Isle of Mull

12th October 2014
In July I booked a four day stay on the Isle of Mull with a couple of friends, our main target and the reason for going to Mull was the White Tailed Eagle. Mull has the largest population of White Tailed Eagles in the Uk but you still need to be able to get close enough to photograph them, which means chartering a boat.
Looking at our options we settled for http://www.mullcharters.com. Martin and his son Alex run two trips a day to two different nest sites, once at the sites they throw fish out for the Eagles to come down and collect off the waters surface. This is all managed under the supervision of the R.S.P.B and only a limited amount of fish can be feed to the Eagles each day, this insures the Eagles do not become dependent on the free food that's on offer.

Looking through Martins website, I noticed they had two options, one is the normal day trips and the other is a photography tour which was for the whole afternoon and had a four person limit which would suit us much better than the normal tour which is always very busy. Using 600mm lenses on a boat when there isn't much room to move about would not of produced the results we were after so we made our minds up and went for the limited person tour, Yes it's a lot more expensive but at the end of the day we wanted the best chance of getting the images we were after.

A few phone calls later and we were booked in for the Wednesday afternoon, weather permitting. Arriving on the Island on the Sunday afternoon we now had a few days to kill before the boat trip so after we unloaded our gear into the cottage we grabbed the cameras and went on a tour of the Island. After a few hours of driving around the Island we settled for a few locations to try out in the morning, although shooting from the car was going to be difficult. All the roads around the Island are only a single car width wide with passing places dotted along the road for when another car comes along. Oh well, we thought we will just have to see how it goes and hopefully there wouldn't be that much traffic at the time of the morning we planned to be out.

Monday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and we had perfect views of it from the cottage, after taking a few quick images of the sunrise we loaded up the car and went out to see what we could find.

The view from the front door of the cottage..



It soon became apparent that there wasn't much to photograph wildlife wise, seabirds especially seemed to be scarce which was probably to do with the time of year as most were breeding but it still seemed very quiet. There was plenty of other species of birds about and the first that got our attention were the Common Sandpipers.

Common Sandpiper







Most of the birds were very skittish and proved very difficult to approach and as we feared the single track roads weren't helping either, as soon as you got on a bird a bloody car would come along and we would have to move but we persevered and in the end came away with a few shots.

Lapwing...







Meadow Pipit.





Common Snipe proved very difficult to get close to as well..





Spotted Flycatcher.



Swallow.



Curlew.



Heron.



Hooded Crow.



Mull is also well known for it's Otters but in the four days we were on the Island we only saw two! and they were miles out in the lochs. Talking to a few of the locals, sightings had been few and far between over the last couple of weeks. Not to be deterred we covered the whole Island in search of them but unfortunately we didn't have any luck.We did however have plenty of false alarms with Seals, as we scanned the Lochs we would notice movement on the surface which would then have us driving over to the area only to get closer and see it was a Seal.



Red Deer were about in good numbers too but the single track road that practically covers the whole Island was becoming a right pain in the arse. If you saw a landscape shot or a wildlife shot you just couldn't stop anywhere and if you did stop it was sods law that a car would come and you would have to move.. aaarrrgghh.



We had done the best we could with the few days leading up to the boat trip so we decided to relax on the Wednesday morning and spend the time doing some time-lapse photography instead of chasing things about. We parked up next to one of the White Tailed Eagle sites which also gave us the opportunity to watch the morning boat trip and see what sort of distances the Eagles came to the boat.

Not the best image as the boat was a fair distance out in the loch but this gives you some idea of the normal boat trips and how amazingly close the Eagles were, in hindsight I wish I'd booked a boat trip everyday as well as the photographic one, something I will definitely do next time..



The morning soon passed and it was our turn to photograph the Eagles, the good thing was the sun was still shinning but the wind had picked up a bit and the first loch we entered had a bit of chop on the water. Martin moved the boat into position which was side onto the wind causing considerable rocking of the boat "this is going to be fun I thought" Alex threw the fish out and we waited for the Eagle to show. It wasn't long before one of the Eagles was circling the boat,I couldn't believe the size of it! it was like a flying barn door. I grabbed a few shots as it started to make its approach...



This approach was aborted due to the fact we had drifted too close to the fish and as I was watching the Eagle turn away Martin powered the boat away which caught me by surprise and I nearly ended up in the loch :) Getting my feet firmly planted on the deck just in case that happened again the Eagle came in for another go and this time it grabbed the fish..







We then moved to the next location which took about forty minutes or so and by then the wind had dropped off and the sea was flat calm. Martin positioned the boat and Alex threw the fish out again, within minutes we had two Eagles circling the boat with one bird flying straight over the boat several times giving us super close up views.









One of the Eagles wasted no time in getting a fish but thankfully the other bird was having a bit of difficulty and gave us a couple of approaches, close ones too.









The poor bird was also being hassled by Great Black-backed Gulls which were also keen on a free meal...






600mm was way too big really but thanks to Martin and his skill with positioning the boat he made it work for us and we came away with some nice close up shots of an awesome bird of prey.





Well that's it for now and if you are ever thinking about taking a trip to Mull to photograph the White Tailed Eagles make sure you look up http://www.mullcharters.com Martin and Alex do a great job, which ever tour package you choose you won't regret it..

Thanks for looking.