A quiet day out!

June 11th 2023

A quiet day out!

The southwest boundary of Assynt is the River Kirkaig. If you cross the bridge near what was Achins Bookshop not only do you leave Assynt but Sutherland too. Our car very rarely makes that journey!

However, a wander up the Assynt side of the river is always interesting and a great way to spend an hour, or three as it turned out on 1st June 2023.

First half hour was spent checking the birds in Loch Kirkaig. Notables included Great Northern and Black-throated Divers and two Greenshank.

First passerine was a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) perched on a garden fence looking like it didn’t want to be disturbed. Sorry!

First heard, but not readily seen was a family of Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) in the trees. At least two juveniles being constantly fed by the parents, or at least demanding to be so.

A day of firsts

It was a firsts sort of day. The next sighting didn’t fit that bill, but it was fantastic. We were having a seat looking out over Elder’s Pool, simply listening to the river and the bird song. Where he came from we don’t know but an Otter (Lutra lutra) surfaced midstream only a few metres away.

He dived again and surfaced nearer the far bank. Time for a couple of photos then he disappeared as easily as he had appeared a few seconds earlier. A sighting with added meaning as it was World Otter Day.

Our first actual first of the day was not a new insect but one we had never seen so many of before. Garden Chafer beetles (Phyllopertha horticola) were present in their hundreds over one small grassy area sandwiched between the road and the river.

These adults may well have just emerged after having spent the last 12 months or so in the soil as larvae feeding on the roots of various plants.

The second first

The second and final first of the day was an amazing first ever sighting for us. It’s not unusual to see flies causing slight ripples on the surface of our rivers. What didn’t seem right that day was the number of ripples with no fly obvious!

That needed a closer look. Wow! Hundreds, probably thousands of elvers, immature European Eels (Anguilla Anguilla) were heading upstream. They were all tucked in close to the Assynt side of the river and were definitely on a mission.

The sun was still behind the early morning, low-level cloud cover at this point. Within an hour we were struggling to spot any elvers. That tied in with their preference of moving at night. The increasing sunlight was causing them to shelter and disappear under the numerous rocks of the river bed.

The life cycle of the European Eel is well worth reading about. It is one more reason why we need to be much more aware of the damage we are inflicting on our seas and oceans, and why it has to stop.

So much for a quiet day out!

DnA.Haines

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