The Messenger - Serving Gislingham, Mellis and the Thornhams

Nature Notes - June

Date: 23 June 2019

It has to be said that this is more of an expedition than a
visit and our road trip totalled 1,140 miles. Fortunately,
we picked the right week weather-wise and we enjoyed warm days and
sunny blue skies. Moreover, we encountered none of the dreaded midges!
We stayed in a cabin we’d rented on the north-western shore of Loch Long,
near the village of Arrochar and this turned out to be a good base from which
to explore.

One day we took a boat trip on Loch Lomond from nearby Tarbet to the RSPB’s reserve at Inversnaid. Arriving there, we set off on a guided hike around the reserve, during which our guides pointed out interesting flora and fauna. The RSPB guides were invaluable where the birds were concerned, as their being familiar with both the reserve and the various birdsongs they were able to find and point out to us many different species. These included two species in particular that I had hoped to see, the Pied Flycatcher and Redstart. Both of these birds are fairly common in the west of the UK, but less so in in East Anglia. In both cases, we saw male birds and, as usual in the world of birds, it is these that are the most distinctive.
The colourful Redstart was sitting atop a tree, singing his song. As our guide explained, this was in hope of attracting a mate as well as signifying his territorial presence. His perch also put him in a good position to catch flies too and every so often he would leave his perch to catch one in a manner not unlike that of a Flycatcher. The Pied Flycatcher was behaving similarly, but rather than being out in the open, he was under the canopy of trees. This made him rather more difficult to see and photograph in the dimmer light, but his distinctive black and white plumage and cheerful song were a delight!
An animal that must be at the top of every wildlife lover’s “want to see” list when visiting Scotland is the Red Squirrel and we visited the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park near Aberfoyle to try and fulfil this quest. From the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, there are a number of trails into the forest and we took one of the less strenuous ones that passed by a hide from which Red Squirrels may be seen – if you’re lucky. We were not disappointed! After 20 minutes or so, we heard a rusting in the trees near one of the feeding boxes and then out he came, resplendent in his orangey-red and white coat and those handsome tufted ears! Whilst we watched, he made three visits to the feeder, each time lifting the lid and climbing inside the box, grabbing a peanut and then scurrying off into the trees. Later, we spotted him sitting in the bough of a tree enjoying his treats and then it was time for us to reluctantly leave him to it, our mission accomplished! We had a splendid time in the Loch Lomond area and are looking forward to a return visit before too long – recommended!