Wildlife Highlights w/c 4th September

Published: 13th September 2010

Another great week's wildlife watching with Glenloy Wildlife.  Here are some of the memorable sightings:

Raptors galore. We managed to see Golden Eagle on five out of six days, without trying very hard. These included a pair in Glen Loy and a first year juvenile along Loch Arkaig. Highlight was a male Hen Harrier being mobbed by a pair of Ravens. It eluded its persuers, and glided across a colourful hillside – appearing almost white against the reds and greens of the turning bracken. The next day we had a ring-tail, winding its way through open birch woodland by a remote lochan. The week also produced a Peregrine, young Osprey on nest plus one with a fish and, somewhat unusually, a couple of pairs of Kestrels.

One of the most pleasing sightings of the holiday was rather less spectacular. I put a couple of old sheets of corrugated iron down in strategic locations earlier on in the summer. Both were immediately colonised by small black ants, but have not apparantly been used by much else. However, when we lifted them up last Sunday, whilst the morning was still relatively cool, we were delighted to see a Slow-worm and a Common Lizard under one of them. Although both scuttled quickly away, the exercise is obviously worth persevering with.

At the other end of the scale we had some great whale sightings this week, courtesy of the Sheerwater. At least 3 Minke Whale were spotted and followed in a frenetic half hour on our return from Rum to Arisaig.. One at least was pretty large, and surfaced to good effect alongside. At one point Porpoises were also turning behind a whale. Plenty of Shearwaters and fishing Gannets, plus a couple of Red-throated Divers and goldies over Eigg. Another good trip, with much kinder weather than we had hoped for.

The most spectacular plant of the week was Grass of Parnassus, now at its best. This beautiful white flower is rather localised, and must require some basic elements in the underlying rock, as we saw it only in very specific places, including a section of the Glen Roy.road. Surprisingly Yellow Saxifrage was also still flowering in some profusion along the sides of this road. More disappointingly, the verges of the canal at Gairlochy had just been strimmed, somewhat putting paid to botanising there – but we did see Blackening Waxcaps by the lock side.

Butterfly sightings includied the last of the Scotch Argus, looking rather raggy and not long for this world. A much fresher Small Copper was seen along with newly emerged Peaock and Red Admiral, and Speckled Woods seemed to be abundant wherever we went. Plenty of dragonflies about, including some Gold-ringed, also on their last legs.

Other birdy highlights  included  a juvenile Herring Gull being fed a huge starfish on the Corran pier. After several attempts it managed to gulp it down, but can't help feeling it must have caused severe indegestion. A flock of early Snow Bunting flitted obligingly along the shore at Cuil Bay, where we also had glimpses of Twite. Finally managed to find a rare Stonechat – a young male, at least proving that they have bred locally following the disasterous winter. We spent a good part of the week trying to spot elusive Crossbills, which called all around us and even flitted across the path. On the last afternoon we eventually had some good views – on the battlements of a castle!. One can only presume these birds were  extracting minerals from the mortar as they hung, parrot-like to the walls of the castle.

Pine Marten were also showing well, and we picked up a couple of Otters, We stumbled across one of the latter by surpise right by the bank at Lochy Mouth, and had barely time to shush people before it realised it was not alone and dived. It hung around the same area for quite some time afterwards, given away by tell-tale bubles and the occasional surface, which just goes to show that an Otter really can stay submerged for several minutes at a time. Other mammals included well-worked for red deer, a Brown Hare, and a couple of Red Squirrels. crossing the road by Loch Ness. Not a bad haul for a 'quiet' period of the year.