Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Burnet Cocoons

The grassy area at the top of the croft behind our house, running along the common grazings fence, is one of the best places to find six-spot burnet moths. Their flying months are July and August, but we've only seen one this year, and it was the one on Bheinn Bhuidhe above Portuairk - blog post here.

However, until now we'd never found what might be a burnet cocoon. Now we think we have, but....

....all was not well with some of the cocoons we found. The second one seemed to have collapsed, there being no sign of the hole out of which the moth emerges, while....

....I'm not at all sure what happened to this one.

A rather different cocoon was spotted by Mrs Diary recently at Sanna. While it's easy to find photos of the six-spot cocoon on Google, I couldn't find this one, and wonder whether it may be the cocoon of the rarer transparent burnet which is supposed to be found at Sanna.

National Whale & Dolphin Watch

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


The weather has given us two days of blue skies and light northerly breezes, so the ladies of the household have been swimming. Rachael took to the water off Ormsaigbeg yesterday evening with a juive - a cross between a jump and a dive.

This morning they enjoyed the rather warmer waters at Sanna. This is our favourite of the various sandy bays at Sanna, on the far side of the Sanna Burn, but....

....we found the beach already occupied by a single compass jellyfish. While the ladies agonised over whether it was safe to swim - the compass does give a rather nasty sting - some of us....

....relaxed on a rock in the sunshine and watched the ships go by. This is the Eda Fransen, L208, a 1938 lobster boat built in Denmark.

In the end they decided to swim, and the jellyfish stayed away.

Annual Show & Sports Day 2017

From Derryck Morton:

The booking request for the usual sunny weather obviously did not get through for last Friday’s West Ardnamurchan Annual Show and Sports Day but that did not over-cast the spirits or standards. Stock judging began proceedings under the eye of Rhoda Munro....

....and Angus-John Cameron took Best in Show.

Encouraged to stand foot-perfect and perky, the methods of winner’s owners were an amusement to the crowd while.... of the sponsors, Johnny Watson, was rightly impressed with Alan Curtis’ stockmanship and awards.

The high standards continuing in one of the marquees with the display of craftwork, garden produce and food.

Again this year, there was the traditional Scottish regalement of live piping by Alastair Peterson and dance by Connie MacLennan.

As the sky opened to let through a little sunlight, the heavy sports began and races took place in front of the refreshment marquees, bouncy castle and slide.

A lot of fun was had powering the smoothie maker made by Paul, Richard and Chris.

Events concluded with the tug of war. The last time the visitors won was in 1969 and the status quo remains.

Proceedings concluded with the prize giving, officiated by Richard O’Connor and Joyce Hillard, who presided over a groaning table of silverware.
Many thanks to Derryck for pictures and story.
Derryck has been visiting Ardnamurchan for many years.

Monday, 24 July 2017


5.07am - dawn across Kilchoan Bay with a light northerly moving mist across the summits of Beinn nan Losgann and Ben Hiant.

5.26am - the sun's first rays touch the summit of Ben Hiant. The trig point is clearly visible.

5.42am - sunrise on the shoulder of Glas Bheinn.

11.26am - a perfect morning.  Picture looks across the marshes at the back of Kilchoan Bay to Ormsaigbeg and Maol Bhuidhe

The Ardnamurchan Clearances - a Talk

There are still some places left on this course - email Claire Pepper at or just turn up on the night.

Kilmory Sunset

Ritchie Dinnes writes, "This image is of the sun going down behind Muck. The summit of Hyskeir can just be seen to the left of the sun."

Many thanks to Ritchie for a superb picture.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Modern Crofting

The days of haymaking by hand are long gone - this picture, courtesy Dorothy Parker, was taken at Achateny Farm.

Today the whole job is mechanised. The field is cut and then, after a couple of days in which to dry, the crop is lifted and baled by one machine before....

....being transferred to another which encases the bale in plastic.

Another thing has changed. The crop is no longer hay but haylage, a cross between hay and silage, this the result of changing weather patterns so that the cut grass simply doesn't get the time to dry sufficiently to make hay.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Ships in the Sound

We're at the height of the cruising season now, with some very elegant ships passing, many of which we've seen before. However, some are new to us, like the Aegean Odyssey, pictured working her way through a small flotilla of yachts. A converted ferry carrying some 380 passengers, she is 'Voyages to Antiquity's' only ship, and is described as "perfectly suited for coastal cruising to the small inlets of the Mediterranean that larger ships cannot reach....and.... for navigating rivers, such as Spain’s Guadalquivir River and Gironde River in Bordeaux."

Star Pride passed us twice, the second time travelling down the Sound at dusk. German-built in 1988 for Seabourn Cruise Line she's another small ship, carrying just over 200 passengers, but is now operated by Windstar Cruises, link here, which also has ships like the Wind Surf.

A third cruise ship which is new to us is the Artania, another German-operated ship but much larger, carrying up to 1,260 passengers. Built in Finland and launched in 1984, she was originally named Royal Princess by Diana, Princess of Wales, in a ceremony at Southampton.

It hasn't always been ideal cruising weather. This is the ketch Irene passing Ardmore light in mist. She was built at Bridgwater, Somerset, in 1907 and, after a very varied career, is now available for private charter.

Beluga II is a Greenpeace vessel and is seen here on a voyage which made the headlines. She was looking for plastic and, unsurprisingly, found plenty of it both along Scotland's beaches as well as inside and wrapped around local marine wildlife.

Sometimes it is very difficult to identify a ship, even with the use of the AIS sites. The fine ship to the right is, I think, the sailing smack Betty CK145, built at Brightlingsea in Essex in 1906, CK being Colchester. Her original role as a fishing boat was to dredge for oysters in the shallow estuaries of Essex.

The motor yacht Wabi Sabi passed through the Sound on a voyage from Dublin to Copenhagen. She was recently on the market for $25,000,000. For that, you get a boat which she is capable of sprinting to 24 knots and has a range of over 4,000 nautical miles. There's no question that she is luxurious - see here - but I'm not sure how you'd get your moneys-worth out of her short of living aboard for the whole year.

By comparison, the Voe Jarl is a down-to-earth working boat which has spent several days at Marine Harvest's Maclean's Nose fish farm.

Another working boat seen locally is the Margaret Sinclair, here on her way in to Tobermory with Ben Hiant as a backdrop. She's a general purpose coastal landing craft operated by Inverlussa Marine Services, which also has....

....the Gina Mary, a multi-purpose aquaculture support vessel which the AIS sites call, rather unkindly, a 'tug'.

This fishing boat, at anchor in Kilchoan Bay, showed no registration numbers but one can just distinguish her name above the bridge. She's the Creachan Mor, OB26. The last time we saw her she was painted green - here.

This is one of our local creel boats, Justin Cameron's Harvester, at work off Mingary Castle surrounded by an appreciative flock of gulls.

Lastly, this is Staffa Tours' new boat Angus, a 16-metre catamaran which is seen leaving Mingary Pier for a trip to the Treshnish Islands. Staffa Tours must be doing well as they have yet another new boat, the Elsie, coming in to service shortly. They deserve their success: we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Staffa and Lunga on board their Islander.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Pine Marten Visit

A pine marten came to breakfast.... Richard O'Connor's house at Achosnich.

Cute as these animals are, we used to discourage such visits - not actively, but in the sense that we didn't put food out for them - because we had heard stories of pine martens tangling with cats, confrontations from which the cats did not come out well.

Now that our cats have gone to a happy mousing ground in the sky, we're not so bothered, as long as the pine martens don't take up residence in the roof.

Fortunately for us, a pine marten is in residence in a neighbour's shed, so we went round the other day to collect some pine marten scat....

....which we scattered round the kale bed which was being visited by what we think is a small rabbit, a beast which has not been deterred by a wire cover - see earlier blog post here.

The damage can be clearly seen in this picture, taken this morning, but we're pleased to report that the rabbit, or whatever it is, hasn't returned.

Many thanks to Richard for the top four pictures.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Choiremhuilinn Wildlife

We walked this morning on Ardnamurchan Estate land, across fields which were once worked by the people of Choiremhuilinn clachan whose houses, foreground, now lie ruined a mile to the east of Mingary Castle, having been cleared of their inhabitants in 1828.

It would be good to think that the wildlife we saw and photographed today was as enjoyed by them. The bluebells, the Scottish variety, are just coming in to flower and it appears to be a good year for them, as it is....

....for self heal, which seems a richer purple than usual.

In the wetter part of Choiremhuilinn land the first devil's bit scabious is flowering. It has practical applications, for example for treating skin irritations, and one wonders whether the local people knew of its uses.

The butterflies were out along the edges of the woodland that fringes the Allt Choiremhuilinn, the burn which separated Choiremhuilinn land for that of the neighbouring clachan to the west, Mingary. This is a moth-eaten red admiral, perhaps the last of those that survived the winter.

While whites were the most common butterfly, it was good to come across several blues, of which this male common blue was one. Some of these blues are tiny, and friendly enough to allow a camera within a few inches.

A series of shingle beaches stretch to the west of the clachan, curved beaches in wide bays, with Maclean's Nose at the end of them. Several wildflower species manage to survive in the shingle just above the limit of the winter high tide, including....

....this nettle, perhaps common hemp nettle.

While we were walking the beaches we were watched from the clifftops above, by a small herd of red deer whose ancestors would have had an uneasy relationship with the people of Choiremhuilinn.

For more about the history of Choiremhuilinn, go to the Heriatge Ardnamurchan website here.