Mull and TV is the same as feast and famine… or buses. You wait ages for yours to arrive and then two or three of them all turn up at the same time! Just a few months back we had a slew of programmes which featured aspects of the Isle of Mull. Geologist Iain Stewart was crawling all over Scotland looking at the history and geology, whilst the BBC’s AutumnWatch was focusing on the wildlife.
But you can’t keep a good subject out of the media for long, so it was little surprise to see Mull and its islands reappear on last night’s “Three Men go to Scotland“. It was a bit of a rambling show where the editor had clearly played pretty fast and loose with the order of the footage. It seemed to allow the presenters, Rory McGrath, Griff Rhys-Jones and Dara O’Briain to hop between Mull and the mainland as if they were in a Tardis rather than a beautiful old sailing boat.
But in the limited time available for the show the three protagonists managed to spend time in Duart Castle learning about Clan MacLean. It then jumped back to the mainland to visit Inverawe smokery and a spot of scallop diving just outside Oban harbour before returning to Mull to go check out the always impressive Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa.
It was then on to the Ledaig Distillery (or Tobermory Distillery if you prefer). Rory McGrath was on a blagging mission to ensure an (un)healthy supply of the local brew, before heading off from Tobermory and around the Ardnamurchan headland to the north, despite a false start when they caught the boat’s propeller in a local lobster pot just outside Tobermory bay.
Clearly they shot quite a bit of footage on Mull that didn’t make it to the finished programme as Griff Rhys-Jones mentioned visiting Ulva which didn’t make it into the final edit. It would be nice to be able to see the material that never makes it to the final cut on the BBC’s iPlayer website, rather than being forever lost for lack of time in the main TV show.
But, just like the buses, there was more on Mull this festive season in the form of the Springwatch Christmas Special. Towards the end of the 90 minute show the programme revisited RSPB Warden Dave Sexton who monitors the eagle population on Mull.
It seems that the BBC has a wildlife fund which contributed cash in 2007 towards the eagle revival programme on the island and Dave explains how the money has helped towards the overall success of the project. It’s well worth viewing this segment before the catch-up service on the BBC iPlayer site expires.
It’s quite amazing how much attention the BBC is giving the Isle of Mull of late. As if the marathon wildlife report from the island on last week’s Autumnwatch wasn’t enough, they had even more in this week’s show.
Presenter Kate Humble told TV audiences during Thursday’s programme, “One of my favourite places in Britain is Mull,” adding “and where did you go last week without me? You went to Mull!”. That was the preamble to a further report on Dave Sexton of the RSPB on Mull, not talking about sea eagles but, somewhat surprisingly, the often overlooked garden birds like the little Robin.
You can view the clip here until next Thursday on the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service or download the WMV version and you have up to 30 days to watch it.
Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
If you’re keen on our feathered friends you’ll probably already be well aware of Mull’s impressive variety of bird life. Unfortunately I am pretty ignorant of what’s what when it comes to the birds I see dotted around Mull’s coastline and hills. I can just about manage to identify an Oyster catcher, Puffin or a Cormorant. Beyond that I’m getting out of my comfort zone.
So I was quite pleased to discover a rather handy new web-based tool that the RSPB has on its website. The RSPB Bird Identifier is an interactive tool that helps you work out what bird you saw. You give it some basic details about the bird and the system suggests what it could have been.
Handily there are pretty good illustrations to go with the text description. In the case of the White Tailed Eagle page, it not only provides audio, video and a map of distribution around the country, but also gives estimates of numbers and links to further useful information on habitat and more.
So if you’re on holiday on Mull, this really is an excellent tool for pinpointing what feathered beastie you just spotted. The only downside… as yet no sign of an iPhone or Android app of this tool. Now that would be great.
Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
Nigel Cooke, aka monkeyleader, is an Irishman currently living in Cambridge who happens to be on holiday on Mull right now. He may just be one of the best real-time bloggers I’ve come across of late. He’s written an engaging entry in his blog about a quick return trip to Mull after a visit earlier in the year, which made him and partner Nicola fall in love with the place.
As he’s only just recounted on his blog (he’s writing this as it happens whilst on Mull… not like days of yore when you’d be lucky to get a picture on the telly!) “Highlights for us included a pair of Golden Eagles, a pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles, Buzzards, Hen Harriers, Osprey, Otters, Kestrel, Northern Gannet, Shags, Great Cormorant, Common Seals, Grey Heron, Curlew, Rock Dove, Rock Pipit, Hooded Crows, Ravens, Red Deer and a Little Grebe.”
Seems Nigel’s a bit of a polymath, not only having a rather good writing style but also some excellent photography skills to boot.
I am jealous 🙂
Vivthesetter, real name Paul from Warwickshire, was on his holiday break up on Mull this August and appears to have spent a lot of his time pointing his Nikon D300 at the bird life that covers the island. Of course it’s not all birds. He’s also got some charming images of interesting places and other wildlife dotted around various parts visited. He was successful in snapping a Minke Whale, Basking Shark, some excellent shots of a White Tailed Sea Eagle and, the one which really caught my eye, this Manx Shearwater, skimming so close to the surface of the sea, yet looking so laid back whilst doing so.
You can check out the rest of his photos from Mull in two Flickr sets he’s created of his visit to bonnie Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, called Isle of Mull 2010 and Isle of Mull Wildlife.
Thanks for sharing your pictures Paul.
Things I didn’t know before I watched ‘Mull – Eagle Paradise
‘ using the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service…
- Wildlife Cameraman Gordon Buchanan is from Mull
- The last Eagle was killed in the UK in 1918
- Eagles were re-introduced initially to the island of Rhum in the 60s
- Despite 140 birds being released in the 60s, the first Eagle chick to be born didn’t happen until 1985 on Mull
- Mull is particularly appealing to Sea Eagles because, despite the name, they rather like the plentiful supply of rabbits
- A third of all the sea eagles live on Mull
So, all things considered, I found this rather short BBC programme quite informative. With only 10 minutes there wasn’t much talk of some of the resistance to the growth in eagle numbers from farmers, who feel that these beautiful birds are predating lambs. More studies are being done but, for now at least, it’s uncertain whether eagles actively kill live lambs or are simply scavenging dead carcasses.
There’s no doubt that eagles have been very beneficial to tourism on the Island. At Beach House we’ve seen them floating around high up over Loch Scridain and the Ross of Mull. Of course, people visit the island for many reasons, but there’s no denying that the eagles add something special to the mix.
There’s definitely a healthy dose of serendipity when it comes to the web. I was just looking at the Facebook page for Tobermory, the island of Mull’s main town, when I spotted this video that Alex had uploaded to YouTube and shared on the Facebook page back in early August. He’s only got a few videos at the moment but the one shot in HD of Mull is worth a gander at just under nine minutes in length. Click to watch or make it full screen.
As Alex says on his YouTube page, “I have been a keen amateur photographer for a while but this year I have set myself a new challenge. To try and film some of the wildlife I love and to be able to share it.”
His website is http://www.wildaboutfilms.co.uk/.
Thanks for sharing Alex. I enjoyed it 🙂