Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Mon 3 Dec 2007 Taynuilt - stuck indoors with a cold but nipped out for a swift walk to the pier and back - to my amazement saw a Kingfisher flash across the lagoon between the pier road and the shore.  Obviously a winter wanderer, perhaps from Eastern Europe, where they are migratory.  It was the first one I'd seen north of Kent.  They do breed on the east side of Scotland right up to Inverness, but seem very out of place on the west coast.

Tue 4 Dec 2007 Dunstaffnage - despite my cold I was determined to go to the SWT Dragonfly talk by Pat Batty at the Marine Lab, and was very glad I did as it was a goldmine of valuable information.  There'll be no excuse if I don't get photos of a few new species next summer.  Of the 21 established Scottish dragonfly species, 20 are found in Argyll and 18 of those within about 6 miles of where I live.  (The other two are on Rannoch Moor, and the one that's completely missing from Argyll is restricted to the Cairngorms).

Sun 9 Dec 2007 - Talking of Rannoch Moor, this is how it looked today as I drove up to Glencoe. (this is not a black and white photo!)

Rannoch Moor

Mon 10 Dec 2007 Inverawe - still recovering from the cold but put in a short walk, not much energy for photos though.

View NE up Loch Etive from Inverawe

View up Loch Etive from Inverawe.  Haven't worked out the names of the mountains in this direction yet.

Wed 12 Dec 2007 Ellenabeich - went to my first meeting of the burgeoning Seil Natural History Group, which now has one indoor talk and one outdoor field trip each month, winter and summer.  Tonight's talk and slide/video show was entitled "A Journey to the Treshnish Isles" by Robert Rae, and gave a mouthwatering glimpse of the various islands that are not too far from here if only one can get to them...

Sat 15 Dec 2007 Seil to Jura - today was my first outdoor SNHG meeting, a boat trip skippered by David Ainsley of Sealife Adventures.  We were very fortunate to have a dry day with a moderate southerly breeze.  Even without the birds it would have been an unforgettable voyage among atmospheric uninhabited islets and skerries and long wooded coasts of larger isles with not a house to be seen.  An exhilarating experience of wildness - you'd be hard put to find a trip anywhere in the world that felt more remote from habitation.

And we got a commentary on the history and legends associated with all the places we saw, and best of all we were kept supplied with mugs of tea - essential not for thirst but for warming the hands!

Ballachuan from Seil Sound

We set out from Balvicar and headed south through the Seil Sound, taking us past the Ballachuan Hazelwood nature reserve shown above.  Though dry the weather was dull so the photos aren't up to much I'm afraid.

Phalacrocorax aristotelis

This is Cleit Skerry, with about 60 Shags (and the odd Cormorant) on it.  It lies in the triangle of water between Seil, Luing and Torsa.

Phalacrocorax aristotelis & P carbo   Ardea cinerea

Here are some of the Shags close up, with an immature Cormorant, the large pale-fronted bird.  The Heron in the RH pic was on an adjacent rock.  In this patch of water tides from three directions meet, producing dramatic effects like the abrupt boundary between smooth to rough water visible in the Heron pic  The turbulence brings sea creatures near the surface which is why so many birds congregate here.  There's a good description of the tidal complexities on Electric Scotland.

Caisteal nan Con   Rockface, Jura

After rounding Cleit we continued down the east side of Torsa, passing the Castle of the Dogs (above left), the remains of a old clan fortress built onto a natural rock outcrop.  We continued south between Luing and Shona.  We saw a flock of about 25 Lapwings wheeling over the southern end of Luing.  We then made our way along the coast of Jura, much of which is wooded with a variety of trees including pines.  The RH pic shows a steep rock slab on the Jura coast, with lines of a paler material running through it, possibly quartz.

Haliaeetus albicilla   Eagle watching in Sound of Jura   Haliaeetus albicilla

Careful perusal of the trees was eventually rewarded by the silhouette of a Sea Eagle.  It wasn't close enough for usable photos; I'm just including these as a memento.  Later we watched a pair of Sea Eagles in the air, flying right over the boat at one point.  We also saw two Golden Eagles, and had good views of Red Deer and Feral Goats on the Jura coast.

Sea spray in Gulf of Corryvreckan   Bealach a'Choin Ghlais

We are now in the Gulf of Corryvreckan, between Jura and Scarba.  The LH pic shows what happens when wave meets rock here.  At the north end of Scarba we went through an equally notorious tide-race known as the Grey Dogs, between Scarba and Lunga.  The RH pic looks back at the narrow channel.

Phoca vitulina   Petasites fragrans

After sailing up the west side of Luing, we passed through the Cuan Sound where we saw this Common Seal on the southern tip of Seil.  We disembarked at Balvicar having enjoyed an enthralling "Sealife Adventure" and all eager to come back for more.

Winter Heliotrope (above right) was in full bloom in waste ground opposite Balvicar Golf Course car park.  It's an introduced relative of the native Butterbur and has a pleasing vanilla scent.

Back in Oban I found the first sign of Spring in the form of the tiny Spring Whitlow-Grass (Erophila glabrescens) flowering in a pavement crack by the bus shelters.  Last year it didn't show any white till Feb 20.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer