Eagles and Emperors

Published: 23rd April 2014

The West Highlands have had a tremendous Easter weather-wise, and we have had our fair share of sun in Glenloy. Most notably this has brought out the moths in droves. Walking up the glen we see male Emperor moths buzzing around everywhere, looking for all the world like butterflies on steroids, and virtually impossible to track down. Fortunately a beautiful female landed in the moth trap last night, and we were able to get photos. For the third successive night we have had bumper hauls of spring moths, with over 170 last night  Amongst the Hebrew Characters and Clouded Drabs were a couple of rarer species, including the Nationally Notable Ringed Carpet, a well-marked specimen of a handsome geometer, and the striking Oak Beauty, which is thought to be scarce in this part of Scotland.  Local butterflies are slow to emerge, although plenty of overwintering Peacocks are flying along with the odd Small Tortoiseshell. We have yet to see an Orange-tip, but the cuckoo flower at home is quite late relative to that enjoying the slightly warmer climes of Banavie. These are flowering well, and already wood anemone, primroses, celandine and dog violets are at their best.


We have also yet to hear a cuckoo, although they have apparently arrived in Ardnamurchan. Easter Sunday produced the first House Martin of the year at their nest site at the top of Glen Loy. A walk up the glen also produced a handsome cock Wheatear, along with Grey Wagtail, a couple of pairs of Stonechat, and conversely, a Woodcock. Both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler have been busy singing away in and around the gardenof Glenloy Lodge, and were soon joined by a melodious Blackcap. Angela and I also saw our first Tree Pipit of the year yesterday above Loch Arkaig, along with a pair of Swallows (first of the year was at LochyBridgeon 17th).  A recent  early morning trip to the same location produced two stunning pairs of Black-throated Divers, always a joy to see, along with a Greyhen perched in a tree and a couple of Brown Hare. A small flock of strikingly marked Redwing coming into breeding plumage were reluctant to move away from the road, no doubt getting ready for the flight north. That same morning we also came across a flock of presumably wild – as opposed to feral – Greylag at Moy including a Barnacle Goose. April is always a great month for comings and goings


We were up Loch Arkaig looking for Ospreys. Two weeks ago a bedraggled-looking bird was perched at the Loch Lochy nest site, and we hoped it would rebuild the nest that had blown out of the tree over the winter. Sadly it seems to have moved on, but birds are obviously about in the area, and there may yet be time. It would be a great shame if Osprey activity is not as visible to the public as is usually the case. We did see two birds yesterday, one above Loch Arkaig and the other over Loch Lochy, but it is not quite the same as seeing them at a nest site.


Our Easter Sunday walk also provided us with good views of our local Golden Eagles. A bird circled high above our heads, searching the glen, and ten minutes later we saw another (or the same bird) much further down Glen Loy. It is to be hoped that recent agricultural activity is not going to adversely affect their breeding success. We also had a great sighting of a pair of goldies at the top of Glen Nevis a week previously. These birds were mobbed by various corvids and a smaller pair of raptors (possibly Peregrines). Eagles should really be on eggs at present so it is a little worrying to see a pair together.  A third sighting in Moidart, also in a known location, rounded off a good spell for goldies.


Pine marten update – youngsters are growing fast and furry, but still have their eyes closed. A full account of our pine marten wars will be provided at a later date!