Highlights w/c 9th May 2015

Published: 19th May 2015

Slow worm basking on the path up Glen Loy

Slow worm basking on the path up Glen Loy

A week of mixed weather for Glenloy Wildlife guests this week, but it did not prevent us from seeing plenty. We did have two days without rain! (but also fresh snow on the tops and hail in our faces). The bluebells are just starting to come into flower nevertheless, and the first chequered skipper were reported from Glasdrum on Thursday. If the weather got too miserable, there was always the pine martens.

Raptors were showing well this week, with both male and female goldies up Glen Loy. The female was spiralling in a thermal with an osprey, and a similar thermal over Loch Arkaig also contained osprey, buzzard and a probable eagle (it was certainly high enough). We watched an osprey fishing on Loch Ruthven. It made several unsuccessful attempts, but enthusiastically splashed into the water nonetheless. Plenty of buzzards about, with brief appearances of kestrel, peregrine and merlin. Star birds of the week were undoubtedly great northern divers, all fully regaled in breeding plumage now and surely getting ready to move north. Black-throated divers also never fail to impress with three separate pairs seen.

Most southern migrants are now in, with swifts and spotted flycatcher completing the likely haul of birds we are likely to spot this year. Grasshopper warblers were reeling noisily in the bogs at the foot of Glen Loy, and a patient guest managed to get good views. We managed to see a couple of cuckoos, one foraging for large hairy caterpillars. Wood

Group on the beach on Muck with views across to Eigg

Enjoying the sunshine on the Isle of Muck

warblers are singing along with tree pipits, garden warblers and redstarts (although this was a bird heard but not seen). Whinchats are singing lustily up the glen – the male is really a handsome bird, almost as striking as a stonechat! Whimbrel and dunlin were passing in the opposite direction out on the coast. On the sea we spotted our first terns of the season – both common and arctic terns were seen on the skerries and rocks off shore, but not on the sea lochs further inshore yet. Manx shearwaters had gathered in rafts to sweep the waves, and gannets are again plunging into the seas. Corncrakes were crekking away on Muck (where the weather was glorious incidentally – bringing out the shorts). In total we managed over a hundred species of birds for the week, with the last to be added being a pair of common scoter, a great way to end the week.

A steep haul up a hill to about 450m produced several red grouse on territory along with a mountain hare. We learned that red squirrels do not bother much about the Lochaber rain, particularly if there are ready-made shelters available. We managed to see no less than four species of deer, with fallow the added bonus. A large herd of sika on the way to Foyers is evidence of how well they are breeding in this area.  Some of the red stags (and sika) still have their antlers, which seems rather late in the season – others are already growing quite sizeable new ones. Our one otter sighting of the week was quite entertaining. The otter swam ashore with a large crab, ate this out of sight, but then clambered to the top of a rock, sprainted and rolled around for quite some time. The mother pine marten at Glen Loy is beginning to look a little thin as her kits grow, and is making repeated trips across the flat roof and down the drainpipe to gather bits of food for her youngsters.

The sunshine brought some butterflies out at last. Over the sunnier days of the week we saw plenty of orange tips, my first speckled wood and green hairstreak of the season and a few fresh pearl-bordered fritillaries. The moth haul contained mainly spring species still, but the first of the season’s nut-tree tussock have emerged. The other notable find of the week was a large slow-worm, basking in the middle of the path. It was still very sluggish, but at least the cold is keeping the midges away.