Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Loch Arkaig Tour

The Commando memorial
A final morning for birding and some sight seeing before we head back to the airport.We decide to stay around the Fort William area and gradually head south towards Glasgow.
First stop is along the B8004 to the Commando Memorial. We spend a while here just looking at the statue and the garden of remembrance.
From here it's on to Chia-aig waterfalls. This is where Liam Neeson leapt across the river between the falls in the film Rob Roy. I may have to watch the film again at some point.
Chia-aig Waterfall
A little further along the road we stop at Allt Mhuic. Brian is keen to try for some butterfly species, But during the walk we don't see any and it's probably to early and not warm enough. We can hear a Cuckoo calling and after a bit of searching find it sitting on a fence post. It's a youngster being feed by it's adoptive mother. On the walk back down we somehow lose contact with Brian. Thinking he's making his way back to the car dad and I carry on down the slope and find a nice Tree Pipit sitting at the top of a tall tree. It goes into it's song display flight and returns to the same tree to start all over again. To think I had never seen a Tree Pipit until a week or so ago. and now I've seen at least five. 
Nearing the bottom of the slope I hear a Wood warbler singing. It's not long before we catch sight of it as it sings then flutters up and onto the next branch to start singing again.
On the drive around Loch Arkaig there's four Common Sandpipers seen feeding along the edges. Then we spot a diver on the loch close in to the shoreline. Scoping the bird reveals it's a superb summer plumaged Black-throated Diver. There's also a Red-breasted Merganser present.
Neptune's Staircase
Heading along the Caledonian Canal, We stop off to take a look a series of eight locks know locally as Neptune's Staircase. This also gives me the chance to grab a couple more shots of Ben Nevis.
Feeling hungry we stop at Macky d's and head round to Fort William harbour. Scanning the harbour we find double figures of Goosanders, Plenty of Eider, a single Red-breasted Merganser and a single Ringed Plover. There's also a handful of Common Gulls that seem more interested in the chips that Brian has left in front of the car. It's a good opportunity to try to grab a couple of shots.  
Sitting in the car Brian spots two shapes moving through the water, Bins up and he's calling OTTER!. Having not seen an Otter in the wild before, I'm already out of the car before he has finished the word. Scope up and I'm on the two Otters. A quick shout to dad and superb views are had as they swim across the lake and then leave the water and run across a small island. We watch them for at least twenty minutes as they swim and dive searching for food. Seems like we are finding something new at each stop we make today.
Common Gull
We decide to drive to Corran ferry in the hope of bagging a decent view of Black Guillemot, having only had brief glimpses at two other spots. The weather is brighter than on Monday morning, When it was hard enough to see the ferry let alone any birds on the water. Brian spots a single bird to the East of us. It disappears beneath the surface and is not re-located. Then I spot a bird flying East to West low across the water, It lands in front of the lighthouse and I at last get some decent views of Black Guillemot.
Time is passing so are have time for one last stop. This time it's The Falls of Falloch. As we leave the car we can hear Wood Warblers singing and when we step down closer to the river Brian spots a Spotted Flycatcher on a nearby tree branch. It's another year tick for dad and me so we are more than happy. We spend some time sitting and watching a pair of Flycatchers catching insects and returning to the nest site which is in a nearby tree on the opposite side of the river.
Ben Nevis
At Glasgow airport we check in and grab a coffee at Starbucks before boarding the plane heading for Stanstead.
The trip has produced 123 species in two full days and two half days. Within this total there are  seven lifers. Hooded Crow, Black Guillemot, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Crested Tit, Golden eagle and White-tailed eagle. There are also eleven year ticks with Eider, Twite, Whinchat,and Spotted Flycatcher added to the seven lifers.
Add to this list the Red & Roe Deer, Common & Grey Seals plus my first ever sightings of Red Squirrel, Basking Shark and Otter and it's been a fantastic trip.Of the species on the wish list Capercaille and Scottish crossbill were missed, although we may well have been hearing the Crossbills. It's not certain so it doesn't make any of the lists. We didn't try for Ptarmigan or Dotterel so these are not counted as missed. Dotterel we were told later had not arrived on the high tops at that time anyway. Capercaille is the one bird we missed that we all wanted to see, and we came  so close to bagging it. But it's been a fantastic trip. With so many great memories.

I hope it's not long before I am returning to the Highlands of Scotland.

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