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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 19th October 2002
Issue No 302

Wildlife Wonder on the Banks of the River Ness

An Inverness primary school headmistress and her husband stopped in astonishment as they passed Balnain House and watched gulls attack an aerial intruder above the River Ness.

For the target of the gulls' wrath proved to be an osprey, a rare and protected species which has been seen around Inverness before - at North Kessock, Loch Flemington, Loch Dochfour, Loch Ruthven and even at Ness Islands - but never in the city centre. An official of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said such a sighting in the middle of a built up area was rare. Stuart Benn, a conservation officer based in Inverness, forecast more ospreys would follow if they find easy pickings in the river. The rare sighting stopped Jim and Moira Leslie from Avoch in their tracks. "We were in town for a funeral and we were walking with friends along the side of the river when we heard this commotion," said Mrs Leslie. They looked out across the water and Jim spotted the osprey winging its way across the lower reaches of the Ness with a flock of frantic seagulls in hot pursuit. "It was fishing and the gulls were giving it a really hard time. "But it just persevered and I think at the fourth attempt it caught a fish," she recalled. Mrs Leslie, headmistress at Raigmore, said the last they saw of the bird of prey was it being chased by the gulls in the direction of Loch Ness with its lunch firmly gripped in its talons. "I know there are more ospreys around but it was such a rare and beautiful sight to see this bird fishing in the middle of the city. "We had some friends with us and we went over to the railings beside the river outside Balnain House to watch the whole drama unfold. "It went on for about five minutes until the osprey caught the fish and made off." Two years ago, a similar sighting was reported at the Ness Islands. Mr Benn said he had never heard of a sighting so close to the city centre before. "The osprey mainly fishes in the lochs and the firth. There are often sightings around Kessock but it is very unusual to see one in the middle of the town," he commented. "It has obviously found it is worthwhile and clearly it's not been deterred by what's going on around the river. There's certainly plenty of fish in the river. "In times past, birds learned to pick the gold foil caps off milk bottles and discovered a food source and once something like this is discovered by a species it can be passed along. "So there is a distinct possibility the sight of ospreys fishing in the Ness in the city centre could become more common and that would be great."

Badgers Protected

A new group has been set up to protect the welfare of Scotland's badgers, their setts and habitat. Scottish Badgers are to start new groups throughout the country and would like to hear from anyone interested in helping to protect the local badger population. There are a large number of badgers throughout the area and the group would work closely with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forest Enterprise, the police and other statutory authorities to protect not only the badgers and their setts but also the habitat so important to the species. Organiser Ian Hutchison said: "There have been a number of crimes committed against badgers in recent months throughout Scotland and we have been surprised at the reported number of sett digging and interference incidents. "Our ultimate aim is to identify where there are badgers and hopefully by monitoring the local setts through members of badger groups to give them a level of protection they previously did not have. I would urge anyone who is interested in helping to get in touch with me."

Treasures of National Importance

Around a quarter of the collection, at some Highland museums is of national or international significance, according to the first national audit of Scotland's museums and galleries. As part of the audit, curators across Scotland were asked to nominate their "star items" - important artefacts, in their collections which would be the first to be saved in the event of a disaster such as a fire. There were a number of items selected at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, including a Turner watercolour, the Doune pistols and the Achivrail Amulet. Ross Noble, who carried out the audit there as well as at the Highland Folk Museum in Kingussie and Newtonmore, said it had been a very useful exercise. "Just sitting down and assessing the strengths of the museums was very valuable," he commented. "At Inverness Museum, we have the largest photographic collection in Scotland outside the national museums. "It also highlighted just how significant the Highland Folk Museum collection is. About 25% of it is of national importance. "We will look seriously at how we can build on the audit, perhaps by applying for funding to the Scottish Executive. for future projects."

Marching for a Good Cause

More than 200 tartan clad walkers took to the streets of Inverness recently to raise money for the Highland Hospice. In the final stretch of the six mile march, which began at Daviot Wood and ended with a lap of honour around Bught Park, the walkers were joined by 30 toddlers. Headed by Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon, the marchers were piped through the High Street, along by the River Ness and into the park, which recently hosted the Inverness Highland Games. Organisers said they hoped to raise more than last year's total of 13,000. "The hospice is very important to the people of the Highlands and it's great to see so much support for it," said Mary Scanlon. Organiser Martin Edwards was delighted so many people had turned out. "We rely on the community to keep the hospice going and events like this are crucial for raising funds," he said. The Highland Hospice was set up in 1988 to help terminally ill people.

Commando Museum

A museum dedicated to an elite wartime fighting force which trained at Achnacarry has fallen into new hands. A condition of the sale of Spean Bridge Hotel was that the Commando Museum, which is housed there, remains. Commando Association secretary, Ron Youngman, welcomed the news recently: "The museum is the only one in the country dedicated to the commandos and we are delighted it will carry on as before." Alex Ferguson and his son Alastair, who took over the hotel 19 years ago, opened the exhibition in 1993. They recently handed over the business to David Short and Francis Williams, experienced hoteliers from North Wales. Mr Ferguson sen, who is retiring to Oban with his wife, Jean, said: "The exhibition is visited by people from all over the world. One of the important factors of the sale was for the museum to continue in the same vein. The commandos' memory must be respected and their connection to the area never forgotten." The former chief superintendent with Essex police added: "The museum was opened at the request of the commandos who come every year for Armistice weekend. Many have become personal friends over the years." Only the toughest survived the training at Achnacarry during World War II, and one of the original films of the men being put through their paces is screened at the museum. The Freedom of Fort William was bestowed on the commandos in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

A Winner Again

Green fingered residents at Drumnadrochit are celebrating a double victory in the Beautiful Bloom in Scotland Competition. The village was awarded the Small Village Trophy which it won four years ago - and the Best Village Shield. The entry featured floral displays and permanent landscaped projects including a bench which was fashioned from a felled oak tree dating back to the times of Wellington. Sited on the A82 near Blairbeg Hall, it was recently dedicated to John Cobb who died 50 years ago while trying to break the world water speed record on Loch Ness. Five birch trees have also been planted alongside. Pat Veitch, co-ordinator of the Drumnadrochit Flower Forum, said they were delighted by the win.

Olden Times at Beauly

A fully stocked shop displaying many of the goods we might have queued for 80 years ago has opened at the Beauly Centre. Jars of old fashioned sweets line the shelves behind the counter, oil lamps hang from ceiling hooks and early electric cookers are displayed near tins of black lead for polishing the grate. Many of the items come from the famous Village Shop in Aberlour that closed down earlier this year. They, and hundreds of other household goods, compete for space with all types of clothing, ranging from stiff collars to heavy duty hosiery. The display is one of three new exhibitions at the centre. Another is a selection of looms, spinning wheels, a warping mill and other machinery associated with weaving, spinning and dyeing. All the equipment is regularly used by members of the Highland Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. The third traces the history of the Clan Fraser, which once dominated this part of Inverness-shire. Highland Council's development manager Graham Strachan said: "Beauly is one of the jewels in the Highland crown but it has lacked an attraction of general interest to visitors. "These excellent exhibitions will fill this gap, ensuring that, whatever the weather, tourists will have a wonderful day out."

Charity Event

Three Inverness charities have benefited from cash totalling more than 26,000. In a series of funding awards from Lloyds TSB Foundation, local charities received money for the development of various projects and initiatives. Crocus Child Bereavement Support Group will receive 15,000 over three years towards the costs of a bereavement co-ordinator. An award of 3,600 was also made to Daviot Village Hall which will be put towards the cost of kitchen improvements. The Highland branch of the Seagull Trust benefited from 7810 awarded towards the cost of a replacement engine for the "Highland Seagull" vessel.

Political Roundup

Failure in Solving Highland GP Problem Highlighted

The SNP Shadow Health Minister recently criticised the Scottish Executive for doing very little to solve a shortage of rural GPs. In a year when Helmsdale lost its resident GP and a Lybster doctor resigned due to administrative pressures, MSP Nicola Sturgeon proposed lucrative packages as the best short term method to lure GPs to far flung communities.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Wintry showers mainly in N and W. Cloudy spells in NE. Winds mod/fresh NW'ly. Temperature 6c to 8c.
Saturday Night
A few light wintry showers on coasts. Sunny clear spelss and frosty. Winds light/mod NW'ly. Temperature -5 to +1c.
Cold and frosty start. Otherwise a fairly settled and sunny day. Wintry showers over hills.
A few showers possible over far N areas. Dry start with some ground frost. Strong E wind, showers pm.

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