Category Archives: Wildlife

Seamus the Free Range Tabby Cat

I wasn’t the only one walking on the wild side this morning – Seamus went out about 07.00hrs while it was still dark. I saw him later from the bedroom window in daylight hunting up on the hillside. I don’t know if he caught any mice but he was certainly enjoying the hunt as he leaped and danced amongst the long grass and dead bracken fronds.

He met me by the gate to the old steading as I returned from my walk but I have Helen to thank for these lovely pics as he ambushed her out there later —

He loves to patrol the old stone wall —

The mice like it too as it gives shelter and cover from the many birds of prey resident on the Isle of Luing —

We occasionally have golden and sea eagles visiting from Mull and I can’t help but imagine what they would make of our Seamus.

He made the most of his day in the sun and was so tired when he arrived home after sunset that he didn’t even make it onto the big chair – simply dropped on the carpet by the fire and observing us through half shut eyes —

But he did recover and came up to join me later – adopting the imperial position on the well cushioned sofa where we enjoyed another film from Netflix ๐Ÿ™‚





Love is in the air at Bardrishaig

I may be stretching a point here when I credit our wild roe deer with feelings normally associated with humans –

but – having watched our resident buck at close quarters for several months now –

and – our more timid females as and when they make their skittish appearance –

it certainly looks like there is a match made in heaven taking place on our doorstep.

But work came first this morning as our fine fellow trimmed the front lawn —

under the watchful eye of his bride-to-be —

Even our resident cock pheasant get’s in on the act as he sprints across the lawn to his position on rowan tree knoll in time to take his place as best man —

He had to be quick for the groom has smartened up and is on his way too —

How about that then – even the cock pheasant seemed a little envious – if a tad embarrassed at the speed the nuptials took place —

No doubt – all being well – we will hear the pitter-patter of little hoofs around here again next spring ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about, Wildlife


CRF250 Rally Does the Cliff Walk

Sunday was one of those days when I thought I might dig over part of our vegetable patch only to find it water-logged from all the ‘weather’ we have had in recent months so I left it in the capable care of our resident roe deer buck —

and headed out on the 250 Rally with the intention of riding some of the farm tracks on the island —

The tracks were OK but when they ran out I found the grass covered sections to be just as water-logged as my garden —

Rather than cut them up I pulled out and cantered over on the tarry stuff to Blackmill Bay —

where I took a few ‘artistic’ shots of the remains of the old jetty —

that – as this old post card shows – had once been the main lifeline to and from the island —

But a red-blooded guy with a itchy throttle hand can only take so much of this before his mind starts to wander and thoughts turn elsewhere —

to the stony path running part-way up the cliff between the two slate quarries in the north-west of the island —

Stormy seas have washed out parts of the old track but there was enough left for me to get a pic or two —

and set the scene —

before heading back to meet up at the Atlantic Island Centre in Cullipool where my son Jim was celebrating his birthday with friends and family —

Not a bad day all round ๐Ÿ™‚


OOps! My Favourite Vase —-

Bites the dust!

She reminded me of the wooden statuettes I bargained for at a stall on Cairo Road – Lusaka on a rare ‘away day’ from my job at the Kariba Dam back in the 1960’s —

Sadly they came a cropper along with my first marriage in the early nineties – could’ve been the same lively model for both vase and statuettes in fact as they are so alike – even down to the glass beads —

Now sadly the lovely if unusual vase I found in a junk shop cum cafe along Hadrian’s Wall a few years back is a gonner too thanks to our Seamous who can’t bear to look at the damage he caused while chasing a Danny-Long-Legs around the house —

does he look suitably contrite?

Not for long – he’s a proper tiger really —

king of the Bardrishaig jungle ๐Ÿ™‚


Fishing from an Otter’s Toilet

There are times when a bloke feels he needs a holiday somewhere warm and sunny like down here behind the Kariba Dam wall —

To think that I fished for Tiger fish down here in the gorge below the dam almost fifty years ago – and water skied in the 173 miles long by 48 miles wide holding area above the dam back then. When I went looking for a photo to use in this post I found reports that the dam wall is in danger of collapse due to the plunge pool where the white water lands eroding and under-cutting the integrity of the whole wall.

All that water stored up behind has got to go somewhere and it is reckoned that 3.5 million souls could or would perish in the floodpath – I almost wish I hadn’t gone looking for that photo. The biggest danger to life back then were from rocks falling from the tunnel roofs as we constructed the North Bank Power Station after the dam had filled – from crocodiles while fishing from the bank in the gorge below and from the most dangerous wild animal in the whole of Africa – the flotillas of hippo in the still waters of Lake Kariba. The clear waters allow you to see the hippos ‘running’ at speed along the lake floor and their favourite food is the fibreglass boat.

Changed days – there is talk of a barrage complete with tidal powered turbines being placed here at home in Cuan Sound where I fished in the rain this afternoon. Judging by the amount of water that rushes through here at the ebb and flow of the tides there should be enough current to drive the things and give enough power to boil my kettle.

Well I enjoyed being out there in the fresh air – just as well for it won’t be fish for tea although I’m told the mackerel and occasional sea bream are running. The only thing I saw move in the water besides the kelp swaying in the currents was a lively seal which popped up next to me and gave me the eye for a while before the ebbing tide swept it onwards.

I won’t blame the seal altogether for today’s lack of fish – it was most likely down to my motley collection of tackle. I picked up my reggae beach bag in Jamaica several years ago and it now carries my growing collection of line spools – hooks – lures and other nameless things that don’t get chucked away until the smell becomes too much for the faint-hearted —

Back in the day when I fished in the Zambezi I carried a two piece twelve foot beachcaster everywhere I went.- it would hardly be worth the trouble getting it through security at airports now – changed days indeed. My lightweight 5 piece spinning rod which I came across in a tackle shop in Dumfries may not lob a lump of lead very far but it is much easier to live with.

Nope – I could blame my tools but I won’t – it was more than likely the local otter group that had beat me to it —

Judging by the many otter ‘poo’ piles I encountered not very far from the water’s edge as I trudged forlornly up the bank fishless on my way home they were a darn sight better at catching fish than I am —

They were all over the bank – some tidy —

and some just squirted out any old how —

Thanks to the seal and shitty otters frightening the Cuan Sound fish, I had more success at Kariba hunting Tiger Fish —

and that’s not me holding the thing – I’ve got more respect for my fingers than to put them anywhere near those teeth ๐Ÿ™‚


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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in Isle of Luing, out and about, Wildlife


Tatties Galore at Bardrishaig

I expected the roe deer to be a nuisance in the garden in wintertime when food was short in the wild but our local population appear to have become domesticated and are regular visitors to our garden even now in mid-summer. They have trimmed our young Braeburn apple and Damson trees already and appear to be working towards our new – Pear – Plum – Cherry and ย Bramley’s.

Now with the wet season here any thoughts that our redundant snake-like water hose lurking in the shrubbery would give them food for thought has joined the pile of wishful thinking.

I should have left the orange glow Daleks around them – they may have been unsightly but they worked a treat while they were there.

The Tenderstem Broccoli patch barely slowed the roe deer down – it was gone in a night – decimated.

They have yet to show a taste for gooseberries but I have it on good authority that the birds are watching these fellas and unless I net them they will be nabbed by our feathered friends as soon as they ripen —

They may be sweet and tastybut these few brave berries won’t go far – so it’s just as well we planted some spuds.

They are growing great guns with the Marris Bard in the forefront —

The King Edwards aren’t far behind and we still have drills of Kerr’s Pinks plus another three potato varieties showing good growth —

The deer will need to be hungry before they make a dent in these fellas and unless someone introduces wild boar to the island —

we should be eating tatties from our own garden till Christmas at least ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted by on June 27, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, Wildlife


Seamus – the wonder-kitten

Seamus – our kitten —20170104_1818031


Born on November 5th —


Guy Fawkes Day —


He sure is a bundle of fireworks —


Not that we can expect anything else —


From our Ginger Tabby —


Luckily he does have his quiet moments —


Sometimes in decorous disarry —


Which can stop the Peeping-Tom deer in it’s tracks as it stares in the window —


But our Seamus can also pose like a male model —


when the mood takes him —


Which isn’t very often —


Three months old today —


My how he has grown —


But his jaikit is on a shaky nail if he thinks he can lay claim to the Sports Page before I read it ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Isle of Luing, out and about, Wildlife


Tenere in Toberonochy

Toberonochy – an exotic sounding name for a wee village on the former slate isle of Luing but with the sun shining and no vehicle ferry running cos it’s Sunday – Toberonochy at three to four miles distant was the furthest point I could aim for.


I even stretched it out by running north to South Cuan ferry terminal and west to Blackmill Bay and still only managed to eke out about ten or twelve miles all told.


With my normal daily ride being in the region of 150 miles I would need to do about fifteen laps of the island to hit that number.


No worries – the Atlantic Centre was open over in Cullipool for coffee and after picking ‘H’ up from home we headed over that way.


The Slate Feature has been completed to remind us of our heritage as a major slate producer – having roofed the houses of London – Bristol and Dublin to name but a few major cities. Coffee to go was the order for today and where better to take it than over on the shoreย by the slate-stone throne and a bonnie English rose posing by the Scottish Saltire.


It pisses me off that the SNP have claimed the Saltire as their own when in actual fact it is the National flag of all Scots but I won’t lose any sleep over it. Political points of view – unlike our everyday view across Fladda Lighthouse can be such a transient thing.


Coffee over and done with – it was up the dirt road and home to Bardrishaig – where – just as I crested the rise I saw the tail-end of a skein of wild geese looking as if they were following their leaders into a grassy stretch between the ridges at the back of the old steading.


Helen was first off the mark and shot round the steading in an anti-clockwise direction with her camera in ready mode. The cunning old fox had different ideas and took the shorter clockwise approach – but – the nervous sheep gave him away —


and the geese were on their toes —


andย ready for affski —


by the time he got there.


But –


what a wonderful sight they made with Fladda Lightouse and the Garvellocks beyond.


A cup of tea later we were enjoying just one of the many bunches of snowdrops in our garden —


and the glow on the front of the house could mean only one thing —


No point sending for the fire brigade —


all the water in the world wouldn’t dim the fire of our setting sun tonight ๐Ÿ™‚




Scallops Galore

Scallops galore – that’s what it feels like when you walk by the quayside in Kirkcudbright when the boats come in. But the truth is most of the shellfish landed are the smaller queenies.

Isle of Man queen scallops: A shellfish success story nicked from the Guardian and embellished by your Blogger – Don..

scallops-3With a shell that can grow up to 9cm, the species, aequipecten opercularis, provides a sweet button of flesh roughly a quarter of the size of the more widely celebrated king scallop. The queen scallop is found as far south as the Canary Islands and north as the Faroes, but it is most abundant in the sea around the Isle of Man, thanks to the Manx government’s progressive approach to conservation: setting aside protected areas for stocks to breed and imposing restrictions on the fishing season.

They have got even more to shout about this year. This season is the first that queenies โ€“ caught with nets within territorial waters (12 miles around its coastline) โ€“ can claim protected designation of origin (PDO) status. The PDO was , awarded by the EU last November. This is now the only seafood product in the British Isles recognised as being traditionally produced, prepared and processed in its entirety, within a specific region, to acquire unique properties. The method of otter net trawling used by fishermen gained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for sustainability in 2011, the first scallop fishery in western Europe to do so.scalloper-20

Scallops are more commonly dredged, which causes damage to the ocean bed. With king scallops, which spend most of their lives under the seabed, the only other option is hand diving, which is costly and doesn’t deliver high volumes. But with queen scallops there is an alternative. They are active swimmers, leaving the seabed to feed in the summer. So from June to October, fishermen, banned from dredging, trawl for them instead within 12 miles around the island’s coastline. (Today the Isle of Man has 28 boats that net queen scallops and only one that dredges for them outside of Manx territorial waters.)

Manx queen scallops are a success story but, as with much else in the slippery world of seafood sustainability, not an unqualified one. Scallops dredged outside Manx waters, including those caught by Irish and Scottish boats, can โ€“ although not MSC- and PDO-approved โ€“ still be called Isle of Man queenies if they are processed on the island, much in the same way that Manx kippers, made with herrings caught as far away as Denmark and Shetland, gain their name by being smoked there.
scalloper-21Dredged queen scallops fetch the same price as sustainably caught, and although they require more rinsing than those that have been trawled, there is little discernible difference in quality. “The trawled queenies actually cost less to land when you take into consideration fuel costs connected to dragging around heavy dredging gear,” explains Tim Croft of Island Fisheries, which supplies queen scallops to London restaurants such as Hix and Hawksmoor and is a co-founder of the Queenie Festival. “MSC has given us more credibility and public awareness of the product, but it hasn’t necessarily increased sales or the price we can fetch.”

Croft accepts that the situation isn’t perfect. “The market demands queen scallops in the winter when they can only be dredged. The bigger issue is to find a commercially viable way of fishing for king scallops that doesn’t involve dredging. There is a double standard at work, but at least there now is a standard that points out that we have a sustainable fishery.”

UK-caught queenies are still largely ignored at home and shipped abroad where the French, Spanish and Italians are enthusiastic consumers. British supermarkets prefer to sell smaller scallops from Asia and South America.


The hope is that certification will help to change the situation. “PDO strengthens our story,” says Croft. “The UK consumer has never really been aware of queenies; they’re generally only aware of what retailers push their way. Gaining this status on top of the MSC will hopefully help everyone realise what a great product we have.”

Thank You – The Guardian – now back to your Blogger.

In some of the pics above I have shown the Beam Scalloper – King Challenger’ on which I have been ‘fortunate’ to sail as a guest on several occasions from the Solway – round the Mull of Galloway – up by the Mull of Kintyre ย – through the inner Hebrides (passing by Fladda Lighthouse not a mile from my home here on the Isle of Luing) and round the top via the Pentland Firth to Fraserbrough and Macduff when she was off for a re-fit in the winter months. I use the term ‘fortunate’ loosely.


The Challenger is a blunt instrument – designed with the sole purpose of harvesting by dredging – scallops and queenies from the seabed.


She doesn’t glide through the water like your average yacht – she takes the big seas on the way up to Cape Wrath square on with a thump that goes right through the boat and your body. Once round the point her top weight has her rolling with the waves coming in a-beam and I freely admit I have been mightily seasick while aboard her.


None-the-less I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world. There is only one comfy seat in the whole boat and that is the Captain’s chair – where – with endless cups of tea from the galley – a course plotted by auto-pilot and eleven large screens showing every navigation aid a guy could need – I must admit I did look forward to my turn in the ‘Skipper’s Seat.’


And doesn’t she look resplendent in her new paint on the return journey —



coming down between Harris and the mainland —


with the occasional dolphin flashing across her bows —


as she follows a sheltered course under the Skye Bridge.


Makes me feel hungry – time for tea —


Scallops –


they do go down well with a glass of Guinness.


Don – ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Isle of Luing, out and about, Wildlife


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Another Load of Cobblers

20161118_102706Strictly speaking the dark rock formation centre/right of the opening pic are known as ‘the Cobblers of Lorn’ – strange really considering they overlook the Sound of Luing.

According to my official Chart showing the ‘Approaches to the Firth of Lorn’ – which to my surprise is a designated submarine exercise area – our Cobblers are t’other side of Fladda Lighthouse.

I reckon it’s all a load of cobblers really and I’m sticking with my Luing Cobblers moniker for those lumps of rock.

OK – it’s just an excuse – as if we needed one to visit Blackmill Bay with cameras after reading about the Cobblers of Lorn in a feature I found by Undiscovered Scotland,

We started with an atmospheric shot – but – we kin also do a moody shot as the weather can change here every five minutes.


It all started over breakfast when I took this next photo from my seat at the dining table. Helen decided she wanted a close-up of a snow-capped Scarba and didn’t really ‘get it’ when I suggested that close-ups wouldn’t work as all you are going to get across the water is a rock with snow on top.


No worries – a detour on the way home took us to the water-splash on the burn where Jenny Wren lives.


It’s a lovely spot. She must be a toughy to live here but she seems happy enough.

So is red cow Number J42 up the road who was busy with her head in a bucket —


I asked ‘how are things going’ – and – ‘are you missing your calf’ – who left the island for pastures new a couple of weeks ago.


She replied – ‘I can’t talk with my mouth full – bugger off with your daft questions!’


I can take a hint – especially from a talking cow so I climbed to the top of the hill where I got a safe shot of our white house nestling in the trees – centre topmost – instead.


The water – top left – is the Firth of Lorn. I don’t see any submarines exercising.


Don ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted by on November 22, 2016 in Isle of Luing, out and about, Wildlife