Carna – Day One

Species seen (heard):

  • Barn Owl – Tyto alba
  • Common Frog – Rana temporaria
  • Common Tern – Sterna hirundo
  • Eurasian Otter – Lutra lutra
  • Hooded Crow – Corvus cornix
  • Lesser Redpoll – Acanthis cabaret
  • Red-Breasted Merganser – Mergus serrator
  • (Cuckoo – Cuculus canorus)
  • (Snipe – Gallinago gallinago)
  • (Tawny Owl – Strix aluco)

From May 21st to 26th, I joined four other Wildlife Media students for an unforgettable expedition to the Isle of Carna, a beautiful remote island on Loch Sunart on the west coast of Scotland. Our aim was to rewild ourselves by taking part in conservation activities like conducting bat surveys, setting up camera traps and recording wildlife using journals.

By mid afternoon we arrived at Ardnamurchan Charters, eager to see the island where we’d be spending the next five days. Andy Jackson, owner of the Charters, met us with his dog Tag and we began loading our kit onto the boat. There was a surprising amount for such a small group!

The day was overcast but Carna still looked impressive as we sped towards the island. The cottage came into view, a quaint white building with a conservatory that we knew would be perfect for observing wildlife on the loch. Sure enough, in the first few hours we saw red-breasted mergansers, chaffinches, song thrushes and a lesser redpoll.

Loch Sunart
The pontoon where we waited for Andy

After settling in, we noticed how beautiful the evening sky was and armed ourselves with cameras and binoculars, eager to find out what we would see when the sun went down. After capturing a radiant pink sunset we retrieved the camera traps Heather and Cain had previously put out. The first was at the end of the pontoon, and immediately we saw evidence of otter sprainting, a sign of territory marking. Otters will use their faeces in this way to make their presence known to others in the area. At the pontoon there were several patches, so we were hopeful that the camera had caught the night-time visitor.

The second camera was in a wooded area up the hill. We knew the long grass would be full of ticks, but we’d bought tweezers and knew this was one of the many sacrifices a wildlife enthusiast has to make! Eventually we found the camera and made our way back down the hill.

A peculiar sound made us stop and listen. Heather quietly told us they were snipe, which make an extraordinary drumming noise with their tail feathers. Although we never saw them, they must have been wheeling around our heads, as the noise reverberated in every direction. Amongst the snipe’s commotion, we also heard the distant calls of a tawny owl and a cuckoo.

Carna at dusk

Just as we were heading back to the cottage, Cain and I decided to check the pontoon with our binoculars. I made out a black blob in the gloom and suddenly the blob moved. As silently as possible, we alerted the others and watched the otter wander across the pontoon. This was my first ever wild otter so I was thrilled to see one on my first night here. I was so excited I almost missed a barn owl swoop across the loch, screeching into the night.

Studying the water for otters

I couldn’t believe how much we’d managed to see in the first night alone. I got into bed tired after the long journey but excited for the following days.

Stunning sunset

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