Today we have a look at some of the mammals we spotted.
I’ll be honest, to some extent our mammal experiences were disappointing. Despite frequenting areas we knew to have them, we didn’t see one single otter. Pine Marten too proved elusive. We did at one point see a small mammal with perfect Pine Marten colouring, slammed the brakes on the car, reversed, only to find a small cat sitting in a Marten-like pose, with that colouring. If I didn’t know better I’d say someone bred then trained it to frustrate visitors!
I did spot a Mink in the harbour at Ulva Ferry on Mull, but that was it for mustelids.
At sea it was also pretty bleak with not a single cetacean (whales, dolphins, porpoises) to be seen. The guys working the boats said it’s been a very poor year, and there has been a sense of recent decline. Such a shame.
Anyway, onto what we did see.
On the water, seals were well represented with Common Seals down into several lochs, starting with our first evening in Loch Linnhe. We soon spotted them all over the place, even on the ferry back.
Further out to the Treshnish Isles we also picked up Atlantic Grey Seals, though they were a lot shier bar this youngster trying to pretend to be a rock:
The two species are difficult to distinguish. The Grey is bigger when full grown, and tends not to do that ‘frying sausage’ pose when hauled out. When, as usual, you just see a head poking out the water, it’s very difficult to be sure. The Grey has a longer nose, and its nostrils are parallel, whereas the Common’s nostrils form a ‘V’ shape. If it’s close to shore, in my experience, it’s far more likely to be a Common Seal.
In terms of Scotland’s more iconic mammals, we were blessed with numerous Red Deer sightings. I’ll be honest, Red Deer seem to feature on Autumnwatch every year, and I have become pretty bored of them. But then you see them in the wild and are reminded that TV just doesn’t do them justice.
Our first sighting was at distance from the foot of Ben Hiant:
I’ll be honest, I was delighted with this sighting and would have been quite content to spot deer through the week like this. But, as you’ll know if you were reading my day-by-day accounts, it was to get better.
The following morning we woke to an excited shout of “Deers” outside our tent (this isn’t the correct pluralisation of deer, it’s one deer, two deer etc, but the shouter wasn’t English). Sure enough, two young males were down into the middle of the campsite:
They seemed quite content as long as they knew their exit route, and as long as you stayed about 10-15 metres away. I pushed it as far as I dared, but while deer at this time of year tend to be easy-going, you never know with two young males of any species. I had no desire to be their opportunity to show how manly they were!
They were back again the following morning. Apparently the harsh winter has left the tops rather low on food sources, forcing many of the deer lower down. These two had realised there was a good supply of healthy food in the camp and took full advantage.
Onto Mull, and a walk to Tobermory lighthouse gave me a great opportunity to observe a very relaxed Field Vole that seemed fine with my watching him just feet away:
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of small mammals in the wild, and it always seems to be Field Voles that are this carefree. A mouse in the same circumstances would be gone before I’d even located it (although a few years back we had a Wood Mouse in the garden that came to the patio doors if you were still and quiet).
On Lunga, following the pattern of the birds, the rabbits were also very relaxed about us watching them, probably because of the lack of predators:
That’s it for the mammals. Tomorrow we go geology-heavy as we explore the fascinating landscape of Staffa.