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The sights and sounds of autumn

October 16, 2017

There are changes here in the natural environment, heralding the arrival of the new season and for us it simply adds to the delight of living in this wonderful part of Mull. Some bird species are leaving and others arriving as they migrate to and from winter grounds. We miss the flocks of swallows and sand martins which loved hunting for insects, swooping at great speed around our woodland edge but are pleased to see the return of whooper swans and tufted duck to the loch. Our wild flowers have almost all disappeared but a great variety of fungi of all shapes and colours is popping up everywhere.

One sound that announces autumn more than any other is the roaring of the red deer stags as the rutting season gets underway. We had heard distant roars so set off to see if we could witness the rutting spectacle, taking the camera but without much hope of close shots. The plan was to stretch the legs on the “Pottie loop”, a local 6-mile circular walk through the village of Pottie which takes in wild upland moorland and the spectacular coastline at Fidden.

Red deer are often seen on this walk and we hoped to catch the sight and sound of stags as it was the beginning of the rutting season. However, just as we set off from Achaban House, a stag could be clearly heard bellowing. It seemed fairly close so we decided to cut across country over rough ground into the wild scrubland to the east of Loch Pottie to investigate. We crept up the hillside, trying to stay out of sight and came across two young stags in a wide gulley. We managed to take some pictures and move on without disturbing them. Almost immediately we spotted a big stag consorting with a hind and bellowing from time to time in a clearing on the hillside. We captured a picture without being seen and then took the time to chill out and watch the scene for a while and enjoy the setting.

The wild area along the east side of Loch Pottie is low level native forest, full of birch, hazel and willow and the colours were just turning to take on an autumn tint. We then heard more bellowing carried on the wind, so we sneaked off over the hill to investigate. We came across a hind near the crest of the hill and on the far side of the hill two stags could be seem roaring at each other on the low lying ground. We managed a distant snap of the first before he disappeared off in pursuit of a hind. The other stag was harassing two hinds through the woods and we got a photo as he conveniently paused on a rock for a roar.

By this time the light was fading, so we decided to head back, at which point a mixed flock of small birds passed through the forest, led by some long-tailed tits. As we passed Creich on the way back, another two stags could be seen rutting very near to home not far from the Kintra road – a great finale to our walk.