Summer in Ardnamurchan
Summer is a great time to visit the West Highlands with lots of activities of offer. The landscape is a palette of colours, dominated by a rich mantle of green hues, dotted with pinks, whites, yellows and blues.
It is a good time to explore Moidart, Ardnamurchan and Morar by foot, bicycle, or on the water. Take a cruise down Loch Shiel in search of eagles, ducks and black throated divers. Spend a day beachcombing or rock pooling along coastline around Ardtoe and Dorlin, relax on the silvery sands of Morar or enjoy time amonst the dunes at Camusdarach. Take to the water to enjoy a canoe adventure on the nearby freshwater or sea lochs. Catch a ferry to the Small Isles (Inner Hebrides) and visit the opulent sandstone castle (Kinloch Castle) on the Isle of Rum, or walk to An Sgùrr, the highest hill on the Isle of Eig. Follow in the "broomsteps" of Harry Potter by take an excursion on the Jacobite Steam Train between Fort William and Mallaig (early booking is essential). Alternatively, enjoy one of the many local coastal, woodland or hill walks in the area, or simply engage with the abundance and variety of nature in the nearby woodlands.
Joyous June - a month full of fledgling, kits and kittens
Young woodland birds abound on site, the air is filled with the sonorous calls and the chirps of young blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, coal tits and willow warblers, joining the juvenile siskins, greenfinches and robins. The occasional trills of grasshopper warblers can be heard if nesting nearby. At this time, the feeders are cloaked with a plethora of young birds. Greenfinches and siskins may also start a second brood in June.
Nearby adult white tailed eagles are busy feeding their young on fish, sea birds and ducks, whilst golden eagles soar high in the surrounding hills in search of mammals and other tasty morsels to satiate their young at this time of abundance.
Orchids are in full bloom in the grounds of Mingarry Lodges and beyond, including common spotted orchid, fragrant orchid, greater butterfly orchid, lesser butterfly orchid and narrow-leaved helleborine.
If you are lucky, adult and young pine marten kits can be seen active during the day engaged in group foraging activity. At this time of year, the young martens are busy honing their survival skills in boisterous playful bouts of activity.
Local rivers and lochs may witness a seasonal peak in the birth of otters linked with the seasonal abundance of food, although otters often do not have a fixed breeding period.
There are a variety butterflies on the wing in June, including chequered skipper, pearl bordered fritillary, small pearl bordered fritillary, marsh fritillary, dark green fritillary, meadow brown, ringlet peacock, red admiral and painted lady.
June also affords the opportunity for dragonfly stalking- look out for the Azure Hawker and Northern Emerald and White-faced Darter in wooded moorland and bog pools, as well as Golden-ringed dragonfly and four-spotted chasers and darters in the grounds of Mingarry Lodges.
Jubilant July and Awesome August - Summertime in Full Swing
July and August are months of purples, pinks and yellows and whites- a flamboyant time for the botanist and artist alike. Early July witnesses the full bloom of heath spotted orchid and northern marsh orchid; these add to the pinks and purples of self heal, marsh woundwort, knapweed and purple loosestrife. The yellows of golden rod and hawkweeds, and the whites of marsh valerian, meadowsweet, Enchanter's nightshade and wild angelica add a warm glow to the stunning local scenery. The end of the July/ start of August see the flowering of devil's bit scabious and the pinks of heathers. Early August is also a great time to search for Iris Ladys' tresses along the banks of Loch Shiel.
Periods of relative quiet on the feeders are interspersed with a flurry of activity marked by the emergence of second broods of siskins, chaffinches, greenfinches and blackbirds. Young tits are regularly seen feeding in the woods and on the feeders.
Young swallows, martins and swifts start to fledge; the young initially needing to be coaxed into the air, but it is not long before they engage in the swirling acrobatics of true masters of the air. Ravens (young and adult) become more visible over the Moss as their protracted breeding period comes to an end.
July is also the breeding season for viviparous lizards; gravid females can be seen basking on logs and stones in the sunshine by Mingarry Lodges. Young dark brown lizards appear towards the end of the month, emerging from the ruptured eggs sacs.
Young pine marten kits continue to hone their foraging skills and, if you are lucky, may be seen foraging during daylight hours. The second litter of red squirrels born in May or June emerge from their maternal dreys in August and be seen scurrying about in the woods.
Young slow worms are born in late August/ September, typically only 7-10 cm in length; these golden brown or greyish lizards can be found hiding under logs or in crevices.
July and August are great months for dragonfly stalking in terms of variety and abundance. Look out in July for the Azure Hawker, Northern Emerald, White-faced darter, Beautiful Demoiselle, Emerald Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly. Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Common Hawker, Southern Hawker, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chaser, Keeled Skimmer, Black Darter and Common Darter can be seen throughout July and August.
Butterflies on the wing include purple hairstreak, dark green fritillary, mountain ringlet, Scotch Argus, grayling, meadow brown, peacock, red admiral, painted lady and large heath according to habitat.