Sea Eagle Adventure

07th June 2012
I can’t remember properly now but I think this was a fairly early sailing around 09:30 from Ulva Ferry, around 24miles and 45mins from our base in Dervaig.

Most of the roads on Mull are single track, up hill and down dale with plenty of bends. They are also subject to highland cattle and sheep congregating on them which all helps to slow you down, so when travelling on Mull leave yourself plenty of time.

When you reach Ulva Ferry don’t expect a lot! There are a few sheds, a car park, a small jetty and a loo. Don’t linger in the loo too long as the light is on a timer and plunges you into total darkness after what seems about 30 seconds. However wave your arm around a bit and there is light, for 30 seconds. A touch of Scottish thriftiness no doubt.


The view looking north from Ulva Ferry

Although Mull Charters and Turus Mara both sail from here it’s primary service is as it says on the label, to ferry you to the Isle of Ulva. There’s a board on the wall that you change to red and the ferry comes and collects you, turn it back to white before you get on the ferry. The best I can say about the ferry boat is, it looks very basic.

Anyway I digress and the focus of my thoughts should be on our Sea Eagle Adventure but it does give you a bit of an idea of what to expect.

Our boat Lady Jayne turned up on time and twelve of us boarded. Mull charters also operate a trip soley for photographers, maximum four at £150 each.

Unfortunately I wasn’t on that trip and if you are also doing the standard trip try and sit at the back, I didn’t and suffered for it.

Lady Jayne isn’t a large boat and has some interesting holes in the hull that allows water in as well as to drain out. Consequently the floor can and does get wet and so will anything else you may place on the floor including your feet. To be fair the crew do advise you to stow your bags and gear in the wheelhouse, so if you don’t it is your look out. Don’t let this put you off however, as the best is still to come.

Lady Jayne set off promptly and headed southish into the channel between Mull and the southern tip of Ulva. I didn’t know until after the trip but we were heading into Loch na Keal. We passed Eorsa on the starboard side and carried on up the loch for a few minutes.

At this point the crew threw some bread out to attract the gulls, which it duly did, not a vast number probably in the region of ten or so. We drifted around for a while and did a few circles but still no sign of our subject, the imperious White Tailed Eagle.

I don’t know if the Eagle should have turned up at this point or if it was done to build up the excitement/anticipation.

Eventually we moved quite some distance further into the Loch and went through the process of throwing bits of bread over the side again and circling around. At this point we were in the middle of the loch and more or less in line with where a pair of eagles are nesting.

Eventually one of three fish was thrown into the loch that was quickly picked up by one of the voracious gulls resulting in quite a squabble amongst them.


Squabbling Gulls

After a few more minutes another fish was thrown in and a dark spot on the horizon was pointed out to us. What a feeling as the dark spot grew larger and larger, definitely the White Tailed Eagle.


Distant View of White Tailed Eagle

It didn’t take to long to reach the boat, probably less than a minute. It circled over the boat a couple of times and swooped in to pick the fish out of the water. What an awesome sight!! Considering its size with a wing span in the region of eight feet it was extremely manouverable and very speedy.


Circling close to the boat

I’d had the lens trained on the Eagle from first sight so lots of distant shots resulted and just at the moment of impact I found someone was stood in front of me. Lost the view, the bird and the pick up. I didn’t get the Eagle in view again until it was around the front of the boat and rapidly gaining height and distance from the boat. I watched the Eagle disappearing in the distance to the nest.


Overhead - note the pink on the tail, presumably blood from a recent meal

After some time, I’ve no idea how long the last fish was thrown in and sure enough our Eagle was tempted in for the bait. Our Eagle followed the same procedure a couple of circles around the boat a quick turn and it was swooping in for the fish. Unfortunately it was also the same for me, someone in front of me just at the wrong time.

As I watched the bird disappear into the distance of course I had mixed emotions, disappointed that I’d missed the shot I wanted but elated that I’d enjoyed wonderful views of such an imperious bird at very close quarters. An experience that I won’t forget for a very long time, if ever.

As the Eagle disappeared back to the nest the boat turned around to make it’a way back to Ulva.


Making its way back - monochrome conversion

The boat took a slightly different route back, passing Eorsa on the starboard side looking out for Hen Harrier or anything else. Then out past Inch Kenneth named after Saint Kenneth a follower of Saint Columba who is said to have founded a monastery on the Island. Its most famous owners were the eccentric Mitford family. Nazi sympathiser Unity Mitford spent her final years living on the island. Following the death of their mother, Lady Redesdale in 1963, the island was inherited by the surviving Mitford sisters. Diana, Nancy, Deborah and Pamela sold their shares in the island to their sister and fellow beneficiary Jessica. Jessica, a former communist, teasingly suggested that it might become a Soviet submarine base.
The island was sold by Jessica Mitford in the late 1960s and it remains under private ownership.

After passing Inch Kenneth the boat turned to starboard and made our way to a fish farm just off the west coast of Ulva.
It was in tis area where the skipper seen a large fin surface which he said could only have been a basking shark. We spent some time around the area hoping that it would surface again but no such luck.

We then made our way back round the southern tip of Ulva and back to Ulva Ferry.

If you are thinking about taking this highly reccommended boat trip, it lasts 3hrs. and cost £35 per adult.

Having done the trip, try to get at the back of the boat which will probably give you a better chance of seeing everything and don’t bother taking a long focal length lens it isn’t necessary. A lens in the region of 200mm or a 100 - 400mm zoom will do very nicely.

If you do go, I hope you have a great time and get the shots you want. I know I’d do it again.

Cheers

Andy

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