Highlights w/c 20th September 2014

Published: 29th September 2014

Another great week with Glenloy Wildlife in what has been a remarkable September. Although the weather finally changed we managed to stay dry for pretty much all of the week and enjoyed some great sightings.

The week started off well with blue skies and flat calm seas. Out on the coastal road from Arisaig to Morar we were able to do a spot of sea watching and were treated to the sight of a Minke Whale several miles distant, but plainly visible, two-thirds the way across to Eigg  Gannets were diving, mergansers fishing and plenty of other stuff going on closer to shore. Subsequently we took the Western Isles one-hour wildlife cruise from Mallaig. Although short we were almost straight into a group of perhaps 10 porpoise following a fishing boat. We went out towards the coast of Knoydart and saw common seal basking on a rock, and as we were leaving, a sea eagle take off from a small nearby island. There were plenty of auks on the sea, along with more gannets. Whilst waiting for the boat to sail we were able to watch shoals of small Pollock and a feeding dab in the clear waters of the harbour, whilst a lion’s mane jellyfish swam past us and under the pier. Definitely a trip I will consider again and recommend to other guests. A later walk produced a further sea eagle off the cliffs at Rhu, along with ravens, lots of pipits, skylarks and other small birds.

Eagles were again much to the fore this week, as expected at this time of year.  We were particularly pleased to see a group of 3 golden eagles on the northshoreofLoch Linnhe, one of which was a juvenile. We had a further view of a first year juvenile along Loch Ailort, close to but not accompanying another adult pair. To this we added two further separate adult goldies along Loch Shiel and one in Morvern. On the latter trip we also saw a young sea eagle scatter the ducks and waders from the head of Loch Sunart, and then come to rest on a small hillock nearby – this looked to be one of this year’s youngsters. Later in the day we saw a pair of adult sea eagles settle on the Ardtornish ridge above Loch Aline, and as we continued to watch another immature bird flew right along the hillside beneath them (they did not flutter a wing). It is great to see plenty of youngsters about, and it is beginning to look like Lochaber is fast becoming the place to come and see sea eagles! For those of you who read my last blog and were wondering about the fate of the Loch Shiel adult that was holding its wing down, Jim Mitchie reports that it flew off when the boat approached on the return trip, and is apparently fine.

The Morvern day also produced other goodies. We spotted no less than four otters, including a mother and 2 cubs playing in the exposed weed and running along theshoreofLoch Sunart. For the first time in a while we also managed to spot wild goats at Kingairloch. Add to this two pairs of Slavonian grebes and some red throated divers, a male hen harrier, along with lots of smaller birds, and our guests were really spoiled for choice that day. The pine martens were, of course, waiting when we got home. There were also plenty of deer about, but little sign of rutting activity. Roaring and preliminary activity has been reported elsewhere in Lochaber, but apart from one mixed sex herd we were still seeing nice bachelor herds of stags and single hinds with well-grown calves. Next week should be different.

Other sightings of note this week included yet more birds of prey. Aside from the ubiquitous buzzards we also saw several kestrels (passing through the area?) a sparrowhawk and a peregrine at Lochy Mouth. Only one brown hare was spotted crossing a road, but we had at least five red squirrels on the feeders at Inchree, and some nice groups of roe deer, presumably post-rut. We also had a couple of good crossbill sightings at Inchree. Crested tits were hard to come by but provided fleeting glimpses from within a mixed flock of finches and tits that included both goldcrest and treecreeper.

There were a few unusual sightings, not least a decent sized covey of grey partridge at Laggan; always a good bird to find, and probably absent from Lochaber. Later in the week we also found a couple of immature snow geese amongst a large flock ofCanadageese. They seemed quite happy to be part of the larger group, but it is uncertain when and from where they could have joined them. The black swan is still out on Loch Linnhe near Fort

Flat calm conditions at the head of Loch Sunart

Flat calm conditions at the head of Loch Sunart

William. After our guests had departed on Saturday morning, we went in search of some culture at the Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival at Strontian. In a break between some excellent activities we wandered down to Loch Sunart for a breath of air and were delighted to see that the black duck was back, sat on the bank above a flock of mallards. It seemed huge, but this may have been a perspective issue. I have wanted to see this well known stranger for a long time, so it was a fitting end to an eventful week.