View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thursday 28 February

The last day of the meteorological winter, and there were hints of spring about. We managed double figures on the thermometer for the first time in many weeks. It was quite misty at times, with low clouds hanging about the tops of the hills. Further south, I am told it was downright foggy, but as I often say, there are compensations for being in a high latitude.

I went for a 4½ mile walk along the harbour and right through the Castle Grounds today. It went from the Waterwheel in the north, across the Golf Course to just north of Gallows Hill, then back via Cuddy Point and the Castle.

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Wednesday 27 February

We lost the sun today but it remains fairly mild. I have done a fair bit for my project, in that I have covered Great Bernera.  Twenty men from that wee island, off the west coast of Lewis, went forth to war between 1914 and 1919, never to return. Some perished in the sinking of the Iolaire, their total being 205.

This week has seen large moorland fires near Ranish, about 7 miles south of here. Late February and March is the season for muirburning, but if not executed properly, burning the heather can get badly out of control. Earlier this week, I spotted a huge plume of smoke trailing northeast, and the fire flared up again today.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tuesday 26 February

Another brilliantly sunny day, where we reached the dizzy heights of 9C / 48F in the afternoon. Later this week, the sunshine will disappear south, but at least we've had a little foretaste of spring. The crocuses, e.g., are out now. Went for an amble into the Castle Grounds, and onto Bennadrove, trying to glimpse the new windfarm on the Pentland Road. (Un)fortunately, I was not able to espy them from the road by the loch, so I was spared that. I saw them from the Cockle Ebb yesterday, and Strawberry Hill on Thursday.

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Monday, 25 February 2013

Monday 25 February

Another day of blazing sunshine, but today there was slightly more wind, making it feel a bit cold at times. We still managed 7C / 45F, and it tempted me out for an amble of 9 km / 5½ miles to Steinish and the Cockle Ebb. There were quite a few geese about, but also about a dozen that had come to grief on an overhead phoneline near Goathill Farm. Their skeletal remains were scattered along a farmtrack, not very nice. The sheep are still fat, and no lambs in sight or earshot.

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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sunday 24 February

Another sunny day after a bitterly cold night (-5C), and only distant clouds on the southern horizon. Went for an amble in the Castle Grounds, just over 4 miles towards the Creed Gate and back towards the road that leads north from the Creed towards the Castle. I struck down towards the Low Road and thus made it back into town. Took me about an hour and a half. Came across frozen puddles (in spite of afternoon temps of about +5C) and the burned areas of last June's wildfires. Took paths that I had not trodden before, so an interesting amble. By the way, the last two images confirm that nothing moves here on a Sunday.

Another tragedy has struck here, in that a man from Parkend (between Sandwick and the airport) was found dead in that area after being missing for about two days.

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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday 23 February

Although the day started cloudy, the sun came out before midday and we held on to sunshine until sundown. It was by no means warm, we barely scraped 5C / 41F, and there was a little more wind than yesterday. Still, a nice day by any winter standard.

Watched a couple of detective stories on television - one very old Columbo story and a Midsomer Murder which I had actually seen before. Birdlife remains very subdued; no starlings and only a few sparrows. Just as well the RSPB Garden Birdwatch has been and gone. And to completely bore readers: I had a curry for dinner.

Friday 22 February

An overcast day with not much sunshine. Although elsewhere in the islands (and the country) there was a keen southeasterly wind, we had no wind to speak of. Neither did we have any of the usual birdlife; I suspect the starlings and sparrows have taken a serious fright from yesterday's sparrowhawk. There is none of the usual chittering and chattering that can be heard around the birdfeeders.

Yesterday, an mayday was received from the fishing vessel Achieve which was foundering off Toe Head in South Harris. The lifeboats from Leverburgh and Stornoway rushed to the scene, accompanied by the Coastguard helicopter from Stornoway. Three crewmen were rescued from their liferaft, but one had been in the water for a prolonged period of time. It being February, the water temperature is very low. All three were taken to the Western Isles hospital in Stornoway, where one of them sadly passed away. My sincere sympathies and condolences go out to the friends and family of the deceased.

This morning, the Coastguard helicopter and Stornoway lifeboat were seen going out together, but it is not known to me whether it was an exercise or a 'shout'.

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thursday 21 February

Although the day started with some cloud, the sun came out fully by late morning to leave us with a cloudless and virtually windless day. After an overnight low of -4C, we managed +6C, but as I type this (at 9pm), we have gone right down to -4C again.

Just as I was having a coffee around midday, I happened to glance out of the window to see this:

A sparrowhawk, with a newly culled sparrow - which it proceeded to devour within half an hour, to only leave a pile of feathers. We normally have up to 30 sparrows, a gaggle of starlings and up to five doves around the bird feeders, but following this instance that number dropped to precisely zero for most of the day. Whereas I normally fill up the feeders every day, I was left with them the way they were in the morning. A bit sad, but that's nature's way. Have seen this type of raptor here once before, at dusk a number of years ago.

In the afternoon, I went for a 3 mile walk to Strawberry Hill, which is always a fairly strenuous undertaking. Not because it's so high, the walk in goes along marked paths and gentle gradients. The exertion is caused by the very rough state of the paths, which are paved with sharp rocks.

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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Wednesday 20 February

A day of complete sunshine, nearly 10 hours of it now. Not a cloud to be seen, and a perfect sunrise (at 7.44) and sunset (at 17.35). Not seen anything like it, that I can recall - although it probably has happened previously. Daytime max was 9C / 48F, but as I type the mercury has already dipped well below freezing and it will be a hard frost through the night. Although there was a breeze through the day, that has now dropped. Fog was a problem in Inverness, causing extensive disruption to flights from the Highland capital.

An object lesson in the reliability of weather forecasting from down-under. A group of amateur forecasters, monitoring model-based forecast for tropical cyclones (hurricanes) around Australia, saw that a category 5 cyclone could strike Western Australia next week. However, the lead-time was more than 5 days, prompting me to enter a cautionary note on the site. But no, they were determined that the models were correct. Until the latest run of models showed a complete turn-around, with only a weak system affecting the coast 500 miles to the north. And even then, the cyclone itself has not even formed. It may never do so.

On Facebook, I mentioned that I have 69 blogs on Blogger. I only "blog" on about 6 of them on a more or less regular basis. A large number are websites in the shape of a blog; my WW1 and WW2 research is comprised in those. Old blog sites (formerly AOL e.g.) are there, as well as topical, one-off blogs. Even if I say so myself, quite an output...

Tuesday 19 February

The day started with dense fog and this took a long time to fully lift. It was not until 3pm that all the low cloud has disappeared, and even then only reluctantly. I went into town around 10 o'clock, and the shreds of fog floating around the streets were quite eerie. The fog wreaked havoc at the airport, where no planes were able to come or go until well after lunchtime. The ferry was not affected, but it did wake everybody up with a lot of hooting as she departed for Ullapool at 7 o'clock.

The case of Oscar Pistorius, the amputee athlete who is alleged to have murdered his girlfriend, is making the headlines. I don't know what to make of it, and the trial is the place for the facts to come out. Pistorius acquired fame through becoming a high profile runner on artificial limbs, but other facets of him also come out informally. A life has been lost, and now the courts have to decide who is responsible.

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Monday, 18 February 2013

Monday 18 February

An absolutely gorgeous day with little or no wind and no clouds. The mercury reached 8C, but it was positively warm in the sun. I went on foot to the Iolaire Memorial, which was a bit of a soppy affair in place, and clocked up 4 miles in total. No lambs as far as I could see or hear. Some sheep did look as if they were about to pop though.

The pandas in Edinburgh Zoo are getting frisky, and will be in mating mood next month. Right. The morning after pill is to be made available in schools. What the f***. I think prevention is better than cure, especially after I read yesterday that the incidence of HIV (the AIDS virus) is on the rise with the fall in the use of condoms.

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Sunday 17 February

The day started very windy, with a strong southerly breeze rattling along. This slowly abated through the day, making the 8C on the thermometer a bit more enjoyable. The days are fair drawing out, with darkness not fully occurring until after 6.30pm. Another nice sunset tonight.

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A major search was called after a bicycle was left on the ferry at Ullapool, when all passengers had left the vessel. The owner had last been spotted on board at 4.20pm, so it was feared that she had fallen overboard. The RNLI lifeboats, Coastguard helicopter, fishery patrol vessel and each and every craft that could make it to the Summer Isles went there - until police reported that the owner of the bike had turned up safe, well and completely oblivious to the fact that she had forgotten her bike, and that dozens of people were looking for her. She was in a youth hostel in Inverness. Like you forget your bike, eh?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday 16 February

A misty and grey day, although the low cloud did lift later in the afternoon - to about 200 feet above sealevel. It was relatively mild, with the mercury at 9C.

Over on the mainland, a car rally ended with a fatal accident. One of the cars left the track and ploughed into spectators, killing one of them. Sporting events appear to be having a bad spell, what with 8 people killed in avalanches in recent times. Let's hope this is the end of such mishaps for the moment.

The RNLI lifeboat from Leverburgh was called out late this afternoon to Scalpay, where a vessel had run aground outside the harbour. Fortunately, the tide was rising so the boat could refloat and proceed to port without problem. Another rescue, across the Minch at Loch Torridon, saw three people in the water after their craft capsized. The RNLI from Kyle of Lochals was in attendance, as was Rescue 100, the Coastguard helicopter from Stornoway.

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