Friday, 24 March 2017

Pupils' Visit to St Comghan's Church

Many thanks to Kilchoan Primary School teacher Alison Munro for letting the Diary publish one of the photos she took during the recent visit of the school children to St Comghan's church - see post here. In it, a rather ancient enthusiast is trying to explain the excitement he finds in a stone wall, albeit an even more ancient 12th century wall, with mixed results.

The children were a credit to their school, polite, interested and, mostly, attentive. Alison says they enjoyed the afternoon and are now writing about what they learnt. I too had to do some writing. As a result of the day I was asked to make a few comments because I am now one of the school's 'partners'. I feel very honoured.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Busy Garden

We were a bit weary this morning after yesterday's long walk so spent the morning in the front garden weeding in the bright sunshine - and taking a few minutes off every now and again to snap the insects which were enjoying the flowers around us.

The aubretia is coming in to flower and is popular with the honey bees from the neighbouring Ardnamurchan Campsite as is....

....the flowering currant.

However, most of the bees are in the heather, along with two common lizards. Not that they are hunting the bees - one almost landed on this lizard's nose, and he brushed it off hurriedly - they're after....

....the various types of fly.

Someone needs to tell the lizards that the flies aren't that keen on the heather, that there are far more of them on the vibernum, not only the more common bluebottle type but also....

....some more exotic fly species.

While most of the bees are honey bees, we're also seeing many more bumblebees, like this one which was enjoying the berberis, one of the shrubs that's much less popular with the honey bees. This is one of our favourite shrubs as it does very well in our maritime climate, and puts on a spectacular show of vibrant colour in the early spring.

Look closely at the bumblebee. It seems very early in the year, but he's already ....

....heavily infested with mites.

It doesn't look very pleasant but the good news is that they're not feeding on the bee itself. Having wintered in the bee's nest, feeding on wax, pollen and other debris, at this time of year they're hitching a lift on their host. In due course they'll drop off onto one of the flowers the bee visits, and then grab hold of the next passing bee.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Ben Hiant's Southwest Shoulder - 1

Yesterday we enjoyed snow, hail, sleet and everything in between. Today dawned as it intended to continue, perfect conditions in which to climb into the hills to the southwest of Ben Hiant.

We walked down to the mouth of the Choiremhuilinn burn, crossed it by the footbridge, and then climbed up onto the grassy area in the centre of this picture, the site of the clachan of Choirehmuilinn, cleared in 1828. The snowy summit of Ben Hiant is visible and, slightly to its right, the notch which was our objective for the day.

With the air so clear, the higher we climbed the more superb the views became. This is the first time in some weeks that we've had a day like this, so it was wonderful to be high in the hills to enjoy it.

In this picture, we looked across Mingary Castle towards the hill called Maol Buidhe and the steep cliffs of Sron Bheag at the far end of Ormsaigbeg. The low outline of the island of Coll lies along the horizon.

The Ben Hiant ridge ends steeply, falling away into the sea just by....

....the Maclean's Nose fish farm, visible at bottom right of this picture. This view looks down the Sound of Mull, with Tobermory Bay on Mull at right, the entrance to Loch Sunart at left and, in the distance, the snowy peaks of Beinn Tallaidh (towards the left) and Ben More (towrds the right).

Throughout the walk we were watched by herds of red deer. This one was made up almost entirely of stags, most of which still had their antlers, though we found one antler which had already been shed.

As we climbed, the patches of snow became more extensive and deeper. Lying snow isn't a common commodity here, and this patch was up to 6" deep in places, exactly the sort of place.... expects to find common lizards. We saw four in all, and they had obviously emerged from their winter hibernation to find a sheltered spot in which to bask in the sun but, when disturbed, tried to dash away across the snow - where they suffered sudden and rather catastrophic drops in temperature.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Winter Greets First Day of Spring

With today's equinox, we move into spring. In the circumstances, it would have been good to have taken a picture of a brilliant sunrise but there was no chance of that. Since the early hours we've had wave after wave of wintery showers blown in on a steady westerly, their products ranging from snow through hail to sleet. This picture looks past the war memorial in Kilchoan to the houses of Ormsaigbeg, with the peak of Beinn na Seilg just visible.

In the few brighter moments the scenery has been spectacular. A light dusting of snow like this seems to pick out the bones of the land, exaggerating every cliff, fold and lump of rock, and muting the colours. Here we're looking across Kilchoan Bay to the houses in Pier Road, and to the peaks of Ben Hiant, right, and Beinn na h-Urchrach, left.

A sudden cold snap like this does the spring flowers no good, and isn't....

....too great for Nan MacLachlan's early lambs. Her flock has now produced seven, all of them warmly accommodated in barns or horse boxes.

The small birds have to endure whatever the weather throws at them. This is one of several robins in our garden and we were concerned that we hadn't seen the one with the broken leg....

....until lunch time today, when he turned up on the wall of the terrace to grab a hasty meal before one of the others saw him and chased him off.

A Community Action Plan

West Ardnamurchan Community Development Company and West Ardnamurchan Community Council, working together and with other local groups, are seeking to develop an Action Plan which will identify the challenges that the area faces and the ideas which will help make West Ardnamurchan an even more attractive place in which to live and work into the future. It will also help us attract new funding and ensure that developments are in tune with the needs and wishes of those affected.

The process starts with survey, available both on-line and in printed form, and the public meetings will follow - see poster above for details.

The survey is here.