“Stooooop!” I yelled from the back of the convertible. As we came to a halt I made a grab for my binoculars and cast a glance back to the water’s edge. I was driving round Mull with some friends, and had been assigned the job of “on board wildlife guide” for the day. I was determined to find them some of the local wildlife (they’d travelled all the way from Holland) but as it was my first time to Mull I wasn’t sure where to look.
But I was in luck – there was an otter bobbing in the waves! Constantly diving and surfacing every couple of minutes with catches of crabs or fish. We leapt out of the car and scrambled across near-lethal slippery seaweed down to the shore line.
Like a game of musical statues, every time the otter surfaced we froze in position while it ate. Each time it dived under we quickly resumed crawling over the barnacle covered rocks to get closer.
The otter, fishing about 50 metres away, seemed totally oblivious as it slurped fish down like spaghetti!
I watched for 45 minutes as it worked its way around the bay of Loch Na Keal. Finally, I saw it surface with a fish almost the same size as itself (a salmon?). It was clearly struggling to subdue the catch – sinking back under the water every couple of seconds as it battled to support the weight of the fighting fish. Deciding the fight would be easier to handle out of the water, the otter headed for the rocks, dragging the unwilling fish with it.
After that I lost sight of it. Despite thoroughly searching the shoreline and waiting for patiently, I think the otter had wisely hidden itself from the view of ravens, hooded crows and buzzards to enjoy its main course in peace.
Our great day of wildlife didn’t stop there – we also saw a female sea eagle (and nest!). Perched atop a tree about 1km away, her cream head feathers stood out against the dark green of the pine forests and enabled me to spot her instantly.
On the way back we sailed over flat calm waters watching thousands of jellyfish beside the ship, and several porpoise gently breaking the surface of the sea in the sunset. And all crammed into 8 hours – not bad!
The sea eagle chick I see every week on Jura has now left the nest – after its parents had been starving it for days (weeks?) to make it leave. Last week it finally got the courage to take flight – hopefully I’ll see more of it as it grows up round these islands and raises young of its own in the years to come.
Until next week!