Having waited for what seemed like an eternity since we booked up, the day finally arrived for our much anticipated trip to the Isle of Mull. Up nice and early, we left Dougies house at 4.00am on the saturday morning for the long drive to Oban. In the past this would have absolutely killed me but since becoming a trainee Ringer early starts have become the norm. The drive up was pleasant and relaxing, we gave ourselves plenty of time incase of any hiccups but we neednt have worried as the drive was nice and uneventful. We arrived at Oban at just before 11.00am, giving us an hour to have a nice breakfast and to explore the harbour. It also gave some people a chance to go shopping as Dougie had forgotten his boots and Steve had forgotten to bring any toiletries!!! That done, we went searching for sea birds. Just a few minutes of scanning produced our first target bird of the trip, with two Black Guillemots bobbing on the sea. These are absolutely beautiful birds and I'd only ever seen them once before in Cumbria so it was a pleasure to see these again. In a half hour walk around the bay we saw maybe around 10 Black Guillemots on and around the sea. The only other birds seen were a few species of Gull. And so at 12.30pm we bordered the ferry and took the 45 minute sail to the island itself. We tried a bit of sea watching from the boat but to be honest there was very very little to see bar a couple of Gannets and a few more Gulls. On departing the ferry we saw the first of many (and I mean many!) Hooded Crows. The difference between these birds and our familiar Carrion Crow is startling. They are much more attractive, if you can call a Crow attractive! While driving alongside Loch Beg to one of Steve's first sites Dougie shouted for Steve to pull over as quickly as he could. He had seen an Otter! We all scanned the shoreline and sure enough there was our first Otter of the trip. Magnificent! I have seen a couple of Otters before but never as close as this one was. We slowly and quietly got out of the car as Steve and Dougie wanted to try and get a few photos but the little critter was having none of it and went under the rocks and out of view. Still, it was a superb start. Also on the Loch we saw our first Diver of the week, a gorgeous summer plumaged Great Northern Diver. We would see quite a few of these relatively scarce birds over the next few days but seeing our first one was quite a thrill. We also had our first Ravens of the trip, again these were extremely common birds on the island. We eventually dragged ourselves away as Steve had something special lined up for me. We pulled into a spot at Kilfinichen Bay and Steve got his scope out. After a few minutes he told me to have a look through his scope, and there slap bang in the middle was a female White Tailed Eagle sat on a nest. I was gobsmacked. It was my first ever W.T. Eagle and it was a majestic sight. I ran to the car to get my own scope and set it up as quickly as I could. I was onto the nest in seconds. We all watched in awe at this incredible raptor as first it preened and then it stood up, revealing 2 chicks!!! TWO CHICKS. This was better than I ever imagined. We stood there watching for a good half hour before setting off for our lodgings for the week. What a start we'd had!
We arrived at our caravan, unloaded our stuff and immediately headed straight back out. After all we had a whole week to look around the caravan area! We did however hear a pair of Cuckoos singing in the woodland opposite our caravan, always great to hear. We headed off to a place called Fidden, an area that Steve knew very well. We pulled into the side of the road at one point and Steve said it was quite a good area for Hen Harriers. We scanned for a good half hour but had no luck with any Harriers. We were just getting back into the car when Dougie said 'whats that?'. He looked through his binoculars before saying 'got one, Hen Harrier in the far field'. Myself and Steve joined him and we both spotted the bird he was watching. It was fairly distant but it was unquestionably a male Hen Harrier. These are one of my favourite birds and it is always a delight to see one. Steve had come up with the goods again. We kept watching it until it eventually glided out of view. We drove off very happy. As we drove along we spotted a couple of Whimbrel in a field. At least we thought it was a couple! On closer inspection we counted 16 Whimbrels in total. None of us had seen this many in a group, usually we're happy to get just the 1 or 2 together! Steve then took us to an area that he'd had some Mountain Hares in previous visits. I'd only ever seen 1 before so was looking forward to seeing a few more. We pulled up and immediately seen a Hare. Excellent! That was easy. We decided to get out of the car and have a slow relaxing stroll for a half hour before heading back to the caravan for the night. We were all astonished with how many Mountain Hares we ended up seeing. Incredibly we saw more than 20 of these beautiful creatures on our little amble. They were absolutely everywhere. We actually thought they were quite shy animals and would be quite difficult to find but we couldnt have been more wrong. Having filled our boots with Hares we headed back to the caravan. It had been an extremely long day but it had been a superb start to our week.