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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday Saturday 4th August 2001
Issue No 243

Bid to Save Moray Firth Dolphins Made

A raft of proposals aimed at reversing a predicted decline in the number of resident bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth has been unveiled.

There is uncertainty about the precise effect of human disturbance on the population of about 130 dolphins, which has been predicted to decline by about 6% a year. A number of factors have been associated with the apparent reversal in the mammals' fortunes, including dredging and dumping, the amount of marine traffic and the use of contaminants. There are also concerns about the dolphins' resistance to the discharge of waste and chemicals into the firth. The proposals are contained in a new draft management scheme which was launched recently in which the various options were discussed. These include a plan to develop and implement regional Environmental Quality Standards (EQ's) which would protect the existing water quality of the firth and establish whether monitoring of contaminants associated with dredging and dumping is required in greater detail. In the scheme there is also a move towards the organic rearing of salmon, encouraging boat operators to use engines and propellers on a frequency which does not disturb dolphins and encourage police to investigate incidents between recreational boats and dolphins. The aim is to reduce threats to the marine mammals caused by disturbance, contamination, disease, marine debris and the depletion of natural food sources as a result of human activity. The draft management scheme is co-ordinated by the SAC Management Group which was set up by the Moray Firth Partnership and funded by the EC Life Environment Fund. Mike Comerford, the chairman said: "What we are talking about here is much more than just protecting a rare and vulnerable species; it is about halting and reversing a serious decline in the dolphin population through consensus between a wide cross section of interests. "We are not talking about bans or any other kind of blanket prohibitions but about agreed and workable codes of practice and specific actions by individual organisations. "Ultimately, no one wants to see the dolphins disappear from the Moray Firth and there is general agreement that if we all work together we may just be able to halt this decline and protect what is a major asset to the area." In addition, the draft management scheme will review oil spill contingency plans, ensure that ports and harbours take heed of the dolphins when planning new shipping routes and attempt to clarify the position regarding controls on the practice of shot blasting and tighten regulations if necessary.

Celebration for Clan Chief

A clan chieftain had cause for a double celebration recently as he paid an emotional first visit to his family's ancestral seat. Alistair "Jock" Davidson, from Auckland, New Zealand, celebrated his 77th birthday at Tulloch Castle in Dingwall, in the company of dozens of fellow clansmen and women from around the world. For the retired engineer, who was declared chief in 1998, it was the first time he had set foot in the castle, which dates back to the 12th century. He was among around 100 Davidsons from as far afield as Australia and America who had travelled to the Highlands for a four day clan gathering. Mr Davidson and his wife Mary arrived at the event via the US where they visited several branches of the family association. The formal lunch at the castle, now a luxury hotel, included a piper and telling of ghost stories about the building, which boasts a secret tunnel which runs from the basement across the Ross-shire town to ancient Dingwall Castle. Mr Davidson said: "This is a very special occasion for us. When it was suggested to me last year that we should make this trip, I didn't think there was any way I could. "But with the help of the clan it was made possible and here we are. "My father was here during WW 1, and he brought photographs of the castle home to New Zealand to show us. It is great to actually be here."

Blackbird in a Mail Box

A determined island blackbird won an eviction battle recently with its local post office. Blackie raised her chicks in a cylindrical postbox instead of a nest. The normal twigs and branches appeared to be considered outdated by the bird. The unusual visitor to the Hebridean island of Eriskay was protected by Mary MacInnes. She went to empty the postbox outside her house, near the island's only shop, when she found the stowaway. Mary told the postmistress, who instructed locals not to use the box for fear of alarming the birds. Mary said: "We just had to give in to Blackie and put up a notice that said We would be obliged if customers would not send letters because a bird and her family has made their home in the letter box. "There is only one other postbox here, another mile away on the other side of the island. "Recently a bird tried to build a nest in another postbox. We had to seal the box up. I have no idea whether it was Blackie on this occasion, but it does sound familiar. "She certainly seems to have a strange taste in nest sites. Locals are quite happy to hand their mail into the post office. "Visitors and holidaymakers from down south are quite intrigued and amused by the notice on the postbox which tells them to come to the shop because a bird is nesting in the box. "This type of thing would never happen in the big city," she added.

Gaelic Dictionary Unveiled

The use of Gaelic in Government received a boost with the launch recently of the first dictionary of the Scottish Parliament terms. With around 6,000 entries Faclair na Parlamaid is meant to be a practical, comprehensive and user friendly reference book. For years the proceedings of central and local government have been reported and discussed in the Gaelic media, but there have been no agreed technical terms. The purpose of the book is to put this right by standardising parliamentary and government terms used in written Gaelic. Minster for Gaelic Alasdair Morrison presented Scottish Parliamentary Deputy Presiding Officer George Reid with the first copy. Mr Morrison said: "This is a vital new tool for Gaelic and is a natural progression from the establishment of Gaelic as a working language of the Scottish Parliament." Mr Reid said: "The Gaelic saying 'Se obair Iatha toiseachadh' literally means a day's work is to begin. Now that we have got the Faclair we can indeed get started. "This is a big step for Gaelic in the Parliament and I look forward to the future development of the project."

Rocket Post Trial Stamp

A Highland man believes he has the last remaining stamp from a doomed experiment conducted by a German scientist in the 1930s to deliver mail to the Western Isles by rocket. Clem Watson, of Cromarty, read an article in a newspaper outlining the fact a 4 million film will chronicle the real life exploits of scientist Gerhardt Zucher's 1934 unsuccessful rocket post trials, which had the aim of launching mail from mainland Harris to the island of Scarp. But after another failed attempt at a launch in the opposite direction three days later from the grounds of Amhuinsuide Castle, Zucher returned to Germany. He then took part in rocket designs in Nazi Germany's rocket programme which was eventually to result in NASA's manned moon missions. The article prompted Mr Watson to search through his family archives, where he found the burnt corner of the envelope, with the franked stamp ussed in the trials, marked with the year 1934. Mr Watson said: "I am 100% sure this is the last remaining stamp from the rocket post, because the actual rocket blew up, which is why the edges of the envelope corner are charred. "It was given to my grandfather, Captain John Watson, who used to have a steamer called Ailsa, that operated from Cromarty via the Caledonian Canal to Kinlochleven in the 1930s. "On one of his runs, he met a man who was involved in the mainland part of the rocket venture, who gave him this souvenir. "The stamp was given to me by my father, the former Cromarty Lifeboat Coxwain."

Promise for the Future

Wildlife experts were hoping for a boost in the Highland capercaillie population, after the conclusion of this year's mating ritual. The mating ritual drew to a close recently, with RSPB officials claiming the "lekking" as it is known, a success. This year's lekking, which derives from the Swedish word leka, meaning to play, was witnessed by 1,500 people who attended the RSPB's visitor centre at Loch Garten. The rare wildlife spectacle was watched by early morning visitors to the lekking site on 47 out of 52 "Caper-watch" mornings organised by the RSPB and Speyside Wildlife. Kenny Kortland, the RSPB's capercaillie project officer, said: "This was an invaluable project because it relieves the bird watching pressure on Highland estates from birdwatchers." The RSPB also held a seminar to focus attention on the plight of a native Highland tree species, the aspen, which is in decline throughout Europe. At a conference in Kingussie, agencies such as the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage heard the RSPB's forecast for the future of the Highlands' aspen woodlands. Although the species is widely distributed in the UK, only 160 hectares of aspen woodland remains, mainly in the North and East of Scotland.

Move to Cash in on History

The potential of Lochaber and the Small Isles' rich archaeological heritage is not being realised, Highland Council's area development manager has claimed. Now, Dot Ferguson is suggesting the appointment of a community archaeologist, who could raise the profile of the area's historical features, ranging from deserted villages to military remains. In a report to councillors, she says a full time post could be created if it was linked to moves by the Inverlochy Castle Association to employ a project officer to develop the ruined fortification on the outskirts of Fort William into a major tourist attraction. Historic Scotland has already committed cash to the castle post, and other funding could come from the council, enterprise agencies and National Lottery. Councillors have given their backing to the isea, which will be subject to further talks with leisure department officials.

Charity Event

Volunteers from the Highlands whop turned blood into money for Comic Relief recently have helped raise 5000. The Blood Transfusion Service ran the event, collecting 50 for every 10 pints donated to the service and raised over 600 from the 163 donors who took part.

Political Roundup

Surfers Took Environment Minister Plea to Holyrood

Surfers rode the waves to the Scottish Parliament recently to make a plea for the reinstatement of the Scottish Environment Minister post. Environmental duties within the Scottish Executive were distributed among various ministers after Environment Minister Sam Galbraith announced his retirement from politics earlier this year. Members of the Surfers Against Sewage group visited the Parliament to make the case for the post to be restored.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Showers mainly in NW at first, but developing inland during the mrning. Winds fresh/strong SW. Temperature 15c to 19c.
Saturday Night
Becoming dry with clear spells. Patchy mist. Winds light SW. Temperature 5c to 10c.
Sunny start but coastal showers in NW. Isolated showers otherwise fine.
Far north remaining bright. Elsewhere cloudy with rain becoming slow moving. Near normal temperatures.

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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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