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January 2017 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
CALMAC CHAOS SET TO CONTINUE INTO 2017
Despite representations to CalMac from the highest level that the debacle of last summer's ferry service must not be repeated, the Coruisk will not be returning to Mallaig this year and the unsuitable Loch Fyne will be deployed on the Mallaig-Armadale run.
The long awaited publication of the Summer Timetable after months of silence on the subject has caused widespread disappointment and concern. Despite reports of the loss of tens of thousands of pounds from businesses on both side of the water, the warning that some tour operators have changed their itineraries to avoid the ferry crossing, one in ten crossings cancelled last year and ferries leaving early or arriving late, CalMac has ignored all the appeals and will again provide a ferry that cannot operate at low tide.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has publicly stated the service in 2016 was 'unacceptable' and CalMac admitted their provision was inadequate. The Minister has promised to keep an eye on the situation and will certainly be updated by our MP Ian Blackford and MSP Kate Forbes who are 'extremely disappointed' by the news and waiting for the 'slightest hint' of disruption get in touch with him.
The call is now, not for the Coruisk to be returned to the Mallaig-Armadale route but for a new, purpose built vessel to be provided.
CalMac claim that Lord of the Isles and Loch Fyne working the route together will provide more capacity than 2015 when Coruisk operated alone, able to take 23,300 more cars than 2015 and 11,400 more than in 2016. Loch Fyne, a slower vessel, will need modification to its ramps to make it suitable for the Sleat crossing.
Ian Blackford MP said:
I have written to Martin Dorchester, Chief Executive of Caledonian MacBrayne about the poor service on the Mallaig - Armadale crossing.
You may well be aware of the total chaos brought to the route in 2016 when the MV Coruisk was, with no public consultation, transferred to provide additional crossings to Mull. It was replaced by two vessels which were unable to use the link spans, instead using the old slipways. A direct result of this was a service so disrupted by weather and tide as to become completely unreliable for both locals and visitors.
It was hoped that when the 2017 timetables were being produced these factors would be taken into account and the Coruisk, or a vessel able to use the link spans (which were installed at great cost) placed on the route. However, this does not seem to be the case, with Sleat Transport Forum reporting that the MV Loch Fyne was undergoing trials on the route for 2017.
This vessel also cannot use the link spans, so unless things change we can only expect more of the same disruption and lack of reliable service. Some tour operators have already removed Skye from their itineraries due to unpredictability and unsuitability of the vessels to carry their buses. In my letter I said: "You removed from the route the one vessel that was fit for purpose and gave us ones that could not be deployed from the link spans. That was an error of judgment.
"As the operator you have a responsibility to the community, businesses and tourists visiting this area and it is also my concern that we have not fully benefitted from the opportunities that road equivalent tariff should have brought, as confidence in the service has been undermined.
"Given that you have been aware of this situation since last spring and as a logistics and transport operator, you have had ample time to furnish the communities affected with a solution. The silence has been deafening.
"Not to provide such vessels is unacceptable to the communities of Skye and Lochaber and would fundamentally be nothing short of incompetence". This situation is not acceptable and I, along with my colleagues in the Scottish Government will continue to pursue this matter until the problems are dealt with.
Councillor Allan Henderson said:
After a summer season of unparalleled disruption on the Mallaig to Armadale ferry crossing, mainly caused by the withdrawal of the M.V. Coruisk, which was subsequently replaced by unsuitable vessels, (Lochinvar and Loch Bhrusda) - too small and only able to operate in ideal tidal conditions - and the inability of the Lochboisdale to Mallaig ferry Lord of the Isles to undertake duties on various occasions, I managed to convene a meeting in Mallaig college to seek a solution and a robust sustainable service. This power behind this crisis meeting was the composition of the group, with members of the Road to the Isles group, tourism providers, local business owners, the three Road to the Isles Community Council leaders, Sleat Transport Forum, a representative from Storas Uibhist, Better Ferries for Lochboisdale, island community interest groups, myself as local councillor, Kate Forbes MSP on the phone and Charlie King in the chair.
The group unanimously agreed that the level of service delivered in 2016 was abysmal and woefully inadequate. With still no indication, at that time, of a summer2017 timetable and a complete deficit of community engagement from the operator, it was unanimously agreed to ask Kate Forbes to facilitate an urgent meeting of key representatives with the Transport Minister, Transport Scotland officials with Calmac officials. Kate Forbes agreed to this request. The united demand of the group is clear. It is that the M.V. Coruisk is returned to the Mallaig to Armadale route for summer 2017 season, supplemented with the Lord of the Isles on a seven day per week basis, with no tidal timetable. The Lord of the Isles is to sail as the dedicated vessel seven days per week from Lochboisdale to Mallaig. In the longer term the group calls on the Scottish Minister to procure dedicated vessels for both routes capable of capturing the increased demand created by the undoubted success of RET, with no seasonal changes. This would mean eight times daily sailings from Mallaig to Armadale in summer and four times in winter with Lochboisdale to Mallaig daily all year round.
While calling for this, I acknowledge the difficult task that staff and crew have in the ports, due to the failure of management to deploy suitable vessels to the routes, especially the Mallaig to Armadale crossing. I can understand the frustration of tourists turning up for a crossing to Skye or the Outer Isles that is cancelled or rescheduled when the option is a four hour journey + stops to Uig for a later ferry that is probably booked and overnight accommodation is at a premium in Skye. Coach business is randomly cancelled in Sleat as providers lose out in the visitor attraction, or lunch business is cancelled. Harassed staff at the sharp end are left to deal with the rightly angry and disappointed tourists. CalMac have to get this right or our tourist industry will be decimated. As I write this we have not had a date for this meeting or a draft timetable.
Happy New Year Folks! Hope everyone had a fantastic start to 2017. We certainly did it in style over here, with Fras, Sketch and Angus Binnie taking us through Hogmanay and into the New Year. There was some amount of people packed into the hall - it's been a while since it's been that busy. The music carried on through New Year's Day, with local musicians joining in as well at the hall. The bar was open, food was provided all day and the craic just kept on flowing. I believe it was about 8.30am the next day before the hardiest of revellers finally gave in. Good effort!
Now, thinking back to what happened before all the parties/excessive drinking/not knowing what day of the week it is… We had the kids Christmas play on the 21st of December, and they did us proud. It's one of those moments as a teacher that really makes you want to cry. They all worked so hard and their best performance was definitely on the day. It was also Struan's and Felix's last primary performance as they will both be heading to the high school in August. With all the bad weather leading up to Christmas we also got lucky and the last day of school was cancelled so we all got a much needed extra day off! The KFT held their annual Christmas tree hunt, a fun day where we can go and pick Christmas trees from a certain area, then proceed to drink mulled wine. The carol singing on Christmas Eve went ahead, and was a lovely evening despite the terrible weather and
Jacqui held her annual Boxing Day party, a legendry party that has become something of a tradition over here and one which I'm sure will carry on for many years to come!
We had an unusual reason for some over-night power outages twice in two days in December…. Geese had hit the power lines and fried themselves, causing surprise power cuts. Could have had goose for Christmas dinner, pre-cooked and everything.
Jackie and Ian Robertson have now sold their house, Ivy Cottage, and it has become a self-catering holiday let, curtesy of a Maggie and Andy Gordon. The house will be available from April this year.
I'd also like to welcome Sharon and Tony to the community. They have bought Bobby and Louise Beveridge's old house down at Scottas. And, this time next month (Eeeek!), Knoydart will have a new youngest member, as Anna is currently about to pop. Only 12 days til her due date now…. Exciting times.
ISLE OF MUCK
When MV Loch Nevis left Port Mor on Wednesday 15th December, little did we know that we would not see her again in 2016. And Christmas dinner would have been sparse indeed had not Marine Harvest's Ben Aerien scooped up all our supplies and brought them to the island in time for the big day. By the 28th. CalMac, mindful of their 'lifeline service' obligations and under heavy pressure from the islanders, agreed to charter Bruce Watt's Vanguard and rescue several potential travellers who had been waiting from well before Christmas. Unfortunately when New Year came round, Vanguard's licence for 12 passengers was hopelessly inadequate and we were indeed lucky that Sheerwater was able to take everyone anxious to celebrate the arrival of 2017 from Eigg to Muck. A pleasant holiday period for those living on the island, but for those trying to travel it must have been very stressful. On 2nd January Loch Nevis returned in time to return all our visitors to the mainland.
ISLE OF CANNA
After a beautiful start to December in terms of weather we did not realise what lay instore for us especially with Storms Barbara and Connor. A number of Canna residents were unable to get home for Christmas due to ferry cancellations and we had to make last minute alternative arrangements on the mainland. We were all very relieved by the break in the weather which at least meant we could get back for New Year and to enjoy a second Christmas. New Year's Day saw a few brave souls attempt a very quick plunge on Coroghon beach whilst the rest of preferred some inner warmth!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
December in Canna House was a quiet one but the Christmas tree shone out brightly from the dining room onto the lawn and welcomed staff and visitors over the festive period.
Fiona has spent much time over November/December preparing material of Father Allan MacDonald's, from the Canna Archives, for inclusion in an important exhibition in 2017 in South Uist about 'Religious Life in the Uists'. In her book Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist, Margaret Fay Shaw, described a Christmas Eve in South Uist in the 1930's -
"Christmas eve, I walked with my Catholic friends to midnight mass at Dalibrog. It was a long five miles in the dark and as we made our way west with a storm lantern around the slope of Carrisaval we could see far away many tiny lights scattered over the black machair moving north towards the Church. Others joined us out of the darkness and we made a long and cheerful procession. The Christmas story was read in Gaelic and they sang the Gaelic Christmas hymn "Taladh Chriosda" or the Christ Child's Lullaby. It has recently been found that Father Ranald Rankin composed the words of this beautiful hymn in 1855 and it was first taught to the people of South Uist and Eriskay by Father Allan MacDonald who had it printed with other Gaelic hymns for private circulation. The tune was originally a waulking song and I have given the version that is sung in South Uist."
And for Hogmanay, a traditional Hebridean blessing, "Beannachdan dhia 's na Callaig libh- the Blessing of God and of Hogmanay be with you"
ISLE OF RUM
December started off reasonably calm, not a taste of what was to come. Rum primary put an early Christmas show, attended by pretty much everyone and all were treated to festive wine and mince pies; the children enjoyed performing and singing and asking members of the audience the significance of various Christmas traditions. The following week the children went to Arisaig to spend time at Arisaig primary and were treated to their first school dinner…. and off to the panto in Inverness for bright lights, cross dressing, a tenuous plot and pop music - confusing but fun.
Meanwhile back on Rum Christmas trees up - the small plot of young lodge pole pine up the glen from where they come is getting pretty spartan now and some us (i.e. me) resorted to getting a lovely fir tree from the mainland.
And then the weather happened, the Morris family managed to get away for their Christmas break in the sun and Sorcha got home by the skin of her teeth before things got out of hand but both Lesley (with baby Dougal) and Dave Chain got stranded on the mainland and missed Christmas on Rum, Jed on the other hand couldn't get away and missed seeing his mum. Jinty was most irritated that the one time the lorry driver delivering the chilled goods for the shop missed the boat… and it was the last boat for eight days - which I think is a record for Rum.
A Christmas party or two and way too much prosecco later those of us still here had a jolly old time and when the boat finally came it brought Dave back and a crowd of Hogmanay revellers, yippee.
We were pretty well sheltered from the worst of the wind but Nic and Ady venturing out to Harris said it was pretty wild and a jaunt up to Kilmory on Boxing Day ending up being very brief, though we did see a golden eagle - it flew past the car about 10 feet in front of us and we were also treated to an otter on the shore.
Our Hogmanay celebrations included a lot of roller boots, a smoke machine and DJ Dougie Sandilands - all three of these things are fairly abstract for here but put together created a very memorable and unlikely evening, there was live music too from the Boathouse Blues band and a piper appeared from somewhere at the appropriate time.
December birthdays were Scarlet Goddard 14, Nell McEoin 17 and Jinty - who had an amazing savoury cake made by her sister Kirsty. Happy New Year everyone!
ISLE OF EIGG
Did I not finish last month's news from Eigg with a worry that after our unusually long period of calm, stormy weather would disrupt our festive family gathering plans? Well, isn't it just what happened… Donny had to cancel his flight from Dubai, Fil and Brendan got stuck in Morar, Sue and Alistair, Joanne, Johnny and Sarah missed Christmas at home and Dougal's boat was the subject of a rescue attempt on Christmas day. Not much left of the poor boat now after Storm Barbara's waves pounded it in on the rocks of the Green Isle. The most difficult problem was to work out how to replace the turkeys left behind in a Mallaig freezer. But as usual, islanders' solidarity came into play and anyone that needed a roast got one.
However we managed to get everyone that meant to be here for New Year on and off the island with far less stress, even Charlie and Libby who had managed it to Muck but could not get off. Phew! Don't fancy another end of year like this one! Especially with the news that our beloved Sheerwater skipper was taken ill on New Year's day. We are all thinking of him and wish him a speedy recovery.
On the other hand this month started very well, with the usual warming up towards the festive season… A great Christmas play by the island kids at the hall on 13 December, well done, Eigg Primary! Followed by Santa's arrival making our young ones very happy, although a tad worried in the case of the 2 year olds: Colm was certainly not his usual bolshy self! Ailidh decorated the hall with her customary gusto for the islanders' Christmas dinner where we all shared the wonderful food everyone came up with. Good cheer at the pier where Greg puts some nice tunes on for his island patrons. A lovely Christmas carol service at St Donnan's church and a good wee ceilidh at Peggy's to follow. There is something truly magical about the festive season and the fun of battling the elements to reach a warm cosy fireside…. However, after such a busy New Year Ceilidh where Eilidh Shaw and Battlefield Band piper Mike Katz played their very best to entertain us into the wee hours with their usual acolytes, the now customary birthday gathering at Damian's on the first as well as Saira's New Year walk on the second, we are all in need of a wee rest! So here is to a gude 2017, when Eigg will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its community buy out, and here is to you all, West Word readers, all the best for 2017!
Eigg Rune Mystery
When John Clare called me to say he had found a stone with an inscription as he was cleaning the drains by the side of his house at Craigard, Brian and I shot over to take a look at it. It did not take us long to establish that the inscription appeared to be written in runes, the written language of the Vikings and we send a copy of the inscription to Historic Environment Scotland straightaway.
At first look the experts who were consulted did confirm that it appeared to be very much like a Norse futhark inscription, where lines or parts of the futhark alphabet are carved. But whilst reluctant to absolutely right it off as being modern, they felt couldn't really confirm it as genuinely Norse due to the unusual shape of some of the letters.
So the mystery still remains to be solved : did someone with a knowledge of runic alphabet have a go at carving the runes for fun, like one of Sir Steven Runciman's learned Oxbridge friends? The Campbells who formerly lived at Craigard worked for the big house and is that the reason why the stone ended up in their drain? Was it someone idea of a joke to carve what appear to be spelt "FURKU.AL"? Whatever the answer might be, this lump of hard pitchstone can't have been that easy to carve! Motivation must have been high…
Comunn Eachdraidh Eige - Eigg History Society
100 YEARS ON THE CLOCK!
Mae MacDonald, Morar, and Merac MacDonald, Arisaig, have both retired from driving school transport - after a joint career of nearly 100 years!
Councillor Allan Henderson came to Arisaig Primary School at the end of last term for a presentation ceremony.
Pictured here are (l to r): Martin Jones, Head Teacher, Mae, Allan Henderson and Merac with Arisaig Primary pupil passengers.
Mae MacDonald, much loved school car driver, was presented with flowers and gifts by pupils
of Lady Lovat Primary after their Christmas School play on Thursday December 22nd.
Photos courtesy of Pamela Burns and Pamela Stewart.
A number of organisations in Lochaber have had some form of control over the American Mink, a voracious predator which has decimated bird and fish populations. The Lochaber Fisheries Trust developed a control project across Lochaber, funded by SNH and the Landfill Community Fund which recruited volunteers to set traps for the Mink and record the results: how many Mink, age and sex and how much effort went into catching them. They also worked closely with the Scottish Mink Initiative, who had a project to eradicate breeding Mink from a large part of North and North Eastern Scotland. This had some success over a number of years although the small number of local volunteers often found their traps disabled. Perhaps people didn’t realise what they were set for, or disapproved of trapping in general. There is no local project at present.
Mink are non-native and are a result of animal rights protesters releasing them from Mink farms into the wild, where they have bred and spread all over the country with disastrous results.
Thanks again to Paul Raynor for his photo of this Mink on Traigh Beach.
FROM 'PERSONAL ANGLE'
Half a dozen pictures of Mallaig's Fishing Heritage adorn the twelve page Scottish Fishermen's Organisation Ltd 2017 Calendar (well, thirteen pages if you include the cover). The calendar is subtitled 'The Fisher Folks Story'.
Here is one of those photographs showing workers outside the National Fish Curing Co kipper house around 1955.
(l to r) Magdalene (Young) Buchan; Henry Young; Dorothy Young; Lena Twigley; Mary Munro and Lindy Henderson. Elizabeth Young is the little girl.
On and Off the Rails
So, that was Christmas, now for a happy New Year
But, in our 'wee hoose', Christmas will be mentioned at least every day until Easter as we happily recall who gave us the current books, DVDs, jigsaws - all rail related, that we are catching up on. The beautiful rail calendars are pinned throughout the house, the new diary/journal is pristine just watching for my first spelling mistake! And the railway Christmas cards will stay up on the lounge wall as they are all tokens of friendships that last. So many beautiful photographic ones and copies of railway paintings that it seems wrong to take them down and file them away. Soon we will start to get postcards from forever friends who are currently exploring the world in trains in India, China, America, Switzerland, Europe and the British Isles! They ring us up and we follow their journeys on maps! Doesn't everyone? So much fun, and not an email or Facebook page insight. Long live our wonderful Postal Service.
The beautiful Christmas tree decorated by Anne Cameron brought a touch of festive spirit to the ScotRail Booking Office at Mallaig.
Even the barrel trains at Mallaig succumbed to Christmas wreaths.
The Jacobite pre-Christmas Santa specials were great fun. Glenfinnan Railway Station was transformed into Santa's Grotto, greenery and decorations prevailed. John Barnes wore his Stationmaster's Hat to welcome all. The Dining Car was full of warming soup and turkey sandwiches, and in the Booking Office Santa sat by the roaring fire. The Signal Box was opened to visitors, bagpipes played and Jingle Bells resounded twice daily for four days. Hege, John's wife, masterminded the hosting and did a first class job.
Jacobite Fireman Matt Earnshaw (left) and Driver Ian Riley prepare to leave Glenfinnan for Fort William on the Jacobite ‘Santa Special’ on Tuesday 20th December 2016.
Thanks to Sreve Roberts for the photos.
Following Christmas, we had three days of Jacobite trips from Fort William to Mallaig and return. Two extra coaches were laid on (seven in total) to cope with the number of passengers. This led one day to a bit of line slippage at Beasdale and Glenfinnan, but the excitement of the children (and adults!) as we had to go backwards and take a second run was impressive! Much jumping up and down and dashing from window to window and cheering took place!! The shops and restaurants were full every lunchtime-to bursting-and the surplus guests (and crew) dined each day in the Community Centre where Avril and Flora worked their socks off to engage the High School pupils into providing a full range of food and hot drinks to raise funds for the School's 2017 London trip - or was it for the 2017 Prom Dance - or both? Either way, each day was fun and fast moving. Quotes from locals were positive and many said "I've never seen Mallaig so busy at Christmas." So much so that I understand plans are being put in place for Christmas 2017. Bring it on!!
ScotRail staff and trains continued to give good service. We even had three trainers each way on January 2nd. Well done all.
Jacobite Steam Train Dates for 2017. Tickets are now on sale, and gift vouchers, from www.westcoastrailways.co.uk for the following:
Easter specials - Fort William to Mallaig and return, with two first class themed Harry Potter coaches . Friday 14th/Saturday 15th/Sunday 16th/Monday 17th April 2017. Watch out for Easter Eggs and a few Easter Bunnies may be!
Summer Steam Train Jacobite Season 2017
Morning service/Monday to Friday:
Monday 1st May to Friday 27th October
Afternoon service/Monday to Friday:
Monday 15th May to Friday 15th September
Weekend morning service/Saturday and Sunday:
Saturday 17th June to Sunday 1st October
Weekend afternoon service/Saturday and Sunday:
Saturday 1st July to Sunday 3rd September
Model Rail Scotland at SECC Glasgow
Friday 24th, Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th February 2017. Watch out locally for posters and leaflets. Competition next month.
Friends of Glenfinnan Station AGM
Saturday 4th March 2017 - 1:30pm in the Glenfinnan Sleeping Car. Soup and sandwiches will be served. A Viaduct Trail working party will follow the AGM on Sunday 5th March. Sleeping Car accommodation on the Saturday at no cost for working party participants.
I have a few spare copies of the wee Friends of Glenfinnan Station Newsletter (but crammed with photos and news) which I will gladly send out if you send an SAE request in one to me, Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, 5 Marine Place, Mallaig Inverness-shire PH414RD.
Station Adoption News
I had hoped to announce plans for a scheme to transform the far bank at Morar station into a Biodiversity Garden, in conjunction with Keep Scotland Beautiful. However, although this Keep Scotland Beautiful approved of the scheme, and ScotRail too, Network Rail - who own the bank! - feared for the scheme for a Health and Safety point of view, so I was scuppered! Never mind - eventually there will be a way.
Great British Railway Journeys on BBC2
On Monday, 2nd January 2017, Michael Portillo commenced a new short series of TV programmes on BBC2 at 6:30pm. The first one saw him take a nostalgic journey from London King's Cross to York with the new refurbished locomotive Flying Scotsman! No doubt the whole series, when completed, will be available on DVD but it can be watched on BBC iPlayer until then. This first one featured various people who made the journey possible. On arrival at York, he was invited onto the footplate to get an insight into what made it all work! He talked to Colin Green and Matt Earnshaw who were closely involved in the restoration of the loco and getting it back on the mainline. Matt is well known in Mallaig, not only for the number of years he has worked on the footplate of Iain Riley's Black 5 Locos as they transport the Jacobite with its passengers between Fort William and Mallaig but also for being first off the footplate most days to wash up and order lunch for the Crew at the Tea Garden so that it's ready for when the loco has been shunted for its return journey. Matt has featured in previous West Words when he annually raced his very high-tech racing bike against the Jacobite from Fort William to Mallaig. The last time he attempted it was in 2015, and he won, even though Iain Riley was the train driver!! Well done Matt!
Flying Scotsman - from the footplate on BBC4
On December 29th 2016, BBC showed (and has repeated several times since!) Flying Scotsman working on the Severn Valley Railway. One hour in length, cameras were allowed on the footplate as the train travelled the length of the track. Although the locomotive was not working to its maximum potential, it did portray what goes on inside the Cab whilst on the move.
To start 2017 in style, I am offering you the chance to win a magnificent hardback book entitled Steam Across the Highlands by Brian Sharpe, published by Halsgrove Publishing and priced at £19.99, it is packed with beautiful colour photographs, all around our area, including Glenfinnan, Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig. It could be yours for the cost of a stamp! Just send a postcard with your details and the answer to the following question….
What identification numbers are associated with the Flying Scotsman? Name its original BR Loco Number, and its number now. I'll give you a clue. The first was for numbers, and the number now is five numbers. Answers to me, Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, 5 Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD. Good luck. Closing date is January 28th, 2017.
See you on the train
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR - January 2017
In what was considered to be the best sprat fishery for several years the four local trawlers who prosecuted the fishery - Caralisa, Independence, Mareather and Rebecca Jeneen - ceased trawling mid December having landed over 2,000 tonne of sprats and 5 tonnes of herring.
A yachtsman from the Netherlands recently contacted the Authority commenting on the shower/laundry facilities in the Marina Centre. Whilst impressed by the new facilities Mr A A M van den Blink offered some suggestions to improve said facilities which we, or course, will evaluate and implement if possible.
It is always nice to receive praise but it is equally important that we receive constructive suggestions and ideas - it helps us improve and keeps us on our toes!
So on a general note, if anyone has any issue regarding the Harbour and the services we provide you can contact me or the Harbour Master via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr van den Blink sent on this photograph with comment
"Last summer we were two times in your harbour where we enjoyed the village and also met with the sea dogs"
CEO 01687 462154 email@example.com
BIRDWATCH - December 2016 - by Stephen MacDonald
After a cold and dry start, the weather became more changeable with some fairly blustery and wet conditions in the run up to and around Christmas.
A Kingfisher was seen on the Morar river by Rhubana, presumably the same bird that was seen there earlier in the year.
A Red-necked Grebe and 3 Great-crested Grebes were seen on Loch nan Ceall, Arisaig, on the 27th, both species scarce on the West Coast. There were regular sightings of both Slavonian and Little Grebes there also.
A group of 11 Canada Geese were seen in different locations in the area, including Traigh, Invercaimbe and Loch nan Eala. Varying numbers of Whooper
Swans were seen on Loch nan Eala and 4 flew low south over Invercaimbe, late in the afternoon of the 28th.
Twenty Wigeon were on the shore at Silver Sands on the 21st and Goosander and Goldeneye were seen regularly o Loch Morar.
Several reports of both Woodcock and Snipe from Morar and Camusdarach. Three Turnstone were at Traigh on the 8th and there were regular sightings of a single Greenshank on the Morar Estuary, with 2 seen there on the 18th.
In Mallaig, the adult Glaucous Gull was seen on several occasions during the month and the first Iceland Gull, a juvenile, was seen there the week before Christmas. On the 24th, there were at least 2 Iceland Gulls present in Mallaig and on the 28th an Immature was seen on the Morar Estuary by Kinigarry. From Christmas Day till the month end there were several reports of Siskins on garden feeders in the Morar area, plus at Rhubana View 2 Lesser Redpolls were also using feeders. It is usually late January before this species appear at feeders in this area.
The only report this month of Waxwings were 4 birds that landed briefly in a tree at Rhubana View on the 27th.
Regular reports of Sparrowhawks from gardens throughout the area.
Sea Eagles were widely reported, including a bird feeding on carrion on the moor near Suinsletter, 2 birds seen around the Morar Estuary, and up to 3 seen together near Rhue Point, Arisaig, during the last week of the year.
Finally, a male Mandarin Duck was seen with Mallards by Riverside on the Morar Estuary on the 18th. This could possibly be the same bird that was seen on Loch nan Eala earlier in the year.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
Duncan Grey sent us this photo and says "As frequent visitors to the Arisaig area from Cambridge, we were delighted that our one year old grand-daughter, Peg, took such an interest in West Word!" As you say Duncan, catch 'em young!
Thomas MacKinnon could keep this feature going on his own - come on all you others, don't let him put you to shame! Tom left Arisaig in 2013 and still has the same copy of West Word in his rucksack, albeit a bit tatty round the edges! His recent photos have been of him sailing round the Pacific. This is the coldest he has looked since he left! Tom (on the right) tells us: "I've met up with my cousin David Kirk (Eigg) and friend Swantje. This is the three off us at Slope Point, the most southerly point of South Island, New Zealand - it was a dark cloudy day and the camera man almost got blown over - a far cry from my Vanuatu trip. Hopefully you can all make out the West Word being held very tightly! I'll send more photos through as we roadtrip the south together."
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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