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North West Scotland Part 6

I had a long chat with the under keeper for the Inchnadamph Estate first thing which gave me a few more birds of the area like nesting Osprey close by and sightings of various White tailed Eagles to look out for so I drove on to the next valley . This had a bigger car park and a hotel close by as I made my way up along the River Traligill. Again this was a Ring Ouzel valley with birds soon calling and flying over my head. The river was much bigger with plenty of water coming down. On my right was a mix of trees with plenty of Elm which was pleasing to see but the number of Red Deer were everywhere making one bungalow erect a new deer fence to protect the property.

Given that these shooting estates claim they need deer stalking to make ends meet whose deer are causing this damage to so many residents land? Well the answer has to be the estates. So why are they not paying for all this fencing and so how much profit would be then! Interesting to note that the Inchnadamph Estate has just fallen out of favour with Scottish natural History over its National nature Reserve on the estate due to the number of deer the government agency wanted to remove to improve the land! So I am sure if the estates in Scotland were made to pay for these fences because it’s their deer causing the damage we would have a better environment for us to enjoy.

The walk was cut short partly because I had forgotten my map and secondly because I had found a gorge running back down the river. It was not like Corrieshalloch but still it was impressive especially as it had created these step banks which held such a variety of trees well away from the grazing deer. A Song Thrush was in full song here and the classic water birds were buzzing around the area. Additions were Redstart and Redwing with Wheatear and Whinchat along the track. Redwing is a bird that could have colonised many parts of Scotland but in recent years numbers have fallen to an estimate of less than 80 pairs in all.

Loch Assynt was stopped for as a nice castle attracted the hordes but my real goal was Little Assynt and the community walk around the lochs. This was not signed well so I ended up at the tree nursery and started my walk from there. It was a long way from the lochs but it was still nice to see the area flourish from the lack of deer. Trees were mainly Birch with some Aspen and Rowan but plenty of flowering Gorse adding the nitrogen through their roots. There were plenty of Cuckoos, Wiilow Warblers and Tree Pipits but the lochs looked limited even though they are supposed to hold Black throated Diver. The surrounding mountains must have Golden Eagle and passing White tailed Eagle. The area looked good for Merlin as well probable using old Hooded Crow nests to breed in.

But it was soon back on the road and heading for Lochinver. The biggest disappointment here was the price of fuel. It was a lot cheaper than Ullapool where I had filled up!! I had missed my turn here on the minor road to Stoer and low and behold I was stuck behind a static caravan on a low loader. 10mph was the norm with a support vehicle up front stopping the traffic. Its destination was Clactoll where a site was situated just off the road. This was a magical location as I passed it and drove onto a grass verge by Loch an Aigall.

This had everything with machair and a reed bed with a Sedge Warbler singing by the car.

My walk was to cross the machair back to Stoer Bay and back towards the broch. The bay was full of birds with a local telling me the Sand Eels were back! And boy did the Arctic Terns know with many sat on the rocks off the broch with eels pouring out of their bills. All 3 divers were here as well as many Guillemots and Razorbills. The wet bogs along the fields held Snipe and Redshank and the area looked as if Corncrake was possible. Twite and Wheatears were common and the view from the broch was amazing. This is an area if a birder was present all year could certainly pick up some rarities from here!

It was then onto Stoer itself and the lighthouse with a car park and food van. I packed my lunch and headed off first inland and then along the coast. The first thing I found were 2 Dolphins clearing the water but only saw them for a short time. I thought they were Bottle nosed but 2 folk later claimed they were Risso’s due to scaring on their front. I had sat for around 10 minutes waiting for them to come up again with no luck so I missed a treat there. I was amazed only to find 2 sea bird colonies in view one of which was worth the walk but the other was distant and made up mainly of Kittiwakes. Great Skuas patrolled the cliffs and I finally made it for lunch overlooking the ‘Old Man of Stoer’ where 4 climbers were trying to climb it.

Just before my lunch I had seen a party of around 15 meadow Pipits which was unusual itself as all birds were on territory now and this group looked out of place. The second time I flushed them I noticed a Lapland Bunting was with them flying away. I could not find them again so could not sex the bird which was a shame as males are real corkers in summer plumage.

I decided to walk back by the moor with a pair of Great Skuas on territory. The area was very dry and most of the bogs I crossed were easy. A small section of lochans were found with the much bigger Loch cul Fraioch much further to the east. These only had Mallard and Pied Wagtail but the Skylarks were singing Dunlin clips suggesting they are breeding in the area. Golden Plover was another possibility in the area. A Tiger Beetle was a nice find. I did the last section of the coast that I had missed at the beginning of the walk not adding any species but the board back the car park suggested the day was good for cetaceans with both Bottle nosed and Risso’s being seen as well as a Minke Whale!

Night was in the car park along with 2 motor homes but a sea watch out of the wind by the lighthouse gave a first! Not a bird but a thermal out to sea! First of all it was a small group of Kittiwakes using it and they were joined by lots more and even Gannets. Due to water temperatures thermals are not supposed to happen over water only land so this was amazing. I am sure the birds were using it to search for congregations of other sea birds offering good feeding. The sea watch was long as 1 hour in as I had a second thermal and again Kittiwakes using it but no Gannets. The wind direction was from the east so I presume warm air was being blown out to sea for this to happen! Another day awaits!

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