Sunday, 14 June 2009

Adventure on a small island

Yesterday evening, Chris and I escaped Knapdale for the first time in over a month. Admittedly we didn't get very far; but then why would you want to go far when you can have an adventure and find endangered species right on your doorstep and all in splendid company.

Our new friend and neighbour Mary-Lou Aitchison runs a wildlife club for local families. The kids love being outdoors getting to know their wild neighbours and there is no shortage of those in Argyll. Last night we were shipped across the sea to the nearby island of Eilean Mòr which is home to one of Britain's most secretive and rarest bird: the corncrake.

To teach us all about this elusive creature, local expert Charlie Self who used to be the RSPB warden for Coll. Charlie now lives in Tayvallich, although he can still frequently be found on Coll, and Chris and I are very happy to have met such a lovely and knowledgeable person. Charlie has been a star in helping out with the beavers.

Mary-Lou and her husband John are both wildlife film makers and have a company called Otter Films. Mary-Lou is making a film about the beaver reintroduction. Argyll is a hotspot for wildlife lovers and it was also a real pleasure to meet Mark Smith, who filmed this amazing snow leopard footage for the BBC.

We headed out at 17.30, since Corncrake are most active in the small hours, with local fisherman Hamish as our captain. As the boat chugged across the flat calm of Loch Sween we watched black guillimot, cormorants and seals hunting for fish in the pristine salty deep.

It seemed to take a very long time to get to the island, but the children didn't seem to mind and us wildlife addicts amused ourselves with tales from the field.
At last our destination appeared on the horizon and, as we drew closer we could see the traditional croft cottages that had been restored by the owners of the island: funnily enough, this little place is owned by the SNP!

Eilean Mòr simply means "large island" in Gaelic and is the name given to the largest island in many groups across the coast of Scotland. This particular Eilean Mòr lies at the mouth of Loch Sween, close to the Island of Jura.
We excitedly disembarked and began to explore the beautiful grassland of this tiny and uninhabited land.

Chris and I plan to return here by canoe later in the summer in order to make another attempt at finding the corncrake since, although we did hear the distinctive call of the bird, like a fingernail drawn along a comb, the joyful cries of the children I think scuppered our chances of a sighting! You can see the kids enjoying themselves on my new Beaver Blog!

Not that it mattered much when we had sausages to cook and when the midges were so fierce that we were happy to retreat into the smoky protection of the barbecues!


thecrazysheeplady said...

That is the most darling little house I've ever seen. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing trip.

Tammy W. said...

Wow Jenny - such beautiful scenery - and what wonderful adventures.
Bad case of envy over here!