Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fishing Activity

With the wind staying firmly in the north the Vervine has continued to fish off Ormsaigbeg. At one point while she was hove to we watched Ceol na Mara, OB5, approach her and wondered whether they were exchanging prawns for scallops - but someone has suggested it was a less amicable meeting, that Vervine had snagged one of Ceol na Mara's creel strings.

At times during the last forty-eight hours snow showers have reduced visibility to under a mile and, with the wind working its way towards gale force in offshore waters, Vervine....

....was soon joined in the calmer waters of the Sound of Mull by at least three other dredgers - this is Cynosure, CN4.

With such a concentration of fishing boats it was almost inevitable that the law would turn up, which it did in the shape of Scottish Fisheries Protection's Jura, though she didn't do more than steam past all the trawlers in a stately fashion.

Wisely, the two local creel boats have stayed firmly in Kilchoan Bay, to which, in anticipation of improving weather, they had recently moved from their winter anchorage in Camas Fearna. This is Harvester, CN200.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Return of Winter

We woke to a stiff northwester and to see the Tobermory-based clam boat Vervine BA842 coming close under the Ormsaigbeg shore where she would be able to fish in the calmer waters in the lee of Ardnamurchan.

By mid-morning the showers had turned wintery, varying from hail through to powdery snow, along with....

 ....sunny intervals, although in this one Nan's strimming was interrupted by snow. She says she has never started the strimming 'season' in such cold weather: it's rare that one sees Nan wearing gloves.

By the afternoon snow was accumulating on the distant hills such as Beinn Tallaidh on Mull, and the Isle of Lewis coming up the Sound was butting into a choppy sea.

None of which bothers Mrs Thrush sitting on a nest which is tucked under the polypropylene roof of the lean-to at the back of the house. She has four nestlings, of which two are visible here, all with their eyes now open.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Super Day!

Some days start out well and just keep getting better - and yesterday was an example. We started with an encounter with an otter in the bay below the house, then spent three hours on what is one of our favourite walks....

....along the coastline to the south of Torr na Moine and Bourblaige. The sun wasn't out as much as it could have been but the sky cleared in the afternoon and by eleven in the evening the northern sky was pale with the northern lights. They weren't strong enough for a photograph but there's an event happening now which may carry through to this evening.

Annual Events

This year's West Ardnamurchan Show and Sports is on Friday 21 July. The Competition List can be downloaded here.

The Pram Race is on Friday 28th July with a theme of Pop Stars.

The West Ardnamurchan Regatta is on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th August.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Red Deer

The red deer stags are looking rather less impressive at the moment, having shed their antlers and only grown the stumps of the new ones. This stag was grazing alone at the southern end of Loch Mudle this morning, but we saw others in small bachelor groups.

What we took from a distance to be a small herd of hinds turned out to be a mixture of hinds and young stags. In a few weeks' time, the hinds will start giving birth to their calves.

Tea Time

We've had to curtain off one of the windows in the utility room at the back of the house so our movements don't disturb Mrs Thrush but we can watch her, and she can watch us, through a gap at the top of the curtain. We've also had to stop using a section of the yard at the back of the house.

The first bit of good news is that Mr Thrush is helping to feed his young, and he's now singing very cheerfully in the mornings from the top of the conifer opposite our house.

Mrs Thrush spends a great deal of her time on the nest but yesterday afternoon we spotted that she was out, so we were able to get a quick photo. The second bit of good news is that their four very healthy young are growing at a fast rate.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Long-Distance Heron

Kilchoan Early Bird writes, "This ring was found near the lighthouse by a crofter who told me that he'd taken it from a heron who'd come a long way west to die."

It was easy to report the ring as it belonged to Stavanger Museum in Norway. Within two days they had emailed back with this report:

The main points are that it was a grey heron ringed in its nest in May 2016 in Karsto, Norway. It was one of a brood of four. To reach the point of its demise, it had travelled 744km - nearly 500 miles.

The British population doesn't migrate but Wikipedia states that, "some populations from the more northern parts migrate southwards in autumn." So it may be that the heron had been on Ardnamurchan for some time.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for pictures and story.

Community Action Plan Survey

It's the last day for contributions to the confidential survey which will help to create an Action Plan for the future so the Development Company, Community Council and other local groups can attract new funding and plan developments which fit with the views and needs of residents and visitors to West Ardnamurchan. It can be completed online at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WACDPsurvey.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Bird News

After his owl pictures yesterday, The Raptor is certainly earning his substantial salary as the Diary's chief avian correspondent with this photograph of a swallow. The Raptor writes, "I was just listening to the weather man telling me that it's going to get colder as the weekend approaches when I looked out of the window to see the first swallow of the season arriving."

Meanwhile, in Ormsaigbeg, where the swallows have yet to arrive, we're still seeing redpolls coming to the seed in the pheasant-proof cages on our front terrace. The male must be one of the most smartly feathered of birds, though....

....for sheer brilliance the male yellowhammer is difficult to beat. This one was in bright sunlight and the camera struggled to cope with his glowing colours.

The most recent returnees to the bird-feeding area are the linnets - this is a female. The male has the same sort of red patches on him as the redpoll but the female is much more low-key.

Meadow pipits are here in some numbers, moving around the croft fields along Ormsaigbeg in small, twittering flocks, while....

....the sand martins are making themselves at home in the quarry along the Sanna road and in the larger one at the roadside to the south of Loch Mudle.

A pair of shelduck used to nest regularly in Kilchoan Bay but we haven't seen them for some time. However, this one was flying over the bay the other day so, hopefully, they're back.

A pair of buzzards are very active along Ormsaigbeg, and drawing the unwelcome attention of the local crows, resulting in some interesting aerial confrontations. We couldn't work out whether this one was carrying a stick as a contribution towards nest building, or whether the object dangling from its talons was a snake or slow worm - presumably a gift to his mate.

Many thanks to The Raptor for his photograph.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lost 'Phone

A mobile 'phone has been lost by a cyclist on the road somewhere between Acharacle and Kilchoan but most likely between Glenborrodale Castle and Kilchoan. It’s a small black Nokia 'phone in a black case. If anyone has found it, please contact Ardnamurchan Estate on 01972 510 208.

A Confused Tawny Owl

From The Raptor:
A report came to me from someone who said they had seen an owl sitting on an upstairs window ledge of an empty house not far outside Kilchoan. I obviously had to investigate after a second person came to me with the same story. So off I went in pursuit of this window owl.

On arrival at the property I approached slowly and immediately saw the window owl tucked up on an upstairs window ledge, head turned and watching my every step. The owl I noted as being a tawny owl, not a daytime flier unless disturbed. So, could this bird be breaking the tawny owl rule book or had it decided that this very open window ledge was its daytime roosting spot? This is very unusual as, being a predator, they are harried at every turn by the wee birds who would be in fear of loosing young or their own lives to a tawny owl.

Luckily I had permission to enter the building so I very quietly climbed the creaking stairs and peered into the bathroom in which the window was situated. The owl was unaware of me getting to within three feet of it on the other side of the glass, but my luck ran out in two ways. One, this double window was clean and clear on one side and all fogged up on the other. I wondered which window the owl was behind - yes, it was the fogged up window. Two, I snapped one picture, took another step and a floorboard gave the game away with a loud creeeeeeek. The owl was off in an instant, leaving the ledge empty apart from one feather stuck to the concrete.

On leaving the property I went around to the point below the window to see if there were any pellets lying around, but to my total surprise I found these, two broken white eggs. Had this (probably immature) female owl laid her eggs on a sloping concrete ledge without a nest? What a disaster for her. If anyone can confirm that tawny owls are known to lay their eggs on a window ledge please let us know.

Many thanks to The Raptor for pictures and story.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Camas nan Geall Insects

Walking the land around Camas nan Geall yesterday in warm sunshine, we met more insects that are out for the first time this year. This peacock had found a sunny slope which was out of the wind to work the lesser celandine flowers growing amongst the dead bracken stalks while....

.....a large dor beetle seemed to be intent on a a somewhat aimless walk across some sheep-cropped grass.

Back in Kilchoan, at least two white butterflies were exploring the hedgerows, while the heather in our front garden was a mass of insects.

Greedy Gannet

Many thanks to Northern Lights, one of our esteemed north coast correspondents, for this photograph. He writes, "We came across this gannet down at Swordle Bay this morning. It looks like it has choked on a spotted dogfish or equally it could have been too heavy for it to lift out of the water."

The gannets are just beginning to reappear in these waters, and there are few of them around so far this year, so it's sad to see one come to such an horrific end.


This was taken at six o'clock this morning, looking out of our bedroom window.

The spectacle lasted a few minutes before the sun lost the gap through which it was lighting the undersides of the cloud, and the sky quickly returned to an overcast grey.

Monday, 17 April 2017

A Happy Event

Congratulations to Mrs Thrush, who has been sitting on her nest under the lean-to at the back of the house for the last fortnight, on the birth of.... well, at least four nestlings.

At this point, Mr Thrush is supposed to start to help by providing some food, but we've not seen anything of him, and there hasn't been a thrush singing anywhere around the house

Camas nan Geall Circuit

When one draws the bedroom blinds and the view across Kilchoan Bay looks like this, the place to be is....

....Camas nan Geall, and the plan for the morning was to do a circuit around the settlement site, starting by climbing the hill to the west.

At the top there's one of the two sheep pens built by the new farm owner after the clachans of Camas nan Geall and Torr na Moine were cleared of their inhabitants in 1828. This one was used for gathering the sheep which roamed the area around where the Estate wind turbine now stands on Beinn Buidhe.

We then followed the top of the steep slope, from which this picture, of the site of Camas nan Geall, was taken. The whole history of this area is laid out below one, the main features....

....being shown in this labelled diagram. For more details, visit the AHHA website, here.

It's a fairly steep scramble down the slope to return to the road, with views towards Ben Hiant (left) and into the area called The Basin.

We then crossed the road and circled round on the opposite side of the Allt Torr na Moine until we reached the remains of that clachan, the stone houses demolished by the sheep farmer to build a rather larger sheep enclosure, which was used for the sheep which grazed on Camas nan Geall, Torr na Moine and Bourblaige land.

The approach to Camas nan Geall from the west gives one the opportunity to visit the two houses which the sheep farmer built, one to the left and one towards the middle of this picture. The purpose of the building to the right, with its one high window, very low door, and hipped roof, built at the same time, is a bit of a mystery.

Going into the main field one can take a look at the Neolithic cairn at the end of the line of sycamores, and....

....the 18th century graveyard in which two of the gravestones commemorate the Campbell family who held the land before the clearances. Sadly, one of the gravestones has recently been damaged, this despite the site being a scheduled monument.