Sunday, 6 September 2015

Another August in Ardnamurchan

This summer I returned to the Ardnamurchan Peninsular to lead two more tours for Naturetrek in this wild and remote area of the Scottish Highlands. The weather was as changeable as ever but it never stays wet for too long and when the sun breaks through after heavy rain, the light is amazing!

Otters often take some finding, but this year we had almost daily sightings in various locations. From the point at the entrance to Glenborrodale Bay we watched two different Otters on several occasions, feeding on small fish. We also saw Otters on the Isle of Carna, in Camas Fearna, Port na Croisg and from the hide at Garbh Eilean. We had our usual close views of Pine Marten from our accommodation at Glenborrodale, when they came to the feeding station right outside the living room window. The food also attracted two Foxes. As always, Red Deer were much in evidence but we also saw a few Roe Deer and one or two Fallow Deer as well. Early morning drives to Kilchoan enabled us to find the big stags that spend most of the day on the high tops during the stalking season.

Whale-watching is always weather dependent and in the first week we were only able to get across to the northern coast of Mull before returning to the sheltered waters of Loch Sunart and Loch Teacuis. We enjoyed good views of several Harbour Porpoise, which are resident in Sunart. During the second week, we were able to cross to the Isle of Muck. On our way out, we stopped to watch an 8 metre Basking Shark feeding just off Mull, before finding two White-tailed Eagles perched close to the water's edge. On the two hour crossing to Muck, we watched Gannets and Manx Shearwaters (amongst other species) flying close to the boat. Later in the afternoon, we headed back to the waters north of Mull, where Andy found a pod of very active Bottle-nosed Dolphins. We watched as the group interacted, sometimes leaping clear of the water, right next to the boat! After 20 minutes, we had to leave to return through Loch Sunart to Laga Bay. However, as we passed the bulk of Ben Hiant, we found two Minke Whales, which completed the best day at sea that I have ever experienced in Scotland. Many thanks again to Andy Jackson of Ardnamurchan Charters.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle on shore of Mull

We saw a good range of birds during both tours but most memorable were the classic encounters with White-tailed Eagles, including a pair of sub-adults indulging in spectacular display, with frequent talon-grappling. We saw Barn and Short-eared Owls on night drives and a beautiful pair of Black-throated Divers on Loch Shiel, still in breeding plumage. Common Terns were everywhere and several wader species included Greenshank and Ringed Plover.

I will be back in Ardnamurchan next summer with Naturetrek and I am planning more tours to this fantastic area at other times of year. Finally, many thanks to Niall and Fay Rowantree for their support at the Glenborrodale Bunkhouse; great accommodation  and great people!