Thursday was a total washout, in so many ways, mostly the nonstop rain but also my wind/sun burnt face from yesterday was making me feel a bit weird. We were booked onto a Mull Eagle Watch trip in the morning, but missed it because we completely underestimated how long it would take to drive there round the loch on all the twisty single track roads! We were at a bit of a loss as to what to do next in the rain, so we basically drove around a lot looking out for wildlife in the more remote Ardmeanagh area. Had an incredibly surreal experience in a ‘cafe’ that turned out to be a mad couples front living room, attempted a walk to a cave but it was just too wet and boggy so we turned back.
At last we saw something that made the day more worthwhile – otters!! There was two of them swimming around on the edge of the loch, diving and eating fish they’d caught. I could see it floating on its back munching on a piece of fish! The otters actually live in fresh water not the sea (they are Eurasian Otters, proper Sea Otters are somewhere around America I think). They drink, bathe and hunt for fish in fresh water (rivers and lakes), but in places like Scotland where the rivers come out to sea water so often (because of the raggedy shape of the island, there is a lot of coast) they can also use this coastal sea water as another place to hunt for fish. So the otter we first saw up in Loch Tor was in fresh water, but this otter today was in sea water, looking for food. A good place to look for them around the coast is places where streams flow into the sea as this will be their access point, and also at low tide because there are more craggy little rocks and islands for the otter to jump around on and finding fish is easier. They are really nervous animals though, if you make any sound at all they dive and you’ll never see them again! Hence why we never got super close to one.
Went for dinner and bumped into the couple and their son who had shown us the eagle nest a few days before, and swapped wildlife stories. Their son was looking a bit grumpy because he desperately wanted to see a short eared owl and they were going home in 2 days…
Friday was a lot better, started with seeing a short eared owl! They hunt during the day (as a lot of owls do it turns out) and as we were driving over the moorlands towards the coast, it came flying over, clear as anything that it was an owl and with a double check in the book, definitely a short ear! Hope they other family saw it too but we didn’t see them again.
We left the car at Dervaig and went for a warm and sunny (comparatively) walk out to Quinish Point through some nice woods (mixed proper woodland not Forestry Commission rows of endless spruce!) and fields of sheep, with buzzards flying above us.
At the coast we came across a golden eagle (as you do) flying around looking for food. We couldn’t tell there and then if it was golden or sea but Phil got some good enough photos that we could ID it when we got back to the cabin. He kept getting mobbed by a couple of gulls, and his response was to spin upside down and try fend them off with his giant tallons! He landed on some rocks but as we walked round the coast he flew off.
Had a nice scramble around the rocky coastline, then headed back, stopped at the pub for a pint of the local ale, then back to the cabin.
Saturday we had to leave Mull, boo! We’d got quite attached to it, there’s something very nice and reassuring about being on an island, you can get to know it quickly and rather than trying to see a large area and not seeing any of it properly, it limits the extent of your exploration so you actually explore it better. Plus you get a bit of everything – sea, beach, moorland, mountain, forest – and it was nice to bump into some of the same people again and hear about what they’d seen. The ferry was over really quick (saw gannets and guillemots, and knew what they were this time!), then suddenly we were back on Argyll with its normal roads and busyness.
HIGHLIGHTS – otter eating fish > short eared owl > realising how much I liked Mull