Knoydart Idyll

Published: 4th September 2010

The past few weeks have been pretty frantic at Glenloy Lodge with bed and breakfast guests. Typically, the summer weather has largely disappointed, although we have had one or two nice days.  The last week, however, has been brilliant – lovely sunshine and hardly any wind. We made the most of it yesterday by taking the Western Isles ferry across to Knoydat for the day, ostensibly to drink a couple of pints in the Old Forge and enjoy a leisurely cruise. As it happened, it also turned out to be a brilliant day for wildlife. On the way over we spotted Porpoise in the sea, the odd Shearwater and Gannet, and Wild Goats on the beach. We then had a leisurely walk around the 'Knoydart in a nutshell' trail, enjoying the butterflies and dragonflies, including Common Darters and Scotch Argus. Whilst admiring a large group of stags in in the field by the river, we spotted two Golden Eagle high against the side of the mountain behind. These were lost against the hillside as they dropped down, but were soon replaced by a pair of Ravens. After a light(?) seafood lunch we rejoined the ferry and headed up Loch Nevis to Tarbet. As we approached the small township, a young(ish) Sea Eagle flew up from near the shoreline with a fish in its talons, and afforded great views, alighting again on a nearby rock before disappearing round a headland. On the return leg there were more seabirds – rafts of Guillemots, Shearwaters and Eider (still in eclipse), as well as  several small pods of Porpoise. Just as we were nearing Mallaig harbour, the tell-tale fin of a Basking Shark, was spotted – a medium-sized shark, which was feeding at a reasonable distance from the boat. Black Guillemot seemed to have adopted their winter plumage, and are not nearly now as smart as they were. On the way back home there was still time to spot a Black-throated Diver in Loch Eilt – again the plumage appeared to be in transition.. A truly memorable day, and one that would be great to repeat for wildlife guests in the coming week.

As a rare treat the previous weekend I was allowed out on a botany trip for the day. Ian Strachan led a large party of 15 in a search for the recently discovered Irish Ladies-tresses colony near Corpach. This plant has a very strange distribution, with the majority of the population in North America, and a few scattered colonies on the eastern Atlantic seaboard – possibly a relic of the days when the continents were joined. We duly found, counted and photographed the orchids, which were just starting to go over. The rest of the day was spent producing plant lists for each 1 km square we passed through. One or two interesting plants were turned up, including Common Centaury in an old quarry, and the small Pale Butterwort. It has been a long time since I went out botanising with experts, and this woefully exposed my ignorance of sedges and rushes; hard to learn and soon to forget!

Angela and I had an expedition of our own on Loch Arkaig shortly after, crossing the loch in a kayak to look at the Caledonian Pinewoods. The water was rather choppier than we had anticipated, and in the end we only landed on the far side for a short period, with little time to search for the more common (but unusual hereabouts) Creeping Ladies-tresses. We did not find this,  in fact the only thing we saw of note was a pair of Little Grebe. These seem to disappear in the summer, so presumably the ones we saw are wintering birds starting to return. Must start watching out for migrant waders.

The Glenloy Wildlife video has now been uploaded to YouTube, and is well worth a view see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxvPNnpqcqo