Snow – What Snow?

Published: 30th January 2013

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – come to Sunny Fort William! Here at Glenloy Lodge we have had no significant snow this winter, and nothing lying since Christmas. If you do like the white stuff then the mountains are covered in it, and views can be enjoyed from the comfort of the Sun Lounge. We have even had some nice sunny days, including New Year’s Day. Indeed the year got off to a flying start with a hen harrier seen up Glen Loy on a clear-the-head pull up Beinn Bhan. Some early-season guests enjoyed views of the pine martens, now appearing routinely at dusk (already after 5pm!).

Round and about Fort William, life seems to go on much as usual. The local white-tailed eagles are still faithful to their Loch Arkaig location, deer can be seen in the usual spots, ravens are displaying above the Lodge and woodcock are being flushed almost anywhere on winter walks. If anything, our winter having been relatively mild, there are more birds in the glens than we have seen in recent years, with the odd meadow pipit appearing quite a way from civilisation, along with mistle thrush and long-tailed tit (a hardy little bird). Particularly along Loch Lochy there are still a number of semi-concealed holly trees that still have a good covering of berries – a treat yet to be found by hungry thrushes. We still have plenty of blackbirds around, but the large flocks of redwings and fieldfares have largely moved on. We continue to see good numbers of jays, however, and have been delighted to see a few pairs of both bullfinch and stonechat. The latter appear to have made a reasonable recovery from recent harsh winters. There are also plenty of great northern divers off the coast, and we saw no fewer than fifteen from the beach at Smirisary last week. We also continue to see a few wintering Slavonian grebes amongst the numerous dabchicks, along the margins of both Loch Eil and Loch Linnhe.

Rather more disappointingly we had a walk up what was a remote and beautiful glen recently, only to find that a super-highway had been built along the first couple of miles, suitable for two double-decker buses to pass. This is reminiscent of the access track up Glen Maillie, and is quite out of character with the surrounding landscape. Some new houses are also being built at the foot of Glen Scaddle, but it is unclear why such a major undertaking has been built for such a distance. It is unlikely that any major developments are taking place further up the glen, and the river here does not have much of a fall that would attract a hydro scheme (a key reason for the emergence of new roads). Would be interested to hear more. This was a lovely area, particularly for lizards, dragonflies and other insects, and the engineering work over the summer will not have done these much good at a local level.

Boars continue to be busy rooting along the verges of Glen Loy, and apparently they are also now very active around Achnacarry. Was interviewed today for a piece on wild boar by BBC Scotland Out of Doors, along with local pig keeper Ron Campbell. Wild pigs certainly seem to have caught the imagination locally although there is mixed opinion as to how they will fit into the local landscape. As they now range over a huge area of Lochaber it is unlikely that they will be easy to get rid of, even if it was felt essential to do so. Perhaps we should just welcome them back as another missing key species of the local ecology, and watch with interest to see what impact they have on other species in the area.