Saturday, 18 January 2014

Encounters with Deer

With yesterday a still, grey day, we set off to walk around the area of Ardnamurchan Estate land to the east of Mingary.  This land is used for grazing sheep and cattle, and is is enclosed by a deer fence.  From the top of one of the low hills, we looked south across the entrance of Loch Sunart to Auliston Point on Morvern.  In the distance lay the mountains of Mull, some of them with snow on their peaks.

Most of this land was once part of the clachans of Choire Mhuilinn and Skinnid, and the evidence of the work of generations of people is visible all around, for example in the rig and furrow markings across the grassy areas, and in the old stone walls, many of them little more than elongated mounds, which once separated their fields and the arable land from the common grazings.

From early in the walk we were aware of a small group of deer watching us, some of which were stags.  We're not worried by deer, though we are more wary of the stags during the rut.  When we're walking, we try to keep out of their way because we don't want to disturb them more than we need to.  But with this group, each time they moved away we seemed to bump into them again.

At the base of the slope of Beinn na h-Urchrach we came across the remains of what was once a fine tup, perhaps exhausted by his exertions with the ladies.  He wasn't long dead, and had obviously contributed to the meals of local scavengers.  He might be one reason why we've recently seen so may sea eagles flying over.

As we circled back towards the car, following the deer fence, we came across the deer again, five stags and two younger animals.  They watched us until we came within about 150m, when they turned and, without exerting themselves, ran off behind a hill; but, as we crossed it, we bumped into them again.   After repeating this three or four times...,

....they became tired of the game and suddenly disappeared.  When we finally located them they were some distance off, back where we'd first seen them.

The scattered rocks in the foreground of this picture are some of the remains of Skinnid.  The hill that rises behind the deer is Beinn ne h-Urchrach, with the peak of Ben Hiant behind it.

There's an interactive map of the area, here.

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