Walking in Glen Coe

The past two weeks have been the easter holidays, which I was very happy about. A two weeks of freedom to explore wherever and whenever I want! My family and I had a walking holiday planned in the first week in Glen Coe, an amazing part of the Scottish highlands. The area is famous for it's beautiful scenery, formed millions of years ago by volcanic action. The area's geology is protected by the Lochaber Geopark.

On the way I did some backseat birding, of which the highlights were a flock of 30-40 Fieldfare flying over and numerous Buzzards circling above us. As we got nearer to where we were staying, the scenery became more and more striking. Waterfalls tumbled down rocky slopes, cutting a white line through the scree. Sharp ridges topped steep mountains, like knives pointing up to the sky. The entire area seemed untouched, an amazing miracle of nature. I couldn't wait to get out to explore the area deeper on our first day of walking.

Our first walk was very enjoyable. Starting at sea level by Loch Leven, we followed a track up to the top of Mam na Gualainn. In the birch forest near the loch, I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on a tree,  as well as seeing a lovely male Chaffinch. as we ascended the trees were left behind us, and we were treated to stunning views across the lake to the craggy mountains on the other side.


After a steep climb, we stopped for a break near the first peak. Meadow Pipits darted around us, flashes of brown and white, and a lonely Buzzard drifted slowly over our heads. Soon we were back on our way, walking towards the peak of Beinn na Caillich, the highest point on our walk. We saw Skylarks and Meadow Pipits on this stretch, but the birds were few and far between, so instead I focused on the lichens and mosses under my feet. I was amazed by the sheer diversity of the plants; I had no chance of identifying all of them, especially seeing as I had never really focused on them. My favourite was the Sphagnum moss. I was mesmerised by the all different colours, varying from bright green to deep red.



I also managed to find some matchstick lichen, sheltered by a rock in the path.


The highlight of the walk must have been when we were having our lunch. We had stopped below a ridge that twisted up ahead of us. I was halfway through my sandwich when a head popped up above the ridge. On this head were two fine antlers - those of a Red Deer. He climbed over the ridge and stood there on the horizon, sniffing the air. Then, suddenly two more heads appeared. These were joined by more, and more, and more. In the end, there were seventeen Red Deer ahead of us. They then ran down the slope into the valley, where they disappeared, leaving behind them only a trail of hoofprints and some wonderful memories.

After we reached the peak of Beinn na Caillich, we descended down onto the West Highland Way and into Kinlochleven, where the walk ended.

On the next day, we went to the Isle of Lismore for a walk around the island. I was excited to see if I could spot any migrant birds, however, unfortunately, I wan't allowed to take the camera as the weather was very bad. On the ferry over I spotted a Guillemot darting over the waves, as well as lots of Cormorants sat drying their wings on the small rocks we passed. When we arrived I spotted a lovely Wheatear feeding on the beach and car park near the jetty, my first of the year! As we continued on through the wind and rain I managed to find many more, with the final total reaching five. Other interesting birds were eight Hooded Crows, my first in the UK, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers feeding in the sea.


The final walk started in Strontian, and headed up the valley towards Ariundle NNR. On our way we spotted lots of common birds, such as Long-tailed Tits and Chaffinches. At one stop, I saw two birds flying above us. I checked with my binoculars to discover they were Hooded Crows. We also encountered a small group of four Red Deer.

Ariundle NNR was quiet - it is protected as it is home to rare butterflies, which were not out, as well as Scottish Wildcats, Otters and Pine Martens, all of which are very shy. However, the area was beautiful, and I enjoyed walking through it.


Ariundle NNR
Bracket fungus
This walk ended at a small tearoom, where we were picked up. This ended our walking for the holiday, which I was sad about. The next morning we said goodbye to everybody we had met, and headed home. On our way we stopped off at RSPB Loch Lomond to do a quick bit of birding. Walking through the woodland we saw lots of common birds, such as Siskin, Robin, Coal Tit and Chaffinch. Though they are not unusual, they are very colourful and pretty birds.

Male Chaffinch
We then went down to the shoreline, where there is a very old oak woodland. In the summer, this is home to Wood Warblers, Redstarts and Tree Pipits. However, we were not expecting to see any of these birds as it was still very early in the year for them. However, an Osprey had been seen earlier in the morning, so I was keeping an eye out for this. After walking along the shore for a while, we got the end of the wood where there was a small bench. I scanned around the loch - there were a few Mallards, some gulls and a light spot on a tree on the far side that could have been an Osprey but was slightly too distant to tell. I was looking through my binos at some Canada Geese on the far bank, when I looked up to see an Osprey flying just above us! I managed to get a couple of alright photos, but I was mainly just very pleased to have seen it - it was my first of the year, and I hadn't had such good views for quite some time.

Osprey
I have also seen and ringed some very nice birds nearer home since I last posted. These are my favourite photos from recently:

Canada Goose at the pond. Part of a pair, the first I had ever seen there.
Coltsfoot flower
Garden Spider 
Garden Spider
Garden Spider
Jay
Song Thrush
Unidentified fungus
Siskin



Comments

  1. Great post Louis. Sounds like a lush trip. I do love to walk myself...taking in all around. Makes me feel good. Love the pic of the Jay "in the hand". Must have been brilliant to see that species close up. Sadly, being a corvid, they tend to fly off when they see us humans !

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