Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Tuesday 18th April set of from Maalie Court and stopped at Loch Lomond about 5.00pm to make tea. Found a nice camp site on shore of Loch Long near Arrochar. Went for walk, saw Guillemots, Gannets, Black Guillemots, Mergansers and a porpoise from the camp. Settled down to spend first night sleeping in X-trail.

Wednesday 19th
Cooked breakfast (bacon, sausage and egg) at camp site. Spent the day exploring round Loch Awe. Found Tree Pipit, Common Sandpiper, Cuckoo, and Osprey circling carrying a fish. Dinner of oysters and char-grilled salmon at the Oyster Shop Restaurant at Loch Fyne infamously used by John Prescott and Gordon Brown. Drove to Oban via Lochgilplead and found a spot to park up for the night.

Thursday 20th
In the ferry queue for Mull by 8.00am. On Mull went straight to Grasspoint and quickly found a Sea Eagle and watched it preening, flying and soaring. On then to Fionnphort and was lucky to find a boat trip about to leave for Staffa.

Curious basalt colums at Fingal's Cave, Staffa

Good weather and excellent visibility resulted in a good variety of seabirds seen, including all auks, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater.

Fingal's Cave

Staffa and Fingal's Cave were spectacular. Back on Mull saw Golden Eagle and Great Northern Diver before finding a nice camp site on the south side of Loch Scridain.

Friday 21st
The day broke calm and cloudless so after a camp breakfast of sausage, bacon and egg, I set off to climb Ben More - the highest peak on Mull. Reached the summit in 2.5hrs and gained spectacular views from Northern Ireland to Lewis. Saw a Snow Bunting at top. Later found a basic camp site at the head of Loch na Keal near Gruline, and went for a spin to the Sound of Ulva before tea. Turned in about 9.30.

Ben More (970m) still snow-capped

Saturday 22nd
Left the car park for the Burg of Mull at 11.00, prepared for the 13 mile round trip on foot to the fossil tree. Fine to start with but after 3 miles it started to rain. Faced with the decision to return or carry on, rain gear came out of the rucksack and that became the point of no return. After some difficult walking but spectacular scenery the tree was reached about 2.00pm. With the tide rising, a hasty retreat was in order and the well-earned sandwiches were deferred until a safe distance above the high tide mark. The arduous walk was rewarded with a pair of Rock Doves and a Peregrine. Back at the camp, dry clothes were unpacked followed by a trip to Tobermory for hot soup and fish and chips.

Sunday 23rd
A relatively easy day exploring the north end of Mull from Tobermory to Calgary in fine sunny weather that dried off all my wet clothes. Another Golden Eagle was seen, and Black-throated Divers. An evening walk beside Loch Ba turned up Redpoll and a fine view of a Sea Eagle as it circled over the loch.

Monday 24th
Up at 7.00am to clear up the camp site. The morning looked bright but with rain threatening so drove to Fionnphort to catch next ferry to Iona, landed at noon. Walked to the north shore and to the top of the hill. Had a pint in the pub and back on Mull by 3.00. By now rain was setting in so drove back towards Craignure exploring side roads along the way. Carsaig was especially dramatic. In steady rain found a pleasant spot at Lochbuie to park up for my last night on Mull. With now seven consecutive nights sleeping in the X-Trail I consider it to be fully broken in!

Tuesday 25th
The rain eased off at breakfast time and there was time to visit the Sea Eagle site at Grasspoint. It looked as if the chicks had hatched and both adults were in the vicinity of the eyrie. Boarded the 13.00 ferry to Oban. Saw another Golden Eagle whilst driving through Argyll. Home by 7.00pm.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Easter commenced just before midnight on Thursday 13 April with the arrival of Alun and Trudy at Maalie Court. Good Friday started with a respectably early start for the RSPB reserve at Hodbarrow where a circuit of the lake on foot loosened up some muscles for the weekend. Spring migrants were all around, with Willow Warblers warbling in the scrub, Swallows and Sand Martins hunting insects over the fields and water, and hundreds of noisy Sandwich Terns settling into their colony, with males bringing in a stream of small fish to feed the females as part of the courtship routine.
Alun and Trudy discuss moult strategies of seabirds

With the weather settling into a pleasant sunny day it was decided to go to St. Bee’s Head further up the coast to see the seabird cliffs. An hour’s walk from St Bee’s car park and we arrived at our destination near the lighthouse but mysteriously the cliff ledges, which had been crowded with Guillemots and Razorbills just a few weeks before, were now deserted. It is likely that the birds are out to sea feeding up ready for the frenzy of the breeding season. The day was saved by a single Black Guillemot (St Bees’s is the only place in England where they breed) and small colonies of Fulmar, Kittiwake and Cormorant. Home for dinner of enslada mixta with king prawns, then lasagne followed by strawberries, raspberries and cream was judged a success.

Saturday was set aside for “a gentle local walk” as a prelude to a more ambitious plan for Sunday. However, things turned out differently. A saunter along a public footpath across Black Moss towards Wooland Fell gave us tempting views of the mountain Blawith Knott (248m) and with the weather improving all the time a decision was made to ‘go for it’. This proved successful as on the way we encountered a local colony of Yellowhammers (now increasingly uncommon in Cumbria) and also a glimpse of a Ring Ouzel before it disappeared among the boulder scree. The summit of Blawith Knott was attained by lunchtime. Further along the range the peaks of Wool Knott (215m) and Beacon (255m) looked within walking distance and so we set off passing the attractive Beacon Tarn on the way.

A well-earned break for lunch at the summit of Blawith Knott

Arriving at the Beacon legs were starting to feel weary and the way back was made via Green Moor and Raisthwaite Farm. Dinner of a rather chewy joint of roast beef was rather an anticlimax to the day, but nothing a few gins and beers and a bottle of red wine couldn’t put right.

With disappointing weather on the start of Sunday, and some aching limbs from Saturday, it was decided to abort the projected assault on the mountain where England’s only Golden Eagle lives. Instead, a more leisurely walk around South Walney nature reserve produced a few more species of waterfowl and waders to add to the weekend’s tally. This was supported by lunch adequately enhanced with Easter egg chocolate. With the requirement of a packet of frozen chips required for dinner, a walk to Askam coop produced excellent views of a Spotted Redshank moulting into summer plumage.

Easter Monday commenced with a visit to Roudsea Wood where a walk round the boardwalks across the moss and through the wood added a few woodland birds bringing the weekend's species total to 90 (list available on application). Alun and Trudy headed off south while I returned home to begin preparing for the next adventure…

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


On Friday 7 April I met up with son Alun with partner Trudy, and friends Richard and Maria to see my favourite ballerina, Sylvie Guillem dancing Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (choreography Sir Kenneth MacMillan, mysic Sergei Prokoviev) with the Royal Ballet in the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Sylvie joined the Royal Ballet as a Principal Guest Artist in 1989 and since then I have seen her dance in some 15 roles in London and in Paris.

Sylvie Guillem as Juliet dancing with Romeo in the mask ball

It appears that this may be one of her final performances dancing in a full-length classical ballet as she has no sheduled appearances at the moment in anything other than contemporary works. It is fitting then that she completed the season with a stunning performance with house-shaking curtains calls and a flower throw which lasted well after the house lights had gone up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Waistcoat

The waistcoat, purchased on eBay for toastmastering at Jenny's wedding in Brighton.

Photo by Jemima