Saturday, 16 June 2012

Mull Birds

During my recent tour of the west coast of Scotland, I spent an enjoyable six days on Mull. My list of birds for the sixteen days I was away numbered eighty, but the birds I saw on Mull were certainly the highlight.

In Tobermory harbour I found this Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix), feeding amongst the seaweed ...

Tobermory Harbour

At the Ulva ferry landing, I joined a small group of birdwatchers on a cruise to look for Sea Eagles on Loch na Keal.  Both the setting for the trip, and the weather, were perfect.

The view from Ulva towards Loch na Keal 
with Ben More (to the right) and surrounding mountains in the distance

Sea or White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) flying over Loch na Keal

From the boat I had good views of Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle), Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer) and Harbour Porpoise (Phocena phocena).  And though I wasn't able to visit Staffa during my stay on Mull, I did see these lava stacks, a south-shore feature of Ulva ...

While travelling along the southern coast of Mull, I found this Common Gull, nesting on the shore of Loch Spelve ...

Common Gull (Larus canus)

At Dervaig Bay, in the  north west of Mull, I found a large group of Greylag Geese feeding.

Greylag Geese (Anser anser)

Dervaig Bay

And finally, while visiting Iona, I was delighted to hear a Corncrake (Crex crex) in a field next to the abbey ...

Iona Abbey

Monday, 4 June 2012

An Atlantic Oakwood

One of the great pleasures of travelling is that you never know what you might find around the next corner. Ariundle Oakwoood, an Atlantic Oakwood on the outskirts of the pretty village of Strontian in Sunart, was one such surprise on my recent Scottish trip.  And Sunart is one of the few areas in Scotland that retain their ancient oakwoods, now so rare they are protected.

Ariundle is a precious fragment of an immense oakwood that once cloaked Europe's Atlantic coast from Portugal to Norway.  Here, the steep lochside has been wooded since the glaciers retreated some 12,000 years ago. A lush covering of mosses, lichens and liverworts flourish in this undisturbed world in the Strontian Glen.  The trees are mostly sessile oak, which do well on the acid soils that cover the granite bedrock.  Other native species include holly, hazel, birch, rowan, alder, willow, ash and wych elm.

Ancient oakwoods such as Ariundle have played an important part in the natural and human history of the area for thousands of years.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the trees were coppiced for charcoal burning and the remains of old charcoal burning platforms can still be found in the wood.  The fallen trees and their dead wood provide food for spiders, beetles and insects such as wood ants.

Above Left: Evidence of coppiced oaks can still be seen
Above Right: Tree Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria)

The oakwood in single tree:
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) growing amongst moss with a Peltigera lichen to the left

The woodland floor: 
Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and one of my favourites, a Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica)

Cladonia squamosa