Sunday, 3 May 2015

Wildlife

Kilchoan Early Bird found this fox wandering along the road at Laga Bay yesterday and concluded that either it was a sick rural fox or a stray city one.

Meanwhile, the Raptor has been out with his camera again looking for the unusual, and found this black cap at the Pier Road junction.  They're not common here - we've seen two in our time - but no doubt the Raptor will tell me he's seen plenty around his end of the village.

The Raptor also snapped this picture of a sanderling, which is a winter visitor and, again, not common in these parts.

A week ago ago the Raptor sent us a picture of a whimbrel - see post here - the first he'd seen here, but Polly Pullar has since reported seeing no less than fourteen at Achateny last week.  The Raptor has obviously not been looking in the right places.

Both swallows and house martins have arrived and seem to be in good numbers this year, though the western end of Ormsaigbeg is still lacking any house martins, having lost all ours a couple of years ago.  This is despite our having built a special martin nesting 'box' on the end of our house, which was occupied for a couple of years.

To make up for our lack of martins, we're certainly not short of house sparrows, a species which, a few years ago, seemed to be teetering on the edge of extinction - and they're in robust good health, making a terrific noise of their mating and nesting rituals.

The dunnock, by comparison, is a shy, retiring bird - except at this time of year, when the males chase the females around the garden fluttering their wings and cheeping sweet nothings.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird and the Raptor for their pictures.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Seashore

Overnight, the wind swung 180ยบ into the southeast so we didn't have a frost last night, but the morning forecast was for the weather to hold for a only few more hours before deteriorating into rain and cold.  So we took the opportunity to walk along the seashore below the house for an hour or so.

The first thrift is, at last, showing signs of coming into flower, but most of the plants, particularly those more exposed to the wind, still have tightly folded buds.

Thrift seems to relish flirting with the waves, growing in places which must, at the height of any storm, be inundated.  Amid the rock outcrops just above the storm line, however, other plants survive, like this sea campion....

....while, on the sheltered banks tucked into the cliffs at the back of the shore, primroses are thriving.

We're like small children when it comes to rock pools, searching them for something new and for old friends.  This is the first sea urchin we've found this year, pretty in its cerise and lime green colours.

It's interesting that the common sea anemones sport similar colours but in different shades.

Small groups of gannets, both adults and last year's juveniles, have been diving in the Sound for a couple of weeks.

Having wandered along the shore and sat on the point called Sron Bheag, we climbed the steep grassy bank to the road where, high above us, a sea eagle passed, carrying.... well, it might be a lamb.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Ockle Wildlife

We walked out from Ockle today - see post below - but Polly Pullar was staying there earlier this week and, between Ockle and Glen More, found....

 ....an emperor moth and....

....a golden slow worm.  As Polly put it, "Nature in pure perfection!"

Many thanks to Polly, who is a writer, photographer and field naturalist.
Her beautifully produced books are available locally and through her website here.

Allt Ockle Walk - 1

We ought to go walking elsewhere - climb Ben Nevis, explore the Cuillins - but we don't.  We have a thousand walks on West Ardnamurchan, and even if we repeat some of them the landscape is forever changing, we discover things we didn't see the first time, the animals and insects are always different, and, most important of all, we can choose our day.  Like today: 2C overnight under clear skies, a frost on the ground, a forecast for bright sunshine, and the opportunity to walk somewhere before the bracken comes up.  So we went to Ockle....

....arriving just before nine, and walked the old track that follows the Allt Ockle upstream.  To the west is the wall of Ardnamurchan Estate forestry while, to the east, had we wanted to strike out that way, are miles and miles of gloriously bleak, rolling, open muirlands which rise to the heights of Beinn Bhreac.

All the way along the track lies evidence of the people who once lived here.  Some of the piles of stones are evidently the remains of houses - in 1806 Ockle had over a dozen buildings in use, many of which would have been dwellings - but some are not as easily explained, such as this lozenge-shaped mound some 6 metres long.

This view looking back towards Ockle gives some idea of what beautiful morning we enjoyed.  In the distance is Eigg and, beyond it, Rum, while to the right is Burnside, one of Ockle Holidays' letting cottages.

We climbed diagonally up the side of the valley as the track running up the east side of the glen is blocked by a stand of conifers, forestry which probably dates back to a time when grants were given for planting without thought to how difficult it might be to exploit the mature wood once it had grown.

Once past the woodland, the upper reaches of the Ockle glen opens up, open moor to the left dropping to land which has, judging by the richness of the summer growth of bracken, once been worked as arable land.

It's not difficult to find the structures left by the people who exploited this land.  The rocks in the left foreground are part of a shieling hut, one of several here which are evidence of the area being used for summer grazing of the animals while Ockle township's fields were growing the people's crops.

But there are also plenty of signs of much more permanent occupation.  Old walls, perhaps hundreds of years old, snake down the open slopes of the valley towards the burn, their course dictated by where the richer soil lay.

Close to these areas of once-tilled land are the dwellings of the people who worked it.  Here, a small, rectangular building sits on a low rocky mound in the middle of a field, probably the house where the farmer lived, located close to a rill of clear running water.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

'Nahlin' Departs

At the end of a day which, despite the snow lingering on the hills, has seen wall-to-wall sunshine here, Sir James Dyson's yacht Nahlin leaves Tobermory having sailed into the bay last Saturday.