Sunday, 18 May 2014

To Sanna to See the Volcano

We were up early this morning to drive to Sanna in the hope of beating the crowds who were bound to be flocking there to get a view of the spectacular volcanic eruption on Rum - to find only one other vehicle in the car park and the place as sleepy as it usually is early on a Sunday morning.  We're beginning to wonder about the reports we've received about this volcano - there's been nothing on the news or the internet.

When we reached a vantage point, we couldn't see much of Rum through the rain and low cloud, but there was certainly no sign of anything exciting happening.  What's more, the whole of the north coast of Ardnamurchan was still there despite the predictions of a tsunami.

We think the people who sent us the photos, and that vulcanologist, must have got it all wrong - either that, or the 32mm of rain we've had in the last 36 hours has put the eruption out.  The Diary's suspicions were reflected in the label 'rumour' at the bottom of each post, so those of you who have been phoning friends and family here to make sure they're all right can probably relax.

If there was no volcanic eruption to get excited about, there was something else - one of the finest displays of wild orchids we've seen at Sanna.  The best are along the track that runs from the car park to Sanna Beagh.  Many are a rich purple, but they vary.... shades of pink.  It's very difficult to work out what species they are, partly because, this morning, they were very bedraggled and, if they are the fragrant variety, they weren't smelling of anything. Part of the problem in identification is that fragrant orchids are supposed to have plain-coloured leaves, but some of these had leaves which had the distinctive blotchy spots of the common marsh or northern varieties.

The lack of scent and the variability in the leaves may mean that they're northern marsh orchids.  In many ways the exact species really doesn't matter - they're beautiful, and there are lots of them.  Which is true in general across the peninsula - it may be that the miserably wet winter has suited the orchids, as they're in flower all over the hill land at the moment.

We went on to walk along the beach, where we spotted this little ringed plover as well a great northern diver which, as usual, moved further out as soon as it saw us.  But the highlight of the day's birdwatching was seeing a female hen harrier working her way across the croft lands: it's the first time we've seen one at Sanna.


  1. I think you have there an early purple and not a fragrant orchid, the fragrant orchid has two thin trailing parts to the outer petals.

  2. Many thanks, Paul. I find the orchids we have here very confusing - up to now I hadn't identified an early purple. Jon

  3. Not very good on orchids Jon, but your little ringed plover is a (little) Ringed Plover and not a Little Ringed Plover!

    We had our usual week in Ardnamurchan at the beginning of May. Have just posted a deposit for next year!

  4. I'm sorry, I struggle. I went to schools which considered nature study, biology, botany and any other related subject fit only for girls, so I've been catching up ever since. And, yes, I did mean a little Ringed Plover, but have never known whether names of animals etc should be in capitals. Jon

    1. Opinion is divided on the question - the RSPB uses lower case but this can (and does) lead to confusion! A Little Ringed Plover in Ardnamurchan would be a genuine rarity.

      Keep up the good work - your blog helps keep me sane here in Manchester!

  5. Hi Steve - So pleased that the Diary gives some pleasure, and thanks for the advice. Jon