Friday, January 29, 2010

Oh no.....more snow!

The snow which started falling on December 19th finally disappeared last week along with the thick compacted ice underneath and we breathed a huge sigh of relief. We were able to get back to normality after 5 weeks of extreme weather conditions and actually drive our car into Inverness.
In Aspenwood the new carpets were laid yesterday in the lounge, hallway and single bedroom and it all looks very fresh. Hopefully the new suite will be delivered next Monday although we did wake up this morning to a white out blizzard and a new layer of snow everywhere...what a nice surprise!
A new fence is due to be erected next week at the front of the cottage with a special platform along the top for the squirrels and birds to perform on. Luckily we ordered more peanuts, fat balls and bird seed in the week as delivery vans are now able to drive along the lane to our house once more. This food all arrived very promptly so all the birds have returned for nourishment in this new snowy period. The water in the bird bath has frozen over again due to a very chilly wind from the north making the temperatures feel like -5C. The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is this weekend so should have quite a few bird species to count over a one hour period in this weather.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aviemore Sled Dog Rally

This weekend - 23/24th January 2010 - is the annual Aviemore Sled Dog Rally. More than 1,000 dogs and 230 "mushers" [drivers] are due to take part in the famous event. It is organised by the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain and is run on a 4 mile track with teams of between 2 and 8 dogs around Loch Morlich in the shadow of the Cairngorm Mountains. There is alot more snow on the mountain tops now than when this photo was taken in Spring. For the first time in 15 years the event this year will actually be held on snow, using sleds rather than 3-wheeled carts. Although the conditions in Aviemore are not as harsh as they are in Siberia it is still extremely challenging and definitely not for amateurs.
We did wonder if our new neighbours would be entering as we often see them out walking or running with their huskies but we met them on the pier in the afternoon with their 2 beautiful dogs. They have been to watch the Sled Dog Rally before and said it was very exciting and very noisy. They live on the other side of Farigaig pier and walked up at Christmas to introduce themselves by name but, to us, they will always be known as 'the husky people'.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Loch Ness winter morning.

During this week we witnessed a most unusual scene over Loch Ness - mainly due to Daisy, our early morning alarm cat. She woke us up just before 8 in the morning by leaping on the bed ready for her day to begin with fun and frollicks...the snow has driven both our cats slightly stir crazy ... and their owners are not far behind !
Her sister Maisie was stealthily crouched round the bottom of the stairs ready for the attack. As we looked out of the bedroom window this was the scene of the freezing fog drifting along Loch Ness from the west from Fort Augustus. There was frost on the grass this morning after a beautiful sky full of stars with a temperature of -1C . Although the snow has mostly gone it now reveals the thick ice underneath. We have managed to get our car out this week for the first time in four weeks by going through our nearest neighbours driveway and driving up via Aspenwood and into Inverness. Certain parts of the forest track near Farigaig Pier are still like a skating rink. All through these past 5 weeks of extreme weather conditions - well below zero temperatures, blizzards, freezing fog, thick ice - the thaw has finally arrived. Some of the scenes have been truly magical but it will be so nice to get back to some form of normality i.e. not wearing wellington boots, thick socks and huge warm clothes every day.The birds have had to be fed every morning as they were truly hungry and really depended on the food put out...often waiting unusually close as the food was supplied at their various feeding stations.
We have all suffered in some way but also there has been a great feeling of togetherness from friends and neighbours as we have all had to pull together and help each other out. There has been a great sense of warm friendship in such a small community which has been truly smashing and what life is all about.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Aspenwood pine marten

Guests who stayed at Aspenwood Cottage recently took this video of a pine marten at one of the peanut feeders on the fence outside the lounge many thanks to Tom and Mary from USA for sending this video to us. These native pine martens live in Farigaig Forest surrounding the cottage so future guests may be fortunate enough to view these elusive creatures at such close range.....keep a look out !

Thursday, January 14, 2010

View from Farigaig pier.

Although we are still surrounded by quite deep snow the temperature today is +3C and the ice is beginning to melt at last. All the snow on the garage roof suddenly slid off this morning making us jump. Luckily we were not underneath it. Not able to get our car down the driveway yet so arranged to meet friends at Inverfarigaig pier and go into Inverness. While we waited we strolled out on to the pier for a look at the panoramic views to Inverness and Fort Augustus. After shopping in town we all sneaked a lunch out at 'Contrast' on the River Ness which was very enjoyable. Today it is quite misty with a very low cloud base and a grand reflection on Loch Ness of the snowy fields. Urquhart Castle juts out into the loch against the snowy backdrop. We feel that the thaw is at last on its way after 4 weeks of extreme winter weather. There is the first showing of greenery emerging in the forest behind us and we saw a red squirrel dash across the snow this morning and up to Aspenwood. The birds are not quite so desperate for food and the bird bath has now been cleaned and full of fresh water. Hadn't filled it up long when we saw a robin splashing about in the water in the bath....good to see at last.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Still snowed in..

We have had blizzards off and on and very cold temperatures since 19th December are still surrounded by thick snow which has iced up.Sometimes the freezing fog descends making the scene look beautiful but quite unreal.We are opposite the highest point around Loch Ness, the dome shaped peak of Mealfuarvonie,standing at 2284 feet above sea level and covered in thick snow for the past few months. Loch Ness looks frozen at times although it is so deep that it never actually freezes. We did manage to get a lift into Inverness on Tuesday with friends who live the other side of Farigaig pier along a flattish stretch of lane. They were able to drive up to the top road which is sometimes gritted although neighbours did get behind a snow plough yesterday. We were in need of basic provisions and it was really good to get out of the house and see other people. We did try to get our 4x4 car out once but got it stuck reversing out of the garage so dug it out and thankfully drove it back in and there it is staying. After getting our essential shopping we drove back from town very slowly in a blizzard. At the pier we put our shopping in the blue wheelie bin and dragged it all the way to our house along some treacherous icy parts of the forest track.
The temperatures this last week have been well below zero all day, yesterday was minus 15C. We have been walking up the track to Aspenwood every other day mainly to bring the Christmas guests washing down here to deal with. We came up with a cunning plan and put the washing in thick black sacks and dragged them down the track and home. It is amazing the different animal tracks you find in the snow. We are certainly getting fitter, although this was not on our New Year resolution list !

Monday, January 04, 2010

Woodpecker rescue...

We were enjoying a nice relaxed breakfast looking at all the birds gently feeding when the great spotted woodpecker descended on the suet ball hanging from the tree near the window. He is always a joy to watch as he is rather large and colourful and not seen very often due to his fleeting visit. Suddenly the predatory sparrowhawk swooped from behind and surprised him and us. The woodpecker crashed into the window and the sparrowhawk flew off to seek another target.Luckily the woodpecker bounced off the glass and landed in the pile of soft snow head first. Quickly donning wellies and a coat I found the stunned bird and attempted to lift him out of the snowdrift. He ungratefully showed his thanks by squawking at me so loudly that I thought gloves would offer me more protection from his sharp long beak. I quickly carried him across to the safety of the bird table and even put the suet ball in reach in case he was hungry.Several birds attempted to land on the table but were quite amazed to find it occupied by a rather unusual species. He was really stunned and we were quite worried although we did see his head move now and again. He sat for a good hour before a big fat blackbird landed and caused him to come to his senses. We were very pleased to see him actually move up the strut of the bird table even though he did attempt to peck at the wooden structure. After a few minutes he flew across to the trees nearby and we breathed a sigh of relief...Woody Woodpecker lives to fight another day.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Feed the birds.

 long tailed tits

We have now been snowed in for 2 weeks with more forecast over the next few days along with freezing temperatures. We had a blizzard yesterday for most of the day.We cannot get our car to the top road and have relied on our guests and neighbours for a lift into Inverness for basic provisions. Our guests have had to leave their cars between the top gate and the road as the lane down to the cottage had nearly one foot of snow laying on it. The Hogmanay celebrations in Inverness were cancelled due to the extreme weather conditions and treacherous roads. I have given up trying to defrost the bird bath and it is now used as a feeding station after noticing that the birds have been eating/drinking the snow. In this weather you realise that the birds really rely on you for food and we have counted 17 different species at the various feeding stations dotted around the garden.

male siskin and robin

Most are present all year round, some are winter visitors and a few rare ones were spotted. The species ranged from Britain's tiniest bird, the goldcrest weighing in at just 5g and measuring 8.5cms from beak to tail, to the predatory sparrowhawk which can weigh up to 400g and can be 35cms in length. Between these two extremes we have seen coal tits, blue tits, long tailed tits, great tits, siskins, robins, chaffinch, dunnock, greenfinch, goldfinch, blackbird, great spotted woodpecker and a rare visitor- the fieldfare. Also the ever present pheasants and hooded crow. Guests at Aspenwood and a neighbour reported seeing a rare snow bunting in their gardens. They all need feeding.
tiny goldcrest