Sunday, May 31, 2009

Barnacle geese over Loch Ness.

The weather over the weekend has been absolutely gorgeous with clear blue skies and temperatures of 26C . Sitting quietly outside with a cup of tea in the early morning gazing over Loch Ness we heard the familiar increasingly louder cries of a skein of Barnacle geese. They came from the north over Urquhart Castle and flew above us before strangely returning towards the castle possibly to collect any stragglers to join the group. After a short while they came back towards us and continued noisily to the outer Hebrides, usually Islay, where they will stay for the summer before returning to Greenland or Norway.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day trip to Strathconon.

As the weather was quite fair we decided to take a leisurely drive along Strathconon, one of the lesser known straths which we had only visited once before many years ago. We drove from Inverness over the Kessock Bridge to the Torr roundabout and then took the first left to Muir of Ord. Carried on to Marybank village where there is a signpost on the left to Strathconon. Alternatively this can be reached via the Beauly Firth route.The entire strath is about 17 miles long and ends abruptly at a large parking area beside Loch Beannachan where we enjoyed a picnic in the sun and the breeze. On our journey along the peaceful strath we were surprised to see so many properties, comprising of magnificent large lodges, workers cottages and new builds. We passed stately Scatwell Estate, two kirks and a primary school, all completely in the middle of nowhere.

The highlight of the day was watching the herds of deer roaming freely around in the valley. By the looks some of them gave us we felt that we were intruding. They stared real menacingly, sniffed the air with a look of disgust and stamped their hooves. Turn your sound up to hear the cuckoos in the background.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wood mice come for supper.

 It took us a while the other evening to recognise what exactly was moving on the nut feeders located half way up the tree trunk. It was too late in the evening for a bird and getting quite dark so all birds should be safely tucked up for the night. Suddenly a little head popped out and then another and we realised we were now feeding wood mice as well as all the other wildlife of the forest. They are also known as 'long-tailed field mice' and, as we can verify, they are very agile climbers. They make their nests underground in complicated burrows or in holes in trees. It was quite amusing watching them chase each other round the feeder and then fall off into the bushes below.
Wood mice are one of the most common European mammals.
Luckily the cats were asleep.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deer, Dores and ducks.

All this week we have been pleasantly surprised to watch a pair of young deer, male and female, amble up the sunlit path from Loch Ness beach in the cool of the evening. No doubt they have been enjoying a drink or a paddle. They stop to munch on the grass every now and then before exchanging glances with us and heading off into Farigaig Forest. After a trip into Inverness yesterday we came home and parked at Dores beach to feed the many ducks that congregate there. Throwing the bread against the strong breeze blowing down the Great Glen was a real challenge although the ducks put everything into the game and managed to find their lunch. Lots of white water waves slapping noisily onto the beach although it was bright and warm. The village of Dores always has swarms of swallows zooming overhead at this time of the year, no doubt nesting in the farm buildings and the old mill.

Monday, May 18, 2009

If you go down to the woods today.......

May is the classic month when the blue haze of flowering bluebells carpet the woodland floors and surround the tree trunks. They are also known as 'wild hyacinths'.
We were lucky enough to spot this magnificent brown hare soaking up the morning sun as we drove by local woodland. It stayed very still for some time posing for this photo before lopping off deeper into the woods. They can reach speeds of 45mph if they have to. The brown hare is larger than the other species of hare in Britain, the mountain hare, and is recognisable by its very long black-tipped ears.

Friday, May 15, 2009

aMAYzing MAY.

We have experienced a beautiful week weather wise with clear blue skies all day. It has been a bit chilly first thing in the morning but temperatures have climbed to about 18C by the afternoon. Made the most of the sunshine and enjoyed walks, scenic drives and a picnic by the side of a nearby glistening loch surrounded by gorse which is now in full flower. Long may it last.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sun shines over Loch Ness.

Enjoyed a relaxing Sunday lunch at the Cawdor Tavern near Cawdor Castle yesterday, about 30 miles from Aspenwood towards the seaside village of Nairn. Cawdor Tavern is a traditional country pub in a building which was originally the old castle workshop. It was quite busy and many people were sitting outside at the tables having a drink and soaking up the welcome sunshine. A lovely sunset over the loch in the late evening was followed by a rather chilly night. Today dawned with a blue sky and the odd stubborn wee cloud - there is always one.
The reflection on the water was a beautiful sight after all the dull days we have recently experienced and the temperature is well into double figures now so we now going to sit outside and raise our glasses to something-any excuse!

Friday, May 08, 2009

That was the week that was.....

The week started off with warm pleasant sunshine which encouraged the wildlife to show. The male pheasant has been proudly escorting his two females about although neither seem exactly excited at his presence and preferred eating. Flocks of siskins on all the feeders and neighbours reported sighting of a pair of redpolls in their garden. These colourful birds, with a bright red forehead and black chin, often flock with siskins and inhabit coniferous woodland. Will have to keep a look out for them. The red squirrels appear on the feeders throughout the day and we enjoy watching their antics. Unfortunately all this tempting bird life attracts the predatory fast-flying sparrowhawk. This hawk relies on a surprise attack although its prey, usually finches, often manages to escape to live another day. The male is now hunting on its own while the female is on the nest.

The weather changed towards the end of the week and we experienced overcast skies followed by very gusty westerly winds accompanied by lashing rain. It was quite chilly during the day and in the morning we woke to see snow on the mountain peaks opposite. A beautiful rainbow shone over the loch this morning and the snowy peaks can be seen just to the left of the colourful arc. The good news is that temperatures will rise next week and the sun will shine again.
The rain no doubt has been welcomed by all the plants as it has been very dry lately. The wild primroses are still blooming along the grass verges and on the forest floor and now a carpet of wild bluebells are beginning to appear. The brighly coloured rhododendrons are a cheerful sight whatever the weather.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Red Squirrel video

This cheeky red squirrel is not content with all the peanuts we put out for him and has now found the sunflower roundabout feeder. We had great fun watching him when he first tried to get across to the feeder and we weren't sure if it would take his weight, but it did. He now leaps easily across from the tree trunk and sits confidently eating for Scotland. His coat is a bit tatty as he is shedding his winter coat for a thinner summer one. In late summer they moult again and grow a thicker winter coat. Enjoy his antics.