Wildlife Highlights w/c 2nd October

Published: 12th October 2010

Another good week enjoyed by Glenloy Wildlife guests, despite some rather mixed weather.

An undoubted success of the week were Otters. Unusually we have had sightings in a river and on land, as well as in the sea. Our sharp-eyed guests managed to spot one in the River Shiel en route to Castle Tioram, which worked its way along the far bank. Later in the morning we also had a more prolonged view of an otter hunting from our vantage underneath the walls of the Castle itself. It started off on the rocks across the channel and ended up fishing amongst the wind-blown spume in mid channel. Later in the week one was seen loping off a beach and up the side of a burn, heading for a freshwater lochan. To add to this tally a further head was spotted in our early morning vigil at Lochy Mouth, although this rapidly disappeared upstream, and was only picked up in the scope. Not to be outdone, Angela and I also had fabulous otter views yesterday, enjoyed in flat-calm seas near Arisaig. Two individuals were seen – one loafing and dozing on rocks, rolling on its back for a good scratch whilst waving its paws in the air and occasionally scratching its ear vigourously. The other fished right in from of us, starting off with a medium-sized flatfish, followed by a string of small butterfish.The Otter on the rocks finally slunk into the water, after copious sprainting, and fished. The other meanwhile clambered up on rocks to mark territory itself, and the two gradually converged. Although we did not witness any interaction, one suddenly vanished, so one presumes the two were not on friendly terms.

Eagles were still showing well with the undoubted highlight a White-tailed eagle that flew low above our heads also at Castle Tioram, quartering the beach before languidly moving away. At least two Golden Eagle were spotted above ridges, both being mobbed by ravens, and one also by a Kestrel. Kestrels were everywhere this week, which is very pleasing, if somewhat surprising. We normally see far fewer Kestrels than eagles! Numerous sightings in most of our usual haunts over the last few weeks suggest that Kestrels are doing well after what has probably been a good vole year. We also saw a couple of Peregrines, and some of our wildlife guests had a further good sighting on a fence post just up the road near Gairlochy. Buzzards, as usual, are everywhere.

I was also pleased to see a couple of pairs of Stonechat this week. These birds fared rather badly last winter, and it is good to see that they have not been eliminated entirely from places such as Glen Roy and Loch Arkaig.

One of the main objectives of the week was to see the Red Deer rutting. The trouble was that wherever we went we seemed to come across stalking activity. This and unseasonably mild weather meant that the deer were still high up on the hills. We did manage to find groups of hinds with their attendant stags in various locations, but viewing was far from ideal and required a telescope to see properly. The best success was up Loch Arkaig, where we not only saw and heard stags roaring, but also stags chasing hinds, attempting to mount, and thrashing the bracken with antlers. Good textbook stuff. Distances were still far, however, and deceptive. We were able to see stags throwing their heads back to roar a good couple of seconds before the sound actually reached us.

The best weather of the week was on Friday, and we enjoyed a trip across to Knoydart, despite off-shore breezes. The return leg from Tarbert produced a good view of a late pod of Porpoise, four 'turning' in formation. a good end to a varied week.