Scorcher at Scallastle!

So if you hadn’t noticed, it has been boiling hot on Mull…

*wipes sweat from forehead*

… and our events have been hotting up too!

Our event this week ‘Hike up Scallastle’ was tough and the scorching sun didn’t make it any easier. We had a small group of four, starting in the car park we checked our water supplies and insect repellent (boy was it needed!) then set off up the gravel track.

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As we made our way up the track there were dozens of cinnibar moth catterpillars munching their way through the ragwort. Our first species of the day and an interesting one at that.
We continued be drawn in by the caterpillar covered ragworts until our attention was caught be a real island star, a MALE HEN HARRIER!

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We watched the harrier dancing above trees until it was out of sight. What a captivating first 10 minutes we’d had.
As we proceeded on I was talking (or maybe boasting…) about a garden tiger moth caterpillar I had found at Tiroran forest and then as if by magic Nick found a dead one right on the track!

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Seeing as so far any animal we had talked about had appeared in some shape or form I tried my luck with giraffe and mammoth, but unfortunately neither beast made an appearance. As the biting insects homed in on us we quickened the pace and had almost got to the bridge but something caught my eye… CARNIVOROUS PLANTS!

There were both round-leaved sundew and butterwort on the moist boggish ground by the bridge. Some of them even had unlucky midges caught in their traps.  As we started the steep part of the walk, sundews filled the side of the track much to the amazement of Nancy who walks at Scallastle regularly but had never noticed them before. As we got closer to the next bridge I noticed what I thought was a fritillary flying just ahead. So I marched forward to get a closer look and sure thing it was a small pearl-bordered fritillary! We then found a couple more floating above the water and even managed to get the scope on them for a closer look.

I then went to look for some smooth newts I had seen up there a week ago but the pool they were in had dried up. Nothing left but a toadlet hiding in the flakey mud. The final incline was ahead of us and it was a real scramble, but the bench at the top plus our packed lunches were calling. With the sun still beating down on us, the rest at the top was needed.

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While we tucked into our lunches, or an apple in my case, there was a tree pipit perched and calling right in front of us. Suddenly it flew off and we could hear a couple more pipits calling too, although this call was slightly higher and more frequent. SPARROWHAWK! A male and it flew right past us and perched on a tree towards the ridge. I quickly positioned the scope but sods law just as it was in the frame it flew off. As we rested and scanned the mountains a grey wagtail flew over calling in its usual manner. We were almost ready to start heading back down to the carpark when Nancy spotted a bird near the summit. I got the scope on it and it was another island star, a GOLDEN EAGLE!

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We watched the eagle soaring around for a few minutes before it flew out of sight, this felt a natural time for us to descend back to the carpark.
We had almost made it back to the carpark when we found this…

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A Dark giant horsefly, they are almost 3cm long and can give one heck of a bite. Hence why I crushed it with my heal… sorry if that offends you.

Before I sign off here I just want to thank Nancy, Yvonne, Jenny and Nick for making the walk a real pleasure!

Cian

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