Trip reports

Isle of Mull May '17

Isle of Mull May '17

Thursday, 7 September 2017

At 6.30am on the morning of Thursday 18th of May 37 intrepid explorers gathered at the Memorial Gardens. We set off in our luxury coach at around 7am to head north. Following stops at Gretna and Stirling we arrived in Oban in perfect time to board the ferry for the 4pm crossing to Mull. Barely had the ropes from the harbour been gathered in when the first bird entered the list for the trip - a black guillemot.

After a pleasant 50-minute crossing, we arrived at Craignure and made a very short trip to our hotel. We were joined at dinner by Nigel and Alison who had made their own way to Mull in their camper van. The hotel location provided with a 2-minute walk to the bay whereby the end of the stay most of us had enjoyed good views of otters and a daily display by a very vocal common sandpiper.

Friday May 19th

We spent the day doing two walks from the hotel as our driver John needed a well-deserved break. In the morning we walked to Scallastle where the highlights were cuckoo and crossbills.

In the afternoon we did a walk at Torosay Castle. We tried very hard to turn a song thrush into a mistle thrush but in the end decided it was a song thrush impersonating a mistle thrush! On the way back the group split up and 10 of us returned along the shoreline which was a magnificent walk but a bit of a scramble at times. The highlight was good views of great northern divers.

Saturday May 20th
Following an early breakfast we were back on the bus for the trip across Mull to catch the ferry to Iona. This saw the start of what was to become the daily ritual of sandwich and crisp swapping! It also saw the beginning of certain
members of the group taking on specialist roles - Eric as toilet attendant and Keith as rubbish collector. Our driver John successfully and safely negotiated the narrow bridges and tight bends on the single-track road. It was raining when we reached the ferry but thankfully it stopped on the short trip across to Iona and
it turned out to be a nice day.

The main target bird was the corncrake (right) and we think most of us got some sort of view of one or at least heard one. We also enjoyed good views of twite and wheatear. Distant Manx shearwaters could be seen from the west side of the island - Helen Searstone's favourite place in the world.

Sunday May 21st
We set off in the coach again for a short drive to Craignure golf course where we stopped and looked back towards the hotel to see a sea eagle perched at the top of the trees. We then proceeded to Garmony and walked along the coast to Fishnish. A pleasant walk with views of bullfinch and an excellent view of a siskin.

Following lunch we drove to Glen More. Our first stop gave us views of short eared owls. We travelled on and stopped to watch a male hen harrier for a good 10 minutes. We then moved on to find eagles. There was some debate as to whether we saw golden or sea and the eventual conclusion was probably both!

Monday May 22nd
It was on the coach again for a round trip to Glen More, along the north shore of Loch Scridian and the southern shore of Loch Na Keal as far as Dhiseig Farm at the foot of Ben More. This drive was even more challenging for our driver but he coped admirably. The highlight of the trip was definitely the good views we had of golden eagles. We also saw great northern divers.

There was an occasion where on the left side of the coach a buzzard was seen but by the time it had flown over the coach it seemed to have morphed into a golden eagle. Another debate!

Sadly for Larry we failed to get back in time for his pre-dinner jacuzzi.

Tuesday May 23rd
Our first stop was again at Craignure golf course and this time two sea eagles could be viewed perched in the trees (left) and we also saw arctic terns. We then drove on to Salen where some of the group got off and walked along the coast and some stayed on the coach to Aros Bridge. They found a young dipper near the bridge which the rest of us were also able to enjoy when we caught up. We journeyed on to Aros Park water fall and walked from there through the woods to Tobermory. Some of us heard and some managed to see wood warbler, a first for
Sue who was delighted.

Tobermory was a delightful place (right) but unfortunately it rained the entire time we were there. Thankfully there were some excellent cafes and shopping opportunities. Before dinner we were treated to a fantastic talk by the RSPB Officer for Mull, David Sexton, who gave an articulate account of the work done by the RSPB to reintroduce sea eagles to Mull and to enable them to flourish despite the misgivings of the local farmers.

Wednesday May 24th.
Moira and I got up early at 6am hoping to see otters as we were in the minority of the group who had failed to do so. Our early start was unproductive but we finally got our reward (below) after breakfast and again at the ferry terminal whilst waiting to board. Nothing like the last minute!
Kittiwakes, gannets, black guillemots, shags and cormorants were seen from the ferry but nothing new to add to the bird list. The finally tally for the trip was 95 species and the prize went to John Millett.

As well as otters, we also saw red deer, seals and black rabbits on Iona. Butterwort, milkwort, tormentil, eyebright, thrift, cowslip, bluebell, primrose, herb Robert, flag iris and yellow pimpernel were among the flora seen on the trip. The bluebells were a spectacular sight cascading down some of the mountain sides (right).

We journeyed safely back to York again stopping off at Sterling and Gretna arriving back at 8.30pm. All in all, a fantastic and very enjoyable trip. Many thanks to Barry for his brilliant organisation and excellent leadership.

Mark and Moira Boast