Saturday found us heading along the edge of Loch Lomond towards Oban to catch our ferry to the Isle of Mull. While we were in the queue for the ferry John spotted two birds on the sea so I grabbed the binoculars and eventually identified them as Black Guillemots, a lifer and a bird I have been hoping to see for ages. Another nice sight was a small pod of Dolphins playing around further out in the harbour. The ferry journey was enjoyable and we added some ‘regular’ Guillemots to the list. On arrival at Craignure we headed along a very scenic route towards our rented flat in Tobermory. The road followed the coastline and we saw Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Grey Herons, Mute Swans, Oystercatchers, a Common Sandpiper and our first Hooded Crows of the week. On Sunday we explored Tobermory seeing mainly Herring Gulls and a few Great Black backed Gulls around the harbourside.
On Monday we set off inland towards the Eagle Hide. The weather was rather misty with showers but Loch na Keal and the shoreline was still impressive and we stopped a few times to see what was about. There were several Rock Pipits, many Hooded Crows, and a Common Gull and a Curlew flew by. We watched a trip boat on the far side of the Loch which was throwing fish into the water in an attempt to lure an eagle down. Happily, we managed to get a brief view of our first White tailed Sea Eagle, a lifer, as it dived down and picked up some fish. A great start! As we drove on more geese were seen and a group of 4 Red Breasted Mergansers was a welcome sight. We were at the meeting place for the Eagle Hide at 1.30, where we and several other people followed the rangers up to the location for viewing the eagle’s nest. The rangers gave us lots of information about the birds and we didn’t have to wait long before a White tailed Sea Eagle flew in. We took turns to look at the nest through the scopes, where a chick could be seen jumping up and down and exercising its’ wings. After a while another eagle was spotted sitting on top of the cliffs allowing everyone to have a look at it through the ‘scopes. One of the rangers also pointed out a few female deer and a stag standing on the top of a mountain. Another flying White tailed Eagle was seen while we were there so everyone was happy. The views were distant but it was still a great species to add to our life list, with 4 different birds being seen in total. While we hung around waiting to see if anything else turned up we checked out the feeders where Chaffinch, Coat Tit and Siskin were seen. The only other bird to make an appearance was a Buzzard before we headed away from the site. By now the weather had cleared and the view of the coastline and Loch na Keal was impressive. We stopped to look at a group of Curlew on a small island before heading back to Tobermory.
Tuesday saw us on a round trip of the north of the island heading first towards Dervaig and on to Calgary Bay. A couple of Ravens were seen flying around the cliffs above the bay and a group of Common Gulls were hanging around on the beach, along with a few Great Black backed Gulls. There were several Hooded Crows, Pied Wagtails and Wheatears down on the beach and Skylarks were seen and heard singing over the nearby fields. A few Sand Martins, which have nest holes here, were flying over the grassy area catching flies, and several Eider Ducks were seen on the rocks and the sea. From Calgary Bay we continued around the headland and along the north side of Loch na Keal seeing many species already recorded.
On Wednesday we headed across the middle of the island through Glen More. This is supposed to be ‘Eagle Central’ but we saw very little during our journey. We drove along Loch Scridian heading to Fionnphort to catch a ferry to the small island of Iona. During the fifteen minute ferry crossing we saw a Gannet before stepping onto this ‘paradise island’. The weather today was sunny and bright so everywhere looked amazing. After walking along to look at the abbey we headed back along the coast in the other direction. I had a quick stop to use the facilities and when I came out John was waving at me frantically and yelling ‘Corncrake, Corncrake!’ I ran over to where he was standing next to a field of long grass and wild flowers. The grass was too long to actually see the birds but we could certainly hear them. We were delighted as we had resigned ourselves to ‘dipping out’ on this bird as they are best seen and heard earlier in the year. Brilliant! We carried on to a small white sandy beach where we sat for a while watching a young Wheatear hopping about on the sand. Skylarks were singing above us and a Merlin was chased away by some gulls. This was such a beautiful place I think we could have stayed there for ever, but we eventually set off back to catch the ferry back to Mull. As we drove away from Fionnphort towards Bunesan I briefly spotted a female Hen Harrier before it flew down out of sight. This was a new bird for the week so it was a shame John didn’t see it as he was driving. We drove back through Glen More and as we got towards the end I told John to look out for Hen Harriers as the rangers had said this was a good place for them. No sooner had I said this than one appeared, a male which flew across the road ahead of us. I was really pleased that we had both seen the bird this time, as was John of course!
On Thursday we decided not to travel very far so we drove just a few miles to Glengorm Castle. From the parking area there is a nice walk down to the old ruined castle of Dun Ara. It was a bright sunny day again so the scenery looked amazing. Our first new bird for the week was a Song Thrush and many Wheatear were seen along with the odd Stonechat. We saw a couple of Black Guillemots flying over the sea and a Meadow Pipit made an appearance. After an enjoyable walk, and a cup of tea and a rest we headed off again towards Dervaig where I wanted to drive along the ‘old road’ back towards Salen. This is a fantastic route over high moorland where we saw a Buzzard and our first and only Golden Eagle of the week. Further along we both saw another female Hen Harrier and were able to stop and watch it for a while.
Friday was a wet day so we didn’t do much and on Saturday we had to leave. While we were getting ready to go we heard some noisy gulls screaming outside. When I looked out of the window I saw that the gulls were trying to steal food from an Otter! I was jumping up and down yelling ‘Otter, Otter’ to John as this was the only one we had seen during our stay. Brilliant!
Species List – Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Black headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black backed Gull, Great Black backed Gull, Common Gull, Little Tern, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Red Breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Mallard, Eider Duck, Pheasant, Corncrake, White tailed Sea Eagle, Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Raven, Hooded Crow, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swallow, Sand Martin, Skylark, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Dunnock, Stonechat, Wheatear, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Starling, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Coal tit, Siskin.