When visiting the Isle of Mull, setting sail to discover the beautiful seabird colony which inhabit Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles, is an absolute must.
The day was grey but the rain was holding off, and I was watching the colourful houses of Tobermory diminish as we set off out of the harbour. The journey to the Treshnish Isles can be a bit rough at times, envisage clinging on and getting sprayed in the face pretty much constantly with sea water and you’re almost there. It is exhilarating though to have the bitter wind sting your eyes as the boat ploughs up and down over the waves – best to hold on tight.
After the hour long journey the boat reached the Treshnish Isles, and the seabirds were in sight flying across the water, including several glorious black guillemots. The boat then reached Lunga and the landing platform was pushed onto the shore. When stepping off the security of the boardwalk, the shore became a maze of uneven rocks beneath my feet. Attempting to scramble over these with dignity was a little difficult and I ended up looking like some kind of circus act with my arms sticking out as I attempted to keep balance. Eventually making it over the stepping stones, you have to climb up to the top of the island, a good work out for the quads. It is all worth it though when you reach the top and are greeted by the presence of puffins lining the edge of the cliff, their networks of burrows woven into the ground.
It always surprises me how small puffins actually are, despite having seen them before, when you look back at pictures they always appear much larger. They will steal your hearts within an instant though, as they bustle along to their burrows, fly off to catch food for their young, rest and preen.
I could have spent hours just watching the puffins, but there was more of the island to discover. Taking the walk along the rough footpath was a must to see the guillemots and razorbills. Seeing the rocks crammed full with the smart black and white figures of these auks was truly spectacular, not to mention the noise – a somewhat prehistoric sound.
Standing on a point by the rocks I was completely absorbed watching the sky filled with the specs of whizzing seabirds going back and forth. It is also so interesting to watch the different styles of flight all the birds have. Fulmar are one of my favourite birds to watch in flight, they are graceful, streamlined and glide effortlessly through the air. The guillemots on the other hand are completely different, with their feet sticking out the back of them, they are much clumsier – it’s almost like their feet are there ready for a crash landing at any minute. Either way they are all equally as beautiful to watch.
Another delight was watching the birds bring back fish. I saw one bridled guillemot land with a fish, before delicately moving along the edge of the cliff and attracting the attention of other guillemots, but making it past this gang, the individual continued down along the cliff out of view.
The islands are also home to wheatears, pipits, as well as other seabirds such as shags and kittiwakes, which all deserve a moment to be admired. On a previous visit I remember a wheatear just hopping along the path in front of me for ages, as if taking me on my own private guided tour.
Two hours on this island goes far too quickly, and when I was making my way back to the puffin burrows I saw the unmistakable figures of two great skua glide over my head, the dark brown silhouette of these predators truly breath-taking. Back to the puffins, I spent the last few minutes with these beautiful creatures. It is almost like a magic trick when they appear from their burrows, when you were distracted by another. Some were taking the time when the humans were on the island to take a quick nap, maybe while the predators were away? Scrambling back down to the boat and over the rocks, all that was left was a feeling of utter happiness, well I suppose that’s puffin therapy for you.