Sunday, 29 June 2008

Mystery bird - better pictures

The bird feeder was crowded with my little mystery birds this morning, so with only a little patience I have managed to get some improved pictures -

Notice how much smaller they are than the Great Tit that they are "seeing off".

I have decided that they are probably young Siskins. Here is a drawing of a female Siskin from the RSPB website....

... I presume the speckled brown on "my" birds will go more yellow as they mature. Anyone care to comment?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Drizzle and breezes

There is an interesting phenomenon on Skye called "weather".

In the summer months (that's the ones when it is daylight until midnight and then the sun rises again about at 3.30am), together with almost unbroken sunshine, we mostly get
just drizzle or breezes.

Today, the "drizzle" is lashing horizontally at the windows as I write, but I know the wind is only blowing gently because Alistair the shorts-clad postman managed to shout "bit breezy today" through clenched teeth against the hurricane as he fought to prevent all of his letters being sucked out of his wee red van while he leapt out to deliver today's post to the Barn.

The good news is that all the recently dried up burns are gurgling gleefully again, and the waterfalls are back to their former glory.

And do we care about the wind...oops...breeze? Of course not. If we light the wood burner in the living room in the late afternoon, by 7.00pm the temperature is up to "full sauna" and we are throwing open doors and windows.

This is the Isle of Skye..... what a wonderful place!

Posted by Sue.....

.....A wild and windy Skye has been living up to its traditional reputation for changeable weather today... not the sort of day to put your washing out - that is unless you wanted it to appear draped across the nearest township minutes later! You can also get VERY wet, very quickly when its like this, but as every cloud has a silver lining, at least you are not bothered by swarms of the dreaded highland midge when the wind blows here! Midges are the curse of the Highlands and also often the curse of the unsuspecting tourist on the first day of their holiday. We have found to our cost that failing to use one of the numerous lotions or sprays that keep midges at bay can result in highly irritating red and unsightly lumps and bumps; yes, really most unpleasant. I am fortunate to be able to say I've only had two or three bites since arriving 7 weeks ago but Richard has not been so lucky. To say the midges 'see him coming' is an understatement....... not to mention how much the chemist rubs his hands with glee when he pops in for more 'Jungle Formula!.

Need to dash now; Richard and Basil are back from their afternoon walk. I need to get the towels and cocoa at the ready.... yes, Basil has a real taste for cocoa...!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


One of the first things I did when moving here was to put up a bird box (made by my Dad, many years ago). Within days, the box was being visited by Blue Tits, and over the weeks we were delighted to see frenetic activity as the parents fed their brood, all of which subsequently fledged. There was just one unhatched egg left behind.

Now, we have a couple of feeders dangling in the tree outside the front door, and we have a constant stream of feathered visitors to the peanuts and fat balls, and also on the ground for the little bits that drop.

Being retired means I can spend time watching them....

Most birds are easy to identify - Cuckoos are common all around the area (and were "singing" constantly from about 4.00am a few weeks ago....) we have a robin and her babies, with their speckled brown fronts, plus blackbirds and chaffinches which are in the garden much of the time....

...Great Tits are frequent visitors, as well as Coal Tits, though we haven't seen much of our Blue Tit family since they left the nestbox.

Now we start getting to birds which we are less familiar with... Youngsters still wearing their baby feathers can make things confusing. We think these are greenfinches...

And this is certainly a Greenfinch with a baby which the adult was feeding (sorry - my photography is not up to Springwatch standards..)

We reckon this one is a Siskin - it just would not turn round...

But - who is this...???...and here he is again...

...and again...

Any suggestions welcome!

Now, this is just the birds in the garden... When we go for walks, there are many other birds seen which we do not recognise. There are many warblers, but what variety? Apparently, there are Blackcaps, though I'm not sure we've seen one. Buzzards soar overhead and sometimes perch on nearby fenceposts, Swallows swoop up and down our road, and we see an occasional Tawny Owl.

As for Eagles - we are told there are both Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles in this part of Skye, but we must keep looking in the wrong direction - we haven't spotted one yet!

Then there's all the waders and sea birds...

Monday, 23 June 2008

Latest Barn photos

Have just been in the sheep field to take a photo to go in the Scottish Tourist Board 2009 book - thought I'd post a couple of them here, too. As you can see - it's another fabulous day here!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

What they leave behind...

Every Saturday, when Sue and I visit the cottages to do the "turn around", we gingerly open the front door in trepidation at what we might find... generally our visitors are very clean and tidy, and all we have to do is change beds, and generally dust and vacuum. There's sometimes a grill pan or oven to scrub.

But it's the things that get down the sides of the settee or under a bed which cause us some amusement. Ladies seem to lose underwear quite often (but not the men...hmmm...) and there's often pens, a few coins, or a pair of slippers.

A couple of weeks ago, we posted on a rather nice pair of walking boots. This week we have ten balls of Aran wool and one knitting needle to post to the visitor who we guess is planning to knit a sweater, but has arrived home rather short of the necessary raw materials and equipment.

So, what have you left behind after a stay in a cottage, B&B or hotel?

Friday, 20 June 2008

Feeling guilty - lots of news

Hi everyone,

We've been here several weeks now, and we are feeling guilty that we are not keeping in touch with the friends we have "left behind" as well as we should. So, starting a blog seemed like a good idea. We hope you will agree, and welcome your responses!

Sue and I have been busy since we've been here. Saturdays are a bit manic, as we have to visit our two distant cottages to do the "turn arounds" and then dash back here to do the upstairs apartment. Because it's 38 miles each way to Rowan Cottage, and diesel is currently £1.40 a litre and still rising, we try not to go there during the week, so I have to mow the lawn and tidy outside too. Whoever goes to Aird View (only 27 miles each way...) also gets to do the weekly shopping in the supermarket in Portree.

So far, living on Skye is everything I thought it was, plus a bit more. The weather has been amazing. We've only had a few rainy days. It's a lot chillier than the South - jumpers are worn much of the time, but the air is so clean and fresh - apparently I have stopped snoring...!

Where we live there are only a few other properties. Next door we have a small guest house run by a couple who recently moved here from Surrey. (The guest house has the purple door - we are the the building with the velux window in the roof). There is a modern bungalow opposite the Guest House, and the couple there have been here nearly a year - they are from Manchester. We all get on very well.

My original plans to do gardening and "odd jobs" to keep me busy have been put on hold while I wait for an operation to repair a hernia... I guess I did just a bit too much moving of furniture and fitting of kitchens. Still, the health service here has proved to be efficient, and I will be having my op on 10th July - in a little hospital on the island - so I should be fully active by the end of August. Meanwhile I have been getting familiar with the website building software called Dreamweaver, and will soon be publishing a new website for a mountain guide here on the island. I hope to get a few more commissions for websites - it'll be a good winter activity, and will earn a little pocket money.

Sue has re-discovered her cookery skills, and is pottering in the kitchen quite a bit, with wonderful smells coming from the cooker and an ever widening range of things to eat appearing on the table. Fresh vegetables here are amazing - potatoes and carrots in particular actually taste like they should!

Together, we get out with Basil most afternoons, and I am getting back into taking local photographs for the Geograph website. My presence on Geograph is at: There's plenty of opportunities for taking photographs on Skye!

We plan to add posts on this blog as often as possible, so please come back and read about what is going on here.

Bye for now, Richard