Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sunday 8th August Stornaway to Ullapool

Priest Island RSPB Reserve

Heavy rain overnight but now a beautiful day. Blue sky, few small clouds, light southerly and fabulous views across the Minch. What a difference a few hours make up here. Here I am in a country with the best scenery in Britain and today is day where with weather to match, the views are wonderful. The ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool has a superb forward looking lounge too and from here, in the company of a lovely family from Derby, it was great to watch the many very close manx shearwaters and the occasion harbour porpoise. It was also from here and the deck on the left that I could see Priest island, a large RSPB reserve, which had 3 great skua flying over it and a few shags on the rocks. Puffins on the sea and some arctic terns were near the island too.

Ullapool reached, cycled off towards Inverness and stopped at a layby in order to get some tea eaten. A few caravans were there and I was immeadiately surrounded by very friendly children and men, a group of Scottish Tinkers. I gave the children RSPB badges and immeadiately the men put notes into my robin collection box; the fastest donations given by any people I'd met. Invited into a caravan for coffee, met Ina and John, Nan and Grandad to the children. A great couple and both very strong in the Pentacostal faith, we chatted for almost 2 hours with children coming in and out and Hannah, one of the mothers proudly cradling her new six-week old baby girl. Brilliant meeting these travellers from Inverness and Kirkcodie. Passed my bottle of Skin so Soft to hannah for the baby and left with the children waving me off.

Ever onward and it was getting late by now. Picked a couple of bank voles off the road a little further along. They were sitting in the middle of it and I couldn't understand how they hadn't been squished.

Now the next sort of wildlife wasn't quite so engaging, although they wanted to get up close and personal. Midges, millions of them, in fact I've tried to think which words would best describe what they were like as I put the tent up for the night, mist of midges or blizzard. I think the latter because they were everywhere and very mobile. Incredible and actaully I'm glad that I have now experienced Scottish midges to this extent. Eventually dived into the tent, pulled the zips down and settled down to getting rid of those that had made their way inside.

Monday 9th August.

It's a strange feeling lying in a sleeping bag and knowing what was waiting for me outside the tent. Same masses of midges there as expected and my cover up clothes and repellent did their job. No bites but a few swallowed before the tent was packed and the bike ready for the day.
Shame about the midges because the place where I'd camped was actually very beautiful, with an almost dry reservoir alongside the main road with moorland and mountains.
A day with a lot of miles covered, lovely calm weather, sunshine and quite a few Scotch argus butterflies along the roadside.
Eventually arrived at Corrimory RSPB Reserve and the heaven's opened up. Despite the heavy rain, still walked along the reserve's path, around cattle meadows, up through large coniferous trees and eventually onto the heather and birch moorland. Not many birds seen because of the weather but did manage to meet the reserve's warden, Simon who was coming down the track with a research scientist, Dan. They'd just been checking on thousands of trees that had been planted. "Come back in 100 years and see the difference!"
Rain from the top
After a couple of hours, the skies cleared and with the drier conditions a few birds started showing. No crested tits as hoped for but a small group of Scottish crossbills on a nearby small conifer. Actually 4 birds, one male, a female and a couple of youngsters chupping away for sometime before leaving. Bird 212.

On leaving the reserve later visited the burial cairn nearby. A superb example with a surrounding stone circle.

So another great day and just maybe the NON-MOTORISED YEAR LIST RECORD will fall but it's going to be very close.

On the way to the Cairngorms and the Abernethy Forest.

All the best everyone.

Thanks to David Brooks and David Agombar for their donations.

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