Thursday, 13 September 2012

First sighting of Orca this season

Well the season is coming to an end and the weather has definitely taken on an autumnal feel, however when the weather permits and sometimes even when it doesn’t there are still plenty of wildlife spectacles to be seen.

The highlight of August has to be the sighting of Orca just off Mull. Throughout the year there had been a number of sightings reported by fishing boats, but as Silver Swift set off on the 24th August, little did the people know they were to be the first passengers to catch up with this amazing species this year. The day started off a bit wet and overcast, but the boat was soon treated to a visit from some Common Dolphins, after this they headed further out the Sound of Mull and then someone saw the unmistakable sight of a male Orca surfacing, with their 6 foot dorsal fin they are very hard to miss. There was another wildlife boat out so they were quickly contacted and everyone felt honoured to see these magnificent animals in their natural environment.


Even though the weather isn’t being particularly kind to us at the minute we are still getting good views of the local wildlife. We have been lucky enough to have an Otter that has been sighted in the Bay a number of times in the last few weeks. As many returning visitors will know we lost Elvis our resident Otter a couple of years ago, but it is fantastic that another has taken over the area.

Our Eagles are still making their presence known, this year we were lucky enough to have Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle young successfully fledge and they are still being seen on a regular basis

Juvenile Sea Eagle attacked by Golden Eagle this is an amazing bit of footage and shows just how quick the Golden Eagles are, this was seems to appear from nowhere!


Whilst the Basking Sharks seem to have moved on, or at least under, when conditions permit the Minke Whales are still being seen well, hopefully this weather will let up and allow us to get out further afield a few more times before the end of the season. We will give a final end of season round up in a few weeks and let you know what has been about.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The good weather & sightings continue

It’s time for another monthly round up and my how this month has flown. I have just been reading the last update and things are still pretty much the same up here. We are still seeing very good numbers of Minke Whales, up to 7 on one of the full day Whale watching trips, we also had a spell where we were seeing the Minke Whales and Basking Sharks very frequently on the 2 hour trip, in fact we had 7 consecutive 2 hour trips that all saw at least one Minke Whale and usually 2. How lucky we are to live so close to these majestic creatures.

Until the last week or so the Basking Sharks continued to show well, just recently the sightings have dropped off a bit, but it seems that the plankton is just that bit lower in the water, the other possibly reason for the shift is something that was first brought to my attention by one of the skippers and he raised an idea that during long periods of bright sunshine the Shark sightings are usually lower, whether there is any truth to this we don’t know but this is the only possibly downside to the lovely sunny weather we’ve had that I can think of.

Talking about Basking Sharks we have had a group of scientists from the University of Exeter out on one of the local boats. They were here to carrying out tagging on Basking Sharks. For such large animals not much is known about the species, for example where do they overwinter and where do they give birth? So armed with high tech and very expensive tags they set off very early in the morning from Tobermory and travelled out to Tiree, Gunna Sound and Hyskeir to deploy the tags. You can follow the tracks of some of the animals here

As well as our local Sea Eagle nest there have been good reports from all across the island, including from Frisa & Skye, these were the original stars of Mull Eagle watch and springwatch and although the Mull Eagle watch location had changed for this year, not a lot had been said about this pair, however just recently the local RSPB officers confirmed that they had successfully raised a chick, fantastic news for this pair. We have also had lots of Golden Eagles fledge.

By the time of the next update the season will slowly be starting to wind down and although it hasn’t been as busy up here as usual we all feel very lucky to have had such great weather and sightings and will hopefully welcome many more of you before the season finishes for good.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Latest season update

Well it’s time for our monthly update and what a good month it’s been. Whilst the rest of the UK has been suffering flooding and gales we have survived largely unscathed. That is until last Thursday; the day started off beautifully with light winds and sunny skies. By mid afternoon the clouds were building and by the time work finished there was thunder and lightning all around. It was fun watching it in Tobermory, however for those up Ben More and along the road to the South side of Loch Na Keal it was much more serious. As the heavens opened the rain poured down the mountainside and was so forceful that a number of little bridges along the road that runs along from Knock to Gribun were washed away. This road, the B8035 remains closed for the time being whilst the bridges are rebuilt. Luckily everyone trapped between the bridges were quickly rescued.
Photo courtesy of Mull Charters

Now on to some better news regarding the recent sightings. With the Scottish Schools breaking up over a week ago the island has been busier meaning that the trips have been going out more frequently and with more people on board, these extra pairs of eyes always help with spotting the wildlife. The Minke Whales are still here and are being seen almost daily on the longer whale watching trips and just last week people on board for a 2 hour Ecocruz were lucky enough to see a Minke Whale in the Sound of Mull. It is very rare to see whales that close to the Harbour, but if conditions are right you never know it might stick around.
We’ve also had 3 separate reports of Orca within the last week and although none of these sightings have been from the trips, it’s great to hear that these animals, the largest of the Dolphin species are hanging around in our waters. Another Dolphin species that has been putting in an unexpected appearance has been a group of White Beaked Dolphins that were seen a number of times around the middle of June. This is a species that is quite numerous around the east coast of Scotland, but was last seen off Mull in 2008. We’ve also had regular sightings of the Common and Bottlenose Dolphins around the island. As well as that the Basking Sharks have been showing well.
White Beaked Dolphins Copyright Sea Life Surveys

In terms of bird life we had an unusual sighting of a Red necked phalarope a couple of days ago, these birds are seen occasionally, however it tends to be later on in the season. There has also been another sighting of a Long Tailed Duck, there was an individual seen on a number of occasions  earlier in the season but this was the first one for a couple of months. Other than that we have had the Sand Martin chicks leaving their sandy burrows for the first time, a Red Breasted Merganser with 10 fluffy ducklings and even the first Guillemot and Puffin chicks have been seen bobbing about on the water, waiting until it is time for the whole colony to leave in a few weeks time.

Well that’s all for now from Mull, we are coming into our very busy season and who knows what that will bring. Don’t forget to look us up on facebook and keep us up to date with your sightings on Mull.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A busy month for wildlife

Since the return of the Minke Whales over a month ago we have had some fantastic sightings with 5 different individuals seen on one very good day. Obviously the long period of calm and sunny weather has meant that as well as having more boats out looking it is much easier spot the wildlife. As well as the Whales we have good sightings of Basking Sharks with many more reports of breaching Sharks already this season, the Dolphins have also been putting on a fantastic show, with both Common and Bottlenose being seen at least once a week. Both these species are just transient so pass through at any time but it seems like conditions are favourable in the waters around Mull at the minute as they seem to be sticking around.

As well as the larger species we are having good views of the birds, the trips leaving from Tobermory are seeing both the White Tailed and Golden Eagles on an almost daily basis, with at least the Golden Eagle having a nest with 2 chicks in it. Other nests around the island have been very successful, with the new stars of Mull Eagle watch having 2 chicks in the nest as do a number of our West coast nests, which is especially good news for Mull Charters and their Sea Eagle adventure trip as it means the parents are taking advantage of the easy meal in order to feed their hungry young so they are having fantastic views of both the adult birds taking the fish from beside the boat on nearly every trip.

Otters are being very elusive this year with even the experienced land tour operators struggling to find them, however that is all part of the fun of wildlife watching! There have been some amazing sights seen on the minibus tours. For example whilst one group were looking at a Golden Eagle nest one of the adult birds flew from the hillside and attacked a Buzzard. The pair then tumbled to the ground where the victorious Eagle proceeded to eat the Buzzard! Nature at its best! There have also been some special one-off sightings for example a Red backed Shrike and a Red Kite being seen from the Treshnish headland.

I’m sure the next few weeks will bring many more exciting sightings so we will keep you updated. For more frequent updates and pictures from the trips have a look at our facebook page

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Return of the Whales

Despite frequent reports of sightings from fishing boats in the area, none of the trip boats from Tobermory had managed to get a view of one of our larger summer migrants yet, however today the skipper of Silver Swift took local Wildlife photographer Nic Davies out on a trip which resulted in 2 different Minke Whales being seen.

Reports back from Nic was that 'it was like a mill pond out there' which meant they had fantastic views especially of one individual. Along with the Whales and numerous seabirds both on board were astounded by the number of Harbour Porpoise that were seen. This is a species that is resident around the Hebrides however the sightings do seem to vary quite considerably. Hopefully the good number of individuals seen today means that there is a good food supply around which hopefully will lead to the wildlife being seen on a more regular basis.
With two whale watching trips out tomorrow and more looking likely over the weekend we hope to bring you news of more sightings in the coming days

 Harbour Porpoise
 Minke Whale
 Minke Whale

Thank you to Nic Davies for this fantastic selection of photos taken today. It's not often we get conditions as perfect as this but hopefully they shall remain for a while longer yet

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Dolphins occurring regularly off Mull

We are still to get our first Whale sighting of the year from any of the trip boats, but we are having sightings reported by the fishing boats so they are definitely out there somewhere! One of the main reasons is that the island seems much quieter than at the same time in recent years, which means there are less trips going out and recently all the interest has been in the short trips; up to 2 hours, and it is always highly unlikely that you will see a Whale in a trip this short as you don’t get the chance to go out far enough. We do have a couple of Whale watch trips running this week so you never know what will occur.

 One species that has been seen on a regular basis already this year is the Bottlenose Dolphin with 16 sightings being reported to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust since the end of March.The group seems to consist of about 6-7 animals and they have mainly been frequenting the West coast of the island from Calgary Bay and Treshnish headland down to the Sound of Iona with a single sighting off Duart Bay south of Craignure. They have as yet bypassed Tobermory, however every year we get a few sightings in the Bay itself.

 Bottlenose Dolphins can be seen in the waters around Mull at any time of year however the only 2 confirmed resident populations are in Cardigan Bay in Wales and the Moray Firth in eastern Scotland. Research by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust though has identified that there is a group of 30-40 individuals that stay in the waters between Skye and the Mull of Kintyre and that there is a separate population off the island of Barra consisting of about 12 individuals. It is through photo identification projects run by HWDT’s survey vessel and through incoming pictures that they have been able to identify these groups.

Bow riding Bottlenose Dolphin Sound of Mull

 With a range of well over 100 miles it is impossible to predict when the Dolphins that pass our waters will turn up, however with many sightings already this year and the seemingly early arrival of the Mackerel it might mean that they will hang around for a while. Now all we need is for the Minke Whales and Basking Sharks to join the party.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wildlife clips from across the island

One of our regular visitors to Mull has been posting some fantastic footage of wildlife captured on his trip to the island over the Easter weekend.

Andy Tait has been a frequent visitor to the island for many years and it was seeing the wildlife here that inspired him to start making wildlife videos.

A trip out with Sea Life Surveys

We have also had more reports of Bottlenose Dolphins seen from Calgary Bay yesterday and there was a report of a Minke Whale within the last couple of days so we are hoping that we will start seeing them from our trips any day now.  There have also been reports of Basking Sharks and Common Dolphins which are species that are usually seen later in the year and there has also been a report of a Humpback Whale. This species is not a regular sight around the Isle of Mull, however there are 1 or 2 sightings every season. For more information on recent sightings around the Hebrides have a look on the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust website

Friday, 13 April 2012

Mull Charters have a ‘Splashy’ start to the season

Mull Charters had their first trip of the 2012 season aboard the Lady Jayne on Wednesday and what a trip is was. As well as the amazing sight of a Sea Eagle, the 4th largest Eagle in the world catching a fish right beside the boat they were accompanied by a group of up to 7 Bottlenose Dolphins. These sociable animals were splashing and playing alongside the boat giving all the passengers an early season treat.

Bottlenose Dolphins are a transient species in the waters around Mull and pass through as and when, so to see them at any time is fantastic but to have them on a first trip is surely a sign of a great season to come.
Mull Charters run trips throughout the summer season with their Sea Eagle adventure tour running most days and also the chance to go fishing or join a trip to the island of Inch Kenneth.

This picture was taken on a Mull Charters trip last year, but shows the playful nature of the Bottlenose Dolphins
Pic by E Birder Marcus Conway.

 By Thursday the Dolphins hadn’t ventured too far as they were seen by Turus Mara out by the Treshnish Isles. These were not the only unusual animals seen on this trip yesterday as a Sea Eagle was spotted out at Staffa. Although these birds can fly huge distances and the short trip presumably from Mull to Staffa is but a short hop it is unusual to see these impressive predators out at sea.

Friday, 6 April 2012

As the 2012 season kicks off for us at Explore Mull from our new premesis in Ledaig carpark in Tobermory & the launch of our new website where we have information on Mull as well as a booking system for trips and tours on the Island.
We are already getting great sightings back from the boat trips of Harbour porpoise, White tailed eagles, Gannets, Manx shearwaters & a few Puffins and many other sea birds.
The land toursare producing all the normal wildlife seen on Mull  including White tailed & Golden eagles, Red deer, Fallow deer, Otters & many other migratory birds.
Local information on Tobermory including an events diary can be found at & for local information on Iona and what on go to .
As well as writing the blog we intend to put sightings on our facebook wildlife page on a regular basis and general information on

New for the 2012 season is that the Eagle hide has moved to Glen Seilisdeir still bookable on 01680812556 trips twice daily 10am & 1pm each trip lasts aprox 2 hours and costs £6 per Adult and £3 for under 16's.

Now thats the general information to start the season, the wildlife blogs start here.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Altered Images : the Sequel

By now, you should have a reasonable idea as to how this quiz is to be tackled. However, one or two of the following images may be difficult, if not downright impossible, to pin down to a specific bird, plant or animal. Therefore, in such cases, a generic answer will suffice. Remember, all images are of wildlife that is commonly encountered on the Isle of Mull and Iona. Prepare to have your mind boggled!







How well you performed in this quirky quiz probably tells you more about your state of mind rather than your ability as an amateur naturalist. However, we hope that you’ve had some fun pitting your wits against these distorted images, more of which may appear from time to time as part of our regular ‘Nature Notebook’ blog.


A Previously Unanswered Question

Do you recognise these images from anywhere? The answers to our New Year Quiz are featured in the following two blog posts :-

Wine, Birds and Song

Referred to as the ‘Nightingale That Sang On Breadalbane Street’, the cheeky and cheery Robin is one of only a few local birds that sing throughout the year. Heard accompanying drunken late night revellers, as they make their way up Prison Brae in Tobermory, the Robin is often disturbed into song during the dark nights of Winter. Robins possess large eyes for such a small bird and additional sensory receptors (rods) in their retinas that allow them to see and forage in the dark, long after other birds have gone to roost – 28/10/11

Of Choice and Over Here

The Sitka Spruce, a native of high rainfall areas in Western North America, is well-suited to life on Mull and is the conifer of choice of local forestry operators. When felled for commercial purposes, each tree reveals a series of internal rings of woody tissue, from which it is possible to gauge its age, as well as the differing environmental conditions that the tree experienced during its life. These annular rings provide a fascinating insight : during poor growing seasons the ring that develops will not be as thick as one produced after a good season. The rings on this tree are of a similar girth, suggesting that the growing seasons on Mull during its lifetime were remarkably similar and without great fluctuation – 10/07/11

Delicate and In Decline

As the only ‘Blue’ butterfly on Mull and Iona, the Common Blue (this is a male) is easily identified. It has suffered a long-term decline and numbers emerging in Spring have greatly fluctuated in recent years. These delicate insects are as highly sensitive as they are beautiful and have evolved specialised adaptations to aid their survival. The large eyes are made up of thousands of tiny lenses, which supply the insect’s brain with a compound image of the world in which they live. Although short-sighted, they are well-equipped to detecting movement (of predators and rivals) and manoeuvring rapidly in flight – 18/06/11

Fishy Business

The Isle of Mull and Iona has a very healthy population of Otters. It has been suggested that as many as 120 territories are to be located around the Isle of Mull’s 305 miles of coastline alone. That a single territory may only be around 1 mile in length when conditions are good also suggests that the islands’ may offer scope for some expansion! An Otter’s calling card is its spraint, which is defaecated at strategic points in its territory, signalling a warning to other animals that this area is inhabited. Spraints decompose relatively quickly in the Mull and Iona climate, but are characteristically black and tar-like in consistency when fresh – 29/05/11

A Deer Price To Pay

Recent Winters have taken their toll on the Red Deer population on the Isle of Mull. Weak and sickly animals that may have survived previously were culled by the inclement weather and those that survived did so in a poor state of condition. However, this was good news for eagles, buzzards, ravens and crows on the island, which were served a welcome treat to help them get through the worst that Mother Nature could throw at them during the cold, dark days of Winter – 08/11/10

Answers to New Year Quiz (Part One) : 1. Robin; 2. Annular Rings (Sitka Spruce); 3. Common Blue; 4. Otter Spraint, and; 5. Red Deer (Stag)


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Altered Image (New Year Quiz)

Pages from the ‘Explore Mull’ Nature Notebook

We’ve played around with several images from the ‘Explore Mull’ photobook to produce this fun and quirky New Year quiz. It looks far more difficult than it really is, so just think in terms of the birds, plants and animals that are commonly encountered on the Isle of Mull and Iona and you won’t go far wrong. It may help to have a glass of your favourite tipple in hand, in order to re-focus some of the distorted images!





That wasn’t too difficult now, was it? Now that your eyes are attuned to what this little bit of post-festive fun is all about, another selection of altered images will be posted in our next blog, as will the answers to this first selection.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Going wild on Mull & Iona

New for 2012! Join us at ‘Explore Mull’ on a bewitching journey of adventure and discovery, as we endeavour to make 2012 the best year ever for wildlife and wildlife-watchers on the islands of Mull and Iona.


In recent decades, Mull and Iona has earned the enviable reputation as the premier wildlife tourism destination in the British Isles. Thousands of birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts flock to the island every year, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mull’s celebrated birds and animals. In doing so, visitors help generate millions of pounds for the local economy in a time of continuing recession.

At ‘Explore Mull’, we are justifiably proud of this success and strive to keep Mull and Iona at the forefront of eco-tourism in this country by continuing to champion the islands’ wonderful wildlife and scintillating scenery.

The Isle of Mull and Iona boasts an opulent biodiversity that ranges from the spores of a myriad of fungi that fruit perennially throughout the islands to apex predators, like White-tailed Eagles, Otters, Minke Whales and Basking Sharks. A mighty handful of celebrated and iconic species provide an intoxicating allure for wildlife lovers and have helped propel the islands toward the coveted status that they enjoy today in the hearts and minds of wildlife watchers worldwide.

Forged by fire and sculpted by ice over a mind-boggling near 3 billion years, the exhilarating landscapes and seascapes of the Isle of Mull and Iona are guaranteed to take your breath away, being among the most beautiful in the British Isles. Influenced by the Gulf Stream, the area’s climate is capricious in nature, with the ever-shifting light affording photographers a fantastic opportunity to capture the local scenery throughout the spectrum of its moods, amid the backdrop of the changing seasons.

New for 2012, the ‘Going Wild On Mull and Iona’ blog, detailing pages from the ‘Explore Mull’ Nature Notebook’, aims to encourage interest in every aspect of the islands’ natural history and not merely its ever-popular eagles and otters. There is so much more to Mull and Iona than White-tailed Eagles and Otters and we intend to celebrate the islands’ unheralded wildlife, as much as the more sought after birds, plants and animals, on these pages during the coming months.

Linked to an up-to-date ‘Latest Sightings’ page, the ‘Going Wild On Mull and Iona’ blog will have an educative slant, with a strong information bias, which we intend to present in a quirky, interactive and fun way, allowing followers to keep in touch with what’s happening in the world of Mull and Iona wildlife.

A Happy New Year to all our friends and followers and may 2012 be just what we wish it to be : the best year ever for wildlife and wildlife-watchers on the Isle of Mull and Iona!