It was time to go to The Newt again, this time not focussing on the Roman Villa (3’37” video), as I had on my four previous visits, last year. On Sunday morning I walked mainly in the deer park and woodland. I took over 100 photos. Here are too many of them, especially of deer and moss.
I went upwards, away from the central hub, courtyard and parabola.
As I went along the sinuous raised walkway, known as The Viper, I hoped to see some deer. At first I saw nothing, and then a white patch became clearer. Zooming in with my camera, I realised that there were brown and pale fallow deer there.
There were no leaves on the trees yet, other than those of ivy clinging to their trunks, but there was green moss everywhere. When the sun was out (‘sunny spells’ had been forecast for the morning) it was almost dazzling.
Back in the autumn the red deer had been herded into a large field, off limits to the public, presumably because it was the rutting season. Today they had not been there as I passed it, and I wondered where they were. As I walked through the wood, I saw these few, also out of reach of the public, and wondered where the rest of the herd was.
I had gone off the footpath to get a little nearer to these deer, (though the pictures are heavily zoomed) and as I made my way back to it, I saw that there were many more ahead of me.
Lunchtime was approaching. I could have bought a small something at the Cyder Barn.
I could have bought a hot waffle with apple caramel sauce.
I had other plans. With a few minutes to spare, I made for the cottage garden.
Through the gap in the wall on the way, I saw that I could have had an ice cream. I was surprised the selling point was open. I was less surprised, given the temperature, that there was no trade.
My reservation time approached and I approach the Garden Café via the Parabola, and its hundreds of apple trees awaiting spring.
This was the view from my table as I enjoyed my meal.
Tuesday, 13th September. Today, having passed through Fort William, we went down the eastern side of Loch Linnhe (pronounced ‘Linnie’) to its narrows, where we crossed the loch by the Corran ferry, enjoying the view of the lighthouse on the other side.
After the narrows the sea loch is much wider. We followed it southwards.
At one stop along the loch I was pleased to have my 2007 Open University geology revised. I had never realised that Ben Nevis was an extinct volcano.
We left the Linnhe at one point to visit a small lochan (that’s tautologous) with a very long name in Gallic.
Back beside the Linnhe, I was delighted to see a seal come in to cavort in the rocks and weed. It was some way away, and rather difficult to photograph, but these are my two best pictures.
Our packed lunch was taken at Kingairloch,
from where we made our way inland on the Morvern peninsula to Lochaline, on the Sound of Mull. We had on the way passed Loch Whisky and Gleann Gael. [Linguistic note!: I wrote ‘Whisky’ in my notebook, because that’s what I thought I was being was told, being assured that it was its real name, and that ‘whisky’ means ‘water’ in Gallic. I was being teased to a certain extent. On the map I find it is spelt ‘Loch Uisge’. And ‘uisge’ does indeed mean water, ‘uisge beatha’, the water of life, being the Gallic for ‘whisky’.]
We walked away from the Sound, and made our way a short distance along Loch Aline off it, past a fascinating sand mine and its works.
There was some waste sand lying around. On picking it up we could see and feel just how very white, fine and soft it was, quite unlike any I had encountered on a beach.
I would love to have had a visit round the works, not to mention the mine itself!
We walked on.
I then got absorbed into the next activity and totally forgot to take any photos of it. There were literally hundreds of ‘devil’s toenails’ on the beach. David collected several. Devil’s toenails are fossils of bivalves, gryphea, about two inches, 5 centimetres, long. And here’s a (copyright-free) picture of one found on the internet..
Time to go home the way we came.
This evening a pine marten visited even before our meal, so it was possible to get some semi-daylight pictures through the glass.
I had been to Strathdearn on my visit to the area two years previous. I had been on my own and had had the good fortune to encounter there a couple of practised birders. On Monday 14th June, the location was one of the options on the programme, so I was able to benefit from the expertise of Richard, one of the Grant Arms Hotel‘s list of local guides. The meeting point was a car park ten miles along the Strathdearn/Findhorn Valley, where I took the obligatory photos looking ahead,
We were some ten people from the hotel. Almost as soon as we were gathered, a herd of at least 20 red deer arrived. I was a little careless as I took the photo. They were at a considerable distance, but I should have held stiller. I include this merely for the record.
We also got a brief glimpse of an osprey, but not good enough for a photo.
It was blowing an absolute gale, a really cold one at that, and at times it was raining. Like several others I am afraid I just sat in my car for much of the time, and emerged only when I saw a brave few huddled over the roadside verge. They were examining two plants,
a heath spotted orchid, and this pretty, innocent looking thing, a butterwort.
Not so innocent. It is insectivorous, as a closer look at these sticky leaves shows.
After an hour or so alternately shivering outside and warming up inside my car, I gave up. I imagine the others were continuing with Richard to Burghead in the afternoon, but I had booked on to a different outing. I made my way back along the Findhorn Valley, admiring the views once more, and occasionally stopping to take photos when it was safe to stop in the passing places along the single-track road.
The art deco Findhorn Bridge at the beginning of the valley is interesting.
The inscription explains, ‘This bridge was built in 1926 to replace the bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1833’.
I had plenty of time before I was due at the meeting spot for the afternoon’s outing, so I stopped off at a hotel in the village of Carr Bridge for a coffee. I had to sign up for the Cairngorms own Track and Trace system and not to forget to sign out as I left.
Continuing on my way, I tried to capture the beauty of the distant mountains, some with occasional snow.
I was heading for the Insh Marshes RSPB reserve, and passed of over Loch Insh. It seems to be best known for its water sports activities, but I saw none of those, I’m pleased to say, and had the road bridge to myself when I took these, with not an activity in sight in either direction.
There’s a bit of a breeze, but it wasn’t cold here.
I was very early at the meeting place, ate my banana and wandered around a just a little.
I didn’t want to leave the beaten track, but just enjoyed the wildflowers on the verges, the sheep and the views. Not to mention the smidgeon of sun.
As I’ve said before, I do like a clump of flowering grasses.
It turned out that I was the only customer for this afternoon’s outing, so we were just three, Nigel Marven, Sue W of the hotel, and me. We went to a lookout. I was pleased to have expert company. I would have spotted nothing in these marshes without them.
But with their eyes, I was able to see at a great distance, (my camera is on maximum zoom here) a greylag goose and goslings (and more geese),
and a roe deer.
We also saw a redshank, but my photo of that is so poor it does not even merit being included for the record. We came down from the viewpoint and started making our way to a ground level hide. Nigel went on ahead, and came back with…
… a dung beetle. No, until a few days earlier I did not know that the UK had dung beetles. Though ours do not gather and roll along those balls of faeces you see on the nature documentaries about Africa, and indeed which I have seen there, most recently in Morocco.
On the way, we saw, among other things, a small heath butterfly,
common rock roses, and
and birch polypore fungus.
Once installed in the hide, we were delighted to see very close a family of curlews. A parent,
and a parent and a chick.
In fact there were two very attentive parents and three growing chicks, but it was not possible to capture all five together. Sue was very pleased to see that there were indeed still three chicks, the same as the last time she had been there a couple of weeks back, and they were very adventurous now.
Over in the distance was a buck roe deer.
As I drove back to the hotel I was taken aback to see this. Only on my return did I learn that it was a significant historical monument, the Ruthven Barracks, built by George II after the 1715 Jacobite Rising. Had I known, I would have parked up and looked around.
After another delicious dinner at the hotel (here is the menu for that evening, which also included a choice of four tempting sweets),
visiting speaker David Parkin gave a very interesting talk, more so than might be suggested by the title, called ‘Birds and Climate Change’.
This was the end of the official ‘celebrity week’, but I had a further full day to explore the area.
Last November/October, when my friend Mary came down from London for the day, we had planned to visit The Newt in Somerset, but the weather was so appalling that we went to the Haynes International Motor Museum instead, and a fine time we had there too. This Sunday, the forecast being reasonable, I decided to try again, and take advantage of a promotion whereby I could get a year’s pass for the price of one entry.
Hadspen House (back history here, but not updated since 2007) was the home of the Hobhouse family from 1785 until recently. In 2013, South African billionaire, Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos bought the place, including its very extensive grounds, and reportedly spent £50 million pounds on refurbishing it. The complex now comprises a hotel (£350 B and B a night) the Gardens, a small farm, and a cyder (sic) plant. (The Newt’s website does not give the story of the conversion as such, but its The Press gives links to many articles, the most informative, in my view, being those of the Telegraph and the Financial Times. The other accounts seem destined more at those, including the international market, who might be interested in staying at the hotel.)
Having bought my ticket near the car park,
I was directed to the Threshing Barn for further information and the ticket’s conversion into ‘membership’. I saw a modern building, but am now confused as to whether this has just been modernised out of all recognition, or is indeed brand new. The same goes for some of the other buildings.
Coffee was the first requirement, being served in the Greenhouse, it being too chilly for the Cyder Bar to be open.
Over coffee I looked at the plan, and decided to look at the gardens, nearby, before lunch, then take a walk in the more extensive grounds afterwards.
But first a peek at the Mushroom room.
Began my stroll.
Apparently the squirts of water from fish to toad are set off by movement sensors. I didn’t know this, and nearly got a shower on my calf from a small toadlet on a stone by my left ankle as I moved off! So that’s what the blurb meant by, ‘be[ing] careful not to approach the Giant Toad and her children: they have vile tempers!’
Time for lunch. All the dishes, whether vegetarian or not, are named for one of the vegetables grown in the gardens. I had ‘Kale’.
A heavy shower followed my lunch, and I thought I would soon be headed home, especially as every gate out to the parkland I had seen in the morning had been locked, and displayed a notice, ‘Parkland walks will be opening in the summer.’ But the rain stopped quickly and I found that a walk into the deer park, near the café, was open.
At the end of the walkway came this.
To begin with I thought, enviously, that it might be someone’s home. The building was on the plan, but without a label. A young employee emerged, so I asked him. It was the just-opened Museum of Gardening. And here was its door, just round the corner.
The young man asked if I’d seen the deer. I’d forgotten I might. He said I was unlikely now, as they would have departed way over there from their morning hangout near here.
The Museum is to be investigated another time. I went on.
Beyond here was a big gate, with some machinery beyond. I wasn’t sure that I was allowed, or indeed wanted to go on this time. A woman, of about my own age, was approaching from the other side. Did I want to come through? She could let me. I said I was not sure, was thinking of turning round at this point anyway. We chatted, as she clearly knew a lot about the estate. She also asked if I’d seen the deer. There were two herds, red and fallow, the latter very shy indeed. I was bold in my questioning, and found that she was a Hobhouse. My departing ‘Really lovely to have met you’ was heartfelt!
Nearly back at the beginning of my walk, I saw this. On the way out I had assumed it was a bit of fencing due to be placed somewhere. But I now realised it was the top of the Museum of Gardening, a safety precaution!
I looked up, and was surprised to see these does springing up the bank.
They were joined by a buck.
And then by a big buck!
Who wanted me to see his antlers in all their glory!
I took a slightly different route, through some woodland, back to the courtyard.
The Cyder Cellar was not open, but I looked in.
The farm shop definitely was open, and I bought bread, tomatoes and beans.
I shall be returning before long, and plan to follow the gardens and grounds through the seasons. Next time I will get there by 10.30, so that I can do the Garden tour, and have some more questions answered. Another time I will do the Cyder tour.
Sunday, 2nd June. The verdict as to what I should so on my final full day was unanimous: ‘Strathdearn’, they said, which is also known as the Findhorn Valley.
I made several stops along the valley As I got back in the car the first time, ‘Henry’ and ‘Clara’, out for a walk, asked me was I looking for waders. I replied I was looking for anything, in a very amateurish way. The waders were all over the fields they said.
I succeeded in seeing nothing for a while, except some colourful cows,
evidence that sheep had once inhabited this field,
some actual sheep,
and some oystercatchers too far away to get a decent picture. I liked the colours in this newish wall round a farmhouse.
And then it started raining. Many years ago, when I was working in Whitehall on public housing subsidies, it had been alleged to me that it rained sideways in Scotland. Here’s the proof.
It calmed down, and I came to a little layby. ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’ were there with telescopes and heavy rainwear. Of course I pulled in. Birdwatchers always compare notes, though I had nothing to offer. The hope was to see a golden eagle. I stayed just a short while, which they clearly did not think was very professional of me, but I was keen to reach the car park at the end of the road for lunchtime, and I was now only halfway along.
I had stopped at a broad bank and had been watching the first oystercatcher making desultory nest-building moves, before the second came along and appeared to tell her there was no point. ‘Marie’ and ‘Hamish’, who said they were keepers (self-appointed or not, I was not sure) came along in a Landrover, and said they were concerned that a pair of dippers had been disturbed ‘just under that bridge’ in their nest-building recently. They seemed satisfied that I was not guilty and after some pleasantries drove on in the direction I had come from.
I continued on my way, and just before the car parking area, I encountered this meadow pipit, with caterpillar.
This was my view as I sat in the car starting to eat my lunch. I was really, really hoping to see a golden eagle or some other raptor.
Then I stopped chewing, because I could see two tiny protuberances at the top of the mountain. With my binoculars I saw this.
I was spellbound.
In due course ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’ came along, and asked me if I had seen the ravens. (As it was ‘Jock’ who asked me, I had to ask three times what he was asking, his accent was so strong.) The ravens were way up on a hillside behind me. I had been so mesmerised by the red deer (and nice and warm in the car as I ate) that I had not yet turned round to see them, on a far horizon.
I learned that ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’ came up to the Highlands from Dunfermline and Airdrie as often as they could to look for birds.
All of a sudden ‘Jack’ got very excited. ‘I don’t believe it!’. He had just been idly looking through his telescope, and there was … a ring ouzel. I had never seen one in my life, and I had previously met people who had travelled many miles unsuccessfully to see one. It is a mountain relative of the blackbird, and has a white bib. I was invited to to look at it through their telescope. I then tried to find it with my camera, in vain. So I took some general pictures of the gully, hoping I might pick the bird out on screen later.
Here’s one of the photos.
And yes, the bird is there. Yes it is. Here is a tiny segment of the main photo, enormously enlarged.
And here’s a tiny segment of another photo.
Clearly there is a blackbird with a white bib.
I was chuffed! Thank you ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’. I’d never have seen either it or, probably, the ravens had you not been there. But that’s the birdwatching world (of which I do not count myself part). They love sharing their sightings.
Another car came along, but I was moving on. I had more plans. Again using the map and information provided by the hotel, I was making for RSPB reserve Loch Ruthven. But not before this common gull had greeted me beside my car.
And I had zoomed in on this ruin back along the Findhorn Valley.
There was what turned out to be a very narrow one-track road over some moorland to get to the reserve. The sun was coming out, and it made this ‘blasted heath’ a little more attractive.
The road was only 7 miles long, but it took a while to travel it. There was a delightful small loch at the end of it, Loch Farr. But I stopped only long enough to take a picture of it, as I had a few more miles more to do.
This was the view as I parked the car at RSPB Loch Ruthven.
And these a couple of views as I walked along the path to the hide.
THE bird to see there is the rare Slavonian grebe. Half the UK’s breeding population is found at this loch. (I know, there are countries called Slovakia and Slovenia, but no Slavonia. I don’t know why the grebe is so-called! … Ah, I do now. Spellcheck didn’t underline the word, so I thought I’d better look it up. Slavonia is a region in Croatia. So now I know. Well, I still don’t know how the bird got its name. In the US it’s called the Horned grebe.)
Anyway, I didn’t see any. Neither did ‘Janet’ and ‘John’, who were already in the hide, and didn’t say hello. They left after after ‘Janet’ said to ‘John’, ‘Shall we give up?’ I was happy just to sit there and see
and various other birds of which I didn’t get decent photos, and to enjoy this abstract.
As I left, ‘Nick’ came in. We exchanged shy smiles and as I made my way back along the pretty path I found my self thinking, ‘I’m sure I’ve met him before. Is he on the telly, or is he in in the Somerset Wildlife Trust?’ I didn’t work it out.
USA 2018 (6), JacksonHole, afternoon. After lunch in its restaurant, we had a guided tour, by a volunteer, of some of the exhibits at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Not nearly long enough for many of us, but much better than nothing, a really beautiful museum. There were sculptures and paintings, inside and outside. (Brrrrr – we had divested ourselves of outerwear!) Here are just a few that particularly caught my eye, with references where I noted them.
Moose (American), elk (English)
This dramatic picture of a bison coming out of the mist occupied a whole wall. I’m tempted to think that the mist is that of the thermal heat in Yellowstone which we were to see later.
Sir Edwin Landseer, ‘The Deer Pass’ 1852. who saw a sphinx in the mountain behind the deer. But did he get the colour of the deer/elk right?
‘Long Island Frog’, 1860 by Shepard Alonzo Mount
‘Pas de Deux’, 1975 by Robert F Kuhn
‘Old Baldface’ c. 1935, by Carl Rungius. (Bears are in a kind of hibernation at this time of year, so we saw none.)
‘The Gangmaster’, c 1020, by Carl Rungius (German)
‘Combat des cerfs’, 1910, Georges Gardet (French)
(Hastily taken as we left) ‘Little Bear’, 2015, by Nicola Hicks, (British)
‘Midnight Serenade’, Robert F Kuhn
I don’t have details for this picture, but even when it was painted, Bison no longer roamed the plains in these numbers. The painting occupies a whole wall.
As we left the museum, a few of us saw some mule deer in the distance, so-called because of their huge round ears. Afterwards we were taken to a viewpoint of the Grand Teton Range, sadly, as so frequently, topped by cloud, so not seen in their full splendour. A panoramic view makes a straight road crooked, so here’s a brief video.
It just so happens that this interesting story on the geology of the Tetons, including a fabulous sunrise photo of them clear of clouds, appeared on Facebook yesterday.
Then it was on to the National Elk Refuge. Elk/Wapiti (cervus canadensis) are closely related to our (European) red deer (cervus elaphus). They migrate northwards each year for the winter, and many come to this national refuge where they are safe from hunting.Had there been more snow we would have been taken to see them in horse-drawn sleighs. As it was we went in horse-drawn carts.
After a short time at the Jackson Visitor Center…
Mule deer seen from a viewing platform. See the big ears.
… we returned to our hotel for a short rest, and then went to dinner at another Jackson restaurant. Because I had arrived so late, I had no other chance to see anything of the town, as we were off the following morning northward for good.
Andalucia: non-feline mammals and a few other natural things. In Doñana National Park to start with. This was the first creature of interest we saw, a long way off and in poor light – a wild boar. Later in the week, in the Sierra Morena, we had a good but distant and fleeting view of a large family of boar, great and small.
In both places there were many deer, but horses – in abundance – only in our first location. Everywhere we went there were dragonflies, but they very rarely settled for more than a second or two. This was the only half-decent photo I managed in five days of trying. What follows only happened to us once, but it is a frequent occurrence apparently in the National Park. All out and push! No, we didn’t actually have to push. Our driver and our excellent Doñana Nature guide, Sergio, pawed away the sand in front of the wheels, and all was well after a few minutes. The unexpected stop gave me time to look around, and take this photo. I had seen these before, but now I had the chance to ask what they were, each sandy strand about a centimetre wide. The answer was a burrowing beetle cast.
Did we see lynx? The final post in this series will answer that question! Moving on to the Sierra Morena, there was a greater variety of mammals to be seen, but still dominated by deer. We had two excellent sightings of courting mouflon. They are not rare animals, but we were lucky to have two such sightings just minutes apart from each other on our drive. This was sad. We saw many magnificent bulls like this at one point – on farmland, being bred for bull-fighting. Horrible. I had deliberately not been to see Seville’s bullring.
Magnificent red deer stag, the other side of a wire fence
Simon’s eagle eyes spotted this exciting creature for us shortly after lunch. We stood on the dam, the rock ibex (also known as Spanish ibex) being at a very great distance from it.
My camera at maximum (x24) zoom
The same photo cropped and enlarged
It wasn’t around for long, and not everyone even managed to see it before it jumped down. But it was far to far away to have been disturbed by us.
Then we walked through a totally dark tunnel at the other side of the dam, and saw…
… bats roosting. Here are about eight, huddling together, lit by Simon’s head torch.
A single bat. Whether these were Daubenton’s (myotis daubentonii) or Large mouse-eared (myotis myotis) bats, I cannot say, but we saw both. There were several more holes sheltering bats in the tunnel.
Continuing on the afternoon’s drive, we saw more deer…
… including fallow deer. This male has magnificent palmated antlers.
We drove back to the second of the chilly morning’s stopping points, and stood on a bridge there. This is not a Monet painting, and I don’t know what the fish was – but it was big! At the spot where we had awaited the sunrise, we took advantage of the shade of trees to keep out of the now very hot sun. These deer used other means of keeping cool!
Maximum zoom again – it had required binoculars to see what the black smudges were
Cropped and enlarged
Left alone, this one appeared to be throwing around and then eating weed!
Andalucia, El Rocio and Doñana National Park. The Doñana wetlands are the largest in Europe – except that they were almost dry at this time of year, the effect exacerbated by the farmers who take much of the water for irrigation, especially of strawberries. We were staying at the Toruño hotel.
Note the hitching posts
On the wall of the reception area showing the species we might expect to see
The hotel restaurant, over the way from the main building. What appear to be tall hitching posts are bar counters for horsemen!
This was in the small town of El Rocío (‘the dew’), quite the most extraordinary town I have ever visited. It was like driving into the Wild West. When you think of it, the Wild West may well have been modelled on such places in the first place – except that in this case much of the town has only been built from the 1950s onwards,. We were told that it is known as the International Town of the Horse, though my researches since have not been able to find out much about that. But what El Rocio is known for is a pilgrimage, the Romeria del Rocío, at Pentecost each year, which attracts up to a million people. These can arrive on horseback, in horse-drawn carriages and in wagons. For there is no tarmac in El Rocío itself. The ‘roads’ are laid entirely with sand. (Another blogger has written much more fully – and elegantly – about the town here.)
The remaining posts about my trip to Andalucia will be by theme, rather than day by day accounts.
The remains of this one will introduce El Rocío and the National Park, the next the entirely different Sierra Moreno where we spent the second part of our wildlife tour, then the remaining three posts will relate the wildlife we found – and some domestic animals. But back to El Rocío. Internationally known for it or not, it is certainly a town for horses, and there is much evidence of the pride of place given to them. Here are two ordinary ‘roads’ and the sign at the restaurant where we ate lunch at one day.
Yes, cars are allowed
When we got back from a morning drive on the Tuesday, instead of sheltering from the blistering heat, I went out to explore El Rocío for a short while.
I thought I was perhaps the only person about (‘the English(wo)man out in the midday sun’) but these three horsemen greeted me cheerily.
Huge pilgrimage needs huge church
The sign says that in 2001 the Andalucían authorities had declared this species of olive, endemic to the region, a ‘Natural Monument’. (If only all regional declarations in Spain were so benign.)
There were two young cats entertaining us with their antics at each of our two outdoor dinners there, siblings probably, and here is one of them just before we left at midday on the Wednesday. Horses. I had looked round from my meal on the Tuesday evening and seen one of the high bar counters being used! And I took these two photos from the van as we returned from our second morning drive.
The head of the woman exercising the horse at the end of rope in the ring is just visible
El Rocío is right on the edge of the Doñana National Park. These four photos were taken a short walk from the hotel. For most of the year, there is a lagoon hugging the whole of one side of the town. However, we could just see a very distant shimmer of water, all that remains until the rains come. (Nearly two weeks on, I don’t think they have done so yet. And yet my guidebook says that October has one of the highest rainfalls of the year in Andalucia. Climate change?)
Horses are everywhere around the town, and in the National Park, grazing where they can, sadly some of them in an emaciated condition.
Most of the birds were too far away to be well identified.
Two-inch long Egyptian grasshopper, also known as the Egyptian locust, but no threat to crops and vegetation. Here at a wildlife visitor centre.
Lizard with attitude, same place
These remaining pictures were taken out as we explored early in the morning or as the day drew to an end, deeper in the national Park, looking especially for Iberian lynx.
The long shadows are of humans. The flat brown bit would be under water earlier in the season.
And these red deer stags were a distant vision on the ‘lagoon’ just before we left El Rocío.
The two final days at Aigas in one post. Accounting for Thursday will very be short. We drove over to the West Coast of Scotland, to the Loch Ewe and Gairloch areas, returning by way of Loch Maree. Here are a couple of views we saw on the way there, and a very short video.
From these it can be seen that the weather was not exactly ideal, and I have already indicated that I was not well-equipped with bad weather gear. Having had our lunch we walked along the seashore for a while, in a howling gale, hoping to see sea eagles.
The sea and the grass show how windy it was, and I chickened out again, being absolutely frozen, and made my way back to the bus.
It was quite a time before my colleagues returned and I hoped they were having luck with the eagles. They weren’t, but they did see a ‘bonxie’, an Arctic skua, which was a plus.
On the way back to Aigas, we had two unexpected sightings at the same place. The stop was for reasons of nature other than wildlife, and we weren’t expecting to see anything special, but to our surprise we saw there a large group of eider duck, and a red-breasted merganser, swimming on the sea.
This is only part of the group of eider
And it was a treat to see a greenfinch, that increasing rarity in our gardens because of a rapidly spreading disease.
Friday was our last day, and was spent along Strathconon. A pleasant morning:
Meadow pipit with insect
An after-lunch stroll:
Round-leaved sundew. Each trap is no more than a centimetre across
Primroses -in June!
There are both round-leaved and oblong-leaved sundew here
The very same making photos easier
But the best was yet to come. I wasn’t able to get pictures of an osprey perched in a tree, because sadly someone had not understood the instruction to keep within the outline of the bus when we got out, so it was spooked and flew off. But I had been able 30 minutes earlier to get a few pictures of – at last – two golden eagles! Sadly, in terms of wildlife the fact that we saw two of them flying around was not a good thing, because it meant there were no chicks on the nest to be looked after by one parent. But it was a thrill for us.
View from a bridge…
… which was really a hydro-electric barrage
The afternoon’s sightings were completed much nearer our base by some Slavonian grebes and a sedge warbler.
A last drive back to Aigas through the Highlands
Up very early on the Saturday morning for the 8.55 flight from Inverness to Bristol. What will be the next photographic experience I post here? At present I have no idea!
Tuesday dawned sunny and bright, and so it continued until mid-morning. (But that was it for the week.) Today was spent going up and down Glen Cannich and Glen Affric.
Four spotted chaser dragonfly
Spotted heath orchid
The sun abandoned us at this point.
We saw enormous numbers of red deer today, sometimes in huge herds.
Lunch was spent in a howling and rainy gale, (and in my case inside our vehicle!) so I couldn’t get any decent shots of the dam where we had it. Fortunately the wind and rain dropped at about the time we were to set off again. On the way to Plodda Falls we saw this curiosity, a tribute to the man who ‘invented’ the golden retriever.
The Falls were not for those with vertigo!
Just to be clear, we are looking down from the platform at this point
Then we walked about halfway down, and I took this…
… and this.
But I wanted to take the lot, so I set my camera to panoramic. But it will only do vertical or horizontal, so I had to twist my head and take a skewed vertical picture, if you see what I mean.
On the way back to Aigas House, we called in on Aigas Quarry, hoping to see a peregrine falcon’s nest. We didn’t, but I was able to enjoy the geology and some more wild flowers. The stone is micaceous schist, and was used for building one of the many hydro-electricity dams along the glen. (Did you know that a glen is a valley formed by river action and a strath is a valley formed by glacier action? I didn’t either. Glen Strathfarrar clearly has a problem with its identity!)
Someone came across this tiny frog, barely an inch (2.5 cm) long.
(It will be a couple of days or so before the remaining two posts in this series appear.)