A winter wildlife wonderland on the Isle of Mull
With Dave Sexton RSPB Mull Officer
There can’t be many places on the planet that are better to visit to view wildlife in the depths of winter than they are in high summer, but Mull might just be one of them. Don’t get me wrong. Summer, spring and autumn are all lovely and the wildlife is here throughout the year. But a winter’s day on Mull can be magical.
With shorter days, the island’s wildlife has to pack a lot in and the longer evenings mean more time for you to pull the chair up by the fire in your Isle of Mull Cottage. Pour yourself a dram of Tobermory malt and open a good book to plan your next day spotting the winter wildlife that is here.
White-Tailed and Golden Eagles
Winter is so good because all the young eagles that fledged last autumn are now confident on the wing and will be joining up with other young eagles. White-tailed eagle immatures and sub-adults in particular are very sociable. They will often cruise around together in small, loose groups. It’s not unusual to see 4 or 5 young sea eagles out on an off-shore skerry at this time of year, but bigger gatherings of 10 or more have been reported.
Young golden eagles will often join these youngsters, especially at roost time. Meanwhile the adult eagles will be busy visiting old eyries, preparing for next spring and re-establishing their territorial boundaries through dramatic displays and calling.
Otters seem easier to see in the winter months. With fewer cars and people about they appear more ‘relaxed’. Mull’s big sea lochs of Loch Scridain and Loch na Keal are prime hunting grounds for them. As ever, keep your distance. Sit hidden somewhere downwind and wait patiently along a lonely stretch of coast and sooner or later, an otter will appear. You can watch us getting a great otter sighting on a winter’s day in our seasonal review:
Red Deer and Fallow Deer
The red deer are now long past the rut and have settled into their winter routine. They’re often down off the hills. With them being lower in the glens, they are easier to find. Stags will have forgotten the testosterone charged battles of the autumn and ‘buddy up’ with each other in small herds. The hinds and this year’s calves will do the same.
It’s a harsh existence for winter wildlife, the deer included, but the most testing time of late winter is yet to come. Meanwhile the island’s fallow deer herds at Loch Buie and Gruline are also often glimpsed from the roadside or as they skip across the road in front of you. Deer are often near the roads at night especially, so beware.
Harbour Seals and Grey Seals
Offshore, harbour and grey seals are all around Mull’s 300 miles of coastline. Pupping for the greys on the Treshnish Isles is over now, so they can pop up anywhere. Salen Bay is still your best bet to spot the harbour seals.
Winter thrushes have largely moved through, stripping out berries as they go, but many remain. Winter wildlife also heralds new arrivals, with rare Greenland white-fronted geese on the Ross of Mull and barnacle geese on Inch Kenneth. It’s always worth a scan of the native, resident greylag geese flocks in case a rare vagrant has joined them.
So whatever the weather this winter, Mull has it all. From spectacular wildlife and scenery to wonderful places to stay cosy and warm on the days that look less inviting to venture out… my advice? Go out anyway. The weather will change and the winter wildlife is all there, just waiting to be discovered. Enjoy!
Browse the rest of our website for more information about things to do, and places to stay on the Isle of Mull www.isleofmullcottages.com