Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birds from foreign shores

There has been a sudden influx of migrant blackbirds from Northern Europe who are very hungry and thirsty and spend alot of time eating, drinking and splashing about in the bird bath. Not sure exactly what weather conditions they left behind them.

Birdwatchers in the north have been reporting large invasions of exotic waxwings, a bird the size of a starling that breeds in Russia and Northern Scandinavia. They have a silky grey-brown plumage with waxy red,white and yellow markings on each wing, a prominent crest and a black throat. These invasions are quite erratic, possibly due to a failure in the crop of their favourite food of rowan berries or a population explosion after a particularly good rowan harvest. Flocks this week have been sighted in Sutherland, Nethybridge, at the RSPB nature reserve at Abernethy and, not far from here, a flock of about 150 at Burghead in Moray.
We have actually seen waxwings once before about ten years ago when a large gang suddenly descended on the nearby rowan trees in late September and rapidly stripped the trees bare of berries.
Update Wednesday...We think we saw a flock of them in Inverness this morning.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Holm Mills Shopping Village..

We took a drive to Holm Mills Shopping Village to stock up on our favourite Glenfiddich mince pies which one of our guests treated us to the other week.From Aspenwood turn left and travel along the Dores Road towards Inverness.Go straight across the first roundabout on the outskirts of the city and pass the Mace store and P.O. on your right. Then look out for the signs on the left to the Holm Mills Shopping Village and James Pringle weavers.
This is the perfect place to buy all the holiday mementoes to take back home with you and all under one roof.Shop here for gifts & souvenirs, CD’s & Videos, tartan wear, books, jewellery, ladies & gents fashion, art equipment, tartan rugs, food, shortbread and of course WHISKY.
 Visit the Golf Shop. See the James Pringle Weaving Exhibition. Relax and enjoy a coffee, snack or meal from the Ghillies Restaurant.Trace your Scottish ancestry in the database of over 50,000 names. The computer will provide you with historic information and details of any clan connection which you can then print out on an elegant scroll for a keepsake. Take your tartan home with you and there are over 500 tartans available from small mementoes and gifts to full highland dress.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Early birds

Now that the leaves are falling everywhere It is very important to keep the bird bath clean from the seed dropped from the bird table above as well as the leaves blown into the bath. I do try and scrub the bird bath thoroughly most days to remove the debris and this young chaffinch seemed to really appreciate the clean water provided.
Driving back from Inverness today we noticed snow on the top of Ben Wyvis - a mountain to the north-east of Inverness and we hear that snow is forecast above the 1,000 ft snow line tomorrow night so we may see some white stuff on the mountain opposite Aspenwood. We were surprised to see the front runners of a gang of long tailed tits this afternoon on the peanut feeders in our garden as we don't usually see them until late December/early January...what does this all mean ?????

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Autumn colours

The leaves on the trees are beginning to change into all different shades before they tumble to the ground and the top road is now looking very colourful as we drive into Inverness. From Monday we have been experiencing extremely low cloud and freezing fog with temperatures in single figures and poor visibility. This contrasts sharply to the weather we had over the past weekend.The sky was a clear blue and it was unseasonably mild with temperatures in the mid 60F on the west coast and the Isle of Skye in particular. Several boating craft took to the water to enjoy this mild spell and we watched this magnificent large private yacht in full sail as we stood in Aspenwood garden.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Watch the birdies.

The pheasant chicks born in June this year somewhere near Aspenwood are now nearly fully grown and a remaining group of three females are often to be seen in the area surrounding the cottage and waiting under the feeding fence for a free meal.
Many different species of birds visit the feeding fence for the rich variety of food placed out to help them through the colder months ahead such as sunflower hearts, seed, peanuts and suet balls in secure feeders, as red squirrels have been known to hurl them to the ground in a frenzy.
There are bird books and binoculars for guests to use to help identify the different species which can be seen on the feeding fence just outside the lounge window.
Lately we have been visited by several red-legged partridges who, along with all the other creatures, have to be able to dodge the unwelcome sparrowhawks in the vicinity. 

Monday, October 04, 2010

Loch Ness Marathon 2010

Walked up to Aspenwood Cottage gate to watch and cheer on the Loch Ness Marathon runners pass by en route from Whitebridge to Bught Park in Inverness. This year has the largest entry field in the history of the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running with more than 8,600 runners from 41 different countries.There are several events as well as the 26 mile Marathon - the River Ness 10K, the 10K Corporate Challenge, the 5K Fun Run and, new this year, the Wee Nessie 400m for pre-school children.
First past the winning post was a Great Britain International, although originally born in Ethiopia, Tomas Abyn who first won this race 7 years ago. He finished in 2hrs 20mins and 50secs. The winning female was also from Ethiopia and was competing for the first time and finished about 20 minutes later.
Even though it was raining we all cheered on the runners, some very colourfully dressed, as they thundered or limped along in front of us. Last year one of our guests took part in the Marathon and completed it. This year a guest was intending to participate but sadly had to pull out due to an injury but he did walk up from Aspenwood Cottage to watch and cheer on his two friends who were able to compete.
 As we walked back home the rain stopped and the sun came out so the rest of the Marathon was completed in  sunshine which must have been alot easier-if that is possible- and much more pleasant and scenic for all concerned.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Where did September go ?

We find it hard to believe that October is now upon us and the weather has been really showing off and extremely changeable with sun, showers, rain and quite strong winds causing white water on Loch Ness. We celebrated Ray's birthday this week and were pleasantly pleased to be able to sit outside after our evening meal and watch the sunset with a wee dram in hand.
The following evening was very chilly so we hastily collected some logs and coal and sat by a blazing fire for the first time since the snowy winter finished. Clear blue sky in the morning with reports of frost in some sheltered glens but that did not deter the Ness Express zooming along with its excited passengers although it did disturb the amazing reflection in the water.
Certain plants are in bud and flower again and the wildlife do not seem to know that Autumn is just round the corner. There are still juvenile birds turning up on the bird table and feeders and this rather huge young greenfinch even surprised the local chaffinches.
The red squirrels are still appearing to dine at the nut feeders at Aspenwood according to our guests and we often see them darting across the roads. The pheasant chicks born in July are now nearly as big as their mother and they are often under the feeding fence hoovering up any dropped seed.
The three young deer are still wandering around the area and early this morning they were eating near the bench we placed at the top of the track leading down to the wee beach. We have had alot of fun putting this bench there as passing walkers do a double take when they see it, read the message on it and then look up at our house. We give them a friendly wave and they give us the thumbs up and then they gratefully sit down exhausted after their hike. 
Hope the weather is fair this coming Sunday as it is the Loch Ness Marathon so hopefully we will go up to the gate to cheer them on and take a few photos.