Fifty Shades of Green
Published: 23rd May 2014
It’s that time of year again here at Glenloy. The trees are all finally gloriously in leaf, with an amazing variety of both vivid and subtle hues of green. The oak and the ash are both out – let’s call it a dead heat, and hope for the best. The gorse is at its glowing best, every bush ablaze with yellow. The bluebells are coming out in a hazy blue miasma, not yet overpowering the wood anemones, primroses, violets and even celandines that are still going strong. Globeflower is threatening to bloom, and the first of our orchids, the striking narrow-leaved helleborine is just starting to unfurl. A bit of sunshine helped our guests to enjoy theWest Highlandscenery last week, and even produced the odd butterfly, including orange-tip and the first green hairstreak of the season. We even got a touch of sunburn going over to Eigg and Rum on the Sheerwater.
The most striking birds on display were the great northern divers, resplendent in full breeding plumage, and even calling mournfully from the sea. They have not yet set off for northern latitudes. On one day we saw all three diver species, including a glorious pair of black-throats close to the road, and a couple of red-throats on the sea. The terns have returned to the rocks in Loch Linnhe and the Arisaig skerries, along with the auks around Eigg. We were also pleased to see a dunlin with its matt black summer tummy, ready to depart or head for the hills. Every day we not only heard, but also saw cuckoos. We were also lucky with golden eagles, with at least five different birds spotted.
A trip to the top of the Cairngorm plateau certainly blew the cobwebs away – and we not only stayed dry, but had great views from the top. We were rewarded with several ptarmigan, the males with varying degrees of white in their plumage. Seemed to be going about in pairs, and the hens are not on eggs yet. There was no need for exertion – a pair was moseying about, minding their own business, right under the restaurant windows. We also had wheatear and raven while we were up there, and a mountain hare on the way down, enjoying the reindeer at a distance once back in the car park. Red grouse were also showing well. On the same trip we also had black-throated diver, Slavonian grebe and crossbills, but managed to dip out on actually seeing trilling crested tits. The black grouse continue to lek, if not quite as enthusiastically now. We also put up a feeding greyhen by the side of the road. Other birds of note were tree pipits (everywhere), several dippers and grey wagtails and the ubiquitous sawbills.
Deer were also plentiful, with red, sika and roe all seen in a single drive up Glen Roy. Some stags still have at least one old antler, while others have well-grown new sets, lusciously covered in velvet. We also saw a couple of brown hares, one in a nearby field where it seems to have taken up residence. Back on the boat Ronnie treated us to the sight of feeding grey seal and porpoise behind a fishing boat close to Eigg , photographed by most in glassy calm waters for once. Pipistrelles were seen emerging from under the eaves of Glenloy Lodge, while two of our party were fortunate to spot Daubentons feeding in the locks of Neptune’s Staircase.
A nice slow-worm was found under one of my tins, while lamping for newts in the garden pond proved at least partly successful. I was also able to catch a palmate newt in the daylight to show folk. We also found loads of tadpoles, a big old toad, and some small froglets. Moths proved a big draw, with a couple of warmer evenings producing reasonable hauls. These included the weird, stick-like pale prominent along with its prettier cousin the lesser swallow prominent, a handsome herald and a growing list of geometers including early thorn and grey birch.
Pine martens continue to amuse and entertain, with the usual three individuals turning up in various combinations. The female seems to have settled somewhere away from the house with her kits. We have put up a couple of palatial pine marten boxes in nearby trees, manufactured to a Vincent Wildlife Trust specification. We have high hopes that these will be adopted, otherwise Martin (no relation), who built them, will be very disappointed!