TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
2 - 9 June 2001
Saturday, June 2nd.
Robin arrived in Mallaig, in time, as is his habit, to sample the 2001 prawn rolls (just as good as those of 2000!), while pondering, not so much on the sunshine, but on the very strong wind which accompanied it. This would possibly not have been a huge problem, had not the new, £5 million ferry developed the interesting habit of changing gear as and when it decided; having recently attacked two piers and a fishing boat in this fashion, it had been withdrawn from service, and a much smaller boat chartered. Sure enough, when the group gathered up, we waited for a good while to be told that there would be no service that day! Fortunately the good B&B at which Jill, Euan, Nigel and Janet had stayed the previous night, had space for us all, and they had also located somewhere very good for the evening meal (Travelling Naturalist groups are good at this!). So, it only remained to find a nice walk, and we took the only feasible one, in wind and sunshine, heading towards Mallaigvaig. We had excellent views of Stonechat, Wheatear and Twite, and acquired an appetite for the excellent evening meal.
Sunday, June 3rd.
We were up promptly the next day, and got the very small boat on a cold, damp, very grey, but calmer morning. The crossing was less than inspiring, with views of guillemot and one distant flock of shearwaters; Eigg, on arrival, was not much livelier, due, it transpired, to a house-warming the night before! However, Davie turned up, we settled in very rapidly at Kildonnan, and set off for Camas Sgiotaig in a very authentic Hebridean mist. It cleared once we were at the beach, which is the home of the famous "Singing Sands" (to be honest, they merely squeak!), and we had quite a pleasant walk back. The famous bath rota was set going, the meal was as excellent as ever, and the conversation became wide-ranging and chaotic (yet another deeply introverted Travelling Naturalist group!). During the course of the evening, we had excellent views of a superb male Eider from the comfort of the sitting room, but had also had a good sighting of Whitethroat at Bealach Clithe on the road across the island.
Monday, June 4th.
We set off on an adequately pleasant morning, walked through the lush grounds of the Lodge, and, as the front door was open, had a look around the house itself-nothing special, we decided. Going up the steepish track though the woods, we saw Goldcrest and Treecreeper, before moving on up into the heather moorland-orchid country-below the dramatic Sgurr. We failed to see any divers at the first loch, and stopped for lunch at the second, which was when the mist came down and stayed down. Robin led on through dimly perceived narrow glens, past small lochs overhung vaguely by looming hills, and only occasionally were the complex rock forms visible. Among the dark heathers, the luxuriant mosses and ferns were almost luminous (just as well, nothing else was!). There were poor views of a Dipper, Stonechats, and, on the way back, a Red Grouse. Eventually, we emerged from the mist, and returned to base and another super evening.
Tuesday, June 5th
On another misty, grey morning, Robin saw two probable Whimbrels on the shore, and Davie took the luggage to the pier. At first it was calm as we followed the long cliff-line of Eigg, seeing Tysties, terns, Shags, a few shearwaters, but then we came out of the shelter and rolled and splashed across to Rum. Here the sun actually came out, there were Eider, Greylag and Merganser families, and we settled in happily to the amazing Kinloch Castle. We later walked the steep path to the lip of Coire Dubh, with a little damp and mist, seeing sundew and red rattle on the way. Hot baths and showers, a good meal, and we were totally at home in the unique atmosphere of Kinloch.
Wednesday 6th June.
At first we plodded along the main road, as far as Lord Salisbury's disastrous dam, and the other works of river-diversion. Merganser and Common Sandpiper showed on the Long Loch, where we began the long, slow wander uphill into the complex country of lochs and rocks. One loch gave us a super view of a Red-throated Diver, and Golden Plovers accompanied us to lunch in a sheltered nook. As the day was improving all the time, we carried on upwards, slowly ascending Barkeval, on whose slopes moss campion, northern rock cress, stone bramble, and (eventually!) mossy cyphel and starry saxifrage were found. It was cool but gloriously clear on top, the views were wonderful, golden plovers were everywhere and remarkably tame, and to cap it all, two Golden Eagles soared above us. We almost immediately had a wonderful sighting of another, below us, and spent quite a long time just drinking it all in. There were also hinds with young calves, spotted coats and huge ears, and it was a content group who made their way back to Kinloch.
Thursday 7th June.
A cooler day with longer showers saw us on the Dibidil path, with great wide views over the sea to Eigg, and almost no wildlife at all. The day was getting colder and colder, even in the sheltered area of Loch Scresort, where we saw Greenshank, Greylags, Mergansers and gulls, as well as a whole horde of passengers from a visiting liner. Because of the cold, we abandoned the idea of spending the night on the hill waiting for the shearwaters (to everyone's manifest relief).
Friday 8th June.
Relaxing a bit on our last day on Rhum, we went along the so-called Nature Trail beside the loch, mostly in sun, with a few midges at times. We added some birds to the list, with a super Heron, Bullfinches, and a Buzzard, and had lunch at a spot which was becoming part of our folk-lore: "on the bench, by the Post Office, with a beer, watching the Mergansers" was, I think, the refrain! Then it rained hard for most of the rest of the day, but we had the incredible Castle Tour, and a last evening at Kinloch to savour.
Saturday 9th June.
Our final day dawned cold and clear, and it slowly became obvious that we were in for a wonderful cruise around the Small Isles. The mist lifted, the sun came out, the hills cleared, dolphins headed for the ferry (now again in service), and dived under the bows, and the Manx Shearwaters were easily seen. Eventually, we reached Mallaig, where we had to go our separate ways, having, despite some extremes of weather, once again experienced the real magic of the Inner Hebrides.
Thanks to all concerned for a wonderful trip!
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
(in no particular order!)
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Common Lady's Mantle
Alpine Lady's Mantle
Heath Spotted Orchid
Slender St. John's Wort
Fir Tree Club Moss
Northern Marsh Orchid
Northern Rock Cress