Thursday, 30 October 2014

An Ormsaigbeg Miadan - Early Winter

Up at the back of a neighbouring croft is a small area of damp grassland, a meadow, which we've been visiting through the summer to appreciate the rich wildlife such a small area can support - see previous entry here.  One anonymous reader objected to the use of an English term to describe a Scottish field, so the word 'meadow' in the title is, rather tentatively, replace by the Gaelic 'miadan', a word derived directly from the English.

At this time of year the land is dominated by the grasses, many of them in muted yellow-browns when caught by the sun....
....but there are still some flashes of brighter colour, almost all from the leftovers of summer, such as knapweed and....

 ....bell heather, some of whose flowers have a bluish tinge as if they're feeling the cold.

The most startling colour is found by grubbing around on ones hands and knees.  This is one of several delicate little fungi growing amid the greenery, possibly a waxcap.

Only one bird was briefly heard, perhaps a pipit, the overwhelming silence broken only when one approached the little burn that cuts the meadow in half - and it, after all the recent rain, was noisy.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Red Deer

Dawn, for a change, held some promise of a fine day, so we drove out to....

....Loch Mudle and set out to walk along the edge of the forestry that clothes the slopes of Beinn nan Losgann.  Odd patches of mist oozed out of the pine trees, and what is usually a superb view to the north was already obscured by drizzle.

We were aiming to walk along the edge of the forestry before striking out across more open land to climb into the saddle between Beinn na h-Urchrach, pictured, and Ben Hiant.

This is all Ardnamurchan Estate land, which we've avoided during the last few weeks as it's been the stag stalking season.  Although the hinds are now being culled, this continues for some weeks, so we feel less inhibited.

This is the best time of year for watching red deer at their best.  The first we saw were in a small herd of mixed stags and hinds, but....

....we also saw this pair of stags....

....and small groups of hinds on their own.  Considering it is the stalking season, they seemed remarkably unperturbed by our passing, and only moved off reluctantly.

We love walking amongst wildlife like this, and do everything we can to avoid disturbing the animals.  When we first see deer we stop and wait for them to see us.  If they don't move away, then we circle round to avoid them.

We climbed up to the edge of the saddle but the drizzle was becoming increasingly persistent.  We also spotted yet more deer up in the saddle and knew that, if we moved into it, we couldn't help but disturb them.  So, after stopping for a few moments to look back across the land we'd crossed, we reluctantly set off for the car.

The colours in the land were superb.  All we needed was some sunshine to set them on fire, but the sun refused to show itself.

A Skein of Swans

A skein of sixty swans flew high over the Sound of Mull yesterday, heading almost west as if they were making for Coll or Tiree.

They were led by a swan who powered ahead of the rest, and it may have been him/her who was responsible for the occasional honking call that drew our attention to their passing.  They were too high to be able to identify the species, but they may have been whoopers, except....

....a close look at the upper arm of the formation revealed two smaller birds hitching a ride, perhaps geese.  So.... fifty-eight swans and two geese flew over.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Kestrel

Every day for the last few days, whatever the weather, we've seen a kestrel working the grassy fields along the length of Ormsaigbeg.  The recent long spell of rain must have made his life a misery, and one wonders how long a bird like this can survive in such wretched conditions.  At least, when the last picture was taken while he was taking a brief break, the sun had come out - but he looked exhausted.

Saturation

A watery sun finally appeared during the mid morning, throwing a washed-out light across a sodden landscape.  In the first sunshine we've seen in a week, and follows a deluge during the last twenty-four hours - 48mm of rain fell, most of it overnight.  This is the highest 24-hour rainfall we have on record over the last four years, with the exception of the 10th August 2011, when we had 60mm.

One would have expected the burns to have been brim-full first thing this morning but they weren't.  The ground is so saturated that anything further that falls runs straight off.  So there was plenty of evidence of very high stream levels, with grass flattened along burn banks.  But water did collect in some places, like on our precious roads, where a long-term failure to maintain the drainage is leading to another potholed winter.

Some water collected in the fields - this is Grigadale - which drove many worms to the surface.  In places crows could be seen stalking around the edges of the puddles enjoying the feast.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for the Grigadale picture.