These tadpoles look young for the end of June, but perhaps this reflects the cold start to the year followed by a hot, dry spell.
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for the pictures.
Friday, 29 June 2012
Northern Marsh orchids have the worrying habit of thriving in the short grass along several of Kilchoan's roads. These verges are cut, once a year, by the Highways Department. Last year the cutting took place at a disastrous time, and we lost many of the flowers, but this year Highways made up for it by cutting just before the orchids bloomed, much to their advantage.
Having 'noticed' orchids, we're now finding them in more and more places. It's unusual for a location to be host to just one of the more common species, but in some lucky spots we're finding three or more species living together. The Ormsaigbeg croft field where we first found a Northern Marsh orchid is also host to a fine display of Heath Spotted, Common Spotted and Fragrant orchids.
In some ways, it's sad to see the orchids go. On the other hand, if they didn't die off, we'd be deprived of the annual excitement of finding the first wild orchid of the year.
Thursday, 28 June 2012
For anyone staying in Kilchoan, Lunga, the largest of the Treshnish islands, is well worth a trip. Located a few miles off Mull's west coast, it's a gem of an island set in a sea of blues and greens which rival the Caribbean. There is a protected anchorage to the north of the island, with access to the shore across a boulder-strewn beach. The island then rises in a series of steps, formed of 60-million year old basalt lavas erupted from where Mull's Beinn Talaidh now stands, to the peak of Cruachan.
The island's name means 'longship island' in both Norse and Gaelic. It's a true desert island, having been abandoned by its last permanent inhabitants in 1824, when the last residents, Donald Campbell and his family, left. The small village of eight well-preserved stone-walled houses on a platform at the northeast end of the island continued to be used during the summer, when animals were brought across for summer grazing, but it was finally abandoned in 1857.
Today the island is owned by the Hebridean Trust, and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, mainly on account of its wonderful wildlife. While there may be more important species, the highlight of any visit has to be the thousand of puffins. They are an endearing bird because they show little fear of humans, so it's possible, with patience, to get very close to them.
The puffins occupy burrows abandoned by the island's rabbit population, and they tend to nest in colonies on steep banks overlooking precipitous cliffs. Although it's the colours and structures around their beaks that are the most startling features of puffins....
....they also have bright orange legs and feet.
Although stocky, and with short wings, they fly remarkably fast. The best part of watching them is when they land. They use their feet like the aerolons on aeroplane's wings, helping them to manouevre as they come in to touch down on very short 'runways'. More about puffins here.
The air around the island is full of other birds, of which the most numerous are the guillemots, which gather in large numbers on some of the steep, rocky outcrops. Another resident, shown above, is the razorbill, and the birds are harried while in flight by the dark skuas which patrol the skies.
Lunga also hosts some beautiful wildflowers. The area around the landing point is carpeted with sea campion, and we found our fist wild orchid near the summit of Cruachan, flowering far earlier than any on the mainland. But the most interesting flower was the one pictured, which may be a species of squill, perhaps spring squill.
We visited Lunga in mid-May, a time when the birds are in full breeding plumage. May is also a month which often has good weather, and we arrived in near calm conditions. We travelled to the island on Staffa Tours' MV Islander, which offers an excellent new daily service from Kilchoan Pier - picture shows the Islander moving the walkway used to transfer passengers to Lunga.
Staffa Tours' website is here.
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Leading the flotilla was the very smart A902, HNLMS Van Kinsbergen, a training vessel which also acts as a survey and patrol ship.
Apparently, the four ships are on their way to visit Dublin but they were thoughtful enough to drop in on Kilchoan first. Many thanks to the Dutch Navy for cheering us up on what has otherwise been a rather dank day.
More about the ships and their Dublin visit here.
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
It's a beautiful morning here in Kilchoan, with a warm southeaster blowing, so it wasn't difficult to stop for a chat with Trevor Potts at his Ardnamurchan Campsite, where he was proudly showing everyone an article in the summer issue of Scotland Outdoors which features West Ardnamurchan and, in particular, Trevor's site - there's a download available on the Scotland Outdoors link. Less enjoyable was being told that three sea eagles had just passed over.
Suddenly, as if, after careful discussion, a mutual decision had been made, they turned away, and within seconds had disappeared.
It's one of the pleasures of living in this place that a short walk back from the shop can turn in to a few minutes of wonder, watching these magnificent birds soar above us.
Monday, 25 June 2012
The idea of walking across a sea isn't so far-fetched. In the rocks across which we trod lie the fossil remains of the animals of an ancient ocean. These are belemnites, a relative of the present-day cuttlefish, which swam around Ormsaigbeg over a hundred million years ago.
Sunday, 24 June 2012
From Tony Thain:
Those who follow The Diary avidly will remember that a few weeks ago I reported that one of our rescued hedgehogs, Trina, had produced five offspring - see earlier blog here. We had to be very careful not to disturb mum and babies, until Trina allowed us to help her. Unfortunately, Tonia's hand was forced when she found that one of the babies had died, which meant that she had to check the others. It was even more sad that she found that there had been another death, reducing the family to three plus mum. This sort of tragic happening is not unusual in large litters in the wild as the average hedgehog family usually amounts to two surviving hoglets. Trina has done exceptionally well, especially as she is a first time mum and was probably just as surprised as we were.
Trina seems to be very proud of her family, as can be seen in the outside photo shoot. There is always one that is more inquisitive than the others and in the end I had one little chap just about climbing all over the camera. Trying to get four very independent animals to do what you want and to stay still long enough for a photo was quite a challenge.
Talking of challenges; our next one is introducing the family to "outside"!
Saturday, 23 June 2012
here), he moved the electric fence so it ran along the road, with the result that we now look straight across the road into the sow's run. For a few days she was obviously very lonely, and seemed to spend most of her time in this top corner so she could amuse herself watching everything we were doing.
The sow was beginning to enjoy herself - and then everything changed when Hughie put the boar into the run. He, as you can see, is an absolute beauty, and gives the poor sow no peace as he follows her everywhere until she collapses with exhaustion.
And then Hughie disappeared. The story was that he had gone to Spain on holiday, but The Diary has its suspicions. Was it pure co-incidence that, at exactly the same time, Alex Salmond was in Los Angeles for the opening night of the new cartoon feature 'Brave', a follow-on from 'Braveheart'? Was it really necessary for the First Minister to be in Hollywood for four - yes, FOUR - days just to see one film? No. He was in the capital of film-making to negotiate a sequel which will further promote Scotland's position as the world's Number One tourist attraction. The film, according to rumour, is a mediaeval blood-and-guts adventure story to be called 'BravePig', and the stars are going to be... Hughie's pigs.
Friday, 22 June 2012
There was a time when the ticks were only active in the summer, but they've discovered global warming, so they're becoming increasingly frequent throughout the year.
A very balanced view of the dangers of tick bites, and how to treat them is here.
Thursday, 21 June 2012
Whenever we come across a feature like this, we cannot but wonder whether man had something to do with it, or whether it is, simply, a random arrangement by Nature.
The beach we headed for is covered at each high tide, so it's always pristine and always different. It seems a sin to walk across its sands leaving boot prints - except that we know they will be swept away within a few hours.
We left the beach slightly earlier than we might have done when the Majestic Line's Glen Massan arrived and began ferrying passengers to what they had probably been told was a 'pristine' beach: we hope that, when they found our boot prints rather than the tracks of otters, they weren't too disappointed.