Saturday 22nd April 2006
Weather Clear and bright am, heavy rain pm
Max 10c Min 5c Wind W4
We left the cottage at 0900 hrs on our way to Mull for a much needed break. Brenda and I were both exhausted from nearly eight weeks of hard slog to get the cottage to our liking.
So as we headed north towards Fort William, for our first holiday in nearly two years, we both relaxed and started to enjoy the wonderful scenery. We reached the Corran Ferry in good time and were soon crossing Loch Linnhe to Corran and the route to Lochaline.
We drove down Loch Linnhe before turning inland towards Strontian and then over the Morvern Hills to Lochaline. We had passed through some stunning scenery to arrive at our crossing point to Mull.
The crossing took fifteen minutes to Fishnish and our destination Mull. We drove south to Craignure and stopped to look in the Tourist Information Centre. I purchased a walking book for South Mull before continuing south again to Lochdon and our B & B at Redburn.
As we approached the village, the rain that had been forecast started to fall. We drove down to Grasspoint and had a short walk to the point. A pair of bedraggled Stonechat were the only birds of note apart from a few Meadow Pipits. The rain became heavier and we sheltered back at the car.
We arrived at Redburn just after three o'clock and were warmly welcomed by Sheila and Charlie. A pot of tea and some delicious shortbread were produced and I quickly felt at home.
We both rested until dinner as it was still raining heavily outside. We enjoyed a good three course meal followed by coffee and after a short rest went for a walk towards Gorsten Farm.
The rain had now stopped and it was pleasant to be outside again. Several Willow warblers could be heard singing and a good selection of waders were in the Bay including Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, and a group of six Shelduck.
Back at Redburn we both opted for an early night, so we would be ready for our trip out to the Treshnish Isles and Staffa tomorrow. The weather looked promising on the forecast so all we needed was for the birds to play their part.
Sunday 23rd April
Weather Dry with bright periods
Max 13c Min 5c Wind W3
I was up early at six o'clock for a walk along the loch towards Gorsten. As I scanned the bay a good number of Shelduck were evident along with several Grey Heron. Oystercatchers were noisily displaying and a small group of Wigeon were feeding in the shallows.
I made my way along the road to Gorsten stopping to check the bay at different points. I noted several Curlew feeding in the mud and then to my surprise a diver drifting down the loch. After some scrutiny I decided it was a winter plumaged Red-throated Diver.
Further along the bay two Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding on the opposite bank and pair of Red-breasted Merganser passed moving towards the head of the Loch.
I retraced my steps and walked back to the main road, passing a garden with a group of Swallows hawking above some conifers. The only other bird of note was a Goldcrest making itself known with its thin, high pitched reedy call.
Following a hearty breakfast I contacted Turus Mara to check on the boat sailing. Disappointedly we were the only customers booked on the trip, so it had been cancelled. I decided to contact David Woodhouse to try and rearrange our wildlife expedition and was thankfully successful.
We met the minibus at Craignure and were soon heading for Grasspoint. Just passed the old arched bridge in some shallows a Greenshank was busily feeding and further along the road a female Wheatear was sat on a post at the side of the road.
We parked up and walked the last few hundred yards down to the point. We were immediately greeted by a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver and in the distance a dumpy Black Guillemot flew just above the sea. A further three Great Northern Divers came into view with a winter plumaged Black-throated Diver alongside. Then just to complete the trio a winter plumaged Red-throated Diver flew passed the point.
Back at the minibus we scanned the hills for raptors and were soon rewarded with our first views of White-tailed Sea Eagle. Further scans produced a ringtail Hen Harrier and several Buzzards.
After tea and scones we drove towards Loch Spelve and a good vantage point hoping for better views of Hen Harrier and possibly otter. This was not successful but we did record Swallow, Sand Martin, Lapwing and two Common Seals basking on a small island.
We drove onto Ben Talaidh where we were instantly rewarded with a pair of Golden Eagles gliding towards us. The male proceeded to start displaying for the female and two attempts were made at talon grappling. A third bird was also seen at a much greater height and there seemed to be a great deal of activity in the area.
We had lunch before returning to Loch Spelve and turning right for Loch Uisg and Loch Buie. There was a beautiful drive down the Lochs until we reached the head of Loch Buie. The only bird of note along this route was a Common Sandpiper which was sat on some seaweed on the freshwater Loch Uisg. We parked up and walked along the west side, using a good farm track heading for Carsaig. Another Great Northern Diver was showing well and a pair of Ravens glided along the cliffs close to a nest site.
The scenery here was stunning and I stopped for a few photos, particularly one of a rock formation which resembled Queen Victoria. Further along, in a small wooded area several
Treecreeper were busily searching for food and a Willow Warblers were singing.
As we travelled back towards the main road we had another sighting of a Golden Eagle being mobbed by what looked like Raven.
Back at Craignure we thanked David for a memorable day and collected our car from the car park. We arrived back at Lochdon just in time for dinner. The rest of the evening was spent writing my diaries and sleeping.
Monday 24th April 2006
Weather Dry with bright periods, rain early evening
Max 10c Min 4c Wind S4
It was a dry morning, but it felt cold in a biting strong southerly wind. I made my way along the road to Gorsten trying to keep warm. The tide was well in and the only obvious birds were Shelduck, Grey Herons and a few Oystercatchers. A female Wheatear caught my attention as it flew off a fence post and a Swallow drifted up the Loch.
I finally found a sheltered spot overlooking a mudflat further up the road. Most of the waders were congregated here and the views were better. A group of fifteen Ringed Plover flew in, accompanied by four Dunlin, probably the same group of birds I had seen on Saturday night.
There were several Curlew scattered about on the mud, but on its own a single winter plumaged Grey Plover probably on passage. The only other bird of note was a male Stonechat which flew in front of me as I retraced my steps to Redburn, and breakfast.
The boat trip was cancelled again, to Brenda’s relief, so we decided to head for Iona. The journey was uneventful until we reached Ben Talaidh.
A raptor was performing aerial diving manoeuvers close to the road. This strange ritual confused me at first, but to my delight, realised it was a male Hen Harrier. The bird eventually landed and was closely followed by the female. She also gave stunning views in perfect light. I thought at first that the birds were maybe hunting, but realised that it could be a breeding display and that this spot could be a possible nest site ?
We drove on through Glen More to emerge into a different landscape at Loch Beg. In the marsh to the right were four Greylag Geese along with several Oystercatchers. We continued on through Pennyghael with Loch Scridain now to our right. We saw several Buzzards on this section and plenty of wheatears.
The views across the loch were majestic as the cliffs near Creach Bheinn came into view. This seemed a long section as we passed through Knockan and Bunessan to eventually arrive at Fionnphort. On the loch to the left, just before the village, a pair of Whooper Swans was feeding in the shallows.
We caught the 1145 hours ferry to Iona and took a walk to the Nunnery and Abbey. There was a small rookery to the left and there was some nest building activity. Further ahead on the path were a pair of Twite, much to my surprise. We returned to the jetty and stopped at a small restaurant for lunch. The weather had deteriorated with the wind gusting to around force six. Our ferry ploughed its way back to Fionnphort through a very choppy sea.
After returning to Loch Beg we took the scenic route to Salen through some awe inspiring scenery. The high cliffs were dramatic and birdwatching was forgotten for a short while. The landscape became gentler as we drove along the side of Loch Na Keal and eventually reached Gruline.
We stopped for some wine at the Spar in Salen and then continued on through Craignure to Lochdon. After a bath it was time for dinner and we met a new couple Jim and Janet Wood from Ayrshire, who had just arrived.
Jim was another birder so we had plenty to discuss over dinner, finding we had a great deal in common, and shared a lot of similar stories. God Bless Birders!!
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