Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A Wealth of Wildlife

There was a time when rabbits were much more common here. When we first had the Ferry Stores we used to watch them in the evenings playing on the grass by Shore Cottage but I understand that, years ago, they were much more abundant - Sanna has been described as over-run with them. It may be that their decline....

....is partly to be responsible for the collapse of the Scottish wildcat population, rabbits being one of their main prey. Again, when we first came, we used to see wildcats occasionally, usually on the road at night. It's a long time since we've seen one though they are reported to be still around.

The decline of the wildcat has coincided with the rise in pine marten numbers, and to something we have noticed more and more: pine marten scat miles from the nearest pine, or any other sort of tree. They're beautiful animals but we've always discouraged them: they're not much fun if they set up home in your roof space and, when the cats were alive, they didn't like them.

Mink are an introduced pest. Their numbers seem to fluctuate but even one is too many. They prey on seabirds and their eggs, small mammals, fish, the local poultry and, from the way they look at us, we're also on the menu. Considerable effort has been made locally to eliminate them but this is virtually impossible.

Thank Goodness that, despite competition form mink, otter numbers seem to be holding up. While it's more difficult to see them in summer - they seem to move away from areas where there is increased human activity and, of course, there are more daylight hours in which they can operate - in winter we often see them in the bay below our house. Anyone who has sat and watched them knows what a joy it is.

We have had so many exciting encounters with these magnificent beasts but my abiding memory is of the sound of rutting stags roaring on a dark early-winter night while the aurora played above.

Much less visible are the other species of deer that run wild on Ardnamurchan - fallow, roe and muntjac. The fallow used to be seen in the Beinn nan Losgann forestry but it's now being clear-felled.

For a short time a black adder took up residence in an old drystone wall at the back of our house and was to be found of an evening sunning himself. I missed him when he moved away.

From Ardnamurchan we've enjoyed a wealth of marine life. We've kayaked with basking shark, crept up on seals, and swum with lion's mane jellyfish; we've....

....watched dolphins below our house, seen minke whales sound in the Sound, fished for mackerel off our kayaks, collected periwinkles and cowries, and discovered bluefire and compass jellyfish washed up at Sanna.

We've been very privileged.


  1. Thank you Diary. I have read every post you have written and feel sad you and Mrs Diary are leaving on a day of Kilchoan Sunshine. Bon voyage!

  2. You say you have been privileged to live in Kilchoan, and we feel extremely privileged to have shared your wonderful inspiring evocative diary. Many thanks for helping us to keep in touch with that special area - so much appreciated. We will miss our daily dose of Ardnamurchan - many thanks, and very best wishes for the future. Maggie Pridgeon

  3. Dear Jon,

    We will miss your blog very much - it has kept us connected with a place we love so very much. best wishes to you both.

    Miranda and Mike

  4. Hello,
    I feel after following this blog since Summer 2010, I should finally make a comment. As a native Skye man, I have read this blog to stay connected to the highlands, wildlife and the places I truly love, compared to the other similar blogs I think this is the best and most reliable. Having worked since 2010 in industrial cities in the US and Switzerland and currently in urban southern England, this has been one of my links to the highlands and has kept me sane on long days in the office. It will really hurt to delete it from my 'bookmarks' bar! So thank you very much, I have absolutely loved it all and it will be missed sorely! Conor

  5. Can't believe the pigs didn't get a mention here - will miss the tales of their escapades :-)
    All the very best