Monday, 20 March 2006

"They shoot hedgehogs, don't they?"

Spring is in the air, and with it an upsurge in news and debate about this years hedgehog cull on the Uists.

The back-story to this. Some years ago, hedgehogs appeared on the Uists. These aren't a native creature. Local legend has it that they were introduced by a gardener with a slug problem (the garden, not the owner). Having few predators, and there being little traffic to squash them in any significant numbers, hedgehogs rapidly multiplied in number.

One other factor helped the population increase: the supply of food. Bird eggs in particular. Unfortunately for the prickly beastie, this raised the ire of Scottish Natural Heritage, as it was the eggs of various protected bird species that were being nibbled. Hence, for the last four years, a cull of hedgehogs has taken place in the Outer Hebrides. Hedgehogs are hunted, trapped, and killed by lethal injection.

Not surprisingly, there have been protests. Some people argue that hedgehogs should be relocated to the mainland. One organisation that protects hedgehogs pays people to rescue and bring in hedgehogs for relocation. Some people have made a lot of money from this, though there is persistent gossip of people bringing large bags of hedgehogs over on the Calmac ferries in order to claim the attractive hand-in rewards. Some people argue that it just isn't a cost-effective operation, while others suggest culinary uses of these creatures.

A pro-hedgehog alliance has been formed of various groups and individuals. St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital are prominant, as are Advocates for Animals and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Media celebrities are also starting to pile in.

The Hebridean newspaper from two weeks ago has a feature on "Queen legend Brian May", who has lent his support to the pro-hedgehog front. He's written ("emotively") to the Scottish Executive, RSPB and SNH on the issue. What caught my eye was the banner heading to the story: May wants hedgehogs 'to break free'. Under this was a quote from the Director of Uist Hedgehog Rescue: "He even offered to go up to the Uists himself and rescue the hedgehogs, though his availability will depend on his touring commitments with Queen."

We'll keep you posted if we spot any Queen guitarists in the vicinity.

Friday, 10 March 2006

BBC Island Blogging: review

More as an experiment, I am playing with an unusual blogging system. It's on the BBC Scotland Island Blogging website, which lets residents of islands maintain blogs through the site.

The functionality is pretty basic, but the basics at least work. Updates take some time to filter through. Images are tricky to include, and there is an intermittent problem with images not appearing on any blogs. What little content I have produced can be seen here.

I'm reluctant to spend much time, and submit much content, to the blog as my previous experience of blogging for the BBC was mixed. This was during the run-up to the general election last year, when the BBC picked 10 or so people to blog from around the country, on how the election was affecting their area. They picked me (yay!) to be the only blogger from Scotland, and I had a few fun months of pseudo-reporting online. No money was involved - content for free for the BBC. The highlight of this was the BBC sending a reporter over for two days, to record a radio blog (basically me wittering on about Berneray for three minutes) which was played on the Today programme on Radio 4.

All very good. But. I went back a few months later to discover that the BBC had wiped all the blogs, pictures and whatnots from the Today website. No archiving, no warning that the content was going, just all gone. Very disappointing, and against my digital library and archiving principles (create it, catalogue it, publicise it, preserve and protect it).

Hence, I am a bit wary of blogging for the BBC in case the same happens again. I hope not, as some of the Island Blogs are witty - such as the Dell fank dating festival - and some are informative, such as the Arnish Lighthouse blog. And it is good that the BBC are providing this easy to use service that raises the profile of the islands around the shores of Scotland.

Friday, 3 March 2006

Snow-covered clams


It's been snowing here for a few days now, on and off. Not deep, drifting snow, but enough to close the schools for a few days and to make travelling to the chip-van on Wednesday night difficult. 

Spring tides have also been in evidence. The sea has been draining out for some distance, which messes up the normal ferry times across the Sound of Harris. The low tides also result in residents and other people out hunting amongst the rocks for various fodder - including clams.

Our neighbours daughter was out today (no school), avoiding the snowball fights and looking for clams. We've been presented with six clams; Ruth has gone off to use Google to find a good "cooking and eating clams" website. If I don't blog for a few days, then it's all gone horribly wrong...