January 11, 2017
We are always amazed at the amount of wildlife around in the winter months. We are extremely privileged to have daily visits from hen harriers, which hunt over the moor directly behind the bunkhouse and regularly quarter the grounds of Achaban in search of a tasty vole. The spring can't come soon enough when we will hopefully be treated to the male sky dancing, and this pair raising young through the summer. On our first walk to Fidden beach, just a mile from Fionnphort we spotted common seals basking on the pink granite rocks, barnacle geese, a mountain hare on the beach and snow buntings – not a bad start!
During November there was a cold spell and the red deer could be seen coming down from the hills in search of shelter and food. We were watching our only sighting of a merlin so far when we discovered that long eared owls were roosting in a belt of trees nearby – a very exciting day!
Our next beach visit was to Ardanalish Bay, one of many such walks tempted by the stunning long sandy beach with interesting geological outcrops and views to the Paps of Jura and Colonsay. We were treated to a small pod of bottlenose dolphins hunting in the shallows for at least an hour. Also at the beach and on the fields were golden plovers, ringed plovers, lapwings, greylag geese and in the water, a great northern diver as well as a lazy seal bobbing around in the breakers. On a subsequent walk flocks of redwings and fieldfares had joined the party.
Our next adventures were on the north coast of the Ross taking a walk to Camus Tuath, a small inlet of pink granite only accessible by a 1.5 mile walk over moorland or from the sea. We had an excellent sighting of a white-tailed eagle and ravens feeding on a carcass on the way. Another two mile hike to nearby secluded Market Bay (Traigh na Margaidh), was worth it just for the views of a clear turquoise sea; this was where the cattle were landed from Tiree on their way to market. Wildlife spotted included a female hen harrier, snipe, kestrel, greylag geese, black throated diver and a red deer stag.
We have also established our bird feeders in the bunkhouse garden, much to the delight of the local bird population which includes the usual suspects of blue tits, great tits, coal tits, chaffinches, blackbirds, starlings and an unusually shy robin. We are pleased to have four greenfinches visiting regularly as their numbers have been devastated by trichomonosis and we have also seen yellowhammers, tree creepers, long tailed tits and waxwings. Most days the sparrowhawk flies through the garden, scattering the small birds into the safety of the hawthorn bushes and a pair of kestrels are often to be seen hunting on the fringes of Loch Pottie
Our new year wildlife spotting got off to a great start on New Years day with a sighting of a white-tailed eagle as we all gathered for the traditional New Year Shinty Match which is a great event. This was followed by our first sighting of an otter in Loch Pottie; we cant wait to find out what spring time will bring!