Conic Hill and Loch Lomond wildlife

Last evening I had a lovely walk up Conic Hill on the eastern side of Loch Lomond. A quick midweek blast of exercise, some fresh air and a good opportunity to catch up on chat with friends. As summer winds down it is now getting dark around 9 o'clock but the trip up Conic is short steep hike from the Balmaha car park, ideal if you've got a spare hour or two. Last week we walked up as a family in glorious sunshine with a picnic so took ages longer and spent a decent amount of time enjoying the immense views in every direction. On the way down yesterday we met a few local coos, lovely large bulky Highland Cattle, a perfect Scottish scene.

Highland cattle are of course a domestic breed but the goats I saw on my previous lochside walk up near the north end of the loch are feral, there seems to be quite a healthy thriving population and are a common sight for walkers on the West Highland Way.

The next photo was taken rather quickly of an unknown creature in the water. It took a bit of time to realise we were watching a mink swimming just off shore carrying dead prey which appeared to be only slightly smaller than the mink itself. After swimming, the mink scampered across the beach and headed behind rocks to better cover. American mink have no natural predators, save man, in this country and are a result of the generations following escapees from mink farms as far back as the 1920s. The mink population have become a nuisance in parts but I was intrigued to watch it as I've never previously seen one.

And finally, has anyone any knowledge what this skeleton is from? Photographed just north of Inversnaid on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. I spotted it when walking day 3 of the West Highland Way. It seemed far too pristine to be real. Any ideas folks?

Yet more snow....

At 6.30am I woke to the sound of heavy rain on the window, and smiled at the thought of the slight warming outside which must have lead to this phenomenon. It didn't last long as next time we looked out of the window there were huge, fat snowflakes falling in swathes. Within a couple of hours we had fairly deep fresh snow, school was closed as none of the staff could get there and the roads were impassable for a period as the snow had fallen on top of ice which made the inclines too tricky. Another day at home - nice in so many ways but becoming a real problem for workers. The football goal with the extra bit of snow clinging to the net.

We topped up the bird feeders and sprinkled some seed on the top of the snow. The blackbirds were budging each other out of the way to get to the seed and we also had plenty of starlings, blue tits, robins and chaffinches.

We made our first ever Christmas pudding mix at the weekend and heaped it into 3 basins which have been steaming away all afternoon.
Molly made black banana loaf - a Nigel Slater recipe she was keen to try having seen it on tv last week. The 'black' being chips of chocolate. For some bizarre reason the children aren't keen on bananas but are quite happy to eat them in cake form.

I made sticky toffee puddings, one rather large one earmarked for a pre-Christmas family feast and four small ones for after dinner today.

We've been playing in the snow, Finlay is standing on the snow which has fallen from the roof. The late afternoon brought freezing fog but its great to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, however much we enjoyed all that baking.We've been to see our hens, who are not impressed at the limited amount of snow free space they can find under the hen cabin.

The new inhabitants on the farm, escaping from the fields for a while. We renovated a barn this summer so there is good space to accommodate the sheep this winter.

We've had a fine day, plenty of activity but it would be nice to get back to normal life!


We found these wee fellows in some loose straw by the edge of a stack of bales this afternoon. There were two adults around as well so we are sincerely hoping we haven't overly disturbed them. The hay has been in the same place for quite a few weeks and is protected from the wet Autumn weather we've had this week. Although it seems a bit late for breeding apparently females can have two litters a year and these would be September babies. They must be over 2 weeks old as their eyes are open and their spines fully out (they are born with the spines under the skin to save the mother some pain!). Hedgehogs tend to go their own way at 4-5 weeks of age. There are loads of worms and insects around so we hope they and their parents are getting plenty of food. Hedgehogs go into hibernation when the temperature is cool enough rather than a specific time of year so all being well they've got plenty of time to grow and lay down fat stores before the weather turns chilly.

Welcome Back

I made you a cake in honour of the East Cambusmoon return to blogworld. Partly inspired by the new BBC2 series The Great British Bake-Off, which was easy watching TV last evening, and partly by some thoughts of entering the Gartocharn Flower Show this weekend, I used Mary Berry's Victoria Sponge recipe from the TV programme and it turned out a treat. Now if I get my act together and make another one for the show I realise that putting cream into the middle is not going to cut it with the judges on Saturday, apparently thats a big no-no, but today is the last day of our school holidays, we've had a bundle of people around and this sumptuous wonder is just about gone. The man of the house suggested more jam would be appropriate....but he caveated his comments in advance with plenty of praise. Hereabouts its traditional to use raspberry jam - is that the same everywhere? Here is another new project for us - 9 chicks, this photo was taken when they were about 3 weeks old. More of them another time.
Thanks for those of you who keep checking back in with this blog. Your patience has been appreciated.

Signs of Spring

We're not the world's greatest twitchers but there has been so much bird activity this week its easy to get excited about the onset of Spring. Early in the week and early one morning we were just heading out when we happened to see a sparrowhawk nab a blackbird for its brekky, the sparrowhawk was totally unphased by our presence nearby but eventually flew off with its prey. The geese are still around in great numbers and we have a lot of pink foots as well as greylags and some canada geese. Their wingbeat when taking off or landing is quite something, its an amazing and powerful sound. The other great sound I've heard and love is that of the curlew, I think its the male's mating call which so distinctive but it really is building in volume and is definitely a sound I associate with Spring. I'm not sure what the collective word for curlews is but i reckon a 'cacophony of curlews' is a good group name. We've also seen oystercatchers this week. On some days it really does seem like Spring, on others it seems like we're full on in the middle of winter and we've had snow, hail, sleat, storms, ice and anything else you could mention. Great scenery though!

We seem to have a problem with the woodburning stove in that the bedroom through which the pipe runs to the roof gets a bit of a smoky smell, I've also discovered traces of black soot from the edge of the plasterboard which boxes in the pipe. So until someone comes round to check it we've stopped using that. Its perfectly warm in the house but we love having a real fire. We're also going to review the snagging list and forward it to the builder as theres a few odd things which have never been remedied and we're heading towards our first anniversary in the house.

Message for Sue and Tamzin - curtains and fabrics coming soon! A bientot!

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