Richard Smart - Nature Photography

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      Ardnamurchan a wildlife paradise

The area around Resipole our base for 10 days.
(First two weeks of May 2011)
"You know its going to be a good holiday when within a couple of hours of arriving you see your first otter"!

Ardnamurchan, familiar enough on the shipping forecast but how many people know it is a peninsular lying between Skye, Muck, Eigg and Rum to the north, and Mull, Tiree and Coll to the south.
It stretches west so far that you feel you are on an island amongst the others when there, and remember it is the most westerly point on mainland Britain, (further west than Lands End).

Loch Sunart and our campsite.

Common Whitethroat

Loch Sunart forms the southern boundary of the peninsular.  This is reckoned to be the most beautiful loch in all Scotland.  I see no reason to disagree.
Wildlife here abounds in all its forms, rich in marine life, bird life, mammals, trees and flowers it delights anyone interested in nature.
Left is Loch Sunart showing our campsite at Resipole. Either side of the loch is rich in mixed woodland predominately oak.

The campsite is set against beautiful oak woods.

Towards the rear of the campsite backing up against these woods were self catering log cabins for rent.  Speaking to one of the regulars in one of these I was fascinated to hear that they put out jam sandwiches for the local pine martens and spend many a night watching these scoff greedily.  (I have heard that peanut butter is a great bait too).  I looked for Redstart along these woodland edges but drew a blank.  Also I was surprised not to hear any Chiff Chaffs.  There were hundreds of Willow Warblers but virtually no Chiff Chaffs.  Eventually I found one singing.

Mornings and evenings proved perfect for Otter. A dog otter came from the far side of the loch regularly looking for love no doubt and a female with two kits moved back and forth along the shingle.  All of these could be seen regularly fishing just off shore.  Ten nights and seven sightings - not bad.

Common gull

There were about three common sandpipers that spent their time flitting back and forth across the shingle in front of us.

The first observation of note was the predominance of common gulls on the foreshore.  Herring and lesser black backed were many fewer.

Common sandpiper

Rock pipit

Pied and White Wagtails were busy on the rocks and in the fields catching insects.

Ringed plover

Rock pipits were everywhere and a couple of ringed plovers patrolled the water's edge feeding.  A pair of Rock Pipits were feeding young in a nest in the gabions under the slipway next to the campsite entrance.

White wagtail

Sanna bay, just about as beautiful as it gets. White sand and very few people.
Sanna bay is at the tip of Ardnamurchan on the northern side and is beautiful. We arrived at the car park and settled to eat our lunch. There right in front of us were four Twites searching the dusty area behind the dunes.  Also there were Wheatears and a Thrush with the loudest song that reached far across the bay.

Mooching about amongst the rocks we found three Whimbrels and several Ringed Plover.

A good sighting was a couple of Great Northern Divers in the bay about 30 yards offshore. Close enough to see well but not close enough to get a really good picture.

Great Northern Diver

We were right in the heart of Sea Eagle territory but so far no sightings.  Very frustratingly I heard reports of a Sea Eagle seen from the hide near Strontian and another report of one over the campsite.  Neither time were we there of course.

And Golden Eagles, them neither.


Sanna Bay - looking south west.
Just around the headland is Ardnamurchan point and the lighthouse.


Red Deer

Right: On our way to Sanna bay we stopped for a quick scan and to look at Skye in the background.  We had a good view of about 50 Red Deer; these for no apparent reason suddenly started to race down the mountain side to the dismay of a couple of car drivers who sensibly stopped well back to let them cross the road.

Sedge Warbler


But, much more interestingly I noticed a very pale bird about 3/4 mile away.  Bins. up and yes it was a male Hen Harrier, just over the rough patch in the picture above.  Three days later we passed the same spot and my wife said she would find my Harrier for me.  Sure enough it was there again but this time it was displaying with a female.  I don't think they were actually passing food but they were linking talons and doing impressive aerobatics.
We watched them for about 15 mins. after which they went behind the headland - left.

At Alchoan on the way back a Sedge Warbler sang loudly outside the post office.

The Sound of Mull and Kingairloch

Mull across the Sound. Tobermory, a hot spot for Sea Eagles is just to the right.


These cam whizzing around from behind some rocks and I just about got the camera on them.  Then a rather larger bird appeared from behind the same rocks, viz.


Wild Garlic

Red Breasted Mergansers at Kingairloch
Ardery nature reserve, nr. Strontian

Looking at the lichen, moss and ferns growing on the trees one can imagine the amount of rain the area must suffer.  But, if you go to Scotland you must be prepared for a bit of "soft" weather as they call it.

We got lovely views of a Wood warbler here.  He was singing his heart out and with the sun catching him amongst the oaks he was a beautiful sight. Camera in the car of course.

In conclusion.
Everywhere we went there were Cuckoos calling; for a lot of us now this is a rare event.  We ducked out on both Eagles but you do need a reason to go back.  Next time - Eagles, Pine Martins, can't wait.
Species seen:

Gloucester to Penrith stopover:
Tree Sparrow
Carrion Crow
Pied Flycatcher
Song Thrush
Stock Dove
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Red Legged Partridge

Penrith and Scotland:
Common Gull
Common Sandpiper
White Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
House Sparrow
Hooded Crow
Herring Gull
Wood Warbler
Red Breasted Merganser
Eider Duck
Willow Warbler
Great N. Diver
Red Throated Diver
Hen Harrier
Marsh Tit
Rock Pipit
Black Headed Gull
Sand Martin
Gt. Black Backed Gull
Black Guillimot
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Greylag Goose
Mistle Thrush
Tawny Owl
Collared Dove
Coal Tit
Rock Dove
Manx Shearwater
Sedge Warbler
House Martin
Grey Wagtail
Tree Pipit
Chiff Chaff