Glenloy Tiger!

Published: 29th July 2013

Hot news! – we put a camera trap on the pine marten den at Glenloy Lodge for a couple of weeks and were amazed and delighted to find a couple of clips of a large stripey cat with a thick, bushy, blunt tail. The cat passed by the entrance of the den, right next to the house and paused for half a minute whilst it sussed out the situation. Whilst the footage is a bit grainy, there is no doubt that it is a wildcat-type – whether this is a pure Scottish wildcat we can’t say, but it probably is the nearest thing, and as such is not effectively different. This follows on from a couple of other reported sightings in Glen Loy over the last couple of years, including a record from our next door neighbours as well as cat prints we have seen in the snow and our recent sighting at Kinlochiel . We suspect that this might be a wide-ranging tom that patrols the outer reaches of his territory from time to time, and we will certainly be on the look out for more visits.

I read recently of yet another estimate of wildcat numbers, this time possibly only 100 ‘pure’ wildcats (as opposed to the 400 previously mentioned and pessimistically downgraded to 35). The same report suggested that there were no pure wildcats remaining east of the Great Glen, which seems a huge pity, as the Black Isle was thought to be a stronghold. If this is correct then every cat counts – this one could roam as far as Knoydart without ever crossing a road. It would not take a huge effort for local wildcats to wander as far as Moidart where there is thought to be another population, and from there move down into Ardnamurchan, which is thought to be one of the last remaining purebred reservoirs. Exciting times! There seems to be a lot of proposed genetic cleansing going on, but I like the pragmatic approach that if a cat looks like a wildcat and acts like a wildcat, then for all intents and purposes it is a wildcat and should be treated as such, regardless of where it is found. There are too few potentially genetic pure individuals to be fussy if a ‘wild’ as opposed to feral population of cats is to finally be conserved in Scotland.

The camera trap also revealed the presence of a large hitherto unknown male pine marten that passed by the den. There has been the occasional unholy racket going on under our floorboards that is different from the usual rough and tumble of our boisterous kits, and we wonder whether this is the mother challenging unwanted intruders. The kits are now very well grown, larger then their mother, and have become increasingly independent. They now appear together, without her, at the front of the house demanding food. The young martens have become more adept at climbing, but are still prone to falling off the windowsill. They also spend time playing, much to the entertainment of guests.

The good weather has continued on into July, although we have also had some welcome rain over the last couple of days. We have managed to get some more butterfly hunting in, and last week went in search of Northern Brown Argus at a site only an hour’s drive east of Glenloy Lodge. What a site this proved to be! The rock-rose was in full flower, and there were NBAs all over, along with hundreds of ringlets (also not found further west), meadow browns and dark-green fritillaries. The latter were nectaring on large stands of melancholy thistle. The NBAs were nice and glossy and fresh and spent a lot of time basking in the sun. We also found several bee beetles, including a pair caught in flagrante. These striking insects looked just like bumblebees at a distance and also seemed to prefer melancholy thistle heads for their nuptials. We also saw many other insects and flowers, a lizard, a spotted flycatcher and heard a peregrine. Not a bad couple of hours, which could be combined with a trip to look for Mountain Ringlet – a definite possibility for a Glenloy Wildlife butterfly break next year.

Closer to home there has been a good hatch of Scotch Argus. I took some overseas guests out for an afternoon trip last Friday and we saw hundreds of Scotch Argus at the butterfly reserve at Allt Mhuic (as well as a couple of fritillaries, green-veined whites, speckled woods and a meadow brown). We were fortunate enough to see a pair of hunting golden eagles over the top of the hill behind the reserve, and indeed, this seems a good place to watch for eagles. We also found the young osprey. This has now fledged and we have watched it flying around Loch Lochy, but on this occasion it had returned to the nest to rest in the heat. A surprisingly productive trip for a late July afternoon, which just goes to show it is always worth looking.

The full moon brought exceptionally low tides last week, and we ventured out on a seashore foray to Ballachulish whilst the sun was shining and the guest situation allowed. A huge variety of sea creatures were found there again including many sea urchins (including an edible urchin) and star fish. Amongst the many common sea stars were a couple of sun stars. There were also loads of butterfish – no wonder the otters hunt around here. We also found several different crabs, sea-squirts and a vivid green king ragworm, as well as some of his smaller cousins. A great way to pass a couple of sunny hours. If any families staying at the Lodge want to go on a seashore hunt Angela would be very happy to take them out for a trip