The Re-Tern of Spring

23 May 2010

A couple of days ago I was crossing Fuchsia’s beach in the evening sunshine. Some way off, a pair of Greylag geese burst into their usual melodramatic uproar and waddled hurriedly towards the sea. But then I noticed they had good reason to be so noisy: a couple of little greeny-yellow chicks were following them, the low light shining through their fluff giving them glowing halos.

This is just one of the signs that spring sure is here. Our apple tree is blossoming. Red-polls and Twites (boring little brown birds until you get behind binoculars and see their smart stripes and blush-red breasts) are enjoying the dandelion seeds on our un-mown lawn. The Eider ducklings are also emerging. And, at last, the Arctic Terns have returned from their migration to South Africa or even Antarctica and back (this is the longest migration of all birds). I know it’s bad to have favourites, but Eiders and Terns are probably mine. The call of the male Eider is gorgeous: so cosy and warm (forgive the anthropomorphism). The Terns fly beautifully: elegant and nimble, they almost bounce through the air, their wing feathers Apple blossom (forgive lack of other spring-like photos...more to follow we hope!)near-translucent. We’ve only seen Terns fleetingly on Tanera so far this year, but Rich and I kayaked to Isle Ristol before breakfast the other day (luckily down-wind to start with, giving my arms time to wake up) and found them fishing in the shallow turquoise sea over the coral sand. We also saw an otter there, but heard it first: yelping, almost like a distressed oyster catcher, lolloping across some rocks and out of sight. Perhaps it had lost its mother, or maybe got its toenail caught in a particularly awkward clam.

Another notable change is the return of the Summer Queen – the boat which takes visitors daily from Ullapool, out round the back Tanera Mor to have a look at the smaller Summer Isles and (if they’re lucky) some seals and dolphins, and drops people here to walk up the hill, enjoy a cuppa and some homemade sandwiches or cake (Fairtrade, Organic and/or locally produced where possible) in the cafe, and explore our very own Summer Isles stamps.

And the best thing is that, even though birds, trees and people have noticed summer is coming, the midges don’t seem to have noticed yet...

Tanera Mòr, Summer Isles, Achiltibuie, by Ullapool, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV26 2YN

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