Monday, 2 May 2016

Linnets & Redpolls

Having been very gently corrected the other day for identifying a redpoll as a linnet, I think I may have the problem cracked. This pair of linnets (I hope) were on our terrace this morning. They're 'definitely' linnets because the male has a pink breast, but not the female, a chestnut back and a black and white tail.

But.... oh dear.... isn't the male supposed to have a red splash on his head? The female, unlike the redpoll female, doesn't have the red head. His red chest is also very muted compared to other males in the breeding season. Perhaps it's just a local variation, or a subspecies.

This is a male redpoll in all his mating finery, with a red head, red chest, two bars on his wings, stripes down his back, and a slightly more pointed beak.

They're both lovely little birds, and very welcome when they make their occasional visits to our bird feeders.

That Missed Shot

Ritchie Dinnes writes, "We were off to the Fort early on Saturday morning and I brought my camera in order to catch some of the snowy vistas. We had not even reached the cairn when we came across a sea eagle sitting on an outcrop just metres from the road. I reached for the camera (which was set at manual) in a panic and tried to capture a picture, however the eagle then took flight. This is not quite in focus but you can see the power that is required to get a bird of that size into flight."

But Ritchie had more luck with this image of the eagle as it flew off past the Beinn nan Losgann forestry.

Many of us can empathise with Ritchie, having seen a chance at a prizewinning shot and not been able to get the camera out in time and on the right setting.

Many thanks to Ritchie for pictures & story.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Sanna Natural History

This morning started mucky, not the ideal weather for a shipload of tourists to be arriving in Tobermory looking for a day ashore. This is the Fred Olsen cruise ship Boudicca, launched in 1973 as the Royal Viking Sky, since when she has sailed under nine more names varying from the Hyundai Keumgang to the Grand Latino.

With the forecast indifferent and the going wet underfoot, we opted for a gentle walk along the sands at Sanna, arriving there just before ten to find ours the first car in the car park - with the result that we had the beaches to ourselves.

We checked the area where we had found a plover's nest back in early April - post here - to find that a recent high tide had removed all trace of it. However, four or five ringed plovers were running around in the vicinity, so we hoped that these were the parents and their young.

Despite the recent winter weather, each day we find another spring 'first'. This is the first thrift in flower, a plant which grows close to the tide mark in the most barren and exposed of positions.

Sanna's beaches are constantly changing, depending on tide and weather. Recent rain and snow melt have removed large amounts of sand from the southernmost of the beaches, creating a topography that looks like the Grand Canyon.

But what is it that makes this beach, year after year, the preferred dying place for many of Sanna's molluscs? Through much of the winter the beach has been a normal Sanna white sand beach, but now it's pink with....

....the accumulation of thousands of shells. In this picture there are at least seven different species, though the most prevalent and colourful is Littorina obtusata, the flat periwinkle.

Despite the overcast, the machair at the back of the beach was alive with small birds - skylarks singing above us, wheatears scolding us as they flew from tussock to tussock, and masses of these pretty little birds which I think are meadow pipits.

This herring gull stood on a rock and watched us as we passed. The tide was sliding in across the sand so the rock the gull was standing on became smaller by the minute. He looked very serious, so perhaps he was mourning....

....a relative who looked very much as if he had been taken by a predator and neatly butchered, the corpse left lying on the sand looking just like the fossil archaeopteryx one admires in London's Natural History Museum.

Grow Your Own Cinema

West Ardnamurchan Community Development Company has successfully applied for help in exploring the possibility of setting up a local film club or cinema, with funding from the ‘Grow Your Own Cinema’, a project supported by Cinema For All and Voluntary Arts Scotland set up to encourage voluntary arts groups to put on their very own film events.

In February 2016, the project launched an initial call-out for expressions of interest in Grow Your Own Cinema from voluntary groups from all over Scotland, and Ardnamurchan was one of four areas in Scotland which was shortlisted to be a part of the project:

The project will include:

• Free training day at the Sunart Centre in Strontian, with a Cinema For All project officer and other film-related groups, covering topics such as Film Licensing, Technical Equipment and Event Marketing.

• Funding to cover hire of equipment (if necessary) and film licence for your group’s initial screening.

• Follow-up support and advice from Cinema For All project officer.

The first stage of the project is to send up to five people for a day’s training and information session with other community groups which will be held in the Sunart Centre, Strontian on July 12th. If anyone is interested in being involved or can come along to this day, please get in touch with Dale Meegan on 01972 510322 or at dalemeegan@yahoo.com. Ideally, the Development Company would like a cross section of members of the community to be involved.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Hughie Has Triplets

This is Hughie's goat, with her new triplets. Hughie says goats are not his thing, not like pigs, and that she belongs to his wife, but I have my doubts. Having covered the local fields in pigs, I suspect he's going to try to squeeze goats into the few remaining spaces.

One good reason why I think it's Hughie's is that Hughie has all the luck. The nanny was supposed to be having twins, but three popped out. I have a horror that he'll be breeding goats which have as many kids as his sows have piglets.