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March 2016





Adventures on Mull March 2016


I love Mull.  I really enjoy Neil McIntyre's company and I have much to learn from him so.... I went to Mull in March.  Given that I've only recently started driving again, it was quite an adventure for me.  I caught a train to Glasgow and then hired a little red car, which went like sh*t off a shovel when I wasn't looking, and drove to Mull.  Quite an achievement.  Driving along the banks of Loch Lomond and through the Trossachs was a real treat although I wasn't really able to take my eyes off the narrow road.  I was glad to arrive in one piece, park the car and enjoy being driven around by Neil.

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Staying in a fantastic cottage, we were able to start at silly o'clock and return for brunch and sometimes a snooze before heading out again for an afternoon/evening drive.  Our main target was otters but, Mull landscapes at these times of the day are particularly exquisite. We also rested beanbags on open car windows and did our best to photograph whatever took our fancy.  When the light is good on Mull, it's spectacular.  We found sunsets and dawns that took our breath away. I really liked extraordinary colours and reflections... and often found some weird abstracts in the sea or the sky.


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If the reflections were amazing... the fish farms looked surreal and with a full reflection, looked as if they were hovering above the surface of the lochs.  We found the Great Black-backed Gull site again.  These birds looked stunning in the evening light as they called, threw back their heads and showed their red throats.  Every evening they returned to the same tussocks of grass and posed for photographs.  Other species weren't half so cooperative! But every now and then we'd find a tiny bird or a well camouflaged deer that made the dawn get up or late night out really worth while.


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Driving along scanning the shore for otters is surprisingly hard work.  Periodically, we'd get out of the car and spend even longer searching amongst the seaweed.  We couldn't have tried harder!  I have a series of photographs of Neil scrutinising the shoreline and clearly working hard looking for these elusive beasties.  Whoever said wildlife photography was easy?  Looking for otters is like looking for needles in haystacks.  Superb swimmers and sublime camouflage artists with an ability to disappear into the seaweed as you are looking at them!


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The herons on Mull are far easier to photograph than their mainland cousins.  They don't seem to mind cars or photographers.  It was good to pick up these shots while waiting for gorgeous sunsets or the tantalising sight of an otter bringing a crab to shore.  Stalking otters is not easy.  Don't let anybody tell you that it is.  The otter dives and you can move... attempting to run over rocks and slippery seaweed carrying expensive, heavy camera equipment and then almost flinging yourself behind a rock as soon as the otter seemed likely to surface.  Heavy breathing inevitably misted up the viewfinder and spectacles... grrrrr.  And then there's the fear of making a noise with clothing, by stumbling, with a shutter or a crash of equipment on rocks.... and frightening the poor otter away!  

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I think I exceeded my record for photographing sheep on this trip!  Well, they were extremely photogenic and a darn sight more cooperative than some other species.  So... I have many, many photos of sheep.  If you need photos of sheep on beaches, sheep by a loch, sheep on a hill, sheep in a group, sheep portraits, sheep close ups.... well, I'm your woman!

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I can't say that we were lucky with otters this trip.  There seemed to be a glut of frogs about and this ready food-source would have been perfect take-away food for otters.  They are land animals after all and only come to the sea for food but if the land is alive with frogs, perhaps they don't need to.  We had a long encounter with a mother and cub one day... the light was flat as a pancake, the sky was a sort of shitey white colour and the sea was flat and murky grey.  Not what I had dreamt of but it was a real privilege to spend time with these bewitching creatures and follow them along the coast line and watch their play, their grooming, their interaction and their wriggly games.

We also spent a happy couple of hours stalking a white-tailed sea eagle that was standing on the edge of a loch... and even managed to get closer when it flew and landed a bit further away.  Exhausting but good fun.  When you see the size of the wing span, you realise just how big they are.

Perhaps one of the things that I will remember most is sitting in the car at silly o'clock listening to a song thrush singing its little heart out at the top of a tree.  We saw it several times.  What a sound!  Stunning!

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It was a magical time and I am grateful to Neil for his field craft, photographic skills and knowledge.  I learnt more, laughed a lot and did my best to perfect my pronunciation of  'Buggerrrrr'... but I'm sorry Neil, I'll need to spend more time with you to get it right.  Hope that's ok.  Thank you too to Sarah for your company, infectious giggle and endless enthusiasm.. Let's go back guys?  I have a date with a otter!