Bully birds, dozy tourists and long, long days…

Group of sparrows.
Group of sparrows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First Tuesday of the month – so it’s time for a glimpse of island life.

A brisk north wind has been blowing across the island for the last week. It has kept temperatures well below the thirty-plus degrees that we experienced a couple of weekends ago. But the start to June has been pleasant enough with blue skies and sunny days. The quality of the light is superb, making the Cuillin mountain ridge seem very close to the village.

And, of course, we’re enjoying the very long days. It is light until around eleven p.m. at this time of year and doesn’t ever get properly dark – with dawn at around four-thirty a.m. For all the crofters with sheep on the hills and in the fields these extra hours of daylight are precious.

The whole island is bustling with tourists, which is great for all those whose businesses depend on the visitors. But one of the single track roads on the south of the island got so jammed on Sunday that the police had to go and show the tourists how to use passing places properly. It can be very frustrating for the residents, who are not on holiday, and who need to get to work, school and appointments on time.

The medieval 'Queen Mary harp' Clàrsach na Ban...
The medieval ‘Queen Mary harp’ Clàrsach na Banrìgh Màiri preserved in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This month is a busy cultural one for the locals as it’s when we have our Mod. This is a festival of Gaelic culture. It includes – recitation, drama, singing, precenting ( a form of unaccompanied Gaelic singing) and fiddle, accordion and clarsach (Gaelic harp) playing. Rehearsals and practices are in full swing.

Our garden is a busy place too. We’ve been adopted by an extended family of sparrows. There seem to be parents, aunties, uncles and kids – and who knows – maybe the odd grandparent – as well as the young ones. The grown-ups are all over the feeders and trays – as well as hoovering up the spilt seed from the grass. Meanwhile, the fat fledglings sit on the fence, or clamour on the path. They wait – beaks a-gape and wings a-flutter – for some poor overworked adult bird to feed them. Cheeky wee beggars – they’ve managed to fly into the garden – surely they can feed themselves. You want to shout, ‘Get a job!’ as you watch them take, take, taking.

We also have chaffinches, bluetits and siskins among our regulars – but it’s the sparrows who rule the roost.

There’s a lovely collared dove who visits the garden. She seems very genteel and gentle and keeps her distance from the small birds – but the sparrows are having none of it and regularly scare her off. Even the local rooks and crows don’t dare fly down from the fence when this mob is around. The sparrows also regard next-door’s cat with complete disdain as he sits in the corner watching them. He ends up getting bored and slinking away.

It’s only four weeks now until the school summer holidays and I’m very much looking forward to my six weeks off. I love living on the island – but at times it can get a bit claustrophobic – and it’s nice to get away to the mainland and beyond. I’ll be getting a ‘city fix’ at the start of the holidays with a week in Edinburgh visiting friends and family – and then at the end of July, I’m off to Israel to visit an old school friend. This will be my third visit to the country and I’m really looking forward to it. It will certainly be a big change from Hebridean life!

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