Escape to Islay
|27/02/2013||Filled under caravanning, family, Scotland|
Shoreline walks are scarce things for us these days – it is winter after all – and with our caring responsibilities it is even rarer that Kate and I go out walking together. So when a chance does arrive for either of us we try to grab it and go alone. I like to head out to Carradale Point where the rocky terrain makes walking difficult, hence few go there, and where there is always something unexpected going on. The wild goats which roam about here pause in their search amongst the unappetising grasses, giving me the eyeball as I pass by, just making sure I do move on without letting me get too close. One of their kids is bleating somewhere close by – the noise is eerily like a human baby crying – but the adult goats ignore this and focus all their attention on me.
Continuing with my walk I arrive at the harbour, a place which provides some shelter from the south-easterly wind and which is therefore regarded as a cosy home by the eider duck fleet. Almost exclusively male, they seem to be doing what chaps all over the world do, trying to impress the ladies. In this case it is with their formation swimming, I surmise. There is even a black-headed youngster spending his first winter amongst them pretending he is old enough to swim with the men, so to speak. It seems hard to believe that these creatures actually choose to live here during the winter when they could easily fly away somewhere warmer, less windy perhaps. A little research tells me that they are Britain’s fastest (and heaviest) ducks, 70 mph record breakers, easily a match, then, for a strong wind. Of course their presence here may simply be down to the presence of their food, which is plentiful here all year round. They eat molluscs, mussels mostly, which they swallow whole, and crabs which they also eat whole after removing the legs, an understandable precaution. The shells are crushed inside their bodies before being passed out as crumbs. We are now in the eider breading season, a time when they come in from the open sea to seek shelter and male eider plumage is as bright and shiny as it gets, the delicate pale green on the back of their necks and the roseate breast feathers contrasting with the black caps they wear on their heads.
A visit to Carradale, his first, by my brother Graham gives Kate, Mike (whose chemotherapy treatment is on hold for now) and me a chance to take a short holiday, leaving our mother in my brother’s tender care. We grab this opportunity, ignore the fact that it is mid-winter and likely to be cold, wet and windy and book a ferry to the Isle of Islay.
On this occasion YouTube will illustrate our trip…
We have a date for Mike’s surgery, at last, and a clearer picture of what this will mean for him. Juggling with his and my mother’s care will continue to influence our lives but we are more optimistic for the future than we have been for some time.