When I think about the wilder parts of Scotland I picture russet-brown, bracken-clad valleys and hillsides, towering dark ridges, rushing streams and lonely, still lochs. In my minds-eye I can picture huge White-tailed Eagles soaring above the ridges, maybe a red deer stag with its harem below a circling Golden Eagle, perhaps being harassed by a smaller raptor - or a distant Hen Harrier quartering low over the grassland.
To my immense joy that's exactly what I got on a day out with Ruth and Stuart on one of their "Eagle Walks".
If you'd prefer to be driven around the island, jumping in and out of a mini bus, ticking off as much wildlife as possible in a day then this experience is probably not for you. If you want to walk in a very special, wild and remote area that many don't see, with two experienced, passionate and thoroughly knowledgable guides then book a day out with Mull Magic on one of their "Eagle Walks".
Ruth and Stuart care deeply about the wildlife on Mull and know where and how to find it - even when the weather conditions are unfavourable. Although the day started off wet with low cloud, making searching for the larger birds of prey very challenging, and I was getting rather despondent, it wasn't too long after lunch that we started to see the birds that I had my heart set on seeing.
Although I was focused on seeing White-tailed and Golden Eagles, Stuart and Ruth were also ready to show our small group other species and we were rewarded with a small flock of Waxwings flying over at the start of our walk, good views of Dipper and, much to Stuart's joy, two Common Scoters. One of the things that impressed me most was that our guides valued all wildlife sightings equally - no matter how 'common' - and I was even (quite rightly) told off for looking at a distant speck and proclaiming "Oh. it's just a Hooded Crow"!
Stuart had a very keen ornithologist's eye and was alert to every movement around us, although it was Ruth that spotted our first White-tailed Eagle of the day. Before the day was ended we'd seen the three species that I'd really hoped to see. Some sightings were better than others but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Wildlife watching isn't about getting perfect views. For me, as long as I could independently make a positive identification I was chuffed and one of the best parts of the day was that Stuart didn't just tell you what you were seeing, he showed you HOW to really see it and appreciate it.
Before I went to sleep that night I relived every moment of a wonderful day that I shall remember always.
Finally, a word of thanks to my wife for joining me on a "Me Day" and getting as much out of seeing my excitement as I got out of seeing magnificent birds that were lifetime 'firsts' for me.
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