At last a break in the weather for all of us here and what start it has been, being very mild, windless and sunny. Right now it is mid afternoon and looking from my office doorway the sun is blazing through as if through some huge golden, stained glass window.
It looks as holy as it is going to get here.
In the afternoon the sun was suddenly swamped by a huge shower of sleet but it has now passed and we are back to sunshine.
A short jaunt out was impossible to resist and on the way down Loch na Keal we had golden eagles, snipe, woodcock, stonechat’s, goosanders, mergansers, great northern diver, slavonian grebes, goldeneye’s, curlews, godwits, ravens, rock doves and more.
Looking now to Iona it seems for certain that we are in for another golden sunset in a couple of hours.
I miss being out on my Wildlife Expeditions and entertaining visitors, but there you go !! In Winter I am not use to being lazy and like our wintering barnacle geese, probably looking longingly toward Greenland and being useful again.
Here we go then now, with my predicted golden sunset over Iona and all of southern Mull !!
Well the sun is ‘dazzling’ me through the open door f my office right now and all is calm out there, with lots of birds up and making the most of it.. But blimey its been rough the last couple of days, with more to come in the early hours of tomorrow morning and into the rest of the day. Last winter was like this but fortunately we spent a slab of it in Lisbon, where it was warm and sunny.
We have just had a long weekend in Glasgow and stayed at the Crown Plaza with our grandchildren. It has a pool, very good food and accommodation and when our room was again 12 floors up, the views of the city and river are terrific. Not as good as here though !! Sonny did his usual go-kart session but Charlie chickened out.
Despite these Islands being so magical and magnificent it is always good to visit somewhere else, simply for the change of scene and to coin a well known phrase ‘see how the other half live’.
We had a very early morning drive, back to catch the 10am ferry from Oban to Mull and much of the Loch Lomond road was swamped by large amounts of water. In the blackness it was pretty hair raising. If there is a drawback to island life, it is probably that you have to get ferry’s, but they are also quite romantic things don’t you think, as they arrive at Quay’s all over the world and onlookers stand there, like we did in Costa Rica, wondering what people do there and where they have been too or are going too.
Its now 4.30pm and the sun is just disappearing over Iona. Our huge expansive sky is a sort of dusky green, dappled with grey clouds and the sea is silver grey and all is serene.
Being nature lovers I would love to say that I have been out and about with my eagle friends and had lots of interesting sightings.
However I have been confined to the house and immediate land, because customers are hard to come by at this time of year and its been amazing how many things I have found to repair, service, clean, paint etc. etc. Though it doesn’t make up for missing so much out in the islands wild places. Am I missing a Greenland Gyrfalcon, or a super pod of Dolphins for instance. It pains me to think this might be so !!
However, sightings of sunrises and sunsets, starry sky’s and unusually flat seas, sort of make up for it I suppose. At least, I am telling myself that !!
Tomorrow sounds like a windy day and I have come to realise that the wind is in control of our lives here on islands. A very strong wind means the ferry might not sail, a flat sea means you are going to see otters, no problem. Wild westerly seas can mean unusual birds turning up, blown inshore by storms.
John Denver has a song about the wind. His songs touch me greatly and always have. He sings so passionately about wild places and how important they are and always have been for man and beast. Like my magical Island of Mull is so important to me.
I have no wildlife trips for a while now, but plenty in the pipeline including now regular group bookings from the Majestic Line which are small but lovely cruise ships, which ply the waters of the Hebridean islands giving very high standards all round.
Its rather Arctic here today and this has kept me indoors working on jobs in the house and the immediate land outside. Sea eagles have been over here regularly, now looking for mates and territories of their own. So this is a busy time of year !!
It felt like being out in the wilds of Greenland today as I had a look down loch na Keal to see what was about.
Lots of common Gulls [ but not so common] and lots of other gulls, slavonian grebes, rednecked grebe, seals, goldeneye, redshanks, shellducks, bar tailed godwits, oystercatchers, herons always of course, rock doves etc and finally out on a flat misty grey sea and sitting on a small islet about 12ft across, was an adult white tailed sea eagle looking exactly ‘right’ in the Arctic day that this has been.
Despite the negatives it is all still very wonderful, for a boy who lived amid the steel works and poverty of industrial Sheffield.
Starry nights alright here, but the whole island has been visually stunning for a few days now and today ends with another dramatic sunset over The Isle of Iona.
It has been very calm and perfect for spotting otters and so no surprise when we had an otter just offshore and going toward Killiechronan today and another yesterday on the way to the ferry to Oban.
We were very close to the resident golden eagles as we climbed up the road from the house to the highest point, where the female was so close she looked huge as she was pestered by kestrels.
Lots of waders and gulls on the big shingle beach at Killiechronan lately and just before then I stopped to check on the adult sea eagles and instead found a young bird sitting on a small seaweed point, about 50m away, which then flew along the shore where it then landed about 25m away from us before moving on again another 50m where it sat for a long time.
Lots of rock doves, buzzards and ravens, great northern divers and quite a few Goosanders just offshore for some weeks now.
Yet again though, with snow capped peaks, mirror calm seas, and what has to be a photographers dream location, the island itself has stolen the show.
There is no doubt that to experience the silence and tangible emptiness of Mull and its surrounding islands in the Winter months, is almost a spiritual thing and ancient people must have been awed and even terrified at what surrounded them at times here.
We have had a few lovely days here, cold but dry and not windy.
I have come to grasp that the power of the wind is everything in these exposed Islands and that it dictates the quality of life for man and beast. Almost everything else is irrelevant by comparison.
The Hebrides are noted for wind but look at today from my office. It is incredibly calm with not a breathe of it and yet it can be so violent when it wants to be and I am sure that many people here feel that they are permanently putting things right and repairing things, after a really wild night. However I remember a close neighbour thinking of harnessing the wind with a small wind turbine. This expert came along in early winter and erected an instrument to measure the wind. He came back in June the following year, had a look at the results and came up with the conclusion that there was no point having a turbine here because there was no wind !!
The eagles love it of course as do sea gulls, simply because it is free ‘power’ to lift them up and do whatever they want to do, with little actual energy loss and much to gain, in allowing eagles to display and soar with their mate and firm up their relationship and for youngsters to search out mates and then find a territory of their own.
All the sea gulls seem to see it as a massive adventure up in the sky and showing off. Wild coastal winds also push lots of prey inshore and carrion onshore for them to feed on and again using little energy.
Because it’s windless today I can put money on the fact that they are waiting for the wind to come back and for them to party again. So it wouldn’t be the best wildlife trip day today. Best weather being sunshine and showers and a bit of Hebridean WIND !!
We have enjoyed three days of sunshine and the most magical visual effects, between sky, clouds, sea, islands and mountains.
At this very moment there looks to be another Turner painting being created above Iona and the South of Mull, way out across the sea.
All creatures here are certain to be enjoying the sunshine and dryness that we now have, which as usual it is the result of easterly winds instead of westerly’s, when we are protected by the rest of the British mainland.
There is too much to record on days like these I am afraid, with eagles, hen harriers, divers, otters and so much more to be seen and enjoyed. However the most important thing that man and beast know here, is to get out and enjoy it while we can !!
Well there has been a lot of action here, along with ,much feasting and drinking, ferry’s cancelled, dramatic weather and lots fun.
We have a fantastic outlook here looking west to ocean and islands and it has been the perfect place to celebrate Christmas and The New Year with our children and grandchildren.
We have had done lots of exploring, in between the very dynamic weather but the last two days have been much calmer and dryer, and wherever we have been , from the northern tip of The Island to the heart of our mountainous centre, we have seen both species of eagle on numerous occasions and this has been so pleasing to see after they had such a shocking Winter and Spring in 2015. The Island is pretty empty at this time and it was lovely to be out on the white sands of Calgary beach with eagles overhead and great northern divers and seals just offshore. The whole family have seen otters and lots more. However ducking and diving over ferry’s has been tough going with complicated cancellations due to high winds.
Do remember by the way that under the newly introduced RET system, all ferry crossings are much, much cheaper for 2016. However, will this draw more day trippers over in their cars, just to tick Mull off their list and burn around the island? Killing even more otters, in their haste to ‘do’ the island and get back to the ferry ??
These magical and romantic Islands have no protection of course and I have done my best to persuade people over the years that they should have, when this is clearly such a very special place.. .