Thursday, 14 July 2011

Widdrington Tip

I paid a visit to this interesting area this week and must thank Stewart Sexton for sending a map and directions which proved most useful. I hoped to see butterflies and wasn't disappointed; Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Common Blue and a great number of Small Skippers were on the wing. And, for the first time in, let me think ... it must be thirty years, I saw and photographed a Six-spot Burnet moth.

Six-spot Burnet (Zyganena filipendulae)

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

Common Blue (Polyomatus icarus)

I also came upon this Mallow growing in the track-side verge. I thought it was a Musk Mallow but it is not so hairy and the upper leaves were deeply cut so I take it to be a Cut-leaved Mallow (Malva alcea) ...

Friday, 3 June 2011

Kinloch Hourn

I wonder how many times we pass the end of a road without giving a second thought to where it might lead or what delights we might find were we to follow it? The road to Kinloch Hourn proved to be such a road during my recent Scottish trip.

Turning off the Skye road beyond Invergarry, the road to Kinloch Hourn begins in a wooded lane which hugs the northern shore of Loch Garry for five or so miles to the hamlet of Tomdoun with its delightful little church. Five miles on, when you come to the tiny settlement of Kingie at the head of Loch Garry you are already in the wilderness and amongst the high hills of Glenquoich.

Glenquoich, the River Garry above Kingie and the Knoydart hills beyond

The views in all directions and the barren remoteness of Glenquoich revived long-unvisited memories of backpacking days in the Western Highlands more than twenty years ago. On this day, however, as I dawdled on along the single track road, taking in the splendour of it all, I could happily acknowledge that the road was more easily travelled from behind the steering wheel.

A Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) on the northern bank of the River Gary

In the 1950's, the glen was dammed beyond Kingie raising the waters of the existing Loch Quoich by one hundred feet: sadly, it suffers today from the same unnatural shape and scarred, low-water shore line of many other man-made lakes. On rocky rain-washed outcrops near the dam, I found many Common Butterwort (Pinguicala vulagaris). It was the first time I had seen these stickily hairy carnivorous perennials ...

Common Butterwort (Pinguicala vulagaris)

Other plants seen included these Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica) ...

... these Thyme-leaved Milkwort (Polygala serpyllifolia)

... and these fungi

The Red Deer, featured in my last piece, were found near the head of Loch Quoich. Further on still, the steep descent to the road end at Kinloch Hourn begins (the link to the Undiscovered Scotland pages provides further information and pictures). The settlement comprises one or two houses and a farm, the latter offering food and basic accommodation for hill walkers, climbers, cyclists and exploring motorists! A path along the southern shore of Loch Hourn takes walkers to Barrisdale and on into the Knoydart peninsula while another path along the northern shore, takes walkers to Arnisdale and Glen Elg.

Near the end of my journey and before the steep descent into Kinloch Hourn, at the foot of the dark hill to the left of centre in this picture, this view over Loch Coire Shubh opened up

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Red Deer at Loch Quoich

Loch Quoich with the Knoydart hills beyond

At the western end of Loch Quoich, where the single track road rounds a headland near a burn called the Alt Nighean Eobhain, I came upon a small group of grazing Red Deer (Cervus elaphus).

I was struck at first that all of the deer in the group were stags until I read that for much of the year the stags and hinds lead separate lives, forming separate-sex herds. Male calves live with their mothers for a couple of years, but with the onset of maturity they leave to join male herds. This group were quite nervous of me but with care I was lucky enough to get close views and take the following pictures ...

A young stag with the steep slopes of Sgurr Mor, on the south side of Loch Quoich, in the background

Another of the group with Loch Quoich in the background

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Common Seals at Loch Carron

This second piece describing my recent wildlife cruise on Loch Carron looks at Common Seals (Phoca vitulina).

Shortly after leaving Plockton on the Sula Mhor, we passed a small rocky island where a group of Common Seals were basking.

The Common Seal, referred to as the Harbour Seal in other parts of the world, is associated with sheltered seas and is widespread on the east coast of England and the coasts generally around Scotland and Ireland. They have a rather friendly-looking face and are little more than half the size of the Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus) I more commonly see on the Farne Islands and at other locations along the Northumberland coast. They tend to be rather nervous and wary animals and in most circumstances are less inquisitive than their Grey cousins.

There are believed to be over 350 Common Seals resident in the Plockton area. You can see more picture pictures of Common Seals at Loch Carron on Callum Mackenzie's website

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Common Dolphins at Loch Carron

After spending the first three months of 2011 decorating almost all of my house, and taking the time since to recover, I took myself off to Scotland for a short break last week to stay with my Invergarry friend at her home on the shores of Loch Oich. Sadly, as she is moving to the south of England in June, this was to be the last holiday I would spend with her in her Highland home.

On Wednesday we travelled to Plockton, to the north of the Kyle of Lochalsh, meeting another friend for lunch before taking a wildlife cruise on Loch Carron. The cruise turned out to be one of those never-to-be-forgotten moments.

A rather cold and damp Loch Carron seen from the departure point (cruise boat not shown in this picture)

Our cruise boat, the Sula Mhor, followed a course up Loch Carron towards a fish farm where Calum the captain told us we were almost certain to see the dolphins. We didn't but kept on cruising further up the loch towards Strome Ferry and beyond to Lochcarron village, hopeful but still without a view of them. The return trip, however, proved successful and the Loch's resident pair of female Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis), known locally as Gin and Tonic, put on a great show for us.

Above and below: the Dolphins coming to the surface

And here, in this short video, the dolphins can be seen swimming at the bow of the Sula Mhor ...

If you are travelling in the Plockton area, do take one of Culum's cruises ...

See more here at Calum's Seal and Dolphin Trips website.

More of my Scotland trip in forthcoming posts.