Trip report - west Scotland

27th September 2015
Dates: 19th to 26th September 2015

Destination: west Scotland



Purpose of trip:

This was a week long trip to western Scotland, specifically the Ardnamurchan peninsula (a long, narrow peninsula along the north shore of Loch Sunart which includes the most westerly tip of the UK mainland), Morvern (the area between Loch Sunart and the sound of Mull) and Moidart (the area to the west of Loch Shiel). In addition, it was an excellent base for day trips to the islands of Mull and Skye.

The purpose of my trip was to hopefully see White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Otter, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Scottish Wildcat and much more.

In addition, weather permitting, I hoped to be able to take some photos of landscapes.

Primary target areas:

The primary target areas for wildlife watching and/or landscape photography were the Ardnamurchan peninsula, Morvern and Moidart plus the islands of Mull and Skye.

Getting there and getting around:

I travelled up to Glasgow by Virgin Trains on 19th September 2015 and returned on 26th September 2015 having obtained an extremely good value advance return ticket for £60. As usual, I booked my return ticket via redspottedhanky.com and by using Tesco clubcard vouchers on this website, my ticket cost me nothing .... a bargain!

In Glasgow, I hired a car from lunchtime on 19th September 2015 to lunchtime on 26th September 2015 from Europcar for £109.43 reduced by 8% cashback to £100.68.

The islands of Mull and Skye were reached by Caledonian MacBrayne ferries from Lochaline to Fishnish and from Mallaig to Armdale respectively.



My base for the week was Mingarry, a small community in Moidart close to the village of Acharacle and located between the National Scenic Areas of Loch Shiel and Morar, Moidart and Ardnamurchan. Accommodation for 7 nights was at the excellent Mingarry Lodges, specifically “Hooting Lodge”.



I had the good fortune to meet Jayne and Andrew Theaker, the owners of Mingarry Lodges, at the Garbh Eilean wildlife hide during my June 2015 visit to the Scottish Highlands. Following a subsequent Google search for Mingarry Lodges which Jayne had mentioned, I eventually booked a week in “Hooting Lodge” commencing 19th September 2015.

“Hooting Lodge” was warm, comfortable, spotlessly clean and fully equipped. Jayne and Andrew provided a genuinely warm welcome and their knowledge of the local area and what to see and do is exceptional. This is supplemented by a huge amount of information in files and folders in the lodge itself. This will be extremely helpful to any guests who are not familiar with the area.

Mingarry Lodges are exceptional accommodation in terms of quality, value for money, location, friendly hosts and on site wildlife watching .... highly recommended!

Here is a photo of "Hooting Lodge" showing the verandah at the front of the property which was regularly visited by Pine Martens ....



.... and a photo from the front of "Hooting Lodge" looking towards a distant Loch Shiel ....



.... and photos of the woodland immediately to the rear of "Hooting Lodge" and the location of the Red Squirrel nut feeders ....







Apart from the lodges, Jayne and Andrew deserve great credit for attracting a variety of wildlife to the grounds surrounding Mingarry Lodges. Apart from the common birds visiting the bird feeders, 2 very special mammals were regular visitors.

Pine Marten: a visitor to the verandah table at “Hooting Lodge” from 7:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. on 6 evenings out of 7 with up to 3 visits per evening and probably 3 different individuals identified; vocalisation heard around or under “Hooting Lodge” at 7 a.m. on one morning

Red Squirrel: up to 4 individuals visited the nut feeders every morning from 7:45 a.m. at the rear of “Hooting Lodge”

Here are some poor photos (due to them being taken in low light and through the front window) of the Pine Marten(s) which visited the verandah at "Hooting Lodge" ....









.... and some better photos (albeit again taken through the window) of the Red Squirrels which visited the nut feeders at the rear of "Hooting Lodge" ....















This is a summary of my itinerary and route:

19th September 2015: Glasgow – Loch Lomond – Crianlarich – Tyndrum – Rannoch Moor – Glen Coe – Fort William – Lochailort – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Mingarry

20th September 2015: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Strontian – Lochaline – Kingairloch – Strontian – Salen – Acharacle – Mingarry

21st September 2015: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Kilchoan – Ardnamurchan Point – Salen – Acharacle - Mingarry

22nd September 2015: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Strontian – Lochaline – ferry to Fishnish (Mull) – Loch Don – Grasspoint – Loch Spelve – Glen More – Loch Scridain – Loch na Keal – Calgary – Dervaig – Salen – Fishnish – ferry to Lochaline (Ardnamurchan) – Strontian – Salen – Acharacle - Mingarry

23rd September 2015: Mingarry – Kinlochmoidart – Glenuig – Lochailort – Fort William – Spean Bridge – Newtonmore – Aviemore – Inverness – Chanonry Point – Inverness – Drumnadrochit – Fort Augustus – Invergarry – Spean Bridge – Fort William – Lochailort – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Mingarry

24th September 2015: Mingarry – Kinlochmoidart – Glenuig – Lochailort – Arisaig – Rhu – Arisaig – Portnaluchaig – Morar – Lochailort – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart - Mingarry

25th September 2015: Mingarry – Kinlochmoidart – Glenuig – Lochailort – Mallaig – ferry to Armadale (Skye) – Sleat peninsula (Tarskavaig loop road) – Broadford - Strathaird peninsula (route to Elgol) – Broadford – Sleat peninsula (Tarskavaig loop road) – Armadale – ferry to Mallaig – Lochailort – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Mingarry

26th September 2015: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Strontian – Corran ferry – Glen Coe – Rannoch Moor – Tyndrum – Crianlarich – Loch Lomond – Glasgow

Weather:

The weather was relatively mild with average maximum temperatures of 15°C and characterised by a lot of sunny and bright conditions mixed with light or heavy rain showers. This led to some stunning rainbows, more than I can ever remember during such a short period.

Highlights:

During my trip, I was able to record 72 bird species (understandably less than my June 2015 total of 115 species given the departure of summer migrants) and 10 mammal species.

Trip list - west Scotland

With regard to birds, I was able to add the following species to my 2015 list: White-tailed Eagle (a species that I missed during my June 2015 trip to north and west Scotland), Mediterranean Gull (my first record for Scotland) and Sanderling.

Birds of prey sightings were exceptionally good on this trip:

White-tailed Eagle: 2 in the Ben Hiant area, Ardnamurchan, a distant possible sighting from Ardnamurchan Point and 12 at various locations on Mull

Golden Eagle: 6 at various locations on Mull

Hen Harrier: 2 in the Loch Don area, Mull and 1 in the Loch Spelve area, Mull

Peregrine: 2 in the Ben Hiant area, Ardnamurchan and 1 in the Loch Don area, Mull

Red Kite: 2 in the Tore to Avoch area near Inverness

Common Buzzard: numerous throughout Ardnamurchan and on Mull and Skye

Kestrel: 3 in the Ben Hiant and Kilchoan area, Ardnamurchan, 1 in the Loch Don area, Mull and 1 in the Loch Spelve area, Mull

Sparrowhawk: 1 at Mingarry Lodges

This was my best ever tally of both eagle species on a single trip and included a White-tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle in the air together between Killiechronan and Calgary on Mull (excellent for comparison) and a Golden Eagle stooping at great speed at 2 Ravens in Glen More on Mull.

In addition, a Tawny Owl was heard (but unfortunately not seen) from “Hooting Lodge”.

The other notable birds seen were Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Heron, Little Grebe, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Wigeon, Teal, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Curlew, Common Redshank, Kittiwake, Arctic Skua, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Rock Dove, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Raven, Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Siskin and Rock Pipit.

In addition to the Pine Martens and Red Squirrels at Mingarry Lodges, the mammal highlights were:

Otter: 1 from Garbh Eilean wildlife hide near Strontian, Ardnamurchan (a regular site but none on this trip from my other regular site off Camus Torsa picnic site just west of Salen) and extended views of over an hour of another in Broadford Bay from the car park adjacent to the petrol station

Bottlenose Dolphin: 4 from Chanonry Point on the Moray Firth (much shorter and fewer sightings than on previous visits)

Red Deer: small numbers in the Lochaline, Kinlochmoidart and Kilchoan areas (much smaller numbers than on previous trips plus no sightings at all on this trip of Fallow Deer or Roe Deer)

Common Seal: 7 and 16 on 2 visits to Garbh Eilean wildlife hide near Strontian, Ardnamurchan, 8 on Loch na Keal, Mull and c.10 from Chanonry Point on the Morary Firth

Pipistrelles: presumed bat species seen from “Hooting Lodge” on several evenings and also on several mornings

Badger: 2 to 3 individuals at an undisclosed site

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I had no sightings of Scottish Wildcat.

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