Monday, 31 August 2015

Wonderful Scotland (Day 7)

Now into July, we decided to make the trip up to the far north and had a wonderful day.  We drove to Durness, which is pretty much as far as you can go, via an amazing route along a huge glacial valley - the weather hung over our heads providing breath taking views. 


Durness is a tiny place bordering the coast, with a wonderful huge beach backed by sand dunes.

I was particularly keen to see or hear a corncrake, knowing that there were some in the area, so asked in the TIO and was told to take a look in the field behind the SPAR shop!  Armed with this valuable local knowledge, I tracked down a small uncut paddock behind the shop and between a football pitch.  Sure enough, after a few minutes waiting, I heard the crex crex call over that sound of a mower near by.  However hard I tried I could not spot it, but it was fabulous to have my first corncrake experience.

We then drove to the end of the road to the beach and set off on a long walk around the peninsula past the beehive MoD property; the beach was pretty much empty.

We walked over the dunes and, where not grazed, enjoyed the diverse wild flowers including rich machair.  We reached a puffin nesting colony and sat on the cliff top watching these and other sea birds, sitting amongst frog orchids.

Where the dunes had open cliff faces we found a few sand martin colonies - it was great to see these birds in a natural settings, rather than a quarry or artificial bank on a nature reserve.

Walking back to the car we came across this wonderful daisy-lined path on the way down to the beach.


We had parked outside this lovely old barn inhabited by nesting swallows.  Peering in there were years of nests that had accumulated on the beams.  Whilst trying to take images of the swallows, a stoat appeared running across the road dragging a rabbit carcass back to a nest somewhere at the base of the dry stone wall.


He went backwards and forwards and at one time starred right back!


The swallows were not too impressed:


Driving back up the road we spotted three stoat kits prancing around on the road, but I was not quick enough to take a photo.

We drove back on a twisty scenic route and found that lots of deer roaming around, very relaxed, even in garden of an empty house.

A great day enhanced by a visit to a superb restaurant next to a loch, where a Scottish singer gave use a short rendition. Wow!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Gatekeepers and devil's-bit scabious

TODAY we went for a gentle walk around the paths NW of Litton in Somerset.  I was not expecting to see any unusual sites of interest, so was really surprised to come across two spectacular uncut meadows full of flowers adjacent to ancient woodland.

Devil's-bit scabious, betony and meadow sweet, were the most dominant, but there were scatterings of salad burnet, orchids, cowslips, lady's bedstraw and, usually, dyer's greenweed.

I've never seen D-BS in such profusion on a flat meadow site.  It turned out that we had stumbled upon a SSSI: Long Dole Wood and Long Meadow managed by SWT and an adjacent site.  The main butterflies on the site were gatekeepers, which are quite lovely in themselves:

Small skipper

The meadow looking back to the woodland from where we emerged


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Wonderful Scotland (Day 6)

ON the first day of July we paid a visit to the breath taking Summer Isles.  We took a tourist boat out to an island with a tea room and a fishery, but the main attraction were the dolphins and the seals on the journey. The common dolphins displayed by jumping high into the air, with the young swimming alongside the adults - amazing sights...

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Killerton NT butterflies

IN my previous blog abut our visit to the NT Killerton House Estate, I really didn't do justice to the amazing butterflies that we saw - there were so many thanks to the focused management of the woodland rides - it was an incredible experience to see how plentiful they were.  Thanks to ranger Dave for his expert local knowledge and taking some of the harder to reach photos!

So here is a selection of them now - starting with gatekeeper, then peacock, silver-washed fritillary, ringlet, peacock, red admiral, small white (?), white admiral - enjoy!: