Mullman happy to be home

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Outdoors columnist Daniel Brooks is a wildlife guide, adventure seeker, conservation campaigner, forager, bushcrafter, rewilder and father of four. His website is here

When I was growing up on Mull, I would disappear into the wild all day making my poor mum worry sick.

Now I have four children of my own, I realise what she must have gone through.

I was always keen on nature, possibly inherited from my grandparents who were keen bird watchers and used to take me off to volunteer at Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserves.

I acquired a lifelong passion for otters while growing up here and spent hundreds of hours watching, photographing, recording dive times and prey items, mapping all their holts and lie up places.

They became an obsession for me and because during my teenage years I grew up about as far from friends that I could possibly be, the otters became my best friends while at home at weekends. During the week, I went to school in Oban, boarding at the boys’ hostel at Kilbowie.

I started to get quite a reputation locally. Well-known for my love of otters, tourists used to get sent to find ‘Danny the otter boy’ if they wanted to encounter these wonderful, entertaining creatures.

Today, after spending large parts of the last three decades away from the island, working, travelling and exploring, tourists are sent to me once more if they wish to find wild otters.

I am taking them to many of the places I used to watch otters as a child. I have been watching the great, great, great, great, great grandchildren of the otters that used to be my friends and spending time with them again has brought back countless loving memories.

I found a female with three large cubs recently in territory I used to watch most. It has always been an extremely productive territory, with the female holding it regularly having and rearing three cubs. I lay on the beach there with clients recently, watching as the cubs played a game of chase after stuffing themselves full of eels.

They chased each other round and round a large rock hanging with bladder wrack and hid behind the curtain of weed, jumping out on their brethren as they passed and rolled together play fighting, yikkering in delight.

Mum came ashore with a large rockling and one of the cubs ran to try and steal it from her. But she snapped aggressively to make sure the cub knew this one was for her.

The mother otter ate quickly and within a few minutes was running around on the rocks with her cubs sharing a bit of play time before all curling up together for a snooze in the sea weed.

We lay patiently for 40 minutes until they woke up and entered the water again to fish. We then saw something I have never seen before in all my years watching otters.

A line of lobster pots were half exposed in the shallows as a result of the very low tide. The mother otter went from one pot to the next looking for prey.

She found a large fish in one and attacked the pot, biting it, pulling it and tipping it around until she got hold of what was inside and ripped it in half pulling through the netting.

She then sat on the pot and ate it, returning for the other half when she was done.

Otters can get stuck and drown in lobster pots so I was a bit concerned, but this old mum knew exactly what she was doing.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown up on Mull, which is why I returned to bring my own children up here.

We were lucky and are grateful to have received one of four new community houses built by Mull and Iona Community Trust to house local families and help keep the tiny school open.

The view from our home is a dream come true for me. I have long since dreamt of watching otters and dolphins from my home and I can sit and watch both and a lot more from here. I am so happy to be home.