Monday 14 February 2011

Winter Arrives Early

For years our winters have mostly been green, damp and dreary. After the freezing conditions of early 2010, we were not expecting a repeat performance at the end of the same year. Once again, water supplies froze up and we were glad of our firewood stocks to keep ourselves and our visitors warm.

The cold clear air gave us stunning views of the area and beautiful sunsets. We are lucky to have fantastic walks around Achnamara and rarely feel the need to go further afield. Loch Sween froze over completely at Achnamara; a sight not seen for many years.
The freshwater lochs were covered with a thick layer of ice for several weeks.

The winter solstice coincided with a lunar eclipse and Kilmartin House Museum organised a guided walk around some of the Cairns and Stone Circles of Kilmartin Glen. The cold was toe numbing but the atmosphere and the sunrise were worth the discomfort. Cups of coffee and sausage sandwiches in the museum cafe helped revive the intrepid souls who braved the elements at 8.00 am.

The thaw started on Christmas morning so after weeks of very festive, Christmas Card weather, green grass began to show through the snow. January was unseasonably mild but after the extra work and stress of freezing conditions I have vowed never to complain about rain and mud ever again.

Now we are well into February and the days are beginning to lengthen and signs of spring are appearing. The hens are starting to lay again and we hope to raise some new chicks in a few weeks. The cockerel has proved to be extremely bad tempered so as soon as we have a batch of his progeny, he will make a very delicious casserole. Newts have appeared in the ditch next to the road up to Seafield Loch. Blue tits are emptying the peanut feeder as quickly as we can fill it and there are delightful drifts of snowdrops in woodland and churchyards.

We have not had any sightings of beavers for some time due to the long hours of darkness and for a few weeks they will have been laying low in their lodges. Now the ice has melted and temperatures risen, their activities are easy to spot. According to the minutes of a meeting of the Species re-introduction Forum in August, the juvenile male on Loch Linne has dispersed from its family group but we have had no information on this from the Beaver Trial Team. Hopefully, we will learn more at the next stakeholder meeting in March. The lodge on Loch Linne is covered with de-barked sticks to the beavers must be using it as a feeding station as well as living quarters.