Monday, 31 July 2017

A Mouse Problem

People tell us that we shouldn't feed the small birds in summer. They're probably right, in that there's plenty of natural food around, but we would desperately miss the parade of species which we sit and watch every day. For example, this morning a very smart male greenfinch visited us.

Whether feeding birds in summer is right or wrong, it does cause a problem which seems to be far worse this year, probably brought about by the loss of our two cats, and has occasioned the invention of a new device - in the picture, it's under the white board below the central bird table.

The problem is mice, at least two species of them, and shrews. The mice have become so brazen about stealing the birds' seed that.... times they have to queue up.

The situation has been exacerbated by the arrival of squadrons of juvenile house sparrows. They're messy eaters, throwing out any grain they don't like, particularly the wheat, to get at the ones they do like, mainly the sunflower seeds and millet. These sparrows have become so aggressive that even the resident chaffinches give way to them. They now lurk around below the feeders, picking up the sparrows' cast-offs.

The ready availability of grain has meant that the mouse population, like the house sparrow, has exploded, so the white board conceals mouse traps. It's there to hide the traps from the birds, and the mice can only get in through a small, low entrance - at left in this picture.

The traps are a brand called Little Nippers. They've been grimly effective.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Tobermory Lifeboat

The Tobermory lifeboat spent an hour this afternoon exercising in the northern end of the Sound of Mull, at one point coming close along the Ormsaigbeg shore.

Sanna Wet-Weather Walk

We've enjoyed over 30mm of pure Kilchoan sunshine over the last twenty-four hours so the hills are sopping and, with rain continuing this morning, didn't seem much fun for walking, so we repaired to Sanna again for a short constitutional. When we arrived, and as we walked past the mission hall, it was raining.

There was far less weed and other flotsam along the beaches than we had expected after yesterday's strong southwesterly - which was disappointing as strong winds in summer often wash in interesting objects.

With the rain continuing the burns have carved deep canyons where they run out across the beaches. This is at Port na Tuine where the burn's waters rarely come across the whole beach.

Then the sun came out, making the white sands of the beaches glow, but this flash of light and warmth didn't last and.... rained steadily as we walked the rest of the beaches. We found the Sanna burn running the colour of good whisky, staining the waters of bays at the northern end of the beaches....

....while this dunlin looked lost and alone amongst the ringed plovers and oystercatchers.

In the machair dunes the sun came out again. Two juvenile wheatears were feeding amongst the wet grass stalks. It seems no time since their fathers arrived to perform the displays that would decide which won the choice breeding grounds.

On the way home, approaching Achnaha, in another sudden patch of sunshine....

....a rare snow goose passed heading north. We've seen a snow goose once before, a couple of years ago - Diary post here - feeding contentedly in a field with greylags. Why is this one heading north in such a very determined manner?

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Whale Watching

We walked from Achosnich along the lighthouse road this morning, passing Grigadale Farm land and....

....the bay immediately to the south of the lighthouse, which more resembled a winter scene than a July day.

The purpose of our visit was to join volunteers from the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust, Eilidh, left, and Siobhan, who were spending three hours at Ardnamurchan Point helping visitors who were participating in the National Whale and Dolphin Watch, an event organised by the Sea Watch Foundation. It runs from today until Sunday 6th August and is a good example of a citizen science event, designed to collect data on cetacean occurrence around UK shores over a wide area in as short period of time as possible.

It was a very enjoyable event but the only large object we saw pass wasn't a whale but the Yeoman Bontrup, a bulk carrier on her way to Glensanda quarry to load aggregate.

We also watched several yachts like this one all hurrying north with squalls banking up behind them.

Sadly, the only wildlife we saw in the hour and a half during which we enjoyed very changeable weather were several species of sea birds, including a number of gannets, and a glimpse of what was either an otter or a seal. But, as the HWDT points out, even a negative report is helpful in that it is as important to log where the whales aren't as where they are.

The Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust's website is here.

WACC Minutes

The minutes of last Monday's West Ardnamurchan Community Council meeting, which include discussion about BT's decision to remove the 'phone from the Kilmory box despite several objections on safety grounds, are available for download here.

Friday, 28 July 2017

A Parade of Ships

Usually pictures of the many ships which pass us are saved up for a 'Ships in the Sound' feature but we've had such a variety pass in the last couple of days that it seems good to share them now.

This is the Arundo, a small bulk cargo ship which is registered in St Vincent and the Grenadines. She passed us on Tuesday in fine weather heading for the Pentland Firth.

By contrast, the Azamara Journey, which came past yesterday afternoon, is a cruise ship owned and operated by Azamara Club Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises. She has a gross registered tonnage of 30,277 and a capacity for 694 passengers, looked after by 390 crew. She was en route to Skye.

In contrast again, less than an hour later the Lady of Avenel passed under sail, a fine sight on a fine evening. It's a pity she was on the far side of the Sound.

At seven in the evening, the Northern Lighthouse Board's Pharos, which had been at anchor in Kilchoan Bay, passed close along the Ormsaigbeg shore, so we had a good look at her.

Then, early this afternoon, the Atlantic Dawn came up the Sound. She's a self-loading general cargo ship registered in the Netherlands. She's been designed to carry a variety of cargoes, from unusually large containers to heavy deck cargo, the latter being loaded by the two cranes, which are capable between them of lifting a 300 ton object.

Regatta - Highlight of Ardnamurchan's Sporting Year!

The West Ardnamurchan Regatta takes place on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th August, with the first race at 10am. Sailing races start on the Thursday, followed by canoeing, rowing, outboard, power boat and more sailing races on the Friday.

West Ardnamurchan's 34th Regatta will welcome round-Britain canoeist Colin Skeath and his wife Katrina. Colin, from Strontian, along with Davis Gould-Duff, from Limerick, will just have completed the first round-Britain voyage in an open Canadian canoe. The two left Strontian in April in a Swift Temagami canoe to travel the 2,500-mile route clockwise round Britain in aid of the 'Forget Me Not' charity.

Regatta chairman Alastair MacColl commented, “It will be a great honour for us to have Colin and his wife, who was part of his support team, as our guests and to celebrate their achievement.

“The West Ardnamurchan Regatta is always a very enjoyable day out and great fun both for participants and spectators. As well as the races, there's lots more to do – a 'guess the weight of the lobster' competition, a raffle for a huge hamper, and stalls for jewellery, woodwork, cushions & candles, and paintings. Then in the evening, there's the annual Regatta Dance.”

On Thursday 3rd, in the afternoon, after the last race, the Committee will be providing nibbles, cheese and wine in the marquee for everyone who would like to come along.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Plane Attempts Bay MacNeil Landing

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for this picture. He reports that the plane twice tried to land at Bay MacNeil this afternoon. The pilot's efforts were very impressive but without success.

Pram Race is Tomorrow!

From Our Racing Correspondent:
The annual Kilchoan Pram Race, sponsored by Marine Harvest, will be held this Friday, 28th July, with events kicking off at 12:00 at the pub. As in previous years there will be a junior race to the church and back followed by the main race to the shop and back plus a special seniors category for those who are young at heart but old of limb

The theme this year is "Pop Stars" and there are posters throughout the village with details of how to enter - pick up an entry form from the pub or register on the day. There will be T-Shirts for sale as well as hot dogs to keep you going. Anyone can enter, you just need 2 people and a "vehicle" with at least 3 wheels and less than a metre wide. There are prizes for best fancy dress, best pram and for the race itself. We are particularly keen to know what the theme of your pram will be ahead of the day so we can make the start a bit more special for the competitors and spectators, so get your entries in as soon as you can.

Many thanks to Chris Gane.

Kilchoan Post Office Closures

From Chris Ball:


The Kilchoan Post Office will be shut:

From midday Thursday 3rd August

Opening again 9am Wednesday 9th August

The shop and petrol station are unaffected and will be open as usual.

I have no option but to shut the Post Office for the above period for personal reasons. Susanne will be traveling to Kent where the family is gathering to remember Jonathan and my Mother. Unfortunately, there is no one else who is trained and available to run the Post Office.

I apologise for any inconvenience and ask that you to please try and arrange your post office needs ahead of the closure.

We have been able to overcome our staffing issues so that the shop will now be open Mondays and all days as usual. My thanks are due to Helen for resolving this. However, that has not helped resolve staff shortages with the Post Office. Susanne has kindly run the Post Office in a voluntary capacity for the last 8 months with little by way of breaks. Jim Caldwell has done a sterling job in standing in for Susanne when he has been able, but alas it is no longer possible for him to do so. I am sure you will want to join me in thanking Jim for all that he has done.

Susanne has asked that going forward she has two full consecutive days off each week, which I don’t think is unreasonable. Therefore, until further notice:

The Post Office will remain closed on Mondays.

In the fullness of time we hope to be able to train up someone else to run the Post Office counter, but as you will be aware, we are still suffering from some staff shortages at this busy height of the season and the training takes a little while.

Please respect these closures and plan accordingly. If you have any concerns please raise them with me, Chris Ball, 07697 663521, rather than with the staff who are doing an excellent job in maintaining this vital service to the community through difficult times.

My continued thanks to all the staff and volunteers for their invaluable help in continuing to ensure the shop remains open for the benefit of the community.

Unfortunately due to further ill health in recent days I have not yet been able to move forward with the sale of the Shop. Please rest assured that I want to resolve this as fast as I can, but not at further expense to my health.

Thank you again for your patience and understanding.

Chris Ball

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.