Winter on a Woodland Croft on Skye

19th March 2017
It has been a very busy winter at Wildlife Croft Skye. We've been working hard to add extra special touches to Stonechat Bothy, our self catering cottage. The Bothy now has a heated towel rail and heated clothes dryer, additional LED spotlights in each room, outdoor security lights and a fresh lick of paint. We strive to ensure our guests have everything they need to completely unwind, and make the most of their stay here on Skye.
One question we are often asked is whether we allow guests to bring their dogs to the Bothy. We have an elderly, fairly grumpy Collie cross rescue, Sammy, and for his sake we do not allow guests to bring dogs. We want to him to enjoy his old age and life on the croft in peace. Another reason is that we live in an active Crofting community with livestock in neighbouring crofts and on the hill behind. We may decide to change our policy in the future, but for the moment we do not allow guests to bring dogs. Here is a photo of handsome Sammy recovering from a minor op at the vets.
We've enjoyed excellent views of Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle from the Croft. Our croft bird list now stands at 71. In the last few weeks we've enjoyed birdsong in the mornings and late afternoon. There is frogspawn all around and we've seen mating amphibians. We were lucky to see a rare glimpse of mating Great Diving Beetles in the pond! Our friend Ian kindly brought over squares of carpet which we've placed in suitable basking spots for reptiles and amphibians. Moth-wise, the mild winter weather has meant we've had decent hauls in the trap, with the highlight of the year so far being the amazingly camouflaged Red Sword-Grass.
Our friends Phil and Susie helped us to plant fruit trees (apple, pear and plum) in early February, and we devised a system so we can water them easily in summer. Phil installed an old IBC, recommended by our friends Anna and Hanno from West Coast Organics, and used pipe running from the burn to create a water butt. After some difficulty finding the right gauge of thread to attach a tap, we now have a source of water close to the trees to save us carrying water up from the shed. We've also attempted a willow growing experiment, after coppicing one of the osier willows, by simply sticking the cut stems into the ground. We hope this will yield lots of stems for basket making later this year. This Spring, the tree seeds we collected last winter (that have been stratifying) will need to be potted and Phil has built a work/potting bench for his height (6'4). Building shed storage, workbenches and raised beds will be our next practical projects...
Laura attended a coastal wildlife identification course in March and learned about some of the incredible species living on our shores website for more info. The camera battery died before we found the sea spider and big crabs, but we hope to continue to discover more of the amazing creatures that live here. Scotland has 10% of Europe's coastline, and with our significant tidal range we have so much rocky shore to explore and enjoy. See our Facebook album Rockpooling for more images here.
Our daughter Effie will turn one year old on the first day of Spring. She started attending Fas Mor at Sabhal Mor Ostaig in February. Sabhal Mor Ostaig is the national centre for Gaelic language and culture and is located close to us here in Sleat . They run courses and there are also regular events by Seall ('Skye Events for All’ and ‘Look’ or ‘See’ in Gaelic) see here for more info. We are hoping Effie will be able to help us to learn Gaelic in the years to come.
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