There She Blows!

Published: 5th April 2013

So there we were, sat in a beer garden, enjoying the sun, drinking a nice pint and … watching a whale! Not just any old whale but a ginormous sperm whale spouting through its asymmetric blow-hole, swimming languidly on the surface and periodically diving with the merest flick of its flukes. It doesn’t get any better than that. Needless to say Angela and I had succumbed to temptation and had made the trip to Oban to see the young sperm whale that has been resident in Oban Bay for a week now, and we were not disappointed.  The whale has been showing so well that the natives are positively blasé about it – we heard one woman say she was fed up of the number of pictures she has seen of it on Facebook. Well we have added our own to that array, so please do have a look on the Glenloy Wildlife Page. Hopefully the whale too is getting fed up of the bay by now and departs soon to find its friends.

It has been quite a week here at Glenloy, with plenty of exciting things happening. Last Friday SNH / Visit Scotland announced Scotland’s own Big Five. Eat your heart out lions and elephants and make way for red squirrel, otter, red deer, golden eagle and harbour seal! Coincidentally I was taking out a German family that day, and without trying too hard we managed to see all five in a single day. True, the eagle was a bit distant, but I saw it take off the top of a mountain, so was able to identify the speck with confidence! Lochaber must be one of the few places in the country where you can do this, so make your reservations now! This time of year is an excellent time to try and do this before there are too many visitors about and the deer disappear up the hills. Just for good measure we also saw divers, a sea eagle, and the pine marten dashed across the drive as we rolled back into Glenloy Lodge. I hope the guests don’t expect that every time they come.

We have also made the national news recently for rather more serious matters – the huge fire that engulfed Banavie Hill on Monday. At one point this was spread out along a front of over 3 miles from Corpach to Muirshearlich, but fortunately it stopped there and was brought under control by over-burdened fire fighters. Driving back from Arisaig we could see the great clouds of smoke blotting out the sun, which glowed as an eerie orange ball behind the pall. Fortunately the fire did not come as far as Glen Loy, and we have not been directly affected. The grass is tinder dry here after practically six weeks with no rain and people will insist on continuing to muirburn. Anyone starting a fire with muirburn now will be prosecuted by the fire brigade, and quite rightly so. My German guests also witnessed a big blaze on Shona Island, behind Castle Tioram. As we were watching the smoke a sea eagle seemed to appear out of the clouds and made its way steadily towards us. I am not sure whether it was disturbed by the fire, or opportunistically looking to pick off victims. Minutes later we watched another bird – a helicopter – dipping a giant bucket into the sea and dropping the water into the centre of the flames – a thankless task.

This week we have been preparing for two solid weeks of wildlife guests, tracking otters and looking for eagles. We were very pleased to find the golden eagles up Glen Loy. After a long walk to the watershed, we were beginning to become concerned for their welfare, but as soon as we turned back, a dark female came powering across the hillside, mobbed by a pair of hoodies, and proceeded to skim low over a herd of deer. Further along and closer to the car, another smaller, lighter bird, presumably the male, flew in the other direction, and we also had good views of him. The morning also produced a greyhen, a pair of stonechat and several returning fieldfare. We have also had plenty of success with otters, both independently and together, so we rather hope our luck continues and that we manage to find some for the Otter Watching guests this weekend.