A weekend at the Edinburgh Fringe with Sarah and our great friends Graham and Jan Box, followed by another playing golf with the 'boys' at St Andrews ... hmmm what to put in THAT sandwich?
How about a long overdue visit to the Isle of Mull, even if only for 3 days?
What a stunning place!
I'd wanted to visit Mull for so long, having been made jealous of the experience by seeing the fabulous images posted by wildlife photography friends taken on their trips. May is supposed to be the best time to visit, but it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss when a Scottish two-weekend sandwich of laughter (The Fringe) and tears (my golf game) was arranged with our friends Graham and Jan.
We had a great time at The Fringe as usual, with beers, comedians ... some of them funny .... and good food too!
Probably best to gloss over my golf the following weekend, on what was an otherwise fun trip to St Andrews - the home of golf, with Graham, my son Joe and the other smashing young chaps with whom we golf.
That leaves the Scottish sandwich filling of a tremendous 2 and a bit days on Mull for this blog, blessed with half decent weather, only one drenching and some fabulous wildlife experiences, despite the brief stay.
Arriving mid afternoon on the south shore of Loch Scridain, I'd barely checked into the little hotel when I spotted a dark head bob up like a cork, only a few metres from the shoreline directly outside. Cue frantic scramble to set up camera, lens, don appropriate camo-clothing and head downwind to start the task of getting in position, unseen and unsmelt(!) for a few shots.
I have to say that my friend Ian Ireland was in my mind at this point as I know he had spent a fruitless week in May, staying at exactly the same spot, hoping (and failing to get) a glimpse of Otter and yet I had turned up and there was a handsome Dog Otter, seemingly waiting for me to arrive and playing in the choppy water right below the hotel.
Somehow I sensed that this could be my only opportunity (how right that turned out to be!) so, with amateur Otter stalking successful and finally completed, lying prone on a stony shore and hidden by some rocks and trying to ignore the fact that I was basically in a rock pool, that I started to fire of some long distance shots.
30 minutes later and to my absolute delight, the Otter started swimming closer and hauled a decent sized Butterfish onto the shoreline Kelp, to finish his meal.
His wet and glossy fur, low profile to the ground and shooting from an uncomfortable position, didn't prevent me from securing a few shots of this smashing mammal, seemingly oblivious to my presence - happy days.
The following day featured a trip on Mull Charters, 'Lady Jane' - a popular wildlife viewing trip that also allows photographers to get close to the sensational White-tailed Eagles, re-introduced and now thriving on Mull and other parts of Scotland.
I think I'll let the pictures do the talking here as despite my overly cautious high shutter speed (in my defence it was rocky and the boat was rolling around), the gloomy-ish light and my inclination to simply gawp open-mouthed at the sight of this huge bird tracking the boat in the hope of a meal .... I did manage to get a few shots - hope they convey the wonder and privilege I felt that day - astonishing!
Mull had other sights to offer and a late Summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit, a Buzzard-on-a-post and one of the seemingly endless Pipits are worthy of mention/inclusion.
I also had great views of both male and female Hen Harriers (sadly only blurry long distance pics) and dipped out on (failed to see) any glimpse of a Goldie, this being the only disappointment.
If ever there was somewhere to hurry back - Mull is the place #recommended