Saturday, 30 November 2013


As these pictures show, it's amazing how much a skyscape can change in the matter of an hour.  The sequence was taken at ten to fifteen minute intervals this morning, as the sun struggled to show its face across the Sound of Mull.

The lights are, on the left, Auliston Point and, on the right, Rubha nan Gall near Tobermory.



 8.25 am



The Clansman passes.  Shortly afterwards, the drizzle started.

Dove Fight

This blog has featured fights between bulls and between pigs, but never expected to report a fight between two doves.  As it happened in the half-light of early morning, the more vigorous and feather-flying moments were beyond the Dairy's photographic ability, so the only picture worth publishing is this one, of the protagonists drawing breath before the next round.

We think it was two males: a third dove spent some time fluttering excitedly around the edge of the melee, but made no attempt to intervene.

Friday, 29 November 2013

A Windy Day

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for these pictures from the windswept bay to the northeast of Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse.  As promised, the winds were strong during the night and through the day.  A bit of blustery weather makes a nice change from the dead grey days we've had recently.

Kilchoan Early Bird found this washed up on the beach.  From the size of the barnacles that have grown on it, the device has been in the sea for some time.

This is a close-up of the top of the box.  To the left is the word 'Radiosonde' and to the right 'VAISALA' and the address

The Diary has been on the Vaisala website, here, and can't find a maritime product that looks like this, so has now written to Vaisala.  Does anyone know what it is?

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for all the pictures

Thursday, 28 November 2013


For the past five days we've been under the influence of high pressure, the barometer hovering around 1040 millibars.  Normally, one can hope for a few cold but brilliantly sunny days under a winter high pressure system, but this one lurked to the south of us, drawing in high cloud and occasional drizzly rain from the Atlantic.  The north coast - this is Swordle Bay yesterday - seemed as grey as the south, except....

....when the world was viewed from the mudflats around the Kilchoan slipway, when the only splash of colour at this morning's low tide came from two orange buoys.

For some, like this grey heron, grey skies are fine as they help to camouflage grey feathers, but for most of the human population, a change would be cheering.  And there is a change on the way for tomorrow, but not of the right sort: we're forecast strong westerlies again, with possible gale force winds by 8.00am.

A Fighting Return

There would have been a warm welcome back for a pair of greenfinches who appeared at the nut feeders early this afternoon after an absence of some months - had they not spent as much time fighting as they did feeding.  Greenfinches are often quite aggressive towards the other small birds but today they didn't bother them: their ire was entirely directed at each other.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Why Add a Stone?

Just about every hill on West Ardnamurchan has some sort of cairn at its summit - this one is on Creag an Airgid, the silver crag.  When we come across one, each of us dutifully adds a new stone, but without really thinking about why we do it - other than that, perhaps, it will bring us good luck.  So, sometimes, we add an extra one, and think of someone in the hope that it'll bring them good luck too.

The thought that we might be wasting our time, because this might not be the purpose of placing a stone on a cairn, prompted a search on the internet - where there's surprisingly little.

The word cairn is Gaelic, from carn, which can mean anything from a pile of stones to a rocky hill.  Various sites suggest that the pile-of-stones sort of cairns may have had many uses in Scotland: boundary markers, way markers, summit markers and as grave markers, burial places and memorials.  Many of the uses here are obvious, and we have some good examples locally of cairns which are grave markers, but the idea that the cairns on the summit of hills are mere 'summit markers' leaves something to be desired.  Surely they are more than this?

On the internet, the Gaelic phrase, Cuiridh mi clach air do charn meaning, ‘I will put a stone on your cairn’, is quoted several times, as if cairns are built to the memory of someone.  This can't be so for all those on top of hills - though this one, on a low hill above Lochan Druim na Claise to the south of the lighthouse, might be a memorial, in that it's obviously not a random accumulation from many passing walkers but has been very carefully built.

The internet did provide one interesting idea which comes from the Gaelic phrase.  "Formed from the most durable of materials, they seem to have the ability to fix memories in stone and in place."  [From 'Migrant Stones and Migrant Stories in Scotland and its Diaspora', Paul Basu - here]  So, when we place a stone on a hilltop cairn, are we simply attempting to fix the memory of our brief triumph, and of our passing?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Greylags at Grigadale

The greylags came from the direction of Grigadale farm, where they've been settled for some weeks, grazing the grass on the meadows and swimming on the loch.  They wheeled from where we were standing, near the static caravans Grigadale, heading towards Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse, then flew out across the bay.... come round closer in front of us.  All the time they were calling to each other, not in alarm but as if this was a social event, a chance to chat.

 They then headed up the Allt Grigadale, back toward the loch, before....

 ....swinging round again to pass low in front of the lighthouse.

Finally, they headed out to sea, their cries becoming fainter and fainter.

It didn't look as if they were leaving - if they were, they were going in the wrong direction, north.  Perhaps, in the bright sunshine of early morning, they just wanted to exercise themselves before settling to the vital job of eating a living.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Late Sunshine

For most of the day we've sat under a layer of high, grey stratus but, around three this afternoon as we walked back through the village, the sun came out, angling low across the land.  This is the 19th century farm house Grianan, on Ormsaigmore.  To read about its history, go to the 'History of Ormsaigmore', here.

As we came up the Ormsaigbeg road we saw this buzzard sitting on the rock which protrudes above Caisteal Dubh nan Cliar, the black castle of the minstrel, enjoying the last of the day's brief sunshine.


Last year we planted a packet of marigolds in the front garden near the road.  They did okay, nothing spectacular, but this year they appeared all over the place, including in the vegetable garden up the back of the house, and in the back yard where all the building rubbish is kept - the bits and pieces you keep because you never know when you might need them.  This one was still flowering well into November, a welcome splash of colour as winter drew in.

Oh - and, yes, we really should weed between our paving stones once in a while.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Spectacular Sunrise

We've had a series of spectacular sunrises over the last few days but none to rival this morning's.  It only lasted a few minutes around 8.20, going from a pearly pink through to these brutal shades of red, orange and yellow, then dying away very quickly into a grey that lasted the rest of the day.

The effect seems to be caused by a break in the cloud cover away to the southeast which allows the rising sun, shining through a thick wedge of atmosphere, to catch the undersides of the clouds.

West of Camas nan Geall

The layer of high cloud which helped create this morning's sunrise didn't go away all day - as the reds of the sunrise quite correctly predicted and Yr.No, which had bright suns across its forecast for every hour of daylight, got wrong.  Despite the greyness, we drove to Camas nan Geall with the intention of walking along the coast almost as far as Maclean's Nose, just visible in the distance in this picture.

We set off down the track to the beach and then, having crossed the burn, climbed the low, bracken-covered hill on the other side of the bay....

....from the top of which we had a view all along the series of bays and beaches which make up this beautiful section of coastline.

We walked down onto a deserted shingle beach from which a calm sea steadily slipped back as the tide fell.

Just offshore one of Kilchoan's creel fishermen, Justin Cameron, was hard at work in his boat, Harvester, surrounded by a flock of appreciative gulls.

Our objective for the day's walk was a small, abandoned settlement on the beach below the village of Bourblaige.  One of the three houses can be seen in the centre of this picture, which looks back along the way we had come.
On our way back we passed through this narrow gap between two rocks formed of ancient rocks called Moine schists.  These rocks were involved in a period of mountain-building around a billion years ago, in which they were deeply buried, cooked up, and squeezed into intricate fold structures before being uplifted to form the bones of this peninsula.

As we rounded the western point of Camas nan Geall the other Kilchoan fishermen, Alasdair MacLachlan in his boat, Emma Maria, was lifting a fleet of creels, re-baiting them, and then dropping them back into the quiet waters of the bay.

As we drove back towards the village we stopped at this view along the valley in which Loch Mudle lies.  The colours were lovely enough, but if the sun had been out they'd have been as spectacular as this morning's sunrise.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Mischievous Otter

We walked along the beach below Ormsaigbeg this morning, with the tide falling and the sun coming in and out as the clouds drifted across it.

As we came opposite the perch that sits across the mouth of Kilchoan Bay we spotted an otter - bottom left in the picture - diving for a late breakfast.  Since he seemed to be coming closer we sat on a rock and waited to see what might happen.

He finally come out of the water on a seaweed-covered skerry a few metres offshore.  He'd brought a snack with him, which he sat and devoured, before setting off along the rock towards a small group of oystercatchers and curlews who were sitting in the sunshine minding their own business.

The otter had great fun with them, running at them and chasing them off the rock.

This is probably the same otter we saw off the Ferry Stores yesterday morning, and may be the same one that came up to the shop on Thursday morning and was seen running around the cars.

Most of the oystercatchers flew away, but one curlew stood his ground, so the otter gave up on the fun and set off back to his fishing grounds.

Golden Dawn

Just before nine this morning, the Oban-registered fishing boat Nicola Jane, OB1043, which had spent the latter part of the night anchored off Kilchoan Bay, headed westwards out of the Sound, as the CalMac's Clansman came up from the south.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Escape from the Computer

Stupid - we ignored the clear warning painted across this morning's sky and, instead of getting out early and enjoying some bright sunshine we lingered indoors to complete an on-line form.

Over two hours later, thoroughly fed up, we abandoned the computer, jumped into the car and drove out of the village on the Sanna road.  We pulled in to the first available lay-by, on Kilchoan township's common grazings, went through the gate, crossed a small burn, and set off.... for the most distant peak visible.

The peak is Meall an Fhreiceadain, and it's a great walk for working off one's frustrations as it's an unremitting uphill climb through very typical West Ardnamurchan scenery, and another of those walks which offer increasingly spectacular views.

Fhreiceadain seems to mean watch or guard, an appropriate use for a hill which has superb views from its summit.  By this time a blanket of cloud had started to draw across the sky, and the colours had seeped out of the landscape.  This view looks back across Kilchoan Bay and the Sound of Mull towards Mull itself, with the telecommunication masts on Glengorm clearly visible.

This looks a bit further round to the east, almost straight down the Sound of Mull towards a Beinn Talaidh with its summit lost in cloud.  The lochan in the right foreground is Lochan Sron nan Sionnach which means something like the lochan of the point of the fox.

Northwestwards, the summit gives views towards Sanna, Achnaha and the section of the north coast which we walked on Monday, bathed in the last of the sunshine.  By this time not only was the cloud lowering but a thin mist was seeped across land and sea.

When we reached the summit after a walk which took over an hour, it was one o'clock.  One o'clock is time for home-made pea soup and home-made wholemeal bread, so we hurried down, reaching the car in less than half-an-hour and feeling far, far better than when we set off.

Evening Star

There's a very bright star visible in the south-southwest just after sunset.  The evening star is usually one of two planets, Venus or Mercury.  At the moment, it's Venus.