Thursday, 17 September 2015

Scotland - A Wildlife Wonderland Part 2

The Safari has the second installment of young Alicia's recent trip to Scotland for you to enjoy today.

My first week in Scotland had been an overwhelming success, so I couldn't wait for the second week which was to be spent on the east side of Loch Ness and was very much in the wilderness –  a haven for wildlife; I've never seen quite so many new species as I did there!

On our first day, we went to Loch Ruthven – an RSPB reserve which is famous for its Slovenian Grebes.

There was a small patch of sand by the loch before you reached the hide, and  we decided to explore it. It was here we saw a strange insect which was approximately 0.8cm wide and 4cm long – rather large, it looked like a fat millipede or centipede however it only had six legs; we have absolutely no idea what it is! A larva of some insect …?

When we reached the hide, we saw many things including a Little Grebe with three young chicks, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Sand Martins, Blue Damselflies and Mayflies. But the highlight came at 6pm when an Osprey appeared on the opposite side of the loch and proceeded to fish right in front of us – although I have seen Ospreys before, I'd never seen one that close and fishing; it was incredibly impressive (even though the Osprey didn't catch anything).

Little Grebe feeding her chick

The house we stayed in was beautiful, situated in woodland and with a huge garden. At the end of the living room was a huge “cathedral” window, overlooking the patio. We had been told that Pine Martens regularly visited  the garden and so we put some peanuts out. For a while only a Wood Mouse took advantage of them but eventually three Pine Martens came out to feed – it was the first time that I'd ever seen Pine Martens and I was struck with how beautiful they were; they came right up to the window, oblivious of the fact four humans and a dog were staring at them from the other side of the glass, in the dark room. I could clearly see the different bib marks and over the course of the week I worked out there were four individuals; at least two of which we thought were youngsters.

Pine Marten eating peanuts

The next day we went to RSPB Loch Garten, home to Ospreys; it was here I saw my first ever Crested tits which I was very excited about! We also saw hundreds of Siskins, two Red Squirrels, two Osprey, many corvids, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue tits, Great tits, Wood pigeons, Great spotted Woodpeckers and much more! We were told about a valley where we might see many different sorts of raptors so we decided to go there later on. In the valley we did see lots of different birds, including more corvids, a Red Kite, three Golden Eagles and two Hen Harriers, as well as a Roe Deer and a baby Hedgehog!

In the evening when we were back at the house, but before it was dark, we saw a Pine Marten feeding on the peanuts – it was very special to witness; and I got some photos of it too!

On Wednesday we went to Cawdor Castle gardens to do some macro photography and see the beautiful flowers and the insects which feed from them. The gardens are hugely varied and very colourful and it was great to see so many invertebrates; especially bees and hoverflies, feeding on the plentiful nectar supply. A hum of bees wasn't the only thing we saw, we also saw a swarm of black beetles, a bike of wasps, a plethora of hoverflies and in general a flight of insects and invertebrates!

As we went along the coast we also saw three Dolphins when looking towards Chanonry point as well as Arctic Terns, Redshank, Ringed Plover and gulls. In the evening we watched our Pine Martens, a Bank Vole and a Wood Mouse from the window in the cottage! This destination was already proving to be just as wildlife-packed as the last, and I was enjoying every moment of it!

A Bumblebee

Black Beetle

The next day, Thursday, we returned to Loch Ruthven to see if we could see any other wildlife gems – particularly the Slovenian Grebe that had eluded us on our previous visit. Once again I saw Little Grebes, Mallard, gulls, Tufted Ducks and many more -  we saw the Osprey fishing again which was just as impressive as it had been the first time. After some waiting I finally saw the Slovenian Grebe – another first; although it was very far away, it was still very beautiful – apparently the pair had three chicks there which had been spotted that very morning, sadly we didn't see them. We were in the middle of watching the Grebe, mesmerized by following where it was diving, when suddenly a Peregrine Falcon flew out of the wood that surrounded the Loch and started skimming the water, trying to flush up the waterbirds – it flew just metres in front of the hide. I've never seen a Peregrine Falcon that close in flight before; it was spectacular to watch it hunting and to have such an excellent view of its perfectly streamlined body and wings which enable this magnificent predator's amazing speed.

Peregrine flying low across the loch

On our way back from the Loch, we passed a huge herd of Red Deer including a magnificent stag, then when we returned to the cottage that evening, we once again stayed up to watch for the Pine Martens. Our patience was rewarded by all four Pine Martens visiting the garden which was wonderful to see. Furthermore, a young Badger came to eat the peanuts – this was very special because I had never seen a Badger before, so that was another first.

Young Badger

Our last day of the holiday was here, so we ventured to the Cairngorm's Wildlife park; as well as the non-native species there, there were also lots of native species which were taking advantage of the habitat the park provided. We saw Lapwing with chicks, Barnacle Geese, Greylag Geese, Pied Wagtails with chicks, Starlings, a Hare and a Grey Heron. Travelling to the park both there and back was wildlife-filled as well, I saw two Kestrels and three Buzzards. Our last evening at the cottage also supplied us with plenty of wildlife including all four Pine Marten individuals and the young Badger as well as the Vole and Wood mouse who had appeared every evening to take advantage of the food supply.

Overall my holiday in Scotland was a huge success – I saw everything that I wanted to see and more! From Badgers to Buzzards, from Hen Harriers to Hares, from Pine Martens to Pied Wagtails – our holiday really had been a wildlife wonderland. I enjoyed every moment of it, and I don't think I'll be forgetting it any time soon!

Pied Wagtail

By Alicia          Aged 15                                    September 2015

What can you say but wow, isn't Scotland great! The Safari hopes to get up into the northern wilderness sometime next year.
Where to next? Down to earth with a bump or just the nature reserve on a welcome day off tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know if holidays are that exciting and wildlife filled in your outback

1 comment:

cliff said...

Another excellent account of your holiday sightings there Alicia, & what sightings you had!

The Pine Marten photo is really excellent, I've never seen one in the UK, but have had a few fleeting sightings in France. Love the beetle photo too, nicely composed - very artistic.

I'm very envious of the Crested tit, Golden Eagle & Dolphin sightings, all three of which I'm yet to see.

I enjoyed reading that Alicia, makes me want to go there!