Monday, 31 October 2011

Final snaps of the final day on Mull

Final day on Isle of Mull- and 5 more otters

So if you haven;t just stumbled upon this one blog entry and have read the previous few then you will understand that we part time, extremely enthusiastic otter spotters are now wondering just where luck ends and something like experience or dare we say it skill or even more dare we say it divine intervention counts. We came with 12 otter spots under the proverbial belt. We now had another 6 in the bag and it is our last day on Isle of Mull.
Wandered down to Fidden Farm area (where we had intended to camp before we saw how horrendous the forecast was) Again we found spraints and spraiting points (and were delighted by this in itself)
On way back we bethought us to stop once more at the fruitful Loch Scridon and then head back to Loch Buie (site of our first sighting of a single otter hunting but also of 2 eagles and thinking it much more liely we would see the eagles again than any chance of a final farewell otter)
Arrived at Scridon and parked up for a walk. Simom noticed that the "island" that we'd seen two otters eat on was now walkable to and proceeded to slip and slide across seaweed strewn rocks towards that point..
I snapped a buzzard swooping right across my line of vision and a couple of herons for want of getting something on the memory card at least on our last day.
Herons make a hell of a racket when screeching off but there was another sound I sort of became aware of which forced my bins to eyes. A scan of the sea and the seaweed shoreline promptly stopped me in my tracks! My final prayers had asked to see a snuggle of otters curled asleep on some seaweed and lo and behold there in the circular vision of the bins was such a brown furry snuggle. I called a loudly, quietly as possible to Pants (Simon) and began snapping furiously as the snuggle unsnuggled and began to tussle, chase each otjer around in a circle and snap and screech at eavh other. I watched alternatively through bins and camera lens as mother (I assumed) left and slithered in to sea (not to be spotted again) The remaining group slithered and cuddled and dispersed so fast. We followed some for a bit not really understanding how may there had been and where they all went. After a bit we lost them all.
Then one reemerged and we had a final sight of it emerging onto a rocky seaweed island and sliding off that again before disappearing.
On looking at the snaps we realised we had seen 4 otters initially. AWESOME!! TEN OTTER HOLIDAY FOLKS!!

NOT THE END>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
We scurried back to see a last sight of golden eagles and as we were bumping through the pot holes beside Loch Buie Simon said "Funny people go slow looking from their cars for otters but you never really see them from the car!" I replied "Well you saw our first this holiday from the car on this very Loch!" He responded.. "Yeah but that was a one off.... OTTER>>>>" I stalled!!

Parked the car in pouring rain and tried to cover my camera at the same time as scrambling over the rocks towards the place I' dropped Simon off without slipping into a rock pool and trying to spot the otter he'd seen.

Once again we had a good hour an half watching a single otter hunting. "he" came close to the rocky shore eating whilst swimming when the prey was small enough and swimming ashore when he needed to concentrate a little more on the chewing action (as the pictures show)

So we left Mull with 23 otters in the bag. Not the closest and best situation for photography but incredible experiences watching behaviour. Singles hunting and eating, sprainting, playing, young with adults! A truly awesome otter spotting experience.

A moment of gratitude is due.... to the great thing, power or energy that some may call god.
:-) :-) :-)

Eagles and otters of Mull

Day 4 on Big Otter Island! Awoke early, sandwiches packed and ready and on the road by 7.20am.

Bethought ourselves to head back via Loch Scridon and then take a right hand turn to Crasaig and see what was to be seen there. Stopped at the loch and went for walk towards incoming tide and where we had initially seen three otters together two days earlier. We sawa seal and the ubiquitous heron or zillion! Wandered back carwards, Simon toi tuck into his snadwiches and me for a fag. About to pack away and drive on (Si in passenger seat and me packing stuff behind driver's seat) when out of the corner of my disbelieving eye I sight two otters swimming together- where the **** did they come from?

We both hopped out and watched, photoraphed the pair, hunting and landing variety of grub on small islands where savoury items were devoured. The light was appalling being early the otters were mainly silhouettes aginst a bright golden sea. Still we enjoed watching some great behaviour for well over an hour and half before the swam so far out of our range we gave up.

We got to Carsaig to discover 4 eagles. (general consensus was 4 golden eagles though I am not entirely convinced all four were golden) Anyway some shots here.. Some amazing displays by 3 - could have been two adults and a juvy but not sure about the earlier sighting of 4 who was the fourth? Could they have raised two young that survived and if so why was only one hanging around with them? Check out he rather distant snaps (sorry even full range the 400 mm lense wasn't picking up too much detail against the sky)

Day three - tracks and signs blurred by hangover induced late start

So exhaulted were we by having already spent 3 hours over 2 sightings of four otters we slurped alittle too heavily on our holiday bottle of Caol Ila and decided to lie in to all of 8am on Weds. We pottered back to Calgary Bay and searched up the right hand side for signs and tracks.
The day saw nothing particularly exciting in terms of wildlife but gave us an opportunity to ponder on the deep, almost spiritual sensation of finding tracks and signs of these playful, skillful, beautiful animals. The touch of our own digit pads in their sandy pad signs only hours later on a deserted beach or the so obvious emerald tussoch of vegetation jutting into the smellways of any swimming lutrine personality wandering down a seawards river or around a small lochan... It really gave us the feeling of being so tantalising close to our beloved quarry.
Some signs and tracks for your perusal and hopefully future use when tracking..

The tale of three otters a big splash for expensive lens and dead seal on Iona

Tuesday saw us up bright and early and away for 7.30am heading twards the south and Iona.

I dropped my 100-400mm USm Canon lens in a muddy puddle the day before whilst checking out a sprainting point! Heart stopping and potentially excruciatingly expensive few moments ensued but managed to clean and dry the stuff out overnight and was praying it had worked when we stopped at Loch Scridon to scour the shore and sea for otters.

We had walked a while up and down some prime territory and at together at once saw (we think) two different otters at the same time. Simon's was launching itself from land to sea and mine was swimming and we both almost similtaneously thought we saw two together when we saw the second or was it third. Another hour and 15 had us in soaking rain, desperately trying to protect my so recently dried out lense as we followed a gambolling family of three in torrential rain- swim, hunt and mainly play in the shallows and in the shoreedge seaweed. So the pictures of this encounter must count amongst our dire worst but the experience far outweighs the visual evidence in this case. Watching three otters tussle and play in and out of the water and bounce along the seaweed. Such a great priviledge.
The pictures are rubbish but show three otters swimming together and in one the three: one in bottom right corner eating (with a crow near) and the other two heads in top left corner swimming out to hunt some more.

What's the story from Bala... erm ahem Tobermory?

Amazing week on Isle of Mull. We based ourselves in Tobermory in a small cabin behind the Western Isles Hotel. Really it was simply a base for us; grateful not to be camping in such inclement weather.

First day we wandered over to Calgary Bay and had a planned scoping route which was ruined by picking up a hitcher (thankfully not Rutger Hauer!) A very nice Bristolian travelling on her own steam with an ultimate goal of walking back to Bristol in time for Christmas. Madness- but no apparent axe!!

Monday morning we set off by 7.30am as we did each day bar Weds. We spotted from the car a loan hunting otter about 3.30pm in heavy heavy rain. Spent almost two hours with him (I assume him, based on nothing scientific whatsoever) Awesome but crap weather.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Marsh Harrier attacks... bullrush(?) at Leighton Moss

Fkying visit to Leighton Moss on Thursday (just cannot seem to find proper time to have a break away at the moment) Sat for the longest while watching zillions of coots and not much else from Lower Hide when suddenly much quacking and flapping signalled the arrival of a sparrow hawk - way too quick to snap but then a young marsh harrier appeared and gave us some views.

It then swept down on something on far bank. It was hopping about and we thought it had captured something but it looks from my blurry far away shots as though it was attaching a bullrush! The pictures show it trying to fly off with bullrush clasped in talons. Bizarre! Perhaps practising?

Anyway a few snaps of the harrier here and one of a coupling pair of migrant hawkers.

Of to Mull nex Saturday (a week's time we'll be eating fish'n'chips on Tobermory harbour & hoping to catch a glimpse of resident otter! Joy!!!