Birding the Isle of Mull, Scotland - 17th - 24th May 2008

Published by Derek Lister (d.lister965 AT

Participants: Derek and Lynne Lister



It has always been our wish to visit Mull in Scotland, not just to see White-tailed Eagle, but to see the superb scenery and other birds. We decided to rent a cottage in Salen, a location central and surprisingly full of birds and wildlife. May is a great time to visit the island, the weather was warm, dry and sunny, and this is a big plus as the cloud can descend to low levels resulting in poor viewing conditions. Also the birds are at the full breeding stage, and most important, midges are few and far between!


The best arrangement for us was to fly from Southampton to Glasgow, hire a car from 1car 1,then drive to Oban picking up a ferry to Graguire. It takes time, but driving past Loch Lomond is a great experience, superb scenery, and birds as well. A Red Kite flying over the car was notable at Loch Lomond. The Harbour at Oban is attractive, Black Guillemot being notable. The ferry crossing takes about 45 minutes and is a mini bird cruise in itself. As we crossed the Ross of Mull, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet and Red-throated Diver were evident. Also 3 Bottle nosed Dolphin entertained us.


Generally common birds were in abundance on the island, with amazing densities of Song Thrush, Willow Warbler (in every bush) Buzzard visible over all hills, coasts and headlands. Hooded Crow (everywhere). Whitethroat were singing from all habitats !


We stayed in Rowan cottage, a pleasant cottage, well equipped, but watch the low ceilings,interestingly the garden was across the road from the front door. House Sparrow, House Martin and Swallow breeding around the house.

Salen is a great area for birds, Red Breasted Merganser, Eider, Common Sandpiper,breeding around the shore, the mixed woodland leading down to the shore held Wood Warbler, Redstart, Bullfinch, Buzzard, with Tree Pipit and Raven on the higher levels. In addition to this the sight of four Otters in Salen Bay was a sight to see.



Just down from Salen is the wonderful area of Aros River and estuary. Dipper was breeding near the mouth of the river, while Spotted Flycatcher bred near the bridge. West of the bridge was a pair of splendid Goosander and Grey Wagtail above the village Wheatear were common, a male Goshawk over Salen forest was a rare sighting for Mull.


A superb area of moorland, woodland, rivers, fringed by mountains and Loch Frisa. Whinchat feed of the telephone lines, Curlew and outstanding Red Grouse were also present, Stonechat are common. The moorland on the right of the drive presented the best sighting, a White tailed Eagle resting on the ground, later on in the week I was surprised to see the Eagle feeding on a dead sheep,50 metres from the road. Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were regular seen along the road often being mobbed by Mistle Thrushes.


This excellent loch proved good for birds on the many times we visited it. The road from Salen passes an area of mixed woodland on your left by the Mausoleum of Lachlan Macquarie, this is an super area for Crossbill(7 seen) and Lesser Redpoll 2. The Western Shore of the Loch had Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover. Wet areas near to the road held Snipe, while on the Loch two Great Northern Divers in summer plumage swam close to the shore. Swimming also close to the shore was a summer plumage Slavonian Grebe. Looking west into the mountains close to Ben More were the every present Raven and on the higher slope a Soaring Golden Eagle glided over the highest points. Further along the road towards Gribun Rock Pipits displayed and a flash of blue proved to be a male Merlin pursued by Chaffinch, the Pass of Glen More produced singing Twite close to the road and two further Golden Eagle soaring over.

The eastern side of the Loch held a well watched nesting pair of White tailed Eagle, further up the road a male Ring Ouzel showed itself well on a rock outcrop.


After leaving Glen More a further pair of White tailed Eagle were nesting near the Loch Scridian. The tidal marsh of the lock held Redshank ,in the centre of this vast sea loch,were surprisingly a small flock of Manx Shearwater, but the highlight was three displaying Summer plumage Black-throated Diver, there eerie calls were very distinctive. Away from the birds we spotted another Otter, this brilliant mammal came out of the water and marked its territory on the seaweed. Along the edges of the lock were singing Garden Warbler.


We crossed the straights from Mull to the Mystic isle of Iona. This is a must activity and on a glorious sunny day the trip at £3-90 return represented great value. The short crossing enabled excellent views of Auks, Gannets, Sandwich Tern, Arctic Tern and marauding Arctic Skua.

The island is small and most people head for the Monastery, the gardens are full of common birds, with a rare Rookery nearby providing all the noise. However it is one special bird that attracts the birdwatchers and that is the Corncrake. The calls of this bird are everywhere, even in gardens with small areas of long grass conspicuous by their sound only ”Crex-Crex”! Seeing the Corncrake is another matter, however staking out a area by the island Fire Station we heard one about 10 metres away, and eventually Lynne spotted a small brown Water rail sized bird scurrying out of the grass into denser cover. On the Western side of the island we were fortunate to see 2 Mink Whales feeding just off shore!


If you go to Mull, consider a day trip to the Treshnish isles. Although fairly
Pricey,(£90-00 for two)if you like sea birds then this is a must. You need good weather, and we had a glorious warm clear day!. On the sea going initially to Staffa, Gannets loafed, while Black Guillemot, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin were all seen close up. Small numbers of Manx Shearwater glided by, while Kittiwakes followed the boat, sometimes flying just over head. Staffa produced stunning views of nesting auks and Fulmars and on the rocks by the landing area were 2 Summer plumaged Purple Sandpipers.The presence of breeding Twite were a highlight on the island, the twittering males allowing close observation!

The boat took us on to the island of Lunga, an island of vast numbers of auks and gulls. We watched over 800 Puffins on the sea alone!. Flying close by also were Great Skua which breed nearby,


The Isle of Mull has to be one of the top islands of Scotland and indeed of the British Isles not only for Birds, but for shear beauty and tranquillity, and forget the traumas of today’s world and travel back in time to when life was lived at a slow and comfortable pace. We saw an amazing 112 species of birds on the island.

Species Lists

Slavonian Grebe 1 in summer plumage Loch Na Keal
Great Northern Diver 2 in summer plumage Loch Na Keal
Black Throated Diver 3 in summer plumage Loch Scridian
Red Throated Diver 2 in the Ross of Mull
Manx Shearwater Small groups near Staffa and Loch Scridian
Fulmar Common offshore
Gannet Small numbers in Ross of Mull and also around Treshnish Isles
Cormorant Very common
Shag Very common
Grey Heron Fairly common on Lochs
Moorhen 1 Dervig reedbeds 22/05
Corncrake Many heard on Iona. But one seen briefly at the Island Fire Station
Mute Swan 1 pair nesting at Lochdon
Greylag Goose Fairly common on Lochs and estuaries
Goosander 1 Pair on the Aros River
Red Breasted Merganser Common on Lochs, bays and estuaries.
Common Scoter 6 near Staffa on the sea
Shelduck Fairly common
Eider Common
Mallard Very common
White Tailed Eagle 7 seen at three nest sites
Golden Eagle Max 3 Glen More
Buzzard Common
Kestrel Fairly common
Peregrine 1 at Lochdon 23/5
Merlin A male at Gribun
Goshawk A male at Salen Forest 18/5
Sparrowhawk Fairly common
Pheasant Common
Red Grouse 1 male on the moor near Loch Frisa 22/5
Oystercatcher Very common
Ringed Plover Present at Loch Ka Neal
Lapwing Common
Purple Sandpiper 2 in summer plumage at Staffa 19/5
Common Sandpiper Common on Loch Sides
Dunlin 3 at Dervig near Loch Edge 22/5
Curlew Fairly common
Redshank Two Loch Shridian and at Dervig
Snipe 1 most days near road at Loch Ka Neal
Arctic Skua 1 light-phase Straights of Iona 21/5
Great Skua 1 at Lunga on the sea 19/5
Black Headed Gull Common
Common Gull Very common
Lesser Black-backed GullVery common
Herring Gull Very common
Great Black Backed Gull Common
Sandwich Tern 1 at Straights of Iona 21/5
Kittiwake Very common Treshnish Isles
Common Tern Fairly common
Arctic Tern 5 seen in the Straights of Iona 21/5
Guillemot Very common around shores and Treshnish Isles
Razorbill Very common around shores and Treshnish Isles
Black Guillemot Fairly common Treshnish Isles, Ross Of Mull
Puffin Common Treshnish Isles
Tawny Owl 1 pair nesting Salen
Wood Pigeon Very common
Collared Dove Very common
Rock Dove 3 pure at Staffa and Lunga 19/5
Swift Fairly common
Cuckoo Common on the island
Swift Fairly common
Skylark Very common
Swallow Very common
House Martin Very common
Sand Martin Small colony on Aros Dervig Road
Meadow Pipit Very common
Rock Pipit Fairly common around Loch Ka Neal
Tree Pipit Around Aros Woods
Pied Wagtail Common
Grey Wagtail On most streams
Dipper 1 at Tobermory Mill
Wren Common
Dunnock Common
Robin Common
Stonechat Common
Whinchat Fairly common
Redstart A few in woods above Salen Bay
Wheatear Very common
Ring Ouzel 1 female at Loch Ka Neal Slopes 19/5
Blackbird Very common
Song Thrush Abundant
Mistle Thrush Common
Sedge Warbler Common
Garden Warbler Around Lochdon and Loch Scridian
Whitethroat Very common
Blackcap Common
Chiffchaff Uncommon, seen at Dervig
Willow Warbler Abundant
Wood Warbler Breeding above Salen Bay
Spotted Flycatcher 1 pair at Aros Bridge
Goldcrest Fairly common
Long-tailed Tit Common
Coal Tit Common
Blue Tit Very common
Great Tit Common
Jay Aros Park a few
Jackdaw Uncommon: Iona
Rook A rookery on Iona
Hooded Crow Very common
Raven Fairly common on slopes and seashore at Salen
Starling Common
House Sparrow Common
Chaffinch Common
Greenfinch Very common
Goldfinch Very common
Bullfinch A male above Salen Bay
Linnet Common Iona
Twite Breeding on Staffa and Glen More - Max 3 Seen
Lesser Redpoll 2 at Loch Ba 22/5
Crossbill Seen in three locations - Max 7 Near Loch Ba
Reed Bunting A Male at Dervig reedbeds
Yellowhammer Fairly common

112 Species