Scottish Islands: Treshnish Isles
*I am in the process of redesigning this section to include notes and many more high-res shots*
The Treshnish Isles, off the west coast of Mull, are part of the Inner Hebrides and comprise a number of small islands and skerries. They are justly famous for their colonies of breeding seabirds, especially the Puffins on Lunga, the largest island in the archipelago, and if you are in the area boat trips from Mull sail throughout the summer months and allow for time ashore. Due to the island`s relative isolation the Puffins aren’t the least bit shy and will usually allow people to approach within a foot or so.
Hoy Lass is operated by Taurus Mara.
I`ve visited the Puffin colony on Lunga, the largest island in the archipelago, quite a few times over the years and never tire of watching and photographing these comical wee birds. The edge of the large grassy area bordering the cliffs is where the majority of Lunga`s Puffins breed.
Harp Rock, an impressive sea stack on the west side of Lunga, holds nesting Razorbills, Guillemots and Kittiwakes which cram the ledges in their thousands. Another island in the group, Bac Mòr (above right) is sometimes referred to as The Dutchman's Cap in English due to its shape. It was created as a result of volcanic activity millions of years ago and the peak in the middle is a former cone. The low lying plain surrounding it is formed from a glassy lava field. Despite having no safe landing places, there are the remains of summer sheilings.
More views of Harp Rock`s seabird population.
In early May, the birds are usually busy collecting nesting material to line their burrows. Probably the best time to visit is in mid-summer, after the chicks have hatched, when the parent birds return with sandeels drooping from their beaks to feed their hungry offspring.
This is Turus Mara`s Hoy Lass. She was built on the Isle of Wight in 1975 and served as a water-taxi for personnel working at the oil terminal in Scapa Flow. Up until the Mull-based company acquired the vessel in 1995 she had been a designated standby vessel for John O' Groats Ferries, operating across the Pentland Firth.
My wife and I`s trip to the Treshnish Isles in May 2014 was again courtesy of Turus Mara. We discovered the trip was fully booked and, with only 16 seats in the open-air, my wife and I ended up below deck on the starboard side, missing out on a decent view of a Sea Eagle nest on Ulva's east coast, only a few minutes into the journey.
These Common Seals, the smaller of the two species found in the waters around the British Isles, were basking on an islet in Loch Tuath between Ulva and Mull. They are difficult to tell apart when in the water and colour isn`t a guide to identification as it changes as the seals dry out. Both species may haul-out together and one way to tell them apart is that on land, common seals often adopt a characteristic ‘head-up, tail-up’ posture.
A toddler in the next row began squalling at the top of her voice as soon as the boat got underway and didn't stop until we landed on Lunga. Her lungs were so impressive that an elderly couple turned-off their hearing aids, another woman, looking almost as distressed as the toddler, held her hands over her ears for the duration and half-a-dozen passengers left their seats and crammed in behind the skipper`s seat in the forward cabin, happy to stand all the way!
The bay at Lunga was fairly quiet with a couple of yachts and local charter boats including Ossian of Staffa of Staffa Tours. It`s a different story during the peak summer months though when numerous vessels will drop anchor here.
Not everyone that comes here tries to capture the wee birds on camera - this guy was making sketches, possibly for a full-sized painting later.
Please bear in mind that all my images are subject to copyright. They are not free to use and have been embedded with a digital watermark.
Lunga`s rabbit population will pose just as happily as the Puffins!