1 EAGLETON NOTES: August 2015



Wednesday 26 August 2015

A Sparrowhawk Visits

I woke up a few days ago and opened the curtain to see whether Pauline's good weather luck was holding. The sky was overcast. It was just after 5am so the light was poor. Then just outside my bedroom window I saw a bird: a female sparrow hawk waiting for her breakfast. Ironically I had put my cameras in the car ready for the off in the morning so had to go and retrieve one.

At 5am waiting for breakfast to emerge
This was the first time I'd seen a sparrow hawk so close and not actually in flight although one did attempt unsuccessfully to take a sparrow from the bird table some years ago and crashed into the flowers just outside the kitchen window. This evening I looked up as I was finishing dinner and there she was again sitting on the fencepost at the corner of the garden. This time the light was better but I had to take the photo through a rain-covered kitchen window. 

Here's looking at you
After a while I decided to be brave and open the back door and try again. She looked directly at me and decided that I was no immediate threat so I managed a shot or two before she flew off to seek supper over in the trees where the starlings were roosting for the night. They were less sanguine about her presence and immediately took to the sky. I had no idea there were so many starlings roosting so close to me.

After a short while she returned. 

Sitting patiently
When I went into the garden today I saw that there were lots of pigeon's feather scattered around so I assume that she has taken a pigeon whilst I've been away and is now after a second one. She certainly looks well fed even though she is a rather tatty specimen. I wonder if it was this pigeon that is no more:

Or this one?

Surely not this one?

Monday 24 August 2015


That Was The Week That Was. Remember that programme from half a century ago? Of course you don't. Well not if you're younger than I am. I wrote that start to this post this morning whilst it was fresh in my mind knowing that I had a day when I wouldn't be able to finish it until this evening. Coincidentally it's been in the news today.

Those of you who followed my A Hebridean in New Zealand blog will know that Pauline and I went on safari in New Zealand's Northland each year. Well last week Pauline visited Scotland and we went on a Highlands and Islands safari.

There will be more detailed posts on both our blogs (bearing in mind that Pauline's away for ages yet) but just to prove that Pauline woz 'ere here are a few photos.  

The most amazing thing, though, was that it didn't rain on us during the day all week. Pauline has a reputation for bringing good weather and she certainly came up trumps last week.

Day 1: Straight off the plane from Dublin and a visit to Fort George near Inverness
Day 1: The Ledgowan Arms in Achasheen for the first night
Day 2: The road to Applecross on the West Coast
Day 2: Pauline and the Nighthawk on the way over the 'top' to Applecross
Day 2: On 'the top' looking over to the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye.
Day 3: The Broch at Dun Carloway, Isle of Lewis
Day 3: The Standing Stones at Callanish, Isle of Lewis
Day 3: St Moluag's Church, Ness, Isle of Lewis
Day 4:  St Clement's Church, Rodel, Isle of Harris
Day 5: Uig, Isle of Lewis
Day 5: Uig Sands, Isle of Lewis. As good as New Zealand (but slightly colder!). 
Day 6: The ferry, a journey through the Highlands and a night in a superb hotel.
Day 7: Surveying the scene at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Well that was the week, that was. And a most enjoyable safari it was too. Enjoy the rest of your holiday Pauline.

Thursday 13 August 2015


I have, ever since I came to Lewis, had a liking for fulmars. Unlike gulls which they resemble they keep themselves to themselves and have remained a genuine seabird. They are in fact petrels and are easily distinguished from gulls by their rapid, stiff-winged flight. The Northern fulmar was originally native to the Hebridean outlying islands of St Kilda but was extensively hunted for food and expanded its range into northern Scotland and thence southwards as far as the northern coast of France. 

They are tubernoses like albatrosses and have the ability to defend themselves by projecting, from tubes above their beak, an oily substance from their stomach at an attacker. Birds of prey attacking a bird on the nest are likely to meet a sticky and often fatal end as their feathers get clogged up. I'm told by people who have experienced it that the smell lingers for a long time however much you wash. The lesson is don't annoy fulmars near their nests. I wonder how the hunters managed.

These pictures are from the Bull of Lewis taken a few weeks ago when the chicks were young.

Sunday 9 August 2015

A Bowl of Cherries

It's a blog for heavens sake. How can one have writers' block (or is it writer's block?). The strange thing is that I have so many notes about blogs to be written that it's almost a daunting task just reading through them all. Anyway after a very busy two weeks where reading posts took precedence over writing one I'm on the ferry travelling south with no excuse to get up and do something else.

You know how the saying goes - people don’t remember what you say or do, but how you make them feel.

So why do organisations not realise that their reception staff are such an important part of their organisation and that their interface with the public should receive far more attention than it obviously does. I say this because I sometimes think that the criteria adopted these days is to find a person who can 'protect' the organisation from its customers, patients or clients rather than facilitate the interaction.

I am by nature a happy, positive person and I approach reception staff with that attitude. I went to medical practice recently where the reception staff are invariably very busy with phone calls and patients waiting to speak to them but are, in my experience, always pleasant and helpful. However on this occasion there was a fairly new member of staff who looked up from the telephone call she had just taken and with a broad and genuine smile dealt with my requests. It made my day.

I then had a hospital appointment and again received a cheerful welcome and some banter with the reception staff and nurses and was out from the (again very cheerful) consultant 5 minutes before my appointment was due.

To complete my medical trilogy I went across the car park to the dental practice where one of the staff was completely the opposite. It's true that what she had to tell me didn't exactly please me but it was the dismissive and rude way she dealt with me that irked. She denied vehemently that she had been rude so I will reduce the charge to cheeky with scant regard for the fact that she was speaking to someone over three times her age.

Basically it turned my day from being perfect (and it was still only 0945) to being decidedly imperfect.

So I decided to treat myself to a bacon roll at the Woodlands. There I was met by another happy smile and was asked if I wanted my 'usual large black".  I retired to my crossword with the feeling that a modicum of well-being was restored.

Have a nice day. Or as someone in the US apparently now says "Have the day you deserve". Ah. Perhaps that was the problem.

As Ethel Merman and then Rudy Vallee sang (and Lew Brown wrote back in 1931)

People are queer, they're always crowing, scrambling and rushing about; 
Why don't they stop someday, address themselves this way? 
Why are we here? Where are we going? It's time that we found out. 
We're not here to stay; we're on a short holiday. 

Life is just a bowl of cherries. 
Don't take it serious; life's so mysterious. 
You work, you save, you worry so, 
But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go. 
So keep repeating it's the berries, 
The strongest oak must fall, 
The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned 
So how can you lose what you've never owned? 
Life is just a bowl of cherries, 
So live and laugh at it all.