WEST WORD
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008 & 2017
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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January 2021 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Glenfinnan, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
Birdwatch
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.

MBE for the Ceilidh King!
Mingarry's Fergie MacDonald has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list, for Services to Scottish Traditional Music. The 83 year old accordionist has been playing music for nearly 70 years and has inspired generations of traditional musicians. Fergie said, "I'm over the moon with this honour which is good for traditional Highland music and I take on board all the people who have helped me along the way."
Fergie got his first accordion when he was 14, formed his first band in 1953 and cut his first record in 1962. He released his 50th album just before lockdown last year and his latest, Fergie's Ceilidh, was released in November. Unable to meet and record in a studio during the pandemic, musician friends came to the rescue and Fergie says, "Much time was spent getting the album together with the aid of telephone, laptop, mobile phones etc. Yes, unorthodox methods in strange times. I hope some of the tracks will cheer you up. Sounds a good ceilidh to me, even without the traditional dram!" Manran's Gary Innes said, "There are not many folk in this world that can say they have been performing on stage for over seven decades and are still going strong. Fergie is a character and musician like no other and over his lifetime his dedication to traditional music has been immense so it's only proper it has been recognised in this way and honoured with an MBE from the Queen. And remember Ma'am, when you meet Fergie you, too, are in the presence of royalty, a King in fact. Long long live the Ceilidh King!"

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Happy New Year to all our readers! I loved the snowy start to the year - not so keen on the current thaw
Apologies for print quality in last month's paper, especially in the subscription copies which were printed later in the run. The engineer has sorted it out since, and hopefully his edition looks as it normally does!
This edition is a smaller one, as the January issue often is. Here's some statistics for you! The number of pages in West Word tends to fluctuate throughout the year, with anything from 28 to 48 pages, the summer editions usually being the longest. Last year was a little different of course, but the paper had a consistent 36 pages every month except in January, February and April, which had 32!
Once again, my thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping out with the printing, Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes, and Ann and Robert for the proof reading!
Kirsty Bloom
editor@westword.org.uk


KNOYDART
Happy New Year folks! Hope everyone managed to enjoy the festivities even though I'm sure there was a lot of disappointment when the new covid restrictions were announced to come into play on Boxing Day. Still, onwards and upwards and here's hoping things will be better this year. Currently I am at that point between Christmas and New Year where you've no idea what day it is, you've eaten too much cheese and there's no inappropriate time to accept a drink. ?
It was a very quiet Christmas and New Year here, what with the changes to restrictions at the last minute, which meant there were no visitors, family or friends able to come and stay. It should have been a huge New Year party in the new hall so it was a bit sad to see it all quiet and dark on Hogmanay. However, we are all healthy and we should be grateful for that. Kira kept us all fed with pizzas and there's some lovely festive fairy lighting so although things were quiet they weren't all doom and gloom.
Knoydart Community Well-being Group held an online quiz on the 2nd January with Danny even joining in from Birmingham. Shout out to Isla and Craig for putting it all together and acting as quiz masters. It was great craic and the winners are still in doubt! Perhaps we will be able to get an online Burns Supper organised so we can have a community event from our own homes. Feels so strange to be keeping to ourselves instead of coming together at this time of year, though our youngest members of the community Kodi and Kai managed their first 'first footing' with Aaran, Fraz and John Murdo to visit Maryann's bench at Milburn.
We've had little bit of snow and quite a lot of ice in a cold snap the last wee while but it makes a nice change from the rain and wind . . . Thanks to Grant, Kira and Trisha for gritting a lot of the roads, as they can get pretty sketchy! The road to Inverguserain is currently impassable with rail tracks of ice right down the glen and the rivers freezing over. Wee Buffy the Shetland pony was feeling the cold so much she is now modelling a DIY rug made out of a sleeping bag to wear whilst a new one arrives in the post. There were even some brave folks in swimming on Christmas Day!
Wishing everyone the very best for 2021.
Heather Robb and Anna Wilson

GLENFINNAN
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
There must be something in the water!! More Baby news has descended upon the Glen with the arrival of baby Leah Grace Higgins. Proud parents Craig and Yvonne and delighted big sister Laina welcomed their new wonderful addition to the family on the 1st of December 2020. Welcome to the Glen of Fun Leah!
Now we have all heard of bird watchers but the Glen has feverishly been on Squirrel watch of late. The residents were asked to keep a look out for sightings of Red Squirrel in the area and happily there have been reports and even a wee picture or two!
There are nae birds in the Glen! As if 2020 was not challenging enough, those of us with poultry had to enclose all our birds in the middle of December. I myself came over all DIY SOS and built an enclosure, consisting of materials that we had lying around and resulted in what can only be described as a 'Sean Taigh' town but is quite frankly, a thing of outstanding beauty! We are unsure how long the order to enclose will stand but thank you to all who have pinned up chicken wire, hauled pallets around your garden, erected roofs out of tarps and gave up your poly tunnels. Let us hope that we manage to escape this, unlike my hens who are now basically living in the Glenfinnan version of Alcatraz.
January is always a quiet month and this year is no different. Our fabulous Community Council continue to work behind the scenes on projects that enhance visitor experiences, help with local causes and keep us safe as we gear up for the busy year ahead.
A wee welcome to new families who have moved into the Glen and who now call this fabulous village home and to those who have moved on to pastures new. We wish you all the happiness in 2021.
So here is to a New Year. Let us hit the ground running at the speed of a good gaelic song and for now, I am off to Arisaig shop to stock up on bottled water . . . just in case.
Catriona Hunter

ISLE OF MUCK
Happy New Year from Muck!
Well we've survived the year to end all years . . . let's hope it won't be repeated . . . it can't be.
I think Christmas was quite surreal this time round with plenty of time to reflect on past events and to try to look towards the months ahead . . . with the unsettled weather leading up to the big day I hope all were able to get the 'Big Bird' ordered or at least have a suitable alternative. Even I remembered crackers this year, unlike the last where it was like an episode of 'The Good Life'.
Christmas surely was the children's time with them carol singing and visiting all the gardens on the Island to bring much needed cheer. As a surprise Santa gave them a visit and rewarded them with a present or two. The School was unable to do a show this year but made a musical video called The Mousehole Cat which is absolutely fantastic and very entertaining. They also had a lesson on cupcake decorating to help celebrate Keighla's Birthday and all did fantastically well, with a box of their endeavours to take home.
Kelly organised and distributed this year's Secret Santa which was very well received so thanks to her and Keighla for lugging around the Isle to deliver them all on foot.
Hogmanay came and went with all celebrating in their own way and a lot of video messaging back and forth (getting more slurred as the night progressed). The annual Beach Hockey this year was a small affair, really more a token to keep the tradition alive. Farm v. Lodge as a social bubble with a few sporadic spectators. a shame as the weather was fantastic, so good it allowed a few hardy souls the opportunity to go swimming with snow-capped Rum in the background . . . there was some screaming and blue bodies!
Well all, we wish you all the very best for 2021 and hope you all stay safe.
Bruce Boyd

ISLE OF CANNA
Canna has been very quiet so far this December with very few visitors. We have however had a number of contractors coming to the island to carry out essential maintenance and safety checks.
The NTS has been going through a recruitment process for a new Ranger for the island after the departure of Mike and Gillian earlier in the year. Three candidates came to visit the island for a few days to meet everyone. Hopefully, we should find out who the successful person is early in the New Year. Like many others we have enjoyed some great sunrises and sunsets during December, and we all have our fingers crossed in the hope that there are not too many weather disruptions to the ferry timetable during the coming weeks.
The Covid restrictions have, of course, upset many people's plans for the Festive Season so it looks like being a quiet Christmas and an even quieter New Year.
A big thank you to the staff of both the Mallaig Co-op and CalMac for keeping us supplied through a difficult year.
We look forward to seeing you all back on Canna sometime during 2021.
Donald MacKenzie

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
Work on packaging the Collections and Library of Canna House has continued right throughout December, in preparation for the storage and works programmes for the House in Spring 2021. With such valuable collections as Canna House possesses, this is an extremely delicate and meticulous process but one which is hugely important in itself, as it helps us to increase our knowledge of the collections as we go. Books or papers may have slipped down the back of bookcases over the years, and we discover letters or notes tucked inside books or pieces of china.
It is also important for us to maintain communications with our members and Patrons right across the globe, even in such challenging times as these. They still want to know what is happening in our properties and how we are adapting to these unusual situations. As part of this, I undertook a Christmas On Canna Zoom Presentation, using material from the archives, images and film from the past and present and my own singing voice to bring people to our own fireside on Canna. The film is now available for all to see on YouTube https://bit.ly/3rpfLCne Strange times indeed but lots of positivity too!
Also available online is the 4th part of Margaret Fay Shaw's Diary of a Teenager in Helensburgh in 1920. This episode describes her Christmas spent in London, her first in Great Britain. Although Christmas will be over by the time West Word readers read this, it is still an entertaining read! http://bit.ly/2WH3k6U

A wee proverb for the start of the New Year, from Father Allan Macdonald of Fort William and Eriskay, "The Father of Modern Gaelic".

Tri latha de'n iuchar 's an fhaoilleach,
'S tri latha de'n fhaoilleach 's an iuchar.

Three calm days in the stormy winter
and three wild days in the calm.

Here's hoping we've had the three wild days already!
Fiona MacKenzie

ISLE OF RUM
Happy New Year to all from Rum.
A quiet Christmas was had by all. It was strange to have none of the usual Christmas activities - parties and festive gatherings, though the school still managed to pull off a Christmas play and performed the elves and the shoemaker which was videoed and watched remotely by the parents.
Welcome to the Barley Family, Mathew and Rebecca and their two daughters, who moved here mid December. They had an extended tour of the Lochaber area due to a ferry cancellation and we all helped out for a socially distanced flit to get the delivery van unloaded between boat times. Looking at last year's article for December I wrote that Ali was going to do a triathlon and that I would do a half marathon. Both have been done; whilst Ali got her triathlon done at the beginning of the year, I waited until the 23rd December before running a half marathon . . . Dreams of running along a flat road in nice weather long went out the window, so had to make do with the tracks on Rum instead.
Last year the KCFA were still waiting to hear about their asset transfer application of Kinloch Castle. After this was sadly was rejected the 'Friends' are still working on a plan to save the castle and are submitting a smaller grant application to help renovate the walled garden - with the wall itself in need of repair and the garden mostly overgrown and full of willow, it could be a great opportunity for more local food production and even an orchard. Hopes of doing this in the former tree nursery were dashed due to more bureaucracy in that this patch of land was tied up with the castle meaning we aren't allowed to put up some deer fencing - something essential for any veg growing here now. It would be fantastic if the walled garden renovation plan came to something rather than tied up in more bureaucratic problems. Which leads on nicely to the schoolhouse - which has been finally and completely declared no good to live in, shame. Those of us who have been inside beg to differ but there you go . . . Highland council have shipped over a static caravan for the supply teacher to live in instead.
Askival Rum has almost completed its first bottling run. Their rum is available to buy in the shop and has created a lot of publicity on social media - good luck to Fergus and co.
December birthdays are Nell and Jinty.
Fliss Fraser

ISLE OF EIGG
A few bits of good news to cheer us up at the end of what has been by all accounts a very challenging year: first of all, the success of the Isle of Eigg Brewery's crowd-funding in 42 days, bringing in 195,706 with 605 investors! The idea of helping to make pioneering craft beer on the Isle of Eigg for social and environmental good really caught people's imagination: creating three jobs in three years, using 100% renewable energy to produce beer, closing the loop between production and waste with local usage of the used raw material, and using profits to help local, entrepreneurial start-ups all added up to a winning combination. Stuart MacCarthy and Ben Cormack of the Isle of Eigg Brewery are totally bowled over by the success of their campaign, and are sending their warmest thanks to all who supported it!
The other great news although on a far more modest scale is that Eigg was successful with its application to Scottish Forestry for 40% of the capital costs to support the expansion of the Tree Nursery capacity. This will go towards establishing a second polytunnel, 10,000 new root-trainers and 260 larger pots. Two jobs are currently being advertised to plant the trees that will create a large corridor between the old forestry and the new forestry. Thanks go to Tasha MacVarish for all her hard work on the forestry project and also for discovering some new hut circles in the upper reaches of Sandavore, which will be carefully avoided during the new plantation scheme.
Finally, we are all delighted that our observatory gifted by Prof Percy Hammond is now in place in the forestry (see photos on back cover) and thanks go to all who contributed their labour over this month's dry weekends. Percy's telescope is not yet in place within the observatory, but set up in a suitable spot in Cleadale; its amazing magnification allowed many of us to witness the exciting Saturn and Jupiter conjunction on and around the winter solstice: we were really lucky to have had some clear enough skies!
Christmas was very quiet on Eigg this year, without the usual community meal and our special Christmas Eve carols. Our brave zoom attempts did not quite cut it. Many family gatherings were also put on hold this year here as everywhere else, and as usual with life, there has been sad and happy news. Flora who was born at MacQuarrie's Cottage passed away on Christmas day, a few days after Mick who lived at Forester's Cottage with his Eigg-born wife Annabelle. Our thoughts are with their respective families. On a happier note, baby Charlie arrived safely, just before Christmas, a new grandchild for Alex and Lizzie Boden - heartfelt congratulations to Emily and her partner! So, here is to the affirming power of life and to a safe, healthy and hopefully back to normal life for all in 2021!
Camille Dressler


Arisaig Community Trust News

Shorefront Project:
Thank you once again to all those residents and businesses who provided feedback and ideas for the refurbishment and improvement of this stretch of land in the centre of the village. We have received planning consent for the Shorefront Project and are currently waiting for a decision on our grant application to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund which is expected in the new year.

An Aire for Arisaig:
We are delighted to announce that The Scottish Land Fund has awarded us a grant of 6,700 to conduct planning and feasibility activities for the Aire project. We will keep you updated through West Word, our website and Facebook posts.


Traigh Golf Club: 2020 Review
As with every other walk of life, 2020 has proved to be an unusual, testing and difficult year at Traigh Golf Club.
Lockdown came into force just as our season was beginning, meaning that the course was entirely closed for a substantial part of the Spring and early Summer. For those of us who play there this was obviously only a modest inconvenience, but for the course owners and those who work there this had more profound consequences. Revenue from visiting golfers is the lifeblood that keeps the course running and indeed open, meaning that careful management was essential to keep it from falling the way of many other businesses during this Covid pandemic. It is testament to the owners and staff that we still have a course to play on at all.
That said, we counted ourselves as very fortunate in being amongst the first sports in the country to be allowed to return to playing, and therefore we did so with as much enthusiasm as was possible given the necessary restrictions which had to be put in place.
Ironically the Lockdown, combined with a a discounted 'New' members subscription, actually led to a surge in memberships during 2020, something we are all delighted about. The club has seen slowly dwindling numbers over recent years, and so we are very grateful indeed to all those new members who decided to join us, and we very much hope that they will stick with us as things (hopefully) improve over the course of 2021.
These new members also played a large part in our seeing excellent turnouts to many of the competitions last year. These were played almost entirely under Covid restrictions, meaning very little social interaction and the absence of prize givings, but we are never-the-less pleased that we managed to run the majority of the fixture calendar.
Highlights amongst these including seeing new member Shaun Macdonald take home the Magnum of Champagne prize, Matt Waterston winning the 3 Club Challenge and Michael Summers winning the Elliot Ironside Cup on Captain's Day.
This year's club champion was Johnny MacMillan, with Marc McLean winning the Club Handicap Championship, Allan Ritchie the Club Stableford Championship, and Chris Gray the 9 hole title.
Despite the Covid related difficulties, we did manage one outing this year to St. Andrews for an overnight stay at the Fairmont and two rounds of golf. The Outing trophy was retained by one of the year's most consistent and improved performers, Trevor Bell.
The season was rounded out with the annual Turkey Shoot, which saw another good turnout. The Turkey's, which were won by Billy MacMillan and Linda McLean, were delivered just in time for Christmas . . .
The majority of this year's team fixtures were cancelled, but despite these difficulties we have been delighted to be able to keep an element of normality going at the club.
2021, which will hopefully see a return to some form of normality and therefore more sociable golf, was kicked off with the annual Sair Heid competition. This involved, for those with a clear enough head, blowing the cobwebs away with 9 holes of Stableford on New Year's Day. Trevor Bell picked up where he left off in 2020 with a tight win on an understandably low scoring day.
The annual AGM took place via Zoom during December, but whether more or less wine was drunk because of this is difficult to prove either way . . . One thing that was raised was an appeal amongst to the members (and indeed the general public) for photos of the course for both our website and social media pages. For such a beautiful and photogenic course, we seem to have surprisingly few good pictures, so if you have any that you would be kind enough to donate then please send them to Chris on justlikethefruit@yahoo.co.uk
The AGM also saw the election of two new Honorary Members at the club in Johnny MacMillan and Bob Burt. Both are longstanding members of both the club and committee, and have been unfailing in their support and tireless work for many years. Their elevation to Honorary Membership is richly deserved.
A final mention must go to Brian Ferguson, who managed a hole in one on the 9th during December; always a fantastic achievement, so well done to him.
We all look forward to 2021 in the hope that we will be free to enjoy competition and company with our friends and fellow golfers, and so on that note we would like to wish you all a very Happy, prosperous and hopeful New Year from all at Traigh Golf Club. Chris Lemons


Mallaig Harbour News
When I looked back on last January's news, it started with 'Happy New Year'. I don't think any of us could have predicted then just what a strange year it would become! We have been relatively fortunate at Mallaig Harbour Authority and have continued to operate throughout the year, providing essential services for both the fishing and aquaculture industries, and also infrastructure for the lifeline ferry services that operate from Mallaig. Although we furloughed some of our staff during the initial lockdown, since August all have been back at work.
The Sprat fishery has continued throughout December; it's been a bit patchy, but overall fairly successful. However, some of you may have seen the photos of the old scallop nets and lanterns which became entangled in the sprat nets mid-month. These were from an early attempt at scallop farming and had been abandoned around 20 years ago, with no warning that they were on the sea bed. They caused a lot of damage to the sprat nets, and put the boats at significant risk - they were fortunate that it was a calm night and they were able to haul the nets aboard, albeit totally entangled. There are always debates about aquaculture and fishing co-existing, and about the amount of waste in the seas, and this was a stark example of waste from one industry causing damage and incurring costs for another.
The Sprats have been a welcome boost to the end of year fishing. January and February of 2020 brought stormy weather, and the boats were just getting back to sea in March when lockdown began and the markets crashed meaning that the boats were tied up once again. As a result, this has been one of the poorest years ever for fish landings. The announcement of a trade deal with the EU on 24th December means that, outwith coronavirus restrictions, access to markets in the EU will be maintained, but the restrictions around catching and quotas etc. have still to be finalised as I am writing this.

Looking back at the year, it's not just the fishing that has been much quieter. Although the figures for CalMac ferry carryings have not been published for 2020 yet, we know that these are well down because of restrictions. As an example, in August 2019, 64,444 passengers travelled through Mallaig, and 14,015 cars. The equivalent figures for August 2020 were 22,247 passengers and 7,808 cars. Given that this was the first full month that restrictions were eased, it shows the scale of the difference. CalMac have published their timetable for the coming season, which is broadly similar to previous years (excluding the restrictions of 2020), with both the Lord of the Isles and the Loch Fyne sailing from Mallaig to Armadale, but with the LoTI returning earlier to Lochboisdale so doing one less sailing to Armadale (two instead of three) and the Loch Fyne also doing one less sailing between Mallaig and Armadale each afternoon (presumably to allow the LoTI to load the Lochboisdale vehicles at the earlier time in Mallaig). There are also almost 60 days of tidal restrictions throughout the summer timetable. The reduction in sailings results in a reduction of car spaces available from 726 daily in 2019 to 556 in 2021, a reduction of 23.5%. However, given the ongoing uncertainties about travel, this may not have too big an impact. Positively, the trial of additional sailings in March is continuing this year, with a minimum of four sailings each day from 1st to 25th March, and as many as seven return journeys on some days. You can find details of these at www.calmac.co.uk/mallaig-armadale-additional-sailings-march-2021

We did also manage a short season at the Marina, from the end July to October, with a total of 547 occupied nights and 359 vessels. This compares to a total of 1,429 occupied nights and 1,069 vessels in 2019 - approximately 1/3 in 2020. We know that the Marina season normally starts April, and that May, June and July are busy months for us, so again this is not surprising!

Work has been ongoing in the background on the proposed development for the Outer Breakwater, with a dive team visiting in early December to do some work on the feasibility of dredging the Outer Harbour to make it slightly deeper. We were also successful in our application for a loan from the Energy Savings Trust to convert all the Harbour lighting to LED. This is the first step in reducing our carbon footprint and improving energy efficiency at the harbour. The marine grade LED fittings need to be manufactured to order so there is a long lead time, but we hope to have all the lighting converted by early Spring.
We have also finally completed some of the maintenance works that were postponed due to lockdown in March, with the facings replaced on the Loch Nevis berth and replacement and repairs to ladders and bollards in the Outer Harbour.

Our Harbour staff once again supported the Community Council to put up the Christmas lights and the tree early in December so thanks to them for doing this.
I also started last January's news by mentioning that we had been due a visit from the Screen Machine which had been cancelled due to stormy weather. This January we were also due a visit on 6th and 7th but this has obviously been cancelled due to the new restrictions in force since Boxing Day. The November visit had to be cancelled because the ferry was unable to sail, so hopefully it won't be too long before we are able to welcome back Screen Machine!
I'll end by wishing everyone a Happy New Year this month, let's hope 2021 becomes a bit better year than 2020 did. Hopefully the calm, clear weather so far is a good omen!
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154 jacqueline@mallaigharbourauthority.com


Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Happy New Year to youse all; and thanks to Ann, Eddie and Eliza for the first question in 2021: whose tail is this?

photo

Ann explained they'd been visiting Dundee last summer and walked in Camperdown Park where they came across this bushy tail lying on the ground. They'd like to know which mammal it came from.
From the colours, textures and arrangement of the various hairs, this looks like the tail of a Badger (Meles meles). As a guess, it may have been chased by a dog which took a bite at its tail, and the badger escaped but lost its tail. The reason for suggesting this is that the tail section of the badger's vertebrae has been severed as if chopped.
Badgers have distinctive hairs which are arranged in a clear pattern over the body. The head has three stripes of white hairs, with black-and-brown in three stripes from the snout back over each eye and down the throat. The back and sides looks grey: with longer white guard-hairs over an underlayer of black and brown hairs. The underside of the body, legs and paws, continue the black and brown hair layer. The tail tends to be 15cm to 19cm long as can be seen from the photo with Ann's hand providing scale. It looks whiter than the main body as it has a higher proportion of the white guard-hairs over the black and brown denser underlayer of hairs.
Should you find a clump of hairs (about 5 - 8cm long) out on the hill or caught on a fence, if you roll the hairs between your fingers and they disintegrate they are probably deer hairs, whereas if they remain strong they are likely to be from a badger. This strength led to badger hairs being used for some shaving brushes; my father had one with longer white hairs in the crown and shorter black or brown hairs round the base.
In the last 20 or so years, the numbers of badgers have increased in the Arisaig area. There are various reasons why; here are a few suggestions which may contribute to this happening. The reduction in the numbers of sheep kept on the hills may have provided badgers with more feeding opportunities on grassy patches where they rootle for nutritious plants, such as pignuts, and dig for invertebrates, like earthworms and insect larvae. There may be fewer disturbances from dogs and walkers where bracken has become very dense and the risk of ticks deters some. It may be that mild, wet winters lead to more carrion being available in some places where animals succumb to respiratory infections. Who knows?
If you have thoughts on what may have caused the increase in badger numbers, it would be interesting to hear from you.
Dr Mary Elliott

References: P. Sterry 2005 Collins Complete British Animals
M.J. Lawrence & R.W. Brown 1973 Mammals of Britain - their tracks, trails and signs
F.H. van der Brink 1976 A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe. Collins


BIRDWATCH December 2020 by Stephen MacDonald
Birdwise a fairly typical December, with most birds fairly sedentary.
The same juvenile Glaucous Gull was around Mallaig harbour throughout the month. There were regular sightings of both Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones on the shoreline at West Bay carpark, Mallaig, with 26 Purple Sandpipers and 22 Turnstone roosting together there on the 19th. A single Bar-tailed Godwit and a Greenshank continued to winter on the Morar Estuary amongst the more usual Curlew, Redshank and Ringed Plover. There were regular reports of Woodcock from throughout the area, most often seen flying up from roadside verges after dark.
A group of six adult Whooper Swans were seen regularly on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig till the month end. Apart from the local Greylags, the only other geese of note were two Brent Geese that appeared for a short while on Christmas Day on the shoreline of Loch nan Ceall, in front of the village. Small groups of Wigeon were reported from Invercaimbe, Silver Sands, Loch nan Ceall, Morar Estuary and Loch Ailort. Goldeneyes were seen on Loch Morar and Loch Ailort. Red-breasted Mergansers were reported from all round the coastline with concentrations in the Morar Estuary and Loch nan Ceall.
Slavonian Grebes were seen regularly on Loch nan Ceall and three were seen on Loch Morar on the 29th.
Wintering divers could be seen all round the coast from Mallaig to Loch Ailort. On calm conditions on the 11th, 15 Great Northern and two
Black-throated Divers were seen in Loch Ailort between Alisary and Roshven.
Good numbers of finches etc. making use of garden feeders throughout the area. Several reports of Siskins back using feeders. A bit unusual as most of our local breeders winter in the south of England and near continent. On the 31st a single Snow Bunting was seen on the hillside above the fish farm, Loch Ailort.
Long-tailed Tits were again making use of fat balls in a garden near Woodside, Morar throughout the month.
Finally in a Loch Ailort garden there was an unusual looking visitor on the nut feeder in the form of a leucistic Great-spotted Woodpecker. This condition in birds can result in the loss or partial loss of a pigmentation of the feathers. The woodpecker therefore appeared an overall light buff colour apart from the head, and also the undertail/vent area which was the usual red colour.


WORLD WIDE WEST WORD

photo
Here's a copy which is being read a long way away - Chai and Harriet are still in the British Virgin Islands and here they are reading theirs on Christmas Day! Blue skies, palm trees - lovely!


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