January freeze

Published: 8th January 2010

Here in Glenloy, we haven't had the volume of snow that has been found elsewhere in Scotland, but the weather remains bitterly cold, with temperatures dipping below 15oC last night. The canal has finally frozen over completely, and much of it is covered with a couple of centimetres of snow. This has revealed some interesting goings on, as it has shown up the tracks of all sorts of animals using the canal as a thoroughfare. One can only speculate that it is easier going along the canal than ploughing through deeper snow on the towpath. Several tracks, mostly pine martens', just run parallel to the edge of the canal, while a surprising amount go straight across. These include badger tracks, running from the woods along the canal bank down the slope to the ice and right down to the other side. It is surprising that quite a heavy mammal takes so readily to a new route that surely would not normally be accessible.A drama enfolded with the view of scuffle marks and a pile of feathers in the centre of the canal. We found a few feathers further along the towpath and deduce that a pine marten must have killed and eated a woodcock on the ice. Other canal users included fox and roe deer.

At the car park in Glenfinnan we came across a further set of sinsiter prints. A robin had been pestering us for food as soon as we stepped out of the car (which was dutifully supplied). We went off for a walk, crossing the entirely frozen River Callop, and noting more footprints on the ice. As well as the ubiquitous pine martens, the area had been visited by a herd of red deer, some of which were still on the hill above us, and a surprising number of small mammal tracks criss-crossed the path. On our return we noted a fresh set of cat prints pointing purposefully in the direction of where the robin had been foraging. We followed them to the back of the car, but it appears that the robin had made good its escape, and was now bothering some other visitors. The robins at home have been equally attentive, and make a beeline for us whenever we step out of the house. Whilst I was removing Christmas greenery one bright fellow followed me into the front of the house, and then the same bird (?) did the same thing at the back of the house half an hour later. Getting it out was much more difficult than attracting it in!

Deer are everywhere, close to the road, and we had a short expedition to try and take some photographs of red deer in the snow for an article. We ventured as far as the Chia-Aig Falls, spectacularly fozen, with an arch of ice surrounding the last trickle of water. Again deer prints were all around, and we appeared to have been the first humans to have made it to the top of the falls since the last snowfall.Admittedly the road from Clunes was pretty dodgy. We came across various groups of stags both on the way there and the way back. One nonchalant male was busy chewing the bark off a roadside birch, while another sported a CD dangling from his antlers. No doubt he had visited the “Fairy Glen”, in which case he could easily have been sporting tinsel and baubles!