Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Ardnamurchan Tour

A nice early start sees us leaving the cabin at 6am, We head for our starting point which is Corran ferry. the weather hasn't improved from yesterday and it's raining down. We catch the first ferry at 7am and cross Loch Linnhe. Reaching Sallachan Point we scan the loch for anything that may be present. On the western side there's a nice summer plumaged Great Northern diver. It's really nice to be able to see these birds in full breeding plumage, Instead of the normal winter plumaged birds normally seen down south.
On the nearest island I add Eider to my year list, with a couple of males and a female present. Along the shoreline there's a smart Rock pipit.
Stopping at Ariundle , there are plenty of Swallows flying around the car park as we cups of tea. Buzzards can be heard mewing overhead. The staff are friendly and give us some advice as to where to look for Golden eagles.
Next stop is Ardery, We are heading for Garbh Eilean bird hide. As we start the half mile walk towards the hide the heavens open and the rain hoods quickly go on. The hide is an open boardwalk with a roof over the main viewing area, with open slots at varying levels to cater for all ages. There's a pair of binoculars attached to a wire on the viewing screen wall for anybody to use. Looking out across Loch Sunart there's a pair of Red-breasted merganser slowly moving across the loch. Grey Herons are numerous and seen regularly flying back and forth across the area. There are a few seals present and one seems keen to show off in front of us as it plays with seaweed along the shoreline, it then swims from one island the another at great speed, Leaping in and out of the water as it goes.
We reach the spot that we were told might be good for Golden Eagles. Parking in the car park I start scanning, But have no luck in locating any eagles. After giving it an hour and keen to see as many sights as possible we leave the car park. We have only reached the second bend in the road and I spot a large raptor over the top of Ben Hiant. Brian quickly stops the car and we get out to find it in the bins. It turns and heads straight towards us, as it turns it's unmistakably a White-tailed Eagle. It flies directly over our heads and gives fantastic views, so close in fact that we can see it looking around searching for prey. They say the yellow bill is surprisingly easy to pick out in the field, and at this range it's very easy. As it drifts out of view and behind the mountain ridge we drag ourselves away and head for Ardnamurchan.
This is the most Westerly point of the British mainland. On the drive down to the Lighthouse we scan the fields either side of the road and add Whinchat to the year list. By the time we reach the car park we have seen three male Whinchats.
At the lighthouse it's very windy and it turns from dry to rain to hail and back again. Scanning the water in front of us we see hundreds of Manx Shearwaters flying through, This is an added bonus for dad as he still needs this for his year list.

Bonnie Prince Charlie
 Brian heads off around towards the lighthouse and as we approach him, He shouts "shark", Not quite hearing him clearly through the wind and then thinking I'm in a jaws movie we rush round and find him looking at a basking shark. At first it's hard to pick it out in the rough waters, But once we know the general location it's not long before we get good views. It's my first sight of a Basking Shark and it's fantastic to see it's nose come up out of the water when it opens it's mouth to feed. Then I get views of the dorsal and tail fins.
There's a Great Northern diver in the bay not far from the shark and Gannets are numerous flying across in front of us.
Instead of taking the ferry back across Loch linnhe we drive on past and reach Loch Shiel. the timing is perfect as an Osprey appears over the loch and dives into the loch after a fish, it comes up without a meal but gives superb views before it's lost from sight.
Next stop is Glenfinnan, Where dad gets his history fix when we stop at the site of the monument of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Although it's not actually the Bonnie Prince himself standing on top of the monument. It is in fact just a kilted highlander.
It's been an amazing day, the highlight is undoubtedly the White-tailed Eagle directly over our heads, But the Basking Sharks comes a pretty good second.

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