Creepy crawlies.

What creepy crawlies lurk around in those tall grasses in this beautiful landscape?

Alexander and I, we never travel alone. There are always some other living creatures travelling with us. First, we weren’t aware of them but now it is very clear. Eddie is our travel buddy, and I must speak about Eddie in the plural. Eddies.

Who are Eddies, you may wonder?………

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Midgies are therapy animals!

I’m not kidding!

In case you are wondering what the dark smudges are, they are a cloud of midgies.


If you like to give this perfect and totally free animal therapy a try, my best advice is so go out camping in Scotland on a windless day with a bit of moisture in the air and wait for the sun to set. Just sit outside in a short-sleeved shirt and……

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Plovers

Piping Plover with kayaks in the background.
Piping Plover with kayaks in the background.

‘Oh, there is a nice grubby there, let’s run to it. Oh no the wave is coming, let’s run back. Oh, there is a great jummy grubby there, let’s run to it now the water is gone, Oh no, the water is coming, let’s run back. You see that grubby there? Let’s….. Read more

The secret world of Highland cows

The herd of Highland cow's in front of Guirdile bothy on Rhum
The herd of Highland cow’s in front of Guirdile bothy on Rhum

When approaching the island of Rhum from the north side we usually paddle to the bothy of Guirdile. It is a very nice bothy on a shingle beach with a good water source passing the house to the sea. It’s not a good idea to put a tent up even though the grass looks excellent for it. On the grass grazes a herd of highland cattle, and they eat or lick about anything. We strip our boats from everything of the deck because the cows will eat/lick it. We found that out when we left a green bag made of fisherman’s rope attached on the boat. The plastics knotted thing was gone the next day and we only saw a bit of green string dangling down from one of the cow’s mouth.
They just love the salty taste of the gear, they lick the entire boat clean from salt if given the chance. A tent is most likely to get the same treatment, a good thorough wash and probably missing a few strings.

Highland cattle
Just look at those cute faces, full of mischief.

The bothy is very comfortable and ranks high on the list among walkers visiting the island. It has a large area upstairs and 2 rooms downstairs where you can have some good fires in the hearth. Through the windows, we have watched beautiful sunsets over Canna in the evening and sometimes otters can be spotted playing and food gathering on the beach. After some tea or something stronger, it’s time for bed. Not a sound is to be heard. Until….I sit up straight in my sleeping bag, what is that sound?
A rasping noise woke me up like someone is rubbing a stone against the house. My imagination gets the better of me and I imagine ghosts of the people who once lived here or men with evil intentions, sharpening their axes on the house. Are the zombies finally taking over the world? Could it be something simple like the wind?

Guirdile bothy and ruined houses
There used to be more houses on Guirdile but only one survived.

It turned out to be the cows who like to use the corners of the bothy as scratching posts. But why in the middle of the night! Don’t cows sleep?

Highland cows
Just look at the size of those horns! And they are a bit clumsy with them.

Ticks do not tickle

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Do the ticks tickle this deer? Looks like it!

May all creatures be happy and good! Sounds like a good motto.
But concerning ticks, I have a very different opinion. Ticks are nasty little buggers, they can transfer a dangerous disease like Lyme disease. And they are ugly. A brownish/black, flat, diamond-shaped body that swells up when they suck blood from a warm-blooded animal. Eight short spidery legs and a snout that is able to dive into flesh, my flesh.
Describing this beasty already sent shivers down my spine. I can not find any good qualities in the insect-like making medicine against life-threatening diseases or helping to relieve pain. I don’t know why ticks ever evolved in the first place if their intent is to be vampires. They are dark side creatures.

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Ugly little bloodsucker

Despite their 8 legs, they cannot move very fast but cling on to clothes or tent or wherever they are on. During the years it looks like ticks are increasing in numbers. After a walk, we find a few on our socks and trousers. They lurk in long grasses, heather and bracken waiting for a warm-blooded creature to come along.
This year we put the tent up in, what looked like, a nice bit of grass. It turned out to be a nest of very small ticks and the tent was covered with them. We spent 2 hours getting the tiny ticks off the tent. And they kept popping up.

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Very idyllic campsite with an infestation of tiny little ticks

That means socks and trousers will be outside the inner tent. But that is by no means a guarantee that they won’t find a way to gain access to the tent and slip in my sleeping bag. We have to be vigilant and check our clothes every day. Especially in area where there is deer around. Deer are the favourite victims of ticks.
We check our body’s as well. If a tick is attached for longer than 24 hours on your body you have to keep an eye on the bite for redness or circular markings. On the optimistic side, not all ticks carry Lyme disease. But that doesn’t make them a good guy again!
They have favourite places to bite, like the back of your knees, armpits, behind the ears, in the groin. Nice warm places near to a nice warmblood supply. I am always worried they get into my hair and I cannot spot them fast enough. Alexander has to check my hair twice a day. Looks a bit monkey-like. But very good for the relationship. I think that must be the only beneficial effect of ticks.

 

Charlotte Gannet

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 Favorite host of ticks relaxing in typical tick vegetation

Another high

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This weekend we enjoyed and other high water. This time on the river Waal, the largest distributary branch of the Rhine. First by bicycle, which was fun.

The birds are making the most out of it. The dykes are littered with walnuts at the moment. The crowd scoured a flood line where all the notes are collected. When they find one they fly to do tarmac to correct them. Also, the common kestrel gets their food on a plate. All the little rodents flee the rising water and onto the dykes. So the kestrels only have to soar the steep banks of the dykes. Hovering, at eye level, almost motionless in the stiff breeze. They are little marvellous wonders to see.

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Today we used our kayaks, which was a little adventure. First the Gendtsche polder, where wind and current pushed us almost in the trees. Then we had to cross between the big barges, on a fast flowing river, with a stiff breeze against it.

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On the other side, the Millingerwaard. We pedalled through the forest which was ravaged by the storm of two weeks ago. At least the beavers don’t have to chew their threes down now.

 

 

 

High water at home

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This week, in the Rhine close to home, water did rise to 12.40m NAP (approx. sea level). To give you a reference to my floor in the living room is at 10.60m NAP. Don’t worry, we are still dry behind the dykes This water level, which is a once in every five-year event, only flows over the summer dykes. The winter dykes can keep on other 3 m of water at bay.

For us, kayakers, it gives a nice expanse of water and a whole new territory to explore. Today was beautiful, the light was changing constantly. I explored the nature area Meinderswijk, close to Arnhem.

So, just to share this enjoyable moment, an extra blog post with some photos and a small video of the Beaver that passed by.

Enjoy Alexander.

 

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No brains, only beauty

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The lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)

The fact that jellyfish have survived
for 650 million years
despite not having brains
is great news for stupid people.

Fascinating, ghostlike creatures hanging suspended in the water. Propelling forwards by expanding and contracting of the umbrella-like hood of their boneless bodies. Mesmerising in colour and translucent ness. Actually, the entire body is water, 97 percent of it. Trapped water in cells, but not all innocent. Some jellyfish have the means to defend themselves. The long tentacles pack a powerful sting. It varies among species. Some are perfectly harmless.

Jellyfish come in all shapes and sizes. It is amazing the large variation in design. Big and pink like the ill-named dustbin lid jellyfish. The burgundy red, sometimes indigo blue lion’s mane with its long tentacles trailing through the water. Very common is the moon jellyfish who live in large groups and go for mass suicide on the beach, or translucent oval shaped comb jellyfish with pink or green iridescent stripes, fit to adorn any Christmas tree.

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The comb jelly (Beroe cucumis)

Because of climate change and the oceans getting warmer we see more exotic jellyfish in the Scottish waters. Paddling around Barra we spotted what looked like water bubbles on the water surface. It turned out to be a transparent membrane attached to a small indigo blue disk-like jellyfish with very small tentacles. It had its own little sail! It is called ‘By the wind sailor’. It lives in the warmer waters of the mid-ocean and sails across the ocean to the prevailing wind direction, imagine that. And just because the sail on the jellyfish is angled the wrong way for this hemisphere that has seen too many southwesterly storms, it stands on a beach and dies.

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The by-the-wind-sailor (Velella velella)

In Asiatic counties, jellyfish are considered food, dried to be preserved. Revived to be eaten raw or cooked. So Alexander had to try that as well. The idea of eating jellyfish put me off a bit. There were some moon jellyfish lying on the beach. He took out his knife and cut a bit off the body. The outer layer was surprisingly though but lower down it was much softer. The texture is quite like jelly, but with a salty flavour, a bit more like the slimy stuff you might find up your nose when having a cold. We concluded that the English name ‘jellyfish’ is well chosen.

 In the Dutch language, a jellyfish is called ‘kwal’. Phonetically [ *k w ɑ l ]. It is the exact translation for jellyfish. The other meaning in the Dutch language for the word ‘kwal’ is an unfriendly person. Usually a man, I would never call a woman a ‘kwal’. I might choose the French word for jellyfish ‘meduse’, it has a more feminine sound to it.

A kwal is someone like a teacher or a driving instructor or a boss, someone higher in rank. But he has a bit of an ego problem, he pours out all his frustrations out on you and puts you down. But because you need something of him you try to stay nice and polite. Behind his back, you could do him an injury. That is a ‘kwal’ of a guy. But I would never call him a jellyfish. Or would I…

Does any person come to mind in your surrounding that fit the description? Spineless and no brain to speak of? There are plenty of people like that around, beautiful or not. Console yourself with the thought that brainless arrogance can be a survival strategy. It worked for jellyfish…