iBirdz


The Outer Hebrides and Glenloy Lodge - May 2014

North Uist


After visiting the Outer Hebrides in July 2012 Helen and I decided to spend another week there, this time in May when the waders and Corncrakes would be displaying and breeding. We decided to add a few days on to the trip by staying at Glenloy Lodge near Fort William where Pine Martens visit the lodge regularly.

We set off late on Friday 9th May driving overnight to Oban where we arrived in the rain so no chance of filming or photographing the Black Guillemots that breed in the harbour walls. We booked in at the ferry terminal and queued to get on. Once on board we found a spot that sheltered us from the rain but allowed us to watch the passing birds. On the journey we saw several Razorbills, Guillemots, Black Guillemots and Puffins plus a Great Northern Diver. Gannet and Fulmar wheeled past the ferry whilst groups of Max Shearwater were evident when passing Ardnamurchan Lighthouse and beyond.
Arctic Terns and a single Great Skua were also seen from the ferry but the most notable bird was a distant White-tailed Sea Eagle seen over Mull.

After landing at Lochboisdale on South Uist we headed to the pub at Pollacher to sit and watch over the sea as we ate our sandwiches. Here several summer plumages Great Northern Divers fished off the rocks with one becoming highly alarmed by a floating piece of plastic piping. A single Black-throated Diver in winter plumage fished more distantly in the Sound of Barra and calling Rock Pipits kept us entertained as they perched on the rocks beside the car park.

Pollacher South Uist
Pollacher

After finishing off our sandwiches and crisps we headed north spotting a Golden Eagle, unusually flying over the flat Machair on South Uist. We stopped off at the roadside near Loch Aineort to watch a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers that were snoozing on a freshwater lochen. Other birds seen en route included Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Teal, Eider, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Whimbrel, Curlew, various gull species, Common Tern, Cuckoo, Short-eared Owl, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Linnet and Hooded Crow plus various other common species.
Mammals seen along the journey were Grey Seal at Pollacher and Red Deer beside the road.

Wooden House Grimsay
Wooden House Grimsay

We met Heather the owner of the Wooden House on Grimsay where we were staying, who was very welcoming and showed us round the house in the slippers she provided to prevent the lovely wooden floor from being ruined.
The accommodation is a self contained apartment on the end of her house with shower room, kitchenette (kitchen in a cupboard really) living room and stairs up to the bedroom. All this surrounded by the most wonderful views from the front of the house looking over a sea loch towards the hills on the islands of Ronay and Eaval.

In the back garden were Wheatear and Stonechat whilst the rather spotless Hebridean Starlings fed on the front lawn with a Common Sandpiper calling from the loch across the road.

Starling on Grimsay
Starling

After settling in we decided to head for the road opposite the Co-op in Solas as Heather mentioned that her friends had seen a Snowy Owl there for the last few days. We had no luck with the owl but watched displaying Dunlin, Snipe and Redshank before they all got up and mobbed a Buzzard sitting on a dilapidated building on the machair.
As we watched the sunset whilst eating tea the news of the Snowy Owl broke on Birdguides and presumably Rare Bird Alert which meant an early start before the hordes arrived and possibly frightened the bird away.

Grenitote North Uist
Grenitote

We rose and had breakfast on the 11th May before heading for the picnic site at Grenitote which gave the best views over the area of Machair favoured by the owl. We arrived at eight in the morning with only one other birder present. I parked by the houses and walked down to the raised picnic area where the birder was looking towards the dunes where I expected the owl to be. However, in looking over the fields in the opposite direction I noticed a large white blob sat on a pile of pallets in a field. On raising my binoculars there was no doubt it was the male Snowy Owl being mobbed by all the local breeding birds.

We eventually crept to a spot two fields away which was as close as I dare go without scaring or stressing the bird. Here we had excellent views as it turned its head towards the mobbing waders, occasionally opening its huge gape at them as they whizzed over its head. It was nearly impossible to get stable video using 32 x or 57 x magnification due to the strong gusty winds, even when holding an umbrella next to the camera. I gave up in the end and watched the bird instead.

Grenitote Dunes North Uist
Grenitote Beach

Whilst watching the Snowy Owl a male Hen Harrier flew over the picnic area giving great views.
We left the owl hoping to see it later and walked over the machair to the sand dunes to have a look over the sea. I kept an eye on the owl and noted that it eventually moved from the top of the pallet stack and was lost to view. However, as we walked back a group of birders had gathered looking over a recently ploughed field. The owl flew towards us and landed in the field before flying off towards the Co-op. One or two folks with cameras in hand were now starting to walk over the machair towards the owl and I guess it was this un-thoughtful behaviour that eventually forced the owl to leave the area and it wasn't seen after Monday, unfortunately for our friend Ian who arrived on Tuesday for his third trip to the island to look for a Snowy Owl.
Other species noted at Grenitote were various common breeding birds including some fluffy Lapwing chicks plus a small flock of Whimbrel and a Grey Plover out on the mud flats.

Lapwing Grenitote North Uist
Lapwing at Grenitote North Uist

We left and headed round the coast to Balranald RSPB reserve which is becoming more crowded with campers and folks going to the burger van each time we visit. It's a shame that the prime habitat for Corncrakes on North Uist has become a money making scheme for the locals. Let's face it the campsite could have been put anywhere. Was it the nature reserve and the visitor centre that encouraged the campsite to be built here. I may never know but again it appears that the good intentions of the RSPB may have an adverse effect on the birds they are supposed to be protecting. The rest of my thoughts on the RSPB will go directly to them next time they send a form to me on the subject.

Griminish North Uist
Griminish

On the journey round the coast a juvenile White-tailed Sea Eagle sat on rocks in the Griminish area famed for eagle sightings. I tried everything possible to film the bird but the wind was just too strong. I think it was at this point that I decided that the only filming to be done would have to be from the car due to the strong gusty winds.

On arriving at Balranald we had a short walk round the Visitors centre and spent time sitting in the car watching the displaying waders including the drumming Snipe, wing flapping Redshank and the screaming Dunlin. All the time in the background was the crex crex call of the Corncrake. They were keeping themselves well hidden.
As people began to leave the car park we moved the car in and listened for the Corncrake. It eventually began calling from round the back of the centre towards the cemetery. After a while it showed itself amongst some Irises as it threw its head back and called before scuttling away again.

Redshank Balranald
Redshank at Balranald

We left the car park and headed down the road past Loch nam Feithean stopping to watch the waders at the roadside. A Ruff was seen over by the loch but what was really astounding was the loud Corncrakes beside the road. We stopped and watched an area of Iris between the road and the loch as a Corncrake headed out of the Iris towards the road. It ran straight over the road behind the car and began calling from a grassy meadow on the opposite side of the road. A second bird was spotted in the field which was not calling so we assumed this was a female. The male bird walked through a fence towards the car and eventually sat in the field a few feet away from the car calling very loudly. I also noticed a much quieter hen like clucking as the bird moved around in the field.
We watched and filmed the bird from the car, never getting out and disturbing it, until it eventually moved away as the light began to drop completely.

On the 12th May the weather was again sunny but cool with a high wind so we decided to have a drive along the Lochmaddy Moors road to Loch Portain. As usual this area was good for Stonechats and the Hebridean race of Wren. On the lochs were Herons and common wildlife such as Shelduck and Shoveler and quite a few Red-breasted Merganser with up to 25 being seen.
I noticed a shape moving over the far side of one of the lochs which turned out to be an Otter walking across the seaweed whilst the tide was out, but it soon disappeared into the water and was not seen again.

Lochmaddy Moors
Lochmaddy Moors

Grey Heron Lochmaddy Moors
Grey Heron Lochmaddy Moors

We ate our sandwiches looking out over towards the islands on the southern side of the Sound of Harris before heading onto Berneray to look at the seals in the harbour.

Common Seal on Berneray
Common Seal on Berneray

Common Seals lounged around on the rocks soaking up the sun as we watched from the car park designed to allow seal watching. We headed to the north of the island and sat and watched Little Terns fishing in the brilliant turquoise blue sea off the beautiful sandy beach. Several Great Northern Divers were also fishing just off shore.

Berneray
Berneray

We headed back towards Balranald stopping off at the Golden Eagle watch point now run by a chap from Sheffield who points out the eyrie where we could see the female feeding a hidden youngster through the heat haze. The watch point is set at a good distance from the eyrie to ensure no disturbance to the birds.

We made another stop, this time at Loch Sandary where we found the reported Scaup diving out in the middle of the loch.
A Buzzard sat on a fence post in the reeds very close to the car whilst a Sedge Warbler sang from close by. Other birds of note were a small flock of five Black-tailed Godwit on the southern side of the loch. The Buzzard eventually headed for the rooftops of the local houses where it could watch for its prey.

Buzzard Loch Sandary North Uist
Buzzard Loch Sandary North Uist

We eventually reached Balranald where we stopped on the road by Loch nam Feithean. The Corncrakes were very quiet this particular evening and we didn't see a single bird although we heard them calling more distantly from the road than on the previous night. Amongst the Redshanks round the loch was a single Wood Sandpiper which could be seen dipping in and out from behind the sedges around the loch.
On the way home a quick look along committee road revealed only a single Short-eared Owl before we headed back to Grimsay for our dinner.

As the weather forecast was poor for the rest of the week on the 13th May we headed to Loch Aineort for a walk and a look for Otters in the last of the sunny weather. In the wooded area on the north side of the loch we saw Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin and Greenfinch beside the parking area at the end of the road. As we were driving along the road we spotted two Otters fishing in the loch heading in the opposite direction to us.

Loch Aineort South Uist
Loch Aineort South Uist

We walked through the garden area at the end of the road and luckily noticed another Otter fairly close in to the side of the loch as it headed into a small bay. Here, after swimming through the morning sunlight on the water it brought a small fish to eat on the seaweed at the side of the loch before it slipped back into the water and disappeared.

As we walked around the loch we saw many Red-breasted Merganser, two Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck and Mallard. A Great Northern Diver in partial summer plumage fished the loch whilst several Red-throated Divers flew over our heads making their unusual grunting sounds. A Willow Warbler sang from Silver Birch on the loch side.

Willow Warbler Loch Aineort South Uist
Willow Warbler Loch Aineort South Uist

After standing in deep mud and both falling over into streams on slippery seaweed we reached the far side of the loch where we sat quietly, or it would have been quietly if not for the nesting Herring Gulls around us. They eventually accepted us coming back to their nests and peace reigned once more.

As we sat on the rocks Helen nudged me and pointed to the water where an Otter was swimming past us only fifteen feet away. By the time I fired up the XL2 it had passed us but luckily came onto the seaweed covered rocks to eat its catch before disappearing off into the water and round the corner lost to sight.
The grunting of a Red-throated Diver signalled one had landed on the loch as it began fishing out in the middle in front of us. After watching it for around an hour we headed carefully back to the car managing the trip without falling over. As we drove alongside the loch several Snipe were seen at close quarters standing on fence posts at the roadside.

Common Snipe Loch Aineort South Uist
Common Snipe Loch Aineort

We tried Grenitote again to see if the Snowy Owl had re-appeared but no luck. A Little Tern sat and preened on the muddy bay and male Eider cooed at their females to the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.

On May 14th the rain set in. We had heavy rain combined with sea mists and high winds. Not ideal for bird watching unless you're after Skuas.
We initially headed onto Benbecula and Stinky Bay where we sat and watched the waders searching through the stinky seaweed. This turned out to be a good move as two Glaucous Gulls flew around the bay past the car heading south and two Arctic Skuas heading in the opposite direction scattered the waders in the bay.
The next bird to try and grab a wader was a bit of a surprise as a male Hen Harrier came over the road and onto the beach. It returned empty handed so to speak.

We checked nearby Loch Fada where one of the Garganey could be seen in the reeds over on the far side. The reported Lesser Yellowlegs was not showing on Loch Fada but then appeared round the edge of Loch Mhor just over the road from where we had parked.
Ardivachar Point South Uist
Ardivachar Point South Uist

We headed for Ardivachar Point for a bit of sea watching, stopping off at Coot Loch for a reliable viewing of Coot on the way. At Ardivachar waders raided the seaweed including flocks of Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and a couple of Purple Sandpipers. A Red-throated Diver flew along the shore where Cormorant and Eider fed.
Here, three Arctic Skua strafed the beach scattering the waders that included a Bar-tailed Godwit out on the mud. Amongst the gulls and Ravens turning over the seaweed for morsels of food were a first year Glaucous Gull and further down the beach a second year Iceland Gull.

Glaucous Gull Ardivachar Point South Uist
Glaucous Gull at Ardivachar Point South Uist

We headed across the firing range as the red beacon was not lit and here we found five Whimbrel foraging over the grassy area. The final stop of the day was Balranald where the only bird of note was a Sand Martin flying over a small loch close to the reserve. We called it a day and headed back for a well deserved hot meal.

The weather on May 15th was pretty much the same as the previous day so we headed out to the same places but began at the point of Aird an Runair at Balranald where we sat in the car and watched the sea for three hours, well at least I did as Helen really hates sea watching when things are very distant.

However, in three hours we had Great Northern Diver, Black-throated Diver, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Shag, 4 Common Scoter, 2 Great Skua, 7 Pomarine Skua and 12 Long-tailed Skua plus a couple of Razorbills. A Grey Seal was also spotted out in the water.
The rest of the day was very similar to the previous day with the exception of a Merlin flying over Committee Road and a Kestrel along the road on Grimsay.

Wheatear Grimsay
Wheatear on Grimsay

We also had excellent views of both Wheatear and Ringed Plover at the roadside as we headed round Grimsay back to our accommodation. Two pairs of Ringed Plover were actually nesting in the gravel of the roadside verge. This probably helped protection against predators but not necessarily cars.

Ringed Plover Grimsay
Ringed Plover on Grimsay

May 16th was again another very poor weather day with birding from the car the only option. We headed south to the point at Pollacher where we watched Gannets diving into the sea close to the pub car park. Fulmar, Cormorant, Shag, Black-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver were all seen here through rain splattered windows as well as the local nesting Rock Pipits.

Gannet South Uist
Gannet at Pollacher South Uist


Rock Pipit South Uist
Rock Pipit at Pollacher South Uist

We toured South Uist along the Machair Trail where local birds were seen along the roadside.
At Ardivachar the Iceland Gull was still present but no sign of the Glaucous Gull and on the range were a couple of Dotterel.

Machair Trail South Uist
Machair Trail South Uist

Heading north we stopped to look over Loch Aineort where a male Goosander was seen on one of the small lochs at the beginning of the road. The bad weather had forced a Guillemot and three Black Guillemots onto Loch Aineort as well as a winter plumaged Red-throated Diver.
The local Common Seals had hauled themselves out onto the rocks whilst the tide was out despite the poor weather conditions.

Common Seals Loch Aineort
Common Seals Loch Aineort

Our final destination for the day was Lochmaddy Moors where we managed to find a Greenshank. Whilst travelling around in the afternoon and evening we counted up to seven Short-eared Owls from the road before we headed off for an early night as we had to be at the ferry at 6-45 in the morning.

Short-eared Owl North Uist
Short-eared Owl North Uist

On the 17th May we left North Uist by ferry from Lochmaddy and headed towards the Isle of Skye. The ferry journey was almost as uneventful as the crossing to South Uist with a trio of Bonxies and a single Pomarine Skua being the bird highlights amongst a smattering of Auks and Gulls.
The high point of the trip was a pod of around 15 Common Dolphins travelling at great speed and leaping out of the water along the coast of Skye but unfortunately in the opposite direction to the ferry.

Lochmaddy North Uist
Leaving from Lochmaddy

On Skye we disembarked last having been put on the mezzanine deck and grabbed a tank full of diesel. Heading over the island we stopped for obligatory photos of the Black and Red Cuillins in the mist before making our way to the bridge and exit on to the mainland.

Black Cuillins Isle of Skye
Black Cuillins Isle of Skye

En route we required a sandwich break and decided on the minor road beside Loch Long and up Glen Elchaig. Here we had views of Goosander displaying on Loch Long and various woodland bird species in Glen Elchaig including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Whitethroat and Redstart plus House Martin overhead.

Lunch break over we continued towards Fort William as the weather steadily worsened to a typical Scottish heavy drizzle. We decided to drive up Glen Garry, to take up some time and prevent an early arrival at Glenloy Lodge where we were booked in for the next four nights.

Red Deer Glen Garry
Red Deer Glen Garry

I imagine the scenery alongside Loch Garry and Loch Quoich would be spectacular in less inclement weather but we enjoyed the drive with great views of what appeared to be tame young Red Deer. I guess they were possibly hand reared as they were hanging around the gamekeepers house at Kingie Lodge.
Past Loch Quoich the road became pretty narrow and very windy but on a small loch we had great views of a Greenshank which I assume was probably breeding up there. Common Sandpiper were found in good numbers all along the roadside around Loch Quoich including one bird that caught an enormous worm.

Common Sandpiper Glen Garry
Common Sandpiper Glen Garry

We eventually arrived at Glenloy Lodge, a secluded old hunting lodge found at the base of Glenloy. Here Jon showed us to room number 8 around the back of the lodge and we filled out a couple of forms giving our details and more importantly our Breakfast requirements.

The most important question for our host was "what time do you feed the Pine Martens?" as to be honest this was the main reason we had chosen to stay at Glenloy Lodge. To be completely fair though, if you interested in Wildlife I would recommend staying here as Jon has an intimate knowledge of the local wildlife and conducts some excellent guided trips. The price for a stay here is also probably one of the most reasonable in the area, so with Pine Martens thrown in for free, perfect accommodation in my book.
Anyway back to the point, Pine Marten evening meal time was approximately 7-30 each night, when Jon would place bread with jam or peanut butter out on the wall and the window sill in front of the lodge to attract the local Pine Martens out for a feast.
On this particular night the animals were a little shy and we had to wait for at least an hour before any showed themselves. When a Pine Marten finally arrived it was the local female who grabbed a quick bite for herself, then proceeded to make several trips for mouthfuls to take back to her kits at the den.

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge
Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

When a second animal arrived on the scene as she was sat on the window sill we could all hear her growling at him as she continued to fill her mouth full of food. Jon explained that the male Pine Marten was her brother but would not be easily allowed to take the food she was nabbing for her kits.
I attempted to video the Pine Martens but had accidently knocked the neutral density filter setting to x2 and couldn't work out why all the video was so dark until after the animals had left.
We finally sloped off to bed at the end of another great day.

On the 18th May we took the long route from Glenloy Lodge around Loch Eil, Loch Linnhe and part way along Loch Sunart where many common species were watched including displaying Red-breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser
Red Breasted Merganser on Loch Eil

and bathing Eider.

Bathing Male Eider
Bathing Male Eider on Loch Eil

A Bar-tailed Godwit fed on a gravel bank in Loch Eil and in the water behind it a dark shape emerged swimming at speed. An Otter surfaced a couple of time before heading towards the far side and disappearing in the expanse of water.
New birds for the trip today included a Mistle Thrush somewhere by the roadside and a Swift flying low over buildings as we left the outskirts of Banavie.

Back at the Lodge as I looked out of the bedroom window into the Silver Birch trees over the pond a Goldcrest fed in the outermost branches of the trees and Tawny Owl hooted to alert us of it's presence.
On this occasion I decided to try and film the Pine Martens from my car in front of the Lodge to avoid getting reflections from the windows in the conservatory. I manoeuvred the car into position and set up ready for action. The Pine Martens duly arrived and the female immediately began removing food and taking it away for her kits, making the filming more difficult as she was continually on the move. As I was being bitten to death by the infamous Scottish midges I gave up after half an hour and sat indoors to watch the remainder of the food being taken away.

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge
Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

After two failed attempts at filming the Pine Martens I asked Jon if it would be ok to try some food in their back garden to tempt the animals to feed outside of our bedroom window in a more natural and easy to film area. He was very generous and allowed me to try my idea without any idea whether it would work or not but Jon was hopeful. Roll on tomorrow.

Our initial port of call on the 19th May was Glen Righ and the Red Squirrel feeding station beside the main car park. We did manage to see one rather tatty looking Red Squirrel that Jon said was a youngster whilst we were being eaten alive by midges. The feeding station is set up under some very large Beech Trees beside a muddy area and stream. It appeared to be set out to attract midges rather than squirrels.

Loch Lochy
Loch Lochy

Our main trip of the day was along the side of Loch Lochy and up Glen Arkaig. Loch Lochy provided some excellent scenery for photo opportunities as did the shores of Loch Arkaig but the main port of call was Allt Mhuic Butterfly Conservation reserve.
The weather was actually in our favour today as we stopped in the car park at Allt Mhuic.

Loch Arkaig
Loch Arkaig

I quietly sloped off to film a pair of Merganser asleep beside the loch before we headed up the hillside onto the reserve. Jon had mentioned it was probably too early for the reserves most famous inhabitant, the Chequered Skipper so we were looking out for the more likely Green Hairstreaks. The first butterfly to whizz past me was a small brown and orange looking object travelling at high speed but I managed to watch it until it landed on a Bluebell. Superb, an extremely fresh looking male Chequered Skipper.

Chequered Skipper at Allt Mhuic
Chequered Skipper at Allt Mhuic

This was the only one we saw walking up hill in a counter clockwise direction but as we descended along the other side of the stream we managed to find a further two freshly emerged specimens plus six or so not so fresh Green Hairstreaks and loads of Brown Silver-line Moths sitting around in the bracken.

Green Hairstreak at Allt Mhuic
Green Hairstreak at Allt Mhuic

We managed to pick up Crossbill, Reed Bunting, Grey Wagtail and Coal Tit somewhere en route probably round the shores of Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig whilst I definitely remember seeing a Green Woodpecker flying through the trees on Allt Mhuic nature reserve.

Back at the Lodge the Tawny Owl was very vocal as I set up the video camera in the bedroom in readiness for our Pine Martens if they would be tempted.
We watched the female Pine Marten raid the offerings around the front of the house until all the food had disappeared before we threw our tasty morsels into the back garden. We waited for at least 45 minutes and nothing happened so I decided to close the windows and give it up as a bad job.

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge
Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

Of course a Pine Marten appeared as soon as I'd packed away and closed the windows. I quickly got the camera back in action and very carefully opened the windows. The animal looked towards the window before continuing to explore the peanut butter experience laid out for him. I think it was the brother of our local female. It was getting quite dark now and difficult to focus the XL2 but I managed some footage before the Pine Marten ran along the window sill and stood in the open window to look at me for 2 or 3 seconds before running off into the night. Maybe still failed on the video footage but what an amazing experience to be about two feet away from a lovely wild Pine Marten. I was now determined to get some better footage in the back garden before we left.

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge
Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

We headed off to Fort William for fish and chips and to my surprise saw a Pine Marten run across the road as we were entering the town. On the way back with the food I noticed two eyes shining in the car headlights as we drove the minor road just outside Banavie. I pointed out the eyes to Helen assuming it was another Pine Marten. I stopped the car for a better look as it walked or rather waddled past the car. The walking action and thick tapered tail led me to a correct identification. It was definitely a big dog Otter and not a Pine Marten.
We ate our fish and chips in the car and headed back to the lodge and to bed.

On May 20th our last full day in the area we had booked a trip with Jon to head out before breakfast to watch a secret Black Grouse Lek and try a spot for Otters. We jumped out of bed at four in the morning and got ready with great anticipation. Only one other guest at the lodge had booked on the trip and he managed to stay in bed and missed the rendezvous. We picked up two more people in Fort William and headed for the Lek site.

On arrival the grouse were doing their thing. The lek was in full swing with two or three birds calling and bubbling whilst attacking each other with tails fully expanded. As it was fairly late in the season not all were so enthusiastic but the views were excellent of an estimated twelve plus birds fairly close to the road. We opened the windows to film and photograph the birds but under no circumstances could we get out of the minibus, as this would have disturbed them.

Black Grouse Lek
Black Grouse Lek

All of a sudden something did disturb them and they all flew towards us with several landing in a nearby bush. It may have been a passing raptor but possibly a ground predator being as most of the birds ended up in the tops of bushes.
We spent around 30 minutes watching the birds before we left as we didn't want to disturb the area for too long.

Our next stop was in Fort William itself where Jon new a great spot to watch Otters and we ended up standing behind a factory unit watching over the river close to a spot where Jon knew of a holt.
It was Jon who spotted the first Otter as it swam up the river behind a seaweed covered island in the centre of the water. It eventually left the water and ran across the island before it jumped back into the fast flowing river and headed directly towards us disappearing under the water. Jon suspected it had gone to its holt.
We stood and watched a while longer when I spotted movement in the water upstream from our position. Two Otters were swimming and diving in the orange coloured water as it was lit by a beautiful sunrise. These two animals appeared later in the loch some distance away before we headed back to the lodge for a hearty breakfast of Porridge, toast and full Scottish fry up.

After breakfast we took the A830 known as the road to the isles as it heads out towards Mallaig then diverted towards the western end of Loch Shiel.
Loch Eilt
Loch Eilt

On the route we stopped off at the scenic Loch Eilt where a pair of beautiful Black-throated Divers calmly swam across the loch before beginning to fish. I assume they were nesting on the loch as it contained several islands and was a perfect size for this species.

Loch Ailort
Loch Ailort

We headed south along the A861 past Loch Ailort where we stopped to watch Rock Pipits displaying but didn't manage to see any of the eagles that are breeding in the area. We headed past Loch Moidart and ended up at Loch Shiel. The best area along the drive was Loch Ailort where several Great Northern Divers fished close inshore and a Peregrine flew overhead.

Loch Moidart
Loch Moidart

Our final destination of the day was a quick drive up Glenloy in the hope of finding Golden Eagles which have territory higher up the glen. Our spirits were raised by the site of a large raptor over the road but this turned out to be a Buzzard. We passed a pair of Goosander on the river as we checked it out for Dipper. No Dipper unfortunately which are present but we did find two pairs of Whinchats higher up on the driveable section of the Glen.

Glenloy
Glenloy

This was our final night at the lodge and my last chance to obtain some satisfactory footage of the Pine Martens. We laid our bait out carefully at around six o clock by throwing it as accurately as possible into the selected area and sat down to wait. We didn't use too much food as we didn't want to prevent the animals from putting on their show for the other guests at the front of the lodge.

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge
Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

To my surprise a Pine Marten arrived maybe after half an hour and wasn't too upset when I opened the windows to film it. After it had finished off the peanut butter offerings we went to the sun lounge at the front of the house to watch the main show. Again the female arrived and sat waiting on the wall for Jon to put out the food. She even hung around pinching some of the food as Jon finished putting out the last of the offerings.

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge
Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

After getting some extremely close views of her picking up the food and taking it away to her kits we again tried the rear of the lodge. Again a Pine Marten appeared and polished off most of what we had put out. Some food was left so we decided enough was enough. I imagine that wild voles etc are a much healthier food source for these animals.

Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge
Pine Marten at Glenloy Lodge

On the 21st May we sadly headed home but not before another look at the squirrel feeders at Glen Righ. This time we were lucky to see at least three adult Red Squirrels plus the youngster with the tatty tail. I filmed the squirrels before heading off for the long journey home and the end of a most enjoyable break.

Please take a look at | www.wildlife-films.com | for information on DVD sets produced from our wildlife watching holidays. The Dorset reptiles will be shown in "A Naturalist's Diary 2013" which will be available in the Spring of 2014.


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