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A very wet week on Mull

Seven glorious days in Mull staying right in the heart of Sea Eagle territory with a Buzzard and a Hen Harrier living along the single track road leading to our house…surely this week is going to be a great one for photography…surely…? Well, now add five days of almost constant wet, dull and windy weather! The annual trip to the Highlands is over for another year and the weather was the worst we’ve experienced in all our trips. Was it still worth going? Definitely, Mull is a stunning place come rain or shine!

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow in rain, D3, 600 + 1.4x, 1/80, f8, ISO 720

Location: Mull, West Coast of the Scottish Highlands

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Good and bad signs upon arrival
Every year we visit the highlands at the start of May, usually in the second week but this year the location we wanted to stay had no houses available in the second week so we had to go for week one. Our arrival to Mull in the afternoon was met with both positive and negative reaction…a dark rain storm could be seen heading our way but at the same time a Gannet flew overhead, a species we had not seen on Mull before. Still, we made our way to our home for the week and our optimism rose once more as the first evening cleared up a little and we watched some distant Gannets diving in to the water off shore, all from the comfort of our house!

Rainbow over the Highlands

Rainbow over the Highlands, D3, 28-70 AFS

Gannet head on

Gannet, D300, 600 + 1.4x TC, 1/1600, f7.1, ISO 200

North and South
We stayed on the south side of the island this trip. We had stayed in the north on our previous trip although the landscape is different there with some flatter spots and some more open area’s. We paid a visit back up to our previous location though one afternoon to see if the seals were still there, which they were, along with plenty of Gannets diving in to the water. It was also in the north that we spotted the Dippers and drove along one road where we saw about 10 Buzzards in the space of five minutes – apparently the Buzzard population has doubled in the last year and I could very believe it as they seemed to be everywhere!

Buzzard

Common Buzzard, D3, 600 + 1.4x TC, 1/800, f8, ISO 200

Rain rain and more rain
To cut a long story short, the next five days pretty much rained…none stop! Added to that lots of wind (sometimes reaching 60mph according to the weather man!) which at times provided full on sideways rain storms and very dull, flat light. We still headed out in it every day in the hope of getting a bright spell or finding decent subjects but the weather was so bad most of the time that even the wildlife seemed to have scarpered for the most part, with the exception of a few sightings of Otters at a couple of locations. By the end of day five we didn’t really have a single decent image and our hopes for the rest of the week dwindled fast as day six had a forecast of thunder storms and lightening!!

Gull

Herring Gull, D3, 600 + 1.4x TC, 1/400, f8, ISO 220

Sunlight at last!
Thankfully, day six did not bring with it the weather that had been forecast and instead brought a day with large patches of blue sky amongst dark clouds so although we had the odd rain shower and dull light we got plenty of bright sunny light as well so finally the mountains and hillsides were lit with light and the island  came alive so we made the most of the situation and went out to find what we could to take advantage of the weather whilst it lasted. I’d have liked to get some more artistic or different shots other than ‘stock’ ones of the various subjects we encountered but you can’t win them all, as the saying goes – and given what little good light we had I was pleased to come away with any shots at all.

Toad

Toad, D300, 200-400 @ 400, 1/100, f5.6, ISO 800

The weather is changing, as we leave!
Wouldn’t you know it, the weather was turning as we left Mull and the following week was forecast as nice and sunny…typical! But we can’t complain as despite the pretty awful weather, we eventually had the best trip to the Highlands yet as far as wildlife sightings go. We saw 3 separate Sea Eagles, 2 Golden Eagles, found Otters at 3 separate locations (including the bay right outside our front door) and saw many other different birds ranging from Gannets to Dippers – of course being a photographer and not a bird spotter I wish I could show you photos of all these species but as you will all know, seeing and photographing wildlife is two very different things – especially when the elements are completely against you. Still, we had a great laugh throughout the week and although we didn’t get as many images as we would have liked of the various species, we did get some great Otter photo’s (Which you can see here) and that was the main goal of the trip…so overall it was a success and I can’t wait to get back there again in the future!

Oyster Catcher

Oyster Catcher, D3, 600 + 1.4x TC, 1/400, f7.1, ISO 640

Barn Swallow

Wet Barn Swallow, D300, 200-400 @ 400, 1/200, f4, ISO 800

Wheatear

Wheatear, D3, 600 + 1.4x TC, 1/400, f8, ISO 1000

Red Face

Muscovy Duck, D3 with 600 + 1.4x TC

Chaffinch

Chaffinch, D3 with 600 + 1.4x TC

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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