We were lucky on our recent trip to Iona and Mull—lucky with the weather and lucky with birds.
I bought a couple of books for advice on where to see birds and they served me well.
The book on the left, Birdwatching on Mull and Iona, is written by David Sexton, the RSPB’s Mull officer, with delicate illustrations and useful maps by Philip Snow. It lists key species and where to watch them, and then gives more detail about the sites.
The book on the right, Isle of Mull Bird Report and Species List, cites the best areas with grid references, and then cites the areas under each bird species. More information can be found here.
The two books complement each other and were just what I needed for my short holiday.
On Iona I was delighted to hear and see corncrakes. Among the iris and rushes on the eastern coast there were reed and sedge warblers, reed buntings, curlew and drumming snipe. I wandered across to the west coast and a delightful bay, Camas Cuil an t-Saimh, which looks quiet but was in fact alive with ringed plover and dunlin, while a common seal bobbed around. Every so often the plovers lifted up and wheeled around in great numbers with their wild cries before disappearing back into the shingle.
On the golf course adjoining the bay there were sand martins.
Then I headed south, part of the way on a board walk, to St Columba’s Bay, looking towards Jura. In the trees beside the grassy path leading to the bay a linnet sang, and rock pipits flooped around on the stony shore.
On the way home along the narrow road I saw a twite.
Most of these birds I rarely see at home, so I was well pleased.
I shall write separately about my walks to Calgary Bay and Loch Bla on Mull, where I was lucky enough to see eagles without having to go on any of the organised expeditions (which I rather snobbishly avoid). I shall skip to our last morning.
We had to leave at 9.30 for the ferry, but there was a visit I was keen to make, from Tobermory, north-east Mull, where we were staying. I wanted to walk through the woods to the lighthouse, at Rubha nan Gall, so I got up at 6.30 and went before breakfast.
The walk through the woods was delightful with the thrill of hearing wood warblers as well as willow warblers and whitethroat.
The cloud was low over Ardnamurchan, but the toposcope on the nearby memorial to Robert John Brown, whose father Archibald founded Browns (the ironmongery in Tobermory), showed me what I was missing.
The way back was over the golf course at the top of the steep hill, and I was interested to see the notice warning walkers against using the stiles.
Then it was back down to Tobermory, on a path surfaced with shells.
And I must also mention that I followed the advice in the Isle of Mull Bird Report and checked the distillery burn which runs into the harbour. Sure enough, bobbing and blinking in the dusk there was a dipper.
In six days I saw or heard 71 species of bird, some for the first time and many of them for the first time in many years.