It’s been a steadily clearing day here after some rain first thing but this evening is now a lovey time for a walk amid the wind and expectation that always pervades these romantic Islands. We have been having star filled skys lately and in the night it has been impossible to ignore the jet black sky with billions of stars twinkling in it.
Demand for my trips is now mellowing as townies retreat into their idea that Scotland is now inhospitable, which is not true of course. In fact winter is by far the best time to see both species of eagle, as resident birds defend their territoroes from young eagles looking for a home. Otters also usually have their young at this time of year as do thousands of grey seals offshore.
I have 7 people for Fridays trip and so 4 spaces available for keen visitors that are less townie, if you are still around.
We have just returned from a trip to see Sonny, Charlie and Rufus in Glasgow, which is always fun and we had a super meal at an Italian restaurant that I found when I was up there tgetting my vehcile serviced in the summer. Sonny loves go karting and we asked if his friend Cubar wanted to come as well. Little boys love stuff like that, as I did on my homemade kart [ without an engine !! ] when I was a little boy.
Anyway coming back from Glasgow we had very poor weather until we reached the West Coast of Mull when it cleared up beautifully.
On yesterdays wildlife trip we kicked off with a number of porpoise on the East Coast, two adult sea eagles with one of their young on Loch na Keal, slavonian grebe, red throated divers, seals and very distant golden eagles being mobbed by ravens. We also had siskins, bullfinches, yellow hammers etc. No otters but big views of two golden eagles doing their usual dynamic stuff and then on Mulls highest point a male hen harrier quartering the hill for some time and 10 minutes later a female with what looked like a young male. So another good day in lovely weather but this morning is wet and windy here.
It was a really drizzly, murky day almost all day today and even this evening as I do this posting, it is pretty poor out there.
However such days have been nil this year with wall to wall sunshine as far back as I can remember and if its sunny in The Hebrides its heaven on earth.
On Todays trip and despite the weather we had a good view of a hen harrier at grasspoint, lots of gannets and distant skua, bullfinches, the usual shags, herons, buzzards, ravens, hooded crows, twite, mergansers and goldfinches. No sea eagles today or golden eagles but a really good encounter with of an otter on Loch Scridain just offshore then coming in and fishing along the pebble and seaweed shoreline. We got a bit wet but it was still worth it.
Its another lovely day here but for yesterdays Expedition we had our first good bout of much needed rain. So back to the sun now please Mother Nature.
I was drawn again to my old haunt of Grasspoint, Croggan and Loch Buie and it delivered, as it always did in the past. At Grasspoint I observed a little bump on a small islet used by the two resident sea eagles which turned into a very contrasting black and white peregrine falcon that sat for some time despite the two sea eagles sitting nearby. Offshore there were lots of birds feeding and being chased by a Skua. Plenty of stonechats around this year, a lot of twite and goldfinches. At Croggan I hoped for otters and golden eagles and as we stopped for cakes and drinks on the way a young sea eagle flew just above our heads to cross Loch Uisg. At Croggan we had to be patient and eventually after a short walk, across the channel I found a female otter with a cub and coming back from Croggan a very close dog otter which was eating a big dogfish. Leaving Loch Buie a female and male golden eagle were close enough to see their golden head with my naked eye. Really close this sighting then as they circled above us. We also had two seperate hen harriers, one looking like an adult female and the other a young male. Lots of red deer as usual of course but basically today it was iffy weather with big sightings
I had my once a month Wildlife Expedition with the Majestic Line Luxury Cruising Company and their enthusiastic customers. The ships tour the Hebrides and part of their holiday is a land based day out with me.
The day was dry and bright and just as I thought we were going to have to find otters and sea eagles somewhere else I bumped into some friends of mine and as I said hello to Noel I glimpsed the give away sign of an otters long tail in the nearby seaweed and we proceeded to have really good views of the otter. Then up goes the cry of ‘EAGLE’ and the two adult sea eagles came breezing in very low to land in trees above us. I also saw jays again there and about 20 slavonian grebes just down from Iceland and entering their winter plumage phase. Off to the other side of Loch na Keal and a brief and distant observation of a golden eagle hugging the side of the highest mountain, before launching off.
To the end of the National Scenic Area now and high up with a favourable wind I thought we might get the two golden eagles from there and sure enough they both came from well ahead of us to repeatedly race along the hillside and occasionally chase each other right down to the ground.
Finally lots of red deer stags and females and 10 minutes later the two golden eagles from Ben Taladh doing similar things to our previous pair of golden eagles.
Today everyone had top drawer sightings of golden and white tailed eagles, otter and add the slavonian grebes.
Eventually we also had the much needed rain. Yipee!!
Mull is magical still here with little wind and no rain! So off to Calgary with Joy, Lucy, Sonny, Charlie and Rufus, who of course love it here as all children do. As we came into the bay there was an otter with a cub just offshore. Just remembering also that yesterday when we sailed over to Oban to meet them, there were a lot of porpoise going out and from Oban on another sea like glass.
Tuesdays wildlife trip was another success with very nice people. We had porpoise in the Sound of Mull, long term views of two golden eagles at Killiechronan, lots of stonechats, seals, dipper, red throated diver and my first pair of great northern divers down from Iceland, sparrowhawks, black guillemots, rock doves and kestrels and the inevitable good numbers of buzzards, AND !! three Jays, which have been very difficult for me here. Into Glenmore and two young sea eagles soaring along the hillside over lots of red deer and chased by kestrels and there sitting quietly on the top of the mountain was the resident golden eagle looking pretty relaxed about it all. Finally to Grasspoint and the elusive otter.
Yes it’s not funny anymore !! By that I mean this very dry weather that is forecast to continue, when almost everyone in the wilds of Mull and the other Hebridean Islands gets their water from a [ burn ] stream, which is then collected in a storage tank and filtered within each property. It’s for certain that some people are already out of water particularly in the South of Mull and the other Outer Hebridean Islands.
It has been another glorious sunny but this time slightly more breezy day but it is calm again this evening. Actually I think a big sell for an island holiday, wherever you are in the world, is that because you can go north, east, south or west you can always find it calm somewhere on an Island. Holiday on mainland Britain or mainland anywhere and frankly you cannot do that. Its worth thinking about and I know for certain that with the slighly breezier winds of today it will have been lovely and warm on our beaches of the south today. So cancel that mainland holiday next year and come to the romantic Hebridean Islands, which seem to be getting sunnier and sunnier with each passing year now !!
Its that time of year seemingly for me, when like the Eagles I now have time to gather my thoughts and think more!
At least every other wildlife trip someone asks me what it was that made me give up the usual 9 to 5 norm and come here. Then others gather and ask what life is like, what’s it like in winter and someone always says I wish I had your job etc etc !!
Fact is that like me every human being gets one or maybe even two big chances in life to be, or to do something quite different. The reality is that as most people are ordinary and live ordinary lives it will always be this way with our species. There are very few that when confronted with their once in a lifetime chance, are prepared for the effort, to fully commit, focus, devote and invest themselves in that chance of a lifetime. They just think it’s easier to be like everyone else.
I had two big chances that I grasped that changed my life. One was giving up my office job and studying to be a graphic designer and pursuing an artistic career, which I knew I would be good at. I was eventually head hunted at the end of my college course. Making that decision years before gave me the springboard and confidence to reach for even higher heights. My second big chance came with our move to Mull and be what I recommend to anyone, go self employed, where you are in charge of your own destiny and you feel more like ‘one in a million’ than just one of the millions.
I guess that you have to want something really bad to want to jump off that mountain like an eagle and I feel sorry for anyone who was confronted with their one big chance in life and did not take it, because their lives will always be relatively ordinary.
So when you get that big chance whether its an unusual job, an inspiring place to live, a relationship, or even to help others. Commit yourself totally, focus, invest your whole being, work very hard and know that you will almost certainly be a better person at the end of it, with a better than ordinary life.
Today is yet another day when our weather is impossible to describe, except to say it is going to be hot and starting a little misty. Just like the Sargasso sea, absolutely flat as a pancake again. For a long time now Mull has felt and looked like some tropical Pacific Island.
On my wildlife trip the other day I decided to visit my old haunts of Grasspoint and Croggan and off the very picturesque point there we had a few Porpoise doing their thing at this time of year and churning and splashing the water instead of rolling in their normally languid way. The two white tailed sea eagles from there flew low across the water and settled on the headland as if to say ”Where have you been David”. Above their favourite hill a young sea eagle was circling and we had another youngster near Loch Buie. I caught a glimpse of an adult golden eagle there also but the big sighting was at the Croggan headland with its vistas of the Firth of Lorne. As we sat down to wait for the golden eagles from there one of them immediately launched off the hill and gave really good long term views before we headed back to Craignure. It was another sensation of ”Long time no see David”. Maybe there will be a time here when the wildlife come to see me, instead of the other way around ! I guess they will all turn up looking smart for the grand opening when I eventually get National Park status for these very deserving and magical Islands. It’s such a pity that my own species here don’t feel as passionate about protecting our wildlife and their wild places, as I do.
Yes unusually calm at times here as if a Tsunami is on its way !! Also very dry for this time of year too. However lots of sightings yesterday, with the Sound of Mull like glass, we saw a number of porpoise. On the West Coast we had adult sea eagles and young. At one point the adult female launched out with purpose and raced across the loch and then dropped her legs and swooped on a pobable merganser and flew to shore with it. In the same area a golden eagle came from afar to glide over us making it easy for people to see the difference between the two eagles.
Off to look for otters and one of my [ only a local guide can do] sightings of an otter out on the islets with common and grey seals. From that initial sighting it led us a a merry dance until it eventually walked along the top of the islet. Further on we had a far closer view of another otter as he rolled and relaxed on a small seaweed covered rock. Golden Eagle above Gribbun cliffs and then one posing romantically at the end of some sea cliffs silhouetted against the sky.
We had red deer stags today of course, mergansers, gannets, eiders, red throated diver and a hen harrier gliding along the hillside and then sitting.
It was a good day with a good crowd.