Usually every year I go to Kenya. But this year due to Covid 19 my wildlife trip was a very different one. So at the beginning of August I embarked on a trip to the Isle of Mull and The Ardnamurchan Peninsula.
The Isle of Mull is an amazing location, probably one of the best in the UK for Wildlife.
The target species here were otters, puffins and White Tailed Eagles.
I took a trip with Mull Charters which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone, we had an amazing trip and had a total of 5 eagles around the boat at different times. The size of these eagles is incredible and to be in a position where you can observe them in their natural habitat at such close quarters is awe inspiring, a fish is thrown in to the water near the boat and the eagles come down and take the fish from the water. Photographically it is challenging as the boat is moving and the eagles are so quick. However the opportunity to get images is brilliant and the Mull Charters team – Alex and Martin go out of their way to help you.
It is definitely a trip that I would recommend to anyone visiting Mull.
I also took a trip with Turus Mara out to Staffa and the Isle of Lunga where Puffins nest. We were at the end of the breeding season and a lot of the puffins had already flown out to sea where they will remain and fish for the winter before returning to nest again next year. However there were still a few thousand puffins. You take a short but steep walk up to the top of the cliff, the puffins are quite relaxed as long as you maintain a reasonable distance, however you are still very close. We had just under 2 hours with the puffins, but it felt like 10 minutes. The opportunity to capture images is incredible with flight shots, portraits and behaviour shots available in abundance. It takes a while to get used to the share number of opportunities and to work out a plan for shooting. My only regret is that 2 hours is not enough.
Otters proved to be a big challenge this week and despite seeing 8, I wasn’t able to get any images as the otters often became disturbed by people stopping and disturbing them or just disappeared. I planned straight away to return later on in the year (Covid Permitting to try again when it was quieter).
During this trip I was based in Durvaig and stayed at the Potting Shed. It made a good location for exploring the Island and the property was beautifully furnished and had everything that you would want to be comfortable.
Ardnamurchan has a reputation of being an untouched and unspoilt, wild area of Scotland. It is also renowned for its population of Pine Martens. It is also one of the few places where Scottish Wildcat can be seen.
I stayed in the old sawmill in Glenborrodale. The location of this property is incredible. We regularly saw red deer from the cottage window, loads of birds including great spotted woodpecker, yellow hammers and jays. But the highlight for the cottage is the visit of pine martens every night. We put out food for them – peanut butter and jam sandwiches were their favourite, but they loved peanuts and raw eggs too. At the beginning of the week the pine martens came as it was getting dark, but as the week went on they started to visit earlier.
Photographing them was relatively easy as they played on the grass area and stayed for a while eating their food and sometimes picking up eggs and running off to hide them and coming back for something else. The only challenge was when the light started to go and photographing them at very high iso’s. The images did contain quite a lot of noise. But post processing them with Topaz deNoise makes a massive difference.
On a beautifully sunny day we visited the lighthouse on the Ardnamurchan Penisnsula – the most westerly point on the British mainland.
The 36 metre granite tower soars 55 metres above the rocks, and was built in 1849 using granite from the Island of Mull. It was designed by Alan Stevenson, uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson, whose family designed most of Scotland’s lighthouses over a period of 150 years. It is the only lighthouse in the world designed in an “Egyptian” style. Like all other lighthouses in Scotland, Ardnamurchan now operates automatically, but the tower remains fully functional and still plays a vital role in ensuring the safety of ships navigating the waters off Scotland’s west coast.
It is renowned as one of the best places to see whales, dolphins, basking sharks and sea birds.
A few hours sat by the lighthouse rewarded with diving gannets, minke whales and common dolphins. The common dolphins were very close, but unfortunately I left my camera in the car.
One that got away!!! – the afternoon after we left Killer Whales were also seen.
An amazing place and one I will definitely go back to….with my camera.
Otters still remained elusive….despite being in great locations and going out very early every morning and getting eaten alive by the overly friendly Scottish midges….i still didn’t get my image.
On paper the headline animals of Kenya – lions, leopard and cheetah to name a few are far more attractive in most peoples eyes, however I can honestly say the 2 weeks in Scotland were as good as any other wildlife experience that I have had.
One of the positive things for me with Covid-19 and the difficulties of travel was that it made me look at my local area and my own country to see what opportunities that there are and Mull and Ardnamurchan did not disappoint.
The Tourism and hospitality trade has been hit massively in Scotland – I would strongly recommend all of the companies that I used and their details are below:
Isle of Mull
Isle of Mull Cottages and the Potting Shed
Mull Charters – White Tailed Eagles
Staffa and Lunga – Puffins