Firstly I must mention my wee trip up to bonnie Scotland for the New Year week.
NYE in Glasgow, where I had my first attempt at cèilidh. To be honest, as a novice, I wasn’t much worse than most of the drunken Scots.
NYD in Edinburgh where I discovered a small piece of heaven. The Elephant House coffee shop’s toilets. Apparently J. K. Rowling did much Harry Potter writing whilst sat in this elephant themed cafe (presumably not in the loos though). So why were there no eles in the stories? Anyway, HP fans from all over the world have taken it upon themselves to write HP quotes and messages all over the toilet walls, doors, the toilets themselves, and piping. Fantastic. There was even a message left my Dumbledore himself. Prescious. I studied every inch of HP graffiti with delight, within the ‘ladies’. Sadly I never plucked up the will to forget etiquette and explore the ‘gents’ too!
We then took a wee road trip up past Loch Lomond, Loch Long, and on up to Oban. The weather, as we all know, was horrific that week all the way up the west coast of the UK. We had gales, and endless heavy sodden rain. But we persevered, determined to keep loving Scotland whatever the weather threw at us!
We experienced fantastical sights, valleys, lochs, snow capped mountains/monroes, woodland, castles, yummy Oban whiskey, and the sea.
Last and this week, back to work at the Lodge. I have been mesmerised by a cute group of lollipop long-tailed tits bouncing about in trees one morning. I watched a pair of raven guide a buzzard away from their territory one lunchtime. They were calling to each other, their gentle ‘trong, trong’. Its hard to believe they were uttering anything in the slightest bit aggressive towards the buzzard, as their call is so sweet and lovely.
On Saturday I popped back to RSPB Nene Washes. I finally walked a walk I’d wanted to walk all last year. The Nene Washes from one end to the other. Well, nearly. The whole reserve was under water, except for the flood defence banks that we walked along. What had been full of cattle, yellow wagtails, and corncrakes, when I left last September, was now a twelve mile long lake – and we walked six of them..
I could here a noisy bunch of cranes, trumpeting away, and could imagine them dancing about like overgrown fairies. I saw my very first lady Hen harrier (I saw my one and only male on Arran in 2012). I fell in love. She was mooching about over some farmland, the sky was darkening, but her white banded rump stood right out. And I could see why the bird is also called ‘ring-tail’. We watched a Merlin chasing a smaller bird. The acrobatics by both was so very impressive. Prey flying for its life. Predator flying for its supper. I don’t find it pleasant watching something die. But through the thrill of the chase, my heart does feel like its in my mouth. We couldn’t see the outcome.
This reminded me of a scene that my mom and I witnessed on our long Christmas day walk. We watched the zigzags, across the path ahead of us, by a rabbit and a stoat. The smart rabbit speedily changing directions to avoid capture. And then, in the middle of the path, with seemingly no cares that two humans were watching, the stoat did its crazy little dance. This peculiar dance is thought by some to be part of their capture technique. The sudden strange movements could confuse or distract the rabbit, and it will then lose concentration on its predator avoidance strategy. However, others believe that it may be due to an overwhelming itch caused by parasites in their rear ends.
And today I visited WWT Slimbridge. I sat in a hide for nearly two hours. Each time I lifted and looked through my binoculars (which was frequently) I would see yet another species, and another, and another. And so much activity. Geese defending their patch of pond, chasing each other dramatically. A little snipe discreetly creeping about at the water’s edge. Lapwing hanging out together in their hundreds, and taking off in unison whenever spooked by something. In the shining sun they looked like diamonds twinkling across the blue sky. Golden plover were standing in lines at the very back of the landscape. A lone tall figure of a crane was standing preening amongst all the waders. And a tiny wee robin was pottering about in the scrub. I also saw: Black-tailed godwit, Pintail, Pochard, Redshank, Ruddy shelduck (a first), Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted duck, and Widgeon. Oh and Caribbean Flamingos too! Magic.
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