Hot on the heels of a trip to Skomer in the far west Wales (see the previous blog post) the mileage on the X5 has been rising steeply, as the Summer UK wildlife photography tour continues, first heading far North to Mull and then a more gentle foray to North Wales.
I'd visited the Isle of Mull late year and returned to regale Sarah with tales of incredible scenery, amazing light and a magical island. Persuaded that it would make a smashing short break together, we shared the driving and the 444 miles to Tobermory, made easier by calling in for an overnight stay at our good friends Graham and Jan, just outside Stirling on the way up (and back - thanks both).
One of the things you can't promise is the Scottish weather, wonderfully sunny on my last visit, wet, cold and dreich this time ... aaaargh!! So wet in fact that our trip with Martin and Alex on the Lady Jane, booked for the Tuesday morning was cancelled! Fortunately, Judith found us a couple of spaces for the Thursday pm sailing and the weather broke just enough that day to let Sarah at least see some of Mull and get some great views of the HUGE White-tailed Eagles.
First though we caught a glimpse of Otters .... over 100m away at low tide in low light - and looking better through the bins Sarah weilded, than my 500mm +1.4TC and then cropped to death in LR shown below ha ha
It was great to see Martin and Alex again and they soon had us heading 'inland' on Loch Na Keal to avoid the showers threatened (and did so successfully - well done chaps!)
It wasn't long before we were joined by the incredible impressive Whit-tailed Eagles, who appeared keen to benefit from the fish offered in encouragement to come close, as feeding had been difficult over the previous gloomy days.
Pretty sure we saw 5 different birds including the 'New kids on the block' and set off on our way home very happy with the 3 hours in the company on the Lady Jane and our majestic avian visitors. It won't be the last visit to Mull, but let's hope for a bit more Sun next time!
Compulsory shots of the shoreline and wrecks at Salen below!
.... and so from the really properly HUGE, to the perfectly tiny and a trip to see Gary Jones' Little Owls near Wrexham in North Wales.
Little Owls with Gary Jones
I'd tracked his Little Owl family's progress and when Gary said that the young had fledged and were starting to visit the Hide posts, it was time to travel North again.
Gary met us early doors with a worried look on his face as the Owls had been acting strangely the previous evening and he feared that a Sparrowhawk might have been the culprit, at best scaring the LO family, at worst eating them!
He shouldn't have worried, because we had hardly had time to get camera and lens set up, that the adult male was in and feeding both himself and then the youngsters perched in a nearby tree.
Gary told me that it was the first session to have two youngsters on feeding at the same time and his face took on a slightly green demeanour as they were joined by an adult keeping a watchful eye on their progress.
Gary has a great simple set up on a working dairy farm. The LO's have been present there (in various family groups) for 3 or 4 years now and whilst there will be some that are only happy trekking endlessly across the countryside, aiming to find an Owl never before seen by man and get the only shots ever taken of said bird in order for their shots to qualify as 'truly wild' (ha ha), the rest of us are delighted to get to see obviously wild creatures up close and personal, smart enough to benefit from a little supplementary feeding in return for their company.
At the further risk of the inevitable anthropomorphism, they are of course completely ..... adorable.
Perhaps it's the similar (in a way), to why the Eagles are awe inspiring due to their immense size, then perhaps these tiny characterful Owls are rendered 'cute' by their endearing tiny cuteness.
Obviously as a passionate rationalist, Humanist, reality and evidence only thinker, I know that anthropomorphism to be sentimental nonsense, nonetheless it's hard not to be hypnotised by them just the same ha ha!
It was a fabulous morning and well done Gary for producing such an incredible wildlife experience for us all to enjoy.
If you'd like to come with me out into the WILDerness and have a go out taking pictures of wonderful wildlife, feel free to get in touch with me be any of the various routes offered by my website or directly at email@example.com
PS we're now on a countdown to a late Summer Safari - the excitement builds!