmar drifts past and Gannets are seen further out.† As we round the headland the Treshnish Isles come into view with the Dutchmanís Cap, Lunga, Fladda and the Burgh Islands and as we edge closer a Manx Shearwater shoots across the bows and disappears westwards whilst our first Puffins appear on the water.† As we round the first of the islands we can see the ancient walls of various fortifications that occurred on the island at various times during its history before rounding Fladda and seeing several groups of Greylag Geese on the water and some delightful Black Guillemots very close beside us, perched upon rocks.† Further round we see an Arctic Skua pursuing some Kittiwakes, attempting to gain their meal before it disappears out of view and we start looking at the Grey Seals and numerous auks that are sat on the water.†

The other half of the group have a later boat departure and so spend a little time birding on land.† Exploring the north side of Loch na Keal we find Shelduck with chicks and there is an amazing sight on one of the beaches where a large flock of juvenile Wheatears are feeding and we see a mass of white rumps flying away across the rocks in front of us as we approach in the van.† There must be at least 30 birds on the beach, it must be some sort of gathering, perhaps its some kind of nursery flock but something weíve never seen before in Wheatearsó quite stunning.† There are also a lot of juvenile Pied Wagtails here with Common Sandpiper calling.† From here the road winds and climbs really high above Loch na Keal giving lovely views out over the water towards Staffa.†† We get Yellowhammers sitting on the wires and the whole road seems alive with birds as we drive along itówe find Stonechat, Reed Bunting, lots of Meadow Pipits and a Whinchat flies by.

We finally make our way down to the ferry at 11.15 where we see the boats already coming in and we board Turus Mara and go up on deck.† The boat heads out and across first of all to the Burgh Isles, just slightly north east of Lunga where we look at some Grey Seals and pass some Common Seals on the way out.†

As we come into our anchorage off Lunga there are a mass of Kittiwakes on the beach which take to the wing while one of the rocky islands has a large number of Terns which also take to the air as we pass.† We get ferried ashore but unfortunately the skies look a bit ominous however we walk along the beach regardless, picking up Ringed Plover and Oystercatchers, with Rock Pipit and Wheatear flitting about and with the group reunited we enjoy this seabird island despite the weather.

Off the beach and onto the first level of grass on Lunga, we start encountering Puffins and itís here we get some stunning views with them almost within touching distance as they wander round going in and out of their burrows, completely unconcerned by our presence.†

Puffins – Mark Newell

We make the slow walk along the slightly muddy track that hugs the cliff line and we encounter numerous Razorbills and a couple of Shag nests with a male in residence and again some fantastic photo opportunities of these seabirds despite the uncomfortable weather.† A few Twites flit past before we reach the impressive stack of Harp Rock which is covered with breeding guillemots numbering in their thousands, their purring calls drift up towards us with the occasional high pitched squeal of the youngsters which are being well protected from the elements by their parents.† Itís an impressive sight, but unfortunately the weather is not with us, however, further out we do see a pale phase Arctic Skua which is pursing Kittiwakes again.† We have lunch here trying to gain some shelter in the rocks before meandering our way back towards the beach, delighted with the views of some stunning seabirds.†

Back to the beach where the group splits again with Markís group re-boarding Flamer and as we pull out of Lunga Sarah brings us some much welcome cuppas and cakes and we meander our way back towards Croig.† The wind has picked up and itís quite a roly ride back but proves profitable with several close Manx Shearwaters which wheel away and out of sight.† Meanwhile a distant Great Skua skims low over the surface looking for some unsuspecting seabirds to prey upon.† We see yet more auks and some close flyby gannets before our 1Ĺ hour journey puts us back into Croig where we take off our wet clothes and switch the heaters on full or the 45 minute journey back to Craignure.†

Meanwhile Johnís half of the group splash on to the jetty to get on board the Turus Mara and then shoot off towards Staffa where in the last hour the sea has changed rather from slight to moderate and there are a lot of white horses and a fair swell.† We find we didnít make the best decision deciding to sit on the top as the minute the engines are put up full power, deluges of water come over us as the boat bounces to and fro through the swell and swings from side to side.† There are just gallons of water flying over us all Ė itís like somebody tipping buckets over our heads and none of us can move to get downstairs!† John makes a dash for the front and sits on the floor there for some shelter but weíve all resigned ourselves to the fact that we are already completely soaked and we are going to enjoy it!† Surprisingly no-one seems that interested in looking at Fingalís Cave on Staffa as the boat reels around so we head for the shelter of Loch na Keal.† Everyone seems to be making the most of the day as we head into Loch na Keal and although the weather is miserable, the scene is quite amazing with these huge towering cliffs topped by just a blanket of really dark ominous cloud and streaks of rain coming down Ė it looks like something out of Lord of the Rings and shows how dramatic Mull can look.

Weíve never been so glad to see the warmth of the hotel and the chance to dry out before dinner.† We attempt to avoid the evenings entertainment (?!) and instead use the time for our last look for the Barn Owl and Woodcock.

Day 7 ††††††††

Unfortunately itís our last morning on Mull so we get up, have breakfast, load the vans and have an hour or so to explore before boarding the ferry.† We head down to Loch Don for a brief bit of birding, checking out the estuary where the tide is low and we see Curlew, numerous Oystercatchers, gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers out on the water and our one and only Black-headed Gull of the week drifts past while thereís a Buzzard circling in the air and Skylark perched on a rock.† We turn back and head along a little further south and around to Grasspoint, crossing a little stone bridge and seeing Redshank and Common Sandpiper whilst a couple of individuals glimpse a Treecreeper nearby.† Down at the point we are out of the vans and almost immediately we pick up an adult White-tailed Sea Eagle flying over the loch with a Hooded Crow in hot pursuit and briefly joined by an Arctic Tern to give it more grief.† It does a good fly past and we can clearly see the colour of its tail before it drops out of view behind a ridge.† Down at the point there are numerous Common and Arctic Terns wheeling back and forth and a few auks on the water, but time is getting the better of us and we have to make our way back to Craignure, passing the usual herd of Red Deer, and reaching the pier ready for boarding and the short 45-minute crossing back across the Sound of Lorne to Oban.† Itís a bright morning and we see a few more auks on the water and bizarrely a Sand Martin flying over before we dock and sadly say our goodbyes at the end of an enjoyable week on the Isle of Mull.

SPECIES LIST

Red-throated Diver
Black-throated Diver
Little Grebe
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Greylag Goose
Shelduck
Wigeon
Mallard
Eider
Red-breasted Merganser
White-tailed Sea Eagle
Hen Harrier
Common Buzzard
Golden Eagle
Kestrel
Peregrine
Pheasant
Corncrake
Oystercatcher
Ringed Plover
Lapwing
Dunlin
Snipe
Woodcock
Bar-tailed Godwit
Curlew
Redshank
Greenshank
Common Sandpiper
Arctic Skua
Great Skua
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Arctic Tern
Guillemot
Razorbill
Black Guillemot
Puffin
Rock Dove
Woodpigeon
Collared Dove
Cuckoo
Barn Owl
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Skylark
Sand Martin
Swallow
House Martin
Tree Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Grey Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
Dipper
Wren
Dunnock
Robin
Whinchat
Stonechat
Wheatear
Blackbird
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Sedge Warbler
Whitethroat
Blackcap
Willow Warbler
Goldcrest (heard only)
Spotted Flycatcher
Long-tailed Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Jackdaw
Rook
Hooded Crow
Raven
Starling
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Siskin
Linnet
Twite
Redpoll
Bullfinch
Yellowhammer
Reed Bunting

BUTTERFLIES

Red Admiral
Green-veined White
Large White

MAMMALS†

Stoat
Common Seal
Hedgehog
Otter
Wild Goat
Rabbit
Grey Seal
Mink (Albino)
Red Deer

TOTAL SPECIES† 113