Published: 1st December 2009
Having suffered some pretty wet and miserable weather in Glenloy, along with the rest of the country, we were pleased to hear Roy Dennis sound a positive note in the final episode of this season's Autumnwatch. His tip was to look for eagles if there is a break in the weather, as they will be desparate to get out and stretch their wings once it has stopped raining – just as we needed to get out into the fresh air without getting soaked. So as the next day loomed fine we decided to drop all other tasks and search out our local goldies. Driving up Lock Arkaig is always a pleasure, and in winter there is still usually plenty to see. A pair of goosander floated serenely along the loch, and a dipper obligingly posed for photos right on the water's edge. We had several good views of stags along the way out and many more on the return trip later in the afternoon. No sign of eagles by the time we reached the turning point at the end of the public road, however. Unfortunately morons had parked badly and blocked the turning point so they were lucky not to get a few dints while we proceeded to do a 27 point turn in the minibus. To cap this off it started to rain heavily, and scanning the tops in the usual places was never going to be particularly productive. Returning homewards the shower fortunately passed over and we were rewarded with the sight of an eagle floating towards one of the lower peaks where it landed. I was able to get the scope on it, and got a great view, but with the rain sweeping in again it hunkered down, and stayed put. Had we not seen it land it would have been very difficut to pick up, so a little bit of respite from the rain was definitely worth taking advantage of.
Another isolated day of fine weather, yesterday – this time with a morning of bright sunshine. With the sun glistening off snow-covered peaks this was the perfect day for a decent walk. We did a circular tour around Loch Lundie, above Invergarry; a beautiful route over mixed terrain, at one point affording a 180 degree panorama over the snowy tops. Wildlife was a bit on the thin side, but the highlight of the day was a small flock of redpoll feeding in birch above a small burn. One of the cock birds had quite a pink breast, whilst the splash of red on his forehead was quite vivid. The redpoll flitted acrobatically amongst the spindly twigs for quite some time before moving on. We also put up a snipe and were entertained by stonechat. Not many years ago these perky little birds would have abandoned the glens during the harsh winters, and it is interesting to see them still resident in quite a remote spot, similarly in Glen Loy. The last couple of winters have had some pretty cold snaps, so it will be interesting to see if stonechat start moving again if we have another severe spell. The return route was by the River Garry. Heard my first dipper of the winter in song, with a courting couple bobbing on mid-stream stones.It always takes a minute for me to recognise the song of a dipper, as opposed to the usual monosyllabic flight call, but it is one of the cheerier sounds of a winter's day, and always lifts the spirits. The day was rounded off with a huge flock of siskins by the river.
At the weekend we launched the Butterfly Atlas of the Scottish Borders (Mercer, Buckalnd, Kirkland and Waddell, published by Atropos) at Harestanes near Jedburgh. This is my swansong from time spent at the Scottish Borders Biological Records Centre, sadly no longer extant. It summarises the current status of butterfly species in the Borders and how they have fared since recording began in earnest by Victorian stalwarts, and features a detailed gazeteer of good butterfly sites plus details of Borders habitats Essential reading for all you naturalists in the south of Scotland, north of England, or indeed anyone interested in butterflies – it is now available on Amazon and good local bookshops.