Carna – Day Four

Species seen:

  • Barn Owl – Tyto alba
  • Bladder-wrack – Fucus vesiculosus
  • Butterfish – Pholis gunnellus
  • Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs
  • Common Blenny – Lipophrys pholis
  • Common Hermit crab – Pagurus bernhardus
  • Common Pipistrelle – Pipistrellus pipistrellus
  • Common Sandpiper – Actitis hypoleucos
  • Common Tern – Sterna hirundo
  • Eurasian Otter – Lutra lutra
  • Eurasian Rock Pipit – Anthus petrosus
  • Flat-wrack – Fucus spiralis
  • Grey Heron – Ardea cinerea
  • Hare’s Tail – Lagurus ovatus
  • Hooded Crow – Corvus cornix
  • Knotted-wrack – Ascophyllum nodosum
  • Lesser Redpoll – Acanthis cabaret
  • Saw-wrack – Fucus serratus
  • Sea-mat – Victorella pavida
  • Serpulid worm – Serpulidae
  • Shore crab – Carcinus maenas
  • Small winkle – Littorina littorea
  • Song Thrush – Turdus philomelos
  • White-Tailed Eagle – Haliaeetus albicilla
  • Willow Warbler – Phylloscopus trochilus
  • Wren – Troglodytes troglodytes
  • (Cuckoo – Cuculus canorus)
  • (Robin – Erithacus rubecula)

We were woken at the tender hour of 5am this morning for a wander through the dew-soaked grass. Tiny droplets clung to the hare’s tail and made them look like teasels instead of their usual fluffy tops. There was a fine mist rolling over the hills which looked beautiful with the weak sunlight shining through. We spent some time listening to birdsong and trying to untangle the many different voices. Cain described the descending tone of the willow warbler and the drilling call of the lesser redpoll. I would love to improve my knowledge of birdsong; it’s at the very centre of the morning routine for all wildlife.

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A willow warbler high in the trees

After a break we began the scramble up Crachan Chárna, the tallest hill on Carna standing 170m tall. Once again the sun was shining, which we certainly shouldn’t be ungrateful for, but the heat made the climb just that little bit more challenging. Luckily the path up was well trodden, so we didn’t have to battle through knee high bracken or wade through too many sodden swamps.

Partway up we came across a muddy puddle stuffed with grey and black feathers, clearly the scene of a crime. Cain explained how he knew the culprit was a bird not a mammal. When foxes feed they chew the feathers off the carcass, splintering the feather shafts. Birds of prey pluck the feathers so leave them relatively undamaged. It was then a case of determining the exact species; this involved identifying the prey. When viewed in direct sunlight the black feathers glimmered, the dark green sheen of a shag. The size of this bird meant the predator had to be an eagle; a buzzard wouldn’t have the size over seabirds such as shags. It was so interesting deducing what happened based on the evidence; I’m noticing so much more now I’ve got some field craft knowledge.

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In less than half an hour we’d reached the summit, only stumbling a handful of times. After we’d caught our breath we could fully appreciate the beauty of the island. For miles in every direction sprawled the surrounding isles, smaller patches of rocky terrain jutting out of the loch and the open sea to the west. We spent a long time at the summit, eating lunch and twisting and turning to see every view. Common terns swept overhead, turning into the wind and flapping furiously. Far down below a heron stood poised, neck braced to strike. After enjoying some lunch we made our slow descent back to the ground.

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In the afternoon we spent time exploring the coast outside the house. While the tide was out we could forage the seaweed to our heart’s content. I discovered many different species including bladder wrack, sea mat and flat-wrack. In addition we saw many creatures beneath the weed-choked rocks such as edible winkles, barnacles and shore crabs. As well as this we saw butterfish, common blennies, whelks and starfish. We all lay on our fronts on the pontoon and watched a common hermit crab creep along the lakebed.

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Shimmering butterfish
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A species in the mollusc family, specifically Nudibranchia
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A whelk feeding on a crab carcass

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A common blenny with eggs

Later, once the sun had finally set, we headed out to see if we could pick up any bat calls on the detector. We could determine the species by what frequency their call was recorded at. After only a short walk the detector picked up a series of clicking calls at 45Hz, and sure enough a tiny black bullet shot through the night, leathery wings beating the air. Once we’d consulted the identification key we discovered that the common pipistrelle was picked up at 45Hz, so concluded that this was the bat we’d found.

We wandered on and picked up another common pipistrelle further down the path, then suddenly Verity noticed a flash of white above and we all celebrated in hushed tones as the barn owl swept over our heads. By now it was late so we headed back to the house, pleased we’d got the opportunity to use such great tracking equipment.

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