Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A silver silence

We set out from Lower Breakish at a little after 5pm, heading for the Applecross peninsula across the Inner Sound.  Our destination was the coast just to the west of the Crowlin Islands (just on the map in the link).

The forecast remained for complex areas of low pressure crossing rapidly from the west, they would bring rain and strong winds.  Due to the forecast track of these depressions we expected the strongest winds from the east, hence our modified plan to head for Applecross.  For now we paddled into a still evening as the wind died and a skyscape of towering grey built over a pewter sea.

The colours were monotone with occasional bursts of diffuse evening sunlight.  The air stilled completely until the only sounds were our paddle strokes.  We stopped frequently to appreciate the evening; when we drifted we could distinctly hear the gentle conversation of a raft of Guillemots over a mile away.

The world was reduced to a silver silence - it really was an extrordinarily beautiful evening.

Our destination for the evening was a bothy on the Applecross shore.  We smelled woodsmoke from some distance away so we knew that we'd have company for the evening.  It turned out to be a party of five kayakers led by a friend of Gordon's and a family who had walked from Applecross. 

The still evening did of course mean that the midges were truly awful.  We hurriedly unpacked the boats and headed indoors.  The evening was very sociable, but the heat from the fire made the bothy very warm; I decided to sleep outside in my tent, as did one of the other party of kayakers.  During the night we regretted this a bit as a gale of wind and torrential rain sprang up very quickly.  I was confident of my tent but got little sleep as it was battered by weather that was a complete opposite of the previous evening

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A pre-paddle paddle

In the first half of August, four of the St Kilda team (Gordon & Morag, Janice and I) had arranged to get together for a three or four day trip.  We met up at Gordon & Morag's house in Skye on the evening before we were to set out.  We planned to leave at the evening high water so that we could paddle straight from the back garden.  While Gordon & Morag sorted some stuff during the day, Janice and I met up with Simon and Liz and their friends for a few hours paddling on Loch Eishort, a sort of pre-paddle paddle!

As we set out from the beach and slipway at Ord, the morning's low cloud was lifting off the Cuillin summits across the loch

The forecast windy conditions hadn't yet materialised and it was pleasantly warm as we paddled off southwesterly towards Tarskavaig

After about an hour and a half we stopped at this small beach south of Tarskavaig for lunch.  The boats made a colourful sight against the white shell sand.  As Janice and I had to be back to set out on our trip, we headed back after a short break.

The breeze had got up a little on our way back to Ord, but the cloud was off the Cuillin and we had a very pleasant trip back up, chatting about life and having a good view of an Otter on the way.  Gavin and Shona couldn't quite believe we were heading off on a multi-day trip the same evening, but when the weather, the view and the company are this good, we wouldn't have missed our pre-paddle paddle for anything!

Friday, 2 September 2011

A black Adder

Whilst assessing a Duke of Edinburgh's Award group in June, I chanced across this Adder (Vipera berus) close to a track in the eastern Cairngorms.  At first glance it looked like a mountain bike tyre had been discarded at the side of the track.  Adders have the most northern distribution of any snake as well as being the UK's only venomous snake.  They are relatively common in the Cairngorms if you know where to look, but this one is a bit unusual in that it is almost completely black.

Melanistic individuals are well known and recorded but this was a first for me.  The usual colouration is olive and buff shades almost to yellow with a characteristic diamond pattern on the back.  Although very dark, the diamond pattern is still visble and was actually more prominent than this image shows.  At about 80cm this was a good sized Adder, I guessed at it being a female as they are larger than the males.  I kept a respectable distance so as not to cause any disturbance; and also because the rare occurrences of Adder bites are said to be very painful! 

After taking a couple of pictures I moved quietly away, well pleased with my encounter with this beautiful creature.