We have a sunny day in the offing. Don’t get excited, it’s the only warm-ish sunny day in the foreseeable forecast. There are some sunny intervals forecast in a few days but the temperature is then due to top out at a risible 13°C. Sheesh!
Since today we had sun and clear mountain tops, and since we’d hit our target species here already, we thought we could play tourists and go to try the Cairngorm mountain railway, a funicular up to near the summit of Cairngorm itself. We munched a bacon sarnie to keep us going and set off
We paused en route at a ski car park for views back over Loch Morlich, beside which we were camped, and Aviemore (sans fuel station) in the distance. Quite pleasant. Then we headed off for the funicular station, parked, grabbed cameras, and wandered off for tickets.
Now, get this. The funicular ride to the top is just 8 minutes. The 8-minute ride costs a whopping £13.50 each. Once you get to the top, you can’t leave the building (restaurant and obligatory gift shop) and walk UNLESS you have booked one of their guided walks. For their guided walks, they want another £12.00. Jee-zus!! Has someone got themselves a license to print money, or what?
OK, the view was quite pleasant – midsummer’s day tomorrow, sunny day, 8°C at this altitude – but it ain’t worth £13.50 when all you are now is the captive of a cafe and gift shop with no hope of escape other than descent. We went, “ooh, ahh”, our bank manager went “ouch!”, and we descended to look for sun-loving insects in what may turn out to be our solitary sunny day.
Uath Lochans [I think lochans are small lochs] looked interesting – three modestly sized lakes with nature, car park and footpaths. I skilfully overshot the turning to the car park so we had too flip a U-turn t try our approach again. We turned around at the entrance to an estate but, more importantly, opposite the entrance was a mossy pond with dragonfly activity. These turned out to be Four-spotted Chasers (Libellula quadrimaculata) and Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). Nothing greatly exciting but worth a look.
Our second attempt at finding the car park was more successful though it looked oversubscribed. A man was boiling water in the only remaining space. He graciously moved for us. He was into dragonflies, too, and asked if we’d come for Northern Damselflies (Coenagrion hastulatum). Well, yes, I’d love to see more of those. He pointed us to the lochan’s edge and we set off in wellies. Good choice of footwear – off the path things became decidedly boggy. We saw a few blue and black striped jobs. Eventually I managed to snag one. Wait a moment, that’s a Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum), surely? There were Four-spotted Chasers and Large Reds a plenty, too, but blue and black stripes-wise, the story was the same elsewhere: just Common Blues.
We walked a good distance around one of the tracks but didn’t see anything different. Now I was left wondering if there actually were Northern Damselflies here or whether the Common Blues might have been mistaken for them. Frankly I doubt the mistaken identity but we saw none. We never saw anything resembling the correct habitat for Northern Damselflies, either, but maybe there’s a patch around one of the other two lochans. We’ll never know.
We finished the day with a visit to the nearby RSPB reserve of Insh Marshes – sounded interesting. The map wasn’t great but we chose a route through an orchid field. It turned out to be about three miles around and showed nothing in the way of marsh but at least Francine got to find some more orchids: Fragrant (Gymnadenia conopsia), Heath Spotted (Dactylorhiza maculata) and Northern Marsh (Dactylorhiza purpurella).