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Chillin' in Killin

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

We returned to our wildlife Idyll in scotland on 1st July for a break and some much needed chill out time. The wildlife was here in abundance on only our first day. Red Squirrel on the nut feeders, Deer in the field, Fox and lots of different species of birds.

For the first few days we stayed local and didn't venture too far, exploring local shops and some walks but on Tuesday we decided to travel over to Oban on the west coast (just over 1hr drive) and go on a boat trip with Oban Sea Tours to explore some of the coastline, including Mull and the Isle of Kerrera and the wildlife it had to offer. Mull is well known for its White Tailed Sea Eagles and we were fairly optimistic about our chances of seeing one.

Oban is a lovely town with a great selection of shops and places to eat and drink. George Street chip shop did a lovely Haggis and chips, mmmmmm yummy. Check this link to find out more about the town of Oban

The boat trip left the north pier at 12.30 for a 2hr trip, the sea was calm and the sun was shining. We slowed at one point so we could all see a small colony of Harbour Seals including pups on a small island in the channel. Here are a few pics:

As we rounded the headland of Kerrera I spotted a large bird in the distance over the hill being mobbed by crows, I didn't see it for long as it shook off its pursuers and disappeared. It was definitely an Eagle but I did not see the tail clearly. I now suspect it was a Golden Eagle, a good spot though. We then came across a small bay on the South side of the island where we could see the remains of Gylen castle on the shoreline. (see photo below and check link for more details).

The boat headed for the coastline of Mull and along before heading back towards the north channel into Oban. On the way we saw a small flock of Arctic Terns, Cormorant and some Gannets. A few of the group saw some Harbour Porpoises, but they swam rather quickly away before I could get my eyes on them. Below are a few of the historic buildings we encountered on our trip.

Please do check out these links below about Kerrera, Mull and the Eagles of Mull

Meanwhile back at the cottage!

A gorgeous male Bullfinch put in an appearance in the garden and overnight 2 Pine Marten were caught on camera thieving the nuts from the feeders.

On wednesday we joined a nature walk with one of the National Trust Rangers on Ben Lawers looking for Butterflies and Moths. In particular the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly which is a specialist of mountainous habitat and only found in parts of the Lake District and Scotland. Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve is on of the best places in the UK to see one. It wasn't until we were on our way back down when the ranger spotted one settled in some long grass. It was a bit windy and not that hot so we were very lucky. I even got it to settle on my hand for a few seconds, WOW! A new Butterfly for me, fantastic. Here are a couple of photos: The one on my hand was taken by Paul Chambers.

Whilst on the walk we saw other Butterflies, (Common Blue Butterfly and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary) a few day flying moths including Purple Bar, some Caterpillars I had not seen before, a Frog and a Common Lizard. It is an amazing place with some very special habitat.

A few more pics of what else we saw:

Top to bottom: Ringlet, Dark Green Butterfly netted, (flew away after net was lifted), Emperor Moth Caterpillar and Oak Eggar Moth Caterpillar

Take a look at the stunning scenery below:

I returned to Ben Lawers in the evening with the ranger to help set up some moth traps on the reserve. We were off to a good start with lekking GoldSpot Moths. Below is a photo of one of the traps and the Gold Spot Moth.

Meanwhile, the garden has continued to produce some goodies with my first Spotted Flycatcher for several years and amazing views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Saturday morning I was up early to meet the ranger at Ben Lawers to go through the Moth traps. We had 3 traps out and managed to record around 120 moths of 28 species, There were a lot of True Lovers Knot, Map Winged Swifts and numerous Ingrailed Clay. It had been a good night despite not ideal conditions. Here are a few photos:

Map Winged Swift and True Lover's Knot

Sunday looked like a perfect day for a nice drive to enjoy the local area and amazing scenery. We opted to drive up to Ben Lawers Dam like we did last year but this time we drove further down the road to the end of the reservoir where we parked for a while and went for a walk, It really is an area of outstanding natural beauty. A few pics below:

Wild Angelica & Yellow Saxifrage

After the dam the road continued winding it's way through beautiful countryside, small villages and eventually coming out near Kenmore, then we took the narrow road on the south side of Loch Tay and back to the cottage. Below is a map of the rough route we took, Ben Lawers Dam in the bottom left corner. There was plenty to see on route, and we stopped off at various points, we saw numerous Wheatears on route and some Highland Cows.

When we got back to the cottage It was time for feet up and a good cuppa. After we had been back a while i took a look outside and found numerous Peacock Butterfly Caterpillars on the wall of the cottage, the Woodpecker showed very well and a mouse came to tea.

Moffy interlude

Like previous holidays I bought along 2 of my moth traps to try out in the garden, a 50w MV and a 20w Actinic. I trapped on numerous occasions over the 2 weeks and recorded a decent selection of moths. It worked out the MV was better placed on the bench in the front garden and the Actinic along the side of the house near the shed. A Pretty Pinion was the best moth of the holiday and a new one for me.

Ingrailed Clay, Antler, Spectacle, Catoptria pinella, Elephant Hawk, Catoptria magaritella, Agriphila tristella, Burnished Brass, Poplar Hawk, Large Emerald, Small Dotted Buff, Purple Bar, Treble Bar, Pretty Pinion.

We set off a bit earlier on the Monday morning as we had opted to head towards the Glencoe area. The weather was looking good and the drive there passed through more stunning scenery. As we arrived in the area we decided to call in at the Ski Resort and see if the chairlift was open so we could explore the mountain tops, thankfully It was so off we went.

At the end of the chiarlift ride it was just as a short walk to the summit, the views were simply breathtaking as you can see from the following photos:

As you can see from some of the photos, the was looking rather dramatic and black, we had a passing shower but no more than that luckily. On the way to the summit we encountered some wildlife, a stunning Golden Plover and a Frog.

Ignore the scary man in the video clip below and enjoy the stunning surroundings.

Check the video below of the journey back down on the chairlift. It was a bit steep!

Whilst we were sat in the cafe after our mountainside adventure, we were looking at a map of the area to decide where to go to next when something caught my eye, Skyfall Road, so called as it was used in the James Bond film Skyfall. Right that's it I declared, we are off, no gun toting criminals chasing us though, just dirty grey clouds and imminent rain!

Check out this link for information on Skyfall Road:

By the time we got to the end and to the shores of Loch Etive the clouds had descended and it had started to rain so we didn't get the full impact of the stunning scenery. On the way back to the main road we came across a beautiful Stag Red Deer at the side of the road.

Once we returned to the main road we headed towards Glencoe village and the shores of Loch Leven. I had been hoping to see an Osprey as they had been seen here recently but they decided to avoid the yucky weather and fish somewhere else. We had planned to go on to Fort William but decided against it as the weather was yuck. It is certainly an area to come back to another day.

Around the cottage on Tues:

Remember the Caterpillars I mentioned earlier in the blog? Well one of them wasn't a caterpillar anymore and had formed a Chrysalis on the underside of the conservatory sill, the next stage before the beautiful Adult emerges. Isn't nature amazing?

Wednesday morning was off to a good start, when I was in the garden I heard/saw what I thought were Crossbills flying over but it was only briefly, a little while later I saw something on the top of a distant tree, I zoomed in with my camera and realised It was a female Crossbill. I hadn't seen one for ages. Below are a couple of photos, not brilliant but it was very distant. Another new bird for Oak Cottage!

After the excitement of the Crossbills I was off to see a friend of mine, Darren Marshall, greenkeeper at Loch Lomond Golf Course where he gave me a tour round this amazing course on the shores of the famous Loch. Still no luck with seeing any Ospreys though, I think they were hiding from me! Check out the link below for more info on Loch Lomond Golf Course and a few photos from around the estate.

On our last day we went for a walk in Killin, along a footpath near the Co-Op supermarket towards the river Dochart and along until it came out in Loch Tay. It was a really nice chilled out walk with a dramatic stormy looking sky that was threatening an absolute downpour but we only got a bit thankfully and we didn't get a soaking.

We really feel at home in and around this part of Scotland, from the stunning scenery to the amazing wildlife, friendly local people and a peaceful chilled out atmosphere. We will most definitely be back.