Little Assynt Estate is a like a little piece of paradise. Dominated by the impressive mountain of Quinag, the views on a sunny day can be breathtaking. But do not forget to look down as well. Below your feet all manner of wildlife is thriving.

Little Assynt Leaflet insideThe deep peat may not, at first glance, seem very productive but during the summer it can hold a great variety of wildflowers. The yellow flowers of the Tormentil and white flowers of Heath Bedstraw form the backdrop with which to look for the delicate Heath Spotted Orchids that flower in abundance.Little Assynt Leaflet inside Because the nutrients are very scarce in the peat some plants have to resort to getting their protein from insects. Oblong and Round-leaved Sundews can be found in the wet areas with their leaves covered in honey and dew-covered hairs that trap unsuspecting midges. The blue flowers and star-like leaves of the insect-eating Common Butterwort is also very common.

Over the wet heath you will notice large winged moths flying. The black and white one is almost certainly the Magpie Moth – whose caterpillars devour heather. The Northern Eggar is perhaps the commonest large brown moth but look out for the colourful Emperor Moth with large eye spots to deter bird predators. Listen out for Cuckoos from April onwards. The female Cuckoo is nearly always followed by small Meadow Pipits who seem to recognise that these birds are responsible for hi-jacking their nesting effort for the year by placing their own eggs in the Pipits’ nest. Cuckoos specialise in eating moths.

Little Assynt Leaflet insideOther birds you may see include the Stonechat whose alarm call is similar to someone clacking two stones together. Where there are a few birch trees look out for Willow Warblers and Tree Pipits. And always scan the horizon for Golden Eagles. The Little Assynt Estate is within the home range of a long-standing pair of Golden Eagles and if you are really lucky you may see one hunting over the Cnoc and Lochan landscape for movement of Red Grouse or other tasty morsel. In winter the eagles survive on carrion.

Near the water’s edge you will see lots of dragonflies in mid-summer. Gold-ringed Dragonflies are the largest but you will see the red bodies of Highland Darters as well as the numerous Four-spot Chaser Dragonflies. There will be plenty of Blue and Red Damselflies hanging on to the stalks of Water Lobelia emerging from the water’s edge.

Also in the water you might find Frog spawn and even Toad spawn in spring. Toads and Newts breed in many of the lochs especially the smaller ones where there are no fish to eat the tadpoles.They must also watch out for Otters which will eat the adults. Because they are poisonous the Otters must take off the skin of the Toad which includes the poison gland before they can eat it safely. Otters have their young around about April and first bring the youngsters to the water’s edge in May. You will see their spraints (droppings full of fish bones) on stones near the water’s edge.

On the bigger lochans you may be lucky to glimpse a Black-throated Diver. After twenty years without producing any chicks on the estate, the last few years have seen success for the Divers. Their nest on the loch shore is always vulnerable to a sudden rise in water level and the eggs being flooded.Little Assynt Leaflet insideNear the ruins of the old sheiling you will find Wheatear and, in the bracken, maybe Adders. On hot days they sunbathe on the old stone walls and footings of the old buildings. However there is much to see and many parts of the estate to explore.

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