Saturday, 31 May 2014

Sanna Calm

A small group from Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology spent this morning at Sanna doing a leisurely survey of the area to the north and west of the Sanna Burn but, to be honest, it was more of a wander across lovely countryside enjoying anything that happened to come our way.  This view was taken from the bridge across the burn.

At Sanna's westernmost point there are plenty of rocks scattered around which look as if they should have great archaeological significance, but it was difficult to find anything, and the view tended to grab our attention.

The fine weather, and the forecast that it's probably not lasting beyond tonight, might explain why there were so many yachts rounding Ardnamurchan Point and cheating with their motors even though, by the time this picture was taken, a light breeze was blowing.

Considering it was a Saturday, and the weather warm and fine, there were very few people around.  Look carefully in this view, taken of Sanna's superb beaches at eleven in the morning, and you might be able to see three people.  Sanna doesn't even do crowds when the car park is full - there's so much space people simply disappear into it.

Our exploration ended at Duin Bhain, the white fort.  There's nothing particularly white about it, and little evidence there of any fortifications, though it's an obvious defensive position, but....

....nearby we made our one new discovery of the day, a shieling hut, the sort of temporary shelter used by people keeping their cows and sheep away from the township during summer - but usually there are small groups of them while this one was alone.


The paddle steamer Waverley seen passing Ardmore Point light just after 9.00pm yesterday evening.  She went up the Sound again this morning.  For the next few days she's operating out of Oban, details here.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Beyond Ockle

We walked along the track to the east of Ockle today, leaving our car at the small car park next to the bridge over the Ockle Burn.

About a kilometer along the track there's this very distinctive cairn, where we turned down to the sea, the object of today's expedition being to explore the coast to find caves - we're still trying to work out which is MacIains Cave, where the clan's women and children were massacred in about 1625.

In all, we found five candidate caves.  This is the one we used to think was MacIains Cave....

....and this is another of the five - Bedw wasn't allowed to go in them, but....

 ....the humans did venture into all of them.  Four of the caves could have each held a few people, but one, which had a very restricted entrance and we'd already written off as being unlikely, opened up into a cavern in which there's room to stand, and could have held up to 100 people.

We may have been looking at caves, but we found plenty of other things to interest us.  This is the first white lousewart I've seen.  As with so any of the white variants in species, the leaves are distinctly paler.  There were three white-flowered plants close together in amongst several of the usual, pale purple flowered variety.

The local green tiger beetles were ensuring the continuation of their species, as was....

....a pair of cuckoos, this one being seen off by an angry small bird.

We reached the mouth of the Allt Eilagadale before turning back, a gentle walk in warm, dry weather.  The Ockle to Gortenfern coastline is spectacular, and it doesn't matter how often we explore it, we enjoy it more each time.

Ockle Holidays has three houses to let at Ockle - details here.

North Coast Sunset

Sunset, seen down the valley of the Achateny Water on Tuesday evening, with the isles of Eigg and Rum along the horizon.

Many thanks to Tom Miller for the picture.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

New House at Sanna

There's a new house being built at Sanna, just to the north of the car park.  It's one of the houses allocated to the six new crofts which were created from the consolidation of the old Sanna crofts.

This view, taken from Plocaig, looks towards the new house from the northwest.  Beyond are the houses of Portuairk, on the other side of Sanna Bay.

Green Beetles and Other Insect Beasties

Walking around with a camera one comes home with all sorts of pictures of bugs and other wildlife, each of which, with modern digital technology, took seconds to take.  Hours can then be spent in sometimes futile attempts to identify each beastie.  With this one, I've failed.  It's a shame, as this really was a very spectacular insect, and the picture hardly does justice to him.

This gorgeous chap is a green tiger beetle, which must be fairly common as he appears on most beetle identification websites.  He's said to frequent sandy heaths and well-drained soils, which describes pretty accurately where we found him.

This identification is, I hope, fairly straightforward: it's a dor beetle.  This doesn't sound a very exciting name, nor does the beetle look in any way important, but it's a member of the scarab family of dung beetles.  Anyone who had seen Tutankhamun's death mask and other jewellery will know that the dung beetle was worshipped in ancient Egypt: seeing the persistent way in which these beetles rolled sperical balls of dung across the desert, the ancient Egyptians imagined it was one of these who pushed the sun across the sky each day.

This butterfly, resting on a dead bracken stalk, is a green hairstreak, easily identified because British butterflies have the good fortune to have an excellent identification website here.

Because we don't have too many dragon and damsel flies in the UK, identifying them isn't too difficult either.  This is a four-spotted chaser, so called for the dark spots on each of its four wings.  Identification is helped by another good website, here.  These dragonflies are the first to be around in May, but are still sluggish in the cooler weather - hence the photograph.

There's a good moth and butterfly identification website here, but that does't mean it's easy to identify one moth, like this one, out of the hundreds that are flittering around the place.  This is one of the many small moths that can be seen amongst the heather on a warm day.  They're mostly about 15mm across, and have very erratic flight paths, seeming to specialise in crashing into foliage rather than landing on it.

Matters become even worse with this one, which I cannot find, pretty as it is.  He has a very distinctive wing shape, clear markings, and thin antennae - but they don't help.

But this one, with its very characteristic shape, distinctive colouring, slightly tattered wing edge, and that stripe running across its wings, should be easy.  Score on this one: 0/10.  Perhaps I should stop bothering to take pictures of moths.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Water Sports

We have the East Anglian branch of the family staying at the moment and, with the weather fine if not brilliantly sunny, and the temperature soaring towards 23C during the day, we've been out and about enjoying the opportunities West Ardnamurchan offers.

This morning the adults went kayaking, with Mingary Castle as the objective, in almost perfect paddling weather - the sea a millpond and hardly a breath of wind.  Work continues on the refurbishment of this 13th century national monument - progress can be followed at the Mingary castle website here.

On the way back we diverted into the bay called Port na Luinge, where there is a small island which is one of the best places to spot seals.  Half a dozen of them were waiting for us, and came out to meet us.

The East Anglians are an intrepid bunch, taking advantage of warm, calm conditions yesterday to do a swim of almost a kilometre along the Ormsaigbeg coast.  According to the internet, the water temperature was just under 10C.  This did not deter the Diary from accompanying them - in a kayak - as.... was felt that they needed a safety boat.

We've also walked miles in the last few days.  This picture comes from an expedition to the north coast, which always includes a visit to what we call the Shelly Beach, where a few minutes' hunting usually yields a few of the delicate cowrie shells.

North Coast Sunsets

These pictures are all recent evening views from Ardnamurchan's north coast, looking across to the Small Isles.  The first two are from Keith Charles, who took them from Fascadale where he was staying.  This one look towards the gap between Rum, on the right, and Muck.

Keith's second picture has Rum and Eigg in the distance.

The third picture is from Rachael Haylett, was taken from near Swordle, and includes all the islands - from right to left, Eigg, Rum, Canna and Muck.

The last was taken from further to the east, not far from Gortenfern, and comes from Ben McKeown.  The island at centre here is Rum.

Many thanks indeed to Keith, Rachael and Ben for the pictures.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Slow Worm Home

We lifted a slate in the vegetable garden this morning and found a slow worm coiled up behind it.  It was a lovely place for a slow worm to live, as any sun warmed the slate and there was plenty of dry, dead grass to curl up in.

He slithered away, but he left behind....

....the skin he'd recently sloughed off.

Pictures by Hebe.

Birds' Nests

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for this picture of an oystercatcher's nest with its three eggs.  These nests are a bit of a worry when one is walking along beaches at this time of year as the nest is nothing more than a scrape in the shingle or sand, and the eggs are wonderfully camouflaged.

Meanwhile, the Raptor has sent me this photo of a buzzard chick, sitting in its nest in a tree.  It's seen here high in the centre of the picture with one of its proud parents keeping watch nearby.  The Raptor was at pains to say that the picture was taken from over 300m away so there was no danger of disturbing the birds, and that the nest is close to human habitation anyway, so the buzzards are quite used to passers by taking an interest in them.

Above Camas nan Geall

A small group of us walked in the area to the east of the B8007, between Loch Mudle to the north and Ardslignish to the south.  It's high, rolling, open land, centred round the low hill called Beinn Bhuidhe.  This first picture, taken from the track that leads up to the new wind turbine, looks across Loch Mudle towards Eigg and Rum.

Much of the land here is acid and boggy, but on some of the slightly drier areas small bilberry bushes grow.  In all our wanderings we've never noticed any bilberry fruit, which isn't really surprising since there are remarkably few of these fragile flowers to be found.

Sheila and Gillean won't be surprised that one of our party spotted a white version of the milkwarts we've been discussing.  It was the only one we could find, but there were also plenty of the pink variety, miles from the original ones we found around Plocaig.

Every now and then on the walk we became aware we were being watched.  These three seemed surprisingly unworried by us, but most of the red deer hinds fled as soon as they saw us.

At the most southerly point on the walk we looked out across Loch Sunart.  The loch continues away to the left of this view towards Strontian, while a branch, Loch Teacuis, can be seen to the right, cutting into the area called Morvern.

We then turned back, following the edge of the steep scarp that looms over Camas nan Geall.  Everything below us seemed toy-like, the colours changing as the cloud moved across the scene.

As we rested at the top of the slope above Camas nan Geall a sea eagle came over, soaring in a thermal that lifted it higher and higher, pursued for some of the time by a very irate gull.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Hebe's Pictures

We went walking this morning along the rocky coastline just to the west of our house, with our two grandchildren as part of the company.  The younger of the two had been lent a camera, a Panasonic Lumix fz7, to see how she got on with it.

Our first stop was at one of the brackish pools at the back of the beach, where some water boatmen provided an interest.  Hebe wanted to take a picture which had the theme of 'reflections and shadows'.

Once on the foreshore, we visited what we told her was the only rock pool exposed at low tide which had sea urchins.  These are a devilishly tricky subject, partly from their habit of camouflaging themselves in weed and anything else they can pick up, and partly because they have to be photographed through the reflection of the water.

After that, she found sea urchins in almost all the pools we visited.

An even more tricky job was to capture this little fish.  And, yes, I couldn't see it either.

Further along the shore there's an outcrop of Jurassic limestones which are full of fossils.  This shark's tooth, some 130 million years old, is about 10mm long, a subject for the macro lens.

By this time the Diary was feeling it was time to give up any pretensions at being any good at photography.  If an eleven-year old can produce pictures like this one, of a sea anemone, on what was really a first try with a large digital camera, how can we, the old and wrinkled, hope to compete?