Eagles Aplenty

I have been lucky to encounter White-tailed Eagles several times in the past whilst travelling around western Iceland and the Isle Of Skye, but without doubt the best place to photograph them up-close and personal is aboard Lady Jayne with Mull Charters on Loch Na Keal, the Isle of Mull. Mull boasts amazing views of eagles and this was my main reason for visiting and I knew I had a pretty good chance of seeing one. From home, the drive to the Isle Of Mull was 6 hours and after a stopover near Dumfries, I was quickly in Oban and waiting for the ferry. I was buzzing with excitement, Mull had been high on my list of places to visit and finally I got the chance to go. After disembarking the ferry on the other side, it was a quick drive to the hotel, drop the bags and then head back out to find some wildlife. As well as eagles, otters were high on my list of species to see and straight away I was very fortunate to photograph two... It took a little while to find one, but after searching though the binoculars the sight of not one, but two otters was pure happiness. I watched from the road to begin with because they were a small spec in the distance, but as they neared it became apparent that it was in fact a mother with her cub! As they came on to land near where I stood I got my gear ready and waited for my opportunity. With my 600mm ready I took my chance to get close when mum went off fishing and left the cub sleeping on the seaweed. I managed to get close and hid behind a rock and as I settled and got comfy, so did the otter cub and it sadly went out of view. Every few seconds it would sniff the air and I could just see it’s nose poking up. Whilst mum was still out fishing the loch became very calm and soundless, so you could hear her crunching down on her food and before I knew it she was heading back in my direction. By this point the light was fading as she hopped out of the water and that’s when my heart began to race. I had never seen an otter before and this was my first encounter with one, it couldn’t have been better. With the 600mm I was creating frame-filling images and since the light was dull I didn’t need a high shutter speed as she wasn’t moving all that much. She stopped and paused many times, looking in my direction before returning to the cub for cuddles and play time. This was a very special moment and made me realise why I love wildlife and the great outdoors so much. Just when I thought things couldn’t get much better both otter cub and mum lifted their heads up and looked straight at me... What a night and what a great start to my time on Mull.

It was now time for eagles and I had two boat trips planned for the following two days. On route to the Ulva ferry port the sight of yet another otter made me smile as I was still buzzing from the previous night and by this point I was itching to get out on the water to see eagles! Getting aboard Lady Jayne was exciting and as we cruised towards where we would be photographing eagles seeing Great-northern Divers was a real treat. I have always admired all species of divers so getting to see them was amazing! As we continued further into the loch It wasn’t long before the words ‘eagle above’ came from Martin and within a blink of an eye the biggest raptor in the U.K. was right in front of me and it was from that moment on that my love for White-tailed Eagles was ignited. I have only ever seen them from a distance and I never really gave much thought of their size but as an adult soared past I was in awe, they are massive! Throughout both trips on the water it was the juvenile birds that stole the show as it seemed all my best images were of them... Don’t get me wrong, the adult eagles were still performing well in front of the camera but my errors burnt me on more than several occasions. One particular juvenile bird on the first trip missed it’s catch on more than once and each time pulled up and dived with more determination. When it pulled up, wings spread and looking down at the prize, it made for amazing images and finally, on the third attempt, it caught the fish. To photograph the White-tailed Eagles I used my old-faithful 300mm F4. Whilst only at 300mm, I was still able to create a variety of different images including close-ups and habitat shots. I much preferred including the habitat, the distant mountains which included Ben More made for more atmospheric photos and more often than not I am more inclined to shoot this way... The trips really blew my mind and as I said, I’ve seen eagles before, but never like I did on Lady Jayne. The views of them were truly thrilling and I am sure a none-wildlife lover would still be in amazement, just like I was!  Before I knew it my time on Mull had sadly come to an end, I guess time flies when you’re having so much fun. It is a truly tranquil and beautiful island and to be jam-packed full with some of the most iconic British species made it hard for me not to fall in love with it. A trip back to Mull is already in the pipeline as I am more than keen to get back there and see/photograph more eagle and otter action as well as other species that call Mull home.