Sep 26th, 2014
We were quite sad this morning as it was our last day at Aigas. I went for one final early morning walk round the loch to look for beavers. If there was any justice in the world I would have seen one – but in spite of spending ten minutes hopefully peering at a patch of moss which had blown into the loch, I had to concede defeat. It was really quite windy this morning – which made it very easy to imagine all kinds of animals where there were none.
Today we were heading out down Glen Strathconnon. Our chances of seeing any serious wildlife didn’t seem that good because of the gusting wind and intermittent (heavy!) showers.
Our first stop was in a little churchyard where the fungi group had apparently seen some ‘spectacular’ pink waxcaps. I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by these – they just looked like small reddish mushrooms to me (I could have stepped on several without noticing). The churchyard was very pretty though – especially as the sun was out.
We carried on up the glen and went to look for eagles. There are four pairs of breeding golden eagles in Strathconnon and unusually, three out of the four had managed to fledge two chicks this year. A gruesome fact is that typically, eagles lay two eggs, and the first chick, which is bigger and stronger, generally eats its weaker sibling the first time the going gets tough. It is indicative of what a good year for wildlife it has been that obviously the going never did get that tough. We didn’t see any eagles and got caught in a squall which rapidly half drenched us.
Turning to come back, we stopped at the location where one of the nests had been that year. Instantly, the ranger recognized the call of two juvenile eagles, and we were able to spot them with the scope, perched on a branch and looking somewhat miserable in the rain. Almost immediately, an adult appeared, circled a while and then landed next to the yearlings. As though this was not enough, when we were just turning to go, R spotted another adult eagle, who must have been the fourth member of the family (Daddy perhaps?). He swooped over several times and we got to see his immense wingspan and appreciate what people mean when they say that a golden eagle is ‘as big as a barn door’.
After lunch we briefly went into Strathpeffer. I stayed here for a week over twenty years ago and it still looks very gentile and well-groomed. The place where I sampled the disgusting spa water seems to have been turned into a shop however – and I can’t say I am sorry about that.
We briefly stopped at a small loch where we saw two pairs of rare Slovonian Grebes (only forty breeding pairs in UK) and then pushed on to our final destination of the day. This was the Rhogie Falls which are a famous salmon leap. I was somewhat disillusioned to discover that when you see pictures of salmon attempting to jump up seemingly impossible waterfalls – that in a number of cases these are actually impossible. Apparently sometimes eggs are taken from hen salmon and ‘planted’ in rivers in order to increase salmon breeding populations. If these rivers contain huge impassable waterfalls, the salmon will still return to the river and try to climb back up them. Somehow I find this sad, although apparently after a while they do give up and spawn lower down the river.
Anyway, we had a lovely walk down to the waterfalls and did indeed see the salmon attempting to jump up them (ignoring the fish ladder to one side which would have made for an easy climb). This was yet another first for me.
Then it was back to Aigas for one final dinner of haggis followed by roast lamb and raspberry compote.
Over coffee we said goodbye to the many friends we have made this week. Hopefully one day we will see them at Aigas again, or if they are ever on the banks of the Donich, they will meet with a warm welcome from R and myself.