Autumnal comings and goings

Published: 14th October 2009

Went for an atmospheric walk along the Caledonian Canal from Glen Loy this morning. The water was still, the mist low over russet and gold hillsides, and spider nets festooned the whin. Large parties of thrushes flew high overhead, largely obscured by cloud. The “fruity chuckle” of fieldfare meant that this visitor too has at last arrived, following closely but discretely on from flocks of redwing first seen and heard on Sunday (11th). A trio of ravens tumbled raucously, whilst occasional stags bellowed distantly. Robins seem to be singing from every second tree and bush along the towpath.  A rather torpid red admiral  was hiding in the rough grass, probably one of the last butterflies of the season. The peacocks seem to have all gone, but we are still seeing red admirals, the last of the summer migrants in this part of the world. We are still waiting for our first serious frosts, although it was cold enough to clobber many of the local waxcaps found in the short groomed grass by the canal locks. Most of the trees seem to be tenaciously holding onto their leaves, and the ash are even still green, adding variety to the autumnal colours.

We had a little bit of excitement on the moth front, recently, with the capture of a female Slender-striped Rufous on National Moth Night about two weeks ago. My pictures were checked by one of the vice county recorders last week, who hoped to catch the species himself, but unfortunately had no luck. The species is a delicate geometer, and a little-known Scottish speciality, although its late flight period probably means that it is under-recorded. If I ever work out how to increase the size of my photo album, will post a picture of it! The large hairy caterpillars of the Northern Eggar appear to be everywhere, and one even held up traffic by crossing the road down to Banavie the other day (shepherded by a good Samaritan).  It will be interesting to see how many eggar moths appear in the light trap next spring, as this species has a two year life-cycle, and largely spent this year in pupal form locally. We also found a beautiful Merveille du Jour in the oakwoods above Loch Moidart on Sunday. This moth is perfectly camaflauged,  its delicate pale green wings and black trim making it difficult to spot on lichen-encrusted twigs.

Had a very late osprey on Monday 5th October at the far end of Loch Arkaig, which flew down across our car and towards the loch. We also saw a very fluffy fox, in thick winter coat, trotting down the road towards us. The Glenloy pine martens now also have very thick chocolate coats with
bushy tails, and are obviously preparing for harder times. Further along the Glen Dessary road came across a troop of brilliant scarlet waxcaps, tucked away on a little roadside embankment. A substantial stag had gathered a group of a dozen hinds together on a hillside right opposite the Lodge, and had avoided the returning stalking party. Generally the deer we have seen this week have been feeding  and generally minding their own business in similar sized groups, with little sgns of frenetic rutting activity. The Autumnwatch shots  must take a lot of patience to capture the action. A picturesque group was settled under the 'Seven Men of Moidart' – the remnants of beech trees planted to commemorate theoriginal  supporters of Bonny Prince Charlie.

Later in the week some guests reported and photographed a 'mystery raptor' between Glenl Loy and Moy, which turned out to be a red kite – a rare local sighting.

Came across a sizeable chunk of a very large eel by the edge of the lock at Gairlochy, presumably the remnant of an otter's catch. There was a substantial meal left, so presumably the otter was disturbed.