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Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Cuckoo flew over Quinag


Postby dogplodder » Sun Jun 26, 2016 8:06 pm

Route description: Quinag: three Corbetts

Corbetts included on this walk: Quinag - Sail Gharbh, Quinag - Sail Gorm

Date walked: 07/06/2016

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The plan had been to take the train to Corrour but suggestions of thunder storms in that area had me shift focus to the far north west, since Assynt was forecast sun all day and no rain. This proved to be a good decision. I found out later a friend was affected by heavy rain in Glen Affric, when he and his bike were swept downstream by the force of the torrents in one of the burns he had to cross. It was hard to believe this was happening to him while we were walking on tinder dry ground with not a drop of rain. :shock:

The unexpectedly wintry conditions of the May weekend meant I'd only climbed Spidean Coinich of the Quinag range and was keen to get back to climb the other two. I suggested to Moira we climb Sail Gharbh and Sail Gorm first, leaving the option of a return over Spidean Coinich. So that was the plan. In the end Amile came with us as well and, assuming he would want to do all three in the time it would take us to do two (he'd just returned from the Black Cuillin, where he did the In Pin) the idea was he'd climb Spidean first and catch us somewhere on the other two. I gave him my spare car key so he had the option of returning to the car if he wanted to. 8)

We left the car park on the A894, crossed the road and paused for photos at the footbridge. It was 8.15 and already we were feeling the heat, making me wish I'd worn shorts.

Start of the walk at the footbridge
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A short distance along the path took us to the cairn marking the left turn Amile was taking, while we kept straight on past Lochan Bealach Cornaidh towards the bealach at the foot of Sail Gharbh. Amile had binoculars and said he'd use them to check on our progress - so we'd better behave then! :shifty:

Amile at the parting of the ways
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Moira and I continued along the path keeping an eye on the ridge leading up to Spidean Coinich and once past the lochan could see Amile waving from the first top at 620m. The recently improved path became rougher as we gained height but it was a gradual climb so an easy start to the day. But we hadn't eaten since 5.30 so decided we'd stop for a second breakfast and lured by the thought of seeing the sea I followed the path up to Bealach a Chornaidh, which as Moira pointed out we didn't have to go to as our path turned off to the right to climb to the bealach at the foot of Sail Gharbh.

Bealach a Chornaidh at 570m is flat and grassy with a nice distribution of rounded sandstone rocks which are good for sitting on. We also had a good view of the steep descent from the north top of Spidean Coinich, which Amile would come down and which we'd go up later if Moira decided she wanted to include it after doing the two Sails. :wink:

Spidean Coinich
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A hazy view of the sea from Bealach a Chornaidh
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Looking back the way we came and the way we'd go up to the second bealach
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After a marmalade roll we had the option of climbing over the unnamed peak at the junction of Quinag's ridges or retracing our steps to the path that traversed it. Had visibility been clearer I'd have opted to go up and over for the views but knowing it was hazy there wasn't such an incentive to do that so we took the easier route round the side, following a German girl we met a couple of times later. 8)

Path up to bealach at foot of Sail Gharbh
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The path reached a small cairn indicating the point to continue north east for Sail Gharbh or north west for Sail Gorm. Logically if we were going to include all three Corbetts we would have done Gharbh first but after seeing the steep ascent to reach Spidean Coinich, Moira decided she was happy to leave it out and we'd do the two Sails at a more relaxed pace. So we took a left turn that led to a path traversing the north side of the unnamed top to reach the far Sail first.

Kylesku bridge from bealach
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It was around that point I heard a cuckoo. This wasn't anything unusual as I think I've heard a cuckoo on every walk I've done since mid April - but I was surprised to hear one at this altitude. All my life I've linked cuckoos with broad leafed deciduous trees in Hertfordshire as that's where my dad pointed one out to me as a child and I've not been aware of seeing one since. It seems that for all the noise they make they're quite shy birds when it comes to showing themselves! Then as if to prove all of this wrong a cuckoo flew past, at about the same level I was walking. When we were on the Isle of Eigg I was surprised to hear one around the base of the Sgurr, and here was one flying around at 650m in the far north west of Scotland - a far cry from leafy Hertfordshire! :D

With its grey colouring and shape the cuckoo is sometimes mistaken for a raptor. (It used to be said the reason cuckoos disappear in winter is they all turned into sparrow hawks!) This confusion may stand in its favour when looking for a host nest as potential hosts like Meadow Pipets will rise up to chase it off and give away the location of their nests.

By the time I had my camera out it was out of range but from the shallow rapid wing beat, dark bars on underside and that unmistakable call, I'm in no doubt that it was a cuckoo. I didn't hear or see him again.

Cuckoo in flight (not my photo)
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After that magical moment it was simply a case of following the path towards Sail Gorm.

Path to Sail Gorm
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Sail Gorm
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Suilven and projecting rock ridge we posed on later
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After the projecting rock the path traverses the side of a table-shaped peak with an easy scramble down to the next bealach.

Choice of paths causing some erosion ahead
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From the summit of Sail Gorm I walked on a bit further to get a second view of the Kylesku bridge.

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Sail Gorm summit cairn
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The wind was quite strong on top but we only had to drop a little down the grassy east side to find a good spot for a leisurely lunch in the sun. Life doesn't get much better than this. :D

Eventually we tore ourselves away to return along the ridge, expecting at any time to see Amile coming our way. At one point we saw a stick figure waving from the unnamed top - which might have been him, but there were a number of single walkers we had met and chatted to that day so we weren't sure.

Leaving the summit and heading towards hazy Canisp and Suilven
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Looking north approaching the wee scramble
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Posing on the projecting rocky ridge
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We were just leaving the bealach with the projecting ridge when we met the German girl we'd spoken to earlier and Moira offered to take her photo on it so we went back to do that. Then we retraced our route to the bealach before Sail Gharbh - but there was still no sign of Amile. I assumed by now he must have done Sail Gharbh and wasn't going to bother with Sail Gorm..... or he'd fallen asleep somewhere as he did once on a Quoich hill when out walking with me and Nancy. :lol:

We found the cairn marking the start of the path up Sail Gharbh and followed it up. At this point we were walking on red sandstone but this changed to grey quartzite as we approached the summit.

Red sandstone
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Quartzite nearer the summit
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Moira at Sail Gharbh summit
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Canisp, Spidean Coinich and Suilven from Sail Gharbh
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Start of descent
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A last view of shapely Spidean Coinich which I'd climbed a few weeks earlier
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The walk back to the road felt longer on the return but soon enough we were back at the car where Amile was waiting. As we had guessed he had decided not to do Sail Gorm as his knee was playing up coming down the steep descent off Spidean Coinich. He had my spare car key so was able to escape potential midge attention - although to be fair they hadn't bothered us all day despite being told by someone who'd been up early they were a nuisance at the top of Spidean Coinich at 7.00 am. So all in all we were well pleased with our day compared to what was going on in other places - no midges, no bogs, no rain, no thunder and no flash floods. And the icing on the cake for me was an unexpected sighting of a cuckoo flying over Quinag. :D
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby ancancha » Sun Jun 26, 2016 11:50 pm

You got a nice day and photos dogplodder :clap:
There's a cuckoo around where I now stay in rural Ireland, been out with the camera following the calls several times, but yet to glimpse the elusive creature :roll:
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby Gordie12 » Mon Jun 27, 2016 12:53 pm

You got a brilliant day to finish off this round of 3 and these hills are worth the wait for the views you get from the tops.

Marmalade rolls - not sure about that, don't they make you thirsty??

Although cuckoos are regular companions in late spring/early summer I've only ever seen one (in Glen Feshie last year) and I wouldn't have expected to hear their call near these hills as I always associate them with woods and I can't remember seeing any trees when I did these. That said, brilliant photo.
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jun 28, 2016 2:49 pm

ancancha wrote:You got a nice day and photos dogplodder :clap:
There's a cuckoo around where I now stay in rural Ireland, been out with the camera following the calls several times, but yet to glimpse the elusive creature :roll:


Story of my life always hearing one but never a sighting. That's what made having one cross my path on Quinag so strange! :clap:
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby ancancha » Tue Jun 28, 2016 2:54 pm

dogplodder wrote:
ancancha wrote:You got a nice day and photos dogplodder :clap:
There's a cuckoo around where I now stay in rural Ireland, been out with the camera following the calls several times, but yet to glimpse the elusive creature :roll:


Story of my life always hearing one but never a sighting. That's what made having one cross my path on Quinag so strange! :clap:


Interestingly I may have seen one yesterday !
Though not sure, driving back along the single track and a few swallows were chasing around a bird on the road, I did think it was a sparrow hawk when they all flew off; nae camera to hand :(
So guess it is just another bird that I saw; your information was about the sparrow hawk was useful though :wink:
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby mrssanta » Tue Jun 28, 2016 9:09 pm

that was lovely. We saw a cuckoo once on roseberry topping. They are quite scruffy with long tails. At first I thought it was a bit of black polybag stuck in a tree then it flew away!
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:56 am

I must go back to Quinag one day... Maybe during the upcoming WH meet if conditions are good.

It's been a while since I heard a cuckoo call. They are pretty common in northern Poland, not so much here. Or maybe I climb the wrong mountains at the wrong time :lol: :lol:
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby Beaner001 » Thu Jun 30, 2016 8:30 pm

Something very satisfying about going back yo finish off something that you never did last time (once you get past the annoyance :lol: ).
Not heard a Cuckoo this year at all, heard heaps the last few years but then I've hardly been out much this year :(
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby dogplodder » Thu Jun 30, 2016 8:32 pm

Gordie12 wrote:
Marmalade rolls - not sure about that, don't they make you thirsty??

Although cuckoos are regular companions in late spring/early summer I've only ever seen one (in Glen Feshie last year) and I wouldn't have expected to hear their call near these hills as I always associate them with woods and I can't remember seeing any trees when I did these. That said, brilliant photo.


Marmalade rolls: they're breakfasty and don't make me as thirsty as a bacon roll would.

Cuckoos: yep, agree, wouldn't expect to see them away from trees.

Photo: sadly I didn't take it. :-P
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby dogplodder » Sat Jul 02, 2016 8:15 pm

mrssanta wrote:that was lovely. We saw a cuckoo once on roseberry topping. They are quite scruffy with long tails. At first I thought it was a bit of black polybag stuck in a tree then it flew away!


Sparrow hawks or black poly bags - they're the master of disguise to go about their sneaky business. :shifty:
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby simon-b » Sun Jul 03, 2016 10:17 am

dogplodder wrote:Sparrow hawks or black poly bags - they're the master of disguise to go about their sneaky business. :shifty:

That includes disguising their eggs to look like their victims', of course!

Magnificent scenery around there, DP. Quinag is one I would like to get to.
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby Silverhill » Sun Jul 03, 2016 5:18 pm

What a wonderful hill! 8) I will definitely save it for a clear day, preferably with similar weather like you had.
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby dogplodder » Sun Jul 03, 2016 10:20 pm

BlackPanther wrote:
It's been a while since I heard a cuckoo call. They are pretty common in northern Poland, not so much here. Or maybe I climb the wrong mountains at the wrong time :lol: :lol:


That's funny you've not heard them. I've heard a cuckoo on almost every hill since Bhan Bhan on 14th April - mostly lower down and I was gobsmacked seeing one so high up Quinag. You and I climb the same hills so how come you're not hearing them? :lol:
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jul 04, 2016 1:02 pm

Beaner001 wrote:Something very satisfying about going back yo finish off something that you never did last time (once you get past the annoyance :lol: ).


Didn't mind that as it was with different folk and felt like a different season - from snow and ice to risk of heat stroke all in the space of a few weeks! :shock:
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Re: Cuckoo flew over Quinag

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jul 05, 2016 3:21 pm

Silverhill wrote:What a wonderful hill! 8) I will definitely save it for a clear day, preferably with similar weather like you had.


It's a fabulous trio and you're right to save it for a good day! :D
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