Wednesday, 31 August 2016

West of the Basin

Last week we walked the east side of the Basin. The land on its west side rises in a series of terraces to the Ben Hiant ridgeline. We enjoy traversing it, leaving the car where the track from the Beinn Bhuidhe wind turbine meets the road, and then working our way southwards, rising steadily higher across the contours. As a walk, with its magnificent, unfolding views, it's one of our favourites, even when, as happened this morning, the weather was determined to be miserable.

The picture looks across the Basin to where the B8007 Kilchoan to Salen road runs across its southern end before plunging downhill towards Camas nan Geall. In the distance lie Loch Sunart and the hills of Morvern

Every time we walk in this area we see eagles. A pair rose just ahead of us and soared away across the Basin, where their intrusion irritated the ravens which nest in the crags above Camas nan Geall. They rose and harassed the eagles until they soared higher and higher above Ardslignish.

For a steep, bleak hillside, this area is full of the ruins of buildings. I have no idea how old they are or who built them, but many have the rounded shape and the dimensions of typical shieling huts. However, the two in this picture are larger and more rectangular, and perch on a shelf of rock with the rock face to shelter their backs and a view before them. Whoever built them enjoyed their views.

We kept finding more and more ruins. It's the first time we've seen this structure, and it looks very interesting. In most of the others, the walls are formed of roughly-piled stones, but this one only has a foundation of a single course of large rocks. Of most interest is its lozenge shape and that rock in the middle of it, which probably rolled down from the hill behind. This suggests the structure may be very old.

At the furthest point of our walk, above Bourblaige, we saw this large herd of red deer hinds, with not a stag in sight. One of the hinds, towards the upper right, is larger than the others and an unusual grey colour.

At this time of year, and in this weather, the fungi are enjoying themselves. This one looked as if, ever since it was a wee, wee fungus, it really, really wanted to be a flower.

Tired Old Gannet

Kilchoan Early Bird came across this gannet on the beach at Port na Croisg which he described as, "clearly not well and waiting for the end of his life."

F219 Sachsen

The German navy frigate F219 Sachsen entered the northern end of the Sound of Mull this morning at around 8.30. We were lucky to see her as heavy rain showers, driven on by a strong westerly, obscured her a few minutes after this picture was taken.

The Sachsen was launched in 2001 as the first of a new class of frigates which, very like our Type 45 Daring class destroyers, are primarily designed for anti-air warfare.

While the AIS sites give an idea of her past track - which included some interesting manoeuvres around the Orkneys - they don't indicate where she's headed.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Ships in the Sound

This 'Ships in the Sound' feature is long overdue. With so many pictures to post, it is being split into two, with this part dealing with passenger ships.

One of the pleasures of summer is watching the variety of sailing ships passing up and down the Sound of Mull. This beauty is the Dutch schooner Oosterschelde, the last of many schooners which sailed under the Dutch flag and now lovingly restored.

It's always a slight disappointment when a magnificent full-rigged sailing ship passes under its motor, as happenend when the Norwegian Statsraad Lehmkuhl came by a week ago. She's Norway's largest and oldest square rigged sailing ship, and also the world's oldest large square rigger, yet she looks in superb condition. There's more about her here.

It's equally disappointing when one has the chance to enjoy one of these old ships up close, and the weather is less than kind. This is the Flying Dutchman, tied up in Tobermory. Originally a herring drifter built in 1903, she was completely renovated in 2003/2004. There's more about her here.

The Wind Surf is a modern attempt at recreating a sailing ship, but somehow lacks any of the beauty of the original ones. She was anchored off Tobermory twice in the past two months, in early July and again a couple of days ago.

Tobermory has been busy with cruise ships this summer. The Saga Pearl II was one of many which called.

Another cruise ship which has been in the Sound twice recently is the good-looking Hebridean Sky. She featured in the last 'Ships in the Sound' post.

The Majestic Line's three small cruise ships have been very evident recently. This is their newest, the Glen Etive. One can always tell them from afar as they always tow a small boat for use on the many landings on remote beaches which are a feature of their cruises.

This is a completely different sort of cruising, for those who can afford to hire a yacht for a party of ten people. She's the Espiritu Santo, and she sails under New Caledonia flag. If you feel like chartering her, the details are here.

Built in 1960 for cruising off the Norwegian coast and renovated in 2012, the Serenissima is a good-looking cruise ship which carries up to 110 passengers - details here. Once again, our view of her was spoiled by poor weather.

Monday, 29 August 2016


It's good to see that the national media has caught up with something we've been well aware of - that the number of butterflies has plummeted this year. Their interest - see Guardian report here - has been excited by a press release from Butterfly Conservation which reports that small tortoiseshell numbers have dropped by 73% since the 1970s, but we're sure it isn't only the tortoiseshell that's suffering.

Looking back in the blog, the only picture I have published this year of a small tortoiseshell was back in July - here - and I reported seeing one in a post in March.

Our big buddleia, which produces masses of flowers each year and usually attracts plenty of butterflies, hardly had a visit during its flowering - I celebrated the arrival of a peacock here - and walking in Ardnamurchan's hills we've seen far fewer butterflies than usual.

In our wanderings today we saw several whites, and just one other butterfly - this peacock, which seemed intent on warming itself on the tarmac, and....

....yesterday, on a beautifully sunny day when there should have been butterflies everywhere, we saw a painted lady, two scotch arguses, a brown butterfly of some description, and a few whites.

I don't think it's butterflies alone that are suffering this year. Although there are bumblebees around - this one was visiting a montbretia in our front garden this morning - there don't seem to be as many as one would expect on a warm, sunny morning in August.

Anything I report is the result of very unscientific, very personal observation, but it's getting to the point where I think that us old ones, who can remember a world in which butterflies seemed everywhere in summer, need to start wondering what sort of countryside we're leaving to future generations.


This picture of sunrise across Kilchoan Bay this morning may not compare too favourably with yesterday's spectacular north coast sunset photos, but it charts another step in the seasons. Today, as seen from our house, the sun broke the horizon on the left shoulder of Beinn na h-Urchrach. In a few days' time, as we progress towards winter, it'll be rising over Ben Hiant itself.

Lost iPhone

If anyone has lost an iPhone recently, it's been found at Portuairk. It's on its way to the Kilchoan Hotel, where it will wait patiently for its owner.

On community matters, the Kilchoan Community Centre has its AGM this evening, at 8pm in the community centre.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

East of Mingary

In bright sunshine and a light northerly wind, we walked today into the rolling hills to the east of Mingary.

It's land which the Ardnamurchan Estate uses to graze its cattle but these share it quite happily with sheep and the occasional deer.

This red deer stag is an exceptionally fine specimen, ready for the annual rut.

By kind permission of Holly and Chris Bull, the managers at Mingary Castle, we walked round to the sea side to take pictures of the one part of the refurbishment which I hadn't recorded - the sea wall which protects the base of the cliff on which the castle stands from erosion by the sea. It's made of reinforced concrete to a very high specification, but then clad with the local stone.

We were very pleased to hear that the first three months of the castle's new role as top-end accommodation for visitors have proved very successful.

The only butterflies in real evidence recently have been two species of white, but today we had the good luck, and the pleasure, of watching a painted lady which....

....was the devil to photograph as it would only sit still in one place for a few moments, but luck finally allowed.... picture of the spectacular underside of this locally rare beauty.

Last Night's Sunset

This picture of last night's sunset, taken by Kilchoan Early Bird, looks across Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse towards Coll, just visible along the horizon to the left of the shot.

As the sun sank, the colours became more extreme. These two pictures come from Ritchie Dinnes and were taken looking along Ardnamurchan's north coast from Kilmory, with....

....the island of Muck visible at right.

Red sky at night is a shepherd's delight. The prediction was correct - we've had a stunningly warm and sunny day today.

Many thanks to Ritchie and KEB for the pictures.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Unusual Cargo

The two other work boats in Kilchoan Early Bird's earlier report passed along the Ormsaigbeg coast this afternoon. This one is the Spanish John II, carrying a truck which we think she landed at Mingary Pier before going on to the fish farm, while....

....the other was the Lyrawa Bay, described on several sites on the internet as a ro-ro cargo/passenger ship. We've seen her passing several times before but this is the first time we've been able to identify her as she doesn't have her AIS transponder working.

Marine Energy

Kilchoan Early Bird watched an energetic pod of some twenty dolphins moving across Kilchoan Bay this morning, and then had a ringside view as cables were laid from....

....the new wave energy machine off the coast near the mouth of the Allt Choire Mhuilinn to the east of Mingary Castle to....

....both the Marine Harvest fish farm at Maclean's Nose and to....

....the shore.  The boats present included Green Marine's tug Green Isle, above.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for story & pictures.

New House in Ormsaigbeg

A new house arrived in Ormsaigbeg just before nine yesterday morning and... this YouTube video shows, was put up in less than a day.

Many thanks to Micah for the video.

Friday, 26 August 2016

An Explanation

There is now an explanation of how a table top press came to be sitting at the side of the road in front of one of Ardnamurchan's finest views. Its presence there was not deliberate!

A couple were removing furniture and other items from Kilchoan to Glasgow. On the way out of the village their van door must have popped open. They were only made aware of this by another driver just past Loch Mudle and then didn't notice that the press had fallen out of their van. They didn't know where the press had gone until the Raptor's story appeared on the blog.

Thankfully the press is undamaged and works perfectly well, so all is good.

Papillomavirus Returns

We have quite a collection of robins coming to the feeders in our garden, including several adults and at least two, cheekily friendly juveniles. In general, it seems to have been a good breeding year for robins.

It was, therefore, with some sadness that we saw this robin sitting on a perch looking very sorry for itself, with its leg showing all the signs of the Fringilla papillomavirus.

We've seen this in chaffinches before - one, which survived for some time, we called Seedfoot - and we've also seen it in one of my favourite small birds, the dunnock, but this is the first time for a robin.

The growth can continue to increase in size until it hampers the bird's movement, and it can also result in the loss of a leg. That we haven't see this robin again in the last few days isn't a good sign.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Heather in Flower

The ling on the Ormsaigbeg common grazings is steadily moving towards its full flowering, so the slopes are beginning to glow with colour. This has been helped immensely by the recent fine weather which, with a few showers, is forecast to continue for the next few days.

Spot the Difference

From the Raptor:
Whilst coming back from the Fort on Tuesday I was astonished to round a corner to the north of Loch Mudle - just where the vista opens up into the most beautiful view in Scotland - to see....

....sitting very well placed at the side of the road, this a table top iron press. Now this had not fallen off the back of a lorry, nor did it fall through the open window of a passing car and I doubt if a camper-van was driving along with its main door open. This large item, which was in one piece and unscathed, was placed at the side of the road quite deliberately in my opinion.

When are the people who visit this most beautiful corner of Scotland going to start respecting the area and stop throwing rubbish out of their cars, vans and the like. Please keep your rubbish until your are in an area that has bins, don't just discard it on the open road in the hope that some mug (me) will come along and pick it up for you.

I hope someone recognises the the owner or the place that this has come from, and if they do please let them know that I am holding onto it so they can come and collect it and take it to the place it should have been taken to in the first place, the rubbish tip.

I also hope someone from the Community Council may read this and feel that it is about time we take action against fly tipping at any level.

Many thanks to the Raptor for words and pictures.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Repairs at Camas nan Geall

This morning, members of the Ardnamurchan History and Heritage Association were at Cladh Chiarain, the Campbell graveyard and Bronze Age standing stone at Camas nan Geall, to do some hard work - but what a difference it makes when the weather is little short of perfect, and one's workplace is this bay is at its most beautiful.

We were there to carry out repairs to the fencing around the site, fenced off to keep the sheep away from what is a national scheduled monument. AHHA has adopted this monument under Archaeology Scotland's 'Adopt a Monument' scheme but, to carry out the work, we had to obtain permission from Historic Environment Scotland, and the main condition was that the fence be replaced on a like-for-like basis.

On our way down to the site we disturbed a large gaggle of greylag geese which were grazing on the new grass in the recently-harvested silage field. They flew out over the bay before circling round to land at the mouth of the Allt Torr na Moine.

Before work could start, the old stobs had to be removed along with four strands of twisted galvanised iron wire.

The new stobs could then be hammered into place, taking great care to put them exactly where each old stob had been removed, before.... wire could be strung.

Huge thanks to the workmen - from left, George, Jim and James - for giving so generously of their time, and to Ardnamurchan Estate, which provided all the materials.