Been a long time since we had a week of snow on Rona, or at least snow showers. Worrying to waken up to this to-day.
When I opened the curtains and saw three inches of snow I went, ok here we go. Not quite looking forward to digging lambs out but given the temperature last night I was worried.
But it was not long (two hours) before the sun came out and I would guess by mid day most of it will be away.
Once I had dealt with the bulk of the sheep, a head count and fed, it was onto feed the twin lamb that was struggling. After that a dose of Parafend and antibiotics for the Mother. The Ewe has scour and it is going to be touch and go if we can keep the lambs on her. Apart from that it is messy to say the least.
So to-day’s job is to clean out the pen, it stinks!!!
I thought since I was there I’d get the boat in off the mooring for tomorrows trip to Portree. We need more sheep feed after heavier feeding this week.
Not very often you can say that you were rowing in the snow. The boat started first turn although I had a wee issue last trip to Portree, so I’ll be watching it carefully tomorrow.
I had a sail round the Bay taking photos then put MV Rona to the Pontoon, I’ll get it ready for Portree tomorrow later. I’ll also be getting prepared for Calum coming to help put the moorings tackle back on this week. I think it may be a busy year.
I fed the ewes still to lamb then had a wee run around.
As I drove around the sun was getting pretty hot, the snow melting as fast as it fell.
The lambing gathers pace, on cue the snow comes just when we need it least this was yesterday mid-day.
Ten minutes later at mid-day to-day! The Ewes are on the hill which means three walks around them each day, if the lamb enters the world in this snow and cold its chances of survival are much reduced.
One minute beautiful, the next Grim. Such is the unpredictable weather in April.
I read this morning (Tuesday) online that the finger was getting pointed at Global Warming for our unpredictable weather just now. I get very tired when I read this sort of nonsense, a wee bit of snow in April and it is all doom and gloom.
In 1967ish whilst living on Mull we were camping in April at Drumfin with the Mull Scouts and Cubs. Lots of fun after a very warm spring day and the campfire. Off to bed to waken on the Sunday to a foot of snow, what fun getting towed by the Scout Leader, local electrician Roger Felter back to Tobermory as the ‘Emergency’ evacuation situation unfolded. Someone was despatched to collect our sledges first and a long line of them was strung out behind the car, with a cub on each. One by one as the speed increased we were thrown off into the ditch. The road was packed shiny snow sunny warm but crisp cold. I think I was one of the last to pile into Roger’s Vauxhall after rolling about the road. The last ‘cub’ enjoying the exhaust fumes all the way home.
Sorry to-day is not Global Warming (in my humble opinion).
So just as the light was coming the snow started to fall heavy again making it very dark.
Really heavy going in thirty knots of wind and hail, fortunately no lambs. We are missing a couple of sheep all of a sudden so I have to check every nook and cranny for them, I wish we had some decent fields but good ground on Rona is not plentiful.
This was the same spot a day before, a favourite place for the Ewes to lamb. I’ve picked up a few here over the years so it is the first port of call in the morning. Lost one here to the Eagle last year.
On Thursday last on a cracking late afternoon, I came back from Portree to find a set of twins just born at the side of our house, very lucky too as the female twin would not feed.
We prepare the sheds for troublesome lambs, the male twin fed straight away but the smaller ewe lamb was struggling, much as we would point her in the right direction. So we had to bottle feed her Colostrum first them milk at four hour intervals. I suspect she did get a suck but it was hard going.
I had an appointment with the Doctor and had planned a day off Rona for a while. I thought the lambs would start around the 6th but the Tup had other ideas. As it was it was a good day so no problem to check the sheep in the morning early and head off but not without picking up another new lamb, a good feeder this time.
I had planned a visit to Sleat to check out a boat and visit Scott MacKenzie Skye’s only Gamekeeper. He works at Fearann Eilean Iarmain Estate. A perfect day for an enjoyable visit. Hopefully more time next visit.
After a couple of hours in Sleat it was up the road, shop, load up and back to Rona.
Really great to get a day like this in April, you do not mind carting the shopping up and down the gangway on days like this.
Unloading on a low tide is hard work so the sheep feed bags at 25kg could wait till the next day.
Next day a better tide but not such good weather, the high tides just now throw up all sorts of rubbish. It is always disappointing to see ‘stuff’ arriving on Rona. When out looking for lambs this morning I had a look into a cove over the back here and it was full of new plastic, we will have to go when the tide is good and weather calm to clean it up. It was not long ago last year that we cleaned it up.
A bit belated but Happy Easter, Thursdays Mail produced this egg, eggcellent!
Good news, as of Monday evening the ewe lamb is feeding off the mother but still comes running when I appear, looking for a bottle.
This wee one arrived at the feed this morning, both Mother and her absolutely soaking, born overnight, so that is us underway. Callie’s tup delivered, all good.
Sunday afternoon the low pressure came in and it started raining, it never stopped until this morning, at times so heavy it was rattling off the roof.
The burns were running, the field was just a sponge and it was cold, here was me praying we had no lambs.
The sheep were pretty hungry but once they had their feed they were off to the forest.
Yesterday was our Wedding Anniversary, 6 years married. I had planned to go to Portree as the anniversary present was in the post but that was scuppered with the gale. Hoping to make it tomorrow though.
Spot the Ewe!! If you can see it, this Ewe is an escapee, it prefers Dry Harbour to Big Harbour. I caught it a couple of weeks ago then it disappeared again. I found it to-day. It has tried to get out along the shore/cliffs but is now stuck. So when the weather calms down we’ll go in the boat and persuade it to go back up into the field. That will be fun.
So that was to-day, I had plans to fix the hatch in the ceiling at the Lodge and it is almost there. But Lambing took over and I spent most of the morning getting the lambing bag together, checking the Ewes out and getting prepared for the the whole of April. The Tup was only here for a short time so we know the dates and that will mean a quick lambing we hope. Fingers crossed that the last three day Monsoon will be the worst of it but I see it is going to be pretty cold this weekend and into next week.
After yesterday’s (Sunday) hold ups blog posting, here we go again. Just the ongoing story to-day, not much Wildlife movement. Weather is crap. Enjoying Lockdown but missed our holiday this year like everyone else but we are lucky in where we live, with no one here we have the place to ourselves. We are used to it and it is just about to come to an end, to-day it is a grey, wet, gale, with rain.
Back to earlier this month.
It was good to get a trip over in the boat to Portree on one of the good days earlier this month. Rubbish run and all the bits and pieces you need time to get in Portree when not rushing. Especially a bacon roll from ‘Relish’ in Wentworth street.
That Friday Ewen on ‘Seaflower’ took over our final delivery of Kerosene for this winter/spring. I topped up the tank the next day at the Lodge and when filling the tank I remembered that last time it was nearly empty the central heating shut down. The problem was water. So I quickly stopped filling and reversed the pipes clearing out the bottom of the tank before filling. That was an interesting exercise.
I was astonished to take three drums of dirty fuel out of the tank, I don’t know where it came from but have my suspicions. They will settle and we will get some out of it as fuel out here is pretty precious. The dirty water I’ll have to deal with accordingly.
Weekends lately have been quieter than usual with no guests. It has been good to get out and have walks round the forest and other areas where we have not been for some time. In this case through the woods to the East side just above Dry Harbour. This is described in Duncan MacSwan’s article as fields. I’m sure it is quite common in the West Coast but we have a lot of trees, mostly Birch growing on top of rocks, posts and in a gutter (now cleaned). A small hollow that moss has grown in and created a small area of mulch for the seeds to get going, I love the way the roots spread, holding onto their base.
We have many of these almost ‘ancient’ Willows, they are quite common with some colossal specimens but invariably they get too heavy and fall down. Really fascinating trees.
Taking advantage of the walk we positioned the camera where I know the stags pass, only this one young fellow having a look at the camera. (The camera has a glitch that the date does not reset on removing the card).
We have many owls here, I’ve never gone out of my way to see what we have but I have seen Barn Owls, Tawny Owls (I suspect above) and I am sure I put a Short Eared Owl out of the heather one day. This guy has obviously spotted something in the grass.
Finally in the bird stakes from that stance a pair of Woodcock which was nice to see. We moved the camera but no luck at the next site, hopefully better on the next move.
Great to see and it gives us a good idea of what is moving about at night when the animals are best left alone to get on with it. And at night I can get on with making things. This last month Lorraine asked for steps to get to the books and stuff on the high shelves.
So I made her ‘Painter Steps’. A first try and maybe a bit heavy, she can hardly move them, so back to the drawing board.
That is the blog up to date. I have missed out lots of things that have happened in the sporadic blogs of the last few years. What with a house build, new folk here working with us and the strange Covid times it has been difficult to concentrate on Posts at night when I usually do them. But I have a few projects up my sleeve. Hopefully the momentum will continue and I’ll get these posts up.
The Red Deer page is next with reports and records to be posted but the good weather is coming, lambs are certainly coming and for sure the visitors are definitely coming.
I see I started this post 19 hours ago!!!! it is so long since I did these posts regularly it seems the interface has changed, not good for me, but we will give it a bash.
The idea to-day was feed the sheep and get the Blog up to date. Get it so that I can get back to regular updates on Rona life. I fed the sheep, then checked the generator. Up to the house for the jeep, puncture!!! Up to the garage with it, the jack was holding up the tractor, the spare was flat and my back hurts. So I got that done, wnt to wash the tyre and found the drain a bit ripe in the larder. The drain was blocked. So here I am 4pm or is it really 3pm?
Rust, tale of my life. Think I am getting rusty myself. The Goldoni tractor is at least 15 years old and it has done sterling work. But being by the sea it suffers and it is now getting to the stage that it is ‘very’ rusty. So it is an ongoing job to keep it going. In this case the brake pipe connectors I had as spare were the wrong thread, so I resurrected the rusty ones and got it going. Tomorrow I’ll check out the rest, they look pretty ripe too.
Back to where I was:
Here we are on the 1st of March.
These are strange times for sure. Getting ready for a season that may or may not happen. Everything is in place, the cottages are ready, the place is spic and span, boats ready, everything serviced, painted, up to date, then nothing.
We await directions and instructions from our glorious leader Nicola, I guess we will just have to wait until the election is underway then all will be clear.
Since I started we now know that we are open for business 1st of May.
Back to what is happening. No Eagles or whale pictures on this blog to-day , although the Sea Eagle plus another has been bothering the herons over in the forest all of this week. No pics’ yet. Just our deer.
The job this week was ‘The Annual Deer Count’.
Weather was grim and the count was not going so well but I tried, got to just over 100 deer and called it a day (not counted on the same day!!!)
On the way home I stopped by the Trail Camera to pick up the card, many Eagle photos again but also this Raven, we have a few here and I’m afraid they are always floating about at lambing times. They have the most powerful beaks and can cut open a lamb as if they were using scissors, not good. Back to Base and weekends have been most enjoyable just now being able to get out for a walk.
Over in the forest, still looking for deer but the rain came on so I went down through the forest and met up with Lorraine. We did a bit of beach combing and came up with this old piece of timber, wonder how long it has been in the sea?
A bit of prospecting for firewood, getting it out is the problem.
No problem getting it out of the roadside though. I finished off the firewood myself and Mike were cutting in February and hopefully this next month (April) we can get a mega store in.
Calm days, the boat ready, best put it in the water. (It has been swinging on the mooring more or less since).
Back to the day job and sadly the Mink still are present, despite trapping well into double figures this winter, I had two in one trap earlier this month. You hardly see them but they are about. Unfortunately quite a few tracks were visible in the recent snow.
We have a wonderful Excel sheet now with all the maintenance and one of the last jobs this winter was to service the lifejackets, they all blew up and canisters checked, hopefully we do not have to use them.
A fortnight ago I got the call for the vaccine, the Dentist was on the cards as a tooth had been bothering me and it was just before I put the boat in the water so a day trip to Portree. It was a fuel day and it gave me a chance to load up the Seaflower.
Weather has been iffy this month, good to start but certainly going out like a lion. But when the weather is poor the garage is the best place, the ATV was overdue a service and it was a very rainy day.
Mike who was over helping us put out the home made Mulch Mats and I finished them off, a wee bit fertiliser and the trees should not disappear under the bracken and grass, but at least we can find them.
I’m going to call it a day here, food calls but will carry on tomorrow (I hope).
I’ve been struggling to get a post together these last few weeks, Toothache!!!! I guess there are few things that bother me on Rona but Toothache is the one I really hate. I’ve been lucky to have got away with few (regular) Dental trips but lately the luck is running out. First it was an eye tooth now a molar, all in the last 6 months.
So that is my excuse and not even being in the mood to carry the camera lately so not much in the way of recording going on, but hopefully now the latest episode of tooth decay is over for a while.
Tomorrow is Deer Count day and I’ll have the camera for sure unless I waken to pouring rain, the forecast is hopeful. The pictures below are from the Trail Camera. Some would just shoot a deer and leave it for a photo opportunity but for sure I would never condone that practice. (More later).
So what we have here is one of our resident Eagles, the Golden Eagles get displaced by Sea Eagles of that there is no doubt, even killed by them I hear. So we are pleased to capture it on camera still knocking about.
The trail camera dates are all wrong as it went on the blink last year but it still managed to take photos. However, I Googled troubleshooting, carried out the instructions for once in my life and got it working again. So the dates are now correct (I hope).
We cull 25 deer per year to keep the herd in check, we may vary cull figures. We butcher everything on Rona and sell the venison locally. The yachts and visitors buy the rest and it is very popular. The bones you see are from the last three we butchered in the middle of February.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Rather than dump them in one place, bury them or cart them to the dump we leave the remains out for the Eagles and other scavengers, the mink turn up so it is a good indicator of what is going on. We place the remains well away from water supplies and generally out of sight. The occasional dog ranging finds them but then it should not be off a lead!!
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
The Eagles will survive very well on what it can kill or scavenge but it all helps at this stage. I am sure 25 grallochs per year help to sustain them to. There is talk by so called Conservation bodies of ‘Diversionary ‘ feeding. Having read a recent report there is a thought to shoot deer and leave them on the hills to attract predators away from the red listed species. ( Capercaillies, Curlews, and all other waders to name a few). I have not got the time to tear this crazy idea to pieces suffice to say it is a sad reflection on so called Conservationists where they are prepared to leave perfectly good food for human consumption lying where it was shot. With poverty in the UK at an all time high level it is unbelievable that this should be considered at all.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
So it is pleasing every so often to capture a keeper. Trail cameras are very popular nowadays and Gamekeepers they are a huge help in informing them of the movements of the wild animals out there. Also for research and just simply for the pleasure and excitement of ‘capturing’ something.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Over the last 18/19 years we have recorded many species, some quite rare and we keep an eye out at all times. Although folk tend to get excited about the Apex predators, for me it would just as easily excite me if I see the Snow Buntings which visit us when hard weather is on the higher ground, they are really lovely and pretty tame.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
The Long Tail Tits always make you smile as do the Great Northern Divers that rock up quite regularly even feeding just off the pontoon in the past.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
The Skuas, Crows, Ravens, Hoodies and the rest of the Raptors all need to eat so our wee birdies suffer quite a bit, I read lately that 80% of birds that fledge this year will perish either by natural means or predators. That is quite a statistic.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
I’m certainly not an expert on birds but love to see them and have a bit of knowledge just from observing them all of my life. I was asked the other day about Stalking and what is it all about. So I explain the general principal but also mentioned that when you are out there on your own and the Eagle flies past, or the Peregrine takes a bird just in front of you, the Merlin goes whizzing by or the wren comes right beside you when you are waiting, watching the deer. It stays for a while with no fear or the Black Back gull starts squawking and clearing the hill of deer. That is not all of it but it certainly is a big part of it.
Sorting out photographs to-day, I came across these pictures of the day I was lucky enough to get the call from one of our guests to say he suspected that there was a Killer Whale out in the Sound of Raasay.
I was on my way back from working on the Fladda Ladder when the call came through. Rob Calderwood and his two companions who were staying in the Escape cottage had been walking way off the track up North West and spotted something quite unusual and large coming out of the water.
I was in dire need of a shower so thinking it was possibly a bit of fish farm plastic pipe I took my time and then after much deliberation, I was knackered, I decided maybe I should go and have a look.On heading North I was getting calls from Rob to say it was definitely a Killer Whale, but I could not find it.
Then way further than I was expecting a huge fin was sticking out of the water moving fast.
Mindful of the code for approaching Marine Mammals I shut down the engines and headed over to where I saw him diving only for him to come up not far from the boat.
As I fiddled with the camera then the phone camera the whale was oblivious and just kept doing its thing. Every time it dived it came up hundreds of metres away.
So to anticipate that I moved 500 metres away on its next dive. It came up again quite close then proceeded to lie on his side for some time flapping its fin and tail, I was thinking then it might be getting a bit browned off with my boat although I was never too close.
So it took another dive and disappeared for some time, in fact I thought it completely disappeared. It headed off and ran towards the Skye so I thought I would make a move and headed in the same direction.
Sitting on a relatively calm sea with nothing else about I was up the bow higher scanning all around when the whale came up right beside the boat.
He gave me a taste of his breath and proceeded to eye me up.
An incredible moment made me realise that he was completely in control here and the boat, me nor the engines were not bothering him.
He went under yet again and I was happy to sit there for another half hour as he went around the boat a couple of hundred metres off, diving, swimming about and generally minding his own business.
This is the fourth sighting of killer whales around Rona for me in 19 years.
The first was on the Skye shore when a commotion near the shore at the Storr outfall turned out to be a Killer whale (Or whales) chasing seals.
The second out stalking with my old pal George, we were spying hinds on the edge of the South West corner when a Killer Whale popped up in our vision, quite a surprise to see the whale with the binoculars whilst looking at some hinds, a first for sure.
The third on one November when I saw a whale blowing at the mouth of the harbour on a pretty breezy day. John Paul was with me and we shot out on the boat to see what it was, there were two Killer Whales one male one female. They were swimming fast and we thought we would try to catch them. We got up to 16 knots and couldn’t even touch them. They went round the corner of Eilean Tighe and down the Sound of Raasay just like that.
One thing we did notice, the seals of which there are many around Rona, disappeared when this whale was about, where to we do not know!!!
Many thanks to Rob for his calls and guiding into where the whale was.
They spent 8 hours that day watching the Killer Whale andI think three Minke whales swimming around. Next day on the Friday they sat up North for quite some time again but just the Minke Whales on that day, for them a memorable experience.
Here we have one of the coldest weeks for years, everything frozen, stock feeding heavy on the sheep food. Deer hungry, (that is another story) but stunning days with wall to wall sunshine for 7 days, to-day cold and cloudy but even then the clouds were unusual to say the least. Heather was getting burned on Raasay, Gairloch and not a lot of boats about or planes passing over, just very noisy wind.
Just a quick post to-day before breakfast. I’m trying my best to take time off at the weekend at least. Yesterday morning after a good fall of snow there was much excitement. Not from me but from Lorraine, my thoughts immediately go to the sheep and deer, it is tough with the rain and wind here but when the temperature drops and the snow comes there is added danger. But the sheep certainly turned up as usual (early) so the snow was not deep enough to cause any problems. But all the same it is lovely to see the snow on Rona, we do not see much of it here at sea level. I always like to head out over the Island at this time, there are often many tracks in the snow, showing just what is on the ground.
Once I fed the sheep it was time to head off on a walk to the Base. I was not disappointed to come on Otter tracks up at the top gate, a favourite crossing place. But then very disappointed to see Mink tracks heading along the road.
I wanted to see some if there were many deer about too and to touch base with the guys at the Base. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer even on Rona was the form.
It is a strange time, we are normally planning ahead, trying to meet our deadline for guests arriving, dealing with enquiries and getting a little stressed as the days pass all too quickly. This year is completely different. In fact it feels like we are in limbo, it is different from last Lockdown, in fact I would say it is quieter. Even on the sea and in the sky above us, the birds and animals seem to be locked down, apart from the Hen Sparrowhawk that flew into the window first thing this morning. She lay there for 20 minutes stunned, no camera unfortunately, only when I went to feed the sheep did I came across her and she immediately flew off.
Hinds On a Stormy Day
The deer are looking good despite the poor weather this last week and continual heavy rain. It is cold and snowing to-day in between sunshine but I am sure it will not lie.
The Burns are Full
We missed most of Storm Christoph, but overnight it never stopped raining, it was a surprise to see the sheep there all present and correct first thing.
Sixty Glorious Seasons
Thinking on weather I am reading this book just now, published by retired Factor Richard Sidgwick, it is £25 but worth every penny. The stories are really fascinating and it is a window into a lifetime in the Badenoch area. Not to mention a brief visit made by the author by invitation of a Stalking tenant to India which again is an eye opener. But Finlay MacKintosh’s description of the weather and living conditions at that time in Scotland are a valuable reference. Anti deer people would benefit from reading it for sure. As it is not available on Amazon or elsewhere just now if anyone is interested I can pass on information for ordering a copy. I do not want to post the email address here.
We read an awful lot just now and because of the ever expanding bookshelf I have been issued with a ‘Kindle’ for Christmas (it is not the same). But I have re-read three John Le Carre books so far since Christmas. I can say I think I read faster on the Kindle?
The Odd Sunny Day
The thing about this time of year out here is that you have long periods of Grey, then we get a half day or even a few days of glorious sunshine and the grey days disappear. This half day was exceptionally clear and cool last week, the poor days become a distant memory.
Back to the Storm
But all too soon we are back to normal, Storm Christoph certainly missed us but the Northerly wind was quite fierce. I think the new fishfarm directly across from Dry Harbour had a hard time with a huge swell testing the anchors, not to mention the one at Portree which has lost a lot of fish due to Seal predation and the nets getting burst by them.
Repairs carry on here too, the JCB is going to be a horrible repair as it is right under the cab and trying to determine the length of the pipes to replace the solid (rusted) steel ones is proving difficult, as well as the cost!!!!!!! with 8 to replace. First of all I have to power wash it and have not had a suitable day to do so.
Repairs are a daily occurrence, with the amount of machinery and kit here no wonder, I lent across the batteries in the Lodge generator shed to check the water level and this lead came away in my hand. Panic. I had no idea what that would mean but the power stayed on so I could at least see. A quick call confirmed I had two strings of batteries not just one but I had to hurry up and replace it. I had to hand a longer lead so that did the job. Another lesson in electrics (my least favourite job).
Our winter project continues but now with no pressure. The February guests, we had a full house for two weeks, cancelled so no worries. However the work still has to be done and most nights when at Dry Harbour we work till dark or 5pm.
Late Afternoon Dry Harbour
We are turning the two smaller cottages into one, something I have been wanting to do for years.
Trying Out The Lounge
Lorraine is busy shifting seats, settees and pictures from place to place, not my forte I’m afraid.
The Kitchen Taking Shape
I’m more hammer and chisel!!!
Wednesday, MV Seaflower.
Wednesday our ferry arrived, loaded with mail and stores, belated Christmas cards and a couple of presents which were lovely to get.
My Kind of Christmas Present
Ewen our ferryman dropped of some langoustines for Christmas, very welcome when we cannot get out ourselves to fish. I cooked the lot yesterday and froze them down. Apart from a bowl of them for tea last night, yum.
A Good Boiling
I had made an outdoor kitchen (it has been called a mud kitchen?), I had hardly used it so it was pressed into service and worked very well. Especially the quality control to see if each batch was cooked, that meant eating at least one per batch. Which was probably not a good idea given I had my first Gout attack last weekend. The list of foods to avoid are everything I eat, not so good.
Finally to-day it is a paperwork, computer day. It is snowing outside now and lying. Tomorrow I’m heading North so hopefully the weather will be kind, I am looking forward to the walk and trying out my toes.