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March 2020 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
LOCUM COVER PLANNED FOR MALLAIG AND ARISAIG MEDICAL PRACTICE
Best wishes to Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice's sole GP, Dr Iain Gartshore, who leaves the Practice at the end of this month to take up a position in the Alness/Invergordon Practice. NHS Highland will be taking over the running of the Practice as a vacant Practice, with effect from 1st April, 2020.
At present they are working with the Practice, and in particular Morven Weir the Practice Manager, to secure locum GP cover, and say they have a well populated rota in place going forward from 1st April, 2020. They have met with all the practice staff, whose employment will transfer over to NHS Highland from 1st April.
Fiona Mackenzie, NHS Primary Care Manager for the area says, 'Securing accommodation in the local area is proving to be a challenge, and we would like to ask the local community if they are aware of available self catering accommodation for the use of GP's that NHS Highland could rent on a long term basis - pet friendly if possible. If so, please contact either myself or Morven Weir, Practice Manager.
'We would like to reassure patients and the public that we will continue to provide a high quality service from Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice, and will keep the community informed regarding any developments.'
MALLAIG AND GLENFINNAN COMMUNITY COUNCILS RE-ESTABLISHED
After insufficient candidates were nominated for both Mallaig and Glenfinnan in the October Community Council elections, resulting in neither being formed, subsequent elections in February have resulted in both councils being re-established uncontested. They comprise of the following councillors:
Glenfinnan - Willina Colman, Julia Foster, Duncan Gibson, Pat Grieve, Sandy Hughes, Simon Matthews, Joan Robertson, Frances Whyte.
Mallaig - Martin Carty, Audrey McKay, Sandra McLean, Melanie Poduschnik.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
I'm all set to print and waiting for one last thing . . . an email update from NHS Highland about GP cover once Dr Iain leaves later this month. There's an empty space on the front cover - hopefully it'll be filled soon and I can get printing!
I'm sad to say that our weatherman Ian Watts has decided it's time for him to pass the responsibility of weather reporting on to the younger generation. I think Ian deserves a long service medal for contributions, as he's been sending his weather reports in since March 1995 - that's from the 5th ever issue, to the 304th! Thank you Ian. From next month, the High School are taking on the job - although I know they have to fix some equipment before they can give us rainfall data again.
As always, my thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing and Anne for looking after all of the subscription envelopes this month - a lot to do single handed! Thank you.
Advertise in the Local Telephone Directory!
We're in the process of putting together a new edition of the local phone book and have advertising space available. Eighth, quarter, half or full A5 pages in colour or black and white can be booked.
If you'd like to advertise your business, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for rates and more information.
First of all, a huge welcome and congratulations to Aaran and Fraz on the safe arrival of twin boys Kai and Kodi. Really special to have more Knoydart babies. Congratulations to Nana Hannah and Grandpa Tim on becoming grandparents, nappy valley seems to be making a comeback!
The village hall is making huge progress now and so many people have been working flat out to get it all finished in time. The wooden bricks have all been lasered with donators names on them - thanks to Jo for doing them on her machine. There's still some blank ones that you can buy or gift to a friend to go on the welcome wall in the hall.
Big thanks to Angus Macdonald of the BA Club in Fort William for his generous donation of commercial kitchen equipment for the hall kitchen. We had a volunteer day getting sleeves rolled up and scrubbing all the equipment til it shone, ready for getting installed. There's also a last volunteer day on the 14th/15th March to help out with painting, landscaping and general tidying up to get the hall ready for the Grand Opening.
Also in March is Gaelic group Daimh playing at The Lookout on the 29th. There are limited tickets so book early.
We had another day getting together to clear out the old piggeries by the former net shed. It is unrecognisable now, all the brambles and machinery cleared out, filled in with stones and aggregate and smoothed out and the walls all levelled. An amazing effort on a freezing day amongst the hailstones and gales. A static caravan will be in situ shortly and used for the Foundation Bunkhouse accommodation. A huge thanks to Morag for cooking yet another amazing meal for all the people that turned out.
In amongst the storms it is so lovely to do the post round in the light now and enjoy the little signs that spring is on its way. Wee Bruce had a wonderful, wet and windy "forest birthday party" a few days ago for turning five and all the kids had a great time running around in the woods. I for one can't wait for the warmer weather when they can just head out the door without getting all the different layers on.
Victor had an amazing find on the beach - a shark tag. It was last seen in July 2010 and came off a 6.5mtr basking shark. It has been sent back to Marine Conservation International on Mull to see what data there is.
Congrats to Calum Wilson for coming 3rd in the Tranz NZ Enduro mountain bike race - lots of Knoydart folk are rooting for the "flying Scotsman"!
ISLE OF MUCK
If you grew up, like me, on a diet of comics, you must remember Dennis the Menace from the Beano. Well Dennis - the storm that is - certainly was a menace! Along with Ciara, and all the other windy episodes of no name, it's been a breezy month. On land we have escaped remarkably unscathed. A tree down across a chicken run, the odd fish box spread-eagled on a fence and a kayak that apparently didn't require water to move about the island is, luckily, the only damage to date. Colin took the wise precaution of defending Pier house with Muck style sand bags. Half ton bags that is. Fortunately they weren't tested but, with the combination of big tides and big gales, it was a very wise move as the house has flooded in the past. At sea we didn't fare so well. One of the fenders on the pier, weakened a month or six weeks ago by a previous storm and whose melancholy knocking, as the wave bounced it up against the pier, could be heard day and night in Port Mor, finally gave up the unequal struggle against Dennis's power and hung suspended only by a chain. North West Marine had already assessed the situation and said that a number of the fenders were in need of work and five calm days with suitable tides would be required to carry out the work. Sometime in May then!
CalMac were, understandably, concerned about possible damage to the Loch Nevis. This resulted in a passenger only service and large freight items backing up in Mallaig. Essential building supplies were then turned away, holding up essential work to the properties on the island. We are well used to weather related disruption but two things come to mind. Firstly, there is a desperate need for more storage space in Mallaig. Secondly, as an islander pointed out, Highland Council appeared to have a reactionary approach to pier maintenance. The pier needs to be checked and repaired in the summer months ready for the winter. Come on people, wake up and smell the coffee! Our lifeline service appears to be hanging by a thread and a pretty thin one at that!
Back on land the salt laden wind has burnt the grass back a bit but the island is still greener than normal for this time of year. The rain has made it decidedly squidgy but it never fails to amaze me how quickly everything dries out once it stops raining. Daffodils that surged forth in the milder spell steadfastly refuse to open and who can blame them. It's going to have to warm up a bit before I discard my winter coat. On the farm calving is winding down while lambing is fast approaching. The ewes are being fed daily, which must be quite challenging in the worst of the weather, and some are starting to look a bit rotund. Bruce and Pam (who will be running the café) are hoping to get their belongings here this week after having to postpone once. The second round of teacher interviews have come and gone and we await news of the outcome. The current teaching staff have done a great job of filling the void, but a void it is, and the sooner we have a teacher in post on the island the better.
Last month I wondered if it would be a quieter period this month and, weather apart, it has been. Nice to recharge the batteries a bit in preparation for the coming visitor season. Hopefully next month I will be able to report that the pier issues have been resolved. Oh look there goes another pig! How do they get airborne?
Stop press! After the prolonged spell of bad weather with all the disruption it's caused to the ferry timetable and daily life here on Muck, and on behalf of all the residents, I'd like to thank CalMac for putting on a special run to Muck on 3rd March. Much appreciated guys!
ISLE OF CANNA
Gales continued well into this month, bringing more ferry disruptions, horizontal sleet, rubbish TV reception, and a never ending dumping of plastic and other jetsam (even flotsam - who knows?)
The main news to report this month is that the Community Development Trust has successfully secured a part-time Development Officer to help take forward projects on island. We were greatly encouraged by the eventual number of applications we received for the job, and following a round of interviews with a number of strong candidates we were able to offer an appointment. Andrew Prendergast, who is based on Skye, will be working with us initially for one year, during which we hope to see a few aspirations beginning to take shape. We look forward to welcoming Andrew for his initial visit to Canna this month - weather permitting! We are grateful for the financial support from the National Trust for Scotland toward Andrew's post. Much needed additional housing will be the first priority, and we will also be looking at a feasibility into converting the listed Coroghon Barn for tourism and community space.
Also in tourism vein, we are still seeking 'Dark Skies' recognition and 'Quiet Community' status for Canna - and Rangers Mike and Gillian are looking to develop a 'Snorkel Trail' (bring your own wetsuit!). More on these in later issues of West Word as they develop.
Preparations are underway for this years 'Canna 10k Run' in May, which is already oversubscribed - let's hope for good weather on the day.
And looking forward to the switch to the CalMac summer timetable at the end of the month - more regular ferries and if nothing else, a sign of Spring on the way.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
There's a reason that the word for February in Gaelic is "An Gearran" - meaning the 'moaning' or 'complaining' month. It's been a 'girn' of a month right enough! Canna has been hit particularly hard with the gales and ferry cancellations and at times it feels as if we are completely cut off from mainstream life. However, Margaret Fay Shaw detailed for us in Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist how February was actually the beginning of Spring and the tasks that that entailed on the croft. Here is her description of preparing the ground for the planting season.
And here is John Morrison of South Lochboisdale using said cas-chrom:
Canna House itself was filled with a camera crew for BBC Alba, filming a new documentary about how Margaret Fay Shaw and John Lorne Campbell's work has affected the life of Archivist Fiona. It uses the recent film produced by Fiona, entitled "Solas" as a backdrop to tell the story of their unusual lives spent folkloring in the Hebrides. The documentary, also entitled "Solas", will air on BBC Alba, with subtitles (!) in early Spring.
Cameraman Peter Wolsey captures John Lorne Campbell's Edison Recording machine
The glamorous side of being a film cameraman…..
ISLE OF RUM
Apologies for no article last month, we're just stretched a bit thin at the moment.
Let's get the weather out of the way - yes, it's been windy and wet, we are awash! But no storm damage to speak of and lots of seaweed on the roads. CalMac have battled through, done okay from Rum's perspective; a few of us were stranded for five extra days on the mainland, which was a first for me.
Back to the end of January, we had our Burn's Supper. The builders and rhododendron contractors came along so we had extra craic, musicians and a selection of drummers. Jed addressed the Haggis again - third time around and he's getting the hang of it. The evening doubled up with the school show, which was postponed from December. The kids performed the Tale of Babushka, a Russian folk tale about how children get presents at Christmas. They rocked, especially Dougal (aged 4) as the best Wise Man ever.
More Rum Primary news from their school trip to Boat of Garten. They had visits to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Viking exhibition in Inverness and got to do archery and go to the cinema (exciting when you live on an island!) This was prior to the five day stranding so it turned out to be a long school trip in the end.
As mentioned above, the rhododendron contractors are still hacking away. It's a massive job, probably bigger than they thought, but slowly the village is looking different; hopefully it will be finished by April but if not, they will be back to finish off later in the year.
IRCT are currently recruiting a new community ranger who should be in post in April. This is the first of two posts, the other being an extension of the bunkhouse manager, which will include more visitor service management, an area where the island could do with a bit more work. This should be advertised this month.
The site of the new campsite showers and toilets has changed due to new planning rules about building at least 5m above high water (MHWS). This is hilarious as most of the village is below that including all of the campsite, the bunkhouse and my house. Let's hope the tides don't rise too much!!!
You may have seen press coverage about our four new eco houses. The houses should be finished in May and as you would expect we have had quite a lot of interest already. Hoping to get lots of happy people to move to Rum.
SNH are carrying out improvements to the Dibidil path this spring. They are currently waiting on a helicopter to move the stone from in front of the castle to the hillside, though the weather has meant that helicopter companies have a backlog of work, so the bags of stone may be sat there for a while yet…
ISLE OF EIGG
As we batten the hatches against storms and lashing rain, it's been truly amazing that so little damage has occurred on the island this winter, when you think it's taken five years for the Manse wood to recover from the devastation of winter 2015: It's great to now be able to walk through this beautiful little woodland once again.
Managing to avoid travel disruptions altogether, friends even made it all the way from Cornwall to help us celebrate Brian Greene's 70th birthday on 19 February: his face was worth seeing when he stared in disbelief at Colleen and Bob from his pre-Eigg theatre days coming up Eigg Pier! This landmark birthday actually marks 40 years of life on Eigg for myself and Brian (pictured second from left), since he celebrated his 30th in the wee Smithy bothy where we had holed up for winter 1980, courtesy of our previous landlord, an event that has become legendary in the Eigg Annals. There being no beer on the island that February, everyone turned up with a bottle of Grouse, with the consequences that can easily be imagined: firm friendships were sealed that night anyway ... Looks like everyone attempted to do the same this time round, although beer certainly was plentiful: with standing room only in a space that was at least four times bigger, it was another memorable night. And as much as we like our pier centre and the waiting room craic, everyone agreed there is nothing like a good house party...
However, congratulations are in order for Angie, as she is keeping us well entertained with Rugby Saturdays and Board games nights this winter in any case! Her "sriracha flavoured dirty chips" are now a firm island fave!
The good news is that we are inching closer to having a proper bar, if not a pub, as the news - hot off the press on Friday 27 Feb - is that we have been finally awarded our Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant of £1.2 million for the upgrading of our pier centre. Congratulations are in order too to Becca and the IEHT board for the four years of hard work that had led to this success! All we need to do now is to finalise our application to the lottery and work could be starting in 2021!
In the meantime, Tasha was very grateful for the number of volunteers who braved the elements and came to plant 300 mixed species in the Kelpie Woods: Birch, Hazel, Scots Pine, Whitebeam, Sycamore, Field Maple and some Oak! Another 1000 bare root hazels will also go in at some point. Only 3200 to go, folks! the Woodland Creation Project will also be planting a new native woodland joining the existing forestry in the main forestry plantation by Sandavore. The mix is made up of mainly Hazel, Birch, Oak, Alder with some Hawthorn, Elder, Rowan and Elm. This will be planted with 17,500 trees in total by Feb 2021, all grown in our tree nursery in the forestry!
Another way to while away the dark winter's night has been to get involved in the Eigg Transition Agenda, as part of our Clean Energy EU Islands goal to decarbonise the island as much as we can and built the case for more renewable energy to be produced! We are working to finalise it by the summer, so watch this space!
PEANMEANACH BOTHY TO CLOSE AS AN OPEN ACCESS SHELTER
Peanmeanach bothy, on the Ardnish peninsula, is to cease operating as an open access shelter later this year. The bothy and surrounding area have been suffering as a result of increasing numbers of visitors in recent years and so Ardnish Estate have made the decision to lock the building in October. The estate plan to renovate the building and then run it on a not-for-profit basis as a keyed bookable bothy.
Peanmeanach bothy has been maintained as an open access shelter by the Mountain Bothies Association since 1975.
Four new eco homes available to rent on the Isle of Rum
The Inner Hebridean island of Rum provides a stunning location to live and work on Scotland's west coast. For many decades if not centuries it has been difficult, if not impossible, to think of moving to live on Rum without a job offer and a home to move into. The Isle of Rum Community Trust is seeking applicants for four, new, eco-homes for affordable rent which are currently under construction. These state of the art, two-bedroom homes sit on the edge of the village of Kinloch with clear sweeping views up to the majestic Rum Cuillin. These houses remove a major barrier to accessing the many working opportunities on the island. The homes have been made possible with major support from the Scottish Government's Rural and Islands Housing Fund.
The community land owning Trust, who own most of Kinloch village, is looking for dynamic individuals or families who are keen to fit in to the island way of life and help drive positive change for this young and growing community. Rum has a population of between 30 and 40 adults and children. We have a small, dynamic Primary and Nursery School. All homes have high quality fibre broadband and the island has a wide range of job opportunities.
Employment opportunities include work for skilled trades people on the many buildings, road, paths and woodland maintenance opportunities. There are several new-build shared-equity house plots for any interested parties. There's also a range of opportunities to develop marine and land-based tourism, or to restore iconic buildings for multiple uses, including a former lodge in one of the most stunning locations on the island. We have 10 brand new moorings in the bay, a pontoon and new shore facilities underway. We are currently working to support a major upgrade of our island's off-grid hydro power supply which will also provide increased employment. Other work includes new vacancies working for the Community Trust or its trading arm or for Mowi's Rum fish farm, as well as with many small local businesses, café, post office, shop, campsite and other accommodation providers including our new, 20 bed, eco-friendly bunkhouse.
The Trust are open to housing applications from anyone. If, however, you have a trade, a skill or other business you could bring to the island to help diversify and grow the local economy then that would be seen as of great benefit. Also, young families are always a major contribution to isolated communities; if you have young children they would find a wonderful island to play and learn in, and so applicants with children will also be considered favourably in the allocation process.
The deadline for applications is Monday 6th April 2020. We hope that the houses will be available for occupation by June 2020. Application forms and further information are available from email@example.com
A Write Highland Hoolie!
Mallaig Book Festival
Friday 6th - Sunday 8th November 2020
Launching - the Hoolie Hoolets! (Friday 6th - Monday 9th November)
We have some exciting news about the schools' part of this year's fifth Book Festival.
One of our main aims has been to nurture a love of books and reading in the youngest members of the community. Last year we were delighted to be able to have more author events for both Primary and High School pupils. This year we are expanding further with even more events, effectively extending the Festival from the Friday morning to the Monday morning. We decided this was worthy of being a junior festival and are excited to be launching the Hoolie Hoolets, with its own logo, created by Clare Mackie, who designed our own logo.
We hope that this will give the pupils a feeling of being an important part of the Hoolie with their own identity. We will be running the creative writing and art competitions on similar lines as before and hope that the family tea and prize-giving on the Sunday afternoon will be an important and fitting end to the Hoolie.
This will be on the afternoon of Sunday 8th November in the West Highland Hotel when we will announce the winners and hand out prizes. This year, there will be a special grand finale musical event for the youngest members of the community at our tea party with publisher Alan Windram, renowned author of numerous books including the award-winning One Button Benny. Alan has also kindly agreed to be this year's writing competition judge.
More details next month as we start to reveal this year's programme! Meanwhile, keep an eye on our website and facebook pages
On and Off the Rails
Beware the ides of March!
I'm finally settling down to start this column, just as the 16.05 train departs for Glasgow, on Sunday 1st March, having excused myself all day that I had to do at least 80 other chores first, rather than commit pen to paper! Why do I do that? It has been bugging me that I had to do it, and yet wanting to do it at the same time! My last task before this was to change all of the railway calendars - at least 12 - including the two monthly ones. It reminded me that my grandparents, who brought me up, always put the fear into me every March 1st by wagging the finger at me saying "beware the Ides of March!" I was never told why, or to find out, but it always made me behave for a day! I guess that was the reason.
Railway wise - my Grampy was a railway guard - I guessed it was to do with short daylight hours, gales, floods, landslides, extra health risks involved etc. etc. But no - I have just looked it up in the dictionary - it turns out to be not 1st March but the 15th in the ancient Roman calendar! And worse than that, 15th May, July and October plus the 13th of all other months also! Nothing to do with railway folklore at all!! Another child had myth dispelled!
Moving on a few dates for your calendar/diary
Saturday 14th March Reminder of Friends of Glenfinnan Station AGM - 1.30pm in the sleeper car. Full details in last month's issue or contact John or Hege on 01397 722295.
Sunday 15th March Volunteers working party. Participants offered free overnight accommodation in the sleeper car on the Saturday night following the AGM. Advance booking essential. Contact John or Hege as above.
Saturday 21st March to Saturday 28th March Something a bit different at Glenfinnan too . . . The National Trust for Scotland has teamed up with Friends of Glenfinnan Station this spring for a week-long volunteering 'Thistle Camp'. The camp will focus on improving the garden around Glenfinnan Monument and helping to repair the popular hillside path above Glenfinnan viaduct, with accommodation provided in the sleeper car. This camp is fully booked but keep an eye on www.nts.org.uk/ThistleCamps for more.
Friday 27th March to Saturday 29th March West Highland Statesman rail tour. Originates Milton Keynes and Crewe, Statesman Rail's elegant rake of coaches with full meals on board, diesel hauled throughout the tour by two Class 47 locomotives supplied by Locomotive Services Limited. Two nights hotel stays in Fort William and visiting Mallaig on Saturday 28th March. A welcome visit by well satisfied guests following their visit to us last year. Welcome back. For further details go to www.statesmanrail.com or telephone 0345 3102458.
Wednesday 1st April The Mallaig extension railway line was officially opened on this day to fare paying passengers from Mallaig pier in 1901 - 119 years ago on this day.
Monday 6th April Steam hauled Jacobite season commences. West Coast Railway's ever popular Jacobite service resumes for 2020 on Monday 6th April featuring a special Easter holidays morning service through the weekend, following on with the Monday to Friday morning service from Monday 13th April until Friday 23rd October. Weekend morning services start a couple of weeks later on Saturday second May, operating every weekend until Sunday 27th September. Weekday afternoon services run from Monday 11th May to Friday 11th September. Weekend afternoon services commence on Saturday 13th June until Sunday 20th August.
At the time of writing it is expected that the motive power will be provided once again by Iain Riley's fleet of Stanier 'Black Fives', being joined by Peppercorn 'K1' Mogul No. 62005 in May, to alternate with them. A diesel train will, of course, always be available to cover the route to assist the steam train between Fort William to Mallaig if the service has to run under "light steam" due to fire risks along the track as sometimes happens, or as a rescue train in the extremely rare event of a "failure".
As ever advance booking is strongly recommended at all times. Please book online at www.jacobitetrain.com or telephone 0333 996 6692. Catering services will be available, as well as the souvenir shop. I have Jacobite leaflets for B&Bs and hotels etc. If you require some please ring me on (01687) 462189 and I will supply them to you.
Friday 10th April to Monday 13th April A welcome return to Pathfinder Rail Tours who return to us with their sold-out, four-day, rail cruise special train, entitled the Spring West Highlander.
Departing from Cardiff at 06.00, with nine other pickup points en route, and diesel hauled throughout the weekend, the train consists of classic, sumptuous first-class carriages where guests start their journey with a 'Champagne English Breakfast' on board and dine their way on day one to arrive in Fort William (late!) to stay in hotels in the town and surrounding area. On day two, Saturday 11th April, guests have a choice of four options to fill the day, all of which end up in Mallaig for the afternoon before their 'Dine on the Line' experience as they travel back to their hotels, before travelling on their train to Oban and back to Fort William on Sunday. All four options can be viewed online at www.pathfindertours.co.uk, but briefly option A is "Rails to Mallaig and back", B is "Sunart and Loch Shiel Cruise to Acharacle", C is "Moidart and Loch Shiel Cruise", and D "Across the sea to Eigg from Arisaig" (I would not mind any of those! And the train ride!!) All guests should be in Mallaig from 3-5pm (ish). The train at some point will go empty stock to stable up at the spare platform there - because there will not be enough platform space at Mallaig!!
Improvement Work - Mallaig Station - Network Rail
Work should have been taking place from 19th February until 20th March 2020, Monday to Sunday between 07.00 - 19.00 to 'remove the existing precast copes on the platform (starting with Platform 2) and substructure of the platform, before replacing with new copes and surfacing material'. Machinery has arrived, contractors have arrived, many discussions have taken place, including how to (safely!) remove all whisky casks, barrel train and six wagons (all bolted down and planted), seats, platform waiting shelter etc etc. As of two weeks later: work has started!
As we move closer to the start of touring trains season, and The Jacobite, and the Royal Scotsman, and ScotRail moving up to four car trains, all requiring platform space, water and shunting facilities - what does this mean? I am only a Station adopter for ScotRail but I find myself trying not to be alarmed! Who knows what? Network Rail are contracting out the work - and I have met various persons to do with the project BUT . . . Watch this space.
Network Rail say "I do hope our work doesn't disturb you too much, but if you have any questions or concerns please call our 24-hour helpline on 03457 114141 or via our website www.networkrail.co.uk/contactus" As with the government's warning for coronavirus, I think I will "hope for the best and prepare for the worst" and this is me who always sees the glass half full and never half empty!
Briefly, and I wish there was space to say more . . .
Friends of the West Highland Line - Spring 2020 magazine is now out. Contact me to discuss price and postage if you want one (and why would you not - it's excellent!!) On 01687 462189 - usually, my phone is quieter in the evenings, but try anyway.
And finally . . .
I want to write more (much more!) About ScotRail's involvement with MND Scotland - thank you ScotRail for making them your charity again for the next two years: more next month. And to let you all know, thank you, that I am "loud and proud", and back, with my railway involvement - phew.
See you on the train,
BIRDWATCH January 2020 by Stephen MacDonald
A very wet and windy month, with few dry or calm days. Little to report birdwise, with just the usual winter visitors to report, although the absence of any reports of Glaucous or Iceland Gulls so far this winter is unusual. It seems to be the same throughout the country, although a few birds of both species have started to show up in the Western Isles and Skye. Hopefully as birds start to move northwards in February and March something will show up.
At least nine Slavonian Grebes continued to winter on Loch nan Ceall. Little Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers were regularly seen there. The first returning Shelduck were seen on Loch nan Ceall from the second week and pairs were seen at Traigh and the Morar Estuary from the last week. The male Mandarin Duck was still on the Morar Estuary or sometimes in flooded fields at Glenancross Farm. Three Whooper Swans were seen regularly on Loch nan Eala, along with Goldeneye and Teal. Groups of Wigeon were seen at Morroch, Loch nan Ceall and Silver Sands, Traigh.
Still a single Bar-tailed Godwit on the Morar Estuary. Two Turnstones were seen at Camusdarroch on the 17th and there were regular sightings of them at West Bay and the harbour breakwater, Mallaig. On the 28th, 12 Turnstone and 20 Purple Sandpipers were at the breakwater.
A few more reports of Siskins at garden feeders, with numbers increasing as the month progressed. Up to eight Long-tailed Tits seen on several occasions feeding on fatballs in a garden at Woodside, Morar.
A Barn Owl was seen at the usual cliff site in Mallaig from the 22nd.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Kirsty Martin took her copy to Austria on the High School's S2/S3 skiing trip in January!
Hamish and Tilly's copy went to Fiji on their big trip - they said it's a beautiful country with the friendliest people!
Susie, Isla and Dougal, grandchildren of Hamish and Joan Smith, caught up with all the news from the West whilst visiting Coal Creek Falls in New Zealand.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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