Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Four Seasons in Three Days! (3)

The portents hadn’t been good, as the weather on Mull this July has been atrocious, so St Swithen’s Day (15th) was approached with some trepidation. However, we have had at least one 24-hour period in the past ten days when it hasn’t rained, so we are safe from the curse of the 40 days of downpours for another year! When the sun has come out to play, the views that our walking guests have enjoyed of the North Mull coastline have been exhilarating, to say the least.

The solitary flowers of the Grass of Parnassus are another stunningly beautiful sight to behold on the wet moors of the island in July. Our guests were intoxicated by the smell given off by these exotic-looking flowers. The nectar in the flat, open flowers is easily accessible to insect pollinators, attracted by the sweet aroma of honey that this plant releases. This scent is strongest during sunny days on Mull, coinciding with the time that most potential pollinators are on the wing.

The skerries, inlets and seaweed-strewn bays that punctuate Mull’s North-West coast are a haven for otters. Despite the island’s healthy population, these creatures remain elusive to many visitors. We thought ourselves fortunate to have the company of a rather nonchalant individual that actively fed on an incoming tide while our group were also tucking in to their lunch. The state of the tide and the fact that the wind was blowing our scent away from the ultra-sensitive nostrils of this animal was a big factor in allowing us such prolonged views.

Our resident Greylag Geese appear to have had a profitable breeding season in the North of the island, as depicted by the number of crèches that we have encountered during our walks. Part of the only truly indigenous breeding stock in Britain, these hefty-looking and clamorous birds are very much an avian success story on the island, although they do have their detractors!

Part of this success is based on their ability to grub out the more nutritious subterranean parts of plants and not to be solely reliant on grass for a meal. Nonetheless, Greylag Geese eat a lot of grass and have evolved a highly effective digestive system that fast tracks the food that enters their stomach into the two-inch long cylinders of poo that they freely dispense with!

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