Monday, 16 June 2014

Crinan and all that, Scotland Week 2 or Nice Beaver!

So after Mull & Iona it was on to pastures new. The Crinan area and the peninsula down to the Mull of Kintyre is somewhere we had never been before. We did have a reason for choosing this, we wanted to visit Knapdale and have a look at the Beaver Trial area and hopefully get really really lucky and see a Beaver.

We stayed in a cottage on the Crinan Canal at a small place called Cairnbaan, another beautiful spot and a good location for visiting Knapdale, it is only 15 minutes drive.

But day 1 we decided to explore a bit and went up to Crinan, this is where the Crinan Canal joins the open sea so its quite an interesting spot and well worth a visit. Although according to our daughter (who joined us here for a couple of days the staff in the Crinan Hotel are most unhelpful and rude!)

Anyway from Crinan you can do a bit of sea watching, Gannet and Cormorant were about but it was very dull day and not much birding activity was had. From an information board/map at the Crinan Car Park we discovered that there was a Bird Hide overlooking the river and the nearby marshes accessible from the canal tow path, so we drove down and had a look.

It was nice new hide, although the views over the marshes are distant so a scope is needed. We did spot Shelduck with ducklings, Merganser, Common Sandpiper, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Mallard and Redshank, with only the Redshank and Merganser really being close enough for a photo:

We explored a few other places in the immediate area, but little else was seen.

The next day we went a bit further afield and explored some of the coast. Again the weather wasn't great very dull and windy, but we did find some Deer and the odd bird or two:

We had planned the Tuesday to go to Knapdale, we had tried in vain for days to phone the Beaver Trial to book on one of their Tuesday guided walks, but we only ever got an answer machine and the never phoned back until the Friday! Bl**dy useless. So we went on our own, the Beaver trail is advertised as a 3 mile walk, so we thought we would have plenty of time to do it then get to the Car Park for 6pm and join the walk anyway. let me tell you it's not 3 miles! (not according to GPS anyway!) So we got to the car park at 6:10 to see the walk setting off and didn't have the will to chase after them!

Of course we didn't see any beavers on the walk, but we did see plenty of signs that they were about:
Bird life on the walk was sparse, Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Chaffinch, Mallard, Heron and Crows. The first half of the walk is great alongside the lochs and through nice woodland paths. The second half back is a tiring slog up a forestry track, but never mind. We decided to come back the next Thursday and Friday evenings to try our luck at dusk for the beavers, but those plans were to change!

Anyway next day we headed down to the Mull of Kintyre just so we could say we had been and call in at the Machrihanish Bird Observatory near Campbeltown. The drive down was great stopping at a few place on the way. The Bird Observatory was locked! But there were nice views to be had there anyway and there were plenty of places to sit and watch. The wind wasn't right for sea birds, but there was still some nice things to see:

We carried on to the Mull of Kintyre where there were some great views of Northern Ireland and Ruthlin Island that we visited a couple of years ago.

Next day was a visit to Taynish NNR again only a 20 minute drive from our digs, this is a beautiful place with a great circular walk through the woods along the lochside, some great sightings were had and even a few photo opportunities:
Tree Pipit

 Female Redstart
 Male Redstart
We stood entranced by the Redstarts for a good 15 minutes, they flew around in circles around us calling to each other, we actually think there were 2 males but the shot about so quickly through the trees that it was difficult to tell, the female was more obliging than the male, but he did finally hold still for a few seconds to get this shot. In the end we had to move on as the midges had found us!

After Taynish we popped into the Crinan hide again as it was on our way back, luckily for us as we entered there was a chap on his mobile phone. Now me being a bloke I zoned out, but Tina couldn't help but overhear that he mentioned the beavers. So when he finished Tina asked him about them. He happened to be on the guided walk we missed, it transpires we didn't miss much, other than a tip the guide gave about a really good place to see Beavers, he went the Tuesday night and saw them, so he told us where.

Hence the change of plans, we went bacfk to our cottage had some tea, then after watching Springwatch for a while we set out. His directions were great and we found where to park then walked the three quarters of a mile to the Loch. I immeadiatley spotted the Lodge, and was pointing it out to Tina, but she went one better and was pointing at a Beaver!! Being 9:15 on a murky night the light wasn't great but I tried:
'He' swam around a little then headed to the lodge, dived and disappeared. Absolutely brilliant!! We stayed for about an hour and got another really good sighting further down the loch, by now though the midges were driving us mad, so we headed home for a celebratory dram! (Well we are in Scotland.)

The final day we took a boat trip out from Crinan to see the whirlpool at Corryvreckan, the whole trip was brilliant, Seals galore:

We saw 3 Golden Eagles over Scarba, although somewhat distant!
Then plenty of Guillemot and the odd Razorbill on the water:

We then moved into one of the Lochs to be shown an Osprey nest and Sea Eagle nest only about 100 yards apart from each other! One of the Ospreys was at home, but kept putting its head down whenever I took a snap:
Whilst the Sea Eagle chick obliged but again quite distant:
None of the other adults returned whilst we were there although our skipper stayed as long as he could.

So zoom book to Crinan:

Til our next trip!

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