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 2019 Issue

Contents of the online version:

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

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

Seven Awards for Duncan and Manja!
Congratulations to Duncan and Manja Gibson of Glenfinnan House Hotel who scooped an amazing seven awards at the regional Scottish Hotel Awards 2019.
At an awards ceremony in the Bunchrew House Hotel near Inverness on Wednesday 16th January, Duncan was chosen as Executive Chef of the Year and Manja is House Manager of the Year. On top of that, the Hotel topped the Awards of the Year for Bar Dining Hotel, Informal Fine Dining Restaurant Hotel, Breakfast Hotel, Small Events Hotel and Outdoor Pursuits Hotel - Wildlife.
Duncan and Manja give full credit to their staff: "We could not be more proud and could not do this without our great team."
They now go forward to the National Grand Awards at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow on Sunday 29th April. We wish them luck!

Funding available for local organisations via CalMac's new Community Fund
CalMac is launching a new Community Fund to help boost opportunities for young people in communities up and down the West Coast.
The fund is open to non-profit organisations and applications must be for a project or activities that benefit children and young people aged 26 and under living in a mainland port or island the company serves.??Organisations can apply for £500 to £2000.
Brian Fulton, CalMac's Director of Community and Stakeholder Engagement, said 'the scope of use for this money is extremely flexible and I'm really looking forward to seeing some creative applications on how it can be used to help positively impact young people's lives within our communities.'
Community awards will be made across six separate areas by region and will be made in three rounds during the course of the year. Each application will be judged by a screening panel of young people recruited from across the company's network in partnership with Young Scot.
The West Word area is in Area 3: Skye, Raasay, the Small Isles and ports serving these communities. Applications open for Area 3 on 1 May 2019 and must be submitted by 31 May 2019. The screening process will take place in June, with funds awarded in July. Projects must begin no later than 31 October 2019.
Organisations can access an online application form and see full terms and conditions at www.calmac.co.uk/community-fund

My belated apologies for the lateness of last month's issue. The printer (as is the West Word tradition!) decided to act up and it took three visits from the engineers and a few new parts before all was running smoothly again. It was a little frustrating to have the paper all ready to go and then to have to wait over a week to get it in to the shops! It has put everything back a little, but hopefully all will go well this month and we'll be back on track in March and printing much closer to the beginning of the month.
Once again my thanks go to helpers Anne and Miya for sticking address and postage labels on to the subscription envelopes and to Morag and Ewen for assisting with the printing this month.
Kirsty Bloom

We are nearly through the bleakness of January now - yay! There have been some nice wee dustings of snow recently which certainly are preferable to the rain and greyness and the nights are slowly getting just a little bit lighter. New Year was a busy event as always, with revellers from all over coming to see in 2019 in our wee village hall. Music was provided by Ali Levack and friends followed by a good old democratic disco. It's shaping up to be an exciting year for the hall….news coming very soon on that front! Morag also did breakfast at the lodge from 1.30am to keep people going for longer!
We welcomed a new family to Inverie…The Dunns. Craig has taken on the role of operations manager for the Foundation and brought with him his wife Audrey and their two young sons, Bruce who is almost four and a very welcome addition to Inverie Nursery (taking the count up to four pupils), and wee Hamish who is only six months. So far they are fitting in very nicely and I'm sure I speak for everyone in welcoming them warmly to Knoydart and wishing them all the best here.
Knoydart Forest Trust have a new timber trailer at the ready for the beginning of the next phase of harvesting in Inverie Woods and at Kilchoan Shelterbelt which is nearly underway and the track for the extraction is nearly complete.
There has been a litter of ten collie puppies born at Inverguserain, the first for nearly ten years! How time flies… Also, happy second birthday to Ossian!
Nigel and Tiree Boston have taken over from the Sellers team in providing an efficient fossil fuels and vehicle delivery service with the Aldo landing craft and are doing a fine job keeping folk "fuelled up" so to speak.
Freya has also left now on her travels, heading out on her volunteering mission. It's safe to say she'll be sorely missed while she's gone!
Think that's about it for now folks,
Heather Robb

The Isle of Muck saw in the New Year as only Muck can! A community dinner in the hall with, as always, far more than we could eat, despite the addition of extended families and staying guests. This was followed by a mixture of party games for the children (although musical bumps had as many adults participating as children) and a ceilidh. The "Bells" and Auld Lang Syne led on to first footing most of the houses in Port Mor. A casual observer may well have wondered what was going on as a procession of torches wended its way from house to house at regular intervals, well into the small wee hours! Nothing unique in any of that but, to my knowledge anyway, Muck is the only place where the highlight of New Years Day is a 20 a side hockey match. What makes it very different is that it usually takes place on the beach but, due to the tide, from time to time it has to be played in a field next to the farm. There's nothing quite like trying to dribble a hockey ball over wet sand whilst simultaneously dodging over-zealous adults and small children. Add in feeling a bit delicate and the experience can be truly unique! This year it was a grass pitch but, not withstanding, it was a great match, hotly contested, with only the odd bruised ankle and ego, perhaps! The bravest then finished the day's sporting fixtures with a quick dip in the sea. And a wonderful shade of pink they were too when they emerged!


On the farm, each passing week sees more Luing and Luing cross calves dotting the land and the beach at the northern end of the Island. With the long dark days of winter, this surge of new life reminds us that Spring isn't that far away, honestly! The Ewe hoggs are now on the slats at the square, out of the weather and fast learning how to consume sheep nuts. Not that the grass is in short supply for the rest of the flock. The mild weather this winter, combined with few severe gales, has left the island as green as I have ever seen it in January. Colin MacEwen told me they had started feeding the cattle almost a month later than normal, so, even with the predicted cold snap, there should be more than enough silage to see them through to the new spring grass.
January also saw the first community gathering of the year in the hall, for Burns' Night. The primary school children entertained us all with a wonderful selection of poems which they had learnt. It's always inspiring to watch them perform so confidently in front of the whole community. Lawrence MacEwen then gave the traditional address to the haggis, in its entirety, and from memory, to round off a memorable evening.
David Barnden

Canna celebrated New Year with a community bonfire and a few dreams on the 1st.
We have been taking advantage of this quieter time of year to plan events for the year ahead and research information for future projects.
There has been lots of interest in the first ever Canna 10K Trail Run on Saturday 18 May and ceilidh at night. Places are filling up fast so to book a place check out our website www.theisleofcanna.com. Good luck to our island runners who are training hard.
The Small Isles Games will be held here on Saturday 20 July and we are looking forward to seeing as many other Small Islers as possible for the games and ceilidh.
Anyone fancy doing something different in February and March should contact Tighard Guest House as they are running a series of Yoga Retreats. Contact Fiona at www.tighard.com
Martin Telser, a film student from Italy arrived with his team of two, Petra and Philip, to do a documentary on life on Canna, they will be here for a month and hope to capture the reality of island life. On arrival locals were invited to a get-together to sample food and drink from their local area. Cheese, cured ham, bread and wine, not sure how well the Grappa went down though.....
Canna Coastguard had two days training with Carl Taylor and now has a team of seven which is great for such a small community.
Geraldine MacKinnon

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
Generally a quiet month in Canna House, this January has been surprisingly busy. Most exciting is that work has begun on the production of a creative piece of filmwork about the films of Margaret Fay Shaw. Margaret's films were redigitised using the latest industry techniques in spring 2018 and now Fiona will work on a series of events to promote awareness of the rich folklore and imagery contained within the films. She is working with a film editor to produce not just a documentary on Margaret and her imagery but a piece of film Art, on her and John Lorne Campbell's lives together. New music has been composed by brilliant young piper James Duncan Mackenzie and will provide the soundscape for the film piece. The resulting film will be premiered in South Uist in early May. Watch for more details!

Sheila Lockett (right) with John Lorne Campbell and friend (and Pooni cat) in Canna House Garden, c 1952

January saw the sad passing of Sheila Lockett, who was John Lorne's secretary for nine years on Canna in the 1950's. Sheila was instrumental in the publication of John's Tales of the Coddy and also undertook the beautiful handwritten transcription of the songs which Margaret included in Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist. She even was responsible for putting up the famous yellow wallpaper in the Hall of Canna House, together with Nora Mackinnon! Fiona had the pleasure of spending time with Sheila last year and was able to record some of Sheila's delightful stories of her time on the island. Sheila latterly lived just outside High Wycombe and was 98 when she died. The stories that have passed with her….
Fiona MacKenzie

What a glorious day it is as I sit and write this; cold and frosty outside with a warm glow from the bright sunshine.
Positive news first… Ali, Jed and myself have signed up the Canna 10k run in May, a bit of a challenge for us but not insurmountable and bound to be a good laugh in any case. We need a team name, any suggestions? we only have 'the pints of Rum' so far, which doesn't bode well for this kind of activity.
Housing on every front is looking good. Marine Harvest (now Mowi) suffered a temporary setback with their contractor going bust but with a new company stepping in all is back on track. The four planned IRCT's houses have received substantial funding from the Rural Housing fund, which is fantastic news and reduces the amount we need to find ourselves to a manageable sum. And that is not all… Jinty, who has wanting to build a cosy cottage for herself for some time, has negotiated a site on which to build and is progressing slowly but happily, I think, and hopes to get her build underway this year. Strange to think that this time next year there could be up to seven more houses here… crazy talk perhaps, but we'd like to make this crazy happen.
Burns' Night happened again, with another phenomenal Haggis/Staggis; this year made by David and Deb with help from the school children who got an interesting biology lesson to say the least, when they got to inspect the lungs, heart and liver of a deer. With enough of Lesley's amazing cranachan to feed us all twice over it was a great night. Jed's Address to the Haggis is slowly improving; by the time he's 40, he might have it perfected! Young Ashton addressed the lassies and Joss and Eve gave the reply and there were other poems from Colin (who put on a remarkable Scottish accent), Sean and Trudi. I read a couple of Aidan (McEoin's) poems, his particular small isles-centric ones - he had it pretty much nailed and makes you realise nothing much changes, same 'issues', just another year and different faces.
And now the not so good stuff, just the ongoing schoolhouse saga… so after four years of hassling the council to do something with the house to prevent its deterioration, they have now, hilariously, declared that it's in too bad a state to repair and plan to demolish it - well they would if they had any funds to do even that! Seriously, you couldn't make this stuff up. And it also transpires that there are no funds to recruit a nursery teacher for young Dougal, regardless of Scottish government's early learning commitment. I would say it can't get any worse, but that would be a foolish thing to say.
Fliss Fraser

Getting back to normality after the festivities, Eigg has set itself a few challenges. One of them is to think about the future, and the IEHT directors have shared their thoughts on how to go about it: at a meeting devoted to the issue, they presented how the island residents could be more involved in governance, finance and planning to meet the challenges of growing the island's economy. Various subgroups have been set up, and have started to meet and discuss the issues at hand. Meanwhile, the reconvened Green team has changed its name to Eigg Environmental Action Group and this year, it is going to concentrate on waste - including marine plastic -and food growing. The group is considering putting in a funding application for a marine plastic project. The Primary school has actually started to work with marine plastic: Amanda, our new island dweller at Forester's cottage, helped the children to produce an amazing sculpture of a sea turtle from the plastic rubbish which the children collected on the beach, and this artwork will be submitted as part of the school's Green Flag this year! (See next page.) And finally, a new head for the Schools on Eigg and Muck has been appointed: Louise Taylor from Elgin. Another challenge is that we have belatedly woken up to the fact that of one of the EE masts meant to improve our mobile phone reception on the northern part of the island is to be situated right by the school. None of the parents are happy about it understandably, and many islanders are supporting their stance. The problem is that planning permission seems to have sneaked past everyone, without adequate notification.
Meanwhile, Norah is starting to work on revising our signage policy as despite our coloured dots system, some visitors still find it hard to reach the caves and other destinations. It seems that we could do with some of the bilingual finger signs produced by the Highland Council Ranger service. She is also working on setting up a permaculture course on this island for which is there is a lot of interest locally.
Last but not least, last weekend saw the usual good number of islanders attend the Shooglenifty and Niteworks concerts at Celtic Connections: a great time was had by all on these two memorable nights. Struan Robertson, turning 18 on the 25th, was able to buy his parents a pint or two, and Ailidh's Burns' Supper at her Sunday Hubclub offered an opportunity to celebrate the bard in true Eigg style!
Camille Dressler

This month we have our AGM and extend the invitation to all our members to join us at the Astley Hall on Wednesday 13th February at 7pm. Julie will give the chair's report, followed by a treasurer's report and then the new board of directors will be confirmed. We would like to give our warmest thanks to Judy Budge for assisting us with the treasurer's position over the last year. New members are always encouraged. If your new years' resolution was to volunteer more, there's plenty of opportunity to do it with ACT!
As part of the Eco Project is improving recycling and reducing waste in the village, a few ideas have been put forward to address the problem of the bins in front of the shop. ACT are in consultation with the landowners about buying the shorefront area with a view to increasing parking and other improvements. We will arrange public consultation soon!
The official opening of 'Bill's Shed', our new workshop at the LSIC, will take place on Saturday 23rd February 11-1pm. We'll have a mosaic workshop led by Helen Michie in the workshop, traditional wool spinning with Deirdre Roberts in the Centre, an electric car demonstration, electric bikes to try out, an eco-living info session in the Centre and light refreshments. We'd like to hear your ideas for using the space: if you have a group project or need space to work on something, come along and have a look around.
The marathon and half marathon event organised by Mallaig Pool and Leisure will take place in Arisaig this year, on 11th May, with the start and finish posts on the playing field. There will be lots happening on the day and volunteers will be needed; get in touch with the Pool directly about helping out or vending.
The seaweed farming meeting at the end of January was well attended and a lot of interesting information was put forward by the organisation Scottish Seaweeds. We'll continue discussions with them as they develop their business model and it could have future potential for the area.
Pamela King

Glenuig's Less Energy, More Recycle project nears completion
The Glenuig Less Energy, More Recycle project is nearing a successful completion. New LED lighting is installed in Glenuig Hall, saving about £300 a year on electricity. Extra insulation and draught-proofing, to be fitted next month, will further reduce the carbon footprint. The glass-recycling bins, supplied and serviced by the Highland Council, are in place on the new concrete base next to Glenuig Community Shop. A new notice board for recycling and environmental issues has been installed at the Shop.
The final event, an environmental evening, will be held in Glenuig Hall on Wednesday, 20th March at 7pm with short talks, a display and a chance to discuss recycling and environmental issues over nibbles and a glass of wine.
The project is funded by a grant of £8,311* from the: Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund. (*Which includes a maximum funding of £3,916 from the European Regional Development Fund.)
The Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund provides funding and support for community-led organisations to tackle climate change, by running projects that reduce local carbon emissions.

Funding boost for Pool from local bookshop
The Friends of Mallaig and District Swimming Pool were delighted to receive a £3000 donation to their fundraising efforts in January from Kenneth MacKenzie of the Mallaig second-hand Bookshop. Kenneth runs the bookshop in support of local charities, and other recipients of funds have included:
Mallaig High School; Mallaig & North West Lochaber Church; Saint Patrick's Church (Morar Mission); Friends of the Mackintosh Centre; Mallaig Heritage Centre; River Fund; Senior Citizens Christmas Lunch; Kid's Party; and the local primary schools - Eigg, Muck, Rum, Inverie, Arisaig, Mallaig, and Lady Lovat.

Pictured above is Nick Murray (R) receiving the cheque from Kenneth (L) on behalf of the Friends.
Thank you Kenny from all the local charities you support!

There's currently a half price sale in the back room of the bookshop (Morrison Building, Mallaig).

Mallaig Harbour News

Current Engineering Issues
Delays have occurred to both Harbour Projects that were highlighted in the January issue of West Word:
i) The Passenger Access Pontoons; and ii) The new Mallaig Ice plant.

i) Problems with a prefabricated steel beam which resulted in the need for a new beam to be manufactured and then galvanised has been the main cause of the delay with the Passenger Access Pontoons. Once the beam is on site and in situ all the other components - the access platform, access ramp and the placement of the pontoons - will be able to be placed in position.
The new amended completion date is now the 22nd February 2019. We do apologise for the delay.

ii) Mallaig Harbour's new Ice Plant is nearing completion and should become operational by the end of this month.
The containerised Ice Plant arrived from China - its country of manufacture - on the 16th & 17th January and, at the time of writing, is now 95% complete.
Utility connections (power, water, broadband line) are proving an issue and that is part of the reason for the delay in the commissioning of the plant.

Past Times
The Scottish Fishermen's Organisation Ltd (SFO) calendar for 2019 is entitled The Fisher Folks, Story and it contains historical black and white photos of fishing scenes from the past.
There are a couple of photos of Mallaig Harbour including this one, the cover shot of the calendar, which carries the sub-title "Valiant OB191, landing lobsters at Mallaig".


The picture dates back to the late 50's/early 60's and was probably taken one Saturday morning, the normal day for the Mallaig Lobster Sale. Pictured are (left to right) Duncan Henderson, Jimmy Henderson, Jimmy Aitchison, Ian Campbell, Eckie Aitchison, Jimmy Philip.
After being away for the week, fishing on the west side (of the Hebrides) the Mallaig lobster boats of the time, the Valiant owned by Jimmy Henderson, the Beulah (Jimmy McLean); the Excellent (Jimmy Aitchison); the Winner (Willie MacDonald); and the Speedwell (Alex Duncan) among them, would return to Mallaig on the Friday afternoon/evening with their catch and then "steep" the lobsters in the bay, the line of boxes being supported by a buoy at each end - this being done to keep the lobsters alive of course.
On a Saturday morning to save all the boats going out into the bay to haul up their boxes one or two boats would venture out, pick up the boxes of lobsters and take them back to the pier for the auction which is why on the deck of the Valiant you can read the name Excellent OB343 on one of the boxes. When all the boxes were landed onto the pier, the Auction would commence with Salesmen Ian MacLennan & Robbie Hepburn eeking out the best prices for their clients. Some of the buyers involved around about that time would be George Aitchison; Alex Henderson; Bill Henderson; Andy Duncan; Jimmy Sanderson and Wm Simpson & Sons.
Robert MacMillan
01687 462154

On and Off the Rails

Clarifications and Corrections - OOPS!
I got a bit too excited about 'Kids for a Quid' by stating that this was able to be used in conjunction with the Adult Highland Railcard. I was wrong! Sorry. With the Highland Railcard, each adult can travel with up to two children for £2 each.
The 'Kids for a Quid' is as follows: since January 2019 'ScotRail have introduced a £1 accompanied child, off peak return fare on all flows across the ScotRail network. This product will be available to all adults who have a Peak, Off Peak, Season or Flexipass ticket and are travelling with up to four children. This is great news for Season Ticket and Flexipass holders who will be able to take advantage of this new product. Now introduced, this product is only available via station booking offices, and on trains from ticket examiners. However development will be scoped to introduce online retailing later in 2019.'
So to clarify, 'Kids for a Quid' is valid on all train operator services for off peak travel within Scotland - not with a Highland railcard, but with any purchased Standard Class ticket or Smart Card. So it is probably better to use the £2 child ticket. Sorry about that, and sorry to Mallaig Booking Office too!!

Results of the draw to win Peter's Railway Books
Congratulations to Holly MacKellaig, Morar who has won the Peter's Railway Activity Book. Signed by the author, Christopher Vine. The signed copy of Peter's Railway - the Four Seasons has gone to Victor Miller on Knoydart. Thank you to all who entered the draw.

Result of the competition to win a copy of Transforming the Railways of Central Scotland
All entries received were correct. 'Six chapters' was the answer; thank you to all who entered by post - many from the Edinburgh area this time. The winner hails from Cardiff - congratulations to Tom Hawthorn, who now owns the book. Watch out for another draw in March.

In the meantime 'help get rail fare regulations out of the 90's'
Some things belong in the 90's, but rail fare regulations need a refresh. With layers of regulation built up over 25 years there are now over 55 million rail fare options (who knew that?) resulting in confusion for customers. It's time to bring things up-to-date, which is why the rail industry and transport focus are developing proposal to deliver #EasierFares. Big plan, big changes. Have your say by going to britainrunsonrail.co.uk/fares.

Lochaber Transport Forum
Exists through funding by the Highland Council. Its meeting on Tuesday 12th February at 11am is open to the public and will be held in the Duncansburgh Church Hall in Fort William.
It covers cycling and walking, public transport by rail, ferries, buses, community rail partnerships, community transport - and will also have an update on the A82.
To find out more or check when the next meeting will be held, email transportforum@carelochaber.org or contact Lochaber Transport Forum at An Drochaid, Claggan, Fort William PH33 6PH, telephone 07789 517 990 or look at www.lochabertransport.org.uk At the meetings council representatives, ferry, bus and coach operators for the area and rail CRP's are available to answer questions - or try to!

Abellio proposed F.W. call centre cuts
There exists, in a call centre at Fort William on the Ben Nevis Estate, 19 (mostly female) members of staff. Abellio - who took on the operation of the call centre from Serco in 2015 when there were 63 jobs available - announced last week that they wish to close the centre and relocate the service to Glasgow. The rail operator said 'it had become increasingly difficult to recruit staff and to provide the supervision, training and progression needed for the small Fort William facility'.
An Abellio spokesperson said 'we have offered all staff in Fort William the opportunity to relocate to Glasgow with a support package, or to help them with finding alternative employment locally'.
The TSSA union, plus local MP and MSP's are asking for a re-think, and employees were due to begin consultations with bosses last Monday. Sad news indeed.

Following on from that news I hear that 180 jobs are under threat at Gemini Rail Services at Springburn Rail depot. The premises were formerly Knorr-Brense Rail Services. They are responsible for repairs and maintenance of Scotland's rail stock, under the name Glasgow Rail Maintenance Co. If the planned closure goes ahead all repairs and maintenance will all be carried out in England - probably Milton Keynes. The Unite union has condemned the proposal. This is truly bonkers!!

As I write this column, much work is being carried out at Mallaig Railway Station in preparation for the Spring/Summer visitors to Mallaig. It is - as I write - only eight weeks to the commencement of The Jacobite steam train service which starts on Good Friday.
The Royal Scotsman touring train will visit us again approximately 14 times this year.
I intend to reproduce/upgrade the leaflet 'Off the Rails - a visit to Mallaig 2019'. This is such a useful welcome guide to the area and I am proud to say that I never see one of them discarded in the streets of Mallaig.
ScotRail has become the latest organisation to install 'Grace's Sign' at accessible toilets in its stations across Scotland. The sign shows a standing person with a heart, symbolising that not all disabilities can be seen. The sign was designed by 13 year old Grace Warnock from East Lothian who has Crohn's Disease. She came up with the idea for a more inclusive sign after facing criticism from strangers when she used accessible toilets.
See you on the train, Sonia Cameron

Arisaig Land, Sea and Islands Centre: Special Operations Executive
From one World War to the next . . . hot on the heels of our newly opened WW1 exhibition, we have news of additions to our WW2 display.
The Arisaig Land, Sea & Islands Centre (LSIC) has recently extended its dedicated SOE exhibition space to make room for a new, purpose built display case to house its latest SOE acquisitions.
One of the extraordinary new artefacts is an original section of door from the Citroen car in which SOE agent, Violette Szabo, was travelling when it was stopped at a German roadblock. After an exchange of fire, her colleague, Philippe Liewer escaped, but Violette was captured, and eventually executed in 1945 at Ravensbruck concentration camp.
There is also a locally unearthed 'Switch no. 1', which adds to our existing collection of the various specialised switches used by SOE agents. Henrik Chart, the LSIC's enthusiastic SOE expert, is delighted with the additions to the collection, and the new space devoted to them.
There has been an upsurge of interest in the SOE, partly due to the number of recent television programmes devoted to the organisation. Many people who visit the LSIC have come specifically because of a family SOE connection, and they have wonderful stories to tell about relatives who were part of this elite group of wartime service men and women.
In addition to the range of exhibits, the LSIC has a small collection of reference books and articles which visitors are welcome to browse. The shop stocks a number of SOE themed books available for sale.
(We are very grateful to the Gerry Holdsworth Special Forces Charitable Trust for funding assistance, to Neil Wright for donating the car section, to Andrew Robertson for Switch no. 1, and to Gordon Stewart for designing and building the display cabinet).

BIRDWATCH December 2018 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly mild month weather-wise and little change on the bird front.
Numerous sightings of the Little Egret(s), mostly near Morroch, Arisaig or at Invercaimbe, however there were sightings at both Loch Ailort and Morroch on the 17th and 18th, so there may be two birds in the area. This is believed to be the first wintering record of Little Egret in the Highland area, although they have wintered in both the Western Isles and Argyll.
Thirty-three Golden Plover were in a field at Traigh farm on the 15th and a single Bar-tailed Godwit was on the shore by the golf course for several days. Two Greenshank on the Morar Estuary still and widespread reports of small numbers of Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing. Purple Sandpipers were seen on the rocks at West Bay, Mallaig on several occasions. Numerous reports of Woodcock on roadside verges at night throughout the area.
Presumably the same Mandarin drake was back on the Morar Estuary from mid-month. Goldeneye numbers increased on both Loch Morar and Loch nan Ceall. At the latter site there were five Slavonian Grebes on the 21st and a pair of Shelduck near Millburn on the 24th.
The Kingfisher was seen on several occasions on the Morar River upstream of the hydro dam.
The only report of Brambling came from Back of Keppoch on the 5th. Increased reports of Siskins from garden feeders, with at least ten birds visiting a Morar garden by the month end. The same garden also had a single Lesser Redpoll from Christmas Eve. A flock of up to eight Long-tailed Tits were seen on fatballs in a Woodside garden on several occasions.
Frequent reports of Nuthatch in the Arisaig area, with a bird seen on feeders and sightings of two birds together in woodland.
Sparrowhawks were reported from many gardens in the area.
Widespread reports of Sea Eagles with at least four birds seen feeding on deer remains near Arisaig on the 30th. Three Golden Eagles were seen together at Loch Ailort mid-month.
A Twite which was ringed in a Morar garden on the 21st April 2018 was recaught on the 8th December at Montrose Basin by Tay Ringing Group.
Large numbers of Twite regularly winter there, but do not breed close to Montrose. In an effort to determine where they breed, Twite are caught and colour ringed in the hope they may be sighted in their breeding area. Since the colour-ringing started there have been several sightings from Skye and the Western Isles during the breeding season.


David and Tuppy Arthur from Tigh Beag Arisaig met up with Steve and Sheryl Westwood (son of Freda and John Westwood of Arisaig) aboard the Emma Louise, their yacht in Waikawa off Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand's South Island.

Here's Kate and Billy in Fiji, reading the West Word they pinched from Donnie Mackellaig when they met him in Orewa. Having a holiday from their holiday.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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