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Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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November 2016 Issue
Happy Birthday to West Word
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WHAT A HOOLIE THAT WAS!
They came from as far as the South of England and the Outer Isles to attend the first Mallaig Book Festival in the West Highland Hotel on the weekend of Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd October, enjoying warm, sunny weather to go along with the warm, sunny atmosphere as the craic flowed and the music played and stunning sunsets ended each day.
Unanimously declared a huge success, the event hosted twelve authors, two professional musicians and well over a hundred guests for a weekend of talk, discussions and music, all interleaved with good food and drink.
There were lovely sunsets every night - like this one on the Saturday night
A Write Highland Hoolie!
There was a buzz of excitement on October 21st as Gavin Davis, and his daughter and friend put up the feather banners outside his West Highland Hotel to advertise Mallaig's first Book Festival - A Write Highland Hoolie! Our logo and artwork - a flamboyant, mad Highland gent in full kilt regalia dancing with a stag - was topic of much conversation - logo by local graphic designer, Mairi Orr, and the artwork by Clare Mackie. It served us well, for as soon as a stream of visitors flooded into the warm welcome of the hotel, fair weather set in over the west. There was a high in all senses of the word, with music and dancing to accompany an excellent literary selection.
The event opened with Polly Pullar interviewing Angus MacDonald about his debut novel, Ardnish was Home
The assembled party came from near and far, and with them came a camaraderie and cheer that commenced with Angus MacDonald's launch party for his debut novel Ardnish was Home, continued with the skirl of the pipes played by Colin Graham, a sumptuous dinner, and led to everyone falling heavily under the spell of the lovely Elsa Jean McTaggart, and her equally musical husband Gary Lister as they performed an astounding range of numbers. Her Irish airs on the whistle were lump in the throat moments.
Saturday was packed with exciting events. Renowned nature writer Jim Crumley talked of his latest book - The Nature of Autumn, as well as reintroductions: beavers, sea eagles, wolves and lynx, sparking healthy debate. Scotland's best-loved cook turned best-selling novelist, Sue Lawrence, amused and entertained with talk of old Scots recipes, and how to write a good murder, whilst the audience enjoyed a selection of her cakes baked by the hotel's gourmet chef, and deemed by Sue and everyone else, as exquisite. Michael F. Russell, deputy editor of the West Highland Free Press, popped across from Skye to talk of his novel The Lie of the Land, based on a dystopian futuristic Scotland, whilst Bookbug put in regular appearances to enchant youngest members of the audience. Meanwhile Mallaig High School's English teacher, Mandy Tevendale, and senior pupils were busy with a creative workshop for children in the hotel's library.
Donald S. Murray was the main speaker, and his new book, Herring Tales, seemed made for Mallaig. He also judged our children's creative writing competition, and deemed the standard high. His Gaelic introductions to various events were appropriate, and amusing. On Sunday he joined forces on a panel including Alasdair Roberts, Lawrence MacEwen, and Camille Dressler to talk of The Tangle of the Isles, when education, and pros and cons of island living were discussed, and the audience joined in.
Polly in conversation with storyteller Jess Smith
Gypsy Jess Smith, whose Traveller's tales have brought her a loyal following, astounded her audience. Not one person nodded off. During the entire 55 minutes she chatted without drawing breath. Hilarious, moving, fascinating, heart-rending and poignant by degrees, she even had children on the edge of their seats ending with a wonderful story aimed specially at them. I deemed her one of Scotland's National Treasures, and everyone agreed. But that was not all, for that night, the sound of her hauntingly beautiful voice, cast a lasting magic that will be talked of for years.
No book seemed more appropriate for the event than Debi Gliori's delightful A Hebridean Alphabet, reminding many, including me, of our own childhoods in the west. Her brilliant event was further enlivened by hilarious input from that famous islander, Lawrence MacEwen from Muck, as young and old tried to find various things that began with each letter in the alphabet in her entrancing pictures.
Later Debi showed further talent as she played a selection of Shetland reels on her fiddle. John Love from Uist also proved he is a fine fiddler, and Jim Crumley surprised us all with the skills of his jazz guitar playing accompanied by Elsa singing 'Somewhere over the Rainbow'.
A brilliant ceilidh brought each day to a close. Gary Lister and Elsa Jean McTaggart are joined by author Jim Crumley plaing a bit of jazz.
On Sunday skies over the clear and magical Hebridean vista were of deep azure, the sea navy blue, the hills dressed in orange tweed. The day began with prize giving, and Mallaig High School presented a film they had made about herring fishing. Alasdair Roberts played evocative island tunes on his pipes, and Mandy Tevendale read her son Jonathon's essay that has won a national writing competition.
Our last event was a riveting tale told jointly by authors John Love and Stuart Murray, A Stag from Rum, written in the 1930s by Robert Atkinson. Only recently published by the Islands Book Trust, this is a tale of derring-do, of sailing to Rum in stormy seas to poach a stag. John and Stuart also talked much of Rum, an island at that time that was largely forbidden. Appropriately after our last event, there was tea on the terrace, with a backdrop of Rum's distinctive outline.
Amusingly, Gavin Davis told me that on Saturday night as he went home late, he met a hind galloping up the road past the hotel. A few minutes later what he described as a 'huge stag' raced past in hot pursuit. This added to the uniqueness of A Write Highland Hoolie! A book festival that everyone claimed was different - small and friendly, and all under one roof, where authors joined visitors and the craic flowed like the laughter and music. It was a weekend of wonderful books amid Hebridean sunsets too beautiful for the soul to bear. A Write Highland Hoolie now adds a new chapter to Mallaig's important growing number of great events. Though it was hard graft for the small committee: Sine David, Ann Martin, Deirdre Roberts and me, we feel it went better than we could have hoped for, and we very much hope you may join us next year.
Special thanks to the West Highland Hotel for the superb venue, and their chefs for outstanding food, to Martin Whyte of the Stage Group, Richard Lamont, Freddy Pullar and Iomhair Fletcher for help and photographs, and last but not least all our local sponsors without whom the event would not have been possible.
Bookbug took time off from amusing the pre-school pupils and gatecrashed the creative writing workshop!
Bookbug with its creator, Debi Gliori
Author Donald S Murray judged the Creative Writing Competition held through the local schools in the Summer term and presented the prizes to those who could attend the Festival.
CONGRATULATIONS TO CAFÉ CANNA!
November already! Can't believe how fast this month has gone…Only eight weeks til Christmas….What good weather we've had (mostly) considering it is now this late in the year. The trees are all very beautiful and we had some proper frost one clear morning. Bit chilly but gorgeous all the same! The month started with a fair few of us over for the Feis, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Good to get a change of scene too! Following that, we had an influx of party animals for Stuart Fergusson's (of Eigg) belated 40th party. This was a grand night in the hall, with the usual copious amounts of alcohol flowing and lots of dancing involved.
The old net shed roof has now been removed due to the asbestos in it and further works will be happening at some stage (I know that's very vague but I actually am not quite sure of anything else...) The painting of the generator shed in the village has also been completed and it is much improved, looking very bright and fresh. Good on the folk who volunteered and got it done.
The stag season is now over and the boys have had their annual end of stags party which consisted of a day trip to the Ardvasar hotel on Skye (Hopefully the people of Skye were not too traumatised by our rowdy bunch) and volunteer Gerry left after two months of working with the Foundation stalkers. Hind season is now under way through til February.
Veronika is closing the Road's End Café for five weeks, starting from the 6th November, for a well-earned break. She has achieved so much this year, turning that wee old shed around for us all to enjoy and I'm sure we will survive for 5 weeks without fish and chips (which is to resume once she is back.)
The kids had fun for Halloween, dressing up for school and then guising later on. The boys (Struan, Robbie, Archie and Felix) did something a little different, branching away from the usual jokes or little songs and played us a lovely wee tune on their whistles. Although, there is definitely something extra creepy about zombies playing instruments! Struan and Felix also celebrated birthdays this month, turning 12 and 11 respectively.
And finally, just a wee reminder that the Christmas Bizarre will be held on the 3rd of December in the Inverie Village hall if anyone fancies finding an unusual, home crafted present.
Happy Samhain folks
ISLE OF MUCK
I probably mention the weather far to often in Westword for it is what we all experience without being told about it. But the weather of October was exceptional-exceptionally good; warm with little rain and amazing skies.
We have not had an October like it for decades.
Preceded by the largest pantechnicon ever to reach the island the Marriners have arrived all the way from Hampshire. Dean and teacher Laura together with children Charlie and Atticus. Charlie will be in P1 so for a short while there will be 10 children in school. This is a record number for Muck and a far cry from the days when Mary MacEwen was in 'a class of her own' which engendered much press interest. There have been other periods with only one pupil and since 1947, when I started school, it has been closed twice. Hopefully that will never occur again. While on the subject of school I would like to pay tribute to Liz Boden who when we were left teacherless in August immediately came back from Eigg to help. In a era when supply teachers have almost disappeared we cannot thank Liz too profusely for stepping into the breach. Thank you Liz and welcome to Laura.
On the farm our new Simental bull has arrived from Blackford Farm near Inverness. Only a year old he is showing great promise with plenty of length and a good rear end. He seems very quiet and is getting on fine with the much larger Luing bull from Arisaig Farms who is a real pet and loves to have his back rubbed. The vast majority of beef bulls are very easy to train to be petted; given a little time. It is only dogs and cows with young calves that can be dangerous.
That is all this month. More changes on the island in November. Read about them in West Word.
ISLE OF CANNA
Autumn is well underway on Canna with the island seeing a big drop in the number of visitors. Time for us all to start preparing for winter. A visit by tree surgeons to Canna House garden resulted in a considerable supply of wood for turning into fuel.
Gerry and Murdo have been busy on the farm as always and most of the sheep and cattle have headed for the sales in Dingwall.
The Coastguard team had another training session during the month with Senior Coastal Operations Officers coming from Stornoway. This already provided an opportunity for the Canna children to have an afternoon exploring the Coastguard vehicle and equipment. Even teacher, Martin, was involved and had to demonstrate how to inflate a lifejacket to everyone's amusement.
Another member of the Guthrie family had a special day later in the month as Erin attended her first communion in St Columba's Chapel. Almost the entire island turned out to wish her well.
We also had repairs carried out to fenders on Canna pier and Murdo and a few of us took advantage of some dry weather to add 15 tonnes of aggregate to the road which was much needed. Unfortunately some of our hard work was ruined by two days of heavy rain just after we had completed the job.
The end of the month saw another visit from the Coastguard helicopter to take Donald and Gordon for a training weekend in Mallaig. The arrival of the helicopter is always a good opportunity for us to practice landing arrangements in case of emergencies.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
October was a busy month for archivist Fiona Mackenzie. Following on from her initial visit to Boston in May, Fiona was encouraged to submit a paper for presentation at the prestigious Celtic Colloquium at Harvard University. Fiona submitted a paper entitled From Lochboisdale to Boisdale- an analysis of the Transatlantic transmutation of "Diuram", a Gaelic lullaby collected by John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw. This looked at how one song collected by the Campbells changed in its travels from Scotland to Nova Scotia Fiona illustrated the paper with photographs, films and sound archive from the Canna Collections as well as singing the different versions of the song. Presenting at Harvard university was a great privilege and Fiona was delighted with the response from conference delegates, who were entranced by the picture of a disappearing way of Hebridean life presented in the paper. They particularly liked the recording of Pooni the Siamese, mentioned in last month's column! The trip to Harvard was made possible by a donation to Canna House by the US Patrons for this specific purpose.
Hot on the heels of Boston Fiona 'made her way to Stornoway' to represent the National Trust for Scotland as a sponsor at the Royal National Mod. Fiona was accompanied by Indigo Carnie, Canna House documentation officer for whom this was a first Mod experience! Videos of Canna House and the Collections were shown at the Mod on the screens between competitions and Fiona is already in discussion with Mod organisers for various 'Canna activities' at Mod Loch Abair 2017.
The Canna House documentation project has progressed to 'upstairs' now and many wonderful and interesting things are being uncovered and photographed by Liz and Indie.
Margaret Campbell took some wonderful photographs and film, One Halloween in South Uist c1930. Here are a few scary guisers in traditional Uist Halloween costume!
Guisers in Uist c 1930
ISLE OF EIGG
October proved to be another lovely clear sunny month with a number of remarkably colourful sunsets, there has been a lot more visitors than usual at this time of year, prolonging the season nicely. The fine weather also meant a fine crop in our community orchard, which was shared out amongst the islanders. The effort that has gone into keeping the brambles and weeds down twice a year has paid off handsomely with a bounty of crisp red apples and a quantity of lovely coxes and pippins.
With the spate of birthdays spanning the end of September and the first few days of the month, the party mood carried on nicely too, culminating in Alastair Kirk's 50th birthday on the 10th. Nice to see Fiona and Mark who came especially over from Mull for the occasion! Many happy returns too to Mick Brett who celebrated his 70th not just with a viewing of a Wishbone Ash concert but with going to see the band live in Glasgow. As to Frances and Steven, they came back from their belated honeymoon in Nashville raving about the great music and the hospitality they experienced everywhere they went. Lucy came back from her six weeks marathon Canadian journey from East to West with great stories and pictures. Meanwhile, the Eigg folks - and they were many - who went to Mallaig's Feis na Mara, came back assuring us that this year was yet another vintage year! As to the Mallaig first book festival, yours truly thought it was a magnificent achievement, excellent venue, great craic and the discovery of a bevy of talented authors who all delighted and enthralled their audiences. Very warmly recommended!
However there was much sadness on the island at the news that our Shooglenifty friend and frequent visitor, the great fiddler Angus R Grant had passed away. Many Eiggach were able to join the many who went to pay their respect at his funeral on the 19th October, where fellow musician James Mackintosh delivered the moving eulogy which can now be read on the band's facebook page. It is hard to think that Angus won't be there to celebrate our 20th anniversary with us, but at least we can keep in mind the many memorable moments his inspired playing gave us over the last 25 years. On a happier note, congratulations go to Ben Cormack who has finally obtained his drone pilot licence. Ben as usual was his scary best for Halloween although partner Jill may have overtaken him slightly this year. But the Queens of the night were certainly the giant spider from Laig - aka Saira, Tamsin who made a magnificent Maleficent, and Jacqueline whose make up was even more amazing than last year. There were also a record number of Dracula guisers of all ages and gender, with Primary one's Ben and Taidhgean a great double act! Much fun was had by all at Galmisdale café which Greg has now taken over for the winter, allowing Stewart a well deserved break. The Pool table is back in action, and everyone is warming up for the winter competitions.
ISLE OF RUM
Just a short article, as both usual writers of this piece have spent a fair amount of October away from Rum. However, this much we do know, the weather has been unusually subdued, we have had little of the usual wall to wall gales and persistent heavy rain and more of dry,sunny but cold weather. It's been pleasant. Stag shooting season is finished, John-Alex Boyd was glad to get back to the mainland come mid October and it was nice to see super stalkers Raymond Fraser and Ally Macaskill back again, albeit briefly.
The community run bunkhouse is winding down for the season, Jed is comfortably numb after a very busy summer and is making a list of winter maintenance jobs. We're all really pleased with the bunkhouse, it's a great income generator and demonstrates our financial resilience as a community group. On the other hand, the island needs more of the same, especially as the temporary SNH hostel closed its doors and is being dismantled for removal from the island, this will leave some larger visiting groups struggling to find beds for the night. Whilst there is potential to expand the community run bunkhouse, there exists a great business opportunity here.
Rum Community Trust have accessed funding to help with substantial improvements on two of their houses, which have been fortunate enough to get replacement windows, new kitchens, new external efficient boilers and cavity wall insulation. This brings these two houses up to a decent standard required for rental, the trust is committed to two more years of maintenance which should bring more houses up to a better standard.
Hallowe'en happened in style with a disco in the hall and a party at the school for the little ones, complete with Hallowe'en piñata, this was followed by a roller disco in the hall, yes roller skates, blades and boots were dragged out for an unusually unchaotic night, surprisingly, no broken bones.
Knitting and Sewing for Charity
All our knitted and sewn donations have been delivered to the appropriate charities where they were accepted with great thanks. It is difficult to keep up with the current demand. We surpassed all our targets with a bumper year of donations. It was also a year when more readers of West Word responded to these short news updates and asked to be involved. They certainly have been more than welcomed and their contributions gratefully received.
In response to the plight of some of the most vulnerable people displaced by war and violence we set ourselves a target of two (maybe three) extra large blankets. Knitted squares arrived which were all shapes and sizes. They came from the Shetlands, from Essex and many places in between. Putting the different sizes together created a bit of a challenge but we eventually decided to ignore matching seams and any pretence of symmetry! We ended up making six warm, colourful blankets with individual character. Each blanket measures on average seven foot square. This was only possible because so many people offered to contribute either by knitting or helping to sew. The sewing was done mainly over three Saturdays in the Church of Scotland Hall, Mallaig. Our thanks to the Rev Ogston for allowing us to use the hall. The Saturdays were busy with people dropping in, staying as long as they could, sharing refreshments and chat. The teamwork, the initiative and willingness of people involved is almost a story in itself. The knitted squares and rectangles still arrive and there are more blankets waiting to be made.
|Loving Hands, the organisation which liaises with crafters and charities has recently published a list of what charities want and need. It includes any knitted garment that keeps someone warm and as many blankets as possible. The request for blankets is from premature baby (18" x 24" knitted only with no lacy holes or loops ) to very large blankets. They are wanted for various parts of the world and also at home in the UK. If anyone would like to knit or sew for charities and wants further information please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org Anything you donate goes direct to the need and is never sold.|
MALLAIG LIFEBOAT LOG
3rd October Called to Aid Kyle Rhea Ferry
Launched to assist Kyle Rhea Ferry Glenachulish in Kyle Rhea narrows. A member of shore based staff at the slipway reported that the ferry was broken down on a mooring with 5 cars onboard along with passengers to the station. After conferring with the Coastguard both Mallaig and Kyle Inshore Lifeboats were launched to assist. Before the Lifeboats arrived at the casualty's location, the ferry had managed to affect repairs and was able to continue to the slipway and disembark both cars and passengers. With the situation under control both Lifeboats were stood down and returned to base. Lifeboat ready for service at 16:35hrs.
14th October 2016 Medivac from the Isle of Eigg
Launched to the Isle of Eigg to convey sick person to the mainland at 14:55hrs. Ambulance control asked for assistance to convey a person with chest pains to the mainland from the Isle of Eigg. Two paramedics travelled on the lifeboat to assist the patient with the transfer. Once on Eigg the Lifeboat was met by the island's first responders who conveyed the Medics to the casualty location. Once assessed the casualty was brought to the Lifeboat and conveyed back to Mallaig. The patient was taken to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further treatment by the Ambulance crew. Lifeboat ready for service at 16:30hrs.
20th October 2016 Trawler Independence Suffers Engine Failure
Launched at 10:10hrs to the assistance of the local trawler Independence by Stornoway Coastguard. Whilst in the course of fishing operations six miles to the West of Mallaig, Independence suffered engine failure. Under advice from a shore based engineer the crew were advised not to attempt to restart the engine for fear of inflicting further damage. The Skipper notified the Coastguard of their predicament. The Coastguard requested the Lifeboat to tow the vessel back to port. On scene twenty minutes after leaving the harbour the lifeboat was alongside the Independence in perfect calm conditions. Owing to the favorable conditions the Lifeboat took the Independence alongside and after assisting to slip her gear proceeded for Mallaig. Berthed at 12:10hrs at the fish pier where the local Coastguard team assisted with mooring the casualty and also the Lifeboat at the pontoon. Lifeboat ready for service at 12:30hrs.
|Michael Ian received a cheque for £600 for the RNLI from the teacher and pupils of Sleat Primary School, Isle of Skye. Photo Moe Mathieson|
ON & OFF THE RAILS
Looking Forward - Dates for your new Diary or Calendar
Model Rail Scotland 2017
This very popular family event will be held at the SECC Glasgow on Friday 24th, Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th February. Year on year we see more people from this area attending. Advance information as it is known is posted on their Facebook and Twitter pages and their website and booking details and prices are there also. Go to www.modelrail-scotland.co.uk. An example of prices is a family ticket costing £26, or if you prefer, send a request with a cheque made payable to capital AMRSS with a stamped s.a.e. I hope to have a competition to tickets in the next issue of West Word.
Jacobite dates for 2017
Running Monday to Friday, as in previous years, the inaugural Jacobite will be on Monday, May 1st, 2017, with a special guest on board who will have flagged off the train at Fort William as the pipes skirl, with Team Jacobite on-board once again. Full dates as known at present are Monday to Friday mornings May 1st to October 27th; afternoons May 15th to September 15th. Weekends Saturday/Sunday mornings June17th to October 1st; afternoons July 1st to September 3rd.
Tickets are available on sale from Friday, 18 November 2016 on www.jacobitetrain.com or telephone 0844 850 4680.
West Highland News Autumn/Winter Issue 2016
The latest issue of this full-colour, 46 page, A4 glossy magazine produced by Chairman and Magazine Editor of FOWHL, Doug Carmichael, is now available for purchase from me by post at £3.50 plus postage, or from Malcolm Poole at Mallaig Heritage Centre. As always, it is full of information and photographs. Contact me on 01687 462189 if you require a copy sent out to you. Malcolm is currently stocking (and selling well) the DVD Black Five on the Jacobite and a selection of railway related books and cards which would make good stocking fillers. The tourist information shop also has many rail related products. Included are tins of biscuits and good quality Harry Potter merchandise. My address for postal requests is Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, 5 Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD.
New in Brief
What a pleasure it was to see the 'parade' of rail travellers traversing the path up to the West Highland Hotel to attend the recent book festival, 'A Write Highland Hoolie!'. Many new friendships combining rail travel and books were formed that weekend. Thanks to all the organisers.
Big thanks to all the businesses in Mallaig who contributed towards the cost of the food, balloons, banners, bunting and flags for the 'Platform Party' held on the last day of the Jacobite season at Mallaig Railway Station on Friday October 28th (delicious hot soup, meat pies and cake) to thank 'Team Jacobite 2016' for bringing so many visitors to Mallaig during the year. I think the photos say it all!!!
The Jacobite cake - superbly sculpted and baked by The Bakehouse, Mallaig. Photo Steve Roberts
Alex Iain MacDonald, Jacobite driver, and Florence cutting the cake. Photo Steve Roberts
James Shuttleworth, Commercial Manager of WCR, and Florence MacLean, Jacobite Train Manager and Guard, with the Jacobite crew.
Photo Moe Mathieson
- Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig barrel trains are still in good full flower at present. The hanging baskets will have to come down soon, and the barrel casks emptied and filled with bulbs for Spring flowering.
- We have had a visit to Mallaig at night by a Test Evaluation Train on Thursday October 20th (2 Class 97s, with Network Rail Evaluation set of carriages plus driver) so we can expect remedial line work to be taking place shortly.
- A Tamper Train (William Arrol) was working between Glenfinnan and Arisaig at night on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th October.
- Clearance work of the track bed alongside the line, and the old platform edge has been has been taking place apace at Lochailort.
- Catering Services are scheduled to continue through the winter on the 12.12 train from Fort William to Mallaig, and the 16.05 from Mallaig to Fort William.
See you on the train.
ARDNISH WAS HOME
The story: Young Donald Peter Gillies, a Lovat scout soldier lies in hospital in Gallipoli in 1916, blinded by the Turks. There he falls in love with his Queen Alexandra Corps nurse, Louise, and she with him.
The book is £8.99 and is available from publishers Birlinn and from Amazon.
'a fast-paced narrative with deeply likeable characters … far more than yet another wartime love story … impossible to put down' - Scottish Field
GOING THE OTHER WAY - A Family History in Morar and London 1879-1928
Hardback, Royal Octavo, 261 pages, illustrated, £20 plus postage. Copies are available from the publisher Melrose Books, St. Thomas' Place, Ely, Cambs CB7 4GG or through their website www.melrosebooks.co.uk. It is also available from Mallaig Heritage Centre and The Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig.
|Thanks to Brian Bannister, ex-Arisaig now Lockerbie, who has sent us this postcard photo of the old style of car ferry, unloading from the Loch Seaforth just arrived from Armadale, at Mallaig on 6th August 1963.|
BIRDWATCH October 2016
by Stephen MacDonald
October was dominated by a mainly easterly airflow which kept it fairly dry in this area.
With the strong easterly winds, the first migrant thrushes arrived mid-month. By the third week, some impressive flocks of Fieldfares roamed the area, stripping the rowan trees of their berries. Some flocks also contained Redwings, Blackbirds, Song and Mistle Thrushes. By the month end, with much of the rowan berries gone, the larger flocks had moved on.
Whooper Swans were first reported on the 1st, with groups of 8 and 10 heading south over Arisaig. There was a large gap until the next report on the 23rd and 24th when a single adult was seen feeding on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig. On the 28th, 12 were seen resting on Loch nan Eala and later the same day a group of 45-50 were seen flying low over the sea just off Mallaig. On the 31st, 18 were seen over Morar and 12 over Rhue, Arisaig.
On the 26th, 12 Barnacle Geese were seen between Traigh and Camusdarach and on the 28th, 27 Greenland White-fronted Geese were seen over Morar. During the last week of the month, there were 2 Slavonian Grebes and also a female Common Scoter on Loch nan Ceall, Arisaig.
On the 29th, a female Long-tailed Duck, usually a seagoing species, appeared on Loch nan Eala and was still present on the 31st.
Much of the wader passage finished during October. The last Sanderling reported was on the 3rd at Camusdarach. The Grey Plover was last seen at Traigh on the same day. Golden Plover were reported in small numbers throughout the month in the Traigh-golf course area. Two Greenshank were seen on several occasions in the Morar Estuary.
Wigeons and Red-breasted Mergansers were reported from both the Morar Estuary and Loch nan Ceall. Great Northern Divers were first reported on the 2nd from Loch nan Ceall. Four were off Traigh on the 15th, by the month end reports were widespread around the coast.
In gardens from Mallaig and Morar, there were increased numbers of Coal Tits reported coming to feeders. Chaffinch and Greenfinch numbers also building up in the gardens. Goldcrests were reported from several gardens.
Several Sea Eagle sightings of both adult and juvenile birds from the Rhue peninsula, Camusdarach and the Morar Estuary. A Golden Eagle was seen in the Borrodale area on several occasions.
Finally on the 31st, an interesting sighting of an Egret species in the field behind Arisaig Hotel. Late in the afternoon, the bird was seen feeding amongst the cattle and sheep that were grazing there.
The bird was not positively identified but could possibly be either a Little or Cattle Egret. If it was the latter species, it would have been a rare find for the Highland recording area.
Something Sinister in Morar!
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
John MacMillan, once our Mobile Butcher (and much missed!) is enjoying his retirement in Inverlochy - and where better to read his copy of West Word but in his garden on the beautiful bench gifted to him by his customers in Arisaig.
What a chilled out photo - another from Tom MacKinnon on his way round the Pacific. Tom writes: 'Another fantastic island visited - Espirato Santo, Northern capital of Vanuatu. It's a hard life sometimes. Reminds me of Arisaig except it's sunny, hot, warm water... So yeah, Arisaig!'
Subscriber John Batts, from Banbury in Oxfordshire, preferred to read his West Word rather than see the view from the Great Wall of China at Badaling!
Another photo from Tom MacKinnon but he's not in it. There is an interesting coincidence though...this is Fortuna Island and Tom is on a charter boat being used by a BBC crew filming a 'human planet' type documentary which is being filmed all over the world and will be screened next year - Fortuna's fishermen being a small part. The coincidence is that the director (centre) is Russell Leven, whose two brothers Bruce and Roddy live in Arisaig! Tom says "It was amazing chatting with someone who has been in Arisaig in the last three years. I'm almost forgetting what it's like! Also in the photo is the film crew and some of the local boys.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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