Category Archives: wildlife

This time last year…..

This time last year I was getting excited about spending 3 weeks on an isolated Scottish island. Little did I know that my ‘holiday’ this year would be spending 6 weeks (or more) in isolation at home.

The reason we went to Luing was to find out what it was like to live on a small island, and hopefully to see otters.  I loved my time there very much. Here are some photos.

The village

LuingBlackmill bay, used to be a busy port .
UntitledOur garden.
UntitledMull in the distance.
Luing
Luing
IMG_4243I got my wish we saw the otters on several occasions, also sea eagles, deer, seals , hares and dolphins.
IMG_4867
IMG_4200
IMG_4432
IMG_4980
Otters
IMG_4852
IMG_4836Being in lockdown just now has it’s similarities, I’m enjoying watching wildlife in my garden, watching the trees coming into leaf and blossom, appreciating the view from my window, and spending time in the garden relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. Planning meals and thinking about where the next lot of food will come from, no pub  to go to. Also I intended being creative while I was there but I just couldn’t muster up.  That’s just how I feel at the moment, although I have found something I’m enjoying but more on that in my next post.

Stay safe and well.

Sketchbook fail, but still finding inspiration from Luing

While I was away I had such intentions of taking my sketching things out on my walks and filling up the pages as fast as I could. OK I come clean, that didn’t happen very often. I felt I just wanted to be a sponge soak the island into my soul. I did a few sketches plein air, using sea water on my finger to blend the colours.
Luing inspirationI tried to capture an otter but to be honest I just wanted to observe them.
Luing inspiration
I think the dry weather prevented me doing much crafting in the cottage as we went out every day. On the one day of rain I did a stitched sketchbook page, and some eco printing, as I wanted to capture the sycamore flowers and small leaves before they were gone.

Luing inspirationSome ACEO sized eco prints are making their way into my Etsy shop. I think they work so well with my little ceramic ring dishes over on Etsy.

Untitled

Untitled

I did some studying in the evenings when I was too tired to do anything but read and watch online videos, I signed up for some lessons with Laura Horn. I was taught traditional watercolour techniques all those years ago, I’m working on loosening up and painting with mixed media at the moment.

I’m having a blast, this is my “Island of Dreams” painting, I can hear the surf. 😊

UntitledHopefully there will be more mixed media work to show you soon.

Like all good things ………

Like all good things or time on Luing came to an end. I have been looking back over my time there and I have to say it’s a place that has touched my soul. I felt so relaxed and at one with nature. I have never slept so well, but we did walk over 150 miles in 3 weeks.

Yes, I could live there quite happily, if only I could drive. But that’s just how it is.

Some things I learned staying on Luing.

  • It’s quiet
  • Sound travels a long way
  • You ration food
  • The perfect place for an introvert
  • You don’t need much stuff
  • There is no rush
  • Wind turbines sound very loud
  • I feel whole when interacting with nature
  • What comes around goes around

My last observation is based on watching the wildlife; an eagle being bombed by a crow,  the crow being bombed by an oyster catcher.

Talking of eagles we were very lucky in having 3 sightings of a white tailed sea eagle, the first sighting was very close, it was sitting on a pile of stones when we turned a corner,  it watched us for a while, it flew to another pile of stones, then another encircling us before flying off.

IMG_4200

IMG_4201Another sighting quite close up was of roe deer. The first time it was just one, but the second sighting there were two. Usually they would be off as soon as they caught sight of humans but they stood for a while just looking at us.

IMG_4980There are lots of hares on the island but no rabbits, so I didn’t have the problem of trying to decide if it was rabbit or hare by the ears and tail.  There seemed to be a resident hare in the village who came hopping past our window in the evenings. I saw another regularly coming back after our evening otter watch.

IMG_4430

IMG_4432There were so many bird species I couldn’t name them all here, hen harrier, wheatear, rock pipit, greylag and Canada geese,  red breasted merganser to name a few; and not forgetting the dolphins and otters of course.

I hope to go back again some day 🙂

Trip to Corryvreckan and an encounter with dolphins.

We took a Seafari trip to see the whirlpool Corryvreckan; having donned the waterproofs provided and the life jacket I was beginning to wonder what I was letting myself in for. I needn’t have concerned myself as I had a great time being bounced around at speed in the RIB. I was even splashed in the face by a wet dolphin tail, twice 🙂

We went past Fladda lighthouse………

IMG_4827

……….and Belnahua (I love saying that word), one of the slate mining islands, this tiny island was once home to 200 inhabitants. The ruins of  some of the miners cottages still remain.From the air this island looks like a doughnut, the heart of the island was quarried and later flooded by the sea.IMG_4899We had a wonderful surprise when a pod of dolphins came to swim alongside the boat. They were clearly playing with us, swimming right next to us and going under the boat. I could have touched them they were so close. This was an incredible experience which I hadn’t expected.
IMG_4852We also saw common seals.

IMG_4836

IMG_4835Then we went through the Grey Dogs, a tidal race between the rocks, it was fairly calm, just a small standing wave today.

IMG_4860We spotted a white tailed sea eagle.

IMG_4863

Also red deer.

IMG_4867Corryvreckan is the third largest whirlpool in the world but it was very calm today, the tide was against us so it wasn’t very impressive.

IMG_4879

I’ve saved the best ’til last, here’s a video of my dolphin encounter, I hope you enjoy!

Otters on Luing

We went to Luing for 3 weeks in the hope of seeing otters in the wild. We have tried looking for these elusive creatures many times on day trips but we’ve never been successful. My husband joked that we would probably see them on our first day on Luing, and he was right.

Walking along the shore something in the water caught my eye, just a glimpse. I thought it might be a seal. OH got his binoculars out and said, “it’s not a seal, it’s an otter, there are two of them swimming together”.

There were actually three otters when they climbed out onto the rocks. We sat and watched them for a good half hour, fishing, eating and playing, we could hear their little squeaking noises.
Otters

Otters

OttersThen they swam further along the shore, we watched them until they were just tiny distant specks.

We walked this path daily for 3 weeks at different times of day in the hope of further sightings. We had 7 sightings in total. The second time we found some large rocks to lean against, being slate the sun had warmed them up so we laid back and watched the water. We must have blended in quite well because an otter came on shore quite close to us. It came within 15 to 20 feet of us, it saw us but didn’t seem too bothered. We watched it going back into the water to catch a fish, eel or crab, sometimes it would come ashore to eat it’s catch, then it swam along to what we now called ‘Otter Rocks’.

Otters

Otters

We started to know what to look for when looking for otters, something that looked like a floating log, moving along making a gentle wake. Or just a glimpse of a tail or head. Two or three otters swimming together with arching bodies could easily be mistaken for the Loch Ness monster. We watched three swimming together  in a line or spiralling around each other as they swam.

There was a book in the cottage called ‘On The Swirl Of The Tide’ by Bridget MacCaskill, it’s a beautiful read about a year studying otters, I’ve found a copy on the internet.

OttersHere’s a lovely quote from the book, which I can relate to now….

“In the bubbling, splashing seething cauldron of foaming water it was quite impossible to sort out who was who while they were madly corkscrewing round each other’s smooth bodies, swooping into the seaweed forest below, curving and swerving through it’s restless stems, rising to box and bite, then breaking away to start the game all over again. Excited wickering echoed around the giant rock sides of the Narrows and told the rest of their world that the otters were having a party”

Bridget MacCaskill.

We had another otter sighting, playing on the rocks and eating a huge fish. We watched the male otter bringing fish to the smaller female, who was lazing around on the rocks. They are very playful creatures, rolling on their backs in the seaweed and sunning their bellies.

Our next sighting was to be the last one along this shore, we were on our way home one evening when I caught a glimpse of a head in the seaweed. There was a pair of them, they swam to the rocks and entertained us for almost two hours. It was a joy to watch them playing, fishing and eating. They love to roll on their backs like dogs. Then we lost them on the other side of the rocks.

We noticed a caravan had been brought down to the shore but there didn’t seem to be anyone in it, it stayed unused for a few days. Then one day there were men in waders, placing something on otter rocks  for shellfish farming apparently. I felt sad as I knew the otters wouldn’t come back. I went every day still to look for them, even walked much further around the bay where I often watched them heading. There were more rocks on the other side of the bay but they were difficult to get to, which is where they are probably playing and fishing now.

When the tide was out one day I went over to some of the rocks to look for evidence, there was spraint, (old and new, but not fresh), and lots of crab shells and legs, chewed molluscs and bivalves that had clearly been cracked open by very sharp otter teeth.
Otter spraint

Otters

Not surprising when you see their teeth.

OttersI’ve put my video clips all together for a little otter fest, I hope you enjoy.

I had given up hope of seeing otters again, but when we were waiting for the first ferry of the day to go home I caught a brief glimpse of another otter on the shore at Cuan Sound. It seemed to me they were saying goodbye, or was it me saying goodbye to the otters?

I feel so privileged.

3 Weeks On An Island

I’m heading off to a tiny Scottish island for 3 weeks. To get to the island you have to take what is known as the ‘Bridge Over The Atlantic’ to Seil Island, then a small ferry takes you across to Luing (pronounced Ling).

Cuan Ferry to Luing
Luing is part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago; it’s one of the ‘Slate Islands’.
Map of LuingI have visited a few times as a day tripper but I want to find out what it’s like to live there for a little while. There is another reason too, but that’s for another post with a bit of luck.

The island is only 6 miles by 1.5 miles, it has the Atlantic Islands visitors centre which serves amazing seafood and cakes made by women from the island. It also has some information about the area.
Atlantic Islands Centre, Luing
Seafood chowder from Atlantic Islands Centre on Luing
There’s one shop on the island which sells a bit of everything.
Luing storesLuing one of my favourite places, I  have been before for a days walking but never stayed there. There are such lovely inspirational views everywhere, and there is THE other reason I mentioned too.

I have packed clothes, food, wine, midge repellent, more midge repellent, insect bite cream, midge nets, and Skin So Soft, I’m not taking any chances with those pesky midges. I go to Scotland regularly and I’ve never had any real problems with them in the past so fingers crossed. Also, I have my walking boots, waterproofs, pop up hide, camera and everything I think I might need including art and craft supplies.

I know most people take minimal art supplies on holiday but that won’t be enough should it rain for 3 weeks so I have stuffed as much as I can into a box and a bag. I bought a small sewing machine as I have a bit of a plan of what I want to do while I am on the island should it rain a lot. I have a basic eco printing kit with me, and as I still had a bit of space in the box so my lino printing stuff went in at the last minute.

Here it is all is nicely packed up ready for the off.
Untitled

UntitledHopefully I can share my walks, wildlife spotting, and art making with you over the next 3 weeks.

So this slate miners cottage will be our cosy little home for 3 weeks.
Untitled
This is the view from the back garden.
UntitledEdited to say……..

I  intended posting whilst on the island but couldn’t  upload my photos.  I have just got home and I will tell you all about my little adventure in my next few posts.

Working with the seasons- new foliage.

I have been waiting eagerly for the leaves to come on the trees so I can do some printing.

We have been out walking most days during this amazing fine spell, the river is very low.

River walk

River walkIt’s lovely to see all the wildflowers coming into bloom, but I don’t pick those.

Primroses.

River walkBlackthorn.River walk

English bluebells.River walk

Cowslips.
UntitledCommon violets.River walkRed campion.River walk

There were swans, ducks, geese and herons nesting on the pond. Also frog spawn and lots of small fish as well as an eel in the burn.

River walkThe lambs are growing fast
River walkDo you ever get the feeling you are being watched?  🙂

River walkI noticed the field maple and sycamore trees had small leaves and flowers so I picked a few to eco print.

UntitledThey worked quite well but I should have used heavier paper as I tore some of the sheets when they were wet so I will have to cut them down a bit.
UntitledI have blue bells in my garden so I tried the hammering technique to transfer the print but it just transferred a mushy mess, for now I will stick to boiling and steaming .

I am really enjoying working with the seasons but I think Spring is a time where it’s hard to keep up with all that’s bursting into life around me.