The longest day of the year and so it promised to be given the weather forecast: wall to wall rain between 09:00 and 18:00. Before it started, though, Francine went to the Loch side to play with her camera and tripod. I remained in Guillaume catching up.
I was still catching up when Francine returned declaring that rain didn’t look likely and we should get out and about. Having seen nothing at the smaller of the two Loch Garten ponds, that would be our first target.
As we were parking, so did another car; the driver eyed us suspiciously. They hit the 4m boardwalk slightly before us under some brightness. Given the suspicious look, I made some throw away quip to break the ice. It turned out that they’d been “ticked off” by “a grumpy Scottish couple” on a recent previous occasion for stepping off the boardwalk. They had wondered if we were that couple returning.
We enjoyed about 10 minutes of bright conditions, as did the local population of White-faced Darters (Leucorrhinia dubia). This was only our second encounter with this habitat-specific dragonfly, a specialist of bog pools. Under threat from climate change and habitat loss, as a result of drainage schemes, it is now mainly in Scotland. Our other encounter was at Whixall Moss, Shropshire. We didn’t see them for long today, the sun disappeared as cloud cover rolled in, but it was worth it.
“The grumpy Scottish couple” did turn up, briefly. They were the same couple who had helped us at the Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum) pond two days earlier, when they’d seemed perfectly friendly. Curious.
With the grey appearing stuck, our new friends, English but familiar with this area from frequent visits, offered to Show Francine a nearby rather special orchid. A short distance up the road was a colony of Lesser Twayblades (Listera cordata). Once found, the term lesser didn’t really do justice to its diminutive size. How anybody found/noticed these in the undergrowth of a heavily vegetated roadside woodland bank is a wonder to me. An ecstatic Francine.
We’d driven passed a house called Flower Field on the way to Loch Garten, with which our other couple were also familiar. Francine had seen orchid spikes in the field as we had driven past. Our guides said it was en route to another interesting find, the Small-white Orchid (Pseudorchis albeda). Off we set in convoy again to pause at Flower Field.
The amount of orchids in this large, sloping field beside the road cannot be overstated. Everywhere one looked there was a mass of orchid spikes. Counting them seemed an impossible task but it seemed as if someone may have tried since there were poles with streamers marking various areas. Most noticeable from a drive-by were Lesser Butterfly Orchids (Platanthera bifolia) but now, with the aid of binoculars (the field was fenced) we could see that Small White Orchids were mixed in with them. Looking further, Francine and friends found lower numbers of Northern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella), Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) and Heath spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata), making an impressive five species in all. I’d never seen the like before.
We continued following our guides to Tullochgrue where, they said, were Small-white Orchids that Francine would be able to get close to for photographs. Our route returned to Aviemore and continued a little further down a single track road. Sure enough, just a few feet from the road we were led us to a handful of Small-white Orchids plus a few Fragrant Orchids.
Eventually some rain did turn up but it was now later afternoon. So much for weather forecasts. I don’t mind it when they get rain wrong.