We arrived on Mull via the 07:30 from Oban - a journey that had started well with three otter in Oban harbour along with several dapper black guillemot and some crossbill. Our arrival at Craignure forty-five minutes later was equally as good, with another otter on the shore next to the harbour.
The main objective of Saturday was to get to Iona early - so we headed along the A849 to Fionnphort on what was a beautiful drive - cloudless skied, mirror-like water on the sea. Our progress was slowed somewhat by the amazing (by north-east England birders definition...) of great northern diver - a species that was to dominate our marine observations. There were many present, including some stunning summer pluage birds - see above! Also observed were many red-breasted merganser and eider.
While no eagles were seen in the morning, many buzzard were noted. As described in the previous post the main quarry on Iona was corncrake - and almost immediately upon arrival we could hear the crakes "crexing" - however it was three painful hours before two birds emerged - in a garden of all places!! A great tick for two of the group.
Back on Mull we headed back along Loch Scridain and joined the B8035 to travel in the direction of Knock. Our journey was slow and many stops were made to check the shores, cliffs and general stunning scenery as we drove. Highlight of the journey was meeting a familiar face from Northumberland - Bryan Raines, who "migrated" to Mull a few years back. Bryan will be familiar to many of the bird blog readers as he can be found here. It was great to catch up, and the mention of a pint later was suffice to give us a clear route back to our digs! Our meeting point was at the newly established "official" (there's a locked hide of sorts above the road) white-tailed eagle viewing point - and sure enough the female was sitting, albeit distant!
We continued our journey and it was not long before we bumped into another immature white-tailed eagle - and then another... Not quite as close as I'd like, but always impressive and a second tick of the day for cousin Rob!
We began our journey back to the digs (Bunessan: Argyll Arms - great accommodation and breakfast!!), not without another look at the eagle nest - male dropped in with the female, and a very pleasant couple of pints with Bryan first at Pennyghael, which included a tame grey heron in the pub garden, eating dog food!
Sunset at Bunessan - Image by Rob Lawson
Sunday dawned a little more cloudy, but it was not without good birding - pre-breakfast included three rock dove feeding on the shore outside the hotel and a very showy grasshopper warbler on the road to Ardchiavaig.
Our drive back to Craignure after a very large Scottish breakfast featured decent birds including crossbill at Pennyghael, golden eagle and plenty of hooded crow. As with our arrival, our departure was met with another otter at Craignure!
We departed on the one o'clock ferry and left feeling rather sad that the trip was coming to an end - but all agreed it was a great success... a short trip with bird species seen high in the '70s, a couple of ticks for the group and a load of good banter and micky taking, endurance of the foul and ill effect of real ale too... roll on next year for our next venture!
Above - the "crew" - Mark, Rob, Me and John B