Tackling rhododendron together

In our latest blog we explore how lessons learned from Scotland’s rainforest helped to avert a serious threat from invasive rhododendron in Norway.

Scotland’s rainforest is home to some of the world’s rarest mosses, liverworts and lichens ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot/2020VISION

Scotland’s west coast is home to temperate rainforest habitat, which is scarcer than tropical rainforest and hosts some of the world’s rarest mosses, liverworts and lichens. NatureScot is a member of the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, a partnership working to raise the profile of Scotland’s rainforest and ensure that it thrives again.

Awareness is continually growing that our rainforest is in trouble, and the main problems it faces are invasive rhododendron and pressure from herbivores. Rhododendron can be well-loved for its showy purple flowers and tolerance of our less than ideal climate, but its ability to thrive in damp, cool areas is now a major issue across large areas of woodland in western Scotland. It is shading out the rare and special plants associated with temperate rainforest and leading to long-term declines in biodiversity, along with severely reducing the potential for Scotland’s rainforest to regenerate and thrive in the long term.

An infestation of rhododendron ponticum ©Caz Austen / WTML

If there is a positive slant to this problem, it is that we have built up a really good understanding of the threats that invasive rhododendron poses, along with knowledge and experience of the best ways of tackling it. But outside the west of the UK and Ireland, the damage rhododendron can cause isn’t always so well recognised.

In 2017, a group of land managers and ecologists from Scotland, led by Duncan Halley of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), and including NatureScot Operations Officer Lorraine Servant, took part in an Erasmus+ study tour of southwest Norway. The main reason for the visit was to look at woodland and montane scrub and to highlight the potential for the expansion of these habitats in Scotland.

Young rhododendron regenerating at a previously treated rainforest site in Sunart Special Area of Conservation. ©Lorraine Servant/NatureScot

The group visited the Flekkefjord coastal region in the extreme southwest and were concerned to see rhododendron growing in and around gardens. On discussing the issue with various conservation and land use professionals, it became clear that the plant was not viewed as a serious threat in Norway. Duncan however, having seen the rhododendron problem in Scotland, was well aware of what could happen next and Lochaber-based Lorraine, who sees the harm caused by rhododendron on a daily basis, was also keen to act.

Discussions continued once the group returned home and Lorraine led some follow up work along with Dominic Driver (now with Natural Resources Wales) on a short paper to stress the importance of getting on top of the situation before the plant is allowed to spread. Due to the similar geology, soils and climate, rhododendron would be expected to become as invasive in southwest Norway as it has been in Scotland.

Duncan used this paper to push for a survey of rhododendron in 2018. This led to the discovery of a rather worrying incipient outbreak of a hybrid rhododendron at Svinvik, on a coastal fjord southwest of Trondheim. Several vigorously growing clumps were found out in the woods, over a thousand plants in all, and scattered individual bushes were found up to several kilometres from the original source: the garden of an early enthusiast collector which is now an arboretum.

First generation wild rhododendron on Tysnesøya. ©Duncan Halley/ NINA

This led to a website on how to remove new invasive populations, with case studies of outbreaks – Tiltak mot rømt rhododendron (nina.no). In 2021 a cooperation was started between Svinvik arboretum, NINA, and the local community, to remove the invasive form there, using British and Irish techniques and funded by the Norwegian Environment Directorate. It is estimated that at least 95 percent of the invasive form has been removed, and with it the vast majority of seed fall. This year follow up checks and treatments will be carried out, along with further survey work to remove any outlying bushes.

Duncan recently wrote with an update: “So thanks again – like I said last time, your initiative has probably saved SW Norway millions (GBP) a year, and justifies all your careers, and mine, by itself – at least in money saved the Norwegians! Also shows what Erasmus programme knowledge exchange can achieve.”

The Scottish group left Norway with eyes opened to the potential for how the landscape here could look, with much more woodland and montane scrub growing out onto the hills above the treeline. But the visit also did something very positive for nature in Norway by sharing knowledge across borders, highlighting the added value of Erasmus+ and the benefits of a replacement to this type of exchange programme.

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Celebrating our Machair

It’s fitting that even English speakers use a Gaelic word for a habitat that is such an icon of the Gàidhealtachd.

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

In the dark depths of winter, perhaps it’s appropriate to remind ourselves of the light and colour of the machair in June. It’s only a few months until we once more have the opportunity to smell the sea spray and delight in the wildflowers that stud this iconic Scottish habitat. Our language has given the word to English, with machair defined in one dictionary as ‘(in Scotland, especially the Western Isles) low-lying arable or grazing land formed near the coast by the deposition of sand and shell fragments by the wind.’

Wildflowers growing on the Uist machair. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot.

In Gaelic, the picture is rather broader. Machair is thought to derive from the elements magh ‘plain’ and tìr ‘land’ and it refers not only to the maritime habitat of western coasts, as in English, but to any plain or extensive level area of arable land. Machair Aonghais is the lowland country of Angus stretching from around Kirriemuir (Ceathramh Moire ‘Mary’s quarterland’) and Strathmore (An Srath Mòr ‘the big strath’) to the coast. The word is even used to refer to the Central Belt of Scotland which is Am Machair Gallta ‘the Lowland plain’. It also occurs in Irish Gaelic, with place names like Magherafelt (Machaire Fíolta) and Maghera (Machaire Ratha), and on the Isle of Man, where there are names like Magher ny Traie ‘the field of the beach’ and Magher y Chreg Vane ‘the field of the white rock’.

However, it is in Scotland that the word is best-known, and where it made the transition from Gaelic into English, as employed by naturalists and scientists, in the 20th century, with specific reference to the coastal machair of places like the Western Isles. While Uist and Barra perhaps show the finest development of the habitat, there are also significant amounts in Lewis and Harris and many other islands which possess coastlines with a face to the open ocean. The mixture of shell-grit with the native sand is crucial to these habitats, providing a mix of nutrients, along with reduced acidity, that ensures conditions, and flora, that is substantially different from the talamh dubh ‘black land’ dominated by peat elsewhere in these coastal areas.

Machair in flower, Benbecula. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot.

The coastal machair is also a managed habitat, with crofters and farmers heavily involved – planting crops in rotation, fertilising with seaweed and ensuring the sustainability of its productivity. The diversity of its plant life is a direct consequence of active human management. Naturally enough, it is a habitat that is much-loved by the Gaels.

Traditional crofting practices are one of the crucial ingredients for machair.

While the word is in daily use throughout the Western Isles in both languages, it is surprisingly rare on maps of the islands. Examples, however, are Machair Leathann ‘broad machair’ and Machair Robach ‘scruffy machair’ on the north coast of North Uist. and Loch a’ Mhachaire ‘the loch of the machair’ on the island of Killegray in the Sound of Harris. And there is the settlement of Ardivachar (Àird a’ Mhachair ‘the promontory of the machair’) on South Uist. Here the word machair is given its usual masculine gender, but nearby there is, at least according to the Ordnance Survey, Rubha Àird na Machrach ‘the point of the promontory of the machair’, where the word is treated as feminine. This appears erroneous, as the form Àird a’ Mhachair is well-established. The word is also given feminine status, which it undoubtedly bears dialectally, in Kintyre, where there is Cruach na Machrach ‘the hill of the machair’, although the amount of ‘machair’ in its vicinity is decidedly small.

The word machair is also to be found on the map in other parts of the country where Gaelic was once the dominant language, sometimes today in an anglicised or modified form. There are a number of machair names in Galloway, such as Machermore (Machair Mòr ‘big plain’) and Macherbrake (Machair Breac ‘variegated field). There is also an area of Wigtownshire called The Machars, which describes the general lie of the land. Likewise in the old Gàidhealtachd of south-western Scotland, we have, in southern Ayrshire, Macherquhat (Machair Chat?) and Pinmacher, probably ‘the pennyland of the plain’. Not far distant, on the west coast of the isle of Arran, is Machrie (with a lot of derivative place names like Machrie Water and Machrie Bridge) and where a golf course has been created on the coastal machair – and wasn’t it on machair or (in Scots) ‘links’ that golf started?

Islay also boasts a Machrie, adjacent to a beach known as Tràigh Mhachir (Tràigh a’ Mhachaire ‘the beach of the machair’). On the same island, near the airport, another strand is also called Tràigh a’ Mhachaire; it is backed by Muran a’ Mhachaire ‘the marram grass habitat of the machair’ and overlooked by the Machrie Hotel.

Machir Bay, Traigh Mhachir, Islay, ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Flat machair lands on Kintyre also provided a suitable location for the construction of an airport. Campbeltown Airport is on machair known as Machair Shanais, anglicised Machrihanish. Kintyre boasts some other machair names, including Machrimore and Machriebeg (‘large’ and ‘small’). And on the isle of Colonsay, adjacent to some lovely coastal machair, of which the local rabbits are inordinately fond, there is Machrins (Na Machairean).

Those of you with an interest in television might recognise the word in the context of Gaelic TV. The first Gaelic ‘soap’ ever to appear on television in Scotland, filmed largely on the Isle of Lewis, was called ‘Machair’. Perhaps the last word on ‘machair’ should also be from the Western Isles, from an anonymous songster who wrote Uibhist mo Ghràidh, a loving and much-sung tribute to Uist from an exile. Among the memories of island life which maintain the writer’s wellbeing in Glasgow of the paved streets are those of the machraichean (the plural form of machair):

Ged ʼs fhada bhon dhʼfhàg mi eilean mo ghràidh,

ʼS a thàinig mi a Ghlaschu ʼs a rinn mi ann tàmh,

 Tha machraichean Uibhist nam chuimhne a ghnàth,

Aʼ cumail mo chridhe gach latha rium.

Though it’s long since I left the island I love, and came to Glasgow and made a home, The machairs of Uist are continually in my memory, Keeping my spirits up every day.

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

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Machraichean Bòidheach na h-Alba

Tha am facal ‘machair’ cho sònraichte ʼs gu bheil e air tighinn a-steach don Bheurla.

Read in English

Tha e math aig an àm seo dhen bhliadhna, nuair a tha na làithean dorch agus a’ ghrian ìosal, a bhith a’ cuimhneachadh dathan is soilleireachd a’ mhachair anns an Ògmhios. Chan eil ach beagan mhìosan romhainn mus bi cothrom a-rithist tlachd a ghabhail à fàileadh na fairge agus coltas nam flùraichean a tha a’ comharrachadh na h-àrainn iongantaich Albannaich seo.

Lusan fiadhain a’ fàs air machair Uibhist. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot.

A rèir an fhaclair ‘Brìgh nam Facal’ tha machair a’ ciallachadh ‘talamh rèidh, gu h-àraidh ri taobh na mara’. Mar sin tha am facal nas fharsainge ann an Gàidhlig na tha ann am Beurla, far a bheil e a’ ciallachadh ‘talamh rèidh ri taobh na mara far a bheil gainmheach agus sligean briste air an sguabadh ann leis a’ ghaoith’. Thathar a’ smaoineachadh gu bheil e a’ tighinn bhon dà eileamaid magh ‘blàr, talamh rèidh’ agus tìr ‘fearann’, agus tuigidh sibh gum faod machair a bhith gu math mòr, leithid Machair Aonghais (eadar Ceathramh Moire agus an costa) agus am Machair Gallta ann am meadhan na dùthcha.

Tha am facal a’ nochdadh air mapaichean ceann a tuath na h-Èireann, le àiteachan mar Magherafelt (Machaire Fíolta) and Maghera (Machaire Ratha), agus ann an Eilean Mhanainn far a bheil e a’ ciallachadh ‘achadh rèidh’ agus far am faicear àiteachan mar Magher ny Traie ‘machair na tràighe’ and Magher y Chreg Vane ‘machair na creig bhàin’.

Am machair fo bhlàth, Beinn nam Fadhla. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot.

Ach ʼs ann an Alba as trice a nochdas am facal agus ʼs ann an seo a ghluais e bho Ghàidhlig gu Beurla ann an cainnt is sgrìobhaidhean eòlaichean-nàdair agus luchd-saidheans tràth anns an fhicheadamh linn, le sùil shònraichte air na machraichean ri taobh a’ chladaich anns na h-Eileanan Siar. Ged as ann an Uibhist is Barraigh as nochdte a tha a leithid, tha machraichean snoga ann an Leòdhas agus Na Hearadh cuideachd, a bharrachd air eileanan eile far a bheil cladach mu choinneimh a’ chuain mhòir. Tha am measgachadh de shligean mara agus gainmheach cudromach anns na h-àrainnean seo, a’ dèanamh cothlamadh de mhèinnearan, agus nas lugha de shearbhagan, an coimeas ris an ‘talamh dhubh’ far a bheil mòine, agus le lusan eadar-dhealaichte a’ fàs ann.

Tha bòidhchead is iomadachd ar machraichean an urra ri croitearachd thraidiseanta.

Tha am machair seo, mar a tha e an-diugh, air tighinn gu bith mar thoradh air mar a tha daoine air a bhith ga chleachdadh fad linntean. Bidh croitearan is tuathanaich a’ cur bàrr agus buntàta ann am pàtran cuairte gus nach fhàs an talamh gann de mhaitheas, agus ga fheamnadh airson torachas a chur ris. Tha an iomadachd de lusan air a’ mhachair mar shamhla dhen àiteachas sin. Chan iongantach e gu bheil gràdh aig na Gàidheil air am machraichean.

Ged a tha am facal air a chur gu feum gu làitheil anns na h-Eileanan Siar – anns an dà chànan – cha bhi e a’ nochdadh gu tric air mapaichean nan eilean. Ge-tà, tha eisimpleirean anns a’ Mhachair Leathann agus Machair Robach air cladach a tuath Uibhist a Tuath, agus Loch a’ Mhachaire air Ceileagraigh ann an Caolas na Hearadh. Agus tha baile air Ardivachar (Àird a’ Mhachair) air ceann a tuath Uibhist a Deas. An sin tha machair na fhacal fireanta. Ach faisg air làimh, a rèir na Suirbhidh Òrdanais, tha Rubha Àird na Machrach far a bheil e boireanta. Saoilidh mi gu bheil seo mearachdach oir tha Àird a’ Mhachair(e) gu math stèidhichte.

Tha am facal air a thomhas boireanta cuideachd ann an Cinn Tìre far a bheil Cruach na Machrach, ged a tha machair gann anns an nàbachd sin. A rèir faclair Armstrong (1825) bha e boireanta ann an Siorrachd Pheairt. Tha esan a’ toirt eisimpleirean mar luibh na machrach ‘the herb of the field’ agus air feadh na machrach ‘among the Lowlands’.

Tràigh a’ Mhachaire ann an Ìle. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Chithear am facal machair air a’ mhapa ann an sgìrean dhen dùthaich far an robh Gàidhlig aig an t-sluagh o chionn fhada, ach ann an dreach atharraichte. Mar eisimpleir, ann an Gall-Ghàidhealaibh, tha Machermore (Machair Mòr) and Macherbrake (Machair Breac). Tha ‘The Machars’ ann cuideachd, ainm a tha ag innse dhuinn mu chumadh na tìre. Cuideachd ann an seann Ghàidhealtachd an iar-dheas tha Macherquhat (Machair Chat?) agus Pinmacher, ʼs dòcha ‘peighinn a’ mhachair’. Air taobh an iar Arainn tha Machrie, le ainmean eile a tha a’ buntainn ris, leithid Machrie Water agus Machrie Bridge, agus far a bheil raon-goilf – oir nach ann air machair no (ann an Albais) ‘links’ a thòisich an gèam sin?

Tha Machrie ann an Ìle cuideachd, ri taobh tràigh air a bheil Tràigh Mhachir (Tràigh a’ Mhachaire) air na mapaichean. Air an dearbh eilean, faisg air a’ phort-adhair, tha tràigh eile ann air a bheil Tràigh a’ Mhachaire, le Muran a’ Mhachaire air a’ chùlaibh agus taigh-òsta air a bheil ‘Machrie Hotel’.

Bha machair ann an Cinn Tìre cuideachd freagarrach airson raointean-laighe a thogail. Tha Port-adhair Cheann Loch Cille Chiarain air Machair Shanais (Machrihanish). Tha machraichean eile ann an Cinn Tìre, leithid Machrimore (Am Machair Mòr) agus Machribeg (Am Machair Beag), agus air Eilean Cholbhasa, ri taobh machair brèagha a tha làn choineanach, tha baile beag air a bheil Machrins (Na Machairean – air fhuaimneachadh ‘MEH-chur-in’).

Ma tha ùidh agaibh ann an telebhisean, bidh sibh eòlach air ‘Machair’, a chiad dràma ‘siabainn’ Gàidhlig a nochd riamh air TBh. Bha e air fhilmeadh ann an Leòdhas. Cuideachd às na h-Eileanan Siar, tha an t-òran Uibhist mo Ghràidh, a tha ag innse mu ghràdh an òranaiche do dh’eilean a bhreith, agus e a-nise a’ fuireach ann an Glaschu nan sràidean glasa. Is beag an t-iongnadh gu bheil e a’ cuimhneachadh machraichean àlainn Uibhist:

Ged ʼs fhada bhon dhʼfhàg mi eilean mo ghràidh,

ʼS a thàinig mi a Ghlaschu ʼs a rinn mi ann tàmh,

 Tha machraichean Uibhist nam chuimhne a ghnàth,

Aʼ cumail mo chridhe gach latha rium.

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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Surveying for flapper skate eggs

Last week it was announced that the critically-endangered flapper skate is to gain further protection with the extension of Red Rocks and Longay urgent Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Inner Sound of Skye. In our latest blog, we take a closer look at recent fieldwork to survey the area.

NatureScot’s marine team were out and about this August and September to try and get a better handle on the distribution of boulder and cobble seabed habitats used by the flapper skate for laying and protecting their eggs during a lengthy 18-month gestation period.

When the Red Rocks and Longay MPA was designated on an urgent basis in March, interim management measures came into force, initially for 12 months. The survey work, part-funded by Marine Scotland, was undertaken to inform a detailed assessment of the area against the Scottish MPA selection guidelines. This advice will form part of a public consultation in February 2022 on the case for making Red Rocks and Longay MPA permanent.

Mapped sea-bed substrates around Longay and Red Rocks (Sgeir Dhearg), Inner Sound, Skye (Stewart et al., 2022). © Crown copyright [and database rights] 2021 OS 100017908. Reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey ©UKRI [2021]. All rights Reserved

The survey work was guided by detailed seabed habitat maps produced for the project by the British Geological Survey (BGS) using high-resolution multibeam data.

A drop-down video camera was used at more than 200 points in and next to the urgent MPA from a chartered scallop dive boat. The drop video equipment is simple and light and with careful deployment in the right conditions is a great way to get to know what lies below. The camera is protected within a stainless steel frame and the system lowered over the side of the boat until it ‘flies’ just above the seabed. The boat and camera frame were allowed to drift for ~5-10 minutes and footage of the sea floor was fed via an umbilical cable to a viewing screen in the wheelhouse in real time with accurate positioning. High definition video was recorded for later analysis.

The initial 10-day trip in August focussed on ensuring good coverage across the Red Rocks and Longay urgent MPA but also explored adjacent areas with similar habitat off the NE coast of Scalpay before venturing further afield, around Pabay to the south and Applecross to the north.

Armed with preliminary observations from the August survey, a short follow-up trip was completed at the start of September to fill some gaps and test the application of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) survey techniques in the flapper skate egg-hunting quest.

NatureScot commissioned the specialist ROV services from Oban-based Tritonia Scientific Ltd. who conducted a previous dive survey of ‘Big Skate Rocks’ in 2020. This was the spot where approximately 100 flapper skate eggs were first recorded in late 2019 that ultimately led to the urgent MPA designation.

Two days of ROV survey work were undertaken. The sea conditions were a little lumpy on the first day but calm the following day and expert driving by the ROV and vessel skippers enabled the collection of some great footage. Significant numbers of skate eggs were recorded within the urgent MPA and on suitable habitat to the north of the original boundary.

Scottish Ministers have increased the size of the urgent MPA in the interim, in light of the additional flapper skate egg records, and applied the existing precautionary management measures to the extended area. The legislative orders come into effect today, December 16, 2021.

A summary report of the 2021 Red Rocks and Inner Sound of Skye fieldwork, covering both the August and September surveys, will be published in the early new year. This will also include observations of other seabed habitat Priority Marine Features (PMFs) such as flame shell beds and maerl beds.

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Birds of Premonition

The Gaels traditionally viewed some bird behaviours as predictors of future events

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

Birds are active creatures whose lives intertwine regularly with our own. Some of our avian friends even make their homes in and around our own dwellings. Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be surprising to us that traditional societies, with their strong links to environment and nature, often linked the behaviour they saw in certain familiar bird species to events that were happening in their own lives … or that were about to happen. We have our own expressions of such relationships in Gaelic Scotland.

An example is the attractive, long-tailed black-and-white bird known as Breac an t-Sìl ‘pied wagtail’, which draws attention to itself with its bobbing tail. In Gairloch, the following is said: Nuair a chì thu breac an t-sìl, chì thu ’n t-uisg’  ‘when you see the pied wagtail, you’ll see the rain’. Of course, in a well-watered place like Wester Ross, perhaps that’s more than likely to be true! Incidentally, the name of the species breac an t-sìl means ‘the pied one of the seed’. Seeds only form a small amount of its diet and it has been suggested that the name should be breac an tìl, referring to the ‘tìl’ sound it makes.

A pied wagtail (Motacilla alba) on a tree stump. Is it any surprise that it is raining?! ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

A close relative of the pied wagtail is the grey wagtail, a species that is connected in Gaelic tradition with the same prediction of bad weather, but also with a completely different, and rather sinister, omen. It is known as Breacan Baintighearna ‘the little variegated one of the Lady’ (meaning the laird’s wife). Breac is a broad descriptor that can stand for ‘speckled’, ‘variegated’ or ‘pied’, and which is also used as a noun. If the grey wagtail were to be seen near the doors of houses or among the hens, it was a forecast of bad weather. However, in the evil days of the Highland Clearances, if this species were seen between a person and their house, it was a prediction of imminent eviction. This was known in Gaelic as Call na Làraich ‘the loss of the house site’.

Another species whose behaviour would tell of bad weather is the Brù-gheal or wheatear. If your day’s first viewing of it is a bird perched on a stone, a storm is not far off. A similar tradition, but with even greater consequences, attaches itself to the Clacharan ‘stonechat’. While it is propitious to see one on the wing, this bird standing on a bare rock was a harbinger of doom, summarised in the saying: Chunnaic mi clacharan air clach lom, ʼs dhʼaithnich mi nach dʼ rachadh a’ bhliadhna leam  ‘I saw a stonechat on a bare rock, and I knew that the year would not go well with me’.

A similar presaging of a bad year attaches itself to the Cuthag ‘cuckoo’. If you hear the cuckoo’s first song in Spring, but you have an empty stomach, a bad year will ensue. In olden times, people would keep a biscuit under their pillow in Spring so that they could nibble on something before rising – just in case they heard a cuckoo! In Easter Ross, it was considered unlucky to hear the first cuthag if it cuckooed less than five times.

The cuckoo (Cuculus canorus): there are many traditions connected to this species in Gaelic Scotland. ©Ron Knight via Creative Commons.

There are many Gaelic traditions connected to the cuckoo. If the bird called from a house-top or chimney, it was considered to be a prediction of the death of one of its inhabitants within the year. If it could still be heard in An t-Iuchar ‘July’ (some of the birds having not yet left Scotland), the following harvest would be afflicted with bad weather. And if the cuthag was to be seen singing from a craobh-sgithich ‘hawthorn tree’ it would be a good day for a transaction – selling a cow or buying corn.

People would also be worried if they saw a Liath-chearc ‘grey hen’ – meaning the hen of the black grouse – in the evening, as it was considered to be a bird of ill omen. The ‘cò-deug, cò-deug’ whistle of the Feadag ‘golden plover’, if heard at night, was also said to portend death or some other evil. However, it is thought that those involved in (illegal) whisky-distilling in remote places inhabited by plovers promoted this belief in order to discourage visitors!

Various beliefs also attach themselves to the Fitheach ‘raven’. There is a saying: Fitheach dubh air an taigh, fios gu nighean an dathadair ‘a black raven on the roof, notice to the dyer’s daughter. This was a death omen, as the dyer’s daughter would have had responsibility for dyeing dresses black. Ravens with white in their plumage are considered a particular harbinger of calamity – luckily, they are rare! The Welsh polymath, Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709) recorded a Gaelic tradition in Scotland that if the raven cries in the morning before the Feannag ‘hoodie crow’, it will be a fine day; if it is the hoodie that cries first, bad weather will ensue.

The raven (Corvus corax): an omen of death if it lands on your roof …. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

A particular ‘sad’ call of the Comhachag ‘barn owl’ was seen as presaging wet weather. The saying concerning this has been preserved: Tha a’ chomhachag ri bròn, thig tuiltean oirnn ‘the owl is mourning, the floods are coming.’ And the loud, clear singing of a lon-dubh ‘blackbird’ is supposed to foretell rain.

The Brù-dearg ‘robin’, on the other hand, was listened to carefully, as its call was seen to presage good or bad weather. When it sits in a hedge or bush, giving a subdued chirp, this is viewed as a sure sign of poor conditions to come, whereas when it sings ‘cheerfully’ on summer evenings, even if it is overcast, a good day is certain to follow. And if the Uiseag ‘skylark’ sings on a wet day, the rain will soon dissipate and be followed by dry weather.

Another good omen is seeing a Calman ‘pigeon/dove’ first thing in the morning, and the same is true of the raptor, Clamhan nan Cearc (or Clamhan-luch) ‘hen harrier’. In the days of the shieling, when the cattle were being driven from the village to the high country, it was fortuitous to see a Naosg ‘snipe’ rise in front of the beasts. From this came the observation ʼs ann romhad a dh’èirich an naosg ‘it’s in front of you that the snipe rose’ – meaning the person is lucky. However – and very strangely – it was considered bad luck to hear the turghanaich or meigeadaich ‘drumming, bleating’ of a snipe on a Monday while sitting hunched!

While many of the omens connected to birds are negative, it might be worth finishing on a positive one. If there’s a Smeòrach ‘song thrush’ around, keep your door open. If the bird enters your house voluntarily, you will be blessed with good luck!

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

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Eòin nam Manaidhean

ʼS iomadh eun a dh’innseas dhuinn dè tha romhainn …

Read in English

Tha na ceanglaichean eadar eòin agus daoine gu math làidir. Nach tuirt ar sinnsearan gum b’ e Linn an Àigh nuair a bha Gàidhlig aig na h-eòin?! Agus, coltach ri slòigh thraidiseanta eile air feadh na cruinne, bhiodh na seann Ghàidheil a’ dèanamh cheanglaichean eadar fèin-ghiùlan nan eun agus tachartasan nam beatha.

Mar eisimpleir, bidh mòran agaibh eòlach air an eun tharraingeach chumanta – dubh-is-geal – ris an canar Breac an t-Sìl, a bhios a’ bogadh earball gu snog. Tha an abairt seo à sgìre Gheàrrloch: Nuair a chì thu breac an t-sìl, chì thu ’n t-uisg’.   Ann an àite cho fliuch ri taobh an iar Rois, ʼs dòcha gum biodh e fìor gu tric! Anns an dol-seachad, tha ainm an eòin seo car annasach oir bidh iad ag ithe fad a bharrachd de mheanbh-fhrìdean, seach sìl. Tha caraid dhomh, a tha mion-eòlach air eòin, dhen bheachd gur e breac an tìl a bu chòir a bhith air mar ainm, oir bidh iad a’ gairm fuaim mar ‘tìl’ gu tric.

Breac an t-Sìl air stoc craoibhe. A bheil e na iongnadh gu bheil an t-uisge ann?! ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Tha am Breacan-baintighearna dlùth-chàirdeach do Bhreac an t-Sìl agus bhiodh daoine a’ dèanamh ro-shealladh air an aimsir ga rèir. Nam biodh an t-eun seo ri fhaicinn faisg air doras an taighe no am measg nan cearc, bhiodh droch shìde air an rathad. Ge-tà, bha e na bu mhiosa aig àm sgriosail nam Fuadaichean. Nam faicte breacan-baintighearna eadar neach agus an taigh aca, cha b’ fhada gus am biodh iad na daoine air an ruagadh às an taigh. Bha sin aithnichte aig ar sinnsearan mar Call na Làraich. Droch ‘bhaintighearna’, gu dearbh.

Bhiodh a’ Bhrù-gheal cuideachd ag innse do dhaoine gun robh droch shìde anns an amharc. Nam b’ e a’ chiad shealladh san latha a bh’ aig cuideigin dhen ghnè seo an t-eun na sheasamh air clach, cha bhiodh stoirm fad-às. Bha beachd car coltach, ach nas miosa, air eun beag eile ris an canar an Clacharan. Ged as e deagh rud a bhiodh ann a leithid fhaicinn air sgèith, ʼs ann olc a bhiodh sealladh de chlacharan na sheasamh air clach. Tha abairt ann: Chunnaic mi clacharan air clach lom, ʼs dhʼaithnich mi nach dʼ rachadh a’ bhliadhna leam.

Tha seanchas car coltach ceangailte ris a’ Chuthaig. Ma chluinneas tu ciad ghuth na cuthaig as t-Earrach, agus do stamag falamh, thig droch bhliadhna ort. Anns an t-seann aimsir, bhiodh daoine a’ cumail briosgaid fon cluasaig as t-Earrach, gus am biodh cothrom aca rudeigin ithe mun èireadh iad, eagal ʼs nach cluinneadh iad a’ chuthag mus ruigeadh iad an cidsin! Ann an Taobh Sear Rois, bhathar ga thomhas mì-fhortanach nan cluinnte a’ chiad chuthag dhen bhliadhna agus i a’ dèanamh gùg-gùg na bu lugha na còig tursan.

A’ Chuthag: tha tòrr beul-aithris is abairtean Gàidhlig ceangailte rithe. ©Ron Knight, via Creative Commons.

Bidh a’ chuthag a’ nochdadh gu tric ann am beul-aithris agus seanchas. Nan gairmeadh tè bho mhullach taighe no bho shimilear, bhathar a’ dèanamh dheth gum faigheadh cuideigin anns an taigh bàs taobh a-staigh bliadhna. Nan cluinnte i as t-Iuchar (agus feadhainn de na h-eòin fhathast gun Alba fhàgail), bhiodh droch shìde ann aig àm an fhoghair. Agus nam faicte cuthag a’ seinn air craobh-sgìthich, ʼs e deagh latha a bhiodh ann airson bò a reic no arbhar a cheannach.

Bhiodh na seann Ghàidheil a’ gabhail dragh nam faiceadh iad Liath-chearc, a’ chearc aig a’ choileach-dhubh oir, eucoltach ris a’ choileach, bha e na droch mhanadh cearc fhaicinn mu chiaradh an fheasgair. Cuideachd nan cluinnte ‘cò-deug, cò-deug’ aig Feadag air an oidhche, bha daoine dhen bheachd gun tigeadh bàs no olc eile. Ge-tà, a rèir choltais, bha cuid a bha ri obair na poite-duibhe ag innse an sgeòil seo gu tric oir bha iad ag iarraidh daoine a chumail air falbh bhon àiteachan far an robh ri staileadh, agus far am biodh na feadagan gu tric a’ dèanamh fead!

Tha seanchas gu leòr co-cheangailte ris an Fhitheach cuideachd. Tha abairt ann: Fitheach dubh air an taigh, fios gu nighean an dathadair. Bha seo na mhanadh air bàs. Bhiodh aig nighean an dathadair dreasaichean a dhathadh dubh air a shàillibh. Thathar ag ràdh gur e fìor dhroch rud a th’ ann a bhith a’ faicinn fitheach le itean bàna. Agus chlàr an t-iol-dànach Cuimreach, Eideard Lhuyd (1660-1709) mar a bha na Gàidheil ann an Alba a’ dèanamh ro-shealladh air an aimsir leis an fhitheach agus an fheannag. Nam biodh am fitheach a’ gairm ron fheannaig sa mhadainn, bhiodh deagh latha ann; nam biodh an fheannag a’ gairm an toiseach, bhiodh droch shìde ann.

Am Fitheach: manadh de bhàs ma nochdas e air mullach an taighe … ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Bha ar sinnsearan cuideachd dhen bheachd gun innseadh a’ Chomhachag nuair a bhiodh uisge mòr ann. Chanadh iad: Tha a’ chomhachag ri bròn, thig tuiltean oirnn. Agus tha daoine dhen bheachd, ma chluinneas iad an Lon-dubh a’ seinn gu h-àrd ’s gu snasail, gu bheil uisge air an rathad.

Air an làimh eile, bhiodh daoine ag èisteachd gu dlùth ri seinn a’ Bhrù-dheirg oir bidh e ag innse deagh naidheachd agus droch naidheachd mun t-sìde. Nuair a bhios e na shuidhe ann am preas no callaid, agus e a’ gairm le guth beag, bidh droch shìde ann. Ach air feasgar samhraidh, eadhon ged a bhios e sgòthach, dorch, bidh seinn sunndach an eòin ag innse gum bi deagh latha ann air an làrna-mhàireach. Agus ma sheinneas Uiseag air latha fliuch, chan fhada gus am bi an turadh ann.

ʼS e deagh mhanadh a th’ ann a bhith a’ faicinn Calman a’ chiad char sa mhadainn agus tha an dearbh rud fìor mu Chlamhan nan Cearc (no an Clamhan-luch mar a chanas cuid). Ann an làithean na h-àirigh, nuair a bhite ag iomain a’ chruidh bhon bhaile don mhonadh, bha daoine fortanach nam faiceadh iad naosg ag èirigh ron sprèidh. ʼS ann às a seo a thàinig an abairt ʼs ann romhad a dh’èirich an naosg, a’ ciallachadh gu bheil an duine eile fortanach. Ge-tà, gu h-annasach, bha e mì-fhortanach turghanaich no meigeadaich an naoisg (no ‘gobhar-adhair’) a chluinntinn air Diluain, agus tu nad shuidhe crom.

Ged as ann olc a tha gu leòr de na manaidhean co-cheangailte ri eòin, ʼs fhiach an cunntas seo a thoirt gu crìch le fear a gheallas rudan math. Ma thèid Smeòrach a-steach don taigh agad le a toil fhèin, thig deagh fhortan nad rathad. Nach cùm thu an doras mòr fosgailte ma chluinneas tu tè a’ seinn anns an leas!

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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Land of Falling Water

‘Eas’ in the Gaelic landscape marks a named waterfall

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

There must be thousands of waterfalls cascading off mountains in the Scottish Highlands, most of which are marked on our maps with the simple English label ‘waterfall’. But there is a considerable number that have their local significance recognised with a Gaelic name – usually carrying the element eas, the most common word for a waterfall or cascade. The word is pronounced ‘ESS’ and I have often thought of it as onomatopoeic – although perhaps not after a heavy rainfall when many waterfalls begin to thunder, rather than hiss.

It will be no surprise to most of us who have experienced a waterfall in full spate on a dark and overcast day that a common descriptor found with eas is bàn ‘fair, white’. In the Inverinate Forest, for example, the Eas Bàn ‘fair waterfall’ tumbles into Allt Bàn an Lì-Ruighe, a stream whose complex name is likely to mean ‘the fair burn of the slope next to the ground that floods’.

The Eas Bàn on Allt Bàn an Lì-ruighe, Inverinate Forest. The waterfall is at the upper end of a corrie called Coire an Eas Bhàin ‘the corrie of the fair waterfall’.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Geal is another word used for ‘white’, representing the type of brightness we see in snow. Its inflected form ghil is seen in Eas an t-Srutha Ghil ‘the waterfall of the white stream’ which is above Loch nan Caorach ‘the loch of the sheep’ in Assynt. Close to it is an even more impressive feature – the highest waterfall in Britain, with a longest drop of 200 metres – known as Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn, a lovely name generally interpreted as ‘the waterfall of the beautiful tresses’.

A view from the top of the waterfall with the highest drop (200m) in Britain – Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn – which tumbles over a cliff into Gleann Abhainn an Loch Bhig in Assynt.
Photo: R Maclean

Eas a’ Chaorainn in Knoydart is ‘the waterfall of the rowan’ and Eas an Taghain, north-east of Ullapool, is ‘the waterfall of the pine marten’, naming an animal which appears only rarely in toponyms. On the River Cannich, near the village of the same name, is Eas an Fhithich ‘the waterfall of the raven’. Eas a’ Bhradain ‘the waterfall of the salmon’ is a much-photographed feature that lies adjacent to the A87 road at the head of Loch Ainort, Skye.

Eas, however, does not simply signify a waterfall. It can also refer to a rapid stream that falls steeply, usually contained within high banks, as in Eas nam Broighleag ‘the rapid stream of the berries’ near Kilfinan in Argyll (probably named from nearby Cruach nam Broighleag ‘the hill of the berries’). Eas nan Seileachan ‘the rapid stream of the small willows’ is in Glen Feochan, Argyll, and there is another Eas Bàn ‘fair rapid stream’ at Attadale in Wester Ross.

The default for ‘burn, stream’ in Scottish Gaelic is allt. Burns with notable waterfalls often carry both elements in their names. An example is Allt Eas na Gaibhre, named from Eas na Gaibhre ‘the waterfall of the goat’ near Craig in Wester Ross. Allt Eas nam Muc ‘the burn of the waterfall of the pigs’ is near Kylerhea on Skye; almost opposite it, on the mainland close to Glenelg, is the descriptively named Allt Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin ‘the burn of the big waterfall behind the broch (fort)’, referring to the ruined ancient monument known as Castle Chalamine (presumably Caisteal a’ Chalmain ‘the fortified tower of the dove’).

Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin, showing Cùl an Dùin ‘behind the dùn’ and the dùn (ruined broch) itself – in the Gleann Beag, Glenelg.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Wikipedia tells us that the three highest waterfalls in Britain are to be found in the Scottish Highlands, based on the height of their greatest single drop. Third on the list are the Falls of Glomach near Loch Duich, generally given their English name on maps, although Glomach derives from the substantial burn in which the feature is located – Allt na Glòmaich (Allt a’ Ghlomaich OS) ‘the burn of the chasm’. It is well-named, and spectacular, both in its remote setting and its raw power.

The second highest waterfall in the country contains a different generic element – steall. It is worth noting that this is not pronounced like English ‘steal’; it is approximately ‘styowl’ with ow as in English ‘cow’. A steall can differ from an eas in having a degree of horizontal, as well as vertical, force – it can also stand for liquid spouting from a pipe or even a ‘splash’ of milk, as taken in a cup of tea. A derivative, stealladair, is the Gaelic for ‘syringe’. The most famous steall in Scotland is the 120-metre high Steall Bàn ‘fair waterfall’ in Glen Nevis near Fort William, sometimes tautologically referred to as Steall Falls. Like our other highest waterfalls, it is in a remote and spectacular mountain environment.

Another word for waterfall is also to be found occasionally in Gaelic place-names, although it originates in Old Norse. This is fors (Old Norse foss), found in the abandoned settlement of Achafors (Achadh Forsa ‘waterfall field’), close to the shores of Loch Aline in Morvern.  In Sutherland it occurs in the adjacent, and compared, settlements of Forsinard (Fors na h-Àirde) and Forsinain (Fors an Fhàin), respectively the waterfall of the high, and of the low, ground. The famously tautological Eas Fors ‘waterfall waterfall’ is to be found in the west of Mull nearly opposite the island of Ulva.

The Upper Falls of Moness on the Urlar Burn near Aberfeldy, Perthshire. Moness derives from the Gaelic Bun-eas ‘waterfall-foot’. Nearby is Croftness (Croit an Eas ‘the waterfall croft’). The Urlar Burn is named for the farm of Urlar – in Gaelic An t-Ùrlar ‘the flat place’.
Photo: R Maclean

Perhaps the last word should go to a mountain stream that lies adjacent to a knot of wildlife-related toponyms to the east of Loch Awe in Argyll. Within a short distance of each other are Beinn Bhalgairean ‘mountain of foxes’, Coire Làir ‘mare’s corrie’, Meall nan Gabhar ‘the rounded hill of the goats’ and Coire nan Each ‘the corrie of the horses’. To their immediate south is Eas a’ Mhadaidh – ‘the dog’s cataract’, according to the OS. Madadh is an indeterminate generic that, without a specific, can refer to the fox or wolf. As balgair has been used for ‘fox’ in the same vicinity, my betting is that Eas a’ Mhadaidh means ‘the cataract of the wolf’. If that name doesn’t make your imagination run like a waterfall, what will?!

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

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Tìr nan Easan ʼs nan Steall

ʼS iomadh eas a chithear air a’ Ghàidhealtachd, agus tha ainmean sònraichte air feadhainn dhiubh.

Read in English

Feumaidh gu bheil na mìltean de dh’easan ann an Alba mhòr bheanntach an uisge ach mar as trice chan fhaicear air a’ mhapa ach am facal Beurla ‘waterfall’. Ge-tà, tha feadhainn dhiubh ann air a bheil ainm Gàidhlig, agus an eileamaid chumanta eas mar phàirt dhen ainm

Tha am facal bàn co-cheangailte ri cuid de na h-easan, agus chan eil sin doirbh a thuigsinn oir ʼs e sin an coltas a th’ air eas air latha dorch, fliuch – mar ribean bàn a’ stialladh thairis air tìr odhar. Ann am Frìth Inbhir Ìonaid faisg air Loch Dubhthaich, mar eisimpleir, tha Coire an Eas Bhàin a tha ainmichte air an Eas Bhàn, às an tèid uisge gu Allt Bàn an Lì-Ruighe, ged as e Allt Bàn an Lìgh-Ruighe a bu chòir a bhith air sin math dh’fhaodte (ʼs e lìghe àite far an laigh uisge an dèidh tuil).

An t-Eas Bàn air Allt Bàn an Lì-ruighe, Frìth Inbhir Ìonaid, Cinn Tàile. Tha an t-eas seo aig ceann shuas coire air a bheil Coire an Eas Bhàin.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Bidh geal a’ nochdadh ann an co-cheangal ri eas an siud ʼs an seo, leithid Eas an t-Srutha Ghil os cionn Loch nan Caorach ann an Asainte. Faisg air sin, tha eas eile a tha eadhon nas drùidhtiche – am fear as àirde ann am Breatainn – le pàirt dheth a’ tuiteam 200 meatair gun bhriseadh. ʼS e sin Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn, agus nach brèagha an t-ainm.

Sealladh bho mhullach an eas as àirde ann am Breatainn, air a thomhas air an àirde as motha a th’ ann gun bhriseadh. Tha Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn a’ tuiteam far bearradh os cionn Gleann Abhainn an Loch Bhig ann an Asainte.
Dealbh: R MacIlleathain

Tha Eas a’ Chaorainn ann an Cnòideart, dùthaich anns a bheil tòrr shruthan uisge. Tha Eas an Taghain anns a’ mhonadh tuath air Ullapul – agus chan ann tric a chithear a leithid de dh’ainmhidh air ainmeachadh air aghaidh na tìre. Tha am fitheach ainmichte ann am mòran àiteachan, gu h-àraidh ann an co-cheangal ri creagan, ach chan eil ach aon eas (air a bheil mise eòlach co-dhiù) air a bheil Eas an Fhithich. Tha sin air Abhainn Chanaich faisg air a’ bhaile air a bheil an t-aon ainm. Agus ʼs iomadh neach-turais a stadas ri taobh Eas a’ Bhradain anns an Eilean Sgitheanach airson dealbh a thogail dheth. Tha e ri taobh an rathaid A87 aig ceann Loch Aineoirt deas air Sgonnsair.

Ged a dh’fhaodamaid ‘eas’ eadar-theangachadh mar ‘waterfall’, tha e cuideachd a’ ciallachadh sruth bras mar allt-beinne eadar creagan no le bruachan àrda. Mar sin tha an t-Eas Bàn ann an Attadal faisg air Loch Carrann a’ ciallachadh ‘allt garbh bàn’. Tha Eas nam Broighleag (tha mi an dùil gu bheil broighleag anns an ainm a’ ciallachadh dearcan-coille) faisg air Cill Fhìonain ann an Earra-Ghàidheal. ʼS dòcha gu bheil an t-ainm a’ tighinn bhon bheinn faisg air làimh air a bheil Cruach nam Broighleag. Cuideachd ann an Earra-Ghàidheal, tha Eas nan Seileachan ann an Gleann Faochain. Tha sin ag innse dhuinn mu na craobhan a bha (no a tha?) a’ fàs ri a thaobh.

Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin, a’ sealltainn Cùl an Dùin agus an dùn fhèin (a tha na thobhta) anns a’ Ghleann Bheag, Gleann Eilg. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Bidh an dà fhacal allt agus eas a’ nochdadh anns aon ainm-àite gu tric, far as e an t-eas an rud as follaisiche mun t-sruth. Mar eisimpleir, tha Allt Eas na Gaibhre faisg air a’ Chreag, siar air Diabaig ann an Ros an Iar. Tha Allt Eas nam Muc faisg air Caol Readha anns an Eilean Sgitheanach. An ìre mhath mu a choinneimh, faisg air Gleann Eilg, tha Allt Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin a tha ag ainmeachadh an t-seann dùin air a bheil Caisteal a’ Chalmain.

Tha Wikipedia ag innse dhuinn gun lorgar na trì easan as àirde ann am Breatainn air Gàidhealtachd na h-Alba, co-dhiù nuair a tha iad air an tomhas air an àirde as motha de shruth gun bheàrn no briseadh. Anns an treas àite, tha Eas na Glòmaich air Allt na Glòmaich (Allt a’ Ghlomaich a rèir mapaichean na Suirbhidh Òrdanais) ann an Cinn Tàile. ʼS e Falls of Glomach a th’ air na mapaichean, gun sgeul air an ainm Ghàidhlig. Chunnaic mi fhìn an t-eas iongantach seo aig àm na Càisge o chionn bhliadhnaichean, an dèidh trì latha de dh’uisge gun sgur agus abair gun robh e drùidhteach – agus fuaimneach! Tha e air a dheagh ainmeachadh (tha glòm a’ ciallachadh clais domhainn ann an Gàidhlig Siorrachd Rois is Chinn Tàile) agus tha e suidhichte ann an sgìre iomallach, air a chuartachadh le beanntan àrda.

Tha eileamaid eadar-dhealaichte anns an dàrna eas as àirde san rìoghachd – steall. Mar a thuigeas sibh, tha steall a’ seasamh airson spùt no spùtan – àite far am bi uisge a’ dol a-mach bhon talamh gu ìre, gun a bhith dìreach a’ tuiteam le iom-tharraing. ʼS e an ‘steall’ as ainmeile ann an Alba an Steall Bàn ann an Gleann Nibheis faisg air a’ Ghearasdan anns a bheil àirde de 120 meatair. Bidh luchd na Beurla uaireannan a’ gabhail ‘Steall Falls’ air agus ga fhuaimneachadh mar an fhacal Bheurla ‘steal’. Mar a tha na h-easan sàr-àrd eile, tha an Steall Bàn ann an àite iomallach a ghabhas ruigsinn air chois a-mhàin agus tha e air a chuartachadh le creagan is beanntan.

Eas Àrd Bhun-eas air Allt an Ùrlair faisg air Obar Pheallaidh, Siorrachd Pheairt. Ann am Beurla ʼs e ‘Moness’ a chanar ris an àite seo; tha sin a’ tighinn bho Bhun-eas o shean. Faisg air làimh, tha Croftness (Croit an Eas).
Dealbh: R MacIlleathain

Tha facal eile ann airson eas a nochdas an siud ʼs an seo ann an ainmean-àite Gàidhlig, ged a bhuineas e bho thùs don t-Seann Lochlannais. ʼS e sin fors (foss ann an cànan nan Lochlannach). Tha seann bhaile air a bheil Achadh Forsa ri taobh Loch Àlainn ann am Morbhairne. Ann an Dìthreabh Chat, tha dà bhaile bheag air a bheil Forsinard (Fors na h-Àirde) and Forsinain (Fors an Fhàin), a tha a’ ciallachadh ‘eas air talamh àrd’ agus ‘eas air talamh ìosal’. Agus air costa siar Mhuile, mu choinneimh Ulbha, tha Eas Fors – ainm ath-bhriathrach a tha a’ ciallachadh ‘eas eas’!

Airson an fhacail mu dheireadh, thèid sinn gu allt a tha suidhichte sa mhonadh sear air Loch Obha ann an Earra-Ghàidheal, agus a tha faisg air còmhlan de dh’ainmean-àite co-cheangailte ri beathaichean – Beinn Bhalgairean (a’ ciallachadh ‘mhadaidhean-ruadha’), Coire Làir, Meall nan Gabhar agus Coire nan Each. Deas orra tha Eas a’ Mhadaidh. Leis gur e ‘balgair’ a chaidh a chleachdadh airson a’ mhadaidh-ruaidh, tha mi an dùil gu bheil Eas a’ Mhadaidh a-mach air a’ mhadadh-allaidh a chaidh à bith ann an Alba timcheall meadhan an ochdamh linn deug. Nach smaoineachail a tha sin!

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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A dream job in river restoration

In our latest guest blog with Lantra Scotland, we hear from environmental conservation apprentice Niall Provan on his work to restore Scotland’s rivers with the Forth Rivers Trust, and his journey into a conservation career.

Niall (centre) carrying out an electro fishing exercise, surveying fish populations. ©Niall Provan

I have always had a passion for the outdoors. I’ve spent many happy hours out hill walking so it was natural step to find a career where I could develop practical skills and be part of nature. After I left school I applied for a countryside management course at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), then looked for a Modern Apprenticeship. I heard that the Callander Landscape Partnership (CLP) was looking to take someone on, which sounded like the ideal stepping stone for my career, especially as I was learning while working and earning a wage.

I applied and was lucky enough to get a place. Working for CLP has really opened my eyes to the possibilities. I have been involved in so many varied and interesting projects including an archaeological dig at a Neolithic site near Callander where we collected artefacts, dug trenches and undertook geological surveys. This was followed by digs at an Iron Age hillfort and roundhouse in Stirlingshire. I also got involved in some environmental conservation work, managing invasive species like Rhododendron, and installing and surveying bird and bat boxes. This kind of work really piqued my interest in conservation and habitat management.

Restoration work as part of the River Larig Restoration Project with Forth Rivers Trust ©Niall Provan

After I finished my apprenticeship, I landed a job as a Project Support Officer with Forth Rivers Trust which has been a dream for me. I am part of a select team working on the Larig Restoration Project, which aims to improve the River Larig and its surrounding habitat through tree planting and in-river and bankside restoration works.

The work is really important because it will improve the biodiversity of the river and the surrounding area as well as provide shade and refuge for migratory Atlantic salmon. Salmon populations are currently on a downward trend, due to pressures such as pollution, over-fishing and climate change. These kinds of projects will create areas of sanctuary for salmon to spawn and help boost their numbers.

Flying a drone as part of site surveying work, using digital imaging software to show impact of their work along the river. ©Niall Provan

As with many land-based jobs today, the ability to harness new technologies is an important skill and I’ve been lucky enough to learn many useful skills and techniques. I think the most fun has been using drones to survey and map areas under investigation. We use digital imaging software which gives us before and after images so we can see the effect our work is having.

I also get involved with river surveying, sampling, and electro fishing, a technique that allows us to capture and survey fish without doing them harm.  I really love getting stuck into a long-term project like this and seeing it progress. You get to see the positive results of your work and the changes happening in real time. There is a bit of desk work to do, but most of my time is spent outdoors on site, getting my hands dirty and doing the practical work, which is what I really enjoy.

Driving a quad bike on site ©Niall Provan

What I have learnt as a trainee starting off, it that environmental conservation is a very competitive industry to get into. Forth Rivers Trust is one of the biggest organisations of its kind in the country, yet only employs 20 people, so you really need to stand out.

What employers are looking for is a demonstration of your commitment, so you want to be doing as much voluntary work as you can. As well as helping out and learning lots of different industry-specific skills, you’ll also meet up with people already working in the industry, so it’s a great way to network and make connections which will be a big help in finding future jobs.

Lantra Scotland helps people get the training, qualifications and skills to succeed in the land-based, aquaculture and environmental sector. For more information, visit: https://www.scotland.lantra.co.uk/

For more information about nature-based jobs, see: https://www.nature.scot/professional-advice/planning-and-development/social-and-economic-benefits-nature/nature-based-jobs-and-skills

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Bho Bheul an Eòin

Tha cruthachadh ainmean ùra Gàidhlig airson cuid de lusan is ainmhidhean ùra na h-Alba aig teis-meadhan pròiseact com-pàirteachaidh air leth a tha a’ faighinn taic le NatureScot agus Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Read in English

Tha am pròiseact, Bho Bheul an Eòin, a’ cruthachadh ainmean ùra airson ghnèithean ùra. Anns na beagan bhliadhnaichean a dh’fhalbh, tha seòrsachan ùra de lusan is de dh’ainmhidhean air tighinn a dh’Alba mar thoradh air a’ ghnàth-shìde againn a tha a’ sìor-atharrachadh. Tha cuid dhiubh cho ùr agus nach eil ainmean Gàidhlig orra – gu ruige seo.

Chaidh 40 seòrsa ùr a shònrachadh tro phròiseas rannsachaidh is co-chomhairleachaidh le comhairle luchd-saidheans, luchd-rannsachaidh is sgrìobhadairean Gàidhlig – is iad air lusan, eòin, dealanan-dè, ainmhidhean mara, seilcheagan, fiù ’s seòrsa algaich ainmeachadh. Chaidh ainmean ùra Gàidhlig a chur orra agus tha an sàr neach-ealain fiadh-bheatha, Derek Robertson, air dealbhan dath-uisge a dhèanamh airson a h-uile ainmhidh.

Spanish bluebell, (C)Derek Robertson

Tha bàrdachd is rosg cuide ri gach pìos obair-ealain agus bidh taghadh den obair ri fhaicinn tro sheachdain a’ Mhòid Nàiseanta Rìoghail aig XOKO Bakehouse air Sràid na Drochaid, Inbhir Nis. Às a sin, thèid an taisbeanadh a Ghlaschu agus bidh cothrom agaibh fhaicinn aig Leabharlann Mitchell bho 30 Dàmhair gu toiseach na Dùbhlachd.

Tha lach-dhubh tuinnesurf scoter sa Bheurla – am measg nan ainmean ùra. Tha na h-eòin sin cumanta air cladaichean Alba Nuadh agus bidh grunnan dhiubh a’ geamhrachadh a-nis ann an Alba ann an àiteachan a leithid Linne Mhoireibh.

White-letter hairstreak butterfly, (C)Derek Robertson

’S e Bròg na Cuthaig Spàinnteach an t-ainm a th’ air dìthean ionnsaigheach a bhuineas do dh’Iberia agus a tha cho lìonmhor is gu bheil i air tòiseachadh air strì gu soirbheachail le bròg na cuthaige dhùthchasach ann an Alba. ’S e fuath-mhuc aon de na h-ainmean eile a th’ oirre, leis nach eil mucan measail orra, agus an t-ainm a’ toirt iomradh air linn nuair a bhiodh treudan mhucan gan cumail ann an coilltean.

Surf scooter, (C)Derek Robertson

Tha e iomchaidh gu bheil cumadh ‘W’ geal coltach ri sradag dealain ri fhaicinn fo sgiathan seòrsa ùr de dhealan-dè – an ròin-stiallach geal. Tha an dealan-dè seo air gluasad gu tuath an Alba, coltach ri dealanan-dè eile, air sgàth blàthachadh na gnàth-shìde againn agus gu bheil grunnan chraobhan leamhain air tilleadh a tha galar-fhulangach is a tha nan àrainn fhreagarrach airson an ròin stiallaich ghil.

Tha an obair-ealain is an teacsa gu lèir rim faicinn aig www.fromthebirdsmouth.com.  Thèid sàr leabhar ealain fhoillseachadh tràth sa bhliadhn’ ùir agus, nuair a thèid na bacaidhean a lasachadh, bidh taisbeanadh taistealach ann.

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