Sunday, 10 May 2015

What a week on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular

We booked a cottage in the lovely village of Strontian on the Ardnamurchan peninsular. Making the 520 mile journey was a little challenging but a stop of at Leighton Moss only a few miles from the M6 gave me a few good year ticks. First a Spotted Crake was calling just beyond the public hide then a Sand Martin flies over and from the Lower hide about a mile from the car park I found the Pied-billed Grebe. On the way back to the car I heard the Spotted Crake again and found three Otters playing in front of the Public hide.
The journey continued north with Suzanne taking a share of the drive which helped. We took the Corran Ferry over and drove the remaining 14 miles to Strontian finding our cottage with ease and what a cottage.
Last one on the left before you reach Ariundle nature reserve....WOW! As I got out of the car I had Wheatear on the lawn followed by Stonechats on the fence and a Hooded Crow sitting in the tree with a Red Deer sitting under it, later joined by a couple of Roe Deer.

The Cottage
A few walks around Ariundle during the week delivered Redstart and Wood Warbler along with numerous Tree Pipit and plenty of very vocal Willow Warblers. Ravens called above and both Cuckoo and Tawny Owl where heard each morning. A Whinchat dropped into the garden one morning but was chased off by the Wheatear and a Grey Heron visited every day. Pine Martin came to the feeder each night but we failed to see them despite the evidence that they'd been in each night. (Fatballs and Jam Sandwiches had gone)

Pied-billed Grebe at Leighton Moss
During the week we visited Mull and Iona along with trips to Applecross, Ardnamurchan point, Loch Garten, Lochindorb and Cairngorm. Some of the drives were spectacular. The A87 route from Fort William to Applecross was stunning as was the thrilling drive up the "Pass of the cattle" at Applecross. Glencoe is always glorious as is the 28mile drive along the shore of Loch Lomond and the Ardnamurchan peninsular has it's own beauty too.

The pass of the cattle at Applecross
I picked up a lifer on Iona when first I heard a Corncrake then Suzanne picked one out from the Iris bed and we enjoyed it for a wee while in the company of Geoff B and Carol who just happened to be visiting the same day. (Small world!) Iona is worth a visit on it's own merit without the Corncrakes as it's more like a pacific island than an Atlantic one with Torquise water and golden sand it's hard to remember where you are.

On Mull we found two Ospreys fishing as we drove along, we managed to pull over and watch for a while from the car as the birds displayed different levels of skill pulling trout from the Loch. Later the warden was to tell us that they only knew of one bird on the island so two was interesting to them. Further along and Suzanne picks out a male Hen Harrier which is just one of the best birds with it's almost silver metalic appearance.. Again we watched from the car as the bird hunted but it drifted off before too long. Surprisingly we found no Eagles on Mull despite a rather special drive around Loch Na Kiel but we did find two Golden Eagles back on the mainland on a couple of occasions and Suzanne spotted two Eagles being mobbed by Ravens on one of our journeys. We pulled over and managed to watch as a Sub adult and juvenile White-tailed sea Eagle landed on the mountain side and then hung around for great scope views as they had dinner, feasting on a carcase.

At Ardnamurchan we found the sea alive with thousands of Manx Shearwater and we picked up a passing Arctic Skua here too along with Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet.

Manx Shearwater
Whimbrel were present in small numbers and I only found three Whinchat all week including the garden bird. Golden Plover were present at Lochindorb in good numbers and we found a few Red Squirrel in the lodge gardens here too. Black-throated Diver remain on the Loch but Red Grouse numbers were low. Twite gathered in the harbour at Kilchoan with over thirty in the flock. Wheatears where everywhere!

We drove to 2053 feet at Applecross and I walked the rest (300 foot I guess) to the top where I found a pair of Ptarmigan which gave me stunning views and allowed a few images to be taken. On the journey home we took a break at Hadrian's Wall which was interesting and broke up the 520 miles nicely.

Hadrian's Wall
The Black Duck of Strontian gave me the slip with only a possible fly over for my efforts searching for it and on a visit to Loch Garten I didn't see any Capers chosing not to wander around looking for one as seems best advise at this time of year. I did find a couple of Cresties at Loch Garten and saw the Ospreys although I was there on the day that the nest came under threat and it has now resulted in three eggs being destroyed and the male bird going missing so let's hope for a second clutch and a better story by the end of Summer.

Overall a really good trip in a lovely house with my two girls Suzanne and Tia

Tia enjoying the garden
I'll load some more images over the next few days.

Year list now 220 Life list now 357


  1. Great Pics Brian as always, glad you and Suzanne had a great week in my adopted home ( Scotland) ...can't wait to see the next load of pics...

  2. Thanks Kath it's a stunning place and I envy you calling it home.

  3. Good to see you again Brian & Suzanne. Really was a memorable day on Iona. Best views of Corncrake. Geoff n Carol

  4. Thanks Geoff, certainly was a good day although Suzanne keeps reminding me it was her that found the Crake. See you around.