A recent trip to Argyll in Scotland was our first visit for a few years but not much changes. Perhaps the biggest change from a wildlife point of view has been the arrival of beavers in Knapdale. These are Norwegian beavers here on trial, they had no choice in coming and it appears that at least some of them were animals that had to be removed for causing problems back at home. Now in exile they have no chance of returning home but if they don’t do a positive job (whatever that may entail) in the trial then they could be removed again from the wild to enter a captive existence. In the meantime they have been busy doing what beavers do.
The most public pair of Scottish beavers are on a path that leads down past their adopted loch and past their wonderfully constructed dam. They have produced an impressive dam increasing the size of a small loch dramatically, flooding an area of birch scrub and harvesting some of the trees in the area. We went along on a ‘beaver walk’ one evening learning more about the trial and the animals that are there, including the birth of kits, in a yet to be determined number, but presumably one or two. There was little chance of seeing an animal as we were with 47 other participants on the walk but there were many signs to be seen. We ventured out to another local loch later that evening and were treated to a beaver swimming up the open water, a distant view but a wild living beaver in Britain nonetheless. Next morning, a little after dawn, Duncan went to the large dam to hear a slap and plop as a beaver submerged in amongst the birch stems. The only visible sign was the ripples as they appeared by the dam.
A visit to the nearby Taynish National Nature Reserve took us down a long rough track on the search for a location on a local art tour. The art was in the form of photographs taken around the reserve as part of a project with a local school; the location was the old piggery. This rather grand, though ruined, group of pig sties was an impressive building in itself. A small stream ran through the yards of the sties which came from under Taynish House further upstream. After drawing the house water from the stream it passed under the kitchen where a flap in the floor allowed them to throw food scraps into the stream. These scraps then floated straight down to the pigs, running water and a conveyor of food must have made for a relatively luxurious pig existence.
Other wildlife up the west coast is always interesting: seals came to see us as we walked the shore; coastal and woodland lichens were in abundance and butterflies such as the Scotch argus were flying in large numbers when the sun was out. These locally common butterflies are largely confined to Scotland with a couple of small colonies in northern England. Other butterflies were in relatively short supply.