Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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February 2018 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
World Wide West Word

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

Hat Trick for West Word!
We won! West Word was named Community Newspaper of the Year at the annual Highlands and Islands Press and Media Awards in Inverness on 2nd February. We have scooped the award on two previous occasions, in 2005 and 2008, and Gordon Fyfe, chairman of the media awards judging panel, said: "This is a third win for West Word, which highlights the consistency of the community newspaper in keeping its loyal readership fully informed of local issues."
The prize includes a £100 donation to a local charity of our choice. Congratulations to all our contributors and everyone who is involved in making West Word the award-winning paper it is!


West Word office, Morar Station buildings
Friday 2nd March 7.30pm
All welcome!

"With our community paper getting the award it justly deserves, I feel I can now step down happily as chair of Mallaig and District Newspaper at our next AGM. A BIG Thank you to all our supporters: in 2017 your donations for the printer have allowed the much needed modernisation of our equipment.
"Now the time has come to update our Memos and Arts and with the help of Voluntary Action Lochaber, this will be the focus for 2018. So please come along to the AGM, share your thoughts or join the board, West Word does need its community input!"
Camille Dressler, MDN chair

I was very happy to be able to attend the Press Ball on the 2nd February on behalf of West Word and discover that we'd won Community Newspaper of the Year! Well done to everyone who contributes - it's a win for the whole community.
No sign of the wintry weather letting up any time soon - watch out for those potholes on the A830 …
January was an eventful month on the West Highland Line and I'm very glad that the derailment didn't result in any injuries - it must have been very scary for those on board.
If you have an interest in local news and events then why not consider getting involved with West Word and coming along to our AGM? It's in the West Word office on 2nd March at 7.30pm.
As always my thanks go to Ewen and Morag for their help with the printing, Ann and Robert for proof reading, and also to Miya for doing double the usual amount of sticking labels on envelopes this month!
Kirsty Bloom


The Royal Bank of Scotland has granted a stay of execution to some of its branches threatened with closure but unfortunately Mallaig's is not on the list. Of the 62 branches the bank plans to close, Biggar, Beauly, Castlebay, Comrie, Douglas, Gretna, Inveraray, Melrose, Kyle and Tongue are now to remain open for at least the next year.
Westminster's Scottish Affairs committee said it now planned to summon RBS chief executive Ross McEwan "to clarify the contents of their announcements and press him on the future of the other branches in the RBS network". In a statement, it said: "We welcome today's announcement from RBS as the first steps to addressing the concerns raised by the committee. However, given that there is a still an active closure programme being pursued by RBS, we remain to be convinced that the threat of serious consequences for remote or deprived communities has been removed. We hope that RBS will continue to consider the action they have taken and listen to local communities about the impact it will have on them."
MP Ian Blackford, who has pursued the issue a number of times at Prime Minister's question time, gave credit to local communities for putting pressure on the RBS and vowed to continue to fight against the closures, saying that the partial reprieve 'doesn't go as far as I would like, but it's an important start.'

The early morning train from Mallaig derailed beside Loch Eilt on 22nd January when rapid snowmelt overnight resulted in tonnes of mud and stones being washed on to the track. Fortunately no-one was hurt and the five passengers were taken out to Glenfinnan by a road/rail vehicle. The line remained shut for a week while Network Rail cleared the line and stabilised the slope.


Happy New Year folks! Hope everyone had a suitably fantastic time over the holidays. We certainly had a grand old time here, with Fras, Sketch and DJ Dolphin boy taking us into 2018. The place was maxed out, with a record number of people descending to bring in the New Year. And of course the pub was shut … Nothing new there mind you. The celebrations carried on through the 1st, with plenty of food, tunes and craic at the hall. Kira tested out her new pizza oven alongside the old one, and did something like 100 pizzas on New Year's Day, assisted by Freya, Lorna and Grant. Just as well, as they were certainly in high demand!
Since New Year things have slowly returned to the normal quietness of January, though we suffered a bit of a major power outage from early Sunday Morning (14th January) which for most folk only lasted til Monday early evening, however a very small minority of us who are connected to the Larder Transformer (the one that was totally wrecked) have been without power for nearly a week! Luckily we're hardy folk and have adapted relatively well to life in the dark ages with lots of help from our friends/neighbours who have all helped feed us etc. Fingers crossed the new transformer will be up and running by early next week at the latest!
The hall's crowdfunding campaign has been launched on the 19th January and I hear there's some fantastic rewards on offer so be sure to keep an eye out for updates and if anyone wants to get involved or find out more go to https://www.knoydarthall.com . With the crowdfunding support we hope to raise £35,000 towards the project total of approximately £400k. The project will also be using as much local material and labour as possible so it will be a real community effort.
What else…. Knoydart's own Wee Ossian Wilson celebrated his first birthday this month - cannot believe it's been a year since he surprised us all with his unexpected arrival!
Burn's supper is coming up, my favourite night of the year. Details of how it went next month!
Heather Robb

At Christmas it was time to give a pat on the back to those involved with two remarkable achievements during 2017. First Marine Harvest on Muck, for achieving a 94.5% survival among the salmon in the cages. This was for the 2nd batch of fish harvested during 2017. Muck was placed 4th for survival among all the farms in the Marine Harvest empire worldwide and the best in Britain. A remarkable achievement! Well done Robert and Neil and the team!
That said, sea lice have not been conquered, but massive efforts are being made including a container of 'lump fish' which arrived a few weeks past, part of attempts to find predators eager to prey on the the lice without harming the salmon in the cages. These were near the top of the scale of fish quality and why Sainsburys were brought to Muck before placing a large order.
The second achievement was the school play, 'A Winter Solstice' staged in the hall on the 13th. Was it the best school play ever? Almost certainly, and it was the first musical, choreographed by our new assistant teacher Nan Fee who hails from a country where song and dance are part of a way of life. 'The Angry Innkeeper' starring Angus Graves in 2000 and 'Willie Wonka' starrring Isobel Murray-John in 2008 demonstrated remarkable individual talent but in 'A Winter Solstice' everyone was a star and the prompter was almost totally redundant. If Cameron Mackintosh gets wind of this production it could be the West End next!
Christmas and Hogmanay were quiet on Muck as we had fewer visitors than for years past. This was unfortunate as there was no problem travelling this year. What a contrast to 2016 when missed calls by Loch Nevis reached double figures in December! But there are plenty of islanders and many gathered in the warmth of Gallanach Lodge for our annual Christmas Service. The Lodge was also the venue for the island at Hogmanay when most of us took part in a murder plot Cleudo style, which was good fun. New Year's Day was time for our annual hockey match. Not on the beach this year as the tide was in, and where the players usually become soaked by sand and water becoming a slurry underfoot. In the field it was a much faster game but luckily no one was injured.
Despite the names really strong winds have been unusual this autumn and in transport terms Muck has moved closer to the mainland! Loch Nevis captains have become more confident and missed calls have been fewer than one a week. Marine Harvest with Ben Aerean, Ronnie Dyer with Sheerwater and Pete Fowler with ex Lifeboat Amelia are constantly travelling to and from the mainland often in challenging sea conditions. These are of course charters and not open to the ordinary travelling public but sometimes islanders abandoned by Loch Nevis on the mainland or on Eigg have been rescued, which has been great.
On the farm calving is well through without too much bother though the NW winds and hail must be hard on the young calves. They are Luing and are born with a good covering of hair which must help. Certainly it is quite possible to see the cows with snow lying on their backs for hours after it has fallen indicating that they are not losing any heat. They are being well fed. 150 extra bales last summer have meant that there are even some for the ewes to supplement the nuts which they receive anyway.
That is all this month. More changes on the island which will be revealed as they unfold - in West Word.
Lawrence MacEwen

New Year's Day saw one hardy visitor take a very brief plunge on Coroghon beach. None of the rest of us were brave enough to try it.


The new year has also brought some new faces to Canna. We welcome Gillian and Mike who joined us on 9th January to share the post of Ranger on the island now that Pete is heading for retirement (though he intends to carry on living on Canna).
Works have started on the Canna pier to repair fenders, provide new concrete steps at the old cattle ramp and additional safety railings. The contractors have had to cope with some challenging weather over the past ten days but the end result should be a great improvement.


In preparation for the new season we are encouraging visitors to help us clear up the endless amount of plastic being washed up on the beaches by providing new "plastic" bins and bags at strategic points around the bay. Hopefully we can fill a few skips before the end of the year! Thanks to Anna and Gerry for coming up with the nifty slogans!



Gerry also rescued a Great Northern Diver which was found on the shoreline. It seemed to make a recovery for a few days on a diet of mackerel and sardines but sadly succumbed to whatever was wrong with it originally.
Donald MacKenzie

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
January is a quiet month in Canna House, none the least for planning what will hopefully be a vibrant summer programme of presentations and events. Archivist Fiona has been working on a series of workshops with Glasgow based Gaelic Theatre company "Theatre gu Leor" to create a 'Testoom" drama project for children and young people based around the story of the Campbells of Canna's Siamese Cat, Pooni!


Pooni first took to the stage at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow then the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh as a pilot puppet project, and it is hoped to go onto full production in the near future. Also on a cat theme, Fiona was able to visit the 'Canna Cats' exhibition at HQ in Edinburgh for the first time to see some of Canna House's precious cats in their many guises!
Celtic Connections also sees Fiona take a show entitled "Twine it Weel" to the Festival for the first time at the Tron Theatre. The multimedia show is based around material all taken from the Canna Archives, both Scots and Gaelic song and music. Fiona was accompanied by a first class band of singers and musicians and the show featured films and images of Margaret Fay Shaw's, all to illustrate a woman's life through the years.
The Canna House Mickey Mouse comics certainly caught the eye of the media this month too, with a major Scottish Sunday paper running an extensive article on the story of how John Lorne Campbell loved his weekly comics and even ironed them to keep them in pristine condition! The stories that are to be had in the depths of Canna House.....:))
Fiona MacKenzie

We had a productive visit from the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust this month, who did a presentation in the bunkhouse about dolphins and whales in the Hebrides and their soon to be launched Hebridean Whale Trail of which Rum will be a part. Did you know that killer whales are actually dolphins? Me neither.
Take 3 for the Sea seems to have taken off on the Small Isles with both Eigg and Canna starting initiatives for collecting beach plastic; we too will be encouraging visitors to collect plastic to be put in appropriately labelled bins, hopefully not to be filled with general rubbish which tends to happen quite a lot - in fact regardless of whether there is a bin or not we get a lot of rubbish left behind especially from yachts.
We had our annual Burns supper in the village hall. The Haggis or Staggis (actually it was made from a hind) was addressed by Jed in good form and the kids, as with last year, did another lively piece about Burns' life. Absent friends included Rhys, who is away in Wales; he usually reads 'Ode to a Mouse' and Family Goddard who are in Ireland but still managed to find a haggis and an ode to missing Rum and how they will be back soon - actually they'll be back from their winter sojourn at the end of February.
Some of you will have heard that Marine Harvest Scotland got planning consent for the fish farm off the north east coast of Rum. Whilst there are mixed feelings about this, the input from MHS in the village and community will provide a greatly needed boost for us here in terms of actual numbers of people living here, jobs and economic activity.
Thanks to West Word for helping with publicising the plight of Kinloch Castle. We haven't heard yet if KCFA have got the essential funding but hope to know by next month.
Fliss Fraser

A great start for 2018 on Eigg with the New Year Ceilidh. Eilidh Shaw, Ross Martin and Kenny Knowles joined Damian and Gabe for great tunes and great dancing! As usual, Damian's birthday provided the occasion for another gathering and session on the first, whilst a good deal of first footing also went on. As to Nan, she managed to combine birthday and bothy warming and a lovely time was had by all.
Unfortunately this was followed by a cold epidemic with everyone in their turn falling victim to the coughing bug! And our postie slipped on the frozen grass whilst feeding his birds and broke his ankle: second victim to the ice in a month, and on his birthday as well!
Eigg has now eased itself back into operation, with the new Forestry shed floor finished, building work resumed on Stu and Tamsin's house, greenhouses being sorted for the coming spring and "green conversations" starting again. Following the Trust's 20th year community survey last month, the community also gathered to discuss the results, which made for a fascinating presentation: an insightful snapshot of where we are at right now. We have now identified a good variety of themes to explore and this should keep us busy for the year. Congratulations go to Lucy and Becca for this great piece of work!
Meanwhile, half of the population of Eigg is preparing to go to Celtic Connections to be at the 25th anniversary Celebrations which will feature this year's fantastic line-up at the Drygate Brewery where Eigg bier will also be available. The event is sold out, so expect a great evening on the 28th as Eigg goes on tour!
In wildlife news John Chester tells us that 'with a Glaucous Gull at Kildonan on 23rd - 24th following on from another Glaucous and three Iceland Gulls at Mallaig harbour a few days previously as well as many other local reports it appears to be an exceptional winter for these Arctic wanderers.
Other bird sightings on Eigg have included an early returned pair of Shelducks on the 21st, an unseasonal Gannet on the 18th, regular sightings of Hen Harriers and three different Sea Eagles, at least three Long Eared Owls in the forestry and a wintering Blackcap at garden feeders on the 10th - 12th.
Very few signs of anything resembling an early spring as yet so an early contender in the optimist-of-the-year stakes must go to the patch of Primroses that were in full flower on the 8th. Unfortunately the more recent spell of Arctic weather somewhat dashes their hopes.'
Camille Dressler

Knoydart Community Hall crowdfunder is live!
Knoydart Community Hall is looking to go stellar! Last year the Hall in Inverie put on 17 music events and was blown away by a nomination onto the shortlist for the Best Venue at the Trad Awards. Hosting over 100 Community meetings, social events and get togethers means it really is the heart of the community. Built in 1958 the hall has served the peninsula well but now it's on its knees. To secure its future the folk on the peninsula have put together a renovation and extension project that plans to haul the hall into the 21st century.
For those of you who know the building and have experienced a Knoydart night out the 'new' hall will look very similar from the shore and will retain that 'old-style' feel but be a brand new space. After the works, the Hall will have higher occupation levels, a larger stage, dedicated meeting rooms which will double as social areas and lots of storage. New loos, wheelchair access, outdoor spaces and a modern kitchen which will double as the bar for events and functions, mean the community will finally have the facilities it deserves.
With this new asset the community and businesses can plan for the future. It will create opportunity and employment while ensuring that the existing activities can continue and expand: events, celebrations, functions and workshops will all be bigger and better.
The project will be good for the place, good for the folk who live here and good for the people that come over to visit.
The projected costs are about £400,000. The community on Knoydart is committed to raising about 25% of the total project cost. The other £300,000 will come from various grant giving bodies.
The main public way that the community is raising money is through a crowdfunder site which has a target of £35,000. See how to support the project at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/knoydart-community-hall
Why not leave a piece of yourself on Knoydart - name a brick, own a throne - choose your rewards online.
The crowdfunder has been live for two weeks and there are just 40 days left to reach the target. The whole process has been exhilarating for those involved but we still have a long way to go!!
If you are in Inverie just ask anyone about the hall and they'll help you connect.
Email: knoydarthall@knoydart.org
Check out the website: www.knoydarthall.com or like and share our posts on:
Facebook (facebook.com/KnoydartHall)
Davie Newton, Jackie Robertson and the Knoydart Hall Committee

On and Off the Rails

Thank you ScotRail staff, signallers and Network Rail
As the weather continues to challenge us we have been luckier than most areas of Scotland. We have been rewarded with spectacular high tides, snow right down to sea level on Skye, and snow-capped hills elsewhere. Our Class 156 super sprinters and crews continue to turn out and when they have not been on time it is the inclement and predicted weather past Fort William that has delayed some journeys, including the Fort William to London sleeper. The Class 37 locomotive with snow plough attachment operated by West Coast Railways has been busy keeping the line clear night and day between Fort William and Rannoch. Network Rail crew on board are equipped with tools to cope with everything from fallen trees and branches on the line, removal of deceased wildlife, and frozen points (even ones with miniature heaters installed in them) that will not budge! They have to be manually "scotched and clamped" to allow trains to pass each other.
Our Mallaig and Fort William staff are put under pressure to perform tasks that challenge them each journey, in some instances having to do this at both ends of long platforms and beyond in the dark at stations. It's not a case of just driving and conducting. To achieve each journey - and in the case of the Mallaig crews, nearly always in the dark - it's like an assault course at this time of year. As someone who 95% of the time (or more) travels in and out of Mallaig by train, a debt of gratitude is due to all of you. Thank you.


Model Rail Scotland 2018
I am aware that I have mentioned the above-named event in the December 2017 issue of West Word as a date for your diary. Well, blow me down, the dates are nearly upon us!
By the time those of you that have travelled by train to the SEC (and other venues in Glasgow) to and from Celtic Connections and unpacked, it will be time again to pack for Model Rail Scotland. The dates are Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th February. Dig out your December West Word for the details. If you don't have it still, telephone me on (01687) 462189, and I'll give you any help you need over the phone. Or go to www.modelrail-scotland.co.uk . You can like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, or, like me, just go! It is totally family friendly; friends meet up and chat over the many food outlets available on site. There is always seating close by, facilities galore, all accessible by wheelchair, buggy, motorised scooter or, in a lot of cases, Grandad's shoulders! All the stand and exhibition staff (volunteers a lot of them) and stewards are helpful. The daily admission charge is £13 and a helpful exhibition guide is free with entry.


Scotland Stations - a Traveller's Guide book review and draw
The eagerly anticipated third edition of this guide to over 100 - warts and all - Scottish railway station buildings and surroundings is as valuable as a Bradshaw's railway guide. The first edition appeared in 1989, quickly followed by a second, slightly revised edition. This new edition contains information, research and then-and-now photographs, mostly in full colour.
It is intended to keep you company as you travel around the railway network in Scotland. No less than seven stations on our West Highland extension line feature in the 7x10x1" thick book, accompanied by no less than 30 photos of 'our line'! Each station has one, two or three pages devoted to it, with each station annotated under the headings of Guidelines, Railwayana and Distances. Plus the name of the station and postcode. Hours and hours of work have gone into the compilation of this book by Bill Williams - a true railway enthusiast and historian. It is published under the banner of Northern Books by Famedram (Ellon), priced £14.99. ISBN 9780905489971.
Bill Williams has made available to me two copies of the book for readers of West Word to try and get their hands on!
Send me a postcard to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, PH41 4RD with your name, address and phone number to reach me by no later than Tuesday, February 20th. All cards will go into a box - no question to answer - and the first two drawn will get a copy of the book. In the meantime I am so taken by the book I have ordered a further 20 copies to sell for Bill Williams. If you want to purchase a copy from me at £14.99 plus postage of £2.90 ring me on (01687) 462189 or write to me at the above address.
See you on the train,
Sonia Cameron

Voices of the First World War: Arisaig
Commemorating the life of Nurse Mary McKinnon who died on the Glenart Castle Hospital Ship,
and the lives of all of those from the village of Arisaig who served in the First World War.
St Mary's Church Arisaig at 4pm on February 25th 2018

One of the names on Arisaig's War Memorial is that of Nurse Mary McKinnon who was drowned when the hospital ship Glenart Castle was torpedoed on February 26th 1918.
When Fiona MacDonald, who is the great niece of Nurse McKinnon, learnt about her life and how she had died while caring for injured soldiers in the First World War, she decided to set up a charity to continue Nurse Mary McKinnon's work, by caring for veterans of today.
Glen Art was founded in 2013, and provides support for veterans and their families, with regular gardening and social activities, an annual Festival of Remembrance, and more recently by providing dogs and training for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with their award winning Bravehound project. Glen Art has also been involved in commemorating the First World War, organising events to commemorate the sinking of the Lusitania, the Battle of Jutland and Voices of the First World War performances, but the most important of all of these events is the concert planned for St Mary's Church Arisaig to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of HMHS Glenart Castle.
Frances Morrison and Nigel Boarer will be joined by singers who have all worked with Scottish Opera conducted by John Marshall in a performance of the Requiem by Gabriel Faure, with letters and readings. The concert is free and all are welcome, although there will be an opportunity to make a donation at the end. All funds will be shared between St Mary's church and to support the elderly residents of Arisaig. For further information contact fiona@glenart.co.uk / www.glenart.co.uk

War Memorial Benches
The Arisaig and District Community Council is hoping to complete an upgrade of the path to the War Memorial this year and we want to include two new benches, one half way up the path and the second at the top. It has been suggested that there may be people who would like to install a memorial bench and this would be an opportunity to do so. If anyone would be interested in placing a memorial bench, please contact the Secretary, Susan Carstairs on 01687 450327 or on ArisaigCC@hotmail.com.
Also as part of the repair to the memorial we plan to put a noticeboard at the bottom of the path to give some of the context of Arisaig's part in the wars. If anyone would like to assist with the development of the noticeboard, we would be very happy to hear from you.

Burns Night
The Burns Supper and ceilidh in support of Mallaig Pool and Leisure last month at the West Highland Hotel was a great success. Thanks to Arthur Campbell for taking these fantastic pictures! It was a really fun night and raised over £1000 for the Pool refurbishment fund.
John Joe McMasters did a spectacularly dramatic address to the haggis; Rory Duncan presented the Immortal Memory; Ian McKinnon toasted the lassies, and Jane Houston replied on behalf of the lassies.


Thanks to Stella Nova for singing, Struan Robertson for piping the haggis, and Gary Innes for great tunes.


Thanks also to Sandra at The Gallery for donating a limited edition of Janet McCrorie's Birlin Pink for the big raffle, and last but not least a big thanks to Sine & Gavin at the West Highland and all their team for sponsoring the night.


Mallaig Lifeboat Log

12th December 2017 Medivac from Knoydart
Launched to convey Paramedics to Airor on the Knoydart Peninsula at 16:05hrs by Stornoway Coastguard. A young man with a history of poor health was to be admitted to Hospital. Normally the patient would have been transported to the pier at Inverie for pick up but, due to the road being badly damaged by a landslide, going straight to Airor was more practical. Once on scene at 16:25 the Y boat was launched and the patient and his mother were collected from Airor pier as there was insufficient height of tide to put the Lifeboat alongside. With everyone boarded the Lifeboat departed the scene at 16:35 and returned to Mallaig berthing at 16:55hrs. The young man and his mother were then transported to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness by ambulance. Boat fueled and ready for service at 17:30hrs.

8th January 2018 Medivac from Isle of Muck
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 06:35hrs to the Isle of Muck. An infant was experiencing seizures and Paramedics were conveyed to attend to the infant. One scene at 07:25hrs the Medics were taken to the child's location and child assessed. Once the assessments were concluded it was decided to take the child back to the mainland for further investigation. Once the medics, infant and his mother were boarded the Lifeboat departed Muck at 08:30hrs. Arriving at Mallaig at 09:25hrs the child and mother were conveyed to Belford Hospital, Fort William by ambulance. Lifeboat ready for service at 09:45hrs.
Jim Morton

Mallaig Harbour News The Statutory Instrument establishing the Mallaig Harbour Authority was made on the 16th May 1968 and came into operation on the 24th July 1968. This means that come July 2018 the Authority will celebrate its 50th birthday.
The Authority is currently working on some form of birthday celebration and all will be revealed in the fullness of time.
In the meantime I wish to gather together/initiate a 50 year historical photographic display of the harbour and would therefore welcome photographs from anyone reading this. I will also be putting posters up in the village and liaising with the Mallaig Heritage Centre on the display.
The Authority would love as many people as possible to be involved. Photographs can be handed in to the Harbour Office, emailed to me or posted off to me c/o Mallaig Harbour Authority, Harbour Office, Mallaig PH41 4QB.
Robert MacMillan
01687 462154 info@mallaigharbourauthority.com

World Wide West Word

Joan Smith, daughter Heather and grandchildren Susie, Isla and Dougal took their West Word with them on a two day raft trip down the Maruia river on the South Island of New Zealand.

Willie Simpson stopped to catch up with the news from the West when skiing in fantastic conditions at Val Thorens, France.

Here's David and Tuppy Arthur reading theirs at Lighthouse beach, Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia.

BIRDWATCH - December 2017 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical array of birds during the month. Iceland Gulls were seen regularly at Mallaig and two immatures were at Loch Ailort throughout the month. The 'Viking' Gull remained in Mallaig all month. A single Little Auk seen between Muck and Eigg on the 3rd was the only report.
A male Mandarin Duck was on the Morar estuary on the 4th, presumably the same bird as last year. It was still present at the month end. 15 Canada Geese were at 'Skyview', Back of Keppoch on the 9th. A single Pink Footed Goose was seen on several occasions at Invercaimbe and Traigh, associating with the local Greylags. Still more Whooper Swans moving through, with a group of 20 flying south over Loch Nan Ceall on the 13th. Varying numbers were seen on Loch Nan Eala during the month, with eight there on the 17th including two juveniles.
The first returning Shelducks were a pair at Millburn, Rhue on the 16th. Goosanders were seen on both the estuary and Loch Morar. Good numbers of Red Breasted Mergansers on Loch Nan Ceall, Traigh and the Morar estuary. Turnstones were present at Traigh and West Bay, Mallaig; also several sightings of Purple Sandpipers at the latter site. Greenshank were seen on the Morar estuary, with three there on the 17th.
Widespread reports of Woodcock, mostly at night, flying up from roadside verges where they have been feeding.
The Kingfisher was on the Morar River throughout the month, with regular sightings of Dipper there and on the burn that runs down to Camusdarroch beach.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers seen on feeders in several Morar gardens.
Good numbers of Goldfinches reported and also a single Siskin on feeders in a Woodside garden on the 15th.
A female Hen Harrier was seen on several occasions hunting over fields near to Loch Nan Eala.
A Cormorant that had been ringed as a chick on the islands of Traigh on 9th July 2017 was unfortunately found dead on the river Avonmore, Rathdrum, Wicklow, Ireland on 1st December, 447 km south of the nest site.

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