Last entry was mid May. Now I’ve been here on the Isle of Benbecula, over four whole months in which the Machair LIFE+project has passed its EU audit and I have exercised my renowned skills of tact and diplomacy to their limits.
Life is still full of change and often the constant ‘newness’ makes me feel pretty insecure. However the landscape is so dominant and solid here: a constant reminder to be humble and there is great comfort to be found in all the amazing wildlife.. .
I want to be part of this place but am realistic about being an outsider with a huge amount to learn. I read somewhere that to ’belong’ it is only necessary to cherish the land and its people, but I think this over simplifies the situation I find myself in. Crofting is a unique way of life and if it wasn’t for the willingness of certain kind individuals to teach me and point me in the right direction, I’d be lost in a bog
Progress however is being made on all fronts: my Gaelic extends to ‘kiss my ass’ and ‘silly mutt’. I think I know the correct wave when passing a local on the narrow roads, my birding is improving and I’m spotting Great Yellow Bumblebees on the machair.
The bird tick list is as follows: Red-necked phalarope male in secret location. Sea eagle chick. (big as Sprout) many of the duck family and waders (so confusing when juveniles). Corncrake last seen on the wing, helped by S. I continue with my bird autopsies: recently found a gannet on the beach. My detective tracking work on footprints in the sand is also improving.
On the botanical front, I have finally seen the Irish Ladies Tresses and aided by Sprout and Rick one of our official surveyors, Frog Orchids on the Berneray machair.
I’m at my happiest when helping out practically on the crofts. Calving has been a salutary lesson in life and death and in early June I walked Angus and Ena’s MacDonald’s Highland cattle across from the Island of Vallay (from their machair grazing ) to the mainland to their heather and summer pastures. Several weeks later it was the time to administer worming treatment to the bullocks and check their bollocks while they were in the crush.
We all thought summer would never arrive but the last three weeks it’s been warm and clear ( but with some terrible flies). I walked out to ? with Stu, one of the RSPB rangers, to check on the sea eagle chick before it fledged. Sprout found his own way of cooling down while we resorted to more conventional methods. I have also made it up the tallest hill in N Uist, Aeval, which made me better appreciate how much of these Islands are made of water.
The crofters have started cutting silage and haylidge. (a kind of wilted hay) I spent friday night watching them cut, bale and wrap the fallow under-sown field next to the house, using with their 1950s tractors. I am looking forwards to the corn harvest and having a drive of more fantastic machines. The machair generally is looking beautiful. I have never seen a ‘made tapestry landscape’ so rich in colour.
The crop protection scheme which the project now runs on behalf of its partners, has just started: The poor old greylag goose will find no peace. We‘ve started a scarecrow arts project which is possibly in rather bad taste, given the seriousness of the goose problem. Today I’ve been researching the cost of a community goose plucker. Can’t say the job is ever boring.
The Parents recently came out for 10 days and we had some lovely weather, fishing and other happy times together. They are the first of several visitors this month so acted as test pilots. It was pretty hard to say goodbye, but my next visitors are arriving as I write…