Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Small Bird News

This was dawn this morning, with the sun rising over the hills of Morvern at 8.30 and the chaffinch mob at our bird table lining up for breakfast.

For the first time this year we had a ground frost at the end of Ormsaigbeg, though there were frosts in Kilchoan, which is less warmed by the sea, a couple of weeks ago. These starlings live around the Ferry Stores and are seen here working their way across the saltings by the slipway.

A few weeks ago, all our blackbirds disappeared. They hadn't had a good summer, unlike last year when the resident pair produced a large family of cheeky young birds which pillaged our strawberry and raspberry beds under our noses.

For some time we saw no blackbirds. Then they started to reappear, in increasing numbers, but they were quite different, very shy and wary of the bird feeders. Some of the black ones, presumably the males, have black beaks; some, like this one, have the traditional yellow.

We assume that these are blackbirds from the north, possibly from Scandinavia, which have arrived to take the place of our summer residents who have migrated south. The newcomers are just in time to gorge on the mass of berries which are weighing down the trees - rowans, whitebeam (above), hawthorne and dog rose.

We've been anticipating that this berry feast would draw in other foreign species and, sure enough, the redwings and fieldfares are arriving in increasingly large flocks, again from Scandinavia. The redwings tend to bury themselves in the foliage, exploding outwards if they feel you're coming too close.

Our chaffinches have had an excellent breeding year, and are now by far the most common bird at our bird feeders, followed by yellowhammers, robins, goldfinches, house sparrows, blue tits and great tits. The chaffinch dominance seems to have chased away some species: for example, we haven't seen a siskin in ages.

The robins seem to spend most of their time chasing each other around the garden. We've always assumed that, at this time of year, they're establishing their territories for the winter, and our terrace is prime real estate. The fights can become quite vicious, with the victor pursuing the vanquished, which....

....may have caused this robin to forget to look left and right before crossing our very busy road.

This post is specially for JJC, who tells me that 'Small Bird News'
and 'Ships in the Sound' are his favourite blog features.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Power Outage

We had a sharp reminder of winter to come when the power went off some time around 1.30 this afternoon, and stayed off until half past seven, the problem finally being identified in a transformer along Ormsaigbeg. Fortunately, some of us had a superb sunset to sit and enjoy - this picture comes from the Raptor who watched it from Pier Road.

Jonathan and Kilchoan

From Jonathan's Family:

The Ball family will be in Kilchoan again on Wednesday to say goodbye to Jonathan - husband, brother and friend.

Jonathan cemented the family’s long association with the remote end of the Ardnamurchan peninsula by moving there, and making the shop and community his life. That association started when, as children, the family visited Kilchoan and Sanna during many summer holidays. The ferry, the shop, the (working) lighthouse and that sandy bay remain a fond memory for us all. It was Jonathan’s favourite area of Scotland. He introduced Susanne to its delights and she was also charmed, agreeing it was worth the struggle and upheaval to make the move north.
Jonathan was never one to be put off by set backs, changing course when he realised something was impossible, but never giving up if he could see a way through. He was always willing to help others, even at his own expense, if he thought he could make a difference. 

His acceptance of his paralysis after the operation to remove part of his tumour was typical of him, as was his immediate conclusion that he needed yet another car in order that he could get around when he came home! He was straight on the case of how the right vehicle could be acquired and delivered to Kilchoan. It duly was and, much to everyone’s surprise, he got out to see the land and community he loved - right to the end.

Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of sympathy. We would especially like to thank all those who helped Susanne care for Jonathan. They did far more than was expected of them and made such a difference.

Jonathan’s funeral service will be at 2pm on Wednesday, in Ardnamurchan Parish Church. You are all welcome to join us to remember him and say farewell.

Photographs taken in Orsmaigbeg this morning.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Beyond Fascadale

A week ago, there were a few redwings around, tucking in to this year's heavy berry crop; now the sky is filled with flocks of redwings and fieldfares, and some of the trees - this is a rowan at Caim - seem to be laden with more birds than berries.

Another sign of the passing season is that the hills have quietened, with only the occasional roar from a rutting stag. We disturbed this fine animal just past the cairn on our way....

....to walk at Fascadale this morning, on a day which has seen uninterrupted blue skies from sunrise to sundown.

It's best to walk at Fascadale only after a run of fine weather as our preferred walks start with fording the Allt Fascadale. This picture looks across the burn to the oak woodland which clothes the sides of its steep glen, towards the peak of Meall an Fhir-eoin.

With the temperature around 15C, a light wind, and warm sunshine, this was perfect walking weather, with plenty of time to stop and enjoy the views across the Minch to the Small isles. In this picture, Eigg is on the left and the hills of Skye towards the right.

Between Fascadale and Sanna there are miles of open walking, with only one, easily negotiated fence between the settlements. While there is a marked track to follow, we walked closer to the coast and were constantly having to turn inland to work out way round steep-sided inlets so, as we progressed westwards, we were steadily overtaken by a yacht out for a leisurely sail.

National Apple Day

From our Gardening Correspondent:
To mark National Apple Day and bring the season to a close, the Community Garden held a celebration of all things apple yesterday. Gill and David with a team of volunteers had organised a fantastic range of apple-related food, drink and games. There were delicious toffee apples, apple juice freshly squeezed from a press and of course cider. The team had organised many activities during the afternoon including the chance to make earrings and necklaces out of tiny apples, an apple based quiz (did you know that apple pips contain cyanide and that the study of apples is called pomology?) and to buy bags of local apples donated by Meall mo Chridhe.

The longest peel competition was keenly fought but....

....the highlight was the apple bobbing final with many spectators getting as wet as the competitors as apples and water flew out of the bowls. The Community Garden would like to say a big thank you to everyone who donated time and produce, and to the people who turned up to make the day a success.

Many thanks to our correspondent for pictures and story.