Sunday, 29 November 2015

First Snow

We woke to find snow on Ben Hiant and Beinn na h-Urchrach, and a dusting on the much lower Beinn nan Losgann, and the day continued with a stiff northwesterly bringing mostly rain and hail at lower levels and....

....around lunchtime, the first flurry of snow to sea level, much to the discomfiture of the chaffinches and other birds crowding round the feeding areas.

For the first time in a long time we didn't get out for a walk, preferring to stay indoors and do useful jobs like waterproofing our walking boots. We ate lunch watching the birds and the ships moving in the Sound: here the Kingdom of Fife, on the right with the wind behind her, meets the Arklow Forest fighting into the teeth of a sudden squall.

But the weather has been changing in minutes, the hail which accompanied the squall giving way to bright sunshine - not that it made much difference to the Arklow Forest.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

St Comghan's Go-Ahead

Highland Council workmen erected a safety fence around the south and west sides of St Comghan's church on Wednesday. Since Highland Council owns the church and graveyard, it is responsible for maintenance, so this was possibly done because they have identified a crack in the door lintel which was declared dangerous.

At almost the same time Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology heard from Francis Shaw, the architect at Mingary Castle, that he had obtained Sceduled Monument Consent for the work he and structural engineer Brian Smith had identified as urgent, which includes strengthening the dangerous lintel and the tops of the three arches.

Francis also informs us that Historic Environment Scotland has allocated a Monument Management Grant of up to £4,000 for St Comghan's. The proposed work includes putting a hidden stainless steel support under the lintel to make it safe, and rebuilding the stonework above the arches so that the weight stabilises them.

All this is excellent news, and we are very grateful indeed to Francis, Brian and our friends at Archaeology Scotland for all the help they have given us.

'Hazard A' Tanker Passes

The Mersey Spirit passed up the Sound of Mull again this afternoon - she was last off Kilchoan on 4th October. She's a tanker, carrying bunkers for ships, and her cargo of oil is classed as 'Hazard A major'. Her deadweigth tonnage is 2,366 tonnes. Since the DWT is the sum of the weights of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water, provisions, passengers, and crew, and she's down to her marks, fully loaded, one can guess there's about 2,000 tonnes of oil on board.  The Lysblink Seaways spilled 25 tonnes when she grounded.

I enjoy watching ships like this pass through the Sound. While I think it's probably safer for her to pass to the west of Mull, I'm happy to see her - as long as the owners know that, if the ship comes ashore and people's livelihoods are ruined, the fines they will incur will be punitive.

Currently this is not the case - all they have to do is apologise and promise to do better next time.  So, wherever you live, please write to and urge him to press the UK government to take all the steps he can to prevent a repeat of the Lysblink Seaways 'accident'.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Blackcap and Diver

We've had a brief visit from a blackcap, this one a female so she has a brown cap. She tried to have a turn on the peanut feeders, which is perhaps a little surprising as the blackcap's main food is insects and berries, but the rampant chaffinches didn't give her a chance.

So she didn't stay long - the weather was miserable anyway - and we haven't seen her again, so we hope she's now on her way south to find somewhere a little more cheerful to spend her winter.

On a grey morning I tried to get a picture of the water birds on the little lochan along from the shop - Lochan nan Al. Most of them were wigeon which spend the winter here, and there was also a pair of mallard, but the bird that caught my eye was the one at left in the picture, which is a diver of some sort.

An attempt to get closer for a better picture failed when a small group of greylag geese which had been hiding along the shore took to the air in their usual, noisy fashion, frightening the other birds into instant flight.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Lysblink Seaways - Can We Do Anything?

Following the MAIB report, and its recommendation that, since DFDS say they have taken steps to deal with all the issues raised in the report, no further action should be taken, I suppose the easiest reaction is to sit back and do nothing.

Our position isn't helped by our lack of a Community Council to take the lead. However, this shouldn't prevent us from writing to our other elected representatives, particularly to our MP, Ian Blackford, since matters such as this are reserved to Westminster.

I have written to him copying my email to local MSPs and some Highland Councillors for information. I asked that something be done to punish DFDS, mostly to deter a repeat of this sort of needless accident both by DFDS and by other ship owners. I'm pleased to say I heard back immediately from Dave Thompson, our Constituency MSP, assuring me that he and Ian Blackford MP are pursuing the case. I have also heard from Fergus Ewing, who says that he agrees with my concerns.

Since 2001, when the Lysfoss went aground on Auliston Point, we've also had the Fri Ocean go ashore 2.5km south of Tobermory in 2012. Both grounded for very similar reasons - an inadequate watch was being kept in the early hours of the morning. That's three ocean-going ships colliding with rocks within ten miles us in the last 15 years! How much longer can our luck hold - because if the worst happens, our creel fishing, our fish farms, and our tourist industry will be dead.

Please write to All you need to say is that you support him in any action he can take to prevent a repeat of this sort of accident. It helps if you copy the email to  And you don't have to live here to be concerned - something needs to be done about this nationwide.