Friday, 18 October 2013

Otterly fantastic!

We've spent 3 weeks of the gardening leave on a holiday to Scotland. The first week was on Mull. Before this we did spend two days in Glasgow, more culture than wildlife but we did get goosander on the river Kelvin in the middle of the city. If anyone finds themselves here try Crab shack for dinner. Its small but really good seafood....
Anyway, 7 days on Mull, the self-claimed ecotourism capital of the UK!  Our main target was otters as Wendy and Michael were already there and tripping over the damn things. We were staying in a cottage on the south coast near Ardmore where the ferry stops. Never having been to Mull before we were a bit unsure of the location but the island is pretty small and it only takes about an hour driving from there to Tobermory in the north so we were well located.
So, what did we see? Well, pretty much everything we wanted to. After a slow start we started to see otters pretty much every day, sometimes two, three or more. Mull is brilliant for getting quite close as the roads are deserted and take you close to the lochs. To get us started we did a day with Mull Magic. Ruth and Stuart who run the company are brilliant, taking you out to known otter-rich areas and explaining not just about otters but Mull wildlife generally. Well recommended if you are there. This walk was at Caliach Point in Calgary Bay. Within 20 minutes we were on our first otter, bringing a large fish to shore to eat it. About 1 in 5 otter catches are too large to eat at sea, so the trick is to get them fishing and wait for the large one and predict where they will come on land to eat it.




 
 
After that initial sighting we managed to get pretty close to feeding otters on 3 or 4 more occasions, including Croggan and Pennyghael.



 






 
 
 The most incredible sighting was at the ferry port at Ardmore. Whilst waiting to get on the ferry we, and about 50 others, were watching an otter feed in the bay about 100 yards out and the same off the side of the ferry. After we loaded the car we trotted up to the top outside deck just as the otter swam right up to and then UNDER the ferry. Crippling views of it swimming underwater with a large fish!! Typically the camera wasn't set ready to go but these were taken looking straight down off the ferry whilst in port.   


 
So, apart from otters what else did we see? One day one we got close views of Golden Eagle hunting over a loch side then flying over our heads.
 


We also sea-eagles, merlins, peregrines, hen harriers, black-throated and great northern divers, shags by the bucket-load, black guillemots, snipe, whimbrel, greenshanks, kosher rock doves (not feral pigeon from down south) and greylag geese, dippers, stonechats, wheatears (including a probable Greenland race), coal tits everywhere and of course hooded crows.
The main star though was the landscape. Generally we had pretty good weather and that combined with the hills, lochs and moorland gave some stunning landscapes. Also, you were nearly always on your own - very few tourists or hill-walkers around and I don't think I bumped into another birder at all. Difficult to do justice to the place but here are a few attempts (most of then Judith's I hasten to add!!!). Next stop Isle of Skye.