Blaeberries and butterflies

Published: 2nd August 2010

Have just spent an hour in the garden of Glenloy Lodge picking the last of the season's blaeberries. These were few and far between, but may have gathered enough for a small pie. The frustration of searching for berries in a blaeberry bog were compensated for by the sounds of crossbills in the spruce all around. They seem to have had a good year, and males have been busy singing away from the tops of trees around the Lodge all week. The cone crop has also been good, and we should be able to see them for some months to come. A large tit flock also passed through the dense foliage of the back garden. This included lots of young blue tits and great tits, but also some long-tailed tit (it was impossible to count how many), and also at least one goldcrest. These tiny birds were hammered last winter, but I have seen a few in the conifer trees recently, so it is good to know they are still around.

Another bird that seems to have done well this year is the Redpoll – have seen family groups of these in the woods above Erracht on a number of occasions recently, and have heard their trilling flight call in several places. Some of the males are real beauties, with a bright red breast as well as cap. Amongst a mixed flock of finches Angela and I were delighted to see a juvenile Redstart, also at Erracht. These migrants are few and far between, so great to find evidence of breeding. Our local Ospreys appear to have fledged last week, and the nest is disconcertingly quiet. Have not seen the youngsters flying around yet, but then have not been out much either.

Despite the generally dull and drizzly holiday weather we saw the first Scotch Argus of the season on 31st. July. These glossy, red-black butterflies do not seem to mind the local weather, although other butterflies have been few and far between recently. We did have a warm and sunny day over a week ago now, and went looking for butterflies on the forest tracks above Erracht (see above). There were large numbers of Dark Green Frittillary on the wing – stunning, large orange butterflies, that for once, were not whizzing across the landscape, but nectaring and posing for photographs. There were also good numbers of Common Blue, as well as the last of the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, and also Meadow Browns, Green-Veined Whites and Speckled Woods. Not a bas haul for the time of year in Lochaber

Had a Glenloy Wildlife day trip with a nice German family last week. As many birds are either in eclipse or flocking, I was not sure what we would see, particularly on a wet and dreary day. However, we were delighted to find amongst other things, Black Guillemot, Manx Shearwater (quite a way up Loch Linnhe!), Common Seals, Arctic Terns, a passing Red-throated Diver, a pair of Black-throated Diver, Deer and a co-operative Otter. Not bad for the school holidays, and we didn't even really get wet!