Sunday 22 July 2012

Dragon hunting, Part 6

Our last full day in the Gairloch area started promisingly enough, with dolphins in the bay before breakfast. They even managed to prise Second Born from her slumbers, several hours ahead of schedule. Believe me, this was a hugely impressive feat.

Not the fat orange dolphin on the right... the other two...

PJs, dressing gown, mug of coffee, bins. That's my girl!
Even the Salmon were impressed. Or they could've been trying to stay out of the way of the dolphins.

Salmon, Salmo salar (I think. They look very different when not in a tin)
Fittingly for the last day of a holiday, Second Born was going to climb a mountain, or at least a very big hill. So once suitably attired, we set off for Beinn Eighe NNR once more, where the 6.5km, 550m of climb, Mountain Trail beckoned.

The Admiral and I planned to accompany her to the edge of the tree line, before retracing our steps and attempting the much less daunting Woodland Trail, meeting up with Second Born again during her descent.

Once Little Miss Hiker had climbed beyond our ceiling, we returned, at a much more leisurely pace, to the car park by Loch Maree, stopping en route at every conceivable wildlife opportunity.

Common Darter, Sympetrum striolatum

Round-leaved Sundew, Drosera rotundifolia

Not sure which species of spider this is. To be honest, my eye had been drawn to the silk bundles on the rock and I didn't even notice the spider until checking the photo. Pretty amazing camouflage!
By the time we started the Woodland Trail, the sun was making its presence felt. The clearings on our route yielded several species of damsel and dragon, notably Large Red Damselfly, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Northern Emerald and Common Hawker. And I finally resigned myself to not seeing a male Azure Hawker on this trip. After meeting up again with Second Born, we descended through a belt of heather and bracken. Here we came across a species of burying or sexton beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, and again I had a shock when checking the photo.

Look at the large orange patches...
Whether the mites were deliberately camouflaging themselves against the orange section of the beetle's wing cases, I do not know.

Near the bottom of the hill, there were a few photo opportunities with Golden-ringed Dragonflies. A male, perched on the heather at the side of the path, allowed us to walk right passed without a flinch.

Cordulegaster boltonii (male)
The biggest dragon in the UK is the female Golden-ring, and this lady was the first of her gender that I've been able to photograph.

Cordulegaster boltonii (female)
As a reward for her endeaavour, we treated Second Born to a cream tea at the Whistlestop Cafe in Kinlochewe. The Admiral came close to not receiving his, as he insisted upon calling his scone (as in skonn) a scone (as in skone). The young Scottish waiter was distinctly unimpressed in a very dry-humoured kind of way, "We hev nee ony skones, only skonns, but even if we did hev ony skones, I still widna gie yee wun!"

And that was that, seven days of searching for the elusive Azure Hawker, with only one positive sighting yielding a photo. It'll need another trip, I reckon.

Over the next two days, the journey back to England and the wet weather was punctuated with a couple of natural history stops. The first at Loch of the Lowes, near Dunkeld, where we saw Ospreys and a Red Squirrel. The second at RSPB Leighton Moss, where we saw a Marsh Harrier and a Black-tailed Skimmer.

As I write this, several weeks later, the jet stream has resumed normal service. The drought that was affecting north west Scotland has final ended and summer has returned to England. So we were very lucky in that respect indeed.

I&T random foodie statistics:

Servings of carrot cake 2
Servings of haggis 3
Skones 0


holdingmoments said...

Interesting shot of the mites on the Sexton Beetle. Very good camouflage.
Sounds like you had an extremely good trip.

Imperfect and Tense said...

It was a good trip, thanks. I hadn't seen Black-throated divers in... hmmm, 40 years! Saw lots of beetles that were new to me. A few new plants, the best being Creeping Corydalis. And, of course, Azure Hawker and Northern Emerald.