Friday, 21 September 2012

Islands and Islets (8): An Inner Hebridean Odyssey - Wildlife on Mull and Iona

Iona - as you approach by sea (or leave)

Approaching Iona from Mull

We spent three nights on Mull and one day on Iona. The weather wasn't brilliant, although the sun came out for a few hours during the afternoon of our last day (which we spent on Iona, where the colours of the kelp, the silver sand and the pure azure water were amazing).

We did not see many vertebrates during this leg of our journey - though we enjoyed watching the bats (not sure what species) at Uisken Beach on the Ross of Mull and a few rabbits here and there. We also saw four red deer on the wonderful road between Duart and Pennyghael, a toad in Bunessan and a seal in the strait between Lochaline and Fishnish.

Waiting for the ferry ...

My (separate)  Bird list is a little longer, though due to the wild weather, we didn't come across half the birds we had hoped to see. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed watching the following (in order of sightings) ...

  • Herring Gull - Uisken
  • Hooded Crows - ditto
  • Buzzards - not quite on every telegraph post!
  • Pied Wagtails - Castle Duart
  • Chaffinches - ditto
  • Gannets - off the cliffs, not far from Bunessan
  • Skylarks - Duart Castle
  • Grey Herons - Pennyghael, Tobermory and elsewhere
  • Swallows - (are these Swallows?) on Iona, taking shelter in the Abbey cloister rafters (photo below)
  • Cormorant - Pennyghael
  • Eiders - sea loch near Pennyghael
  • Oystercatchers - ditto
  • Curlew - ditto
  • Golden Eagles (2) - back road or 'scenic route' to Salen
  • Pheasant - Aros
  • (Query) White-tailed Eagle - a rather distant sighting in the Craignure/Duart area ... I see one has been spotted in this area from the Treshnish (B)log of wildlife here
  • ENORMOUS 'tidal wave' of Greylag at sunset rolling up the Sound of Iona
  • White doves on the Abbey (do these count as wild? - 'Columba', of course, means 'dove')
  • Song Thrush - Iona, near Abbey
  • House Sparrows (2) - ditto (enjoying the fresh soil of an archaeological dig - photo at end of post)
  • Robin - ditto
  • Blackbirds - Iona
  • Kestrels (2) - Ross of Mull
  • Mallard (8) - Loch Spelve, Mull 
  • Owls (2 unidentified) - Ross of Mull 

Taking shelter in the cloister in preparation for a LONG journey south

We loved the cloister, with its carvings by Chris Hall of Scottish birds and Holy Land plants

Do stone monkeys count as 'wild and wonderful'?

Almost time to touchdown ...

The Iona Community has the 'Wild Goose' as its symbol. Many associate the Community's worship with the liturgical compositions of John Bell. You can read about the background to the Community here in a book review by Dr Josh Sweden. The fascinating history of Iona, the island, is tied in with the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, and it was one of these, Reginald, who sent monks to found a Benedictine community in this out-of-the-way island that had been occupied by Columba. 

... and now it's time for a flypast
Looking out from Iona - I loved those volcanic tump-like rocks

We did not see many invertebrates during this leg of our journey. There was a wonderful striped caterpillar near St Oran's Chapel on Iona (photo for a future post), and plenty of craneflies in Bunessan on Mull. I also noted some bees and snails. There were a few sea anemones (these belong to the group of Cnidarians - like jellyfish) in the rock pools near the ferry on Iona.

The otters and cetaceans may have eluded me, but we saw many wonderful creatures nonetheless!

The archaeological dig ... has the dinosaur been excavated ... or was the Loch Ness Monster on holiday in the Hebrides?


Mary said...

What a wonderful trip you are having. This looks like a great place to visit and go birding. I love the carving on the pillar...beautiful! The scenery is so beautiful. Your bird list looks like you are doing very well1

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh Mull and Iona are wonderful places aren't they?

Thanks for identifying my broom moth caterpillar, I'm pretty sure you're right on that!

Kay Weeks said...

I just now enjoyed your blog, Wild and Wonderful. All the photos were wonderfully engaging. Taking shelter (the birds) just WOWED me.

Thanks for sharing yourself.

Kay Weeks said...


This may be duplicative, but I just now enjoyed your blog...all the photos and text.

The bird taking shelter just WOWED me.

Thanks for sharing all!