Porpoise for Lunch
Published: 15th September 2013
Have just enjoyed another full action-packed week with Glenloy Wildlife guests. Fortunately we arranged the weather pretty well and so managed to get away with a number of lovely sunny days and only a single afternoon’s soaking! Even the reptiles were still out basking, with two sightings of slow-worms and a couple of lizards under my tins. Butterflies were still flying in small numbers, despite cooler nights, and we were lucky enough to see what were almost certainly purple hairstreak in the oak canopies at Ardrey. A day out on flat seas to Muck even called for sun cream, and although the whales hadn’t read the script we did see plenty including a huge raft of shearwater, and even the odd puffin still on the sea.
The year continues to confound. The heather was still blooming across on the west, but had noticeably gone over further east. The bogs glowed a bright orange with the seed pods of the bog asphodel. Other late flowering plants of note included pale butterwort, and wild marjoram (by the canal). We were also very pleased to find field gentian in flower on Muck, one that I had previously overlooked there. The woods contained a riot of fungi, and it was a good job we had someone knowledgeable with us to help with identification. Amongst other things the waxcaps are coming towards their best, there are spectacular fly agarics about and many different boletes and russulas of all different colours. Guests even enjoyed a dish of chanterelles with their venison.
Small birds were noticeable by their absence, apart from flocks of meadow pipits, although we did come across a couple of nice mixed tit flocks that contained both goldcrest and treecreeper. Summer migrants seem to have largely departed apart form a single common tern and the swallows. Even the sand martins seem to have left early. This is long before the winter thrushes make an appearance, leaving the rowan berries to the blackbirds and mistle thrushes (plus the pine marten that has been swaying precariously in the branches of a tree in front of the house). Crossbills were dutifully noted around the garden of Glenloy Lodge, but we are eagerly waiting for the noble fir cones to ripen and give them something more substantial to feed on. A number of winter waders were in evidence including sanderling and turnstone, and the golden plover have now lost their black tummies. Skeins of geese have been appearing along the Great Glen, but this appears to be movement of resident birds.
The anticipated glut of raptors did not really materialise as the eagles were playing hard to get, and we had a couple of tantalising glimpses before a sea eagle did a nice fly-past and Angela was able to track a goldie to a distant perch. We also had a more usual goldie view of a bird soaring high in the thermals above the mountains. A mobbing buzzard helped give a sense of perspective. The other raptor highlight was a nice ring-tail hen harrier quartering a ridge near the coast. We also saw a couple of kestrels and the peregrines above Loch Ruthven. A nice group of 7 Slavonian grebes were showing there, one of which was still in breeding plumage. The Slavs must be on the move, however, as we also had a group of 5 on Loch Linnhe, all in winter plumage. Eiders and mergansers are still in transition plumage, but should be soon back in their breeding finery.
Amongst the mammals, the pine martens were by far the most obliging, with our resident youngsters putting on a good show each evening. Delight is somewhat tempered with the evidence of raids on my bird feed supplies! Red deer were mostly up on the tops and only viewable with a scope, although a rather fine stag was posing outside the church at Glenfinnan. Roe deer are rather quiet at the moment but we did see a few does feeding at the edge of cover. We had a reasonable view of an otter, and a poorer one of a hare. Common seals have been joined by the odd grey seal, even far up Loch Linnhe, which is unusual. Plenty of bats out in the warmer evenings. Highlight of the week was a pod of at least 6 porpoise, spotted in Loch Linnhe. Aftrer watching them close to the near shore for a while we were able to pull in just round the corner and watch them fishing in the same area whilst we enjoyed our lunch. They were still there when we left. A good end to a fine week.