Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Hebridean multimedia presentation

 We love wild camping, but one of the luxuries of using a commercial camp site is the availability of a hot shower at the end of a day - and those at Fidden Farm are excellent!  After trips to the shower block we cooked our dinner; Douglas and I found a scrap of breeze on top of a small rock outcrop which we hoped would deter some of the midges.  It may have deterred only some of them, but the view compensated.

 After dinner we wandered down below the high water mark to light a small fire.  The heat wasn't needed as the evening was warm, but there's something very convivial in having a fire to congregate around.  We chatted about the amazing day we'd enjoyed and plans for the following morning, and just absorbed what was turning into a multimedia presentation around us.....

 ...starting with a visual element as the summer sunset developed in the late evening......

 ....and progressed to a smouldering gold finale beyond Iona......

 ....leaving the most delicate of shades reflected on mirror calm water in the bay.

Apart from our small group of four there seemed to be only one other tent on the camp site.  All the other visitors were either in caravans or in motorhomes and we were surprised how few folk sat outside to enjoy the evening - especially since the midges had vanished as the evening cooled.

As the colours of the sunset afterglow faded they were replaced by the intangible atmosphere of a Hebridean late evening.  It's difficult to describe, but the light takes on a diaphanous quality with soft-focus shades of palest pinks and greys.  This image was taken at nearly 11pm, just as the audio element of the multimedia show began to be most noticeable.

There were the usual the evening calls of shorebirds, and we'd been entertained by trying to spot the careering overhead display flights of Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) by tracking their "drumming" note (well recorded by Hugh Harrop here).  The "drumming" is not a vocal call, it's produced mechanically as the bird holds two very stiff outer tail feathers at an angle to its body in shallow  power dives producing a vibration which has been described as goat-like.  Drumming is mostly crepuscular but can continue all night and most of the day in northern latitudes.  It's quite difficult to spot the birds by following the sound of the drumming as the sound seems to project itself.

An even more iconic Hebridean note was soon added, the calls of male Corncrakes (Crex crex) which really do live up to the bird's Linnaean name.  Corncrakes are migratory summer visitors and were formerly very common throughout the Hebrides and the west coast of Scotland.  Changes in agriculture and land use have deprived the birds of much of their very specific habitat of tall flower rich meadows and they are now at very low numbers, perhaps only 1200 breeding pairs.  Despite the rasping calls being persistent and monotonous, it was good two hear two males "giving it laldy" until the small hours of the morning and again from pre-dawn.

It was late when we retired to the tents; the forecast was for an increasing northerly breeze the following day but we hoped to able to visit the Abbey on Iona and explore more of the Ross of Mull.


  1. breathtaking colors. Still envious here.

    1. Thanks Dan, colour really was the theme of this trip....


  2. Makes me jealous as I haven't camped out or visited a single Hebridean island this year for various reasons. Nice relaxing post. Corncrakes used to be heard on the outskirts of Glasgow in certain fields when I was a child as that's when I first saw one near my house.

    1. It was one of those relaxed evenings Bob, very enjoyable. How good would it be if Corncrakes could be heard again on the outskirts of Glasgow?

      Kind Regards

  3. Ah Ian, it looks so idyllic. We haven't even launched from Base Camp 1 yet since returning...very soon though. Take good care and warm wishes from us both to you and Linda.

    1. It was absolutely idyllic D & J, despite a few pesky midges :o)

      Warm wishes to you both