Monday, November 30, 2009

Snow on St Andrew's Day

The weather has been turning much chillier lately so we were not surprised to wake up on Sunday morning to see a layer of snow covering the mountains opposite. More snow fell overnight and the temperature today has not risen above 4C with the threat of a freezing -4C tonight.
Today is St Andrew's Day, the patron saint of Scotland, so we will be celebrating tonight by the fire with a few wee drams.... cheers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sparrowhawk at Aspenwood.

While we were doing the changeover at Aspenwood Cottage yesterday we noticed this magnificent sparrowhawk sitting in the aspen tree outside the lounge window. He was watching the bird feeders along the fence with anticipation but all the birds had seen him coming and were well away. He stayed for a while and dried himself off by fluffing out his tail feathers. The male sparrowhawk is quite smaller than the female of the species which is rather unusual in animal life.
While we were at the cottage we had arranged for two new bathroom blinds and a new vertical blind to be fitted in the main bedroom. As we were taking down the old fittings in the master bedroom a red squirrel ran along the fence during an interval in the showers and munched away at the peanut feeders. Unfortunately the fitter drew up in his van and this noise was enough to scare away Cyril the squirrel...but at least they are still about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Up on the roof.

Yesterday was forecast to be fairly dry with the odd short shower so we decided to clear the gutters at Aspenwood. Over the last few weeks we had noticed that the leaves were getting less on the surrounding trees so therefore more stuck in the gutters. There is always a problem with pine needles and balls of moss rolling down from the roof tiles and clogging everything up.
Ray has come up with a cunning plan to saw away the front section of the down pipes thus allowing us to manually remove debris and prevent a back up of leaves etc which would eventually cause rain water to spill down the outside of the pipes and guttering. We have tested this at Lower Birchwood and it is very successful.
As we worked clearing all the gutters and pipes plus hosing jets of water along the channels the short showers turned into pouring rain and somehow we got drenched. Looking up at guttering in the rain wearing glasses is not a good idea but we soldiered on for a couple of hours and completed the task. The water on Loch Ness is extremely choppy today with lots of white water and there is a gusty 30mph wind coming from the west so we are very glad there are no ladders involved today.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spot the Buzzard.

Yesterday dawned clear and bright so we went into Inverness to collect a few items. As we were driving back home along the shoreline of Loch Ness a buzzard swooped low in front of the car and quickly disappeared into the woodland. They are unmistakable as they have a wingspan of between 3 to 5 feet depending on their age. A bit further on we passed another one sitting absolutely still in a tree, only spotting him as we drove past. By now I had the camera actually ready and sure enough another buzzard flew across the road and rested on a nearby branch in the forest. He remained absolutely motionless and blended magnificently into the woodland scene with perfect camouflage.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Amur tigers at Kincraig Wildlife Park.

A rare breeding pair of Amur Tigers arrived at Kincraig Wildlife Park in September 2008 from Edinburgh Zoo. Amur tigers originate from eastern Siberia so are well suited to colder climates but unfortunately fewer than 500 remain in the wild. On May 11th this year they had 3 cubs, one male and two females. They are now about 6 months old and still very playful. The large glass partition allows for a real close up view and it was fascinating watching one of them interact with the little boy on the other side of the glass.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kincraig Wildlife Park.

Enjoyed a very good day out at Kincraig Wildlife Park, about 7 miles beyond Aviemore. Even though it was cold [the temperature was -6C at Aviemore earlier in the morning] with a sharp frost on the ground the park was very busy for the time of year. The new arrivals must have encouraged visitors . These 3 Amur tiger cubs were born earlier in May this year.Also a baby Japanese snow monkey arrived and of course Mercedes the polar bear...who had just been fed and was fast asleep when we saw her. After a drive round the animal reserves we then explored the rest of the Park on foot seeing other animals at close quarters. We enjoyed some much needed hot soup in the restaurant.
For more information visit the Kincraig Wildlife Park website.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Himalayan Pheasant.

Luckily ths type of pheasant does not frequent our garden as it is extremely large and brightly coloured and very likely to scare the local wildlife - as well as us!....and it sits in trees!
We saw this species of pheasant - the Himalayan Pheasant [Satyr Tragopan] - or Crimson Horned Pheasant on our visit to the Kincraig Wildlife Park this week. It lives in the upper cooler reaches of the Himalayan Mountain of India and China at about 10,000 feet making the Highlands seem quite warm ..... more about our visit to this space!!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Berry nice !

The flock of mistle thrushes have now migrated south after swarming around and gorging on anything tasty for the past week. The last few remaining rowan berries have finally dropped to the ground where they are being devoured mainly by the blackbirds and the odd passing pheasant.Fortunately we have not experienced the harsh rains that fell nearer Aberdeen during the past week. Weather wise it has been dry and bright but turning rather chilly lately with a slight touch of frost on the grass in the early mornings. The coal fire beckons.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mass of Mistle Thrushes

Over the last few days we could not fail to notice abnormally large flocks of birds flying about. Some would eventually settle down on the trees around the house,especially on the rowan trees, and on the path loch-side. Anybody walking casually along the front path would trigger this swarm of birds to take off enough to frighten most folk on a quiet stroll. The birds have been eating the remaining rowan berries left on the trees and generally filling themselves up with any food available, sometimes listening and looking very intently to underground sounds.We did wonder if they were waxwings which would be a sign of a cold winter but on closer inspection we discovered they were mistle thrushes. Apparently some of the Scottish species swarm about in large flocks in late Autumn to gorge themselves and then fly south or across to Ireland or even to France for the winter. They are also known for their loud song, which we can verify as we could not believe the constant birdsong noise this morning, even though it was raining. Their loud song can be heard during stormy weather hence their alternative name of 'Stormcock'. They came quite near the house in their search for grubs on the front bank and driveway and a few stopped for a splash about in the rain puddles.