Friday, 19 December 2014

Emergency Responders

Many readers will remember this picture, part of the campaign this community waged in order to secure a robust, fast and effective local response to accidents and medical emergencies.  The West Ardnamurchan Emergency Responder system set up three years ago to cover the emergency work previously done by our District Nurses has been hailed by some, such as Alex Neil, recent Secretary for Health & Wellbeing, as an outstanding success.  Up to a point it has been, but its success has always relied heavily on the goodwill and dedication of those who became Responders.  Now, the whole scheme is tottering on the verge of collapse simply because the Scottish Ambulance Service hasn't been able to recruit to replace those who, for good reasons, have had to leave.

Both the SAS and the representatives of our Community Council who were involved when the scheme was set up have always agreed that it would need a minimum of six people to work effectively.  At no time has this number been achieved.  As a result, a few have borne the burden of keeping this service, which is so vital to our community, alive.

As of the beginning of NewYear 2015, we are likely to be down to two ERs.  Since the ERs have to attend emergencies in pairs, this means that these two will be on duty 24/7.  This is utterly unacceptable.  Not only does it put immense pressure on these two good people, but it means that, if one of them were to resign - and they'd have very good cause to - West Ardnamurchan would be without emergency medical response: we would have to rely on ambulance and paramedic cover from Strontian, over an hour away.

The belated Scottish Ambulance Service reaction to this dire situation has been to publish adverts for Emergency Responders, both locally and nationally.  While it might be possible to attract applicants from outside the area - they would have to come and live here - our only real hope for the scheme is that people suitably qualified within the community will apply.

The Community Council is therefore appealing to anyone who has medical qualifications to consider applying for one of the vacant posts.  The SAS advert - here - gives full details.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Yellowhammers Galore

Many thanks to Trevor Potts at the Ardnamurchan Campsite for sending the Diary this picture of no less than seven yellowhammers.  He tells us that there were two others as well, making a remarkable number for a bird which is described as 'a bird of open country' and which is said to be a summer visitor only in this part of the world.  In fact, we've seen them ever since we moved to Ormsaigbeg, but never before in such numbers - we see about four at a time.

Nativity Play

From Ritchie Dinnes:

These images are from Kilchoan School's marvellous nativity play last night, The Star Attraction. It was a real treat for the audience, the children were so confident and obviously having a great time. You could not take your eyes away from the stage for a second, there were so much going on.

Congratulations to Miss McLuckie, Mrs Fisher, Mrs Cameron, their helpers, the school children and the nursery kids. Well done!!

The Star Attraction was written by Sheila Wilson.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Feeding Small Birds

Each winter we deploy a slightly different combination of bird feeders, the pleasure coming as much from seeing which of the year's new inventions work and which are dismal failures.  This fat feeder isn't new, having been a great success in previous years.  It consists of a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pudding tin with a hole banged into the lip for the wire, filled with bird seed and topped up with Morrison's best lard. It's aerodynamically stable so doesn't get blown off in gales, and reusable.

These two peanut feeders also saw service last year but the type on the left is being phased out.  It's nice and easy to fill, doesn't blow off, and contains plenty of nuts but the nuts get wet, with mouldy consequences.  The bigger one is the way modern nut feeders are trending, the nuts in the upper part (a plastic downpipe) being protected, and the tin upended on the top both covering the nuts and offering a quick way of refilling the contraption.

This blue tit is modelling the latest design in nut feeders, the nuts, again, being housed in a plastic pipe (this sort is used for drains for handbasins) with a cap on the top to keep them dry - this usually being the top off a household dispenser of some sort.  It's suspended from a piece of wire which hooks into the top of a bamboo pole, which means it blows around in the wind, deterring everything except the tit family, siskins, greenfinches, and those dratted chaffinches.

Dispensing seed efficiently and cleanly is much more of a problem.  The last couple of years we've simply spread it across the slates on top of the terrace wall, but this has the disadvantage that the birds tend to foul the surfaces, and the wind blows the seed all over the place - usually much to the pleasure of the local cock pheasant, whom we hate, and against whom the wire cages were designed.

This wooden trough is copied from the feeders the crofters use for giving their sheep beet pellets.  It prevents the wind blowing the seed about but it fills with water during rain, and small birds still poop in it.

So this is the very latest design which is being tested at the moment.  The seed is placed behind the plastic baffle, where it's kept nice and dry, while, at the same time, being easily accessible for the birds.  Further, by having the wood which forms the base protrude slightly, the small birds can land on the narrow ledge while anything from a blackbird bigger can't - and the pheasant doesn't have a hope.  Also, because none of the birds can get inside, the seed isn't fouled by their droppings.  This one's a prototype but the design, properly built, may have commercial possibilities.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sunrise over Kilchoan Bay

These pictures were taken during a half-hour period this morning from the area around the Ferry Stores.  The first, taken just after nine, looks from the road by Craigard croft across the entrance to Kilchoan Bay to Auliston Point on Morvern.

We hardly seem to have plunged into winter before we're approaching the solstice, a week away.  From the point of view of taking pictures of sunrises, this is the perfect time of year as the sun comes up slowly right across the Sound so that, on a calm, slightly frosty morning like this morning, it's reflected in the still waters.

This picture looks across the bay from the slipway below the shop.

Taken a couple of minutes later from the little beach to the east of the shop, this photo features a co-operative common gull.

This is the second time recently that a grey heron has placed itself neatly in a shot.  This one is standing in the shallow waters of Lochan nan Al, just to the west of the shop, with the hills of Morvern in the distance to the left, and Mull at centre and right.

The last picture was taken from beside the shepherd's hut at the west end of Lochan nan Al.  The hut is available for rent, website here.