Highlights Week Commencing 9th June, 2012
Published: 19th June 2012
No sooner had the Wild Lochaber festival finished, than Glenloy Wildlife was welcoming a full group of guests on a wildlife holiday. At least we had a good idea where things were showing this week! The weather was rather more mixed than over the previous fortnight, which was a shame, but after the first rather dreich day, we did pretty well, although the rain had brought the midge out in droves. Consequently we had a great week with lots of things to see in good weather, although as ever, people seemed to enjoy Angela’s cooking just as much, if not more than the wildlife watching!
An undoubted highlight was an evening watching the otters on Loch Linnhe. The trip was timed to coincide with a good tide, and a mother otter with two cubs was seen playing on rocks and fishing in the sea. As well as chasing each other and splashing about off the rocks the cubs stopped to tumble about with their mother on top of the wee island and one even had a suckle. They then swam right past us before making their way slowly across to the other side.
This was quite a day as earlier we had seen a sea eagle gliding high over a mountain and later one perched in a tree near to its nest. From the same vantage point we also watched a pair of golden eagles appear first at great distance and then come rapidly ever closer, until they passed high above our heads. Further down the loch we enjoyed a great close sighting of a black-throated diver. The ladies amongst us were rather more intrigued, however, to learn exactly what a Scotsman does or does not wear under his kilt, as some misguided individual stripped off to wade across the river at the head of the loch. Sadly he was being mobbed by a pair of irate greenshank at the time, though they were probably more concerned for the safety of their nest than the preservation of their modesty. On the way back we could clearly see the bright, alert eye of the mother osprey on top of her nest, now positioned slightly nearer the road.
At the beginning of the week one of our number was describing Charlie Elder’s book ‘While Flocks Last’, in which the author goes in search of the British red-listed birds, and which was kindly left for me to read. The comment was made that after our first day we had already seen a good number of the birds listed, including Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Redpoll, Tree Pipit, Song Thrush, Yellowhammer and Twite, the latter including a handsome male showing his pink rump patch to good advantage. We could also add House Sparrow, Starling, Wood Warbler, and even more excitingly, Cuckoo, at close quarters, to this list the following day. Ring Ouzels proved elusive this week, but were seen by others at the Lodge the previous week. We also managed to find a summering Great Northern Diver, as well as an obliging pair of Red-throated Divers. Several birds had young, particularly the Eiders and Canada Geese, but we also saw Ringed Plover chicks – bumblebee-like balls of fluff, and families of Stonechat and Wheatear.
Flowers were a particular feature of this week, with some enthusiastic botanists amongst our party. Orchids stole the show, with local species beginning to appear in profusion. The group were dragged up a hill to successfully see Small White, Lesser Butterfly, Early-marsh and Heath-spotted orchids as well as all three native sundews, and the first Bog Asphodel. The Northern Marsh orchids are putting on a glorious display along the verges between Banavie and FortWilliam, and the last spikes of Long-leaved Helleborine were still in flower. Elsewhere the rhododendron ( like it or loathe it) was in full bloom, the May blossom sparkled, and the last bluebells were in their prime, along with chickweed wintergreen, ragged robin, globeflower and lots more.
The weather only brought the insects out patchily. Sun on Allt Mhuic produced the first of the year’s Dark Green Fritillary, along with several Small Pale-bordered Fritillary, both Large and Small Heath and a late Green Hairstreak. Just as striking, however, were the numerous Clouded Buffs, that we saw everywhere. Despite searching we did not see any Chequered Skipper, but did find one cowering on a bracken frond in rather chillier conditions at Glasdrum later in the week. God-ringed Dragonflies provided plenty of photo opportunities along with 4-spot chasers. A couple of retreating red moths on Muck were probably the rare Transparent Burnet Moth, whilst the two moths caught in flagrante at Rhu were certainly 6-spot Burnets. The heat has dried up the ditch at Rhu and the newts have gone, together with all the tadpoles and other aquatic life there, hopefully only temporarily.
Our trip to Muck was made in glorious sunshine and calm seas, but sadly these did not reveal any cetaceans (should have been here yesterday!). We had to make do with huge rafts of shearwaters skimming in front of the boat, fantastic views out to Skye, the Treshnish Islands and even the Outer Hebrides, and some distant eagles circling over An Sgurr on Eigg. Seals, terns and the Muck tearoom rounded off a memorable day, even for the non-sailors.