Carna – Day Three

Species seen:

  • Bog Myrtle – Myrica gale
  • Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs
  • Common Frog – Rana temporaria
  • Common Porpoise – Phocoena phocoena
  • Common Shag – Phalacrocorax aristotelis
  • Common Tern – Sterna hirundo
  • Common Wood Sorrel – Oxalis acetosella
  • Cormorant – Phalacrocorax carbo
  • Eurasian Otter – Lutra lutra
  • Green-Veined Butterfly – Pieris napi
  • Grey Heron – Ardea cinerea
  • Hare’s Tail – Lagurus ovatus
  • Hooded Crow – Corvus cornix
  • Oystercatcher – Haematopus ostralegus
  • Pignut – Conopodium majus
  • Red-Breasted Merganser – Mergus serrator
  • Song Thrush – Turdus philomelos
  • Round-leaved Sundew – Drosera rotundifolia
  • White-Tailed Eagle – Haliaeetus albicilla
  • Willow Warbler – Phylloscopus trochilus
  • (Meadow Pipit – Anthus pratensis)

After another great night’s sleep we woke to learn about setting up a Longworth trap, a contraption used to live-capture small mammals. Usually the trap is initially set to pre-bait, meaning the door doesn’t close once the animal triggers the mechanism. This enables the creature to become more accustomed to the trap’s presence in the environment.

We filled the trap with ripped up grass for bedding and seeds for food, then nestled it amongst the rocks underneath a tree behind the cottage. We’re hoping to check the trap in a few days and see if we’ve managed to entice anything in.

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The cotton-like Hare’s Tail

After the trap was set Cain talked us through the hides he’d brought with him; later today we’d split up and spend some time in them. For now though, Heather took us over to a different part of the island and we improved our flora knowledge. We learnt about many different species I’d never seen back home, including hare’s tail, pignut and wood-sorrel – the leaves of the latter tasted like apple!

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I got round to some sketching of the landscape this afternoon before heading back to the cottage for lunch. Shortly after, we all headed off to the hides. Verity and Zahrah were occupying the site nearer to the house which promised glimpses of otters. Freya, Lequane and I chose to use a hide further on that looked out over the seal colony.

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The tide was yet to fully come in so there were only a few seals dotted along the coastline, basking in the sun. Birds fluttered around them; oystercatchers, shags and herons alike. I was just admiring the hills of the mainland when I noticed a black speck in the sky. Binoculars up in an instant, I spied what I hoped and prayed to be an eagle. The three of us gazed up at the mystery visitor and deliberated over eagle or buzzard. A few moments later Cain came running out of the bluebell wood to tell us he’d just seen a white-tailed eagle swooping overhead, so our suspicions were confirmed. Giddy with excitement, we watched the ‘flying barn door’ glide through the sky, barely moving its gigantic wings. This was my first eagle sighting and I was thrilled.

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A few hours later, when the eagle was long gone and the seals were still fast asleep, we vacated the hide and wandered back. Just before dinner we were treated to both a male and female lesser redpoll just outside the cottage, the male in his beautiful breeding plumage.

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After our meal we set out on the boat with Cain. The sun was sinking low and casting a beautiful orange light across the water; even despite the boat’s engine the loch’s surface was smooth as glass. Our eyes were peeled for otters but we were rewarded with an equally special visitor: a porpoise. A brief flash of black every moment or so, dorsal fin slicing out of the water and back down. Despite the blinding sunset in our eyes we watched the elusive animal meander across the loch until it drifted off. Moments later a lone seal took its place, studying us with big black eyes.

Cain showed us where the shags were nesting amongst the rock face. A year old juvenile perched proudly in the tree, supposedly trying to find a place to roost amongst the expecting parents. Several jet-black adults guarded the nests, squawking to each other.

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Common Sandpiper in flight
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Young shag on the rocks

As the day faded we completed the loop back to the cottage. All was calm until the single word ‘eagle!’ got everyone’s attention. Once again the magnificent bird was above our heads, surveying its domain. It was fantastic to see such a formidable bird in the wild; even so high up above us the eagle’s wingspan was vast. I’d never seen anything like it. Sadly the light was too low to get good photos.

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Settling into bed after yet another successful day, I felt so grateful to have seen so much wildlife in two and a half days. So far we’ve covered an array of birds, mammals and insects – all I can hope for is more of the same for the rest of our time here!

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