Splashing around

I’ve been spending as much time as possible time lately with the local group of Bottle Nose Dolphins that reside in the Moray Firth. I am fortunate that these mammals can be seen less than a mile from home so I can make trips there quite easily. It’s fantastic watching the impact Dolphin’s have on anyone watching and it is so rewarding to see first hand how people can engage with nature and hopefully how this in turn can promote conservation. If you would like to find out more about Dolphin conservation please visit the whale and dolphin conservation society or the adopt a dolphin website. If you like looking at Dolphin pictures and would like to see what a true Dolphin fanatic does with his time please visit Charlie Phillips’ website. He also runs the adopt a dolphin blog which has up to date sightings and even more stunning pictures
 
Support is very important because even in light of the BP disaster the UK government is about to start drilling INSIDE the conservation area of the Moray Firth. Read more here.
 
I have also been running a series of workshops to photograph the Dolphins and sometimes the performances have been just incredible.
 
This playful youngster is called Breeze.
 
 
 
‘Breeze’ with her mother ‘Zephyr’
 
 
 
"Spy Hopping" behaviour
 
 
Taking a different view on the world!
 
 
I will shortly be writing an article on how to get some shots of these cracking creatures (even in the terrible light we’ve had lately!) so watch this space…!
 
And finally here’s a montage of ID748 catching a fish with much delight!
 
 
 
Please click here if you are interested in finding out more about joining us to photograph the Dolphins

Mull 2010

Magical, marvellous, magnificent… it’s easy to run out of superlatives for Mull and 2010 was our best year yet. This is the summary of the second week on Mull where we were delighted to welcome four photographers to the cottage at Torlochan for this year’s tour. Don’t just take my word for it – see what our guests thought – read on…


 
Day One
 
The first morning was spent at Oban harbour looking for Black Guillemots and in the early morning sun they put on a great show.
 
 


 
 
 
Having had our fill of these obliging auks we headed for the ferry to Craignure. The ferry trip this year was unusually quiet bird wise with just the odd Arctic Tern loafing over the sea, certainly no Skuas as in 2008 and 2009. The plus side was the sea was flat and the trip calm.
 
We soon arrived at our cottage in Torlochan and watched the Siskins coming in to the feeders. Over the course of the week we were also graced with a Great Spotted Woodpecker who proved to be abit nervous for the camera. Still there were plenty of Siskin including some bright males that would use the perches we had put out.
 
 
 
After some food we headed out for a quick safari and to see what we would encounter. Not long after leaving base we lock onto a Golden Eagle cruising by relatively closely to the Landrover. We got out of the Landrover and the majestic bird arcs across the valley – the evening sunlight highlighting the golden head. A great start to the trip. The rest of the evening was spent observing some of the other locals and getting a feel for the key spots. We also saw White Tailed Eagle, Cuckoo and Raven. Happy with our lot we returned to the cottage as we have an early start on day two.
 
Day Two
 
On day two we were up and out very early to try and catch some of the wildlife before the crowds descend on to Mull. After photographing a Snipe and the beautiful sunrise we headed to our first Otter spot. And soon enough we have our first Otter of the trip. We watch the Otter for several minutes before being diverted by one of many Great Northern Divers we see during the week and sparkling summer plumage. We also photograph some fabulous Eider as the males cooed excitedly to the females.
 
 
From 2009 tour
 


Happy with our morning efforts and already late for breakfast we headed back through the valley where we had the previous days Eagle. At almost the exact same spot the shot goes up for ‘Eagle!’ and all of a sudden we saw that there are at least three White Tailed Eagles hunting on the hillside. The best moments were filled with one of the most exhilarating sights as the Eagles hunt and stoop along the hillside repeatedly attacking their prey. Unbelievable, and all before breakfast.

 

After breakfast we headed off to meet our private charter to take out to photograph White Tailed Eagles. We set off on the boat cruising by a couple more Great Northern Divers until the engine is turned off. Almost immediately we were joined by a colossus of the skies. A fabulous barn door sized fish Eagle.

 

 

 

Set against the fabulous Mull landscape

 

 

 

We were lucky that the Eagle performed three dives right next to our boat and it was a pleasure to spend time with such a magnificent bird. Pleased with our morning we took the boat further around the Loch and watched a rather distant Hen Harrier being mobbed by a Peregrine – more fantastic action served up on Mull.

 

After returning and having some lunch the rest of the day was spent watching waders and looking for Otters. We were rewarded with another Otter view, but too distant for a good picture. Still, the Oytsercatchers were fun to watch.

 

 
We were lucky that the sun had shone all day and we had been so close to such fabulous eagles

 

Day Three

 

Day three was all about Puffins. But that’s not to say we didn’t have another early start! And this time we were rewarded with an Otter mother with her cubs. We watched them from a safe distance before we moved in for some shots. I pointed the group to two or three good spots in the rocks whilst I went further up the shore. Having plenty of Otter shots already it was always going to happen that the mother Otter swam straight towards me and checked me out from three or four metres away. We saw some more Great Northern Divers in the bay before heading on for our second boat trip of the week.

 

 

 

Soon enough we were in amongst the Puffins and for once having a slightly overcast day really helped with the exposure. It’s hard not to fall in love with the character of these comical birds.

 

 

Happy in Puffin town

 

 

The Puffin and the fly…

 

 

 


We spent the afternoon photographing the Puffins before heading back to the cottage to rest up. In the evening we decided on a walk down to Salen to see if we could find some more Otters. On the walk down we saw some more cuckoos as well as a fabulous Wood Warbler. Soon enough the sun was dropping in the sky and as the temperature cooled we headed back to the cottage for supper after another great day on Mull.

 

Day Four

 

After an early breakfast we headed to Iona in search of Corncrakes. Small disaster – the weather is so bad we can’t even see Iona! We decided to try for Mountain Hare nearby and we watch a couple frolic in the boulders as a Snipe drummed overhead. We also catch up with a couple of Raven on the beach before checking out the moorland. All of a sudden a stonking male Hen Harrier cruised next to the Landrover so we set off in hot pursuit as it sped over the moorland. Too fast for us, but still we were all pleased with the spectacular views. The weather improves a little so we headed over to Iona to look for Corncrakes, but we have missed the best time of day and despite several tantalising views we decide to tour the Ross of Mull and visit the special beaches and bays in the area.

Wheatears were seen everyday on Mull.

 

 

Some just can’t take the pace…

 

 

 

Ringed Plovers are relatively common on Mull and can be found on most of the bays around the island. Further along we found another Otter – our sixth of the trip

 

 

We also watched Arctic Terns and Rock Pipits around the bay as well as photographing the beautiful scenery at my favourite beach on Mull (maybe the planet!). Afterwards a cuckoo paid a visit to our cottage and performed well flying over the heads of our guests. Even on tough days Mull still delivers the goodies to keep spirits up!

 

Day Five


 

Following the success of the Eagle charter we all decided to have another crack at the Eagles. The light wasn’t as good as the first day which presented its own challenge but the excitement was high and the Eagle performed fantastically. Amazingly after seeing the Eagles we see yet another Otter to take the total to eight for the week.

 

 

 


 


 

Just as we say goodbye to our final guest a Whitethroat pops up to say hello. Really this is a fabulous place. It really was with a heavy heart that we had to say good bye to our wonderful guests and the magical, marvellous, magnificent Mull.

 

 

If you would like to book on Mull 2011 we only have a few places left to please let us know

 

Some comments form the 2010 trips….

 

"The tour did meet our expectations as we knew you would make it do so but of course the Eagle boat was something else!"
 
"We liked the fact that the itinerary was flexible and it was!  It was action packed from start to finish and were fully aware how weather and creatures would determine the outcome."
 
"I’ve been a photographer a long time, but I’m new to birding and having watched you exercise that amazing birder’s eye, for a few days, picking out and identifying birds on posts and otters disguised as rocks that the rest of us missed, all while driving, has given me something to aspire to – nice one."
 
"Exposure to a completely new and wonderfully rich location with the benefit of a knowledgeable and helpful guide."
 
"Standard of accommodation and facilities was fabulous especially after a tiring day in the rain. Food was varied and delicious and plenty of it!"
 
"Thank you for a very special time on Mull. Having visited before I thought I knew what to expect. However, I was really overwhelmed by the quality and amount of sightings we had on the tour. The highlights for me were the Cuckoo’s in the garden of the cottage, seeing the Otter with cubs and the fabulous company on the tour. Looking forward to my next workshop with ebirder"

Summary of the key sightings;

Birds
Great Northern Diver, many
Whimbrel
White Tailed Eagle,8
Golden Eagle, 2
Hen Harrier, 2
Tawny Owl
Corncrake, 2
Puffin
Razorbill
Guillemot
Shag
Cuckoo, many
Whinchat
Wood Warbler
Wheatear
Twite

+  many more commoner birds

Mammals
Red Deer
Fallow Deer
Mountain Hare
Otter (5 adults, 3 young)
Grey Seal
Common Seal
Highland Cow!