Spring storms along

Published: 6th May 2009

Showery weather here in Lochaber over the Bank Holiday weekend, but this didn't stop us getting out and about. A trip to a remote, but accessible glen in Ardgour supplied plenty of sunshine, with butterflies, beetles and a lizard enjoying the warmth, not to mention the birds.Two more cuckoos heard, swallows hawking around old farm buildings. Tree pipits and a wood warbler were singing in the lovely old birch woodlands by the river, Lovely series of falls spilling down the glen, and some very inviting-looking swimming pools. Sandpipers flitted from one patch of shingle to the next and both pied and grey wagtails danced around looking for insects. An orange (16-spot) ladybird landed on my back – the first we have seen hereabouts – certainly they were becoming quite common in the Borders two years ago, but I do not know their distribution locally.On the way back had good views of a big dog otter fishing close to shore in Loch Eil.

Closer to home was very pleased to see another blackcock in the Glen Loy pinewoods. The ascent through the woods was more remarkable for the quantity of bumblebees flying around, largely on what appears to be a bumper crop of blaeberry flowers. Appropriately enough the most striking specimen was a handsome queen Bilberry Bumblebee, with resplendent orange abdomen. The new growth of ferns is always stunning, with bright, new colours and gloriously coiled, unfurling shapes. A bright green patch of beech fern on rocks by the River Loy caught my eye, as did large swathes of oak fern, clothing the steep banks in places. Tree pipits are present throughout the valley, although the cold damp weather has not brought out the best in them yet, with few birds parachuting far in the strong gusts. The new patch of FCS clearfell seems to be particularly attractive to tree pipits. On the higher forest paths there is still a magnificent display of primroses and violets, particularly on south-facing rock faces. Other flowers are beginning to show – the heath milkwort is now in full flower, and the first campions, stitchworts, bugles and bluebells are all appearing locally. Should be a good display this year if the winds are not too severe – there was also fresh snow on the mountains over the weekend!