Recent non-lepidopteran highlights

Published: 16th June 2017

Of course, we do not just look at butterflies at this time of year. Flowers of note include orchids, which are just starting to flower in numbers now. The local narrow-leaved helleborine population has done well this year, with at least 22 spikes counted. Small-white orchids are starting to go over, but the lesser butterflies are just coming into flower, along with early marsh, northern marsh, heath spotted and common spotted orchids. Chickweed wintergreen and common cow-wheat are now flowering in the woods between patches of rampant bracken, and good coverage of wood cranesbill has appeared along the canal. We have found new locations for globeflower, and have also seen the first alpine bistort of the year. Our botanical highlight of the year, however, was an expedition to see the diapensia colony on the top of Fraoch Beinn on 28th. May. This was well worth the rather steep climb, as the diapensia was in full flower, covering a surprisingly large area. This is the only known site in Britain, and is an alpine relic found in a rather particular geological niche. The creamy-white flowers are very attractive, but one can easily see how the leaves would be overlooked. The diapensia flowers in proximity to plentiful trailing azalea. We were fortunate to see another upland speciality nectaring on this, the black mountain moth. On our descent, we had a good fly-past by a mature golden eagle, being mobbed by crows.

Dragonflies have appeared along with the butterflies, and we have had the usual good sightings of golden-ringed dragonflies. We have also seen the first northern emerald of the year, which was also photographed by a guest at Salen.  Four-spotted chasers have emerged. We received an intriguing report of possible white-faced darter from Glen Loy. As soon as time and the weather allows we will have a good look for these along with azure hawker (known to be there), in a lovely series of bog pools.

We have not ignored birds and mammals over the last couple of weeks. Other highlights include some good squirrel sightings, away from feeders, sika in stunning summer coats, otters feeding for over an hour, and a minke whale close to the boat. Corncrakes are still calling during the day on Muck. This appears to be a very good year for wood warblers, which are singing all over the place. We had a great view of four ring ouzel (three competing cocks and a hen) at Glen Roy, along with a good immature golden eagle. A further young bird was seen in Glen Loy, which can only be a good sign for the local population. We also have had some great views of sea eagles. Three immature great northern divers appear to be summering in Loch Linnhe. Pine martens continue to be nightly visitors, and we can hear the youngsters on the roof of the Lodge, but have yet to catch sight of them.  Lots more to see and do in the summer!