Trip report - west Scotland

25th September 2016
Dates: 17th to 24th September 2016

Destination: west Scotland



Purpose of trip:

Similar to my trip in September 2015, 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 a day trip to the island of Mull.

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 17th September 2016 and returned on 24th September 2016 having obtained an extremely good value advance return ticket for £60.

In Glasgow, I hired a car from lunchtime on 17th September 2016 to lunchtime on 24th September 2016 from Europcar for £102.08 reduced by a member loyalty discount of £20 and 7.35% cashback to £76.05.

The island of Mull was reached by Caledonian MacBrayne ferries from Lochaline to Fishnish.

As in September 2015, 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.

Again, accommodation for 7 nights was at the excellent Mingarry Lodges, specifically “Hooting Lodge” .... see my September 2015 trip report for further information and photos. Suffice to say that Mingarry Lodges again provided exceptional accommodation in terms of quality, value for money, location, friendly hosts and on site wildlife watching. Well done Jayne and Andrew on all the ongoing hard work that you continue to put in to make Mingarry Lodges so attractive for guests and resident wildlife and many thanks again for making our second stay so enjoyable.



Here is a photo of "Hooting Lodge"....



The following birds were recorded around Mingarry Lodges: Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Jay, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Goldcrest (heard only) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard only).

Apart from the common birds, 2 very special mammals were recorded.

Pine Marten: a visitor to the verandah table at “Hooting Lodge” at varying times between 7:45 p.m. to 11.45 p.m. on 5 evenings out of 7 with up to 3 visits per evening; additionally seen on the rodentorium cam on 2 evenings out of 7; usually visits from single animals but 2 seen together on 2 evenings; probably 4 different individuals identified including a very small individual on the last evening (see 4th photo below .... a juvenile from this year?)

Red Squirrel: a maximum of 2 individuals visited the nut feeders at the rear of “Hooting Lodge” on most days although the number of individuals and the number of sightings was less than during last year’s stay at Mingarry Lodges

In addition, during this stay at Mingarry Lodges, a Wood Mouse was seen on the rodentorium cam on 3 evenings out of 7, albeit very rapid in and out visits!

During this stay at Mingarry Lodges, Pipistrelles were very occasionally seen but much less frequently and in fewer numbers than last year.

Here are some photos (of varying quality 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 the Red Squirrels at the rear of “Hooting Lodge” ....















This is a summary of my itinerary and route:

17th September 2016: Glasgow – Loch Lomond – Crianlarich – Tyndrum – Rannoch Moor – Glen Coe – Fort William – Lochailort – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Mingarry

18th September 2016: Mingarry – Loch Moidart (by Castle Tioram) – Acharacle – Salen – Garbh Eilean wildlife hide – Strontian – Lochaline – Kingairloch – Strontian – Salen – Acharacle – Mingarry

19th September 2016: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Strontian – Lochaline – ferry to Fishnish (Mull) – Loch Don – Grasspoint – Loch Spelve – Glen More – Loch Scridain – Loch na Keal – Fishnish – ferry to Lochaline (Ardnamurchan) – Strontian – Salen – Acharacle - Mingarry

20th September 2016: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Ben Hiant area – Ockle and Fascadale area – Kilchoan – Ardnamurchan Point – Ardnamurchan Natural History Visitor Centre (Glenmore) – Salen – Acharacle - Mingarry

21st September 2016: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Strontian – Gleann Geal (road south towards Lochaline) – Sallachan rocks – Corran ferry – Fort William – Glen Nevis – Loch Arkaig – Fort William ¬– Lochailort – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Mingarry

22nd September 2016: Mingarry – Kinlochmoidart – Glenuig – Lochailort – Arisaig – Rhu – Arisaig – Portnaluchaig – Morar – Mallaig – Lochailort – Glenfinnan – Loch Eil and Loch Linnhe – Ardgour – Strontian – Salen – Acharacle - Mingarry

23rd September 2016: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Strontian – Corran ferry – Fort William – Spean Bridge – Newtonmore – Kingussie – Insh – Loch Garten – Carrbridge – Fort Augustus – Invergarry – Spean Bridge – Fort William – Lochailort – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Mingarry

24th September 2016: Mingarry – Acharacle – Salen – Strontian – Corran ferry – Glen Coe – Rannoch Moor – Tyndrum – Crianlarich – Loch Lomond – Glasgow

Weather:

The weather was relatively mild with temperatures ranging from 14°C to 20°C and characterised by a mix of sunny and bright conditions and light or heavy rain showers. Thursday 22nd September 2016 was the best day, being sunny and dry throughout, whilst the return journey to Glasgow on 24th September 2016 was undertaken in heavy, driving rain and strong winds.

Highlights:

During my trip, I was able to record 70 bird species (understandably less than my June 2016 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 3 species to my 2016 UK list bringing this up to 212 species recorded: White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle and Crested Tit. I failed to see any of these species during my June 2015 trip to north and west Scotland.

Birds of prey sightings were very good on this trip, albeit I failed to match the exceptional 14 White-tailed Eagles, 6 Golden Eagles, 3 Hen Harriers and 3 Peregrines seen during my trip in September 2015. An extremely close view of a female Merlin, however, was a bonus over and above the species seen last year.

White-tailed Eagle: 1 at Killiechronan on Mull and 2 in Gleann Geal, Ardnamurchan

Golden Eagle: 1 or possibly 2 in Gleann Geal, Ardnamurchan

Hen Harrier: 1 male north of Gleann Geal, Ardnamurchan

Merlin: 1 female perched on a small road bridge on the south shore at the far eastern end of Loch Sunart

Peregrine: 1 in the Loch Spelve area, Mull

Common Buzzard: numerous throughout Ardnamurchan and on Mull

Kestrel: 1 in Glen More, Mull

Sparrowhawk: 1 female at the Lochaline ferry terminal

The other notable birds seen were Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Heron, Little Grebe, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Turnstone, Arctic Skua, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, House Martin, Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Wheatear, Hooded Crow, Raven

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

Otter: 1 near Croggan on Loch Spelve, Mull but unfortunately none from the often reliable sites at the Garbh Eilean wildlife hide near Strontian or the Camus Torsa picnic site just west of Salen

Red Deer: small numbers in the Ben Hiant area and River/Loch Moidart area, Ardnamuchan and at Grasspoint, Mull

Roe Deer: 2 near Banavie north of Fort William and 3 (assumed doe and 2 fawns) near Insh on Speyside

Common Seal: c.5 at the Garbh Eilean wildlife hide near Strontian, Ardnamurchan, c.50 in Loch nan Ceall near Arisaig and 1 off Mallaig

Badger: 2 individuals at an undisclosed site

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

Disappointments:

Weather conditions (strong winds) caused delays and cancellations to the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry service from Mallaig to Armadale and therefore, unfortunately, on this trip a planned day visit to Skye was not possible.

In addition, and for the third year running whilst staying on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, it was not possible to take the Wednesday boat trip on Loch Shiel with Loch Shiel Cruises. Although I have visited the Scottish Highlands nearly every year since 1988, I have still not managed to undertake this trip!

Comments

Photo comment By dave blackwell: great shots richard

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