New Year at Glenloy

Published: 4th January 2011

New Year dawned grey and cold in Glenloy and has progressed to heavy rain. The last of the ice has finally been washed away from our car park, and we can at last welcome visitors without having to worry for their safety. We now have such luxuries as running water and working heating – it is difficult to imagine how living without modern facilities was not so long ago simply the norm. For several reasons December was a terrible month for us, so I apologise to any regular readers for the absence of blog updates. However, the local wildlife kept on doing its own thing in deep snow and Arctic temperatuiures, and plenty has been happening.
Birds have been the obvious sufferers in the cold, and our feeding stations have been inundated for several weeks now. Amongst the regulars are several 'foreign' Blackbirds as well as occasional visitors such as Goldfinch and Brambling. Chaffinches remain by far the most numerous visitors with flocks of up to 40 individuals. Tits are also plentiful, although they seem to prefer the less accessible peanut feeder outside the kitchen window. Despite the cold Robins continue to fight and bicker, surely an unnecessary waste of scarce energy resources. A gorgeous Redwing was also puished close to the house to feast on the adjacent holly berries. Some lasted long enough for us to collect a small tithe for Christmas decoration, but now almost all have been stripped. Elsewhere, life goes opn as normal with male Crossbills singing from the tops of our conifers, and Dipper greeting the winter sun on the ice-free Lochy.
The most interesting spot over the festive season was that of a Greenshank on the River Lochy below the canal. A pale, long-legged wader flew off with a haunting alarm cry as I approached, the elongate white diamond onn the rump flashing against the dark water. It landed a little further downstream and foraged a little longer bu the water's edge. Most Greenshank quite sensibly spend the winter in Africa, but a small number apparantly choose to overwinter in Scotland, and are no doubt regretting it at the moment. The Lochy continues to flow well, even when the shallower Loy and the still canal are deeply frozen. This makes it a haven for waterbirds, and we have regularly seen Goosander, Goldeneye, Mallard and Cormorant not far from the Lodge. A Common Seal was also to be found resting on rocks at Lochy Mouth earlier in the week; another animal perhaps lingering too long perhaps, while others of its kind have loing since departed in search of deeper water. Later in Christmas week we also spotted a pair of Sea Eagles that flew across the back of the Lodge and departed up the glen, calling to each other. Perhaps it will not be too long before these magnificent animals start displaying to each other as a prelude to mating.
The proximity of largely unseen wild mammals to the Lodge never fails to amaze us. Within the short stretch of road between us and Strone Farm we came across the prints of Badger, Otter and Fox, as well as the ubiquitous Pine Marten. Red Deer tracks permeate the forestry paths, in addition to those of Roe Deer. The latter were seen bounding across the field between us and Erracht on Boxing Day, too close to houses for their own good. I am also reliably informed that the Wild Boar are back. Even more tantalising was a set of biggish cat prints, crossing the Glen Loy road a couple of miles away from the Lodge, and well away from any habitation. Could these be potential Wild Cat spoor? We will certainly keep a watch out for further signs. A set of two Otter prints (mother and cub?) meandered up the road for a good 1.5 miles, with occasional detours towards the frozen river. As a festive treat the turkey carcass was left out for the Pine Martens, while the snow was still deep. It certainly vanished overnight, but whether taken by martens or foxes we couldn't tell.
The first copies of “Jon's Blog – A wildlife Year in Lochaber” were dutifully dispatched as Christmas presents. Copies are now available on request at a likely cost of £15 plus postage. So if you would like to remind yourselves of what has been happening in Glenloy, with the added attraction of Angela's beautiful illustrations, then please get in touch.