Monday, 31 March 2008

24hr Stag

A stag group in the wilderness was really good fun. The guys had travelled from all over Britain to be here and with such magical weather from Sunday to this morning we were really blessed with good times! Learning firemaking, water purifying, coastal foraging (seafood bisque!) we also had time to watch the stars, Red Deer, Sparrowhawk and Buzzards as well as Fulmar, auks and
on our return a pair of Canada geese alone on the sun swept beach. Superb.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Golden Plover Golden Eagle

It was a wet start and pretty awful weather wise for most of the day. Starting with a distant Eagle up on the hill beyond Borichil lMor. We worked our way around, Reed Bunting, Skylarks
and M'ipits as well as Lapwings and Curlews displaying. The sun was shining when we stopped at Kilchoman and Choughs were on the ground and easily spotted. Sandmartins and Wheatears were seen earlier by clients, but best of all were over 300 Golden Plover in summer plumage. Fantastic!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Texa Rangers

A beautiful and blue sky day and we headed off to Texa to recce for a course next month.
Eider in the water with Shag and Gannet and a pair of Peregrine on the cliff edge. Plenty of wild goats and lots of Lesser Celandine Grain-aigein and Scurvy Grass Carran in flower. Wonderful.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Gannet - lots, Harrier 1

Around the Rhinns this afetrnoon with guests from Delhi, India. Great to share experiences and to show Islay off on a reasonable sunny but freezing cold day. Curlew, Barnacles, Whitefronts, Divers and plenty of Gannets too but best of all and most time consuming was a male Hen ahrrier hawking one of the glens beyond Port Charlotte. Fanatstic to watch it working every
nook and cranny.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Chough 2 Goshawk 1

After yesterday's start with rain and poor visibility today I was out with clients in bright sunshine and plenty of wind. We started just south of Ardnave and headed southwards. Chough watching from the accommodation pick up point and then onto watch the Barnies and Whitefronts loafing in the fields. The light was so very good we could see all the details very clearly. We headed along Gruinart flats; Lapwings very much on territory, Curlew, more Barnies, Skylark and plenty of Whooper on thewetland. Then further on along the road from some cover near Coillubus a large-ish hawk exploded outwards sending plenty of 'wee brown jobs' into panic. We watched as it flew right infront and then across the Landrover and up into the sky. We got great views of a white supercilium and brown chequed underneath, heavily barred tail and we had to think for a moment what it was. 'Goshawk!' two of us called and we 'pursued' it up the glen. It flew quite high on pointy wings then dropped into more cover further on. After such good views we lost it. We waited but had' no luck. Being so brown and chequed it was a juv. and as it was quite a large bird - more likely to be a female. I immediately telephoned Catherine - the RSPB warden and the office to get the word out. What excitement.
We had an elderly lady with us, who two years ago witnessed an Osprey feeding at Gorm. She obviously brought us good luck! Onto the Merse where we enjoyed Goose watching and waders at a distance.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Lesser Black Backed Spring Kit!

Out early this morning at up behind Port Charlotte were 2 Lesser Black Backed Gulls.Very rarely seen in winter, they certainly show spring is on it's way, as well as the odd Wheatear that has been seen too. Sandmartins are streaming over in Southern Britain but I still await them here. With the cold north winds things are certainly been held back! Our Megan, eldest daughter, saw a Bumble bee yesterday whilst emptying the compost.

I have been sent a poem form a bushcraft student who is pictured here leaving Port Ellen after the Feasach Ile course last year!. Thanks Dave Bliss - you make it all worth the wilderness !

Ninja Kit List - Dave Bliss

I'm travelling light this weekend,

The forest won't know that i'm here,

My knowledge is light as a feather,

And my Bushcraft is 'without peer'.

I'm carrying just the essentials,

I've pared it down to the bone,

I've got my waffer thin laptop,

And a Gucci pouch for me phone.

My new pants are made by Thermos,

I've a thing that makes Bushcrafty toast.

I couldn't decide which hammock to take

......So I finally settled on both !

My seating system is awesome :

A cammo recliner and stool,

It's made from tubes of titanium,

Upholstered in 'merino' wool

These binos are made by NASA,

Ranulf Ffiennes tested me socks,

And the chap that designed my combats,

Also did Princess Di's frocks.

My fare will be authentic and wholesome;

Just dried beans (for mountain man stew)

I've also got pot noodles,

and sweeties,Oh, and chokky bits too

Knives, to me, should be simple;

Function and form, hand in hand

The handle of this one is Dodo Shin :

There's only five in the land

Truthfully ? Axes bore me ;

You seen one, you seen em' all,

So I keep it down to the basics,

And just carry three..... as a rule.

You gotta know about water,

And how to make it pure.

I 'Pre-mac' and boil it 'till Sunday( and use "Volvic", Just to be sure).

I've got twelve ways to make fire

And I know that three of them work ;

I got a magnifying glass and "Swan Vestas"

( me "Zippo" is, just a perk ! )

I'm " keepin' it real " in Bushcraft,

My mates all think that I'm great,

But they had to change the venue

And didn't tell me 'till late .

So here I am , in the forest,

Just nature and nothing but dark.

That's it......I'm off home early :

Stuff that for a lark !!!!

I am sure it is the same for birders too.......

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Pale Bellied Brents

Spent sometime midday watching these Pale Bellied Brents at Bruichladdich. With Spring arriving these long distance migrants will be leaving and other summer birds will take their place. Last evening having spent the afternoon and early evning running the Wildwood Wisdom programme with local school children we headed back along the loch. Whooper Swans and Barnacles roosting and today, bright with northerly winds, I am off out this afternoon.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

24 Hour Wilderness

Have just returned from a Wilderness 24 Course. Five students aged from 9- 60 years and plenty of wildlife too: Red Deer, Fulmars, Oysters, Limpets, mussels and news skills taught to folks from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lapwings were on territory and Skylarks were singing in the fresh clear air.
On our return this morning a blue (male) Merlin followed alongside. Marvellous. The North wind blew and we had magnificent views of a snow covered Ben More on Mull and up the mainland coast too.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Gannet and Fulmars

It was heavy and cold from the west this afternoon with hail, snow and rain in fits and starts. Spent the afternoon overlooking Kilchiaran Bay. Counted 35 Fulmar nest sites and plenty more Fulmars in and out investigating, such a superb flight and their skillful landing and aerial acrobatics are a joy to behold. A pair of Chough sauntered past and Oystercatchers busied themselves on the beach. A single Gannet headed southwards.

Friday, 7 March 2008

New Jacket - all Islay

Jon Paul Lameroux of Nature Trails, tests the new Wilderness Shirt, last autumn with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall of River Cottage.

After months of testing and and two years of designing my friend, Roger Harrington
and I are now offering the following for birders and bushcrafters.
Made totally on Islay and by hand too we hope it will bring pleasure to all who use it.

I have scribed a few words below to explain...

Why do we need yet another item of clothing?

When is it that you need something that you did not realise you could not live without? Well, I became fed up with the petro-chemical, large business like global corporations keen on improving financial status than customer need, and realised that even well meaning companies were growing beyond their supposed local limits. Whereas I would have purchased something that had a ‘small is beautiful’ feeling and spirit, when I looked into it – things were not quite what they said they were. A meeting with Roger Harrington of Bison Bushcraft, several years ago meant that I had had crossed paths with a similar mind and genre and we soon were talking of the same things. Why couldn’t we get things that we needed to do our jobs? Obviously he, as one of Britain’s best handmade knife makers, realised that that there was more to life than things made in China. Also we knew that cheap was not always the answer and that there are some of us that would not accept that situation, no matter how tempting – especially cost wise. Also, however convenient it maybe to us ‘rich’ westerners, unfairly traded goods are unacceptable to the way we think and operate.

Our work as outdoor teachers, guides
and practitioners require very particular items that really have longevity, solidness and meets with nature’s mirror thus allowing us to blend in and therefore be part of, rather than in conflict with, the wild. So, like the adventurers and explorers of yore we decided to make our own!

Therefore, it had to achieve several things at once:

Natural camouflage
Be weather resistant
Made of natural materials
Be breathable
Be biodegradable
Be strong and functional
Be warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather
Be totally fairly traded
Made in Britain by skilled crafts people

Quite a list and quite high expectations too!

This is when we reached upon Islay. Already there is sheep production, there are wild goats (for the leather trimming), there is a woollen mill, we have button makers and seamstresses, and so all we needed to do was get these together and rather like a great recipe make sure it all worked! It was also very convenient because I happen to live here so bringing all these aspects together would be easier!

Last summer things were ready to go with the design, and by the autumn we had
the wool woven and produced the first garments. We now had to try and test them.
Although this is a continual process, there was an intense period over the winter where we really hammered them! I took one to France and wore it continually; in rain, hail, snow, wind and freezing conditions. It worked just as we had planned! Meanwhile back on Islay one was out with a Stalker and one with a crofter. After a few tweaks and alterations we had the garment ready for the public! So we were then able to take orders. They have been coming in from all sorts of places: Nature watchers, birders, fishermen, rangers, game keepers, land owners and countryside workers and all who like the quality and handmade too! We offer two colour plans – The Highland and Lowland. The Highland is a typical Scottish Tweed and the Lowland version is the same but of a green/brown herringbone pattern.

So how does it work?
The ‘shirt’ is in heavy duty weave that can be worn over a T shirt or pullover. It is a layer that although not waterproof, can be worn in rain as wool has its own waterproof-ness by soaking up to 30% of its weight before ‘leaking. If you need a full waterproof jacket then you need to go for a wax cotton top. Being wool it is flexible, does not rustle (good for nature watching), and is warm and/or cool depending on the weather and climate! The buttons are handmade from Islay antler and the leather trimming from wild goats! So you can use it for a multiple of uses.

The Wilderness Jacket has a cashmere rich hand warmer and lining to the large hood which you can pull right over your head. Good for covering up or even taking a wild nap! Again with the same qualities of the shirts we hope that customers will not need to replace this for many years.

Both items are made to measure – so if you want one, like all good things – you will have to wait!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Snow Buntings - Rain

An early start up to Ardnave. We walked around the east to west, trying to keep dry in the squalls. 7 Whooper Swans, Tufted Duck, 47 Chough and a wee mobile groupetta of Twite with
a couple of Snow Buntings. On our return, loitering around the landrover,
were two more Snow Buntings. We had good views but not enough quality light to photograph. We stored them in our heads instead!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Great Northern

After the cold snow that arrived yesterday it was the turn of big skies and blue lochs. This morning we headed out with the homeschool to explore on foot along to Port Mor. Plenty to see including four close Great Northern Divers, Oystercatchers, Shags and gulls and a pair of Stonechats singing in the warm still air. Practising their fieldcraft and then returning to the classroom to use ID skills and books it was a great time. On our return, in the distance, a wee Scoter flock but no sign of the Velvet Scoter spotted late last week.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Merlin WET WET WET Chough

Today I went down the Rhinns with the homeschool to look after some friends menagerie
whilst they are away. Between the heavy bouts of western downpours we stopped at Octofad to take in the scenery. A female Merlin exploded from a wee wall sending a flock of finches into mass panic. On our return we followed a pair of Chough all the way to Port Charlotte and because we could we continued to follow them up the Glen towards the Chough house. As we dipped down at the bottom of the glen we lost them and waited. Hey ho - that's birding! We retruned and the rain set in for the remains of the day.