Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A Beautiful, Warm Day

We're enjoying what is probably the best spell of weather this year, with today's temperature soaring to 23C and hardly a cloud in the sky all day.

This picture, taken from near the old coastguard lookout point near Portuairk by Kilchoan Early Bird,  looking southwestwards across Bay MacNeil towards Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse, shows last night's sunset.

The night was beautifully clear, giving the Raptor the chance to take this superb picture of the moon a day after full.

This picture was taken from our bedroom window just before six this morning, and this was the real colour along the horizon: the camera, in this case at least, did not lie. To put it simply, the sunrise was spectacular, with the colours....

....shading upwards from fiery reds and yellows into the last charcoals of night.  Look closely at the top right corner of this picture and find the morning star, Venus, which is, at present, exceptionally bright in the early morning sky.

By eight in the morning tendrils of mist were forming across the low, marshy land between Pier Road and the sea but they didn't last long, the sun....

....burning them off and then, as it rose higher, sparkling off the sea. This picture shows CalMac's Clansman passing the entrance to Tobermory Bay.

While some flying ants appeared yesterday, several nests were active in today's warmth, giving the small birds a welcome change of diet.

The heat reduced the local pig population to a state of sociable somnolence, while....

....Bandit the cat found a warm spot in the vegetable garden in which to doze.

The only beings who seemed driven to violent activity were the two ladies of our household who took to the waters for an early evening swim - and emerged mildly surprised at how warm the sea still is.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird and the Raptor for their pictures.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

High Tide

Once the sun had risen enough to recover from its early morning excitement, the sky seemed to fill with contrails, as if every airliner was intent on passing over our heads. The sky then cleared.... give us a gloriously sunny day - picture shows the croft house called Glas Eilean in Ormsaigbeg, with the peaks of Torr na Moine and Beinn na Seilg rising behind it.

Into the blue sky sailed three sea eagles, moving along Ormsaigbeg from east to west. Several people have commented on how many of these magnificent birds there are around at the moment.

By lunch time the tide was low, so Glas Eilean was surrounded by a skirt of kelp and completely connected to the land.

Tonight, according to the Tobermory tide timetables and confirmed on other sites, we have another exceptionally high tide at 5.2m, though there are some in the community who debate whether such a height is possible without Mull floating away into the Atlantic.

Volcanic Skies

With the continuing fine weather we're enjoying a feast of red skies morning and evening. The first two pictures are from Ritchie Dinnes, taken yesterday evening from his home on Ardnamurchan's north coast looking towards the Small Isles.

Such pictures are made by the patterns in the clouds without which the reds would largely be lost.  Unfortunately, these high clouds are tending to persist all day, spoiling the late suntans we're trying to work up before winter engulfs us. Yet, without them, the reds that are such a feature of these photos wouldn't appear in anything like so spectacular a way.

As if this morning's south coast dawn wasn't to be outdone by yesterday's north coast dusk, we sat and watched the evolution of a spectacular sunrise over Ben Hiant, this picture taken at exactly 7.03am.

Our house was designed so we could sit in bed in the morning enjoying a cup of tea and the view - and what a view it was, with the eastern sky changing by the minute - so this is what it looked like at 7.06am and.... 7.29am.

The trouble is that, whatever anyone may say, the camera lies, but while the sea wasn't as dark as it appears in the image, the sky was every bit as spectacular, even more so if one imagines oneself a space craft plunging....

....further and further into....

.... the cauldron of....

....a volcanic sunrise.

Many thanks to Ritchie for his pictures.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Community Council Elections

Highland Council has issued notice of elections to all the community councils in its area. Nomination forms and other information relating to the election are available here. Nomination papers need to be lodged by 6th October and an election - if there are more candidates than places - will take place on 18th November.

For the first time, 16 and 17-year olds are eligible to vote, but they need to register - details here.

'Blood Moon' Lunar Eclipse

The Raptor took this picture of the full moon at 10.30 last night, well before the time of the eclipse. The moon moves in an elliptical orbit round the Earth and, last night, was at its perigee and unusually close to us, so seemed far bigger in the sky.

By 3am, when I was out with my camera, it looked as if the local weather was going to spoil the event, so I went back to bed but....

....the Raptor, being made of sterner stuff, kept up his vigil and took this picture of the 'blood moon' at 3am.

At this point, the moon was entirely within the Earth's shadow, but the rays of the sun were refracted by the atmosphere so some lit the moon. Since the rays at the red end of the spectrum are more scattered, as at a sunrise or sunset, the moon is lit with red light.

The Raptor's picture at 3.15am shows the moon moving back into the full light of the sun.

One consequence of the moon's proximity to Earth are some unusually high tides, with tides of 5.2m at Tobermory in the early evenings both today and tomorrow - picture here shows this morning's sunrise, with Glas Eilean visibly an island shortly after high tide.

Many thanks indeed to the Raptor for his pictures.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

East of Ockle

With the sun out and the promise of a fine day, we set off early this morning to walk in the area to the east of the tiny township of Ockle, starting by following the track that leads from Ockle to Eilagadale. A kilometre or so along the track stands this cairn. From it one can look northeast towards Mallaig and the distant hills of Moidart.

One of the reasons for choosing this walk today was to enjoy the the flowering of the heather which is usually at its peak at this time but, while some is still in flower, most is finished for the year.

Shortly afterwards, we left the track and turned inland, working our way uphill into the....

....wonderfully open and empty landscape formed by the erosion of the underlying billion-year old Moine Schists.

From the top of the hill we looked down into the wide glen occupied by the meandering Allt Eas a' Ghaidheil, the burn of the Gael's waterfall. We dropped down into this valley and walked upstream, stopping once to listen to a red deer stag roaring in the hills away to our right.

We left this glen after about a kilometre to follow a small tributary burn, seen here on the right. As we traversed the steep slope above its bank we almost....

....trod on an adder who was sunning himself on a patch of shingle. The adder was none too keen to move out of our way, so we were obliged to walk round him.

The burn drains this little lochan, another of the many which aren't named on the OS map. It sits at almost the highest point in the hills between the glens of the Allt Eas a' Ghaidheil and the Allt Ockle. By this time a strong southeasterly wind had got up, so we found a sheltering rock where we could enjoy our lunch and the warmth of the sun.

As we left the lochan and began to descend towards the Allt Ockle, we walked....

....straight into a stag and a small group of hinds. This is something we try to avoid, particularly at this time of year with the rut in full swing. To our surprise, the deer's headlong flight was led by the stag....

....who left most of his ladies behind, wondering where on earth he'd gone.

As we descended into the glen of the Allt Ockle the wind died away, enough for some late-flying butterflies to come out, including a peacock and this speckled wood, the first we've seen this year.

Map courtesy Streetmap - here.

Autumn Dawn

These pictures were taken during an hour this morning, from about half past six to half past seven, as we watched the first sunrise after the equinox. This picture looks across Kilchoan Bay to Ben Hiant and the entrance to Loch Sunart, while....

....this one looks further round to the east, with the low outline of Beinn nan Losgann just to the left of centre.

 A few minutes later the colours changed, as did the shape of the clouds over Beinn an Losgann.

As the sun finally rose behind a veil of clouds the colours seeped out of the sky.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Urchin Vanity

This is the green sea urchin, Psammechinus miliaris, which is found in shallow water along rocky coasts around Britain and, in particular, in some of the rock pools along the Ormsaigbeg shore, where we went wandering this morning. This picture shows a typical specimen, with its spines almost olive green near its shell, changing outwards to a pale pinky-purple. Look closely and you can see the pale tube feet between its spines which enable it to move. These are operated by the same hydraulic system used in modern machinery - except the urchins invented it hundreds of millions of years before humans arrived on this planet.

These urchins aren't too easy to find, firstly because they have a habit of camouflaging themselves using anything loose that comes to hand - or, rather, tube foot. Some of them keep their camouflage simple, so a sheet of seaweed is fine, although....

....the less bright ones don't seem to realise that the object does need to be fairly large to be of any use.

Others, perhaps the vainer ones, have become quite arty about what they use, this one obviously realising that the inside of limpet shells are pleasingly pearly, while....

....there are always going to be those who take things to extremes, covering themselves in bling: we think there may be as many as four urchins buried under this pile of makeup.

The other reason why they're not that common is that they seem only to like pools which are shallow, scoured by the high tide, and lined with the pinky-white calcarious material - seen in this picture - which is formed by the appropriately named alga Lithophyllum incrustans. Because these pools, being shallow, warm up quickly, they may be high in the calcium carbonate which the sea urchins use to build their shells and spines.

This is a typical militaris-friendly pool. We found nine in it this morning, but there have been times, particularly in winter, when we've struggled to find any.