In the spring time the countryside starts to come alive after the winter months. Crofters in the village start gathering the sheep in to the croft to have them close at hand for lambing and by the middle of April new lambs are starting to appear on crofts in the village. Even so there may still be snow on the hills in the morning and yet, by afternoon, there is enough heat in the sun for a picnic in a sheltered spot on a local beach. The skylarks are starting to sing on the moor at the slightest hint of some sun and it will not be long before the moor and shore are alive with birds.
Over the last while most of the sheep that are due to lamb have been gathered in from the open moorland but, of course, there are still a few stragglers missing and so it was time to head out onto the moor to see if we could recover them.
Dollag's Cottage @ 7 South Shawbost
Overnight there had been a light fall of snow on the top of Beinn Bhragair and Beinn Rathacleit and although there was a good breeze and the wind was cold it was an ideal day for walking on the moor. At this time of year a lot of the grass and other vegetation on the moor is dead and so the moor is often a light beige colour over large areas but in a few weeks the new growth will have pushed through and it will come to life once more.
On the croft to encourage the new growth the old, dead grass and reeds are burnt off. As might be imagined, and especially after such a dry spring on Lewis, great care is necessary and the process must be carried out on a calm night so there is no chance of the fire running out of control.
Out on the moor there was no time for worrying about burning grass as the purpose was to gather the sheep still remaining on the moor. It was thought that the sheep were probably in the areas of dead ground on top of Beinn Thorsiadair and so up we climbed for a look. As we were going up the view of Beinn Rathacleit was great and gave the ideal excuse to stop and enjoy the moorland while resting legs and lungs.
Once onto the top of the hill we stopped by a disused shieling for a little while to enjoy the view of the hills of Harris still blanketed in snow along the tops. The ground on top of the hill is quite broken and so the missing sheep could easily be lying up behind a rock or in a gully so it took quite a bit of walking to cover the top of the hill.
In the end luck was with us and three of the missing sheep were found and identified and moved down towards the fence. Mobile phones are a most wonderful invention and a quick call had Derick on the way with a trailer so the sheep could be taken in to the croft for lambing.
At this time of year there are often pet lambs on the croft. Usually these lambs have been rejected by the ewe and so need to be bottle fed. The little lamb in the photo below was rejected by its mother and even at only 3 days old knows what the bottle means. Annie is giving him a feed while Bubbles the dog looks on. Poor Bubbles seems a bit confused with pet lambs and doesn't know if they should be herded, barked at, ignored or run away from.
Despite the snow on the hills in the mornings the April sun was hot enough to allow sitting out and enjoying the sunshine and the larks singing. After all the hard work with the sheep it seemed only right to take a little walk along the beach at Dail Beag, about 5 minutes drive from the cottage. The little village of Dail Beag was looking well in the spring sunlight and although we looked we didn't see the resident otter on the freshwater loch.
Once onto the beach a spot sheltered from the light wind was found, a rug unrolled, and we lay on the beach and had a little picnic while enjoying the gentle sound of the Atlantic washing up the beach.
Despite spending most of my time in the area around the cottage at Shawbost it was, of course, necessary to head into the little town of Stornoway now and again. I have very few photos of the town and so thought this made for a good opportunity to capture a few snaps around the town and also to play with my photo processing. These will not be to the taste of everyone but hopefully you might enjoy them:
It was also fun to do some processing on the photos taken while out at sheep. This shot, taken close to the cottage, looks like some sort of fantasy illustration but it just a quick snap taken from the top of Beinn Thorsiadair.