Lochaber also had a heatwave

Published: 15th July 2013

Beautiful Demoiselles on spruce branch

A pair of Beautiful demoiselles found by a forest path on Morvern

Whew! – for the first time I can remember we have actually had a whole week’s wildlife holiday with Glenloy Wildlife where the sun shone every day, there was no rain and the midges didn’t get a look in. Butterflies were on the wing all week, dragonflies were hunting, reptiles were basking and the flowers blooming. To add to all that we had some pretty good spots of the larger wildlife fraternity. Here are a few of the week’s highlights and observations.

Mountain ringlet was a target species for the week, and we found plenty of these, looking pretty fresh, in Creag Meagidh NNR. Fritillaries do not seem to have done so well this year, although we spotted a few, but there are plenty of large and small heaths along with common blues. Large heath seem particularly plentiful in Glen Loy. The marsh fritillary seem to have been and gone almost unnoticed, and it just shows how critical it is to be in the right place at the right time.

Dragonflies were nice and warm and therefore very active – and hence difficult to identify. Gold-ringed proved the obliging exception, and eventually we did find some resting common hawkers – a novelty from a guest from the Norfolk Broads. The undoubted odonatal highlight was the beautiful demoiselles seen along the woodland rides in Morvern. These striking glossy damselflies are as impressive as any of our dragonflies, and seem to be doing well.

Bog asphodels are now in flower and are starting to colour the wetlands yellow, although the orchids with which they form a mosaic are still well in flower. It has been a good year for butterfly orchids locally in Banavie, although not everywhere.  I was also surprised and pleased to find a small white orchid still in flower along Loch Arkaig, where it had just escaped the road improvements. Melancholy thistles are also proudly flowering, in advance of the main brigade of their prickly cousins. Other local plants such as skullcap, marsh cinquefoil and marsh lousewort were seen in flower in a variety of locations, whilst foxgloves are at their best now and can be seen everywhere. Sundew flowers are finally starting to unfurl and we found the first of the pale butterworts out.

Birds are becoming increasingly difficult to find and even identify at this time of year, but we did come across some goodies. These included both a male and female ring ouzel, flitting up an upland burn. Several spotted flycatcher pairs were busy feeding young, redpolls buzzed around everywhere, while bullfinch and reed bunting vied for birds of the week. Crossbill have returned and are moving around in flocks, including through the garden at Glenloy Lodge. One of the Glen Loy eagles put in a good display and we saw another low-flying Goldie in Morvern. Kestrels are uncommon in the area, yet we found two. Had great views of a very well-grown chick on the local osprey nest, not far off fledging. The local sea eagles have also been successful with one large chick also flexing its flight muscles in advance of taking the plunge. On the water we had great views of storm petrels dancing across the waves, an arctic skua being harried by terns and a great skua stealing fish from gulls, as well as puffin shearwaters and gannets.

On the mammal front the red deer certainly seem to have moved up the mountains, no doubt to escape the clegs, and who can blame them. Velvet is beginning to be shed. The pine marten family continues to be wary, with the mother doing most of the feeding, although one of the youngsters did manage to stampede into Angela the other day! We thankfully managed to find an otter this week, and were able to watch it for half an hour, continually catching and eating small fish. Some large harbour seal pups are still suckling out on the rocks and skerries, but must be due for weaning soon. Whales and dolphins have been notable by their absence this year, but the good weather has allowed us to get good views of porpoise in calm seas. We watched a small group hunting, including a mother and calf, right in the middle of Cuil Bay, whilst sunbathing families remained oblivious to the spectacle.