Just a quick look (to the left) from the doorway of the hotel this morning was enough to realise the day was going to be very much at the mercy of the weather.
There had been little more snow fall overnight but to the north (right) the clouds were most definitely gathering. News from mine-host suggested that at least one Golden Eagle had been seen with some regularity not far along this road
so stationed myself in a lay-by and scanned all around. For those following progress via a map, the circuit today would run from the Aultguish Hotel just north of Garve on the A 835, NW to the A832 completing the loop via Dundonnell, Laide, Kinlochewe and Achnasheen back to the A 835.
Unfortunately, no joy but the disappointment was mellowed by the stunning scenery which will be difficult to translate via photographs.
Reaching Little Loch Broom the weather changed dramatically, with no sign of snow and while just as cold the sun was even trying to show through. The Loch was a great disappointing as it is usually a formality to see all 3 of the more common British Divers, while on 2 previous visits White-billed Diver has been seen as well. However, when compared with the man working on this floating Salmon Farm, I considered my luck to be IN!
Along the side of the road this Red Deer was having trouble getting back onto the fenced Moor.
Next comes Gruinard Island, probably most noted for experiments with the anthrax bacterium during the Second World War,
while in the far distance lies the village of Laide
with more Deer closer at hand. From these fantastic vantage points much can be seen of the surrounding countryside and seaways, and it was no surprise that 2 juvenile White-tailed Sea Eagles* flew across the bay.
Here too were a group of both Atlantic Grey and Common Seals.
Further along in this clump of trees is the nest site of a pair of Sea Eagle, with close approach being, thankfully, extremely difficult.
With a 'scope, 20 x 20 vision and a little imagination the pale head of an adult bird can be seen in the nest.
On the subject of nests, this islet would make an ideal home for a pair of breeding Red-throated or Black-throated Divers which are common here but thus far not seen. A right turning in Laide leads to a single lane track taking you to the village ofa fine herd of Highland Cattle,
a wintering flock
of true Rock Doves and much besides.
At Udrigle Beach
this Great Northern Diver
was feeding well inshore and seemingly having plenty of luck with the Crabs and
also preening and flapping.
A short wander back, a stop at Laide Jetty saw this
immature Gannet appear and start
diving for fish right in front of me.
I have never managed to capture
this sequence before
so made the most of it while the going was good.
PS - it didn't appear to catch anything. During this drive I encountered a dog walker and past the time of day, finding that he is a Sea Captain serving with the Scottish Maritime Lights Authority. Interesting to talk to, we found we had a mutual friend in Captain Peter Coul who worked on the Buchan Alpha Standby Vessel during my time and often shared a drink (along with his lady-friend Gladys) when we met up ashore. Small World!
During this time 5 Black Guillemot* were recorded, 4 in 'winter plumage' remained on the sea while an unmistakable all black Auk with white ovate wing patches had to be a 'summer plumage' bird. In addition Red-throated Diver plus Black-throated Diver* were also logged.
Soon after leaving this area the journey back begins as you sight Loch Ewe and the Ministry of Defence Ships Fueling Jetty and Storage Bund under this hill. As a Submariner this area was very familiar back in the 60's.
Next comes Loch Maree which is reputed to have the highest population of Golden Eagles in Scotland, I wonder what the people of the Isle of Skye make of that?
Having said that, I have never seen one here in all the years visited and
unfortunately my 100% record was kept in tact today.
Glen Docharty is undoubtedly one of the best sights along the way, so I was more that happy to perch here for half an hour, but still no Eagle,
and so back to the A835 and home for a hot toddy.
The Year (January) List now stands at 183