Otters and eagles

Published: 12th September 2011

Just finished a Wildlife Week here at Glenloy. Some rather mixed weather, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous(ly wet). Still we managed to get out and see something every day, and, in particular had a great week for spotting otters and eagles. Here are a few of the highlights.
Sunday – walk up Glen Loy while the sun was shining. Slow-Worm and Common Lizard under my tins, not hanging around. A few Scotch Argus still flitting , rather forlornly in their raggedy clothes. Saw our first eagle of the week, a distant goldie, but didn't really count as only I saw it! Deer likewise present but well out of the way – stalking now underway. Large flock of Raven further down the glen towards the Lodge today. In the afternoon had a lovely trip on the Eagle Watch Cruise up Loch Shiel to Gaskan. Jim did us proud, yet again. Great views of a pair of Golden eagles that crossed from one side of the loch to the other and spent quite some time hunting and searching, at variable heights. One even perched on top of a dead tree, which was fairly unusual. An added an unexpected bonus was an Otter off rocks near to Gaskan.
Monday – red letter day, and for the most part the sun even shone. Common seals and an Otter off the islets at Sallachan provided a good start. Next stop further along Loch Linnhe produced a Great Northern Diver (winter plumage) and some distant Porpoise. We took the Kingairloch road and admired the Wild Goats. As we were watching the cliffs a Golden Eagle flew over. A walk above Loch Arienas revealed dragonflies and some hardy bees, but little else in the middle of the afternoon. The short walk down to Loch Teacuis was more productive, however, with a small herd of older, and rahter magnificent stags – looked very fit and somewhat larger than those we see closer to home. Various waders on the shore included Greenshank and Redshank. We returned via Loch Eil and were rewarded with a pair of White-tailed eagles sat on the loch shore posing, and viewable from different angles along the road. A final otter was spoted right by the near shore as it was becoming late, and we stopped to watch it fish before it came up onto shore behind rocks.
Tuesday – much wetter. Started well, however, with Red Squirrels at viewing site at Inchree. Falls spectacular. Wild and elemental at Cuil Bay. Hardy waders were being blown along the water's edge, including Turnstone and Ringed Plover. Twite, Rock Pipit and Wagtails were equally laying as low as possible along the strandline. The day's highlight was a Merlin, hunting over the saltmarshes with Castle Stalker in the background.
Wednesday – A dampish day of lochs and glens, with clouds fortunately higher than threatened. Osprey appear to have left Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig, but an adult Black Throated Diver was still iin the middle of Loch Lochy. Raptors were scarcer than expected, but we did see several Buzzard and a Golden Eagle above the hills along Glen Roy. The highlight of the day, geology aside, was a spectacular display of fungi in the woods in and around the Fairy Glen, including magnificent troops of Fly Agaric. The fairies also put in an appearance. An evening of spotting up Glen Loy produced Roe Deer, Red Deer and Sheep, but no Wildcat.
Thursday. A fine trip down south in search of the elusive Beaver. Sun shining again. Stopped off at Moine Mhor NNR. Did the little tileworks walk – plenty of Black Darter in the pools, as well as a departing Sparrowhawk. Swallows skimmed very low over the glowing heather. A Sika deer popped her head out along the woodland edge. Watched a handsome male Hen Harrier quartering the bog in a distant heat haze, over lunch. A migrant Whinchat sat on a fence rather nearer, seemingly unconcerned. Tide very high. Walked along the canal, with views across the estuary, with various distant ducks and waders hogging the sandbars. Far over the distant hills, with the paps of Jura behind them, three White-tailed Eagles soared high on thermals. Spent the late afternoon and most of the evening along the shores of Loch Coille Barr and the Dubh Lochan looking for Beavers. Plenty of evidence, and the dam looking even more impressive than a year ago, but no sign of the animals themselves. Beavers 3, Naturalists 0. Surprisingly little on the long drive home other than a brief glimpse of a Barn Owl.
Friday. Rain returned and brought low cloud with it. We went out to the coast and watched a pair of Otters near Arisaig, moving on and off the rocks and hunting in the sea. Plenty of Seals on the skerries. Further around the coast we found a pair of Red-throated Diver, still in summer plumage, which made up the set for the week. Had a nice walk along Traig beach, and were puzzled by numerous scallop shells of varipous sizes, including some giants. The day was cut short after a brief foray along Loch Morar, but in all, a highly producive week, beavers aside.