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TonyQ

Scotland: Mainly Mull – Puffins, Predator birds… and some mammals

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The boat moved on to another site,

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and another fish was thrown into the sea

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Picks up the fish and heads back to the nest

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(very heavy crop to show very large nest in a tree this time -chick just visible!)

 

On our trip we saw 2 White-tailed Eagles come for fish. I think that if the weather had been better, and in particular the sea in some areas had not been so rough we may have seen more. We really enjoyed the trip - seeing these magnificent birds fly in so close was a real thrill.  And we even had time to see another otter on the way back to Ulva Ferry.

 

 

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excellent photos  and so glad you had a great time     @TonyQ

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Posted (edited)

Great EIF sequence! It is very strange how crows etc. do harass eagles which are much larger birds!

 

@TonyQ a few logistic questions:

-  how far in advance this tour needs to be booked? 

- how rough is the boat ride?

- how wet is the boat ride?

Edited by xelas

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@xelas

We booked the boat trip 2 days before (you then have to phone on the morning of the trip to check that it will go ahead -if the weather is too bad they cannot go). We wanted to go the day before we actually went, but there was only one space left. I didn't count, but it was probably full on the day we went. You will be there in school holidays so it may be worth checking earlier if you want to go.

 

On our trip the captain chose a slightly different route to a more sheltered area because he thought the more open sea was a bit rough. I think you would see more Eagles in the open area (if weather was good) but we were happy with what we saw. Our trip was not rough at all -it was very enjoyable just being on the boat. They only have 12 passengers and there is plenty of room on deck to move around and to sit down.

 

There is a cabin which has room for all of the passengers (tight fit) but we preferred being out even when it was raining. We took waterproof coat/trousers and it was fine.  You get a welcome cup of coffee and a biscuit at the half way point as well.

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This report just reminds me of how much there is to see on the West Coast of Scotland. I have been intending visiting for several years, I even have a touring caravan that has been sat idle  for all but around 8 weeks of the last 5 years but still I haven't been.

Maybe next year! 

If I do this report will have helped push me there!

 

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9 hours ago, Dave Williams said:

If I do this report will have helped push me there!

 

@Dave Williams and there will be at least 2 more till the end of this year ... ;)

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@Towlersonsafari thank you - it was great!

@Dave Williams thank you - go - I am sure you would enjoy it and I would love to see your photos.

and your report @xelas

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Onwards to Iona

Goodbe to Salen and a couple of residents outside the door

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Swallow

 

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Young Starling.

We then headed towards the south west corner of Mull towards Iona

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Highland Cattle on the edge of the road (not familiar with passing places?)

 

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We were than thrilled to catch a glimpse of a Hen Harrier. These are rare in the UK (persecution and habitat loss), but this was the second we saw on Mull (the first photo was even worse!)

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598739a3b1f06_Coastm-1.jpg.70ddc17166737b603b0a6f1fba090406.jpg

The coast

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Posted (edited)

To get to Iona you catch a ferry from Fionphort in the far South-West of Mull. Only resi dents can take a car to Iona, but there is a free car park at Fionphort (it is big, but we got the last place when we arrived). The ferry trip only takes 10-15 minutes.

 

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The main village on Iona, with the ferry, taken from Fionphort

 

59873c2757a84_Abbeym-1.jpg.f83bb70459b4692c7bfc77c4d2ae52e1.jpg

Iona Abbey taken from the ferry

 

We had booked 2 nights at the Argyll Hotel - a lovely place with excellent food...

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Our room was above the door and to the left (taken from ferry)

Iona is a small island (3miles by 1 ½ miles) with about 120 residents. It gets a number of day visitors, most stay in the area of the village and the Abbey - it is very peacful early and late in the day, and away from the village. It is famous as site where in 563, Columba established a monastery bringing Christianity to Scotland. The Abbey is from later (about 1200-1500) , restored at the beginning of the 20th Century and continued from 1938 by The Iona Community, a Christian group who still live and worship on Iona.

 

59873da4b3c9b_CrossI-2.thumb.jpg.7489e3d9c04959307e5c27d0979b83ce.jpg

Celtic Cross

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Cloisters in the Abbey

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View from Abbey Grounds

Edited by TonyQ
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In Search of the Corncrake

One bird we really hoped we would see on Iona was the Corncrake. It is a rare and a very difficult bird to see. It has suffered through changes to agriculture, but conservationists are working with farmers here to modify practices. One simple change has been to mow from the centre of a field (so the crakes move outwards) rather than from the edge (crakes move inwards and get killed). They have also been leaving more plants at field edges)

Before and after (a superb) dinner on the first night we went walking about, hoping to catch a glimpse. (Turn the sound up!)

(about 10 seconds)

So on our wanderings, we heard 5 or 6 different birds and spent a lot of time staring into undergrowth but didn't see one. However it was encouraging to hear them in gardens as well as fields.

 

We got up early the next morning and headed out to have another look. We checked tha place we had heard them the previous evening, it was very quiet, but then checking one of them again we saw...

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(The irises you can see in the background are an important part of the bird's environment providing cover. Many garden and fields now have these planted to support the Corncrake). For us this was a wonderful start to the day, and we headed back to breakfast very happy!

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After breakfast, back in the direction where we saw the corncrake, this time just to walk, enjoy the scenery, the peace and whatever we might see.

598741c365743_IonascenesI-1.jpg.102e39cdd236c509569b89108cc53ce9.jpg

 

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(I don't know who the person was - we saw very few on the walk)

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Sand Martin leaving nest

 

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Dunlin at the water's edge

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You will notice that the sky has become very dark. We beagan to walk back towards the hotel more quickly- but not quickly enough. The heavens opened. We were wearing waterproof coats, but not waterproof trousers. Our legs got completely soaked and the water ran down into our boots. The rain was incredibly heavy - but it was sunny again in a couple of hours.

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Posted (edited)

So out again in the afternoon - again just enjoying what we see

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Rook - there are not many Rooks on Mull, but there is a Rookery on Iona

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We found it interesting to see migrants here

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Meadow Pipit - there were lots of Pipits here. I have posted this picture to show the amazingly long claws.

 

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House Sparrow

 

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Lots of Wheatears

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and lots of Wheatear babies

We found it intersting to learn that the name "Wheatear" has nothing to do with "Wheat" and nothing to do with "Ears".  It used to be called the "whitearse" beacause of the white patch on the rump. Someone must have thought that the current name was a bit more refined.

Edited by TonyQ
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Wow, a Corncrake, congratulations, and such a great and clear shot - super, only ever heard them. Didn't know about the whitearse eithe - very funny!

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Posted (edited)

The Mystery of Iona's Rabbits

There are lots and lots of rabbits on Iona. They seem to be relatively unbothered by people. Most of the rabbits are, well, rabbit coloured

598745cb80c59_RabbitI-3.jpg.bfa608e8f4a80aa3df7d3e012f89ce6f.jpg

 

Some however are very dark, almost black

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Which reminded us of one we saw on Lunga (the Puffin Island). I have never seen black rabbits before this trip. Why here we wondered. (Though we were not bright enough to ask anyone!). I wonder if Safaritalk's rabbit expert   @kittykat23uk  has any ideas?

Rabbit l m-1.jpg

this one has pale hairs as well...

Edited by TonyQ
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The Corncrake shot is a belter.

You get black rabbits in a few places, often on islands they were introduced by the monks as a food source so maybe not the same as the native ones .

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Posted (edited)

It gets dark late at this time of year, so a late evening walk

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A good night's sleep a fine breakfast (I recommend the Smoked Trout with Scrambled Egg) and off to catch the first ferry

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Iona is a wonderful peaceful place. Once you walk away from the small village area you see hardly any people. We had a wonderful time - but now we had to drive across Mull to catch a ferry to mainland Scotland.

Edited by TonyQ
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Fantastic trip report Tony.  Congratulations on the corncrake and the eagles in flight - super! 

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That is a superb picture of  a  corncrake!!!  I have only ever seen 2 , both at Balranald, but i have stared into patches of grass and iris hearing them but just not seeing them many a time and your pictures of the landscape and the iona cloisters  i very much enjoyed Bravo @TonyQ  I am however very glad you got soaked as every time Jane and I have been to Iona, we have always got very wet.i would l'd hate it if you missed out

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Excellent report @TonyQ. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Abundant birds, otters , lovely scenery, even the weather was not too bad, apart from odd soaking. What else can you ask for ?  

Very timely for us. Xelas and I will be travelling ( not together) to some of the places you had visited and would consider ourselves lucky to see what you have seen. I was really keen to see the Corncrakes at RSPB Balraland but sadly can't fit it in this time. I'm sure Xelas  will see a few there as he'd spend several days in Uist. 

I have to say I am also not too keen on these boat trips where they throw fish to eagles, but after reading your comments I think I'll change my views and perhaps book one. 

I know puffins are gone but hopefully the Minke whales and dolphins will make up for that. And who knows may be even a basking shark !! 

Thanks for sharing your experience. 

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8 minutes ago, Chakra said:

And who knows may be even a basking shark !! 

 

Look sharp when taking the ferry to/from Iona @Chakra! In 2012 the ferry captain diverted the ferry to show us one :D; quite a sight!

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Posted (edited)

@KaingU Lodge Thank you

@Towlersonsafari thank you. Our boots have now dried out!

@Chakra thank you, and have a wonderful trip yourself. I understand what you mean about the eagle trip as we had similar doubts, but we really enjoyed it.

@Dave Williams thank you - we were very pleased to see the Corncrake - I managed about 6 pictures of it (2 out of focus!) before it disappeared so I was very happy with the one posted. Thank you for the information about the rabbits - it makes sense.

Edited by TonyQ

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Back to Mull, pick up the car and while we do have time to stop a few times and explore, we do have a ferry booked to take us back to the mainland.

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A final Gannet from the ferry

 

Once back, we drive past Loch Lomond and south. We thought it would be too far to drive from Iona to Birmingham in one day, so we had decided to stop off for a couple of nights in Dumfries and Galloway, in a small village called Kipford. We decided on staying in this area of Scotland because of the Galloway Kite Trail.

 

We were still some miles away when we stopped in a small town (I can’t remember the name)  because overhead we had seen

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There were probably about half a dozen Red Kites overhead. A very exciting sight for us.

 

As we continued we saw a Roe Deer in a field at the side of the road.

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We continued on to Kippford to a very nice B&B

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The next morning was very wet – we did get out a bit but also enjoyed a good coffee shop!

Luckily the weather was clearing as we were hoping to see Red Kites again in the afternoon.

 

Red Kites used to be common in the UK, but were driven almost to extinction by the beginning of the 20th Century with only a few remaining in Wales. The remaining birds were protected, though some egg collectors continued to raid nests (the rarer the bird, the more valuable the eggs). By the 1980s the egg collectors had become less of a problem, and in 1989 a reintroduction programme was started in England and Scotland. The first successful breeding began in 1992.  In 2001 some birds were released in Galloway to “join up” the other areas of release, and 4 pairs nested in 2003. Since then the birds have gone from strength to strength.

 

The Galloway Kite trail is an attempt to maintain goodwill of local people towards the birds by encouraging tourism linked to the birds, bringing money to the local economy.  http://www.gallowaykitetrail.com/

 

At Bellymack Hill Farm there is a feeding station. At 2pm every day, some food is put out, and for £5 you can watch the kites

http://www.bellymackhillfarm.co.uk/

We arrived about 1.30, and there were already birds around. They began to arrive in greater numbers.

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It was wonderful to see so many kites, often very close. I didn’t attempt to count, but there were more than 50, and the RSPB says that up to 100 can come.

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5989d5444054e_RedKiteF-5.jpg.66633ec2b2c3c9e04bac315c31524735.jpg

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Sorry if there is abit of Red Kite overload.....

5989d5b8a3344_RedKiteF-7.thumb.jpg.bebe722e5ce3d034c0816c83a67b22e8.jpg

 

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It was amazing watching them in flight - so manouverable!

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Red Kite F-10.jpg

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Posted (edited)

We stayed for a couple of hours after the birds had been fed (most other visitors had gone long before this, but there were plenty of birds around to see!)

 

Eventually we headed off to the nearby RSPB reserve – Ken Dee Marshes. It is a lovely place to walk with many warblers in the trees. We sat in a hide for a while watching woodland birds

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Great Tit feeds babies

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We heard a disturbance and noticed

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Red Kite and Black-headed Gull

Very quickly followed by

5989d69a849a4_DeeMarshes-6.jpg.39473ffc58244b234396cc521d762abc.jpg

So quite a spectacular end to a peaceful visit (though I don't think it caught anything!)

 

So an excellent day ended a great trip. Next day would be motorway to Birmingham - a bit of a contrast.

I am sure it will not be long before we return to Scotland – it has such a lot to offer.

In the meantime I hope @Chakra and @xelas post trip reports for me to enjoy!

Edited by TonyQ
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