It is the time of year for catching up on the deer control. We have quite a few hinds to cull and butcher for the customers in the coming year. A busy time. Once the carcasse is dealt with there is not much left of it but what there is we put out onto the hill ‘hopefully’ for the Eagles. We have a visiting pair who have been about for years. They nest on Raasay and have stood up to the Sea Eagles so far. We hope they continue to do so even although we have read and heard of Golden Eagles coming to grief at the ‘talons’ of the Sea Eagle.
We see pictures of whole Red Deer carcasses being left out for photography. For sure there are occassions when hinds are shot and once gralloched are found to be unfit for the larder. On these occasions the best option is to leave them where they fell. At least the Eagles and other carrion eaters will benefit BUT we definitely do not condone shooting perfectly healthy deer and leaving them for a photo opportunity.
These photos were taken where I left out the bones and bits of the last hind butchered.
The dates on the pictures are 2017 but this is because the cameras set up screen has never worked so I cannot set up the proper date, very confusing but it is what it is!
So here we have a selection of the many photos of the Rona (or Raasay) Golden Eagle.
This Autumn we had a visit from our friend Victor Clements, Forester. He was interested in the forest management of Rona where we have been naturally allowing the regeneration of the forests. His interest was the impact on the forest by the deer herd and the deer herds management.
Below if you click on the link you will find the article in Pdf form, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
We look forward very much to this time. Once we get to 24th December we just want to chill out. It is time to rest, plan for nothing much but the turkey, relax and then near the end of the celebrations start to make a plan.But Rona being Rona it seldom allows that. This year no different. Big generator issues and the pressure was on to get everything sorted in the genny shed before Christmas day. The last thing I need is the genny to pack in on the very day. But thankfully it did not this year, so far so good.
BUT, the mice did eat through the hot water supply to the Mission House cottage, on the Saturday before the Wednesday ferry with guests coming.
No problem just another issue to deal with, I was lucky there were isolation valves for these pipes, no draining just shut off and replace (plusa bit of decorating).
Also a major decision was made in October, after feeding sheep for 7 months last year there was no point in trying to keep going with them. So they had to go. Yes, I guess they could survive no problem on our heather but competing with 150 deer on Rona and costing so much on feed, No, time to go. But getting a weather window at this time to get them away was proving a problem. However on the Friday before Christmas week, the wind disappeared.
The plan was made, the sheep were offered around and Luckily for us we had a local sale.
We had to sort the sheep, separate and get the older Ewes ready for off.
It was quite a sad day the day we sorted the older Ewes out ready for off. Many had been with us too long and were at the end of their breeding life but the economics were such.
Dan, Stardust Boat Trips had moved sheep before so we got together with our boat and between us we transported the 20 ewes to Portree.
With the help of our very good supporter over the years, Callie Maclean, we moved the sheep quickly to their new home. It is good when everything falls into place.
Then without taking a breath it was back to the lead up to Christmas.
The weather was good so jobs got done but with so much to do, it is tough knowing where to start. A hind was hanging in the larder and needed butchering. So fitting all the jobs in was the priority.
So sad to be in the larder all day on a day like this, but needs must. We need to achieve our cull and the economics of selling one or two carcasses to the Game Dealer from here do not make sense. Butchering and selling local is best.
In amongst all of that I have a new hobby, swimming. Not the best time of year to start but with encouragement from Immerse Hebridies Challenge FB page I have taken up swimming, always late afternoon and I really like it. Yes it is cool to say the least but the cold water helps the cramps I get in my legs after stalking the hills here for many years. It has made a huge difference to that.
Everyone wonders why you would go swimming in the winter, I cannot explain but it is a bit like a drug when you start, you cannot do without the chill, many do it and I would never have thought I would join them, but enough about swimming.
The weather was kind for our festive visitors, the ferry got over, the guests are in and on Christmas Eve we ventured over to Dry Harbour to have a bonfire, food and some libations. Our cottage guests have been regular visitors (Covid allowing lately) over the years and were keen to be here at Christmas/New Year time again.
We had a good evening despite our clothes stinking of woodsmoke!! Such is the breeze around here but we must do it again.
Christmas Day, a blue skye clear cool day, one of the best.
Here we are now at the 28th December, still swimming but another clear, cool day on Rona. So sorry it is not going to last.
My son, his wife and my four grandchildren arrived on Thursday, been flat out ever since so it has taken a wee while to get this post up. The last one I did was so behind the news that I binned it. But I’m keen to get this one up.
So a Happy New year and best wishes to all the folk that follow my blog, hopefully this year we can keep it more up to date.
This post was written 17/11/21 since then we have been on holiday and back, then a week stalking hinds, time flies!!!
Getting ready for going off on holiday the week of the 15th was a busy time. Everything we use has to be checked, fuel in cars, firewood at the cottages, central heating oil and generator oil levels. Boat out of the water, Clean the Lodge, food for the cat, venison orders to put together. It all mounts up. Hectic to say the least.
So a calm measured week is what we need and a calm weather forecast. There were some nice sunrises last week, Wednesday as per the previous post was a busy day and looking forward to the next three days before departure it all looked pretty straightforward with Sunday’s departure weather looking ok!!
Then on Thursday morning the generator failed to start. So I took off early down to the shed(6.30am) not quite dressed for the job, still in the jimjams and in a panic. The power was just about to fail so I was very disappointed to see that the alarm that had stopped the genny was showing low oil pressure. I hesitantly started it and it ran, not seized, it sounded and felt ok BUT……..
The generator at Big Harbour was bought about three years ago, A Lister TS2. We have two older models and this one was a replacement when an alternator went on the Big Harbour one. We could not source an alternator so we just had to buy a new genny. We eventually managed to find a suitable alternator so the older one was repaired and had sat in the garage as a spare ever since.
All good getting a new genny except it was a badly made unit, made with cheap parts sourced I think it was from China or India, in fact it was a disaster leaking oil continually. It was part of a bad batch it turned out, Lister should never have sold them. It had only done about 2500 hours so should have been under some sort of warranty but that was over three years. I had hoped it would survive until January but no….. but of course it had to pack up when we were going away in three days.
We did get replacement parts from Lister reluctantly and not all we needed, lack of a suitable time meant we had not got round to fitting them, I guess we pushed our luck.
So, nothing for it but to haul out the spare in the garage, stick it on the tractor, head down to the genny shed and install it.
Quite a daunting prospect and who knew if it would work. I had ordered a stand by genny from MacGregors Portree and that was due to arrive by chance on Sunday, so there was back up coming.
No time to mess about, the JCB is a very handy jack!!
Everything went well with Mike’s help. We had it installed and running by late afternoon. Despite a leaking diesel pipe and a search for an exhaust. We took the broken Lister to the shed, to be stripped over the winter and repaired for a spare.
We monitored it over the next couple of days and it seemed to be speaking to the inverter, starting and running ok, so fingers crossed for the fortnights holiday.
Another problem that had arisen was the water supply but on checking on the Friday (a week later) the level was up and the pressure was good, another tick in the box.
Despite all the hassle I still managed my swims but they were getting later and later.
Good weather on Saturday with a lovely sunset promised a good sailing on Sunday. But in true Rona style the weather had changed again and Sunday morning turned breezy with lots of Skye Misty rain for the rest of the day and that was the pattern for the next fortnight on Rona. We would be away so nothing missed.
We had Doctors appointments on Monday so we stayed the night in Portree a very misty scene was what we had. Very atmospheric, finally relaxing with a beer in the Tongadale
It could have been a better pre-holiday week but with so many plates spinning it is not an unusual situation. But it does get tiring sometimes. Now to relax and enjoy our holiday in North Yorkshire, vis Edinburgh.
With a view to giving the potential new recruits an idea of what we do here I thought that if I recorded a typical day on Rona it would show how varied our work is.
We will be advertising in the New Year for a couple to come and help us on Rona. More details later but in the meantime here is a short November day.
The weather this morning (10th November when I started this post)was calm for a change or at least calmer. It has been blowy and wet for weeks. At this time after a long season it is sometimes difficult to get motivated but motivated you must be to live here. There is so much to do and keep a handle on that there is not much time to dwell on your situation, but there are moments such as when I had three Eagles fly off from above Dry Harbour in front of me when going to pick up a load of cut lengths of birch.
Mike and Lorraine were over helping and we had a week in front of us of catching up prior to going away for a break.
The firewood at the cottages was dwindling so top of the list was just that, not wanting it to get too low we try to top it up rather than run out. We encourage our guests to use the fires as much as possible as the hassle of getting kerosene over for the heating is trying to say the least.
Although we had cut quite a few loads of fresh birch we had forgotten piling up loads from the previous winter, so it was good to find some seasoned birch by the Escape house buried in the bracken.
Then the week started to go downhill, despite the fine days there was not much time to enjoy them as I spotted the water supply alarm flashing up at the Dry Harbour settlement. Unfortunately this is becoming too regular and the pipes need to be checked to stop the airlock that happens about every 6 months.
In the summer with lots of demand I can understand but in the winter with pretty sporadic occupancy it is a puzzle how it is running down so quick. The tank was nearly empty and with only 5 days tro go to fill it up and test it the pressure (excuse the pun) was on.
At day three of filling it was nearly at the top, the lines were checked and the pressure was back. One job ticked off.
Back to the daily list and the winter storm door was due to go back on. This outer door gives the lock, seals and porch on Rona Lodge a chance. Years ago we discovered that the computer was getting verdigris on the motherboard with the salty air coming through the gaps in the continuous winter gales, not good.
Keeping an eye out all the time you notice things that need replaced, the wee bridge over to the picnic area was rotten, someone had gone through the planks!!! But obviously had not done themselves any damage thankfully, so a more permanent solution was needed.
We had a stockpile of stone and a spare pipe so it was a more permanent solution I came up with.
It was back to carting logs, the trailer felt a bit weird so we turned it over and found the draw bar had snapped. Another extra chore to add to the weeks woes. A quick weld and off we went again. With the very rough terrian this sadly is another regular occurance.
Fixed the trailer, then I heard the mudgaurd rubbing, the bolt had vibrated out so in amongst all the mud I managed to get a bolt in but found the threads tripped so a nut had to be slid in and fitted, tricky enough but another tick done.
The Voe boat was out of the water for the next two weeks with us going away I did not want it bobbing about on the mooring. I was pleased to see the repair we did to the hull had stood up and we may get another year out of our trusty old boat.
To make room for it I had to move the RIB up to the house, we pumped up the sponsons and covered it up, work pending.
My new Garmin watch is proving useful with its tracking app. Here is the day above on the screen, the many trips back and fore to Dry Harbour. The days time and distance done. It was a busy day for the ATV but not unusual, still a surprise to have done 24+ Kilometers.
Finally at the end of the day my daily swim. I went into the water in September because my leg muscles every September/October are very stiff, crampy and sore. I found that the cold sea water helped so I tried swimming and have to say I am enjoying it.
Here we are, last thing in the day my swim track too, the Garmin works but only if you put it in the swim float, GPS does not work well under water!!
All the above was on this day, Wednesday the 10th of November.
That night the Lister Generator at Big Harbour blew up and then the fun started.
Looking back on October it started well after a poor September but after this sunrise it went downhill weatherwise.
Same morning same time but a different picture looking South West and so it was for the rest of the month. There was sun but nothing like the summer past, just windy and wet, yet again.
But October for us is an exciting month regardless of the weather, it is the time of the Red Deer Rut.
This fellow was early at it holding hinds up above the South path for quite a few days until he moved on. We had full cottages first week with visitors then 4 Danish stalkers the second week. Third week more Danish visitors but not hunting then a sigh of relief as the end of October came all too quickly.
Apart from the stalking and visitors life goes on. The applnet mast and box of tricks played up with one of the Switches packing in, a new one arrived. Of course it was blowing and raining when I went up to replace the part but it is ok now. We rely on it too much. The moorings needed dropping and winter buoys fitted so that they do not wear with the constant sea motion on them (plus growth). I can report that they were showing no signs of wear at all.
Swimming!!! Some call it Wild Swimming but for me it is just swimming, of course it helps to have my own private swimming pool. It is cold for sure but you soon get used to it as I was told by everyone who does it. But it is more for my old bones after days tramping the hills looking for suitable stags. I can report the cold water does indeed work.
It was not all grey doom and gloom there were odd days and hours of sunshine.
Our Danish stalking guests come every two years and love the visit to Rona. They always have a good week with much walking, talking, drinking and eating. They have been coming for several years now and enjoy the Island life for one week. We have to cull a set number of deer each year which we decide on in the spring after our deer count. Although most of our deer go towards the venison that we sell we do have to cull the remainder in October. It provides an income and we can deal with the numbers in one week. The carcasses go off to the Game Dealer (I cannot handle 7 at once).
At the end of each stalking day apart from the last one (too much whisky) I managed a swim, regardless of the weather.
The month was almost over with one week left, no guests, everyone had left and for the first time for a long time it was quiet. no Yachts, no one in the Lodge. But the work does not go quiet, time to catch up on the backlog. The TV has been losing channels all summer, with various tv receivers packing in. I think it is the dish so I fitted a new dish but since that day it has not stopped raining. So it is still waiting for a signal.
We bought a new bike and thankfully did not need it during the stalking week, it was good to have it in the garage and it will be pressed into service soon when the old one comes in for major works. In the meantime I upholstered the cut seat from the old bike, no more wet bums!!
The birds had been going mad with the berries, I even saw a hind having a mouthful. As for the wiring, with the weather continuing to be poor old jobs popped up and after three years in the new house (and an ethernet TV connection required) I decided to find out why the internet sockets were not working. It fairly taxed me but with the help of my pal Ian Bolas (over the phone) who installed the spaghetti in the first place we managed to resolve the issue, needless to say I think it was my fault.
Finally for October in this last week we have had a new visitor linger about on Rona. This woodpigeon arrived and has decided the food supply is to its liking. The chaffinches are not happy and hang about protesting when he hoovers up their breakfast. Amazing how the woodpigeon found the bird table so quickly.
September was a very quick month. Looking back on the pictures during this short month I see the Eagles were knocking about as the young ones started to find their on way about. The Sea Eagle pair of chicks from Eilean Tighe were regular visitors but I did see them back roosting not far from the nest just a couple of weeks ago.
The Rona Red Deer were about the house a lot, I guess if you live in a remote location you are going to get nature treating you with familiarity and so it is. One of my favourite pictures were of a family we have with two calves that are often outside the window feeding away.
Other excitement this month was the arrival of yet another Quad bike. With the annual stalking guests coming we were keen to have some back up after our old (second) quad fell to pieces. So a new one was sourced from MacGregors Industrial Supplies and duly delivered (to Portree). Then the fun starts getting it here.
There were many trips to Portree during this busy month, with one eye on keeping the fuel levels up with Winter fast approaching and an unusually high demand for venison. We were there twice a week there almost but it was fine in glorious weather to cross the Sound of Raasay with drums of fuel and all the other stores and supplies.
It was a surprise to see the liner off of Portree on the trip above, the first of the year I think. Surprisingly there was not the usual chaos down on the pier that day despite a steady stream of buses coming and going.
Another day another trip, this time with the lambs to Callie for the Portree sale. They did well as they all did on the day, just a pity now after all these years that we have decided to stop running the sheep. Hopefully this month we will get our Ewes off but we will keep the Gimmers just in case the new folk coming to help us permanently will be interested in sheep. A quick visit onto Fladda on the way back to see John and Erlet up for the summer as usual, 50+ years on Fladda this year. On removing some old paperwork they found that the wall had been pasted with old parcel wrapping and the stamp came away with the paper. The stamp is of Carrickfergus Castle the issue was from 1955, amazing what turns up.
A few photos to finish in September. The deer were treating the new house as their new home too, the cuisine as ever continues with fresh langoustine featuring large this month, the catch was very good this year. Dan continued to come up every night on his Whale Trail Tour. It proved popular with the stop over on Rona the highlight. In late September I finally took the plunge and started swimming again. Mainly for my leg muscles which are very sore after a days stalking. I found that cold water swimming is the best thing for them. So one full wet suit later I went in. Great fun but now very cold. However as I was told, you get used to it and so it is.
Yet again the workload on Rona took over our life, another two months with nothing doing on the blog. Plenty if not too much happening here. I blame Facebook for my page or The Isle of Rona FB page for making it too easy to put up what is going on on Rona on the day.
The weather continued to surprise us with many dry days and long sunshine. At last a summer to enjoy, even the midgies were more or less absent. The cottages were busy, the charter boats kept coming and the moorings were full every night. We were still closed for meals, showers, the shop and general interaction with the visitors as stories of the latest variant appeared on the news. but a wee phone call and we would meet visitors to sell them some of our ever popular Rona Venison. Our cottages were full and with the weather being so good the guests were seldom out of the sea enjoying a slightly warmer swim although not many went in without wet suits. Paddle boards and kayaks are appearing regularly now as people add to their collection of toys to play with. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of ‘stuff’ our guests bring.
There was a report of doors open at the Base which had recently closed so next day I ventured up but everything was ship shape and secure, sad to not see my good friends up there on this visit, we miss knowing they were there. I thought better to check rather than just call Kyle to report doors open etc. Perhaps our guests whom had come across the open doors had not seen a Qinetic visitor there, who knows.
I read a lot about the depletion of our nature, the wet desert that this new crop of conservationists keep bleating on about and certainly there are issues (not so many sea birds for sure) but this summer Rona was alive with dragonflies, all manner of insects, birds, otters, dolphins, especially Eagles and the deer. We do not have squirrels, pine martins, foxes or badgers but there are plenty of the above if you go and look for them. I hear from friends who work in nature of their places bursting with wildlife, where are these areas of depleted nature?
Finally visits to Portree were easy in good weather, great to have an early morning jaunt over to collect fuel, stores, visitors and just a day out.
Way back at the end of spring it seemed we were in control of everything but it looks like the summer has got away from us. With so much on it is impossible to get no more than a few posts on facebook now and again. There is so much that has happened it is difficult to condense it into a single blog post so yet again I’ll put a few photos on this post to try to bring me up to date.
The weather was good after the prolonged cold spell, it was shaping up to be a good summer.
A new jeep on the first landing craft since the house build. Fuel came, scrap went all on yet another calm day.
Portree visits every week, parking chaos, lots of yachts, sorting out the landing craft delivery. Dan’s RIB appeared and has been here almost every night since. The poly tunnel explodes, sadly the Base up North closes. All going on!!
We have had some unusual boats in, the big one here flying a Maltese Flag, a superyacht? Church Cave (or Giants Cave) got a new box, there was some debate on social media about the stone cross, well visitors put it there, it has been there for years. It is a Cross, very similar to a Celtic cross, well done them!!!!! Dan still busy.
Lots of wildlife around, geese, deer even an Eagle outside the house. The weather continues.
Monday morning, poor day. Been a great spell of weather though so a wee bit of wind and rain will not be a bad thing. It will keep the dust down, wash the sheep, grow the grass and fill up the water level. So although we may not like it, it is absolutely necessary.
Looking at the few photos of last week I see that the yachting visitors are on the move, the military exercise has been in full swing, the trees are all flushed now but the grass is not growing enough for us to stop feeding the sheep. Some of this years crop of new birds are on the move but so are the predators. I’m hearing up at the Qinetic Base the small party of Greylag Goslings succumbed to Mink or ? At Dry Harbour there were a pair of Geese with 7 young Goslings. They certainly are increasing around Rona.
Unfortunately with the Yachts turning up the problems appear too. The Yacht Ortago arrived on route to St Kilda, they hope. They called ahead, made their number and asked to tie up to the pontoon so that they could buy Venison. No problem, it is nice to be asked. The Skipper it turned out worked for a Sailing Charity . It was good to hear from him how that was going, their charity was named after the first boat they had , which in turn would have hopefully been named after The Island.
That was the good news, the bad is that the mooring non payers have turned up again. Always early season and always the same lame excuses. But they will put AIS on their boats so they are easy to track. Not so easy to get the money out of them if they are foreign. But we will try. As it happened another skipped the mooring this morning but on contacting their Yacht Club, miraculously half an hour later they contacted us to try to pay, with as I say the usual excuses. I am sure (because it has happened before) that had I not contacted their Yacht Club I would be still waiting. Pathetic.
However Yacht ‘Postscript’ from Ardnamurchan was very vocal in their condemnation of this sort of behaviour, the first thing he did when he came ashore was pay his fees. So there are good guys and bad guys in every hobby I guess. We just seem to have a pattern here.
The cost of the moorings and the annual charges mount up and every mooring not paid is a cost to us. We hope it stops.
Our cottages are quieter this week with Covid still very much on everyone’s minds but from next week we are almost full for the season. I have a feeling the Yacht visitors will take off in June and it will be very busy. We will be doing ‘Crew Pot Suppers’ this season but it is important to book ahead.
We look forward to welcoming the visitors and hopefully not chasing too many for unpaid moorings.
A quick round of the photos. here we have the trees flushing, Greylag Geese and Goslings, Hinds through the window, The Rona Trust and Yacht Ortago. Antlers left by visitors, thank you. The chair that collapsed when I was on the phone, must lose weight!! The Navy boat patrolling the mouth of the harbour, we bet they wanted to visit, next time? Yachts in the harbour, the AIS of the yacht Levita (still to pay) and our cottage guests spying Sea Eagles, Primroses and finally fresh Snow on the hills.