Local Wildlife Sites
Lochaber has a rich fauna and flora, with many species and habitats of national and international importance, as exemplified by the establishment of 35 SSSIs, 13 Sites of Conservation Importance and four Special Protection Areas within the area. The Lochaber Local Biodiversity Action Plan provides detailed information. See moidart.com for more information about wildife in the area.
Ariundle Oakwood National Nature Reserve, near Strontian, is an important remnant of an ancient coastal Atlantic oakwood that formerly stretched along the Atlantic coast from Spain and Portugal to Norway. Its trees, mainly sessile and pedunculate oak, are strewn with a diverse collection of mosses, liverworts, lichens and epiphytic ferns. The woodland also supports a large invertebrate community, including the rare chequered skipper.
Claish Moss, a former National Nature Reserve and still one of Scotland’s finest and unusual raised bogs, is located on the south-west shore of Loch Shiel and Ben Resipole, within easy reach of Mingarry Lodges. The site is dominated by large hummocks of the woolly hair moss and supports fourteen different species of Sphagnum, cross-leaved heath and bogbean, as well as the insectivorous sundews and butterworts. It is also a good place to see some of the rarer dragonflies, including the azure hawker and northern emerald, as well as butterflies and moths characteristic of upland peatland, including chequered skipper, Scotch Argus, green hairstreak, small bordered fritillary, and argent and sable. Greenshank, curlew and dunlin breed on the site. Black-throated divers are found on Loch Shiel, and hen harriers soar over the hilly ground to the south. The 'eccentric' mires of Claish and the adjacent Kentra Moss also support a wintering flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese.
Remote Glencripesdale, a former National Nature Reserve on the shores of Loch Sunart, combines woodland, shoreline, heaths and moorland. It is an international renowned site for its bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) and is recognhised as one of the top three woodland sites in the UK. Look out for otters and white-tailed eagles along on the shores of Loch Sunart.
RSPB reserve at Glenborrodale on the shores of Loch Sunart supports wood warbles, redstarts and spotted flycatches, as well as common woodbirds. Seasonal highlights include golden eagles, merlin, ravens, and skylarks. Otters, oyster catchers and sandpipers are also found on the shores of Loch Sunart. Butterflies include pearl border fritillary, small pearl border fritillary, chequered skipper and small heath and large heath. Guided walks are available on Wednesday afternoon during Spring and Sunmmer.
Machair is a rare coastal habitat largely restricted to the Hebridean Islands on the west coast of Scotland, although there are short stretches of the calcareous dune pasture locally at Arisaig. The habitat supports nationally and internationally important populations of corn-buntings, corncrakes, chough and lapwing, and is characterised by a colourful and diverse collections of flowering plants.
Loch Sunart provides a rich habitat for a variety of marine life. It combines marine species from northern waters with those characteristic of the southern waters, providing a treat for divers interested in marine invertebrates. Of particular note is the sea loch anemone (Protanthea simplex), the Northern Hatchet shell (Thyasira gouldi ) (a relict species from the last Ice Age), flame shells (Limaria hians) and the nationally scarce gann spoon worm (Amalosoma eddystonense).
The Garbh Eilean Wildlife Hide provides an ideal spot to search for otters, common and grey seals in the loch and on the shores of Loch Sunart. A range of waders, ducks and seabirds can also be seen from the hide, depending on season and, occasionally, golden and white-tailed eagles.
Climb aboard one of the local boats offering wildlife cruises (eg Loch Shiel Cruises) operating on Loch Shiel, one of Scotland’s largest inland freshwater lochs. Possible highlights include sightings of golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, osprey and black-throated divers, as well as a host of other more common Scottish wildlife.