ASTOR AND THE STORNOWAY FERRY
This picture shows the Stornoway - Ullapool ferry, 'Isle of Lewis', about to pass the cruise ship 'Astor', which was moored in the approach to Stornoway harbour when I took the photo a few weeks ago. The ferry, quite a big boat itself, was completely dwarfed by the 'Astor', one of many tourist ships stopping off at Lewis during the Summer. The passengers are treated to a cursory, whistle stop tour of the sights of the Island, which benefits from income from coach and guide hire and money spent in Stornoway shops.
Having spent almost three weeks away from home visiting family and friends, it was a strange feeling to return here to peace , solitude and almost spooky quietness. Little has changed in my absence. The grass has grown a bit, the Rock Doves were sat on the bird table waiting for my return and the sheep launched themselves at me as soon as they saw me through the kitchen window, in the vain hope that I might have a bucket of supplements for them.
Any hopes that the peace and quiet would continue were dashed yesterday when we suffered high gusting winds all day and night, which kept me indoors, threatened to bring the roof off and signalled the arrival of Autumn with a vengeance.
What a change today though. The sun is shining brightly, there is little wind and I've just taken an early morning walk down the croft. The white horses on the loch have gone, the buzzard is irritating the ravens and the sheep are grazing contentedly again. There are few flowers about now and the landscape is slowly changing from a rich green to a dull brown.
I feel quite exercised about the sheer volume of unsolicited junk mail that has arrived while I was away and which is destined to go straight to the recycling bin, unopened. I make concerted efforts to let these companies know that I don't want their mailings, but still it arrives in ever increasing quantities. A friend I stayed with last week receives two or three unwanted phone calls EVERY evening from people trying to sell goods. That would drive me insane if it happened here. Fortunately, I never get unwelcome cold calls for some reason and long may that continue.
I'm having extraordinary difficulty in motivating myself to do anything constructive since I got back and have been avoiding starting on the long list of domestic tasks that badly need attending to. All I really want to do just now is to sit in a chair in front of the stove reading books. That makes me feel guilty though, so every now and then I have to get up to hoover round, put some washing in the machine, or wash some pots, to justify my existence. Very sad. Goodness knows how I'm going to get my act together to go back to work tomorrow.
Now for nature notes. When I was growing up in England, most houses nearby, including our own, had colonies of House Martin nests under the eaves. I spent many happy hours watching these pretty birds flying to and fro and have had an affection for House Martins ever since. Some time ago, I read somewhere that they don't occur, or nest, on Lewis. I know the first isn't true because I saw two of them flying around the house earlier this Summer. Consequently, on a whim, I've just bought a pair of artificial Martin nests on the internet and have fixed them under the roof above the kitchen window. They ought to be well weathered by nesting time next Spring, so we'll see if they manage to attract occupants.
The reintroduction of Sea Eagles to Scotland continues to be successful and this years survey show that there are now over 200 individual birds throughout the country, with 46 breeding pairs. Ten pairs of Sea Eagles are breeding in the Outer Hebrides, including one new pair which has set up a territory here on Lewis. Thirty six chicks have been raised this year and one interesting snippet I came across is that the Sea Eagles on the Isle of Mull have become such a tourist attraction that they are boosting the economy there by about £2 million every year.
Finally, the drive to protect wading birds from predation by hedgehogs has restarted for the Autumn season. Twelve trappers have been employed to operate hundreds of traps placed throughout Uist and Benbecula in an attempt to catch any remaining hedgehogs which avoided capture during the last trapping campaign in the Spring. As before, all the beasties they find will be lovingly cared for by Uist Hedgehog Rescue prior to release in suitable locations in South West and Central Scotland.