Steve’s Sojourns: Birdwatching in Ardnamurchan
Ardnamurchan is one of the hidden delights of birdwatching in Scotland. For many years it has been in the shadow of nearby Mull, there’s actually a ferry connecting the two so if you do come here for a week a day trip to Mull is easily on the cards. Birdwatchers have tended to ignore this staggeringly beautiful part of the country with the result that is seriously underwatched. Fresh seafood, excellent birdwatching plus some of the best holiday accommodation around makes this a place you will remember for a very long time. Seals, eagles, dolphins, basking sharks, whales, otters, wildcats and magnificent red deer can all be seen here.
The main species people come to see here are Sea Eagle, Golden Eagle, Hen harrier, Peregrine and the possibility of Corncrake around the Kilchoan area. We saw three Sea Eagles in ten minutes at the car park beneath Ben Hiant whilst Golden eagles have also been spotted here.
I would suggest you start your visit to Ardnamurchan by calling in at the Nadurra Visitors’ centre which is basically natural history of the peninsula. They have truly outstanding displays and walk through exhibition of the wildlife to give you an excellent start. There is also a camera right smack bang in the middle of the heronry out the back with the webcam rotating and zooming in and out. It really is amazing as the nest building, courtship and breeding take place at different times with different pairs so it is quite simply fascinating. Best of all they have a café with a sightings board where you can see what’s been about for the past few days. Twite, Storm and Leaches Petrel, Raven, Hen Harrier and both Eagles are seen here with pine martin and long eared bats nesting inside the centre buildings!
As well as boat trips that can take you out to the Treshnish Isles to see puffins and other seabirds inland boat trips are available on Loch Shiel one of the longest fresh water lochs where you can watch sea eagles wafting by along with Osprey and Black Throated Divers. You can follow this up by a visit to a nearby different kind of bird, the Blue Parrot. This little cafe is in the community building in Archaracle which also houses the Post Office and as the name suggests the owner is always being given felt, ceramic or pictures of parrots. The cafe has a large viewing window overlooking Loch Shiel and the mountains plus a sightings board. Hen Harriers quite often come and frighten all the woodland species on the bird tables outside the window.
Still remote but easily accessible Ardnamurchan measures just 25 by 40 miles and it contains all of Scotland`s scenic variations. Mountains, moors, huge white sandy beaches; forests of ancient oaks and woodland reserves. That simply is the beauty of the area that with this large selection of habitats from mountains to the coast and even such specialities as Kentra Moss SSSI a fine example of a blanket bog which is noted for its sightings of Buzzard and Shorteared Owl. Sanna beach is often quoted as possibly the finest in the world, when you see it you’ll understand why, and attracts many waders. The drive across the ancient volcanic crater to get there is fabulous in its self.
Glenborrodale, the RSPB’s most westerly reserve is also found on the southern coast road eight miles west of Salen turn off. There is a car park on the road and you should allow between two and two and a half hours to do the circular walk. The reserve has a rugged way-marked trail but parts of it are muddy all year round and it is steep and uneven in places. However half way up the hill on the right is dead tree which was occupied by a tawny owl just watching cautiously as we strolled by. This reserve is noted for its bullfinches and we also got a raven on our visit, as far as other corvids go Hooded Crows are definitely not an endangered species on Ardnamurchan.
Whatever you do you have to go to the lighthouse which stands on the UK mainland’s most westerly point. We managed to get a Great Northern Diver offshore as well as Manx Sheerwaters, Rock Pipits, Fulmars and Gannets. There is a shelter with glass surround here so if the weather is bad you can take cover but the old foghorn platform is well worth setting your scope up on. Wheatears, Great, Arctic and Pomeranian Skuas are seen here as well as all the common Auks, Eiders and Black Guillemots.