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April 2018 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
NEW RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEM FOR THE ISLE OF CANNA
The residents of the Isle of Canna have secured over £1.3m to construct a community-owned renewable energy system which will transform the way power is generated on the island.
Since 2000, Canna (which has no connection to the National Grid) has been powered by three diesel generators, but a new system based around wind, solar and battery storage will drastically reduce fuel usage and running costs.
The community has started a new venture called Canna Renewable Energy and Electrification Ltd - CREEL for short - which will own and operate the new equipment, ploughing all profits back into the running of the system to help keep bills affordable for the residents and businesses. CREEL will lease the existing generators and the power cables from the owners of the island, the National Trust for Scotland, but it's hoped that upwards of 90% of electricity will be provided from the PV panels, and from six small wind turbines which are to be manufactured in Ayrshire.
CREEL director Geraldine MacKinnon said: "We're delighted that construction will soon be underway on our energy project, which has been a long-standing ambition for our community. The island is exposed to the full force of Atlantic gales and we can finally start to put that to good use! As well as reducing the noise and pollution from the generators the new scheme will give us the capacity to build additional houses here, so that we can increase the number of people who can make their home on this beautiful island. We're very grateful to all of our funders for their support in this vital project."
The community secured £983,005 from the Big Lottery Fund and £150,000 from the Scottish Government's Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), delivered by Local Energy Scotland. An additional £100,000 was awarded from the SSE Highland Sustainable Development Fund, and £50,000 each from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the National Trust for Scotland.
Community Energy Scotland is working with CREEL to manage the development and construction of the project, building on the experience of nearby off-grid community schemes on Knoydart and the Isle of Muck. Construction is due to start in April and is scheduled to take around seven months to complete.
Kinloch Castle Asset Transfer Agreed
Kinloch Castle Friends Association (KCFA) have unanimously agreed to formally apply for an asset transfer of the castle to a Community Interest Company. This would initially be set up by KCFA to repair the castle and reinstate the hostel, restaurant, bar and other features to give the castle a sustainable and viable future. A detailed survey of the castle has revealed that the repairs would cost £7.8 million in total but crucially that the building is redeemable and once repaired as suggested, would have a long-term future.
The KCFA said 'This is an exciting project conserving an iconic building of national importance. Importantly this will also benefit the local community by providing employment and also extra accommodation for visitors to the National Nature Reserve. We are grateful for the encouragement and support we have received from Scottish Natural Heritage and look forward to working with them as we strive to complete this project.'
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
A very Happy Easter to all our West Word readers!
As I've been putting the paper together the first steam train of the season has chuffed past in to Mallaig - welcome back! Lovely displays of daffodils everywhere and a bit less snow on the hills too ... spring really is on the way.
It's a great shame to hear that the Road to the Isles Agricultural Show won't be going ahead this year - it's a big attraction for the area and will be much missed.
BEAR Scotland's overnight repairs to the A830 in March seem to have somehow managed to exclude the most potholed section of road beside Loch Eilt and I can't see any mention of further scheduled works on BEAR's repairs timetable - let's hope this is rectified soon!
As always my thanks go to Ewen and Morag for their help with the printing and to Anne and Miya for sticking labels on envelopes this month.
Road to The Isles Agricultural Show 2018 Cancelled
Due to unforeseen circumstances the Agricultural Show at Camusdarach Campsite on Saturday 9th June has been cancelled. The Show should be back in 2019 - watch out for adverts in the New Year.
Please could anyone with trophies return them by the end of May 2018 to the Secretary, Anne MacDonald. They can be left in the BSW Gate House marked for Anne's attention or at Harbro's in Fort William. Anne says 'We would like to thank everyone for their support in the past and look forward to seeing you all in 2019.'
Lots of activity this month as the season fast approaches. Not that you'd think it with the still freezing temperatures! The daffodils and snowdrops are a nice reminder that is meant to be spring though and the lighter evenings make a big difference. The Foundation shop has undergone a wee refurb, just in time for Easter, maximising the space and looking all nice and fresh. Veronika at the Road's End Café will reopen on the 28th of March, and, excitement of excitements … the road should very soon be passable again after a long six months!
The crowdfunding campaign for the hall came to an end on the 16th of March, ending with a total of just under £30,000. This was just five grand shy of the original target so it was a fantastic achievement. A Huge Thank You to everyone who took the time to donate!
Also on the 16th of March, the school held a Go Yellow Marie Curie open afternoon in school, with lots of lovely home baking and a raffle etc. and managed to raise £350 for the charity! The children also made very fetching daffodils…
At the start of the month the ranger service took part in the "Great British Spring Clean" with 27 local volunteers and managed to collect enough rubbish from our village to fill five Landrovers and a trailer - good job!
Music wise, we had Project Smok, who were fantastic and very unique. It was indeed a great night. The next gig will be the Easter Ceilidh with The Full Floor on Saturday 31st March.
Happy Easter Folks, have a good one.
ISLE OF MUCK
Hardly had the editor received February's news with its hope of spring when the 'Beast from the East' blew in and today the island is no greener than a month past. But it is drier; the mud is gone and, provided they are being fed, the stock love it. Colin and Toby quickly fuelled up their massive Volvo tracked digger and commenced draining to create two large drains connecting the low areas of five fields which at present have stone drains running through them that are failing to do the job properly. Duggie the Dyker is here too, widening the gateways to allow the large machine to pass unhindered.
In February's West Word, Camille announced a celebration of 10 years of naturally generated electricity powering the' Island of Music' Eigg. I would like to gently remind her that (apart the lack of hydro) we have an identical and highly successful scheme on Muck. And though we have yet to celebrate 10 years, we have suffered only two brief power outages when the system failed to switch from battery to diesel automatically in calm weather. Our 7 kilometres of underground cables are much older and we have had only one fault. When Ewen laid them on rocky ground he used sand to protect from sharp rocks. And he insisted on the trenches being filled in by hand, much to the dismay of the islanders. But we did it.
Today the scheme is serviced by a team of volunteers but in the background Barnaby is ever-present to ensure that all is working properly.
Camas is back arranging the programme of events for the coming summer. Small Isles Sports on Muck on 28th July.
ISLE OF CANNA
Another bitterly cold month but we have also been lucky enough to miss the worst of the "Beast from the East". Finally the ground is beginning to dry up which is good news for the farm in the run up to the full lambing next month.
The Zwartble lambs are growing quickly and getting more and more curious.
The first calves have also arrived keeping Gerry and Murdo busy.
Towards the end of March we had our first two visiting yachts who arrived in early evening to take advantage of the community moorings. Hopefully these will just be the first of many.
As the season gets underway we also look forward to both the Tighard Guesthouse and Café Canna reopening over the coming weeks.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
March always sees us on Canna preparing for the new 'season' and this month has been no different. Several new projects are under way in Canna House including the organising of a Symposium to be held on Canna on 9th June, St Columba's Day.
2018 is the 80th anniversary of the purchase of Canna by John and Margaret Campbell and archivist Fiona wanted to mark this important date by an event which would celebrate both the established research and the potential for new research. To this end, the Symposium - entitled "Ceangal Choluim Chille/The Columba Connection /Conasc Choluim Cille" - will encompass a day of academic papers on the historical and archaeological evidence for Canna being the 'summer home' of St Columba (Hinba) as well as guided ranger walks of the archaeological sites and a ceilidh.
Fiona has established a link with University College of Dublin who will be sending a research student to the event. Fiona said "It's very important that we maintain and develop those important historical and cultural links with Ireland, begun by John and Margaret Campbell". The event is open to anyone who wishes to come to hear the papers, in the St Columba Chapel, or to go on the walks and partake in the ceilidh! The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Brian McGhee, will be in attendance and he will deliver a blessing at the Celtic Cross at A'Chill.
Application forms and more information can be found at www.facebook.com/columbaconnection or from Fiona on firstname.lastname@example.org Proposals for papers are invited, on the theme "Bho Eirinn gu Alb'ar lochran 's ar n-earbs' /From Eire to Alba, our torch and our guide". The day is structured to allow visitors to arrive on Canna in the morning and leave in the evening if they wish.
Fiona has received the first batch of Margaret Fay Shaw's films which have been away to be re-digitised to higher resolution than previously available. She is very excited to have found footage amongst the films which hasn't been seen before, mainly of life on South Uist in the early 1930's. "This was one of the aims which we hoped we would fulfil. When the films went away to be digitised we were not sure what was on the original film footage and it is exciting to know that not only have we preserved the contents before they deteriorate but found new footage taken by Margaret Fay Shaw when she lived in North Glendale, South Uist." Fiona will be using the films in her various summer presentations and talks. There will be regular lunchtime talks on Wednesday lunchtimes in the Shearing Shed on Canna, when the Loch Nevis has a two-hour stopover. All welcome! Failte oirbh!
ISLE OF RUM
This month's big effort was trying to get the village hall floor sanded and re-varnished in 10 days: sounds easy, right? Well we managed to break the floor sanders (plural) a few times and they eventually gave up the ghost despite excellent island fixing skills from Dave. There's still varnishing to do as I write, but it will be done by the end of next week, Good Friday, when Trudi has the opening night for her exhibition, titled Nature's Island: Rum and the Western Isles in sketches and photographs. The exhibition will run for the summer so there's plenty of time to catch it. Wine and nibbles on Good Friday at 6pm for anyone here.
We had our annual familiarisation day #RumJolly on Thursday 22nd for local mainland tour operators, hotels, B&Bs etc; this includes a tour of the castle, walks around the village and a venison lunch at the bunkhouse to showcase local businesses and Rum NNR. Organised by Lesley and the Rum marketing group it was a great success. Last year's CalMac visitor numbers were up on the year before and we're hoping by engaging with local mainland businesses we can increase them further. We've also had a bit of a marketing push and printed out more Rum leaflets and got a large version of our hand drawn village map produced for the pier and the visitors centre.
Arisaig Primary's p4s to p7s came to Rum for a school trip and stayed at the bunkhouse. The planned 10-mile round trip to Kilmory including beach clean was abandoned after the rain was so heavy that the kids had to turn back at the quarry completely wet through. The day was not ruined though, but improved by having an easter egg hunt, lots of art and an evening quiz. Joss, Ashton and Eve said they enjoyed having lots of children to play with. Having made the formal decision to proceed with the asset transfer of Kinloch Castle, the friends of Kinloch Castle are here at the moment to start an inventory of the contents and rooms. They are keen to start work as soon as they can to reopen the hostel. 'There is still a way to go' said chair Ewan MacDonald. They have to produce a more detailed business plan than their initial proposal, however with help from SNH and HIE, they are confident it will go ahead, as the alternative of permanent closure or private sale is not in the best interests of the island community or the visiting public.
In nature sightings, the Eider ducks are busy displaying and their distinctive Frankie Howerd-esque 'ooh' can be heard all around the bay. Derek saw two eagles attacking a Greylag goose, which consequently crash landed in his garden.
ISLE OF EIGG
Frozen pipes and frost damage to tender plants in Eigg gardens have been amongst the casualties of The Beast from the East on Eigg: not too dramatic, in contrast with what happened further south! Sunny days and clear skies with a few showings of Northern Lights a bonus! John the Post's ankle is now fully mended, and he is back to work at the pier, but his favourite Rob Rob has disappeared, the victim of a hungry buzzard undoubtedly, leaving him to hope for another robin to tame with the enticement of meal worm and biscuit crumbs! Even though it is so lovely to hear them starting to sing in earnest, life is hard for the island birds at the end of winter and sales of seed have rocketed in the shop.
John Chester passed on the alarming news of the dramatic decrease in Scottish sea-birds generally, and this will be the new topic for our display in the Old Shop. We also had a visit from the Whale and Dolphin Trust as part of their new campaign for a Whale Trail in the Small Isles, which was very well received. Meanwhile, single use plastic and marine plastic has become the current discussion topic for the newly re-energised Eigg Green Team. Katie has really got going with organising her monthly clean-up of marine plastic on Laig bay. She has managed to motivate the whole island and now the Eigg Green Team is taking action to achieve progress in dealing with this perennial problem: by building a marine plastic container out of pallets at the top of the beach track and inviting anyone going to the beach to pick up at least 5 items of marine plastic and drop them in the container, the Green Team offers a temporary solution that will involve our visitors and motivate the Highland Council in dealing with the stuff which will be gathered! Ideally, we'd like to be able to deal with the plastic locally through up-cycling, but that's in the future for the moment, although it is another thing that the Green Team is looking at. In the meantime, congratulations to Norah Barnes for winning the Eigg Ranger post! She has a great deal of rangering experience and with John the Bird as mentor, she will prove to be his worthy successor...
Managing Eigg's visitor numbers was another issue that was explored on the island this month, with concerns about the publicity generated by our 20th anniversary on various media, US TV particularly, threatening to compare with the ill-conceived advertising campaigns for the North Coast 500 or Skye with their well-publicised negative fallout. Revisiting what our original vision was in setting the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust was useful and everyone was in agreement that we have to have a strategy to manage numbers and ensure that the visitor's experience is a positive one, whilst preventing the feeling of being swamped, the victims of our success!! A challenge for the next few years, and one that the Green Team is seeking to address by producing a Green Guide for Eigg visitors, to make our visitors understand how to respect our renewable energy system and its 5 Kw limits for households, our limited water supply and our waste disposal so that we don't have to deal with litter deposited in any of the Council bins that are sited so generously round the island! It will be interesting to see how much influence this will have.
On the farming front, Sarah Boden of the Sandamhor farm partnership has just finished her Farming Leadership course which has taken her to Holyrood, Brussels and Westminster. A great experience altogether she said, but a sobering one as she and others on the course found themselves having to explain to English MPs what farming in Scotland and especially the Highlands was about, which does not bode well for impending negotiations on how to replace CAP funding as they appeared to be clueless and not particularly concerned. An urgent information campaign about the threats to Highland and Islands farming and crofting would seem to be in order as there has not been much in the press about this, unlike the fishing issue which has come to the fore recently, although both are of equal importance to the local economy!
Art Exhibitions this Spring at Resipole Studios
Resipole Studios Fine Art Gallery are launching its 2018 programme with a group exhibition of work by artists Joyce Gunn-Cairns MBE, Gillian Murray and local artist Helen Michie from the 30th March until the 13th May. The annual Spring Show presents a joint showcase of work by painter Joyce Gunn Cairns MBE and printmaker Gillian Murray in the Main Hall, and a solo display of paintings and ceramics by west Lochaber artist Helen Michie in the White Gallery.
Alongside this there will be a group show from Gallery Artists in the newly opened upper gallery and the red gallery.
Joyce Gunn-Cairns MBE is a multi-award-winning artist who has gained national recognition for her portraits of famous writers. Described by Duncan MacMillan (The Scotsman) as one of 'Scotland's finest painters', Gunn Cairns trained in painting and drawing at Edinburgh College of Art. Her expressive figurative paintings are collected internationally. Nine of her works are in the permanent collection of Scotland's National Portrait Gallery and in 2004, she was awarded an MBE for services to the arts. Also exhibiting in the main hall is work by Gillian Murray, an accomplished printmaker who lives and works in Edinburgh. She studied Fine Art (Printmaking) at Aberdeen's Gray's School of Art and thereafter worked at Edinburgh College of Art running their printmaking department. Line is of prime importance in Murray's representation of the remote Scottish landscape.
In the White Gallery, Helen Michie, an artist living and working in west Lochaber, presents a body of work entitled Shoreline. Inspired by the local coastline, Michie exhibits Raku wall pieces, stoneware coastal bowls and porcelain sculptural ceramics alongside mixed-media paintings evoking the textures and colours of the shoreline. The natural environment is not only the inspiration behind Michie's work but instrumental in creating it. Whether it's the impressions from nature and geological textures or the process of Raku smoke-firing in an outdoor kiln influenced by the elements, nature is inherent in her art. Helen Michie studied ceramics at Gray's School of Art and exhibits throughout the country and internationally as well as exhibiting regularly with Resipole Studios.
The Spring Show Exhibitions will be at Resipole Studios, Acharacle from the 30th March until the 13th May, open Tues to Sun 11am to 6pm. www.resipolestudios.co.uk
On and Off the Rails
The old saying of "March winds and April showers" is certainly coming true, but will the "May flowers" ending come true? We can only hope. My shrubs, plants - and even bulbs - are all in pots covered with horticultural fleece waiting to go into the planters at the railway station! To be honest if I planted them out now the buds that are waiting to burst into flower would turn black and rot off! The station at Mallaig looks so forlorn and bare. I keep trying to think positive - but it does not produce results. Now that the spring equinox has passed and the clocks have sprung forward to daylight saving time optimism may return - and then the seagulls will start nesting again!
Off the Rails - A Visit to Mallaig 2018 leaflet
The eight page colour leaflet that I produce on behalf of the community for use on the tables of the Jacobite and ScotRail trains bound from Mallaig is again under production. Progress has been slightly delayed this year in that obtaining copy from some of the businesses has been slow - but only because of well-deserved breaks being taken before "the season" - now April to December - starts!! However I am nearly ready to progress to the publishers and printers and, subject to proofreading approval, we should have them on the trains by mid-April. It isn't that many years since The Jacobite steam train commenced around 19th May each year. Now we are starting at Easter and going through to the end of December - with a break in November of course. That has to have a good effect on the number of persons visiting Mallaig. In the meantime if you are travelling in or out of Mallaig by any train please remember to shut the doors when entering or exiting the trains! It makes such a difference to the staff's attempts to give us a warm train if the doors are shut whilst the trains are in the station. Thank you.
Currently there are only two members of staff (based at Fort William) covering catering on the ScotRail services. New staff are being trained, but it means that at present no catering service is available between Mallaig/Fort William and limited service between Fort William and Crianlarich. The best advice I can give you at present is to take a flask of soup or purchase a hot beverage to take you to Fort William. At Fort William there is time to hop off the train and purchase hot drinks on the station concourse from Bill's Place or the Station Café. Or take hot food from Mallaig cafes.
Further down the line Jenny and Bill Anderson have reopened the charming Rannoch Station Tearooms. They are open six days a week (excluding Fridays) and you can travel by train to eat a lovely lunch there - then travel back or if travelling on further you can book ahead and have the food delivered to the train. Things like home-made soup and bread, and rolls, sandwiches, bacon rolls, home-made cakes, hot drinks etc to sustain you if no trolley service is available. They are open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and you can pre-order for the train journey by ringing them on (01882) 633247 or (07557) 271880, look them up at www.rannochstationtearoom.co.uk and follow them on Facebook.
Corrour Station House Restaurant reopened for the season this week. Telephone (01397) 732236 or go to www.corrour.co.uk or Facebook. As it is next to the station platform it is too far to nip off the train to purchase when travelling, but it is very, very good to visit for a meal in the lunchtime or evening by train from Mallaig.
Crianlarich tearoom - on the station platform - is handy for picking up packed lunches, takeaways and hot drinks. They offer a book ahead service. Telephone (01838) 300204 to place an order to pick up and pay for when time allows as trains join up with the Oban trains.
Near to Mallaig of course you can visit the dining coach at Glenfinnan Station Sidings to eat their delicious hot fresh scones, soup and a roll, breakfast, light lunch or afternoon tea whilst watching the trains arrive and depart. Parking for cars is limited but there are spaces as you turn off the main road to go to the station; walk gently up to the dining coach and then take a visit to the restored signal box and station Museum/Gift Shop.
Corrour Signal Box - Blue Plaque unveiling
Anyone who has travelled on the trains - in either direction - past Corrour signal box since August 2015 will have witnessed scaffolding around the building. The restoration of the building's interior and exterior is complete to a very high standard. Tribute must go to the workmen who toiled in all weathers to carry out the work.
Corrour Estate - whose Trust is the custodian of the station buildings - joined forces with the Railway Heritage Trust, Network Rail and CPMS to produce a report, advance the funding and authorise the restoration - now unveiled as four self-contained ensuite rooms and a viewing lounge in the signal box tower. These are available for bookings individually or as the whole building.
Corrour is an unusual survival of a station on the public rail network, originally built by North British Railways to serve a private estate. It is the most remote operational train station in the UK and also the highest at 1300 feet above sea level. The 'estate style' architecture of the waiting room with its polychromatic banded brickwork, doorway, bracketed eaves and end stacks add to its interest as an example of its building type. The building of a private estate road allowing access by car was completed by the Forestry Commission in 1972. Previously the station was only accessible by train. The road is 15 miles of forest track and open moorland to reach the station - usually a journey of 45 minutes (when accessible!)
Since completion the project to restore the signal box has been awarded a National Railway Heritage Award by the Railway Heritage Trust. This conservation award was presented to Network Rail Property for the conservation of Corrour station and signal box by Paul Maynard MP, Rail Minister, at a ceremony in 2016.
Philip Dean (Corrour Estate Manager and Factor), Robert Weir (CPMS Building Consultants), and Andy Savage (Railway Heritage Trust)
Photos by Steve Roberts
A blue plaque was cast, and on Monday March 19th this year approximately 18 good and worthy officials, plus Steve and myself, attended the ceremony to unveil it on the exterior wall of the signal box. We inspected the work, ate heartily, had some really interesting conversations and a good time was had by all! Steve and I travelled ex Mallaig 06:03 as far as Ardlui where we swapped platforms and joined the train with the guests on board. We then travelled back to Corrour for the ceremony, travelled again to Ardlui, changed platforms and returned to Mallaig. Good fun and glorious sunshine in the snow! Do look for the plaque when passing on a train.
Sir William McAlpine, Bt
It is with fondness and a touch of sadness that we heard of the death of Sir William McAlpine, Bt on March 4, 2018. His great-grandfather was 'Concrete Bob' McAlpine, the founder of the McAlpine construction company, the first of the McAlpine baronets. Our railway line and Glenfinnan viaduct would not be as it is today without him.
Sir William and his wife Judy came to Mallaig by train several times. I have photos of a visit by them in 2005. I will include them next month, along with tales of the visit. RIP Sir William.
See you on the train,
5th March 2018 Grounded Vessel
Launched at 21:30 to the assistance of a grounded vessel in Mallaig harbour by Stornoway Coastguard. A fishing vessel leaving the ice berth in the outer harbour lost her steering and was blown on to the rock armour below the Salmon station. Unable to manoeuvre out of its location the casualty contacted the Harbour Authority who requested the Coastguard to launch the Lifeboat to assist. On scene at 21:35hrs the Lifeboat approached the casualty which was aground by the stern on a small reef which just sits off the rock armour on a falling tide. The lifeboat approached the casualty bow on and passed the tow rope across. The casualty bow was pulled round to seaward by the Lifeboat and after a couple of attempts the casualty came free of the reef and into the deeper water. Once the tow rope was retrieved the Lifeboat escorted the casualty to the Inner Harbour. Once moored the vessel was checked over for any water ingress or damage. With all reported well the Lifeboat returned to her pontoon and made ready for service at 21:10hrs.
18th March 2018
Launched to investigate reports of a flashing light at the foot of the Cuillins by Stornoway Coastguard at 21:50hrs. A fishing vessel crew at anchor of the village of Elgol reported to the Coastguard that they had seen a flashing light at the entrance to Loch Scavaig. They in turn flashed back with their own torches and were sure that whoever was on the other shore was replying. With this information, the Coastguard requested the Lifeboat to search the area to ascertain if anybody was in difficulty. Arriving on scene 22:50hrs the Lifeboat undertook three sweeps of the shoreline and hillsides in the area with searchlights and night vision equipment. With nothing found or sighted the Coastguard stood the Lifeboat down to return to base. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 01:05hrs.
World Wide West Word
Here's Willie Simpson reading West Word at Fisherman's Beach, Albufeira.
A little closer to home, Tasha McVarish and Tamsin McCarthy crossed the sea from Eigg over to Rum at the beginning of March for a few days of walking in the hills. Here they are in front of a snowy Hallival.
Richard Lamont visited Inverewe Gardens on a recent holiday and stopped to read the paper in front of Inverewe House in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree.
BIRDWATCH February 2018 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly cold and dry month with little change on the bird front.
Still a number of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls in the area. Three juvenile Iceland Gulls were at Loch Ailort until mid-month. One was seen at Glenuig on the 5th and on the 19th, at least six Iceland Gulls were seen in Mallaig, along with a juvenile Glaucous Gull and the 'Viking' Gull.
A female Blackcap appeared in a garden at Rhubana View, Morar on the 19th and was seen regularly till the month end, feeding on fat balls and apples.
The Kingfisher was present throughout the month, upstream of the hydro dam on the Morar river and the male Mandarin Duck was on the river, usually between Riverside Cottage and Kinsadel Bay. Wigeon were at their usual haunts on the Morar Estuary, Invercaimbe and Loch nan Ceall. On the 19th there were three Canada Geese and the single Pink-footed Goose along with approximately 40 Greylags in fields at Traigh.
On the 18th, five Curlew and two Greenshank were on the Morar Estuary, while Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen on the rocks at West Bay, Mallaig on several occasions. With the frosty weather there were increased reports of Woodcock and Snipe in the area, possibly displaced by the harsher weather further east and inland. Two reports of Jack Snipe: a sighting on salt marsh at the head of Loch Ailort on the 5th and one flushed on boggy ground near Morar Lodge on the 16th.
A Redpoll was seen on feeders in a garden near Woodside, Morar on the 11th, along with a Siskin. As the month progressed sightings of Siskins increased and by the month end at least two Redpolls were using feeders in a garden at Rhubana View.
Great-spotted Woodpeckers were heard 'drumming' in the Arisaig area from mid-month.
A male Hen Harrier was seen regularly in the Back of Keppoch to Bunacaimbe area and there were widespread reports of Sea Eagles along the coast from Mallaig to Loch Ailort.
On the 27th, a single Red Grouse was seen on the Rhue Peninsula.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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