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Isle of Mull

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

My first visit to Mull in Scotland - the highlights of what I saw and where to find them

Mull 2021

In short, one of Scotland's little gems. With 4 days to travel around the island, it was a rush to get all the wildlife ticked off my list. However, I didn't know what I was worried about. There were Short-eared Owls, White tailed Eagles and Otters aplenty.

Day 1 Saturday 29 May 2021

Off the Ferry at 0800 with no time to waste, I'd got a hot tip where to find a large male otter, so I headed to Croggan on Loch Spelve. On the way round the bay at Fellonmore I stopped the car quickly as I spotted a Snipe on a fence post so I thought I'd best try and get a shot. The result was the photo below.

I headed to Croggan and spent a good few hours there waiting for the male otter without any luck. After that, I decided to head left at Starthcoil and west along the A849 towards Loch Beg.

The Southern half of the Island sort of splits into two at this point, with one road heading west towards Pennyghael and out to Fionnphort and the other circumnavigating Ben More (Mull's only Monroe) towards Loch Na Keal. I took the right turn and headed north after sticking close to the shoreline. The views were breath-taking as I headed through the pass with Creag a' Ghaill on my left looking west. The road drops down and hugs the coastline for a good few miles. With huge cliffs above and massive boulders scattered randomly along the road side, you'd have thought two giants were throwing rocks at each other from each side of the loch.

Back to the wildlife and at this point I'd only seen a few red deer on the side of the road. Always on the lookout for otters, this coastline seemed ideal with little to no waves and lots of seaweed for the otters to hide and find food in. It was midday by now and it was time to head to the campsite at Salen Bay, where I was going to spending the next 4 nights.

Setting the tent up on my little patch of green was pretty easy and the campsite was immaculate, I could not recommend it highly enough, it was quiet, clean and everyone respected their space. The owners were very friendly, I might add!

Sunsets were spectacular - This is looking west from the campsite.

Day two - Cuckoo's and Otters

As like day one, day two started early, with a 4am start. I'd decided to head over to Croggan again for another try at the otter, but to no avail. So I decided to head back to Loch Na Keal again, as I thought if I was an otter, that's where I'd want to hang out! I arrived just before 0600 and pulled up as I spotted a young otter calling out. As I stopped and got out of the car with the camera, two other gentleman, one with a huge camera lens combo and the other with a video camera, headed towards the otter.

It had spotted me pretty quick and headed out into deeper water where another two otters were waiting for it. I decided to get back in the car and head about 500m further along the coast. I could just make out the otters by now and I thought they were heading out into the middle of the loch. Unfazed, I crept slowly down to a large rock and got ready.

Luckily my 20 minutes of waiting paid off and the mother otter led her two pups right in front of me where they came out onto the rock and had a good preen and clean. For this to be my second day and to have an encounter like this, I was in awe of them, this memory will stay with me forever. If for some reason I had to leave then, I'd have been completely made up. Mull had delivered! As I left the rock, the otters had long moved on, I drove about 100m and got my second highlight for the day, a Buzzard only meters away from my car perched on a rock.

At this point, I needed my morning coffee, so headed off to find a cafe in the direction of Calgary Bay. On the way I spotted my first White tailed Eagle and even without binoculars, it blocked out the sun. It was the largest flying bird I'd ever seen and would not have been surprised if it flew by with a sheep in its talons! 😂

Not disappointed by the coffee and breakfast at Calgary Farmhouse Cafe and feeling recharged, I was ready to start searching for my next wildlife experience. I decided to head towards Salen via Tobermory and complete the northern half of the island.

Day 3 - Monday 31 May 2021 - A day with the Puffins

I arrived at Fionnphort pretty excited as on the way I'd seen two Short-eared owls hunting over the long grass of An Leth Fhonn, at the junction of the A849 and B8035. Definitely a spot to check out that afternoon after the morning with the Puffins.

On the boat for 0945, we were off to Staffa Island, a location I'd been dreaming of visiting for over 3 months at this point. The boat trip was roughly 30 mins. With Staffa looming, it looked more like a fort than an island. the climb up to the top of the island was fairly straight forward and then a walk to the other end of the island. We sat and waited......

20 mins went by and the hour we had to visit was counting down fast. But finally the puffins arrived from the water below. Their predators fear humans so the puffins only come up when humans are around to avoid being eaten by the skuas and gulls.

What a morning to remember! They were flying up to their nest sites and landing with a thud. I must of taken over a thousand photos in 40 mins. I didn't look at my watch and needed to run back to the boat before it left without me, but would that have been so bad? I'd have been happy to have stayed with these beautiful little birds for the rest of the time on Mull.

Once back to shore on Mull, I had some lunch and made a few new friends whilst visiting the beach.

I'd not explored the southern half of the island so it was about time I did. I ventured over to Carsaig Bay and found a lovely little beach at the bottom of the long steep descent. I made my way back to An Leth Fhonn where that morning I'd spotted the Short-eared Owls (SEO) and waited. I spotted my first Hen Harrier on the Island, a young female but no SEO's before heading back to Salen bay. On the way back I spotted 6 juvenile White tailed eagle, and a male hen harrier joining up with a SEO to see off a buzzard!! Only on Mull!!

Day 4 - Tuesday 1 June 2021 - Eagle day

I'd booked Mull Charters weeks in advance, I had to be at Ulva for 10am so got up and went straight over and had breakfast in the car park. The knowledgeable boat hand and captain gave us an insight into the eagles we were about to see. It wasn't long before our first encounter. A large female came flying over the boat and swooped down to collect the fish that had been thrown out for it. I was completely taken back by the size of the birds. They were huge, unbelievably so! We had 6 flybys from 5 birds.

We headed out to open water and eventually around Ulva and back to the port. If you go to Mull, the eagle trip run by Mull Charters is a must. You will not be disappointed by the experience.

The rest of the day, I visited Calgary bay for another coffee and then headed back to An Leth Fhonn in the afternoon for the hen harriers and SEO's. I spotted at least three SEO's and another two hen harriers. I managed to bump into Brian Boyes who was as skilled with the camera as finding birds of prey and otters on the Island. He is the admin for a Facebook Page "Passionate about Mull" and well worth a visit before heading to Mull.

With my last full day on Mull coming to a close, I was somewhat relieved, I had been getting up at 0400 every day, and even though resting the during the day, I was knackered. I was to return the next morning to attempt to get a nice shot of a SEO.

Day 4 - Wednesday 2 June 2021 - Returning Home with a treat

I'd had made it over to the owl location around 0500, so perfect timing for the owls to be out. I saw about 4 but were all too far off to get any shots. On my return to the ferry though, I was given a treat by a pair of hen harrier so what I had come for to see were in the camera and I was happy. I'd had got everything on the list except for a good close up of golden eagles but I've left that for a reason to come back.

I will definitely be back............

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