Wild Lochaber Festival 2015

Published: 4th June 2015

Well, that’s the Wild Lochaber Festival over for another year, although we will continue to plug the area and its little-known wildlife gems. Glenloy Wildlife was in the thick of things, as usual, and we participated in as much as we could. The Seashore Festival at Glenuig was very successful (see my last blog), and the completed mural produced by local primary schools illustrating the theme of Summit to the Sea will be on display at the West Highland Museum over the summer. Angela is busy organising a further event in Fort William for later on in the summer. The rock-pooling and beachcombing in this area is first rate, as evidenced by our haul of fish from the lower shore at Glenuig. No wonder the otters are happy hereabouts.

Scorpion fish found on seashore foray at Glenuig

Scorpion fish found on seashore foray at Glenuig

Some rock pool specimens collected at Glenuig

Some rock pool specimens collected at Glenuig

We hosted a couple of events ourselves. A blackcock trip at 5am produced some of the fiercest action I have seen this year, with a flurry of activity early on from the eight males on the lek. Birds were chasing each other in flight across the display grounds, as well as squaring up to each other in the usual fashion. Possibly a last final fling, as it is very late in the season for breeding (although given our cold and miserable spring the greyhens could be forgiven for showing a deal of reluctance so far). The otters were not playing ball, however, but we did see seal, roe deer, goosander and a variety of small birds including a nice pair of twite – right in the middle of Fort William.

Pine martens stole the show, however, with a full house watching the antics of our resident mother whilst enjoying tea and cakes during the ‘Teatime with the Martens’ event. She had moved her kits into one of the purposely-built pine marten boxes the previous night, and so could be seen hoovering up food and running through the branches of the rhododendrons and copper beech to reach the box.  As well as the usual fare of peanut butter butties she was also taking nestlings back to her kits, and even while we have been watching has appeared to clear out two blackbird nests. Unfortunately the kits were moved back out of the box that night – I suspect that they might already be too large for it. |She is also still defending her feed source against all comers, and the fur literally flew when she saw off her brother (in front of guests). Yesterday she appeared on the sun lounge roof and attempted to drag a kit down onto the ground via the drainpipe, much to its disgust and the cause of much squeaking. Angela managed to get a wee video of the two once they were down, which can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

Despite the generally foul weather we had a reasonable turnout for the Lochaber Natural History Society festival outing to Cuil Bay. Little chance of butterflies (we did see orange tip and speckled wood), but it managed to stay fine and even partly sunny at times for most of the day. Butterwort already in flower there. This was jointly led by Jim Blair, doubling up to also act for the Lochaber Geopark. We investigated the fascinating and convoluted geology of the peninsula including outcrops of tiger rock and many different volcanic intrusions. Each spur of the point has a different basal rock and even the experts do not seem to have quite worked out how they got there. The very wet hazel wood included a small patch of sanicle, which is rare in these parts, with the spring plants at their best – bluebells fully out, interspersed with primroses and stitchwort. Birdlife included a good view of a cuckoo, a couple of feeding blackcock, tree pipits and a summer plumage late great northern diver. The snow goose, which we had failed to see last week, was showing well amongst the Canadas.

We took a journalist out for an afternoon’s press trip to promote the festival, once again amongst the pouring rain. We still managed to see a feeding squirrel, a GND, large numbers of seals, red deer, buzzard, greenshank and whinchat. Not bad for a wet afternoon, but not sure how much some of the more esoteric species meant to our friendly journalist. The last