Monday 28 June 2010

Eagle and otter spotting

Many visitors ask “will we see an eagle?” (Or otter, or either or both).

Let’s start with eagles…

Tourist Eagles, Golden Eagles and White Tailed Sea Eagles certainly live and breed on Skye. Sea eagles are more scarce, but any of the three species can be seen almost anywhere.

Here is a shot of a short sighted Tourist Eagle looking for the way to Staffin...

The Tourist Eagle is by far the most common of our eagles. This species has another, more correct name – the Buzzard.

Buzzards are so common, they probably outnumber our sparrows. In flight, they look very eagle-like, though they tend to ‘flap-flap, soar, flap-flap soar’ whereas golden eagles will flap strongly and steadily or soar for ages without flapping at all. The outstretched wings of a buzzard are slightly rounded at the front edge, and buzzards fan out their tails more than golden eagles in flight. Golden eagle's wings are straight-edged and their tails are longer and more square. Buzzards have a longer neck. Buzzards usually hover when hunting and then pounce from above, whereas golden eagles fly in onto their prey and will also take other birds in flight. Buzzards make a cat like ‘mee-oo’ call in flight. Eagles are silent. And that eagle you have just passed perched on a fence post will be a buzzard – Eagles don’t perch.

We also have hen harriers, which look a bit like buzzards…

But when you have seen enough of them – you really do start to see the differences – honest!

So that was easy!

Sea eagles are HUGE. When you see one, you will know you’ve seen one. They are often referred to as ‘flying barn doors’ because they have massive straight edged wings and when soaring, wings will be held flat (not in a shallow V shape). Sea eagles don’t soar as often as golden eagles, and flap heavily. Sea eagles mostly eat fish or sea shore carrion, so are most commonly seen over or near water.

I’ll deal with otters in a separate post…

Saturday 26 June 2010

Allotment latest

Here's a picture taken yesterday. It shows about half the total plot. Growing in the far bed are Jerusulam artichokes (rear right), potatoes (right), swede (left of the potatoes), Onions and beetroot (more or less hidden), carrots - two rows planted a month apart, and on the far left, a plum tree (inherited with the plot) and struggling rhubarb (hidden).

In the nearer bed, on the right are savoy cabbage, sprouting broccoli and cauliflower. Then there's two rows of dwarf runner beans (one either side of the grass path). It's peas amid the pea sticks, and a healthy row of broad beans on the left.

It will be really interesting to see what does well and what doesn't. It's a surprise (to me) that the two rhubarb plants I bought earlier this year (different varieties) are both really struggling.

Much of the land behind me is currently covered with strawberries, which are in a terrible muddle, but fruiting. I'll sort them out eventually. There is also a bed containing raspberries and blackcurrants, which, like the plum tree, were inherited with the plot. I'll have to learn what to do with them....

Tuesday 22 June 2010


Can you believe it? We can't!


That's not just for a hour - it's not even for a day... two days ...a week... No - we haven't had any worthwhile rain here for about TWO MONTHS!!

Generally, nothing looks any different from 'normal'. The grasses are tall and waving beautifully, there are all kinds of wild flowers blooming everywhere, and birdsong fills the air where ever you go. But the moors are crunchy rather than squelchy to walk on, and the burns are trickling rather than gurgling...

The seedling vegetables in my allotment are struggling too. I've been watering, but the only things really thriving are the potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and broad beans. I'll try to remember to get some photos and do an allotment update...

Longest Day

Yes, I know, all days are the same length of 24 hours... but believe me, a day with 20 hours of good daylight (like June) is a whole lot different from a day with only 8 hours of greyness (like December).

It doesn't get completely dark here at any time for a couple of weeks either side of the Summer Solstice. Here's our garden view at about 10.05pm yesterday (the white spot in the sky is the moon...!!!) - (and remember to click on any picture in the blog to see it full size)

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Dunvegan Head

The weather for the last few weeks has been just fantastic. There's been the occasional misty day, but we've had no worthwhile rain for weeks. It's really pretty warm right now, too.

Yesterday I took a walk to Dunvegan Head at the northern tip of the Duirinish peninsula. It's only a couple of miles to the Head from the nearest road, and there's brilliant cliff top scenery all the way...

....and deserted beaches....

....and the first Yellow Iris I've seen this year.

I can see for miles and miles, and miles and miles...

 .... there's amazing coastal features too....

 ...and finally -  Dunvegan Head - with North Uist on the distant horizon.