We started Monday at Dervaig under another glorious blue sky. The Loch there is always worth checking out as it often turns up birds that can be hard to find elsewhere on the island. This visit was to be no different with a pristine Redshank feeding towards the back whilst four pairs of Red Breasted Mergansers were courting a little further across. Common Gulls and my first Common Sandpiper of the year were the best of the rest before we set off for the days main activity which was to be a walk from Dervaig to Quinish Point. We have done this walk a couple of times in the past but it has always been out and back along the same route. This time however we had chosen a new track that would take us through the forestry behind Dervaig and turn it into a nice circular walk. Things got off to a great start almost immediately when we came across two Swallows perched on telephone cables just on the outskirts of the village.
With only a couple of other Swallow sightings so far this spring it was great to get such close views. A little further on and an area of small bushes protected by a low stone wall was clearly an ideal location to raise a family. In the few minutes that we stood and watched we spotted a Wren disappearing into the wall itself and located a beautifully constructed Chaffinch nest made predominantly of moss anchored around a few sturdy sticks. A Coal Tit must also have had a brood in the vicinity as it perched nearby with what looked to be a caterpillar in its beak.
Although not nesting there were also a couple of Willow Warblers hopping through the branches, belting their song out as they went. Considering this is a species that I never seem to be able to photograph I was amazed when one hopped down almost right next to me and continued to sing its little heart out. We were also treated to some great neck twisting as it kept its eye on passing insects.
Eventually I dragged myself away and we started down the wide forestry track. The presence of a sign warning people to look out for any suspicious activity reminded us that we’d had some fantastic views of a White Tailed Sea Eagle in this area last year, and as if on cue one soared across the open sky above us. It looked to be heading away but as on a couple of previous occasions it noticeably changed course to come and investigate our presence. It soared slowly higher until deciding that we were of no interest and went back on its way.
After an encounter like that everything was going to struggle to compete but a constant movement through the trees of Siskins, Goldfinches and even the occasional Treecreeper did their best. For much of the time the going was easy apart from one particularly boggy section, and in no time at all we were on the shores of Loch Mingary enjoying a spot of lunch. The views were spectacular and clearly got a couple of Oystercatchers in the mood if their fervent mating was anything to go by.
From the loch to Quinish Point we were now travelling over open grassland and scrub. As a result the wildlife we encountered switched quite dramatically from tree dwellers to Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and much more varied insect life. One little green butterfly in particular was quite numerous and was a species that we could not readily identify. As it turned out they were Green Hairstreaks, a completely new one for me.
Also dotted amongst the long grass were several Lackey Moth caterpillars. These are by far my favourite caterpillars due to their vivid colours and markings that make its front end look like a giant blue face.
Looking out from Quinish Point we located the fossilised tree that first brought us to this little explored part of the island, but with tiring legs we decided not to pay it a visit on this occasion. We did take the time to scan the sea though and spotted Gannets, a single Fulmar and another Great Northern Diver. The view itself was pretty impressive as well.
From that point on we were back on the route that we know well and soon found ourselves in the mature woodland that surrounds Home Farm. It was all very quiet however, right up until we were set to leave the forest for the final stretch back to Dervaig that is. A bed and breakfast sits just outside the estate boundary there and the sound of a car door slamming must have disturbed at least one slumbering resident as a Tawny Owl came swooping round the corner.
It sat in this tree looking at us until the same car drove off and spooked it back into flight and out of sight. I literally couldn’t believe my luck. Two different owl species in two days and both with crippling views in good light. That’s not to say I wasn’t equally appreciative of the male Siskin that was on a feeder a couple of houses further along of course.
With our muscles suitably exercised we headed back to the house to enjoy another evening watching the Short Eared Owl hunting. If there is a paradise out there then surely this must be it.