Thursday, 23 May 2013

One Day's Sanna Wildlife

This post sets out to give some idea of the wealth of wildlife that can be seen during a short walk at Sanna.  We were there on Sunday, and these are just a few of the things we found.  There was nothing particularly special about the day  - it was rather grey - but the birds, like this dunlin, seemed to be unusually pleased to pose for us.

This little ringed plover seemed terribly anxious to have his picture taken, moving from rock to rock and turning this way and that in order to offer the best profile, all the time bobbing up and down with excitement.  We were aware that this behaviour might also mean that he had a nest nearby so, having taken a picture, we moved on.

A rather shyer bird is this one.  We took it to be a pipit, perhaps a rock pipit - it has the characteristic grey outer tail feathers - but the pipit group is difficult for amateurs like the Diary to identify accurately.

We really did think this was the Loch Ness monster: long neck, moving through the water leaving a V-shaped wake behind him, suddenly diving, surfacing, and finally disappearing.  It's one of the divers, but whether it's a merganser or a goosander isn't clear.  An internet search suggests that red breasted mergansers don't display in this way, but that goosanders do something like it.  Nowhere is there is a picture of a bird displaying by waving a fish he's caught in the air.

All over the rocks just above the normal high tide mark the thrift is coming into flower.  The Diary comments every year on the wonder of this little plant, living as it does in the most exposed of positions, with the winter storms beating it, and surviving, somehow, on the nutrients drawn from small cracks in the rock - and then producing the most beautiful little flowers so early in the summer.

Another flower the Diary becomes ridiculously excited about every year are the local wild orchids.  People think of orchids as something that belongs in the Borneo jungle or in hothouses at places like Kew, but we have a treasure-trove of them growing here in West Ardnamurchan's hills throughout the early summer.

This is the first of the year's heath spotted orchids, growing in the lea of a rock half way up a hillside at the back of Sanna township....

....while, nearby, we found the first of the fragrant orchids: if you ever find one of these, take the trouble to kneel down and smell it.  It's undignified, but well worth it.

We'd gone to Sanna with the intention of finding a new orchid - the frog orchid.  Needless to say, despite some searching, we didn't find it.  If you want to read more about orchids, go to the West Highland Flora website, here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Finally, on the machair between Sanna and the sea, amongst the sand-dunes, we found this wild pansy, Viola tricolor. We've seen one once before, and it, too, was this brilliant yellow, so perhaps that's the standard Sanna colour - yet on the West Highland Flora site suggests that purple is the normal colour on these flowers.


  1. Thanks for sharing great blog..was over beginning May loved the place can wait to get back again this time it be longer.

  2. tim from suffolk23 May 2013 at 20:15

    hi john, bird id. dunlin and rock pipit ok, little ring plover is a ringed plover and nessie is a shag, dont think its displaying just trying to swallow the fish!!. acopy of collins bird guide 2nd edition should be on your christmas list. regards tim.

  3. Hi Tim - Many thanks for identifying the shag, but he was definitely displaying, chasing a female and waving the fish in the air. As for books, I have about four bird books, but can't seem to use them. Perhaps I need a course on how to read animal identification books. Jon