Species to see

Otter

There are of course thousands of species to see!! But from our many years of experience we know that most people are joining the trip to see Mull's big three and these are golden eagle, otter and white tailed sea eagle.

At the start of every trip we usually ask the party what they would really 'love' to see. Most people will say 'I would love to see an eagle' or 'I have always wanted to see an otter' but then many of our knowledgeable visitors will say 'any chance of seeing a Merlin?' or 'do you think we might see bottlenose dolphins?' or 'is it a good time of years to see divers?'

White Tailed Sea Eagle

There are many days when the list is as magical as Mull and there are days when we see truly top drawer sightings of all of the above species.

But what we can state with confidence is that no other wildlife operation in Scotland has seen more of the big three species than ourselves in the course of the last quarter of a century.

In fact we have known individual sea eagles and golden eagles for over twenty years and more in some cases. Do not expect to see an eagles nest because we do not think it acceptable to show you that and we always behave with the utmost consideration for the creatures we are observing. It is for instance a successful encounter if we are able to get good views of otters doing their own thing, whilst they have no idea that we have ever been there.

More detailed information on some of the species you will see.

Golden Eagle: Aquila chrysaetos

Probably Scotland's most admired and sought after creature. In fact Mull and the Isle of Skye have the greatest concentration of golden eagles per acre than anywhere else in the world. Golden eagles are primarily birds of high country, they hunt mountain hares, ptarmigan, red grouse and eats lots of carrion, in the form of dead sheep and red deer. In fact they also chase and spook red deer occasionally to get them to stumble, when they would eat them at some later date. Both eagle species are roughly the size of a sheep when sitting and twice the size of a red deer when on the wing. Our birds are darker than mainland birds but they still have their beautiful golden head and their young have a white tail with a black band and white wing patches. There are lots of sighting's of young to be had in autumn and winter when they are on the move around the islands looking for mates and territories of their own. The sight of a golden eagle breaking the skyline on Mull is definitely a 'wow' for every visitor.

Otter: lutra lutra

The European otter does not lie on his back in the water and he does not break shells on his stomach!! that is the American sea otter. Our Otter is very happy on land and they can be surprisingly quick, they love eating the butterfish and they eat these in the water with their heads in the air, often using their paws to finish off the last bit. They always take bigger prey to shore where they will give you terrific views as they eat octopus, crabs, huge eels and all manner of larger prey. I have seen them also take shags from below and a gull recently. They are much larger than people expect and someone on our expeditions always mentions that. Otters give us great sighting's and it is usually we that leave the otter rather than the other way around. The Otter lives up to his billing, in fact he exceeds expectations and can be very cuddly and furry looking when he has been onshore drying in the sun for ten minutes or so. Family groups are hugely entertaining and the silhouette of an otter on top of a seaweed covered rock marking his territory with his tail in the air is another 'wow' sighting here. But then what about the sight of an otter having his prey pinched by a sea eagle!!!

White Tailed Sea Eagle: Haliaeetus albicilla

This mighty and rare bird is creating huge interest in the Hebridean islands. They are massive with a wingspan approaching nine feet. Any sighting is always spectacular whether a pair of birds are sitting together on a small islet or talon grappling above Ben More. They can cast a huge shadow on a hillside and dwarf most other creatures here including us. They have a majestic manner as they swivel their pale heads and big creamy yellow bills in search of prey. They take prey in spectacular fashion swinging like a kite from on high with their legs extended as they plunge into the water to take an eider duck or perhaps red breasted merganser. we have seem them take an otter and they certainly take lots of prey from otters. I was nearly eaten by a sea eagle on top of our third highest mountain but frankly I do not like telling wildlife stories. Better to see the real thing I always feel. Safe to say though that The white tailed sea eagle is a remarkable and very impressive sighting around here and we have seen more sea eagles on a regular basis than anyone else in Europe.

Other regular sightings

We have all of Britain's owls here except the little owl though the most commonly seen one is the short eared owl because it hunts during the day. They nest on the ground as does the hen harrier which is regularly seen. Merlins are rare but we see them. Peregrine falcons are seen mainly in spring and early summer when they are breeding. Adders are reasonably common but it helps if it is sunny!! Corncrakes nest on Mull and Iona. Puffins and thousands of seabirds nest on small islands around Mull. Lots of cetaceans frequent the seas around Mull and we usually see porpoise out to sea from our road trips and occasionally dolphins and very occasionally minke whales and basking sharks. We have millions of smaller birds in our forests, mountains and on our shorelines. There are trillions of orchids in May and June and some are unusual like fragrant orchid and lesser butterfly orchid. There are ptarmigan and mountain hares in their winter coats. Thousands of passage birds come through Mull in spring and autumn such as whimbrel, sanderling, skuas and gannets. Butterflies are plentiful. There are thousands of tiny species of life clinging to sea cliffs or on some lichen covered rocky islet bobbing off one of our stunning white sand beaches.

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David Woodhouse
Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions
Torr Buan House
Ulva Ferry, Isle of Mull
Argyll, Scotland
PA73 6LY

Tel/Fax: 01688 500121
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