Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Sat 15 Mar 2008 Ronachan Point, Kintyre

Phoca vitulina

A Seil Natural History Group visit to the Isle of Gigha.  We stopped at a couple of places on the way, the first was Ronachan Point where we saw these seals, and the second a bit further down the road.  Both were excellent places for birds and the highlight for me was a Slavonian Grebe in breeding plumage.  But all the birds were too far out for photos.  We had a good lunch in the pub on Gigha and walked around in the rain and cold wind for a bit.  On the way back we got superb views, from the car, of a large flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese in a field.  I'd often seen a small flock of these on Skye but never managed to get anywhere near them, so it was very rewarding to see them up close in all their glory.

Tue 18 Mar 2008 Easdale

A Seil Natural History Group midweek walk, in much better weather than Saturday's outing.

Easdale Ferry   Ellenabeich

The Easdale Ferry - it may look wee but it's only a two-minute crossing!  From the same spot, looking back at the village of Ellenabeich.

Laminaria saccharina   Cochlearia officinalis agg

Just before getting on the ferry I took this pic of Sugar Kelp (Laminaria saccharina) from the slipway.

Easdale Island looks a fascinating place botanically as it is in every other way.  Scurvy-grass, above right, was everywhere, not just by the shore or near water.  Not that anywhere on Easdale is far from the shore, but the plant was further inland than usual, and so was the occasional clump of Thrift.  The Scurvy-grass is just beginning to flower; mostly it's only showing the tighly packed buds which can also be seen in the picture.

There are no grazing animals on the island at present, not even rabbits, so it should be good for flowers - and therefore insects - and therefore birds - in the summer.  A lot of the island consists of slate workings, quarries, some flooded, piles of slate waste, slate railway and foot tracks, not to mention natural slate outcrops and debris.

Slate workers' allotments

This picture is taken looking down on the area where the slate workers' allotments used to be.  The low walls surrounding them can still be seen, and a few of the allotments have been brought back into use by the present-day islanders.  Across the water is Ellenabeich on Seil Island, so you can see how short the ferry crossing is.  Much of Ellenabeich was itself an island at one time but it was joined to Seil by slate waste in the industry's heyday.

In the foreground are Primroses blooming merrily.  These and Celandines provided spots of colour around the island.  Interesting plants recorded were Sea Spleenwort, Intermediate Polypody, Duckweed (will need to check which species in the summer!) and the introduced Creeping Comfrey, which was in flower.  A visit later in the season promises to be productive.

Garbh Eileach from Easdale

It was one of those rare days when distances at sea appear to be shortened.  This is Garbh Eileach, about 5 miles away to the south, and it looked much nearer than it normally does from Luing, though it is actually nearer there than to Easdale.  The small lumps in front of it to the right are the Dubh Fheith rocks, 2 miles away, while behind it to the right is Colonsay, 27 miles distant.

In the foreground is one of Easdale's flooded slate quarries and a lot of slaty beach.

Insh Island from Easdale

This is Insh Island, to the north of Easdale, with Mull behind.

Wheelbarrows at Easdale Ferry

As there are no roads on Easdale the islanders leave their cars at Ellenabeich, and keep wheelbarrows on the Easdale side for carrying the shopping home after bringing it across on the ferry.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer