Friday, 10 March 2017

Lochan na Cloiche Wildlife

Yesterday's walk to Lochan na Cloiche was across moorland which has hardly started to wake from its long hibernation. This picture shows the red deer which have been coming down to feed in the croft fields during the night. We now know that they browse their way up and over the top of Druim na Gearr Leacain, the ridge that runs along the back of Ormsaigbeg, as morning comes. As we set off across the common grazings we saw three of the five stags above us, but....

....when we had worked our way far enough west to be able to see into the glen that runs along the north side of the ridge, in which lie the twin lochans (just visible at right), there was no sign of them. The hill to the left is Beinn na Seilg, one of the higher points on western Ardnamurchan.

What we did encounter, though too quickly for any pictures to be taken, were a pair of red grouse, four woodcock, and a lone snipe. The Raptor reports that he heard his first snipe of the year yesterday, calling in the fields opposite the Pier Road houses.

Unlike in the croft fields, there is little sign of any plants waking up for spring, the only exception being fir clubmoss, Huperzia selago, which we found in numbers on certain hillsides.

If there was little happening across the open moorland, the inhabitants of the waters of Lochan na Cloiche were surprisingly active.

There were plenty of these moving across the lochan's surface. They looked like a water skaters but their legs look a bit short and the water skaters on the internet lack the orange spots along the back.

One individual had found a dead frog and seemed to be feasting on it - very intently, hence the close-up picture. There's frogspawn all over the place now.

Zipping around with the water skaters were a number of very small, silver-coloured bugs which I take to be a variety of water boatman. The smallest were about 5mm long, the largest perhaps twice that. We also spotted a large, black water beetle which dived when approached and hid under a stone.

But what was most remarkable was the number of common newts in the lochan. We counted seven in a few minutes, all very active in the shallow water.


  1. Many thanks to CM who has suggested that the silvery beetle could be a whirligig beetle. Jon

  2. Looking through the Checklist of British Aquatic Heteroptera, the orange spotted water skater appears to be Velia caprai, The Common Water Cricket. Thank you for the photograph - I have never seen one before (even though it is "common").

  3. Many thanks for the identification, Derryck. As you say, it is described as 'common' but this is the first time I've seen one. Jon