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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 27th January 2001
Issue No 216

Raptor on the Rampage

Caged birds in Nairn were being terrorised by a falcon on the look out for an easy meal.

Ryan Higgs (8) and his sister Amy (6) have had to confine their pet budgie and cockatiel indoors until the threat from the skies has passed, depriving their feathered friends of fresh air and the company of the many garden birds which visit daily. Bluebell the budgie and Susie the cockatiel were in their cages hanging outside the front door of Ryan and Amy's grandparents' house in Nairn when the raptor spotted a chance of fast food. Neighbour Marian Stephen witnessed the bird of prey size up the caged birds before attacking the budgie. "The falcon had a hold of Bluebell and was pinning her to the back of the cage," said Mrs Stephen. "It was obviously trying to figure out a way to get the budgie through the bars. "I was jumping up and down right beside it, shouting and shooing, but it was not paying a blind bit of attention. It was determined to get the wee bird for dinner." The raptor was stumped and released the battered budgie while it flew to a perch on a nearby wheelbarrow to consider its next move. It was only when the youngsters' grandfather, Leslie Higgs, alerted by the racket, opened the front door that the bird of prey was scared off. The budgie was taken inside to recover but, 20 minutes later, it was Susie the cockatiel's turn to feature on the menu and Leslie and his wife Gillian had to rush to the rescue again. Gillian said: "I eventually managed to get the falcon off Susie's cage and it flew up into a near by tree, From there it vanished off into the distance. Gradually, all the garden birds have returned, including our half tame robin. "We had been in the habit of putting Bluebell and Susie out in their cages for a couple of hours each day - they liked to hear the other birds sing. Now we'll wait a bit before getting back into that routine. Ryan and Amy would never get over it if their pets ended up in the falcon's belly." A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Inverness has suggested the raptor is an escaped falconer's bird. "Its relative fearlessness suggests this," he said. "Putting a couple of birds out in the garden even in cages, as far as the falcon was concerned, would be like putting bread out for the blackbirds."


New School for Strath

The new Strathpeffer Primary School and Community Centre was officially opened recently by MSP and Depute Minister for Finance and Local Government Peter Peacock. In 1993, the local community agreed that a new community centre was required to replace the temporary building erected in 1975. By working in partnership with Highland Council, the new complex has now been completed, and it is hoped it will be at the heart of local learning, leisure and recreational activities. Margaret Scott, chairman of Strathpeffer Community Association said: "Thanks to the dedication of committee members we have a unique resource of which the whole community can be proud. "A considerable effort went into designing and equipping the centre, which incorporates facilities for disabled people, giving us a quality building. "It is wonderful to be in a centre which has been designed to meet the unique need of each individual and user group." Mr Peacock said that he had taken great interest in the project when ideas for the school were being developed during his time as Highland Council convener. He said: "To be opening it as a Minister of the Scottish Government is a great honour and it gives me much pride to see how the hard work of everyone involved has come to fruition."

Back On Track

A road scheme to link two communities on the east of Lewis may be revived almost 80 years after it was abandoned. A lively debate hosted by Iomairt Nis (Ness Enterprise), the local community development partnership in Ness, to examine the case for finishing the link between Ness and North Tolsta, resulted in an overwhelming vote for the scheme to be restarted. The ill-fated road link in the 1920s by Lord Leverhulme but abandoned with all his other schemes when he became disillusioned at the level of suspicion caused by the raft of ambitious plans for economic regeneration he came up with for Lewis. There is now a gap of just seven to nine miles of rough, unmade track, depending on the eventual route chosen, which supporters say funding should be urgently fought for to upgrade. Donald Macleod, the chairman of Iomairt Nis, said there was a tremendous turnout at the debate where completion of the road was the sole topic for discussion. He said: "Three quarters of the people who attended the debate said they were for it and that encourages Iomairt Nis to take the project forward to the next step."

Voluntary Efforts Rewarded

A woman who picked up a prestigious award for her voluntary efforts has donated her prize money to a local nursery. Pat Veitch, a part-time leisure attendant with Highland Council, has for many years helped co-ordinate community initiatives in the Drumnadrochit area. These include a series of successful floral schemes and efforts which resulted in the Drumnadrochit war memorial being recognised twice through British Legion awards. She won the main prize - the Eastgate Rosebowl - at the recent environment awards organised by Highland Council's protective services department. The prize is awarded to the person deemed to have contributed most significantly to the upkeep of their local environment. Inverness Provost Bill Smith said: "I know Pat is very active in her local community on a number of different fronts, but it is her continuous active participation in promoting and looking after her local environment, not just this year but over several years, which makes her a worthy recipient of this award." Pat, who lives just outside Drumnadrochit, said the award had come out of the blue: "I never look for anything so it was a nice surprise," she said. She decided to pass the 100 cheque to the Lewiston Nursery because of her admiration for the group, which was started by parents and has gone on from strength to strength.

Bid Save Endangered Dolphins

Conservationists called for tougher laws to protect a 130 strong colony of bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth recently amid fears they could be wiped out in 50 years. The Scottish Executive is being urged to make it an offence - with penalties of up to six months in jail or a 5,000 fine - to "intentionally or recklessly disturb" dolphins, whales or basking sharks. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society urged the crackdown during a lobby of the Westminster Parliament, calling on MPs and peers to sign a pledge to support whale and dolphin conservation and protection. They joined forces with Dive magazine to launch a whale and dolphin action plan, called Dolphin Agenda 2000+, which also included cutting down underwater noise and pollution, setting up special protection areas for porpoises, a related species also under threat, and improving conservation off the north west coasts also frequented by dolphins. WDSC director of science Mark Simmonds said that unless more was done to protect the marine environment in the Moray Firth "the colony's population is going to decline". He said a team of scientists from Aberdeen University had provided the data on which the prediction has been made that "in 50 years that population will have gone". Mr Simmonds said the Wildlife and Countryside Act provided some protection for cetaceans but the police limited action taken to protect dolphins to cautious.

Beetle's Threat to Beer

Scotland's famous heather covered landscape is being rapidly devastated by the voracious heather beetle. And that will pose a threat to a number of businesses, including one of the countries most successful breweries. The heather beetle has ravaged swathes of the countryside in south west Scotland and it could yet spread to the rest of the country. Andrew MacGregor, owner of Heather Ale Ltd in Strathaven, has warned that his business and other people like him that rely on heather could be severely affected in years to come. The brewery was set up 10 years ago and produces a variety of beers using only Scottish ingredients at its plants in Strathaven and Alloa. Said Andrew: "We're extremely worried about this. Apparently beetle plagues are cyclical but this is the worst one in the last 50 years. "Last year we were inconvenienced but the real problems could be this year when the full effects of of last years plague will be felt. "This is a real threat and with global warming it could get worse. Last year only the south west of Scotland was affected but it could easily become a national problem soon." The heather beetle has spread because a succession of mild winters has allowed more bugs to survive through to spring. A string of warm, damp springs has produced ideal conditions for the beetles to multiply. They can turn huge areas of heather into brown wasteland in a matter of weeks.

Black Isle Past and Present

The changes which have affected the Black Isle - from the formation of the peninsula to the present day - was the subject of a talk recently by a local geographer. Fortrose Academy's head of geography, Douglas Willis - who is also a well known local author - charted the changes through time at the talk in Fortrose Town Hall. He said: "Places change radically through time and the Black Isle is no exception. Though never an island, the peninsula was nevertheless sufficiently isolated to develop its own distinctive personality over a long period of time. "The illustrated talk traced the story of the Black Isle, including the formation of its landscape, its natural and human history and the social change which has affected it." Mr Willis has also written a book about the subject.

Charity Event

The chairman of the North branch of the Police Dependants Trust received a bumper cheque after several fund raising activities. The fund is used to help families of police officers who are killed or injured in the line of duty. Northern Constabulary presented 8,500 to Lord Strathnaver which will be passed onto the national organisers based in London. This money was raised by an open day where the police locked up politicians and local dignitaries in a cell and made them phone friends to bail them out. Lord Strathnaver said: "We are delighted to receive this money. "It has been a great effort by everyone and we would like to thank the general public for their support."

Political Roundup

SNP Attacks Water Supply Plans

Allowing private companies to supply water in Scotland is privatisation of the industry by the back door and would lead to higher prices for customers, the SNP has claimed. The Scottish Executive says it has no choice but to open up the supply of water to the private sector under European Union rules, with Scotland's three public water authorities retaining control of pipes. The Executive has not yet finalised plans on how it would work but the Nationalists warn that higher prices could result.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Dry/sunny spells in the E. Cloudy/showers in the W. Winds light/mod W. Temperature 5c to 9c.
Saturday Night
Wintry showers in N and We. Dry clear spells in the E. Winds light/mod W. Temperature 0c to 3c.
Sunday
Mainly dry with sunny spells in most areas. A few fog patches inland am. Winds light.
Monday
Mainly dry/bright with only a slight chance of some showers. Cloud/rain arriving in the evening. Strong winds.


Caledonia



This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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