Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sanna Frustration

A westerly was blowing this morning bringing a light swell onto the beaches at Sanna, where we walked early as the forecast was for rain before midday.

Late February is a quiet time along the shore, with the main interest the few birds which are winter residents....

....such as the small flocks of ringed plovers, the cheerful, chattery oystercatchers, the gulls, and....

....the occasional great northern diver out in one of the bays.

All of them are well aware of anyone approaching so, unless one stalks them very carefully, they're up and away before a good picture can be taken, even with a camera that offers a x25 zoom.  As a result pictures tend to be distant ones, on full zoom, and heavily cropped - so they end up grainy.

It's one of the compromises one has to make with the equipment one chooses to carry. My Panasonic FZ200 is reasonably light and portable for long walks, and capable of everything from wide scenes to 1cm macro images, but the result.... intense frustration when a distant shot of what looked, at the time, to be two slightly moth-eaten oystercatchers turns out to be the first turnstones we've seen in a long time.

Stewart Pote

Stewart Pote died last Tuesday.

There will be a celebration of Stewart's life next Saturday, 4th March, starting at 12 midday at the New Graveyard.

Those attending are asked to wear bright clothes.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Ormsaigbeg View

After a fairly brisk night, with a westerly blowing and some heavy rain, today has been warm and, at times, sunny, so we walked up the back of our house this afternoon into the common grazings, from where this picture was taken looking across Ormsaigbeg and Kilchoan Bay to Ben Hiant.

A Visit in February

Mid-February may not seem the ideal time for a visit to the west coast of Scotland and Ardnamurchan in particular but Sue, who is a regular visitor through the year, chose her week carefully and was rewarded with some brilliant winter weather.

This is the foghorn at Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse, a busy place in summer but I would be surprised if Sue saw anyone there.

It's also a great month for red deer. While stalking continues on the hinds, the stag season is over so they're less nervy, and have yet to lose their antlers.

The Ardnamurchan Estate cattle look picturesque in the warm light of this shot but anyone who has driven this road in a hurry and met one of the herds will know that it is of little use trying to push past them.

On a clear day in February, the low sun and often crystal-clear air are magic for anyone with a camera. This is Camas nan Geall with Mull in the distance.

Many thanks to Sue for the photos.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Knot's Landing

This small wader, a knot, exhausted after flying upwind against a gusty force 5, stopped to take a rest on a sunny rock before....

....flying down to join its companion who was feeding on the wet rocks below.

 It obviously wasn't too happy about the spot chosen but....

....finally began to feed - at which point the companion saw what was coming....

....and made good its escape.

Early Arrival

Tony Thain's garden in Achnaha is a paradise for birds and small animals, including hedgehogs: he refers to its feeding facilities as a 'restaurant'. Little wonder then that he occasionally finds some unusual visitors - and this may be one.

Tony thinks it may be a skylark, arriving very early so it can establish a prime bit of real estate ready for the breeding season. Can anyone confirm this?

Many thanks to Tony for the picture.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Submarine in the Sound

This submarine passed us just after midday, heading south down the Sound of Mull.

Can anyone identify her?

Spring Rushes In... and Out Again

Yesterday, spring seemed to be arriving with indecent haste and a little earlier than usual. We had two song thrushes doing choral battle in our garden in the morning, and....

....the local robins, of which we have at least four coming to, and arguing over the bird tables, were almost as loud.

Perhaps it was the blue skies and a thermometer which read over 13C just before midday which were driving them, as well as....

....bringing the honey bees from Trevor Potts' hives onto the heather bushes in our garden, all of which are in exuberant flower. Not that it was all fine weather. Like a shooting star, the white streak at top right in this picture is a passing hailstone.

Down the Ormsaigbeg road, the catkins were in flower while....

....the celandines were out on one sunny bank - the first ones of 2016 were reported on 24th February.

Meanwhile, Sue, who was on holiday last week and staying at The Ruin, managed to find a very early primrose.

By this morning spring had retreated in disarray, with the thermometer plunging below 2C overnight and snow almost down to sea level at eight this morning, driven on by a chill northerly wind. The picture shows the Loch Linnhe arriving from Tobermory.

Many thanks to Sue for the picture.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Roe Deer

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for sending these pictures of two roe deer doing what roe deer do....

.... as he puts it, "eating seaweed and watching ducks".

Scotland's Oldest Fuel Pumps?

It was good to go down to the shop yesterday afternoon for a paper to find Dave Fraser of D&S Forecourt Services, Inverness, working on the three fuel pumps. Our association with Dave and his company goes back.... the time we first bought the shop, and to the shattering news when the old petrol station was condemned by Highland Council's Protective Services because the unleaded tank was leaking.

The dips on the unleaded tank used to go up and down in an erratic way: we later discovered that the holes were in the bottom of it, so the fuel moved up and down with the water table. The diesel tank, being above ground, was fine, as was the leaded.

We were saved by a grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise which enabled us to rebuild....

....the whole fuel station, all the fuel-related work being done by D&S's predecessor company, Fuel Tank and Pump Services. They were excellent, as was the company which did the building work, MacRae Brothers of Laide.

With the grant, we were offered brand new electronic pumps but refused. We reckoned that the existing pumps, the diesel being a Wayne and the petrol pumps Gilbarco Trimlines, all with Veeder-Root heads, were easier to maintain and mend, and would last longer in the exposed, salty, windswept environment. They've lasted another twenty years, far longer, Dave told us, than the electronic ones they were installing in other stations at the time.

Our eldest daughter Elizabeth painted the local wildlife on the front of the pumps, and they became quite a feature with visitors.

To Dave's knowledge, no other public petrol station is still using these pumps so they're probably the oldest working public fuel pumps in Scotland.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

An Erratic Walk

We're pretty determined to walk whatever the weather as long as it isn't too miserable and we don't put ourselves at unnecessary risk so, despite drizzle, a brisk wind, and a forecast for rain and high winds later, we walked to the northwest of Ormsaigbeg today, following....

....this, sadly un-named, burn upstream before working our way up the hillside towards the ridge line.

The advantage of a walk like this is that, had the weather suddenly deteriorated and the cloud come down, we had only to walk downhill until we hit the burn, which we could then follow downstream to the road.

The land shows no sign of emerging from winter, the only colour being provided by some of the mosses, including the brownish-reds of the sphagnum, but we weren't short of company. As well as the sheep which spend their whole year out on the Ormsaigbeg common grazings, we put up several birds, including snipe and woodcock, but....

....the highlight was coming across a pair of red grouse - the female is just visible to the left.

Sadly, they weren't willing to hang around long enough for us to get close but it was good to see them: they aren't common here.

After a bit of hunting around we found our objective for the day, a rounded boulder of a rock which is not local. It looks like a granite, and was brought here, and dumped on top of the ridge, by the glaciers which covered this area some ten thousand years ago. From it there's a great view down the Sound of Mull and across to Mull itself - on a fine day.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Honey Bees Abroad

Last Thursday it was the first bumblebee of the season which attracted our attention, today it was the first honey bee in our garden. It came from the hives which Trevor Potts keeps on the Ardnamurchan Campsite, where three had bees coming and going. At the time, the temperature was a balmy 11.7C.

The garden also boasted its first pansy of 2017 whose petals bore evidence either of the activities of other insects or of the recent blustery weather.

Where Bound?

There was a time when one of the few ways of finding out where a ship was going was to contact it with an Aldis lamp with the words "What ship?" and then, if you were lucky enough to receive a reply, "Where bound?" This was often the job of the ship's cadets dragged from their bunks in the early hours of a morning when a bored officer of the watch spotted a distant light and was looking for entertainment.

These days, all one has to do is go to the Marine Traffic website - here - where the ship's intended track is recorded.

So the Yeoman Bridge, above, when she passed Kilchoan this afternoon, was on her way from Glensanda quarry to Brunsbuttel, Germany. More, she was travelling at 11.3 knots, had a draught of 13.2m, and is due Brunsbuttel at 6am on Thursday.

There are no mysteries in life any more.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Archaeology Expedition

Saturday saw a small but very determined group from Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association brave low cloud and persistent drizzle to find and then map structures high on the slopes to the west of Bourblaige - a description of the morning's work is here.

We're trying to make these expeditions to investigate Ardnamurchan's superb archaeology and history a regular feature. If you're interested in joining us, contact us through the Diary or through the AHHA website, here.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The War Memorial

From Kenneth Cameron:

It would be great to collate specific details about each individual on the war memorial in Kilchoan. To this end, I am looking for anyone who has information about or is related to any of the men named on the memorial and listed below. Any information, no matter how small, would be useful. Photographs would be an added bonus - it would be great to put faces to names. There are possibly others from the area who were killed in either of the wars but are not included on the war memorial: their details would also be of interest.

I have managed to find basic details of the deaths/burials/regiments/ships sailed on, and in some cases the names of the U-boats responsible for sinking the ships. The next step is to research the individuals' military/naval records. There are some anomalies and inconsistences, which is to be expected, and a few whose details are limited. It will take a few more months to research these and confirm details.

So far, I've learned that the dead are mainly from the merchant navy and army and include individuals from New Zealand and Australia who had emigrated from Scotland leaving relatives in the Kilchoan area at the time of the wars.

I feel it’s very important to record as much information as we can about these individuals for this generation and future generations. Hopefully when we have sufficient information, we can produce a detailed report for the community.

Anyone with information or photos can contact me by email at

The names on the War Memorial are

Great War:
Duncan Stewart d1915
Duncan MacLachlan d1916
Archibald MacPhee d1917
Allan Cameron d1917
John Cameron d1918
Donald Nisbet d1918
Donald Stewart d1918
Angus MacGillivray d1917
John Cameron d1917
Hugh MacPhee d1917
John MacLachlan d1917
John Livingstone d1918
John MacGillivray d1918

Second World War:
Alexander Cameron d1939
Hugh Henderson d1940
John Connell d1940
Alexander Campbell d1941
Norman Mackenzie d 1941
William Mackay d1941
Allan C MacDiarmid d1941
John Carmichael d1941
Donald Campbell d1941
Reginald Campbell d1941
George MacLennan d1946, buried in the old cemetery at St Comghan's.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Buzzard Ambush

I'm the top raptor around here, the lord of Ardnamurchan's lands and waters, the master of all I survey, so when I take a gentle perambulation along my fiefdom of Ormsaigbeg I don't....

....expect to be ambushed by a wretched little buzzard who, the coward that he is, comes at me from one of my blind spots, and....

....very nearly causes me to stall and come tumbling out of the sky in a heap of undignified feathers.

In fact, I only just managed to recover after which, thank goodness, the buzzard turned away, leaving me.... regain my regal dignity and continue upon my way.