Normal Service Resumed

Published: 8th August 2018

We have been busy running holidays for the past few weeks, so this is somewhat of a catch-up blog. Whilst the rest of the country has continued to swelter, here it has been normal service resumed. The weather turned towards the middle of July, leaving just a glimmer of glories past for our butterfly week and barely a trace of the hot summer for our dragonfly hunters.  We have had plenty of rain and everything is looking luxurious and verdant on the West Coast, in sharp contrast to further east and south. This will undoubtedly have helped the long-term prospects of our local insects, particularly as the early great weather gave them ample opportunity to breed. Now their offspring will have somewhere to live and feed! Moreover, it would not be a proper summer in the West Highlands without rain and midges.

We were pleased to welcome a couple of families with younger children recently, one on a short safari, and the other on a bespoke holiday. Although a challenge to keep them from becoming bored, it is always great to see the enthusiasm of kids for wildlife, particularly if we can provide a hands-on experience. It is also amazing (and rather sobering) to see how quick kids can be to spot wildlife. Various adults struggled away to spot distant dots in the sky, while repeatedly being told ‘it’s just there!’ Between us we managed to spot white-tailed and golden eagles, peregrine, harriers, ospreys, and many, many buzzards. To add some variety, we went butterfly and bug hunting with nets (much coveted) – scotch argus were very obligingly caught. Sharp eyes also spotted a disappearing slow-worm. Walks were (even) slower than usual but revealed a wealth of normally overlooked treasures – edible ones were particularly relished. A couple of hour’s rock-pooling soon had city boys clambering over the rocks with increasing confidence, with spider crabs, cushion stars, sea urchins, snakelocks anemones and prawns duly admired – but it took dad to catch the ultimate prize, a sizable goby. The boys were treated to a day off to go kayaking and Nessie hunting, which broke up the week nicely. We would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in a bespoke family holiday for next year.

Butterflies proved a challenge because of the early season – our target species of mountain ringlet and large heath appeared to be over, despite hard searching in sunny conditions in appropriate places. No doubt they had got on with things rather quicker than usual and had finished for the year. We enjoyed an unseasonably early hatch of Scotch Argus, however, and found some lingering Northern Brown Argus. Dark Green Fritillaries whizzed around but were also looking a little frayed. The dragonfly week also probably suffered from early emergence but was more compromised by poor weather. Apart from the odd glints of sunlight we only really enjoyed two good 2-3 hour periods of good flying weather in the whole week. Both were spent in nice sites, and at Loch Mhor we were repeatedly visited by inquisitive Southern Hawkers. We did get 11 species of dragon and damselfly over the week so not too bad even if the target northern emerald and azure hawker were elusive. However, we managed to fill our time profitably, with many other sightings, from black-throated divers and harriers to minke whale and sika calves. So even if not ideal weather for some species there’s always something interesting and it was nice to see pretty good numbers of raptors around.

Otters are starting to make a reappearance now that the days are not quite as long. Two were spotted on Saturday for a Quebecois couple, one of which obligingly fished for ages not far from us. This turned into a ‘Big Five’ day, with wild goats, sea eagles, peregrine and porpoise thrown in for good measure. Back at Glenloy Lodge the squirrels are continuing to entertain, while I am acquiring increasingly fiendish nut feeders to discourage them from making big holes through which to glut. We have not seen the second pine marten kit for two months now and can only assume it is lost. Its brother has grown into a big boy, although still quite timid. For his age he is remarkably agile and can easily cope with the window ledges. His mother continues to look out for and chide him, whilst discouraging him from trying to suckle. We even had a visit the other day from one of his half (?) siblings, born over two year’s ago. Although tolerated by his mother, both did a lot of growling. We are becoming increasingly convinced that there is a lot more socialising between pine martens, especially within families, than was previously thought to be the case.