EAVAL, NORTH UIST, FROM GRAMSDALE, BENBECULA.
Throwing open the curtains and windows early this morning, it was hard to believe that only two or three weeks ago, we were in the middle of the coldest and harshest winter experienced here for many years. No sign of snow anywhere today. Even the hills have lost their white topping because of the rapid increase in temperature during the last few days.
With the sun shining brightly, visibility crystal clear over the lochs and mountains and a voice in my head shouting ' Up and at 'em ' at me, I was on my way to Bernera at 7:30am, looking for Eagles.
Bernera has a population of both Golden and Sea Eagles and several days ago, a friend phoned me to boast of having spent the afternoon sat in the garden watching a pair of Eagles circling and cavorting immediately above the house. Although I am only a few miles away, I don't see Eagles around the croft very often and have to content myself with Buzzards, Hoodies, Ravens and the occasional Peregrine rocketing by.
Incidentally, I do like the acrobatic, social and entertaining Raven, which is quite common on the island, but I was astonished to read on the http://www.western-isles-wildlife.co.uk/ website that 536 of them were counted leaving the Stornoway rubbish dump on Wednesday evening. That would have been an amazing sight and I'm sorry I missed it.
Returning to this morning, I would like to tell you that there were Eagles everywhere on Bernera, so tame that they came to feed from my hand. Regrettably, integrity compels me to tell the truth, which is that all I saw during two hours of wandering were Lapwings, Buzzards and amazingly, someone hanging their washing out on Sunday. Nevertheless, it was a spectacular early morning, the light was terrific and I thoroughly enjoyed myself just pottering about. Standing on a hill overlooking Bosta Beach, I could see Otter tracks on the sand below me and experienced a real 'glad to be alive' feeling for the first time this year.
A colleague at work, not prone to exaggeration or telling tall tales, told me an interesting story yesterday she had heard from her neighbour. The neighbour was driving through Breaclete, in the centre of Bernera and was scared witless when a large object landed on her bonnet and bounced on to the road. She stopped a short distance away, looked back and saw a rabbit, still alive. As she was deciding what to do, a Golden Eagle flew down, scooped up the poor animal and disappeared into the nearby hills with it. The bird had obviously caught the rabbit earlier, lost its grip and dropped it on to the car, before plucking up courage to retrieve it.
Now that the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry is sailing regularly on Sundays, the campaign to open the Lewis Sports Centre in Stornoway is gathering pace. Although the sports facilities in Uist open on Sundays, the Western Isles Council refuses to allow the citizens of Lewis to use the modern and expensive sports centre on the Sabbath, under pressure from the Lord's Day Observance Society and the Church as a whole. Remember that pubs and hotels are allowed to open and the licenced garage that opens on Sunday has queues of people waiting to buy alcohol. The plane flies and the ferry now sails, but there is this concerted rearguard action to keep the gym, swimming pool, sauna and other facilities closed.
The vocal campaign to open the Sports facilities received a lot of publicity recently when a Stornoway woman applied for legal aid on behalf of her ten year old daughter, claiming the Council's refusal to open the Sports Centre is a breach of her daughter's rights under equality discrimination legislation. The application for legal aid was refused, but a group of pro Sunday opening campaigners are now seeking a Judicial Review.
The use of a child in this manner by a parent makes me squirm with distaste, but the anti Sunday opening lobby seem little better. One of them, an articulate professional writer, sent a letter to the local Hebridean News website which concluded:-
" We are fighting against the tide to protect the unique culture of this community and the interests of its most vulnerable workers from a campaign dominated by malevolent home grown atheists and a bunch of colonial incomers."
This, so far, is the quality of the tactics on both sides. Use children, or blame the non believers and incomers.