This Eigg update comes from volunteer Lauren Currie who has been with us for June. The photographs are by Justine Ritchie, a photographer who has been volunteering with the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust and has kindly allowed us to use her photographs of the walk for this post.
As part of the celebrations to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Isle of Eigg community buyout, a guided walk, led by the island’s Scottish Wildlife Trust seasonal ranger Gillian Gibson, took place on the 14th June.
Starting at the community hall, the two-hour route began with a wander along a brand new path, made by volunteers from the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust last month. This first section of the walk in particular, through the native woodland which includes Scots Pine and Silver Birch, really was stunning. For many of us the area seemed to have a magical feel to it – in fact, it is arguably my favourite spot on the whole island.
Sphagnum and Common Haircap are among the mosses which carpet the woodland floor, while the trees are virtually covered in lichens – for example, the grey-green Old Man’s Beard, which feels elasticated if pulled gently from the bark. As lichens are an environmental indicator species, their density here shows that the air quality is excellent at this site. The descending song of a Willow Warbler was heard too, and the area is also favoured by Siskin.
Leaving the woodland behind, we were treated to a quick view of a Painted Lady butterfly – looking rather worn but still a beautiful insect nonetheless. The next section of the walk through the fields provided us with lovely views of Goldfinch, while Swallows darted around us and a Skylark sang overhead.
Pausing for a moment to rescue a couple of bumblebees from the road, we noticed the delicate Maidenhair Spleenwort fern in abundance on the walls, with Silverweed below on the ground, as well as one or two of the last remaining Bluebells still in flower.
Herb Robert and Cuckooflower were present as we left the patch of non-native Sycamore woodland, with the leaves of Meadowsweet and Rosebay Willowherb starting to make an appearance. Wren and Blackbird were heard as we stopped by the burn to view two umbellifers – Sanicle and the poisonous Hemlock Water-dropwort.
A few Northern Marsh-orchids – with their vivid purple flowers and unspotted leaves – growing wild in amongst the garden plants at The Lodge were a real highlight. Also, the Heath Spotted-orchid (with paler flowers and spotted leaves) was found on the opposite side of the path.
Finally, just a matter of minutes before returning to the community hall, a delightful Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly was caught in the sweep net near the herb garden. It seemed content just sitting on one of the volunteers’ hands for a couple of minutes to pose for photographs before flying off – a perfect end to a wonderful wildlife walk!
Eigg Conservation Volunteer