Well, I left it late last night with the story up until Monday, I had found one of ‘Eric’s’ antlers on the Island South of Rona but no dog, Alfie was still AWOL.
It had been lying for well over a year with no gnawing from other stags/hinds, quite unusual and that tells me there are enough minerals here for the deer otherwise it would have been chewed. The folks from the cottages were over Monday night for dinner but it was a bit sombre with Alfie still missing. However we had a good starter. Venison pate (Rona Ven’ of course) and smoked salmon/beetroot mousse.
And a supper club table the second this year.
Tuesday, a bit dry but wide awake, we were expecting the MV Seaflower from Shieldaig. K n P were away with their daughter in Glasgow who was having a baby, so great excitement there. We had asked our deer experts to come over when they could, but they could only manage on the Sunday, the weather was not so good on the day, so they all re-arranged and managed to shift to Tuesday. First thing in the morning in a decreasing easterly gale they left but as it turned out it was a super sail and very sunny. It certainly was breezy and of course no one had checked the forecast as it looked so good the days before, but the gale passed pretty quick and it calmed away all day.
To save time and to go with the wind in our faces we asked Kenny and Gemma to drop us off at the Base up North. This they did and we had a good spy with keen eyes all the way up counting quite a few deer. We called in at the Qinetic Base and said hello but all too quick we headed South, splitting up to form a line to be able to count the deer on the way. The count was going well when we reached Braighe, a shout came over from Wayne (our stalker pal from Wyvis Estate) saying, is that the missing dog, sure enough here was Alfie four days on the loose sitting by the last ruin at Braighe. His tail was wagging but he was unsure, a call from Mark and Alf was captured!!! A call on the radio and the message was relayed to Clive whose dog it is and a happy start to the deer count.
It was obvious that the doggy had cleared the East side of deer but we handed Alfie over to Clive and headed North again to take the West side out. The numbers started to increase and at the end of the first day we were very impressed with the count so far. Alfie had without knowing rustled the deer up, so we probably saw more deer than we would have. After a prettyt full on day there was nothing for it but to have a good drink in the very warm evening and tell tall tales about stalking exploits (all heard before by the female contingency).
The point of the deer count is , after 10 years of deer on Rona it is to know exactly how the herd is doing, the numbers, the breakdown and the impact the herd is having on the ground. With retired stalker Iain Bennet (Strathviach), Stalker Wayne Grant (Wyvis) his brother Wallace, now seasonal stalker Rona and ghillie Calum, we had a good team. Mark who helped ghillieing two years ago and keen outdoorsman Clive his Brother were here on holiday so we had a good team. Plenty experienced eyes and fit guys. So I was very confident on the end count.
Wednesday it was foggy. It is only March and we have fog, quite surreal but fingers crossed we headed to Acarseid Mhor and then headed South.
The fog came and went but as we headed South it only got warmer and by the time we got half way everyone was feeling the heat and it was only 10.30am!!!on a March morning.
Not a lot to report after the initial start but the deer had our wind so they were heading South. We covered the whole of the South end but the deer were cute and our count got a little confused. However we sat down, had a ‘piece’ and discussed numbers. I jotted down notes and comments, radioed Calum who was observing from the middle of the Island and had a report of 15 hinds calves and followers which was heartening. After that we set off North.
It was nice to sit above Dhu Chamas but time was marching on. The next drive was very illuminating and we counted quite a few hinds with family groups plus various stags, ending up across the bay from Rona Lodge. Not the usual view and always nice to see from the South.
I was telling the guys that if you go up in a helicopter and look down on Rona there is not an inch of workable ground unworked. We came upon a ruin and ‘veg’ patch in the middle of nowhere and it is quite unbelievable how anyone could have lived or survived there in the middle of the South West corner. Just then right above our heads on the bank, no more than 20 metres a hind and a calf took off, another two for the count. A rather warm walk an hour later we were back to the Lodge and Wallace who had been up on a high hill observing and had got back before us, had already cracked open the beers, a well earned can and de-brief then took place. The number were still to be added up but it was a good count, a healthy population, no pressure on the Island and the deer in tip top condition. All in all a good couple of days.
Next day (Thursday), same again, glorious sunshine and I am having to pinch myself after the last 6 months of grim days!!!!!!
The forecast had said wind but it was fine, an early call and the Seaflower was on its way. Too soon it arrived and our guests were on their way to pick up their cars and head home, Calum to head to Dingwall for a complete set of ATV tyres, the rest of the guys home. The report from the boat was
of 4 stags on the South Island, we had not seen them the day before so that was added to the total, which was quite a few more than the 80 deer expected.
Everyone had had a good couple of days and the bonus was that ‘Alfie’ the wayward dog had turned up and Lesley the dogs owner was recovering hourly!!!!!
Our cottage visitors left to-day, a new couple arrived. Who knows what adventures we will have this coming week. With lots of Spring work, boats to go in the water, sheep to lamb, sheds to finish and a hundred other things to do, we will not be idle.