After yesterday and the White Tailed Eagles, today it’s some of the other birds that you can see around Mull and Ardnamurchan on the shores and open water of the seas and lochs of the region, including the various species nesting on some of the islands off Mull.
The first place we stayed, Onich next to Loch Linnhe, rapidly introduced us to what would be one of the most common birds on the trip; Oystercatchers:
If you’ve never encountered Oystercatcher, they are unmistakable visually, and make a highly distinctive call that you will soon tune into. We both heard and saw them everywhere we went.
Also on the shore, and making quite a racket, where some Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula):
I’ve a bad habit of calling them ‘little Ringed Plovers’ as they are quite small, and Ringed Plovers. But then there’s a separate species called Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), so it’s not a habit to encourage! If you are unsure which of the two you are looking at, the easiest way is to look at the eye. The LRP has a yellow ring round its eye. The RP, as you see here, doesn’t.
They were clearly nesting along the shore somewhere and trying to draw us away. One even resorted to the old trick of trying to feign injury. The idea is, a predator will go after you, then you fly off, leaving the predator clueless as to the location of your nest. Obviously I was trying to leave the nest well alone anyway, but had to grab some photos of the plover play-acting:
Another shorebird we saw a lot of was Sandpiper:
Lots of Rock Pipits around too on the shores, as well as birds like Heron and Hooded Crow.
There was plenty going on on the water too, and at Linnhe, Sunnart, Tuath and na Keal we saw regular Razorbill, Guillemot, Common Terns, Great Northern Diver and groups of Red-Breasted Merganser:
Plenty of gulls too:
In terms of getting up close with birds though, nothing beat the trip to Lunga of the Treshnish Isles, as this allowed remarkably close views of Puffin, Shag, Fulmar, Razorbill, Guillemot and Black Guillemot:
I think Shag are very under-rated birds. The marking along their wings is exquisite, and the green tinge to their plumage really shines when the sun is on them.
Puffins, guillemots and razorbills are all birds we call ‘auks’. There is also the Little Auk, and the sadly extinct Great Auk. There was an American couple on my boat (who will crop up in a story tomorrow) who insisted on calling every dumpy black-and-white bird we saw “a puffin”. I resisted the urge to correct them!
These birds may look like gulls, but Fulmar are in fact ‘Procellariiformes’, more commonly known as ‘tubenoses’. This means they are related to albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters.
In the bottom picture, it may look like they are fighting, but this sort of beak-clicking is in fact part of their relationship as a breeding pair. You can see the same behaviour on Lunga in the puffins:
Anywhere you can watch birds up close you are going to be presented with a great opportunity to explain the facts of life to kids, and one or two families were having awkward conversations after the Razorbills put on a show:
Not all the contact is friendly though, and particularly in the crowded guillemot colonies there is aggression:
Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the smaller birds on land.
If you are interested, I’m putting extra photos up on my Flick page too: HERE