Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Thu 26 Aug 2010 Isle of Coll

The other day I discovered that the ferry times from Oban on a Thursday allow you a full day on Coll.  I resolved to go on the next fine Thursday, and when Thursday came it was as fine a day as ever you could wish for...

Rubha nan Gall lighthouse, Mull

...apart from a bit of mist early on.  Basking Sharks were seen here.

Treshnish Isles from Coll Ferry

Treshnish Isles

Rum from Coll Ferry


Coll from Ferry


Sea inlet north of Arinagour

The ferry lands at Arinagour on the east side of Coll, from where I took the road west across the island.  The road goes alongside this sea inlet for a while after leaving Arinagour.  Until you reach the west coast, it is all open country with rocks and heather, stunning at this time of year with the heather in bloom.

Bagh an Trailleach, Coll

On reaching the west side there's a dramatic change of scenery - miles of empty beaches behind acres of dunes.  The red plants here are Orache and the ones with purple and white flowers in the distance are Sea Rocket.  Sea Mayweed is flowering in the centre foreground.

Cakile maritima

Sea Rocket, with the Marram-covered dunes behind.

Beach from dunes, Coll

View of the beach from the dunes.

Helicella itala   Helicella itala

The Western Heath Snail, which I'd not seen before, is very numerous on the dunes, often sealing itself high up on a Marram stem to bleach in the sun.

Helix aspera, trail in sand

The Garden Snail is also common here, so it's a great place if you're a fan of big snails.  Sometimes they make long trails through the sand.

Crex crex

No shortage of food for the Corncrake then, snails being pretty easy to catch I would imagine.  I nearly trod on the bird without seeing it.  It allowed one photo, then flew over the next dune to an alternative skulking place.

Mymeleotettix maculatus   Trypocopris vernalis

The Mottled Grasshopper is also very numerous on the dunes, but a lot harder to catch than a snail or indeed than any other Scottish grasshopper.  It was the only species I hadn't seen and it's far more nervous than the other 3 (or 4 if you count the Groundhopper), so this was as close as I could get.

The Spring Dumbledor is the sand-dune equivalent of the Dor Beetle that we find in the woods.  Its wing cases are smoother and it often has a greenish iridescence rather than the blue of the Dor Beetle, though it can also look blue.

Hipparchia semele on Cakile maritima

The island butterfly population seemed to consist of nothing but numerous Green-veined Whites, until I saw this Grayling settle on a Sea Rocket flower.  The pic also shows the distinctive fruits of this plant.

Hygrocybe conica   Taphrina alni

A couple of fungi: an early Blackening Waxcap from the dunes, and an Alder Tongue fungus spotted on the way back to the ferry.

Emberiza schoeniclus

This young Reed Bunting was on a wall beside the road.  Other birds of interest were Sanderlings on the beach, Ravens on the high dunes, and Twite on the machair.

Sunset, Mull

A glorious day out, but the ferry ride back was the best bit yet, sheer spellbinding magic.  7.30-10.10 pm, watching the sun sink into the sea off Mull, then while the western sky was still glowing bright the full moon rose above Morvern.  Gannets plunging, terns gliding, rafts of auks near the boat.  Hot meals and drinks available below decks, but how do you tear yourself away from the ever-changing pattern of islands and wisps of cloud?  Then weaving into Oban through navigation lights of various colours and blink-rates as the stars popped out one by one overhead.  I can't believe any voyage in the world beats that.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer