Tuesday 11 May 2010

Ne'er cast a clout til May is Out

Whether the saying refers to the hawthorn blossom or the month, I don’t think I will be casting any clouts for a while yet. May so far has been beautifully clear and sunny but the cold air which gives us the clarity means warm woolly jumpers and sunburned noses.

The ground has been remarkably dry, making gardening a pleasure but with sub zero nightime temperatures and hot sunny afternoons, the new growth is being frosted and burnt at the same time. The tomatoes have long outgrown their pots but will have to wait on the windowsill a little longer before transfer to the polytunnel. The wild spring flowers are a delight, with violets, primroses, bluebells and blackthorn blossom all making wonderful displays - unlike their tender cultivated counterparts, the varying temperatures seem to have little effect on them.

A blackbird built a nest in the rock face behind my workshop so I was distracted from basketmaking by the much more absorbing task of trying to capture a photo of the adult feeding the chicks. We also have swallows and wagtails nesting in the eaves. Our resident pair of mute swans managed to raise a cygnet last year after a few years of choosing remarkably poor nesting sites which were always washed away by a high tide. After success last year, they have returned to the better site and are sitting on eggs.

A fishing trip to Loch Linne gave James his first catch of the year - one pan sized brown trout. Many more were caught but were far too small to keep. The loch is quite low because there has been so little rain over the last months. It is a beautiful spot, no distance from the road but surrounded by forest and utterly peaceful.

On a clear day, the views from above Crinan are wonderful and we could see porpoises breaking the surface far below us. You can look out to the islands of Islay, Jura, Scarba, Luing and Mull. Cruachan still had patches of snow showing up in the sunshine. The west coast of Scotland has some of the best sailing you can find and there were a few boats out in the Sound of Jura.

Along the forest road towards Carsaig we came across an art installation which was part of the NVA Environmental Art Project which took place in the area in 2007. We had visited some of the installations but hadn’t been to this one so it came as a surprise to find a timber walkway in an avenue of standing spruce columns leading to a woven archway which frames a rock outcrop with ancient rock carvings.

We incubated four chicks from some Maran eggs given to me by a friend. We don’t know yet which are cockerels and which will be hens but they are currently looking fairly macho and slightly scruffy with new feathers coming in to replace the down. I fear they may all end up in the pot rather than joining our team of egg layers.

No Seafield blog post is complete without mention of the beavers and a slightly blurry photo of the new arrivals. Two more beavers were released this month bringing the total population up to 8, three breeding pairs and two juveniles. They can be seen quite easily as the Lily Loch is small and having been in the Highland Wildlife Park for a year, they will be used to a degree of human contact. According to an article in the Herald Magazine, the budget is now £2.5 million which seems an astonishing amount of money for a project to give Argyll more wetland. It may have been dry this year but one thing Argyll is not short of is wetland. £2.5 million would build a fantastic visitor centre to celebrate and interpret Argyll’s amazing native wildlife and beautiful historic landscape and be far more beneficial for visitors to the area than a few large rodents which have flooded a popular forest walk.