The clouds were low over the hill this morning and soft wisps of vapour swirled around aimlessly bringing visibility down to yards instead of the usual miles.
This spider’s web was caught in the mists and bejewelled with dew it stood out from its murky surroundings. Like snowflakes, every web is individual and each one is a thing of beauty.
Remote. That’s probably the best description for this spot above Loch Eriboll looking towards Ben Loyal.This mountain of granite consists of four peaks, An Caisteal (764m), Sgòr Chaonasaid (712m), Bheinn Bheag (744 m) and Sgòr Fionnaich (568m).
It was bitterly cold and very windy when I took these photographs but aside from the wind there was no sound at all. No road noise, no aeroplanes, no rustling leaves and no animals. When the wind dropped it was really quite eerie. I could imagine being spooked here given the right conditions.
I don’t know the story of the deserted croft in the foreground. It’s walls stood firm despite the absence of a roof. At some point someone lived here, miles from anything remotely resembling suburbia. I wondered what secrets the old house held and how many other travellers had stopped over the years to ponder it’s magnificent solitude somewhere along the unclassified road from Durness to Tongue. I was struck by the wild beauty of this place, the scale of the landscape and it’s dream-like setting simply because it is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever seen.
The Scottish Highlands are one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. Remote and wild, they remain largely unspoiled by the ravages of human habitation. In the far north-west, snow covered mountains of 3000 million year old Lewisian Gneiss and pink granite give way to heather covered slopes, peat-colours burns and sparkling lochs. Along the coast there are rocky cliffs, undulating dunes and pristine beaches of white-gold sand edged by crystal clear blue-green sea. Very few people live this far north but signs of habitation from days gone by still remain.
Below is Balnakiel church standing resolutely at the edge of Balnakiel bay. The original church dates from 722 and was founded by St. Maelrubha. Records in the Vatican archives show the church contributed to the third crusade in 1190 but the ruins visible today date from around 1619. The view from the graveyard is simply stunning, a glimpse of heaven perhaps?
Balnakiel bay – the sky really was that blue!
Another view of the church with the bay in the background.
I was watching a Cormorant and some wading birds, possibly Redshank, in Pwllheli harbour today. The Cormorant looked as though it had recently returned from a fishing mission and the waders were scurrying around in the mud looking for worms and small crustaceans while the tide was out. There was a lot of avian activity, plenty of Oystercatchers on the waterline and Jackdaws closer to shore.
I was hoping to see the Cormorant hang its wings out to dry but it seemed otherwise occupied and I noticed a movement slightly behind it, something flapping in the mud. After a while I realised a fish was stranded within the Cormorant’s reach and from time-to-time it wriggled side-to-side in an attempt to escape into the water just a few feet away.
These aren’t the clearest of photographs but you can see the fish in front of the Cormorant in the shot below.
I watched for a while trying to work out what fish it might be. The shape reminded me of a dogfish, it was long and lean, muscular with its dorsal fins set a long way back on its body. It had a very angular head just like a dogfish but after a bit of research I think it was most likely a Small Spotted Catshark. They’re fairly common in the area, often discarded by anglers or commercial trawler crews which is a shame because they’re really rather attractive creatures and can live a long and fascinating life.
I confess I wanted the fish to escape, make its way back to the water and live to see another day. Cormorants are master fishers so one escapee wouldn’t be the end of the world and had it not been for the mud (fine for near-weightless wading birds, not nearly as navigable for a fully grown human) I’d have helped it on its way. The Cormorant eventually lost interest and took off when a Great Black-Backed Gull began to approach. Gulls are opportunists, bullies and scavengers and this one was sharp, fast and far more persistent than the Cormorant. Bad news for the fish in the end because I’m fairly sure it wasn’t one that got away.
Goldfinches are my favourite native bird. They have a beautifully melodic song and their vibrant plumage brings light and colour to these dull January days, days that are dulled even further by senseless acts of terrorism that are all too common in a world that seems to have lost its way.
A flock of around twenty goldfinches regularly visit my garden. They are a joy to watch and help serve as a timely reminder that there is much beauty in this world if we simply allow it to flourish. There is, I am sure, much beauty within each of us too if we choose to focus our efforts on compassion and kindness instead of perverse viewpoints and mindless violence.
They are probably our most common water bird but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful.
This one was particularly photogenic!
The Mallard is a sociable, adaptable and human-tolerant duck species found in many places throughout the world. I am especially fond of them simply because they remind me of happy childhood days spent feeding them and their fluffy duckings at the local park. It’s a habit that hasn’t diminished, even though I’m now much older and the ducks are several generations removed from the originals.