Well we have had two very nice days with lots of colour, sun and atmosphere. On the wildlife trip yesteday I spotted an early sitting Sea Eagle for my visitors and then off to where I think has to be the most spectacular setting in Britain to see more sea eagles and there they both were sitting out on a large shingle spit like a couple of fishermen admiring the scene. We left them to it to look for otters and again pretty soon there was one about 30ft offshore taking very quick dives to then surface just as quickly and go down again. It was rather untypical behaviour to be honest. Golden eagles eluded me for the rest of the afternoon until we saw a young male in Glenmore. However we did also see lots of great northern divers, red deer stags and seals.
Today was different being very sunny and cold but not a wildlife day, but a trip to the dentist who is always a pleasure to see, though she could do me harm. However she is Polish and the service is like being in a Harley Street top drawer clinic. Now how many people enjoy going to the dentists like I do !!
We have had the same belligerent weather as many other parts of Britain, which has been challenging for man and beast. What we don’t get is the huge collection of water that the flatter parts of the UK get and a couple of really sunny days like we have right now means that the Island dries off pretty quickly and teeming waterfalls of days ago turn into mere trickles. The joyous thing for us in the extreme west of the empire is talk as today of easterly winds, which are of course pretty normal at this time of year historically and it is always sunny on easterly winds on the west cost of scotland because by the time the weather has done its worst on the rest of Britain it has innevitably blown itself out. Last year was like this when in February and beyond it was so dry and sunny that we had lots of forest fires and waterr shortages on the West Coast and Islands and of course as many remember we have also had 3 very good spring and summers in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Lets hope for the same in 2014 and a good day for me tomorrow as I have a wildlife trip with people coming over on the ferry for the day. It’s my first chance to get my eye in under normal conditions here and find out what’s about.
It is still a fascinating thing to me that whenever I step outside of the house there is almost always something interesting happening. Anyway it was a day for the swimming pool, on a better day than of late !! I was turning the car around when above me was a peregrine falcon and then suddenly lots of other birds and the mate of the first peregrine appeared. Now how can anyone not be enthralled at being in a very wild place with the fastest creature on the planet wild and free. The two of them went racing along the ridge and swooping at the other birds before getting bored and heading off toward the Island of Ulva. Down at Killiechronan instead of seeing the two sea eagles I had a female merlin diving off a fence post and rushing up the hillside. In the pool which was as usual empty and therefore very nice, I saw this familar shape coming up from the shore and then wafting around outside before going away and then coming right along the side of the big pool windows. Yes a really super view of a male hen harrier.
The weather was a bit undecided this morning but by afternoon it became an almost Spring like sunny day. Golden Eagles and White Tailed Sea Eagles were regularly soaring on the hill behind the house, as were the innevitable Buzzards, Ravens and Hooded Crows. Down on Loch na Keal there was another big sighting of one of the Sea Eagles from there, sitting 50m away on a big seeweed covered rock and clearly upsetting all the other birds there. On the East of the Island we saw porpoise and down toward Craignure a flat calm and golden sea.
People regularly ask me what an eagle is currently doing, or is he hunting. The assumption being that birds of prey are always killing things but the fact is that most of the time when they are soaring around they are simply proclaiming territory to other Eagles that might fancy their mate or their territory. It is simply vital that they show that the territory is already occupied.
A really pleasant mirror calm day here on Mull. It’s what makes life so interesting here of course because every single day is different. We have a topping of snow on Benmore but just enough to make it look its usual imposing self, rising like a volcano across the sea from the house. Innevitably there are some lonely puffy clouds at its peak, as if it might erupt any minute. Once upon a time it did, but in those days it was the entire Island that erupted !! Off to Tobermory to see friends then and get some timber posts to improve our boundary fencing and keep those cows out. I always slow near Killiechronan because you just dont know what the sea eagles and otters there might do. However I wasnt expecting the eagles to be so close but there they were no more than 50m away sitting very close together on a seaweed islet. It was a big sighting as always with the sea and all of our mountains as a backdrop. This evening we just watched Rick Stein on TV in Spain and extolling about Seville being the most beautiful and sensuous city in the world. I couldnt possibly disagree. As a city they have it all there.
Yes I guess you could say that the last few days have been poor here but a lot better than the previous few days !! Its a commonsense pattern for wildlife and wildlife watching here at such times. A day like this of mist and drizzle, almost no creature away from the sea is doing anything but waiting for a window in the weather and then its all very positive because everyone is keen to feed. After checking on golden eagles in Glenmore in such a window a young sea eagle came lumbering low across the road and almost brushed a small group of female and young red deer sitting in the grass, but did they look alarmed? Leaving the house yesterday in a similar window a golden eagle had alighted on a ridge 50m away and pestered by a crow it launched off and climbed away. Just down the road an otter which is of course an animal not bothered about the weather, was relaxing and rolling around in the seaweed until a big white bird flew over it, which was a Glaucous Gull, down from Iceland or Greenland and which is also not bothered about the weather. In fact these islands in winter are like a summer holiday to such a bird.
Its been an altogether stunning day from the house today and on the roof it was even better, as I had to fix a few loose slates. It also seemed that wherever you looked today birds were in the air and no doubt overjoyed at the better weather. Its early evening now from my office and I have a very dark landscape stretching out toward the sea. Black islands and headlands mingle with a slightly less dark sea and then a few miles of dark hazy blue grey clouds sprinkled along the horizon of the South of Mull and Iona. Above that are bigger and darker puffy clouds within a lighter blue sky and above that into the heavens another layer of even bigger greyish clouds reaching into a blue sky above it all. I have just taken a photograph as I couldnt resist it. I suppose we should really have a webcam from here showing Mull in all its different moods and different times of year.
The Hebridean Islands is the most special environmental place that I have ever seen and I have seen a lot of our planet and I think that you probably have to be a special person to live somewhere wild and empty like this. The city is bit of fun to me these days and everything is so cheap there, but if you are special like a golden eagle or a dolphin then you should live here !!
After the incessant rain and wind here Mull has finally found peace with itself and it’s a visually beautiful day from here this morning with the perfect blend of sunshine, white and grey puffy clouds over sea and Iona and a good day for a sail to Oban. It’s a pity that most seabirds are now in the south atlantic because it’s very still on the sea and easy to spot things.
No wildlife trips at this time and what a pity because I know that it would be a really good period for wildlife days out.
It’s 2.30 and at this very moment we have our first blast of warm sunshine for some time flooding into the house. We planned to take Sonny, Charlie and Rufus back to Glasgow early morning but the ferry messages and wild weather made for difficult decisions and so we have plumped to do this tomorrow in better and more reliable conditions. Instead we took them to the swimming pool adjoining The Isle of Mull Hotel, where there is almost never anyone and you feel like royalty being there. So fun it was and on the way the inevitable wildlife watch. Lots of gulls were suddenly up from the grassland by the vehicle, and above us one of the Killiechronan sea eagles was pretty high and enjoying the drier weather like us. On the way back I watched a young sea eagle nearer our house trying to catch a gull in flight. Needless to say that lots of young eagles have not honed their hunting skills yet and the eagle had to give up. So here I am squinting into the sun as I look out across the sea to Iona. We did a lot of squinting at Christmas in Seville too !
Thank heaven we were in sunny Seville over the Christmas period as we have come back to dreadful weather that is worse than anyone can remember here.
There is still a wild beauty about The Hebridean Islands though and we were out on the sweep of Calgary beach yesterday with our three grandchildren. The emptiness of the Island is an almost a physical experience with great vistas of sea and distant islands and nothing but mother natures wildness going on and on seemingly forever. Lots of people here like the winter period with no visitors but personally I like to see the odd intrepid soul out there like us, leaning into the wind and looking forward to a good meal and a big fire in the evening. It was desperately wet coming back and I was surprised to see two golden eagles very close above us with their wings bent back to cope with the violent wind. They can only be desperate for food when they are out in such atrocious weather because it just isnt in their nature to be so reckless and get seriously wet. However they are also very very good at reading the weather and have pobably gathered that they need to hunt now because it could get even worse when we are in such a terrible spell.