I believe in otters now!

Published: 1st July 2012

female scoter Loch Garry

Female scoter on Loch Garry.

W/C 23rd July, 2012 – another great week with Glenloy Wildlife, and all guests have now gone away happy, and so they should as we had some real highlights over the last seven days. The undoubted ‘day to remember’ was the trip out to Muck. Despite being damp and dull, the sea was almost flat calm, and in places was boiling with fish – a sure sign that predators would not be far off. Sure enough we had close encounters with no less than four Minke whales, one of which swam right alongside the boat and turned upside down so that we could clearly see its pale underside and flippers. The whales were soon joined by Common Dolphin. These barely had time to play in the wake as we were already running pretty late by then. We also had a distant sighting of Porpoise. Common Seals have pupped on the skerries leading into Arisaig, and the black youngsters are already growing quickly. Seabirds were plentiful, and easily spotted, with large numbers of Shearwaters and Guillemots, with smaller numbers of Razorbills and Puffins. For the afficianados, there were also a couple of Great Skua and the tiny Storm Petrels about, all clearly visible for once. Even on a rather soggy Muck the action did not stop. A nice Snipe was obligingly sat on a fence, and close by, much to my surprise at this time of year, Corncrake began to call – we heard four different males, but as usual failed to get a glimpse. A great day, thanks to the crew of the Sheerwater.

We also had a wonderful morning with the Otters on Loch Linnhe, hence the title of the blog – a first sighting for a couple of our guests, and what a good one it was. I assume that previously otters were thought by the gentleman who made this comment to be on a par with fairies or Nessie; hard to believe here in Lochaber! There were no less than 4 swimming around – an obvious mother and cub, and two separate individuals (larger cubs?) that swam from different directions. At various times all four greeted each other – the two singles met, and tangled together, before moving on to fish, and then a single met up with the pair. The Otters were all busy feeding and systematically patrolled the area, coming onto the rocks to feed on larger fish. We watched them for a whole hour before we had to return for breakfast. Later in the week we took a trip to ‘On the Swirl of the Tide’ country, where we rather appropriately spotted a large dog otter and watched him feeding for a while, coming into shore to feed on an eel. At the other side of the loch a Golden eagle swooped down for a look at us, and by the gate, Red Deer munched unconcernedly in a supposedly off-limits areas. A fantastic spot, with Whinchats, Reed Bunting (a recurring bird this week) and Stonechat also making cameo appearances.

Elsewhere in the week we enjoyed a day of fossils and flowers with a visit to Loch Aline. The Greater Butterfly Orchid are already in bloom by Lochaline pier, along with Common Spotted Orchid and Northern Marsh in profusion. Other unusual flowers included Melancholy Thistle and Woody Nightshade. Plenty of Gryphaea washed up on the beach for everyone to find. En route we had seen a pair of Golden Eagles, perching on one hillside, flying across in front of the van and landing on the other side.- not the buzzards that were first mooted! We made a pilgrimage to see the Slavonian Grebes and also picked up Dabchick, Osprey, Brown Hare, Red, Roe and Sika deer, another Reed Bunting and a Lapwing with small chick. On the way home we had great views of a female Common Scoter, with rather more distant views of another duck with a large clutch of small young. White-tailed Eagle and Osprey were still on the nest, the former with chicks moving in and about the nest. Butterflies were hard to come by, but our tally included a coastal Grayling, as well as a probable late Marsh Fritillary and several Large Heath. Bird of the week – Redpoll, which we saw everywhere – if they were not following us about. Good views were hard to come by, but the patience of those who were prepared to wait was well rewarded! Add to this some nice sunny days  amidst forecasts of dire weather, and we really couldn’t have done much better.