There are several popular National Nature Reserves in the Argyll area – Taynish, Glen Nant, Moine Mhor and Glasdrum Wood. Here Alan Martin and Doug Bartholomew give an insight into one of the most spectacular of these special spots with a look at Taynish.
The Taynish peninsula forms part of the coastline of Argyll and it’s an area of great diversity. Oak woodland covers much of the National Nature Reserve and the moist, clean air here means that lichens and mosses cover the trees. In amongst the oak trees you’ll find smaller trees, like holly and birch. In spring time this woodland is blanketed with a colourful mix of wildflowers.
In winter, old man’s beard turns the woodland grey-green while holly berries provide spots of colour. The leafless birches add a purplish tinge to many shades of brown
Taynish is surrounded on three sides by water. Loch Sween to the east, the Linne Mhuirich to the west, and the turbulent waters at the south end of the peninsula known as the rapids. With its long coastal border Taynish has a wealth of coastal habitats which are perfect for a wide range of species.
Most people arrive at Taynish by foot or car, but if you are lucky enough to be a competent paddler a journey round the coast of Taynish will be rewarded by stunning views of the oak woodland reaching right down to the rugged rocky coastline and good chances to see a wealth of wildlife such as the shy otters which frequent the reserve and much of the surrounding coastline.
Otters spend much of their time fishing along the shore for crabs and small fish. When an otter catches its prey it often swims to shore to devour its catch. The remnants of these meals are common along the coast at Taynish. Crab shells and cracked sea urchins are left on favoured rocks used for dining by otters. Other signs of otters are their sweet smelling spraints which are made up of tiny fish bones and crab remains.
The otters use their spraints to mark their territories and will poo in the same historic locations again and again. Over many years this has made mounds which are characterised by the lush green of grasses thriving in the nutrients left by generations of otters.
Seals, both common and grey, also frequent the coast of Taynish. Unlike the retiring otter, these inquisitive animals will often come and swim in quite close to get a better look at you.
The coast is also home to a range of birds. Regular sightings at Taynish include the common sand piper. With its distinctive bobbing and bowing walk and stiff winged fluttering flight this small wader is quite a character on the shores of Taynish.
The Linne Mhuirich is also home to eider ducks. On calm days in the spring their cooing calls can be heard right up on the Barr Mor. These coastal ducks can sometimes be spotted in large rafts in the Linne Mhuirich where they feed on salt water molluscs. The eider is both the heaviest and fastest flying duck in the UK!
You may even be treated to the sight of a sea eagle soaring high over the reserve or being chased away by anxious crows. Over the summer ospreys also regularly fish in the rapids. There are a wealth of other birds along the coast of Taynish – cormorants, Canadian geese, oyster catchers and red breasted mergansers to name just a few.
The natural wonders at Taynish are not confined to its shores, on the sea bed a myriad of sea weeds, corals and shellfish live. But this underwater world deserves its own blog so we will leave it there for now.
Next up from Argyll … the woodland wonder of Glasdrum Wood NNR.
Find out more about Taynish NNR @ http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/taynish/
Enjoy our 12 minute video of Taynish NNR @ http://youtu.be/tFNTA-K0zFE
See our Taynish NNR pinterest board @ http://uk.pinterest.com/naturalscotland/
Images courtesy of Doug Bartholomew