For the moment our weather has gone back to its historic and wicked ways for this time of year, with winds now coming from the West and bringing rain !! Though looking from my office at this very minute it is clrearing over Iona and sunshine is on its was.
However as all know I am like an eagle and an optimist and between the shortest breaks in the rain we got good views of porpoise and the white tailed sea eagles on Loch na Keal. Then of course the usual expected sightings of rock doves, gannets, seals, pipits, mergansers, lots and lots of gulls, redshanks, curlews, ravens etc etc. However the need to see otters was hanging over me again !! Well it was wet alright but on parts of the coast it was pretty calm, which helps enormously to spot otters. We eventually ended up at Pennyghael then for a last throw of the dice and as I pulled over to check a spot that otters favour, there it was fishing between a small islet and the shore. Form then on it was all Indiana Jones stuff with us scrambling along the shore and getting very wet but with the party excited. The search is all part of it at times, isnt it ? In fact I feel that wildlife tv programmes could follow a group like mine with ordinary people who are keen to see and learn, as part of a ‘How to spot Golden Eagles or Otters day” or whatever. Rather than just sticking wildlife in front of tv viewers and giving no meaningful clues on how to actually find these creatures themselves. On the way back to Craignure there was much banter and more informing by me on where and how to spot wildlife, which as everyone knows I am always happy to impart, along of course with a much needed code of how to behave near Britains wild creatures also !!!
I am in that annual period when I get a very varied group of people for my trips, which always means that I have to work so much harder.
Off to look for the sea eagles first then and we got good views of adult and young birds. Then a really good long term sighting of an otter in much the same area as he rolled around on the seaweed and lifted lots of it to look for small crustaceans. These were very very good and close views as he eventually ambled over the rocks and up to his holt.
After seals, red deer stags, wheatears, ravens, buzzards, rock doves etc,. we were off for the big one, The Golden Eagle. I stopped a few times in Glenmore to scan the horizon and found more red deer stags. Then my friend Martin Frizelle and his son spotted something break the skyline for a moment at the highest point of Glenmore and then it all kicked off with golden eagles flying and sitting on the mountain side, then beating their wings very fast as they rose into the heavens and then folding them into their body and plummeting down to earth and racing along the side of the mountains. They also picked on a kestrel to have fun with, which looked tiny against the size of the male and female eagles as they chased it around the hillside.
I was so pleased to see these two which had unfortunately failed to rear young this year and I have known them for around 30 years now. Like the otter it was a BIG sighting, with Golden Eagles doing all the wonderful and inspiring things that only they can do. If only I lcould fly , I would have a super time up there with them.
It’s more amazing weather here again this morning and so work on the house for me first thing and off after lunch to the Community Center at Craignure for a meeting to continue my crusade in trying to get small parking areas and some on the ground interpretation for our visitors. What a battle it has been on this and National Park status for these wondrous Hebridean Islands and I may still be years away on this. I am, to be honest, brassed of with Alex Salmond banging on about his black gold and yet he never mentions the countries far more valuable and far more sustainable green gold, which is of course our gobsmacking natural environment. The Scottish Government are obsessed with industry and totally ignore the reality that tourism is by far the biggest earner and job creator particularly on the West Coast and Islands. It is TOTALLY unacceptable that the countries magical Crown Jewels are entirely open to whims of market forces, with no one in charge of them at all here.
Anyway !! It was a good trip again yesterday with people from France, Germany and the UK and everyone seemingly mad keen to see otters. Well !! I stopped for lunch on the shores of Loch na Keal and as I opened my back doors to do this there appeared to be a very large chunk of kelp rising out of the water just offshore . It just didn’t look right to me and it still wasn’t clear in the binoculars and so I got the telescope on it and there it was a big otter in between the kelp eating a fish. Everyone then had a good view and I reflected on what an amazing moment it actually was, when they have around 2 miles of coastline and there he was having his lunch while we had ours !! But then optimists create thie own luck don’t they and pessimists have none !
Its a stunning start to the day here and we are going to have good weather all week. So get in the car or fly up and hire a car at Glasgow Airport and get over here as soon as you can, because its not going to be good down South !!!
Its like starring in a Turner Painting again here this evening, with a fabulous golden landscape, vast sky sprinkled with gold and grey clouds out over Iona and a tranquil sea. It has been another good summer here just like the last three where we even had forest fires here and across the sea on the mainland. We also came close again regarding major water shortages. Should we dare to complain to Mother Nature when the West of Scotland is historically seen as wet !! Well it’s not true anymore !!
I had a group of six people from the South of Mull on the trip today and another lovely family of two adults and two small children, this time from Italy. There were big ‘Wows’ from the children on seeing the sea eagle via my telescope and we saw gannets, both seal species, wheatears, pipits, still lots of swallows here, goosanders, red deer and more. We also had one of those otter moments, where I seemingly now have a realationship with an otter that turns up as the tide gets high and behaves like an otter should on a small islet. If he keeps doing this into the Winter I am going to have start thinking seriously about some sort of Christmas present for him !! Pity though that after losing him coming off his islet, 10 minutes later one was trotting up from the sea and across the rocks, across the road and into its holt !! Most of us missed this but the lady from Italy.
By the way the view from the house is now even better than a Turner painting and its going to be another romantic Hebridean sunset and I am told sunny into next week.
Its been a beautiful day here for a trip to Oban and it’s now shaping up to be a beautiful sunset.
My group yesterday was entirely made up of people from the European mainland. i.e. Germans, Italians and a lovely French family of two adults and 3 gorgeous children, one of which was 9 years old and full of questions and enthusiasm.
They were all thrilled to see the two adult sea eagles in my telscope and with ore of their youngsters flying in to sit with them in the pine trees on Loch na Keal. Over at Knock we immediately had one of the adult golden eagles circling the mountain above us. In time we had two young sea eagles up too with the two adult golden eagles and their youngster, which is clearly a male. 30 minutes later the 3 of them were up and chasing another golden eagle off their territory, Up the lochside to view Scarisdale rocks and the seals there and the big prize of an otter asleep on the islands toom which wriggled around as the tide gathered around him and then went for a walk along the island and into the water. Lots of Wheatears here still, rock and meadow pipits, various gulls, goosanders, buzzards, kestrels, ravens, lots of rock doves and eventually a red deer stag with his harem not far away.
I am so pleased that the rest of Europe is beginning to embrace their wildlife and in a couple of years I thtnk they will be as keen as we Brits are in enjoying our wonderful and often very rare creatures. Scotland might even reintroduce the wolf !!
A very calm day today when an otter should have been seen but not today. However it was a great eagle day with the male white tailed sea eagle sitting in a favourite place on Loch na Keal and 30 minutes later the adult female gliding over us from across the Loch with the very bright sun shining through her big white tail and then this years young male following her onto the hillside.
Across the loch now to look for otters and the golden eagles from there, where we had a number of eagles flying above us. An adult sea eagle with a youngster, a couple more young sea eagles and all up with the two resident golden eagles and my first good look at thier own recently fledged youngster and another golden eagle heading back across Loch Ba. 30 minutes later we looked back and watched one of the adult golden eagles doing its dramatic and even ‘poetic’ flight display and repeatedly rushing into the heavens and then diving down at great speed.
I didn’t have a trip today but it was still worth a trip out for Joy and I and so down to Loch na Keal in very blustery weather. In fact we have had a beautiful big old sailing yacht just offshore here at Ulva Ferry for a couple of days now, which clearly cannot find a window in the weather in order to get out. The adult female sea eagle was sheltering in the trees and having the same problem in the squally showers, but like me she was watching for that moment of dryness and sure enough along it came and she was off and out to sea. Lots of terns were blown inshore in the same area as were Gannets on their travels to the South Atlantic. As I walked along the road following a very close grey seal the adult male sea eagle broke the near skyline carrying what was pretty certainly a greylag goose, which they rather like around here ! If birds of prey are carrying prey around it usually means they are still feeding the youngsters who should be off to Uni anytime now if they want to get on in life. Five minutes later the adult female was coming across the sea and then circling around and trying to spot the male with his prey and the youngsters.
The moral then is. Don’t worry of it’s raining in Western Scotland because it will stop and meantime it can very exciting in the wild here.
I must apologise for the silence eminating from my dairy in the last 10 days but having children and grandchildren scattered around Britian and a historically quiet time of year here for wildlife enthusiasts, we decided to visit them. So off to collect Sonny and chatterbox Charlie first from Glasgow and on the way south we stayed at the really super Holiday Inn at Scotch Corner where we had two adjoining executive rooms which very luxurious for a Holiday Inn. Then down to see Timmy and David in Wolking where they are waiting for completion of the purchase of a super flat. Lots of restaurants and then down to London for the Science Museum which of course the boys loved. Off to see Sam and Heather in Cambridge where they both work and who are also looking for a new home. More good eating and wine there and of course all of it such a change from the wild and empty beauty of Mull.
Before we went South I did have two excellent wildlife trips with golden eagles going over us and a female peregrine doing it all on Gribbun Cliffs. On the second trip we were totally eagled out !! With adult and young sea eagles sitting and flying and golden eagles joining in and flying and landing on the hillside and both species regularly being attacked by a very brave buzzard. This was a super long term encounter with eagles in the Hebrides and my guests could not have wanted for more.
From Monday I have regular trips again and all know that I love these times with people who have never seen an eagle, or an otter. However we did all enjoy the towny South for some reason !!! Maybe it’s just a human trait to be attracted to all those materialistic and colourful things ?
Its the most peaceful and beautiful evening again from the house after a super day with a very nice group.
Its a big sighting in Britain I feel when we can observe an adult male sea eagle sitting out on the hillside with its two newly fledged youngsters sitting close by. In Glenmore we had up to 3 distant golden eagles which always look dramatic in their vast and spectacular territory. We also had another pretty good view of hen harriers and always lots of ravens, buzzards, seals, hooded crows, sandpipers, wheatears etc.