Ex­plore one of Mull’s hid­den gems

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go BIrding - Great North­ern Diver JOHN MILES

CARSAIG IS A won­der­ful find on Mull, as few bird­ers seem to go here, so most things you find are un­likely to have been pre­vi­ously recorded. The road from Pen­nyghael is about 4.5 miles long and, like most roads on Mull, is a sin­gle track with pass­ing places. Forestry is one of the first habi­tats you see with a mix of breed­ing Cross­bill, Siskin and red­poll to look out for, while Buz­zard and Spar­rowhawk pa­trol the skies around. Large clear-felled ar­eas will ‘grass’ up, pro­vid­ing hunt­ing and nest­ing for Hen Har­rier and Short­eared Owl. Ap­proach­ing the cove, conifers give way to a mixed plant­ing with some nat­u­ral re­gen­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially of Hazel and birch. A few war­blers nest here, with both Wil­low and Wood War­bler, plus Black­cap. Red­starts can use the walls and hol­low trees while Rock Doves fre­quent the crags. Look­ing out into the nat­u­ral rocky har­bour, divers are com­mon here, with Great North­ern Diver (be­low right) from Oc­to­ber un­til May and Red-throated here in the sum­mer. Shags use the rocks to dry off along with a few Cor­morants and Her­ring Gulls, while Black Guille­mots dive in the rich wa­ters. Due to the high cliffs, walk­ing here is not easy, but two walks of note can take you to see some dra­matic coastal wa­ters, with plenty of ea­gles to look for. Low tide is the best time to do these walks and walk­ing west is the path to Carsaig Arches, with basalt stacks and sea-worn arches. Walk­ing east you’ll find a se­ries of caves and more ea­gles above. Wheatears hunt for flies, while Stonechat stand on top of the bracken, along with the odd Whin­chat, so keep a look out.

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