Monday, 15 June 2009
Wildlife Watching on Loch Coille Bharr
We have had some beautiful evenings here recently and as long as you keep moving, it is possible to avoid the midges. On Friday 12 June we took a stroll around the loch to see if we could spot the beavers. Eleven were released, three on Loch Coille Bharr, and four each on Loch Linnhe and Creag Mhor Loch with one young beaver dying shortly after release.
The silence was broken only by the sound of trout sucking in insects from the surface of the loch and the call of the woodcock as it flew overhead. Starting from the Forest Track behind Knap Studio on the Achnamara Road, we walked anti clockwise around the loch. The main beaver signs were of the man made variety - signposts with more than a touch of anthropomorphism; a manifestation of the Disneyfication of Knapdale. Stopping at the landing stage we spotted a beaver which rapidly disappeared around the corner heading south. Later, stopping at the bench at the southern end of the loch, we watched a beaver swim across the loch from east to west. Whether we saw one beaver twice or two beavers is uncertain.
Apart from the beaver itself, we saw few signs from the path. The water lilies are just starting to flower, a known favourite of beavers. The next night we took to the water for a spot of fly fishing in addition to beaver spotting. The loch was perfectly still, the reflections so perfect it was hard to see what was reflection and what was real. Once again, the lone beaver was at the north end swimming from east to west and seemingly unconcerned by our presence. It came close enough for me to get a reasonable photograph. Beavers really aren't particularly attractive, they really do look like oversized hairy rats in the water. However, they are not as hideous as the carved beaver model which is in the log cabin at Barnluasgan. Our native otters are far more entertaining to watch. Later, paddling south along the eastern side, there were plenty of beaver signs. The cut ends of branches clearly visible in the fading light. Birch, oak and rowan seem to be the favourites with alder left untouched. A birch branch was stripped of its bark with the teeth marks clearly visible.
At this time of year, it is hardly dark at all so it was after 11 pm when we left the loch. No trout were harmed during our trip. Many broke the surface but were not tempted by the fake fly, having an abundance of the real thing floating on the surface. A mist was rising over the whole surface and there was quite a chill in the air after the heat of the day. On the way home, we stopped to see if the glow worms were in their usual spot and counted five along the road verge - tiny green lights shining intensely among the grass.
If you are passing the Crinan Canal, keep a look out as a beaver has managed to make it overland into the Canal but I haven't heard if it has been retrieved. I hear the radio tags have caused problems too. How exactly do you glue a radio tag to a Beaver?