My accommodation on Mull was amazing. Island View was on top of a large hill and you could see for miles – it was breath taking. Located at Ulva Ferry Point and so close to most of the main otter areas. I had a brilliant Wildlife Tour with Andrew on the Wednesday and saw more otters and got more images, we also saw Hen Harrier, Red Deer, White Tailed Eagle, Seals, Great Spotted Woodpecker and many other birds – it was brilliant. Andrews knowledge of the island is incredible, his knowledge of wildlife brilliant and on top of that he is just a really nice guy with a great sense of humour. We saw the female otter with the cubs playing behind some rocks but it wasn’t possible to get any great images although I managed a few ok shots. I left early on Thursday to try and find the mother and cub, I met Brian who was with a friend and he was also looking for the same otters. We eventually found them coming in to shore and they headed inland up one of the streams. I got a couple of nice shots of them together and then I decided to leave them and try somewhere else I had some good sightings of the male otter again. He sat on a rock very close to me and I tried to get creative and capture some different images. One of my favourite images of the whole trip was a close up of a water droplet on the otters tail.
That was really the highlights. Then after a bad nights sleep where I woke up and walked in to a wall and cut my head I left early and decided that I would spend my last day looking for just the otter and cubs. I got up early and made my way to the loch – about 45 minutes away. Driving in the dark and then as the sun comes up was amazing. I saw a short eared owl on the road, red deer, fallow deer and what I think was a woodcock. This was all before the sun came up.
I got to the loch when it was still dark and I met Brian and another guy Jim who had been staying in his camper van on the island for a while. I spoke to them for a while and then went and sat by the loch and had a coffee. I then slowly drove up and down the loch shore looking for the otters. Nothing for the first hour. Then as I came back up a couple from Manchester Alyson and Dave stopped me and said they had seen them. From that moment on – I had the most incredible otter sighting and spent the next 6 hours with the otters. At times there were mum and the 2 cubs out in the water, but mostly it was just mum and one cub. The otters started in the water and I was able to get out of the car and move along the shoreline, getting closer and closer, when they dived I moved, when they came up I froze. Myself and Dave tried to predict where they would come to shore. They were busy hunting and we knew if they caught something big enough they would come to shore. So we picked our rocks and settled down and waited, after a few minutes the otters had caught something and brought it to shore. They were heading right towards me and I froze still. At the last minute they turned and swam towards Dave and they came ashore not far from him. I had my 600mm lens and using it with my Nikon D850 it allows you to switch from full frame to cropped very easily and quickly – so using it cropped I was achieving the equivalent of nearly 900mm. So I was plenty close enough. The otters were eating and grooming each other on the shore and were doing everything you could want, but they started behind some rocks so I couldn’t clearly see them and I couldn’t move for fear of disturbing them, eventually they moved to a place where I could see them at that moment the sun came out from behind the clouds and it made the lighting conditions very difficult.
For the next hour they continued to go in the water and fish for shrimps and then they would bring to shore a bigger fish and eat it, groom, lay down and then repeat again. Always coming back to the same place. It was incredible to watch, but I did hope that they would move to a slightly better location. The weather was strange it went from heavy rain, to bright harsh sunlight back to rain.
After a while they did leave their rock. They went back out in to the loch and made there way along the shoreline. It gave me the opportunity to finally move and get some feeling back in my leg and dry off a little. We then followed them along the loch and they continued to hunt and come to shore but not in good places to see and capture any images. Eventually after another hour they turned a headland and came closer. We quickly got in to position as they dived and then they came to shore. I then got images of them eating a star fish and letting it go and then catching it again, I got images of them laying together and grooming each other, playing with each other, eating fish. It was unbelievable.
At around 3pm they disappeared up one of the inlets in to the hills behind the road. The 6 hours went so quickly. I took over 1000 images and just had the most amazing experience.
I also had another amazing sighting on the way back, but this time Red Deer not otters. Just before i got back to Island View, i noticed a herd of deer on top of the hill, it was just starting to get dark and i was able to stop and get a few silhouette images that i was very pleased with.
I have been fortunate to photograph so many amazing animals in the wild and the only thing that can really compare to how I felt after this experience was when I photographed red pandas in the Himalayas.
In 4 days I had 21 otter sightings of 14 individual otters. I had manage to get some images that I am happy with and I had ticked off pretty much every image that I could have wanted and more.
This was a great trip. Mull is incredible for wildlife and incredible for otters. I couldn’t have done any of this without some great people and some help and for once a lot of luck.
It is only fair to give credit to them.
Wildlife on Mull Tours – Andrew
Accommodation – Island View. Andrew
Passionate About Mull – Facebook Page – Brian