Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A Summer Activity

The wind started the day in the southeast but steadily backed through the morning until it was firmly in the north, a direction which usually brings us bright, sunny, if cool conditions.

For reasons best known to them, the heathers in our front garden have been in flower for most of the latter part of the winter, so as soon as the sun came out, and the air temperature hit 10C, the local insects descended upon the flowers.

We had masses of honey bees from Trevor's campsite down the road on both the white and....

....the purple heather, a golden opportunity to indulge in a favourite summer occupation - trying to catch pictures of them using the camera's macro setting.

It soon became evident that it wasn't only bees which were active. At least three varieties of fly....

....were busy, as was what might have been a small wasp - though it declined to be photographed. Noticeably absent were the bumblebees - they obviously prefer a slightly higher temperature.

Not all the bees will be returning to their hives this evening. The warm weather has also brought out the spiders which have spent the winter waiting for the moment to spin their first webs.

The Ferry Stores: Meeting

Since last December, An Roth Trading Ltd, based in Craignure on Mull, has been working with the community and with the directors of the Community Development Company to prepare a report on whether, and if so, how the community should become involved in the future running of the shop.

They will be presenting a draft report to the community at a meeting this Thursday, 2nd March, at 7pm in the Community Centre, to which everyone is invited. This will be a last opportunity for people to express their views before the final report goes to the directors of WACDC towards the end of March.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Badger Casualty

Out & About found this badger yesterday, sad casualty of a passing vehicle, on the road near the bridge across the Allt Torr na Moine just this side of Camas nan Geall.

Badgers aren't common at this end of the peninsula - Out & About says that he hasn't seen one in upward of three years - and those we have tend to be migratory: they've visited Ormsaigbeg, Portuairk, the Skinnid area, and Bourblaige.

Many thanks to Out & About for the picture.

The Ormsaigbeg Stags

During the night we had a mixture of snow, sleet and hail, and the temperature dropped to 1C, so by morning we had a thin covering which had settled right down to sea level.

Snow isn't common here so I walked down to the bottom of the croft to take this picture, looking along to Kilchoan, with the more thickly covered slopes of Glas Bheinn rising above the township.

Walking back up to the house I noticed two stags where we have seen them before, just above the common grazings fence, so....

....I walked up to the common grazings to see if they could be approached. This view looks across the boundary fence westwards, towards Maol Buidhe and Mull.

Following the fence I met two stags - not the same ones as I had seen earlier - coming along the croft-side of the wire. They must have had a shock as they didn't see me until they were within ten metres.

This picture illustrates something we have noticed before, that the junior stag leads until it's a matter of running away, when....

....the senior partner goes first.

We have always assumed that the Ormsaigbeg deer, of which there are at least five stags and several hinds, spend their day in the forestry inside the common grazings fence, but these two made their escape by jumping the fence and heading uphill, where....

....they were met by a third stag before disappearing over the crest of Druim na Gearr Leacainn. This leaves one wondering where they spend their daylight hours, as there is no cover higher on the hill, unless they walk a couple of kilometres to the forestry in Garbh-dhail, towards Sonachan Hotel.

With the sun warm on my shoulder, I walked on eastwards. This picture looks across Ormsaigbeg and Ormsaigmore to the houses in Glebe Hill, with Meall Tarmachain and Meall nan Con along the horizon.

As I dropped down to the road to follow it home, more snow showers were moving up the Sound towards Mull.

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....

....is 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....

....to 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.