Monday, 30 January 2012

Garden Birdwatch

On Saturday we spent an hour watching and recording the birds that appeared in our garden. This was for the Big Garden Birdwatch for the RSPB. As our house has windows covering most areas of the gardens we could do the watch from inside in the warm! Some media reports say that the number of birds in suburban gardens are declining, but the bird experts say that we will not see as many birds in gardens in mild winters as there is plenty of food in lesser inhabited areas. All that said, our garden definitely not suburbia and our birds were here before us. So late morning armed with pencil and paper, binoculars and camera we started the count. Nothing, no not one bird! So we tried another window and yes our Robin had decided to be counted. Then slowly but surely other birds arrived. Blackbirds, male and female, Chaffinches, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits Dunnocks, House Sparrows in force and a couple of collared doves all came to be counted. Our Hooded Crows were conspicuous by their absence and the whole proceeding were overseen by our now very tame Pheasants. We were careful not to count birds twice as we needed to record highest number at any one time. Our Robin decided it was a great game so appeared regularly at each window, even cutting through the car port on his circuit of the house!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Burns Night

Last night Wife P and I had our Burn's Night supper. We could have gone to a formal supper at the local hostelry but decided to stay at home so our first task was to catch the Haggis.

What better place to start than the slopes of our highest mountain Ben More. We researched the best places to find this rather shy animal and what it would look like. Wikipedia, the electronic source of all knowledge states, "Haggis scoticus is said to be native to the Scottish Highlands and Islands It is comically claimed to be the source of haggis, a traditional Scottish dish that is in fact made from the innards of a sheep(including heart, lungs, and liver)." Other sources said that they do not enjoy rain ( living on Mull!!!!!!). So after much deliberation we decided to cheat and get a Macsweens from Tesco.

So Haggis sorted, neeps and tatties cooked, whisky in the decanter we could begin our feast to celebrate the Immortal Memory. We were celebrating the birth of Robert Burns, born 25th January 1759 the poet who made haggis famous in a poem that he wrote. We should have piped the haggis in, addressed it "Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!". We at least had Ali Bain and Phil Cunningham CD playing traditional tunes! We also should have said the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae let the Lord be thankit.

But instead we poured whisky over the haggis and proceeded to enjoy it! Thanking, of course, Rabbie Burns for his poetry and mentally making a note to read some of his work!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Tesco Run and a quick extraction

Wife P and I both had dental appointments earlier in the week. We left home well in time so that we could have a picnic overlooking the Sound of Mull on the way. It was glorious sunshine for the 45 minutes drive to Tobermory. As we drove along the deserted road thinking we were the only people of the island then we rounded a corner. Lo and behold there was a car in the ditch. Apparently, two cars had met on the single track, the ditched one sliding off the road to avoid the oncoming vehicle. So we stopped to offer help, and with the aid of our Land Rover and a strong rope pulled the car out of the ditch. Being the small world of an island, we knew the car driver who was unhurt, slightly shaken and very grateful! We still made our sunny picnic and got to the dentist on time.

The following day was our quarterly Tesco run. That is when Land Rover and I join Wife P for a trip to the mainland rather than she just pop over as a foot passenger with her faithful sholley, other people have pet dogs Wife P has a sholley! Up early and on to the ferry, bar is not open but we socialise with others on the same run! Four hours later, a very full land rover and feeling that we have just paid of part of the national debt we are back heading for ferry via opticians and outdoor shop you could say I was topped and tailed (new specs and boots) and by the skin of teeth managed to get the early ferry complete with its now open bar... so we relaxed, socialised and helped Cal-Mac's profits!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Seaweed for the Garden

This morning our weather could not make up its mind what to do. Rain or Shine? So it did one, then the other, and then both at the same time. The result of this prevaracation was beautiful rainbows!One, a full semi- circle, stretched from the slopes of Ben More in the South to the wastes of Lochaber to the north across the Sound of Mull. We drove underneath it to get our own crock of gold. Yes, I know no chance of finding it as you have to look at the ends of the rainbow! Unfortunately, for our fortune we were on a mission to collect seaweed from our local beach. As we have had high spring tides and gales the lovely fresh "Tangle of the Isles" was stacked well up the beach, ready for us to throw into our bins and lift into the Land Rover. We managed two loads so a good start for our storage pile.

Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go,

By heather tracks with heaven in their wiles;

If its thinkin' in your inner heart braggart's in my step,

You've never smelt the tangle of the Isles.

If you know the song why not sing along whilst you are reading this!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

What might have happened

The weather over the last couple of days has been an interesting mixture - Sunshine Yes - Rain Yes -Gales Yes - but not in that order! So many planned activities were "unplanned". Wife P and I were going to be community minded and join the village tidy up morning litter picking, but it was called off as lady organiser was at Oban on the mainland and the ferry that she was supposed top come over on was gale bound at our island end. Nevertherless public spirited wife P decided to carry on clearing some of the local beach but before long a neighbour dragged in her in for a coffee but by then it was raining again, this time horizontally just for a change!

Meanwhile I was sorting out the storage area for seaweed and manure, and as the photograph shows (The small box at the top!) put the first of a row of potato planters in position. The latter are boxes constucted from recycled fence panels made so that the the bottom section can planted first, and as soon as the shoots appear, the next section is dropped on and filled with a soil/compost mix, Then the final section and soil put as soon as shoots appear again. I am told by those who know, that each layer must be watered so I will experiment with water pipes at each level. The idea is that the boxes will be full of healthy potatoes and easy to harvest. We will see!

This blog was supposed to be about seeing the local otters but neither weather nor otters co-operated so that is still on my list to blog about. At the moment the small wee animals are Notters as far as I am concerned.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


This morning our friendly not so tame robin has finally decided the the mealworm pagoda is a great idea. As soon as I appear in the morning one cheeky robin flies onto the pagoda demanding that it is filled with mealworms. Nice to know that I got the design and dimensions correct so all is well in the robin world and I managed a photograph to prove it.

Today we are going to look for otters. We have been told that there is an otter holt on the small beach below the headland just a short walk from our house. Our informant says that he thinks there is a female with two kittens, so with care and weather permitting I might even get a photograph. Otters have so far been absent from our walks and we were beginning to feel that we are the only people on the island who they are avoiding so maybe our luck will change.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Messing about with mealworms

For Christmas I was given a book about Robins. I have always enjoyed photographing them so Wife P decided that I should know more about these cheeky little birds. The scientific name for our British Robin is Erithacus Rubecula Melophus so a it is good job that he/she does not have to wear a name badge of the bright red breast. I digress for this blog is about my attempts to entice our local rather shy Robin into camera range. The book says that mealworms are a Robins idea of heaven! So on to the internet and purchase a "tub" of them to be delivered first class as they are alive and wriggling. When they arrived they sure were "wriggling"... the suppliers must have run out of "tubs" for the 250gm of regular mealworms arrived in a well tied small sack containing hundreds of the little blighters in newspaper... the Sheffield gazette if I remember correctly. Now transferring them to a storage box should be relatively easy. Ha ha! working is a cool garage should slow the little blighters down. Did it heck, first they wriggled deeper into folds of the newspaper, obviously they like the news content! Then they started to overflow but finally all were captured and safely into storage box. Some desk research revealed feeders best to use. The little blighters will wriggle out of dishes so a steep sided contained, they do not like sunshine or rain so it needs a cover! The gap between cover and container determines size of bird that can feed so I "designed" and made a mealworm pagoda popped a few wrigglers in it and waited discretely for the robin. Yes, you have guessed right plenty of blue tits, chaffinches, the occasional bullfinch but no ROBIN! even the tame thrush tried

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Single tracks and potholing

This post is two days later than I had planned, entirely due to better weather and the need to visit Tobermory to a garage to get Land Rover wheels sorted out. They are alloys and have a tendency to leak air slowly out, this not helped by the state of some of the roads! The fix, we were advised, is to take the tyres off , daub the rims with sealant, refit the tyres and hope that that has solved the problem. We also managed to make a scheduled visit to the dentist for routine maintenance. In my case very necessary as I managed to dislodge a filling by biting on a prune stone. Today was spent gardening, in fact building our first raised bed and filling it with a layer of seaweed before we add the soil and compost mix. So the new garden construction has actually begun and no doubt will be reported on in future blogs.

We are well used to driving on single track roads but here it is a whole different experience. The passing places in the main are well placed so once you get realise that everyone else outside the holiday season is well practiced at into diving into passing places, so with nearly everyone obeying the rules driving becomes a relaxing past time. Not that you can afford to lose concentration, there are, even here, men with white vans hell bent on getting through whatever, sometimes justifiably, as they rush to make the last delivery before catching the last ferry to the mainland and the pot holes!

Mull tracks, sorry, roads are famous for pot holes. a couple of years ago it was said that there were over a thousand major potholes on the fifty mile long "main" road from Fionnphort in the south to Tobermory in the north. There are many stories of damage to suspensions, tyres being torn off etc.... Now thanks to a new road mending machine, shared with the nearby island of Islay, the roads are getting mended and now we have some long stretches of new tarmac. But when you are on un-repaired sections driving is a slalom not only avoiding pot holes but not venturing too far on to wet verges especially in the dark as they may actually not exist!

Sunday, 8 January 2012


Yesterday we managed another walk without getting soaked, just enough "atmospheric" in the atmosphere and a warm breeze to be comfortable. We walked along a path at the side of the Sound of Mull, a place were we can be sure to see some bird life. Yesterday was no exception with a variety of gulls, a cormorant or two drying wings, and the usual heron.

Now Mull is known for it's Sea Eagles, who it is said, generate about £7 million annually to the island economy. It is also an island of herons, all busily fishing any stretch of water or flying to and fro with their slow majestic flight, head tucked in and long legs trailing as they skim over the waves to the next fishing pitch. Ours are the grey heron, Ardea Cinrea according to our bird book which also describes their Kraaank -Kraaank call very accurately and also tells us that they nest in trees, this to me always sounds dangerous for a bird with long legs designed to stand in water. They occassionally alight on the top branch of a very tall Oak tree near our home, so the book must be right and who am I to disbelieve such an august tome. One of yesterday's herons had also read the book for he or she had abandoned fishing for the afternoon and was exploring the tree tops perhaps looking for a roost for the night.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Walking on the Loch side

Dare I say it but yesterday it did not rain and the wind took a rest from tearing down trees. Our neighbour has not only lost trees but his phone line pole and he is going to be off phone and broadband until next week! So we are experimenting to see if our wireless router can be picked up by him so a least get him back online. Sad really that we all "need" technology even on remote islands but our neighbour more so as he works from home.

We left all jobs and computer to go for a walk along the northern side of Loch Na Keal which about ten miles from here. The birds were all celebrating the sunshine so we saw herons, snipe, usual gulls and more canada geese than is good for the island, they really are taking over pastures near the lochs in many places. We met an man filling his trailer and truck with seaweed so stopped (as you do) for a chat and discussed the merits of seaweed compost which we have also been collecting. Life is a learning curve so it was useful to be told not to plant spuds in the seaweed as it will give them scab.

We drove home at twilight (1530ish!) to find a rather large disappointed stag mooching about our garden, he was disappointed as yet we have to plant it so little food for him but no doubt he was casing the joint. Wife P had a chat with him and shoo'ed him out of the neighbours gate the way he had come in. Checked with our other neighbours that they had no stags hiding in undergrowth and then all retired to our house for a wee dram to discuss the deer problem.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Still Raining!!

Even the locals who are well used to rain more so than most people are starting to comment on the amount of the stuff falling from the sky. Our drive, luckily downhill from the house is looking more like a burn than a road. One of Our friendly Pheasants, Flash, thinks it makes a good mirror. I digress, for, I have a cunning plan to stop the rain. As we have too much land to make into a garden and both wife P and I like water features, a Wild Life pond seems a good idea. The area has been marked out for some time and the liner delivered. We can hire a mini digger on the island, they are great fun after the first hour of wondering how the hell the thing works....but with a bit of previous and the help of a friend I think we can achieve a hole in the ground lined with plastic. Then comes the crunch...rainfall will be ideal to fill the pond so, of course, the day we finish sliding around in the mud and actually want it to rain perversely knowing my luck it will stop raining and we will be quickly reading drought notices. Well that is the plan.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New year

As we get into the new year it is still raining. My rain gauge worked overtime in last month recording 1142 mm of water falling in the 31 days, or if you like it in "old" money that is over 16". We do get sunshine, in fact the sun popped out about an hour ago for a whole minute that is before it sleeted enough to cover the ground with white but now it is raining again so the planned beach walk is OFF!!!

Never mind there are plenty of other things to do, sort out Blog. Daughter M who is also a blogger has encouraged me (no not nagged) me to do a blog ever since Wife P and I moved here six months ago so here it is.

When not blogging I will be wood turning (another way to process timber for the fire) photographing weather, wildlife and landscape - we have all in abundance. Wildlife, for example, we try to have by invitatation so robins and pheasants are regular visitors. Rabbits and foxes are tolerated as long as the leave the planted vegetation alone. But the deer are not invited as we are enclosed in a deer fence 1.8 metres high with a cattle grid "protecting" the road entrance. Even so the b----ers sidle over the grid occassionally in the early mornings.

We also have a Land Rover - "go anywhere do any thing" - so we can collect seaweed for compost, wood for turning and generally explore this beautiful island when we can see it through the rain.