Early Autumn arond Glen Loy

Published: 3rd September 2009

The rain has been incessant in Lochaber throughout August, but this has not stopped the flood of tourists, many from warmer climes. This is known as a wet month hereabouts, and along with moulting birds and hiding deer, a difficult one for wildlife. For this and other reasons we do not run wildlife holidays during this period. The end of the month was not without its compensations, however. Autumn is coming early, and along with it the fall colours. The hills are ablaze with purple heather and the red seed pods of bog asphodel. The deergrass has turned yellow and orange and the bracken is turning to provide various shades of browns, oranges and golds. The hardier dragonflies – hawkers and gold-ringed – patrol stoicly along the side of puddled tracks. As the tourists fade awy we become more aware of the wildlife again – deer are visible on the hill tops and soon will be moving down in advance of the rut. We even saw an eagle from the dining room the other day, patrolling high above Aonach Mhor.

The rowans are bent over with the weight of their crop this year, and everywhere we come across little piles of semi-digested berries. Birds are glutting on these as are pine martens. One of our young males was seen munching away on the shed roof, where the rowan berries are easily accessible. Not sure that he enjoyed them as much as peanut butter, however – he is still a nightly visitor to our feeding station, often along with one of his brothers. They can be quite comical. One managed a death defying leap from a car roof, splat into the side of the Glenloy Wildlife van – perhaps he was affronted by the pine marten on our logo. He shook himself off OK and seems none the worse for his spill.

Despite the inclement weather we celebrated the turn of the month with a walk up a local glen with beautiful native woodland and a fine rushing river. We were surprised and delighted to see an adder, obviously well-fed, sunbathing on a wooden bridge. This is the first we have seen in Lochaber, although it is said that there are more to be found in the Ardnamurchan peninsula. It seemed very sluggish (not surpringly, given the cool temperature) and allowed Angela to take some decent photos. A little further along the track we came upon a large wood ant nest, quite unexpected as it was nowhere near any of the usual conifers that we tend to associate them with these days. We also came across a couple of ancient guelder roses in the form of venerable old trees – as there were also horse chestnuts along the side of the road it is probable that these were planted, but they are still unusual locally, and have done well to reach this age. Just before the heavens opened again we spotted a small grouup of hinds about half way up the mountain side. We must return in spring for the flowers and woodland birds.