Tag Archives: wildlife

More of Mull on the TV this Xmas

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.

Then nothing…

More Mull on TV this XmasBut 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.

RSPB Warden Dave Sexton on Springwatch Xmas SpecialBut, 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.

Richard Peters’ Otter shots on Mull

I’ve been meaning to mention Richard Peters for a few weeks. I came across his photography website after someone tweeted about his otter photos from Mull, around about the time the island was being splashed across the TV in Autumnwatch.

An otter clambering over the seaweed on the Mull coastline - copyright Richard Peters PhotographyFollowing that link I discoved some beautiful images that Richard had captured back in 2009 of otters doing what they like to do. Mind you, they are nothing if not elusive and usually difficult to spot as you drive by the coastline, often missing them gamboling on the shoreline unless you’re particularly eagle-eyed. Yet Richard perservered and found his target, capturing some fantastic images in the process.

His account of how he came to be on Mull is well worth a read, as he mentions that it was through pure fluke that he first spotted otters eating at Craignure, just as they waited to leave Mull at the end of their holiday, back in 2007. But that experience made him want to revisit Mull to capture these beautiful mammals on camera, which he realised upon a return trip in 2009.

You can see the results of his return to Mull on this blog entry.

Reporter recounts cruise round Mull in former fishing trawler

Until today I didn’t even know that the town of Coventry could still muster up a local paper of its very own. But, for the fortunate folks of that town, it seems there’s still some life left in the local rag… called the Coventry Telegraph.

If you're planning a holiday to the Isle of Mull you could spend some time cruising around the coastline courtesy of the Majestic Line out of Oban.Why am I mentioning this? Well local reporter Darren Parkin was recently up on, in and around the Isle of Mull for a seven day cruise on the Glen Tarsan, courtesy of The Majestic Line, owned by Andy Thoms and Ken Grant. Based in Oban and Dunoon the company runs a number of cruises around Argyll waters, one of which encircles Mull over six nights in, of all things, a converted fishing trawler!.

It’s certainly a far cry from the larger ocean-going cruisers which can really only dock at fairly large berths. With a converted fishing boat, it’s much easier to pop in and out of the ragged Mull coastline, stopping at the many smaller piers along the way. This is the trip Coventry Telegraph reporter Darren Parkin took and reports on for the paper.

It’s a good report, excepting the tired and over-used story about how Tobermory is also known as Balamory… yeah yeah enough already. But Darren then gets into his stride, writing an enjoyable piece that even made me wonder if I couldn’t squeeze in a cruise sometime. “Skirting the top side of Mull during the afternoon, the boat anchored in Loch Sunart later in the day as the sun was beginning to drift towards the horizon. There was time for a walk from rocky coastline, through shaded woodland and up a relatively easy ascent to behold spectacular views from the hills.”

So, if you’re planning to holiday on Mull, you could spend part of your time getting a quite unique view of a unique island, in an fairly unique manner… apparently the boats don’t even smell of fish any more 🙂

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
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Autumnwatch returns to Mull to report on… Robins!

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.

Dave Sexon of the RSPB on Mull doesn't talk about Sea Eagles, instead focusing attention on garden birds such as the Robin.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
Twitter: mullescape

Isle of Mull makes top 10 wildlife destinations

Have you heard of Nick Stringer? No, me neither. But I know him now. An Emmy award-winning director and producer of wildlife documentaries, he’s penned an article which appeared earlier today for the Guardian newspaper (surely the best rag of a shoddy bunch these days), where he picks his top 10 wildlife destinations across the planet.

The Isle of Mull makes it onto this expert's top 10 wildlife destinations on the planet.So what spots, pray tell, do you think make it into his all time top 10 list? The Kalahari Desert? Check. The Danum Valley down Borneo way? Absolutely! Shark Bay in Australia? Of course. But tucked away in this shopping list of wildlife wonders is… you guessed it… Mull!

Actually he refers to Scotland’s west coast but specifically mentions the Isle of Mull as the jewel in the crown.

“The west coast of Scotland, and especially the Isle of Mull, is my little bit of heaven. Midges and rain aside, when the sun shines it’s unforgettable for its wilderness, its seascapes and some of the biggest seabird colonies in Europe. Spot white-tailed sea and golden eagles as well as basking sharks and seals. It is great for kayaking, but for my next trip I’d love to sail along the coast, between the isles and to St Kilda, a small island and a World Heritage Site. Its precipitous cliffs are the highest in the UK and home to more than half a million breeding seabirds.”

I’d dearly like to add St. Kilda to my own list of Scottish places visited. The best I managed was spending a couple of drink-fuelled days (or daze) within its namesake down under in Melbourne, Australia at the tail-end of my 20s. Now I’m happier being a tad more tee-total and holidaying in the relaxing surroundings of our own Beach House (when it’s not got some welcome self-catering guests staying of course).

Anyway, enough of the musings. The point here is that we’re often tempted to be a little down on the wonderful wildlife that surrounds us right on our doorstep, and what better door to open than one to the Scottish island that leads them all… Mull.

Sometimes it takes the objective eye of a non-islander to truly make you appreciate what you’ve got.

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
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Ron’s Red deer rut photos from Mull

Here’s another rather good set of photos from enthusiastic wildlife photographer Ron McCombe. Ron was on holiday on the Isle of Mull for the rutting season, when you can see the male red deer establishing dominance and mating rights.

Based in the Scottish Borders, Ron was out to try to capture these events on camera. I think he’s done a pretty good job.

Ron McCombe captures a Stag in mid-bellow, creating a steam cloud in the air.As Ron explains, “I have been on the Isle of Mull all week looking for the red deer rut. The deer were all around and as the day ended they could be heard roaring as the rut took place. The challenge was to find them during daylight hours roaring and fighting. I concentrated on the south side of the island, Grasspoint, Pennyghael, and Carsaig. I encountered most of the deer I came across in these areas. Grasspoint was the main site and in particular Achnacraig. I visited the same sites every day. the best day for seeing action was Monday 18th.”

We’ve been fortunate in being able to see and hear the ruts right from the front of Beach House armed with nothing more than a pair of binoculars and a hot cup of coffee. Roughly evenly between Pennyghael and Bunessan, Beach has about eight acres of grounds surrounding the house with a pine forest to the west, which acts as a windbreak and a convenient sheltering area for local wildlife. From our vantage point we’ve been able to see all the action laid out before us, as if it were a play which the deer were personally putting on for our enjoyment.

Of course, it’s not like this every year as the deer can roam far and wide. But we’ve been lucky that the deer have literally come to our front door on many a rutting season. So full admiration to Ron for clearly being persistent. The results speak for themselves.

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of mull
Twitter: mullescape

Telling Mull’s birds apart the Web 2.0 way

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.

The RSPB's Bird Identifier makes working out exactly what you saw whilst on Mull that much easier. All we now need is a version for smartphones.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
Twitter: mullescape

Mull… the Otter’s paradise

At this time of year the BBC trots out its usual gaggle of over-enthusiastic wildlife presenters to coo over all sorts of soft and cuddly creatures in Autumnwatch. It’s just started a new run, “for an eight week celebration of UK wildlife”.

But I am not meaning to belittle overly-keen TV wildlife presenters. It’s great that our national broadcaster makes a big deal out of the country’s wildlife and tries to educate a predominantly urban population about the nature that’s all around us.

In his own small way, that’s also what landscape painter, and more recently, film-maker Angus Stewart is trying to do. I recently discovered his film, made over two years, of a local otter living in amongst the people of Mull and specifically the town of Tobermory. Aptly called ‘Tobermory and the Otter’, it recounts the tale of wild otters which become bold enough to live and interact with Tobermory’s local characters going about their daily lives.

As Angus explains, “This film is a rare insight into the usually secretive life of wild otters. You will see how an otter makes use of a community, its ingenuity and strategies, how it went about stealing… from fishing boats and the range of fish it caught as well as showing the remarkable interactions it chose to have with the town’s residents.”

The film reflects the changing nature of Mull weather throughout the year, with the ever-familiar backdrop of Tobermory’s painted facade completing the background of footage showing the extrovert otter in action.

It’s certainly a far cry from our all too camera-shy otters at our self-catering holiday home, Beach House. We have otters that live in and around the mouth of the local river, also called Beach. The Beach river flows into a crescent-shaped pebble-strewn beach which has large beds of seaweed towards the eastern tip of the bay. This is a perfect playground where the otters like to potter, most likely looking for tasty morsels of shellfish and unfortunate crab.

By contrast, the otters in Angus’s film seem far more relaxed in the hustle and bustle of life in and around Tobermory. So, if you rather like otters you might want to check out the movie clips of the full 50 minute presentation on his website and YouTube page. Though not currently available on DVD, it may be in the future.

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Islandscape Photography offers workshops on the Isle of Mull

Here’s an interesting find. I hadn’t come across this Mull business before. But, thanks to a permanent Twitter search I have on the term ‘Isle of Mull’ up popped ellenbarone tweeting about her recent day photographing with Sam Jones of Islandscape Photography.

Mull offers a wealth of fantastic subjects for any enthusiastic landscape or wildlife photographer. Half the problem is deciding what you want to focus your attention on when there are so many things competing for time and attention. That’s where the local knowledge of an island resident could be indispensible if your time is limited.

Taken during a visit to the Isle of Mull with Islandscape Photography. Copyright Ellen Barone @ http://twitter.com/ellenbaroneIslandscape Photography has a studio located at Taigh Solais in Tobermory. Taigh Solais (meaning ‘the lighthouse’ in Gaelic) is on Tobermory’s recently developed waterfront and belongs to the Tobermory Harbour Association. We’ve got family connections with this building as a cousin played a role in it being built.

Anyway, if you’re a photographer with an interest in what Mull has to offer up in terms of great subject material, you ought to check out Islandscape Photography. Former legal eagle Sam has a wealth of useful information on her site and suggestions on how to make a photographer’s visit to Mull a truly successful one.

Don’t forget to check out some of Sam’s own recent material on her blog. There are some excellent shots of a day photographing the local RNLI boat in action.

Twitter: mullescape

Great Mull wildlife shots from an Island visitor

Manx ShearwaterVivthesetter, 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.

Twitter: mullescape