Birthday Treats

Published: 2nd July 2009

Had some quality time at the beginning of June to celebrate my birthday and realise a couple of ambitions. On the first Monday we took the Turus Mara boat trip with my 2 elder sons  to Staffa and the Treshnish Isle. Beautiful day – leaving at 8.30 made all the ferries in time and arrived at Ulva with time to spare – do-able with guests but a long day out. Usual seals, tystiers and terns en route – not much time to scan for eagles. Bit choppy acrtoss to Staffa, but were able to moor easily enough. Basalt columns everywhere, not just on Staffa. Fingal's Cave not as large as I had thought but still spectacular and well worth the effort. Fun hopping from one block of basalt to another on the approach to the cave. Whilst having lunch on cliffs above the cave saw a painted lady – hot on the heels of a survey announcement seeking sightings.Turns out they were everywhere that week – Lunga, Rum, Muck, not to mention Glen Loy.

Kept a sharp eye out for seabirds and cetaceans on way to Lunga, but not a lot apart from a few auks, shearwaters and gannets. Isle of Lunga was a revelation – not just for its hoards of puffins, but also for the vivid colours of its plantflife. Everything seemed to be flowering at once; bluebells, thrift, roseroot on the cliffs, and even some primroses and spring squill. Together with the gaudily painted puffins this provided quite a spectacle – the sun, of course, helped. Puffins were very confiding and barely moved from the sides of the paths at approach, or flew directly in front of us. We walked as far as the mixed seabird colonies, finding razorbills equally approachable, and the more localised guillemots and kittiwakes closer than is often the case on sea stacks or cliffs. Strange grunting noises came from burrows all around us, with chicks in the nests, althoughy sadly little sign of plentiful food. Quite a few unfortunate puffins had become food themselves for scavenging herring gulls. Could have stayed much longer watching the behaviour of the puffins, but close proximity felt somewhat intrusive, so were happy enough to leave. Coming back into Ulva harbour saw a hen harrier against the hillside, a fitting end to a great day out.

On the Tuesday all the family trecked up Ben Nevis in hot conditions, moderated slightly by a cooling breeze. Painted ladies also again to the fore on the way up. Interesting to watch vegetation change as we ascended, becoming increasingly barren. Little in the way of bird life once we left the trees and their willow warblers and tree pipits, apart from the odd raven and gull. Plenty of starry saxifrage, and a single plant of tufted saxifrage. patches of parsley fern hiding amongst the boulders. Sat on top and admired the clear views whilst eating our lunch a couple of metres away from snow buntings – got good pictures. Survived the arduous trek back and geatly enoyed the first welcome pint of the day, specially delivered from Edinburgh!