Inquisitive, lovely little bird.
Inquisitive, lovely little bird.
Another thrill seeker going down the big slide…
(On the way to, if not at, Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye)
I prefer Vimto to Irn Bru I must confess, but I love the composition of robin, rabbit and bru can in snow.
(Re-blogged from a larger post via the wonderful ‘scotianostra,’ click here for more.)
You may have been seeing images of parts of the west of Scotland on fire recently. This is due to the excessively and unusually dry conditions this year. For those who’d like a little more information on what started the fires and the practice, read on:
“Muir-burning is practised by hill Crofters & farmers to burn off rough, hill grasses and long, mature heather to improve grazing for sheep, Cattle & cover for Grouse in other parts of Scotland.
The main reason for muir-burning is to create patches of short, sweet heather for sheep to graze.
When it all goes to plan, it is a very successful and worthwhile exercise.
When it gets out of control, the local volunteer fire brigades are brought in. Often these fire fighters are also crofters.
Coarse hill grasses like Mollinia and Nardus can become rank and tussocky if not grazed down or burnt, and will smother out heather. Apart from the fact that those rough grasses are unpalatable to cattle and sheep, they also create a snug environment for ticks & midgies to over-winter.
Ticks tansmit deadly diseases to cattle & sheep, as well as Lyme disease to the tourists & hill walkers when they bite to gorge on blood.
Rotational muir-burn isn’t simply a matter of dropping a match and letting the hillside burn out of control.
It should be planned well, and done it strip patches but, as with all fires, there’s always the risk of changes in wind strength and direction that can lead to a major conflagration. When that happens, it often takes many extra helpers, sometimes assisted by the fire brigade, to get it back under control.
Failure to do so could destroy habitats over hundreds of acres and threaten adjacent forestry.
Every Croft, hill farm and common grazing benefits significantly from Burning but sometimes after weighing up the situation it is just to high a risk to take. The consequences have to be taken in to account of the fire spreading to nearby forestry or into villages before going ahead with a muirburn. With the increasing reduction of cattle being kept on the hill in the highlands,there are very many areas overgrown. Added to that the banning of chemicals to kill the bracken means some of the old paths are impassible they are so overgrown. It could do with being grazed hard with beef cows during the early summer and then the sheep can follow them. That would keep the moor from becoming too rank, but then cows never milked as well as when they were on better pasture. As a result their calves weighed less in the autumn.
It is a matter of balance. While the cattle did not perform as well, the sheep did better because they prefer the shorter, sweeter grasses created as a result of the cows’ non-selective style of grazing.
Those on the high hills do not have enough cattle to graze them down, and, anyway, it’s nigh on impossible to control where they graze in the absence of fences – hence the need for muir-burn.
Heather has traditionally been regarded as an important food source for sheep. Lambs fattened on heather have a distinctive flavour.”
The European Pine Marten (Martes martes) is one of Ireland’s rarest wild animals. Martens belong to the mustelid family, which also includes mink, otter, badger, wolverine and weasel, and they are roughly the size of a domestic cat. Pine martens are arboreal(they have semi-retractable claws) so they will generally inhabit forests of coniferous or mixed tree types but in the west of Ireland they can be found on open rocky areas which contain scrub with good ground cover. They generally avoid coastal areas or open un-covered habitat types. Pine martens have been indigenous to Ireland since a period just after the last ice age, and are one of Ireland’s most important small mammal species.
Despite being preyed upon by red foxes and occasionally golden eagles, the greatest threat to martens as a species is humans. to humans. Their fur is prized, and loss of habitat continues to be a significant problem, as does illegal poisoning and shooting. Fortunately, national leaders have recognized the importance of this indigenous mammal to the Irish environment—the pine marten is now listed as a protected species under Irish, European and international legislation.
Their numbers are increasing slowly in Scotland.
With a sweet face and those onyx eyes it’s easy to imagine where the legend of the selchie springs from. I reacall numerous quiet evenings, walking the road along the shore on Skye, and the sight of one or sometimes two faces like this emerging, curious and not feet away from me.
“Selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) are mythological creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, andScottish folklore. The word derives from earlier Scots selich, (from Old English seolh meaning seal).[2 Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands and is very similar to those of swan maidens.”
(Selchie definition from Wikipedia, for photo, click source.)