One day heatwave

Published: 3rd October 2011

While the rest of the country was basking in a heatwave, the West Highlands were experiencing some rather more normal weather. Here in Glenloy we had everything from heavy rain and high winds to glorious sunshine, all in the space of a few days. Fortunately, on the one day of the week with bright sunshine, we took visitors out for the day, with a beautiful tour around Loch Leven and then along Glen Etive. Landscape stunning, with the trees turning nicely and the bracken golden. Crisp, clear skies made for good raptor viewing. We saw a Golden Eagle over the tops from the centre of Kinlochleven, one of several this week. September is a great time for viewing eagles as the adults are hunting alongside any newly fledged young and are far less secretive than they were earlier in the summer. On a particularly dreich and damp day we risked a short trip up to Cille Coirill, and were rewarded with a break in the cloud, fabulous views up the Spean valley and an eagle over the tops behind the kirkyard. The highlight of the Etive trip was an Otter at the end of Loch Etive, feeding on its back like its Californian cousins. Deer were hard to come by, but one wily old stag was peacefully snoozing in the parkland directly below a shooting lodge ( reckoning that anyone would be too embarassed to shoot it?) The Red Squirrels were active at Inchree, with two chasing each other off and around the feeders, and a third sneaking in whilst the others were busy.
Deer now actively rutting, with plenty of groups up Glen Loy. The valley resounded to the bellows of stags, with a surprising range of differnt pitches. It is easy to imagine that those with the more effeminate sounding squeaks are the less successful, but this is based on neither observation or science! Other than a few dashes at rather uncooperative hinds, there was little other activity in the afternoon. Again one of the eagles was showing nicely, along with an unexpected pair of Kestrel, not seen for quite a while. On the way back along the glen I spotted a Red Squirrel in the middle of the road, adjacent to a particularly productive clump of hazel. A welcome and unusual sight, but again suggesting that squirrels are on the increase locally. The Forestry Commission is putting out more squirrel feeders in local woods, and these are being used. Hopefully this will provide more viewing opportunities for the public.
Birds are on the move. We saw a late Osprey on Monday, high above Corriebeg adjacent to Loch Eil. At the head of the loch there was a good smattering of waders, the highlight of which was a pair of Ruff, but which also featured Golden Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin, along with the first Goldeneye of the winter. I was slightly miffed to learn that a Buff-breasted Sandpiper has been present around Traigh for several days in mid-September, arriving just after I took guests along the beach there. Wigeon have coloured up back into their breeding plumage along Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil. Dabchicks appear to be even more numerous. Martins appear to have suddenly left and only the odd Swallow remains. We also saw a late Wheatear on Friday afternoon (30th) in Glen Gloy, along with the another Kestrel, Buzzard and Golden Eagle. Conversely, a few quiet thrushes have flitted across my view, probably Redwing.
Had an unexpected treat later that afternoon, with a drive along the north side of Loch Lochy. Unfortunately the weather was foul and the birds absent, but it made a welcome change from the A82. The end of holiday trip out in the rain was further rewarded with a Brown Hare on the way home. A nice way to round off the week.