In fine New Year weather Tain Field Club members walked from Portmahomak to Tarbat Lighthouse along the west shore of the peninsula.
Strong sun – almost warming – between big snow showers seen over Sutherland and blowing in from the north set the scene overhead. Long, clear, visibility helped but soil conditions were about as wet as expected and did not impede progress too much.
Apart from enjoying the New Year from its third day there were three objectives TDFC members hoped to observe.
- The carcass of a dead Sperm Whale
- Sight of Iceland Gulls
- Re-visiting the “dinosaur tracks” in the shoreline sandstone surface
All three were seen. The whale was unmissable and a bit smelly. The clean air of the strong wind reduced the feared smell of decay, though Herring and Black Backed Gulls walked over the whale’s surface hoping for some tasty morsel.
Though a keen watch had been kept for passing, or standing, Iceland Gulls it was not until reaching the shore near the Tarbatness Lighthouse that the birds gave us a confirmed sighting. They were simply standing on some rocks and milled about among birds more ‘local’.
The animal tracks were seen, mostly, as David had a photo of the sandstone slabs to help with locating the correct one. This shore has been subject to very energetic wave action and either that or the hand of man had removed a portion of the slab containing some of the footprints. TDFC learned that David had pointed the Natural History Museum, London to this site. It has been visited by Cambridge paleontologists who confirmed the tracks are of tetrapod origin and given the 380 – 410 million year old age of the rocks fits in with being among the five oldest examples of terrestrial animal activity anywhere. As in Anywhere. But surely this animal precedes the dinosaurs by no small margin. The tracks slab has had a cast made and an analysis of the footfall pattern gives rise very clearly to two possible modes of tetrapod locomotion.
After completing the walk TDFC walkers were pleased to accept the invitation for hot tea and coffee, and cake!, from Mary.
New Year walks can be quite frigid affairs, but this day was bright, light, windy, not frosty, and comfortable to experience all the while seeing the Tarbat plants and animals at their annual nadir.
There are other comments on the TDFC Facebook page. And, here are some photos below.