Loch Leven Botany walks this week!

We’ve got two botany walks this week at Loch Leven NNR.

Botany-Event

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The Bluebells put on a great show round at Findatie this spring.

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The Bogbean looked great earlier on this year. There is still some of this out.

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We’ve got lots of Early Marsh Orchids in flower this spring. Up to three weeks later then last year.

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We really had to search hard for Coral-root Orchid this year. Gus and I could only find two. In 2015 I found over 40.

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There’s been lots of Holy Grass at Mary’s Know and Levenmouth. The insect surveyors found some at Findatie too.

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This is a green orchid known at a Greater Twayblade. It grows locally at Findatie and on Castle Island.

There are many other exciting plants to be found at Findatie and Burleigh. Please phone to book yourselves on the walks.

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Discovery Day

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Discovery Day went ahead last weekend at Kirkgate Park.

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The Showground looked fantastic, bathed in sunshine.

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The big marque was comfortably busy all the time

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The face painting, fly fishing and the crafts were very popular.

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Fergus and Claire sung songs and told stories…..

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Which were equally popular with the children and the adults.

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A Poplar Hawkmoth made a dramatic escape from the Butterfly Conservation Stand.

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The recapture was equally dramatic

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The local WRI group provided the refreshments. They were raising money for charity.

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Good to see so many folk come along by environmentally friendly transport.

#Connectingpeoplewithnature – Are you connected? Keep an eye on here for other events.

 

 

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Discovery Day – 27th May 2018

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Come and enjoy the fun at Kirkgate Park this Sunday. Lots of activities, displays and crafts for all ages.

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Catch up

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It’s been another magical week at Loch Leven with mirror calm water in the mornings.

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We’re seeing the first decent Chironomid hatches around the loch. The insectivorous birds are enjoying this plentiful supply of food.

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Not sure the herons are too keen on the flies though.

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I’m finding a few more of the herons have hatched now. In 2009 they were fledging by the end of May.

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The 20 pairs of Mute Swans nesting around the loch are at different stages of nesting. This bird is sat on eggs, others have nests but no eggs and some pairs have not bothered this year but still stoically defend their territories. This is partly due to the late spring but also the high water levels.

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Yellowhammers are visible in the north side of the loch. The males have a familiar song. Listen to it here.

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The willow buds are in flower right now.

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These are another excellent food source. This is typical early season Bullfinch food but many insects including bumblebees and hoverflies enjoy the feast.

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The odd Wheatear is turning up around the reserve. These birds breed on the surrounding hills. Many of them head much further north with some getting as far as Greenland.

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There are some spectacular clumps of Marsh Marigold brightening the ditches right now.

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Bogbean is just emerging  at Findatie. It has a very short flowering season.

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Botany is still a bit quiet but I’m finding the odd Orchid in it’s early stages.

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I’m finding Flowering Wood-rush out at Burleigh. It’s an indicator of low nutrients. We keep the nutrients low on our meadows by cutting and lifting the cuttings every year.

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We stumble across the odd plant we don’t want to find too. This Giant Hogweed was growing at Burleigh but has now eliminated for safety reasons.

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On areas we don’t mow and lift we use cattle. the first cattle have gone out onto Carsehall. They don’t look very pleased about being out there.

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Carsehall Bog is looking very lush and green right now. We had two pairs of Lapwings on here this spring and one pair laid eggs. This is the first time on the actual bog for years. All the work we have been doing to improve the bogs botanics are benefitting the birds too.

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The swans are enjoying the farmers crops again.

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A few butterflies are on the wing now. Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White and Peacock are on the wing right now.

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Moth of the week is this Red Sword Grass. We catch one of these annually.

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This Goldenrod Pug is certainly one for the purists. I have trapped three of these this week.

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Roe Deer are very obvious around the reserve. This doe fed in front of the Levenmouth hide oblivious to my presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Herons and Moths

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It has has been proper April weather here at Loch Leven NNR with sunny weather interspersed with sharp heavy cooling showers.

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The insect counting volunteers got together for their annual meeting yesterday. They’ve been out counting from the beginning of April. They’ve only really started to find Bees and Butterflies emerging this week. George Guthrie had bought samples from his catch  the previous night. This is a Powdered Quaker. One I’m yet to catch in Kinross.

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Not a Butterfly. This is an Early Thorn.

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This is a Pale Pinion Moth I trapped at Kinross. It’s an interesting moth because it emerges well in the Autumn then over winters as an adult and re-emerges again in the spring.

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The bees and other insects find this Butterbur a good source of food when few flowering plants are out.

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I was out counting the Heron nests this week. We found a total of 35 nests between the two islands. They are very late this year with only one nest appearing to have hatched.

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This gives you an idea of the density of nests in the trees. On the Castle the nests are in only 4 trees.

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Amee was out doing activities with Rosemount Nursery this week. They were looking at birds and leaves round at the Kirkgate.

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That’s the last of the trees planted this winter period. We planted 100 Rowan round at Levenmouth. We were hearing plenty of Swifts overhead. We also heard the first Sedge Warblers of the year too.

Discovery Day 2018 - Poster (A1640472) (A2204897) (A2584755)

Remember to keep this date free for Discovery Day.

 

 

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24 hours on the Isle of May

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Alan and I were covering for our NNR colleagues on the Isle of May over the weekend.

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A willow warbler admires the interpretation on the Isle of May NNR.

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We were welcomed by rafts of Puffins on the water when we arrived.

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There were a good number of migrant birds around the island when we arrived. Redwings will be heading to Scandinavia and Ring Ouzels to the Scottish Hills. The Black Redstart was singing nicely to a female around the buildings. The Song Thrush could be nesting in a garden somewhere near you soon!

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As lovely as this Sparrowhawk is, when you are looking for migrant birds its presence is not at all helpful. Its diet had included at least 2 Robins and a Song Thrush during its stay.

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The large gulls are a few days away from laying eggs and lined up nicely on the walls.

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A few Kittiwakes are finding courting and nest building.

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Shag are very late this year. Most of these birds should be on eggs by now but have struggled in the winter storms.

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By Sunday morning the cliffs that were empty on the Saturday were full of Auks.

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Razorbills were courting in the sunshine.

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There were lots and lots of Puffins on the Sunday morning. They put on pleasing show for the visitors who arrived on the afternoon boat.

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Fantastic to go back to the island. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

 

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Spring

 

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There’s still snow on the hills but this week we’ve seen the first positive shift away from the cold weather here at Loch Leven NNR.

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The Blue Tits have been collecting cobwebs. Our shed seems to be a decent place to start.

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I’ve had the Moth trap out every night this week. I’ve not been catching too much apart from the early spring moths like Hebrew Character, Common Quaker and Clouded Drab.

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Mallards are coming onshore to breed. This drake is calling to his mate who is laying eggs nearby that there is danger about.

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Loch Leven had it’s first Sand Martins three weeks ago but we’ve had to wait for the next batch. We were seeing 10s on the Monday, hundreds by the Tuesday and well over 1000  Wednesday.

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We also recorded our first Swallows this week and heard the first Willow Warbler singing on Wednesday.

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Bittercress is out on bare ground around the reserve.

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There’s plenty of Frog spawn around the loch. This heap is beginning to hatch and seems to have survuived the really cold weather. We are waiting for the toads now.

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We’ve been steadily planting the large order of trees. These oaks have been planted at Levenmouth where we lost a few large oaks during the winter storms in recent years.

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We find plenty of frogs while we are doing this.

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We’re still catching up with the big winter jobs like clearing ditches and emptying silt traps.

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A sure sign of spring – ‘The ants are back Neil!’

 

 

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Bored of writing about snow now

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They say snow laying on the ground is simply waiting for the next lot to arrive. There were still pockets of snow at the start of the week on the surrounding hills but sure enough of the year has passed to see the end of it?

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Unfortunately more arrived. This didn’t stay for long or cause the disruption that the last lot caused but has left everywhere soaking.

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The wintry scenes returned again. Surely that is it now?

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Goosander and Little Grebe in the harbour. Still plenty of sticklebacks for them to catch.

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The first trout anglers have been out on Loch Leven this spring. If you want to keep up with the angling news, keep an eye on Fish Loch Leven website.

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We found evidence Mistle Thrush have hatched young already at Loch Leven. It is likely there is already a Blackbird on eggs near to you too.

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The Woodpeckers are very noisy right now. They are drumming loudly making their presence known to ward off other woodpeckers in their territories. Both Green and this Greater Spotted Woodpeckers were calling and drumming at Levenmouth today.

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I’ve still not had the opportunity to get the moth trap out much but this Satellite was the only moth of last week. They are called Satellites because of the large dot with the two smaller dots underneath them. This is a scarce moth round here. This moth probably emerged last winter and is flying after hibernation. They are a moth of deciduous trees.

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The trees at Sewage Point are now down. the last of the logs will be lifted soon. this machine mulches the brash back into the soil. We’ve also dug out the last of the stumps from Mary’s Knowe. Its transformation from scrub to species rich grassland is nearly complete.

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Lots of Squirrel activity around the loch right now. What better place for a Red Squirrel to eat a pine cone then an upturned bucket.

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It took me 11 years to see my first Barn Owl at Loch Leven and 16 years to see my first red kite at here. Amee has seen both within a few hours in her first 3 days! The Red Kite was migrating north. It gathered height over Burleigh and headed north-west. The Barn Owl was at Levenmouth which is an unlikey place for this species. It’s probably been displaced by the bad weather. It needs to be careful round there. There’s a big angry Tawny Owl which won’t like its presence.

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Keep an eye of for Wood Anemones right now. They are just coming into flower in woodlands.

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Meet Amee….

Loch Leven, NNR

Over the next 6months Amee Hood, a former Reserve Officer for Stirling NNRs (2 Bogs, a swamp and some islands) has taken up her new role to be the new Seasonal Reserve Officer for Loch Leven, NNR.

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I started within SNH in 2016 as a SRUC Student Placement and then blossomed from there. I came into the organization with great enthusiasm and with great mentors within the Stirling, NNR I managed to strengthen my knowledge especially becoming an expert in Fresh Water sponges.

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This specialized niche started at Loch Leven during my first couple of weeks starting with SNH, where I chummed Stephen Longster (former reserve officer) on a visit to this reserve. Ever since that day, whilst working at Loch Lomond, NNR I kept my eyes open to then discover and identify the first Fresh Water Sponge there. I honestly cant wait to get into the water at Loch Leven with my new bathyscope to see if I can find another colony of sponges, increase the records and have a better understanding of their growth.

I am excited to learn how other NNRs are managed, being based on the Stirling, NNRs this involved a lot of traveling to and from the reserves. With Loch Leven I will get to experience what it is like to be based on site with very little travelling.

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The main purpose of my job role this summer is to organize and running event connecting people with nature. I am really looking forward to meeting and greeting the visitors to Loch Leven, NNR over the summer months. So far I have many ideas of events I can organize and lead this summer, so stayed tuned and if you see me around please say Hi. I would love to share my knowledge so far with Fresh Water Sponges.

Many thanks to the Stirling NNR blog for the photos.

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Beast from the east part 2 and a Puffin

Have we seen the end of the winter at Loch Leven NNR? Beast from the east part 2 delivered less snow but still plenty of interest at Loch Leven.

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The ice sculptures were quite impressive along the west shoreline. If you look closely at the bottom pictures you can see the strong wind and ice removed the whole reed bed near to where the hide was. That’s one fewer Mute Swan and Great Crested grebe nesting spot this spring.

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The Goldeneye looked like they enjoyed the surf. The loch saw gusts over 40mph from the east. Stronger than when all the snow fell.

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The days that followed were quite glorious though. This was over the east of the loch.

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More cracking sunsets on the loch

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The sun bought the first Wildflowers. Coltsfoot has been bursting up all round the reserve in the last week.

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This is growing in the bunds at Carsehall. This is where I first found it flowering last year.

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Last week I was helping Steve from Ecoco again with the Softrak. I was helping him at the RSPB site at Black Devon wetlands in the Forth.

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We were cutting reeds down there. I’ve not had that experience before and we managed a lot of cutting.

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We were working west of the Kincardine Bridge. As I was finishing I had a look at the river as the tide was coming in.

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It was clear a lot of seabirds had been bought in with the tide. First bird I spotted was a Razorbill and then a number of Kittiwakes and then I started spotting a lots of Guillemots. It was clear that the bad weather had force a number of these birds right up the estuary. Struggling to feed, these birds become weak. If anyone sees any dead seabirds on beaches please report them to CEH. Guidance on the Isle of May blog.

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There is still a bit of wood chip left over by in the Burleigh car park. Keep taking it away. Two thirds of it has gone. I even overheard someone talking about it in our local pub.

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We managed a bit of cutting and bailing near the factory. Weather stopped us from finishing it in the autumn. The baler worked very well.

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Gus popped by this week. Here he is carping a Conger Eel in the north-east. We enjoyed a bit of birdspotting around the reserve after work.

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Shelduck are already on their well established territories around the reserve.

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In the middle of the picture is a Mediterranean Gull. There are still very few of these gulls recorded  locally.

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Here is a slightly better shot of a Mediterranean Gull I took in Fife the weekend before. It’s the bird with white wing tips in the middle of the shot. It differs from the Black-headed Gulls by being bulkier and having white wing tips and a blood-red thick bill. While we were watching the bird in at Loch Leven another bird flew in. This is the first time more than one have been recorded together at here.

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Another good find at Loch Leven find was a Rock Pipit on St Serfs. It’s still a very uncommon bird here with probably fewer then 10 records. They are reasonably common along the coast of Fife. This is Gus’s best effort.

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Here are the volunteers harvesting Broom around the car park. We are collecting it to plant some of the bare areas around the loch.

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It turned into a fantastic team building exercise. Or was that the tea and cake? We collected and processed over 3000 seeds.

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And finally…..

We recorded our Loch Leven’s first ever Puffin last week. Spotted fishing with Red-breasted Mergansers near St Serfs the bird had probably appeared during the first spell of bad weather. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph it so I got a picture from my time on the Isle of May.

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