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.

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 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!

Spring Lambs & Other Creatures

The first phase of 5 raised beds took a bigger step forward this weekend with the final joinery and positions completed. Then followed the task of filling then wheeling lots (around 20 me thinks to fill the smallest bed) of barrows of well matured horse muck up the slope - Steve kept using the phrase 'the green gym' to keep me/us going! We popped a couple of hens into the first bed who worked diligently to create a finer till, the rest of the hens soon joined them in a frenzy to grab a few worms from the thousands wriggling in the muck. Later this week I'll be planting 3 blackcurrant bushes (Ben Lomond variety), 3 redcurrants (Jonkheer van Tets), 3 red gooseberrys (Red Dessert) and 3 green goosegogs ( Careless) in that particular bed. We'll also be putting a rabbit/hen proof wire around the perimeter to protect the crops. Next weekend will see a few more wheel barrows of muck shifting to fill the next beds

Wooly Guests

We're providing a temporary home to a neighbour's Texel ewes to escape the worst of the winter before/while lambing; its very exciting having them here - the children are expecting lambs to appear daily, all being well the first should arrive in a few weeks. The texel breed is well regarded and originates from Texel island off the north coast of the Netherlands. They have very strong features and quite large faces, they look tough. Its great having them here - all the fun of watching them with none of the responsibility of looking after them!

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