Published: 12th April 2014
Finishing our pre-season checks here at Glenloy Lodge, but have already taken a couple of guests out for early morning tours to see blackcock and otter. On the last trip we were also treated to the rather unexpected sight of a porpoise in Loch Linnhe, right from the middle of Fort
William. This is very early in the season, but the porpoise seemed to be feeding rather than merely travelling through on the other side of the loch. Having waited an hour for the otters to appear they arrived just on cue as we were being distracted by the porpoise – a mother and cub that swam past us and dutifully clambered onto the nearby rocks to spraint – good start to the day.
Later that same morning we had a walk along the side of Loch Morar. We saw our first common lizard of the year, basking in the sun, and also an orange underwing moth flying high amongst the bare birch twigs. About a week later on 2nd April several more were found along the banks of the Caledonian Canal, again flying high and difficult to pin down. A few peacocks had emerged that day, and a prolonged period of sun has finally brought most of the daffodils at the Lodge out at last.
Towards the end of March we were treated to a familiarisation trip across to Rum, hosted by the Isle of Rum Community Trust and Scottish Natural Heritage. The outward trip was rather breezy and only produced a single gannet, but we had a real treat in store on the return leg. I was watching a guillemot just out of Loch Scresort, when I noticed a large vertical fin some 20m behind it. Calling Angela over to verify the sighting we agreed that the most likely owner was an orca. Shortly after the fin vanished, and despite the boat circling we found no further trace. It is exciting nevertheless to fulfil an ambition of spotting orcas around the Small Isles, even if this tantalising glimpse left us wanting rather more. Other wildlife also made its presence known, despite being a largely wet and dreary day. A red-throated diver was fishing in KinlochBay, and a great northern diver appeared a little further out. Amongst the oystercatchers and curlews along the shore a greenshank picked its way over the rocks. Common seal and razorbills were also spotted out in the loch. We were well looked after by our hosts, who raised some interesting possibilities for wildlife watching. This year it is planned to have a couple of night visits to the Manx shearwater colonies, and also run some evening shearwater cruises to watch the huge rafts of adults that gather before returning to their burrows at nightfall. A hide for deer watching is also being promoted at the rutting grounds across at Kilmory. On cue, we also managed a distant view of a deer, and half way back to Mallaig spotted a single shearwater; probably one of the first of the year.
The only other summer migrant birds that we have seen so far have been sand martins (generally the first). These are back at their nest sites on the sandy cliffs flanking the River Lochy, and are busy cleaning out their burrows. On the same day a great spotted woodpecker was drumming close to Glenloy Lodge. The blackcock are building up to the peak of the lekking season, and an early morning trip to catch the train at Kingussie produced several displaying birds, particularly around Creag Meagaidh. Just south of the station we saw a group of brown hare in a field, mostly spectators watching a pair boxing. The local hares are also starting to show (we always worry that they are still with us), and there seems to be a mini revival in the rabbit population.
Hot off the press – some pine marten news. The young female has produced three kits, which are covered in fur, but still have their eyes shut. We will keep an eye on these and hopefully they will entertain the guests later in the summer.