I have been doing very little out and about wildlife watching in the last week, though I am pleased to say that I have taken lots of bookings for the coming season and I am certain that the Highlands and Islands is going to have another bumper year for visitors. Much of this is because of the worlds increasing interest in wildlife and the wild places in which they live. I don’t think that just laying in the sun has quite the appeal that it once had for humans.
Despite no trips last week I have been very busy on all sorts of fronts. For instance anually now I donate willdlife trips to The Scottish Seabird Centres annual photographic competition to find the best Photographs of the year under different categories and what broad smiles there were from everyone, to see a little girl of around 11 years winning the childrens section with a shot from the base of a dandelion stalk and looking up as it shed all its seeds into the blue sky above. It was very creative for such a young person.
Joy and I do like North Berwick, which is home to The Centre. It was very sunny but windy and along the shorelines we saw lots of sanderlings, oystercatchers, turnstones and eiders offshore and what a sight ruined Tintallon Castle is perched on the edge of sea cliffs and where we also saw a a peregrine falcon and in the fields nearby a few brown hares.
At the presentation of prizes I struck up a lot of comnversation with a chap from Peterhead with a very strong accent who had submitted two photographs. One of which was a blown off course desert wheatear standing on a bit of blue plastic pipe with bits of seaweed and rope around it on the beach. It was in the environment section of the awards. We spoke for some time, him telling me me how much he would like to come to Mull. Anyway !! we all duly sat down and the various prize winners were announced. This chap and his wife ended up sitting beside us when the Environment winner was announced, which turned out to be him winning my two wildlife trip prizes that I had donated. We were all gobsmacked at the coincidence of it all. Almost as if it was ordained to be. I look forward to seeing thetwo of them on a trip this season and which of course they will thoroughly enjoy.
North Berwick, I have to recommend. It does not have the wild interior of Mull, nor the spectacle of the huge indentations of sea lochs and wild headlands that the west coast has but the accommodation is very good over there, eating out is so much better and there is an ambience there that is very pleasant to soak up. I also didnt spot a single piece of litter anywhere in North Berwick. In a nutshell I think its a quite prosperous and classy place to live or just visit and though its not Mull !! it also seems a great place if you like golf !!!
No wildlife trip today but it has been very nice here. We see the sea eagles and golden eagles regularly in winter, when they feel they have the Islands to themselves, which they do I suppose ! When we have south westerly winds like this both eagle species love to posture and proclaim territory on the hill behind the house. They each have their favourite places to do this like we do of course.
Its a gorgeous lemon coloured view now, with a hazy lemon glow filling the horizon out to sea and Iona seemingly lost in it, or maybe I should say bathing in it.
Looking left to snow topped Benmore and the vast golden sweep we have tonight, then to the north and the sunset, it looks religious as it so very often does and I am not religious but I absolutely understand why ancient people were so awed by it all and innevitably connected these ever changing natural wonders with something Godly.
It was another super day today on the wildlife trip and pretty quikly we found a female hen harrier quartering the near hillside for some time at Grasspoint. In the far distance and in the same shot I saw a sea eagle coming from the The Isle of Lismore direction. Offshore at Grasspoint, where I once saw a Leatherback turtle, I think I saw another one !! They are always a surprise in these waters of course and they have a strange way of surfacing for air, in that they come up at an angle and tip their head to one side and then take in air from the other side.
Immediately into Glenmore we had the two resident golden eagles diving at and chasing two immatures off their territory. Further into the Glen and as I parked up one of the golden eagles there came as if to see me, as I do know them very well, but this has to be wishful thinking !! We also had a sparrowhawk, great northern divers, stonechats, redshanks, ringed plovers, turnstones, lots of seals and red deer etc. Finally we took in fabulous and very atmospheric Carsaig, along with brilliant sunshine and driving hail.
I have also just had a golden eagle out from my office scrapping with lots of crows.
It was a poor weather forecast for todays trip as I looked out to assess it from the house this morning. But did I care at that very moment as our two resident Golden Eagles came romping over the roof of the house twisting, turning and diving close to the house as hooded crows made desperate attempt to chase them off. This was a really close and dramatic view of male and female Golden Eagles unusually close to human habitation. It was such a pity that a little girl of 11 years, on the trip in an hours time with her Mum, was mad keen to see Golden Eagles !! But tomorrow is another day as Scarlet would say and I will find Golden Eagles for her on another trip tomorrow.
We did after much patience, get super views of the Loch na Keal Sea Eagles, which chased another Eagle off and came in to land with their legs outstretched in that dramatic way of theirs.
We had a female otter with two small cubs on Loch Scridain running around on the shore and in the water before they followed each other up a culvert and came out on the other side of the road and ran into the forest. Fifteen minutes later we found a male otter jumping off a seaweed point.
Better weather tomorrow I think and the Golden Eagles that my young wildlife friendly friend, wants to see so much.
I cover a lot of ground on my wildlife trips but I am not sure that I have ever done so much driving around Britain as I have in the last week.
Down to Woking and Sams birthday celebrations at Tim and Davids gorgeous new flat. Much walking there to see the sights and then dig my car out of the snow to travel north to Sheffield, see Sheffield United , visit relatives, shop and then a bad forecast for our journey north to Pontefract to see lifetime friends Ian and Margaret, visit one of the best stately homes I have been in, with world class art, furnishings, fabrics and setting.
North again now and despite the poor forecast it was more or less sunny the whole way across the A66 and the spine of Britian, with miles of empty road and snow dappled moorland as far as the eye could see. On to Glasgow now to pick up our 3 grandchildren for a stay here and yet more fabulous sunny and windless weather through Glencoe and on to Mull which as usual was too atmospheric to describe in words. Back today to Glasgow and their home and then Joy and I back again this afternoon, to recover !!
Saw Red Kites down south, Golden Eagles with the female particularly big, on the hill at the back of the house, Sea Eagles below us, lots of Rock Doves, Sparrowhawks, Woodcocks, Great Northern Divers, Slavonian Grebes etc etc. Its good to be back and hear all this silence, empty beaches and space but I did sort of enjoy the lovely places we experienced down south, but to live there again ??!!
I am sorry about the delays between postings of late but it’s a time when we can visit friends, family and do other things. Like go to Winchester !! Which apart from its beautiful cathedral, seems like a lovely place to spend sunny winter days, amid that middle class ambience that you get in this part of Britain.
‘HOWEVER’ as usual I just can’t see the big prize, or rewards for suffering all that traffic, excessive speeding on motorways,searching for somewhere to park the car, packed trains and tubes and frankly the general turmoil of humanity that seems to be everywhere on the mainland today. There are just too many people there !! Yet here in the ‘Land of Opportunity’ I can cast my eyes 3 miles east across the sea to towering mountains, ahead to Iona 10 miles south across the sea and way right toward the Treshnish Islands and Ulva and there isnt a single person to be seen, just wild and inspiring nature, as far as the eye can see.
I realise that most humans have become herd animals, but my strong advice is to escape from the herd while you can and find the individual and free spirit in you, that you once were as a child. Its much better than being a stifled grown up !