Category Archives: Birds

59er Diners ….

…was the best quiz team name, as voted by Julia.  We had a weekend away with the 59ers, back to glorious Perthshire, with its trees and bonny flowers.  A visit to the ceramics festival at Scone proved a success,  I think we all opened our wallets or purses at some point, rain did not stop play.  The ospreys at the Loch of the Lowes were on form, as were the cakes in the tea rooms of Dunkeld.     But mostly we talked, blethered, chatted, caught up, hung out, and just enjoyed each other’s company, especially round the dining table.

Gargoyle at Old Kirk
Garden
Deer at Scone
Woodpecker
Osprey, Loch of the Lowes
Bell Tower, Old Kirk
Finial

Unabridged

Here’s a challenge.

The Flock in the Firth

As Eh cam owre the Forth rail brig

Eh saw frae oot o Fife

a farrachin o starlins’ trig

as the thochts o ane waukrife

 

Lyk sheelock fae a thrashin mill

they mirlieit the nicht

atween thi brigs, as tho ate fill ut

wi wan shammade o flicht

 

Lyk a sark that’s bealin i thi breeze

this ram stam scarnach oan

a norrie birled wi siccan ease

as a skatir by’ur lone.

 

Ut seemd as tho a michty scroosh

o sparlins fae thi flair

o Forth hud fur a skirr gead whoosh

intil thi deeps o air

 

Ut seemd as tho a page o wurds

at sum parafflin nemm,

has aa at wance been cheengd tae burds

an werr marginin thi faem

 

Thi mirk held mair nor myriads

aa sherrickin the stream,

in spirlin splores, in sklents, in scads,

lyk Hitchcock’s wuddendreme

 

Ly Egypt’s kas, or Dante’s braw

adulters in Hell,

sae mony starlins i thi blaw

o Scoatlan rose and fell

 

Eh slid ablow this skavie flock

and ontae Fife’s blank page,

Eh wrote: they are thi parrymauk

o starnies in a rage.

W.S. Herbert

farrachin: bustling, waukrife: unable to sleep; sheelock: chaff; mirlieit: speckled; shammade; lacework; sark: shirt; bealin: moving agitatedly; ram stam: head strong; scarnach: great number of people or things; norrie: whim; birld; spun; by ‘ur lone: by herself; scroosh: disreputable horad; sparlin: smelt( a freshwater fish found in the Forth and the Tay); skirr: jape; parafflin: flourishing, as in the end of a signature; marginin: marking the margin; mirk: dark; sherrickin: amassing to abuse:  spirling splores: lively adventures; sklents: angles; scads: in great quantities; wuddendreme: nightmare; skavie: ruching; parrymauk: double; starnies: stars (starn also means ‘starling’).

The Poetry of Birds, ed. Simon Armitage and Tim Dee, Penguin Books 2011. 

 

Back on the road

Bamse
The Seafarer, by William Lamb, F.R.S.A.
A Snipe. Honest.
Lunan Bay
Seal skeleton
Snowdrops, House of Dun

Last  week found us in Montrose, to visit the Basin and its wintering residents.   Timing was either spot on or spot off; coinciding as we did with that time in late winter when there is enough daylight to evince notions of venturing further afield, only to find out that most places of interest are still shut.  Honourable mentions therefore to the Basin visitor centre, the gardens of House of Dun, Brechin Town House, Montrose Museum and Art Gallery, and the Aircraft Museum.  They were open and staffed.

A high spring tide meant that the birds hiding on the Basin foreshore were forced to reveal themselves,  giving us a fine view of a wisp of snipe, nine in total.  (And also giving me the opportunity for legitimate use of a collective noun).   Other highlights included various sculptures, and it should not go unmentioned that everyone we spoke to was pleasant and helpful.

If you do not know the story of Bamse, read the book.

Due to my misinterpretation of the rules for the honesty box in the Aircraft Museum tearoom, we were entitled to rather more biscuits than were consumed.  However, in the presence of so many sobering reminders of the real cost of war…

There was an excellent exhibition of sea themed paintings at the gallery in town, including many by famous son William Lamb.  I have yet to find a sculpture trail or map, but I believe much of his work is dotted around the environs.

 

January February

Well, January had a lot happening but none of it for recording here, thank you. Went for a walk round Townhill Loch yesterday, after the washing machine was replaced.  Sometimes a wee walk and some wildlife makes all the difference.  There were loads of birds but mostly they were too fast for the camera operator.

Mallards
Blackheaded gulls, Cormorants and Mallards
Blackheaded gulls, Cormorants and Mallards
Male Goosanders
Path
Townhill Loch
Cormorant on a pole

Weekendings

A busy and fruitful weekend: Saturday lunch in Cafe Portrait, where we narrowly missed Ali and Les.  Then we strolled along the main streets before heading up to the museum on Chambers Street to view Tim Peake’s landing craft.   Hied off to our café du jour, the Angus Fling, where Paul was able to stave off his hunger with a venison burger, whilst I had a more sedate,  and rather good, scone.  Tripped back down the road to Coda Music, where there was a new CD being launched, by Aidan O’Rourke, of LAU fame.  We enjoyed a short concert, with James Robertson reading his stories and  Kit Downes on the harmonium, plus Aidan on fiddle.  They were all kind enough to sign my CD.

Sunday began with a swim, and a serendipitous trip to Loch Ore meadows, where the cafe was open ridiculously early for a marathon bicycle race. allowing us to sneak a cup of tea and a scrambled egg roll.  A walk round the loch itself was followed by a sail on two fun boats.  “Fun” was maybe not quite the order of the day since there was no wind to propel these sail boats, but we had a good time and the staff at the park could not have been kinder, or more helpful.

We had to wear wetsuits.  No pictures exist of either of us in that garb.  Nor will they.

Tim Peake: Soyuz
Paul with Soyuz
Swans on Loch Ore
Calm
Last of the bluebells
Heron at Loch Ore
Pinkfoot Geese at Loch Ore

Shakin’ a tail feather

Here’s a smart fellow we met in Drummond Castle gardens last weekend.  Interestingly enough, there are no peacock poems in my lovely  book The Poetry of Birds whilst the phoenix, a bird which doesn’t even technically exist, gets five.  You will recall that the divine colours of its plumage are actually illusory, yes, just like the kingfisher, it relies heavily on the phenomenon of iridescence and its success therein determines its chances of getting lucky with the peahens.

Peacock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So yes, optical interference Bragg reflections based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers produce the peacock’s colours. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in different colours. *  More equally fascinating detail on their mate selection strategy may be found on Wiki.   It’s not just about strolling around and being stunning, you know.

eyespots

 

 

 

 

 

 

*from Wiki

Quackers

As our island nation emerges from a long long winter, we have begun our programme of jaunts short and long.  I have very quickly run into the issue of not being able to keep up with the updates, so this post will have to cover at least three such peregrinations.

First to Kenmore with the Folk Club.  The journey up was made in weather most foul.  The A9 runs alongside some vast swathes of Perthshire farmland, and I don’t think I will forget seeing so many  lambs huddled behind sodden hay bales, trying to find shelter from the incessant rain.  What a welcome to the world.  48 hours later, we were taking some glorious shots along Loch Tay, although the Ben was still caked in snow.  We had a merry time with chums, a rare old daunder round Aberfeldy and a climb up to see the Falls of Acharn.

Loch Tay, Kenmore

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next weekend saw us off to York, to meet Team Discovery, on the (near enough) 10th anniversary of our inaugural AGM.  We were too busy chatting and laughing to remember the group photo, suffice to say the girls won the quiz.  The journeys there and back were smooth, plus the majority of the taxi drivers we encountered were pleasant and helpful.

I ticked a box at the National Railway Museum, which is free to visit, btw,  what an utter bargain.  When I was little, steam trains were still on the go and the ones that captured my imagination were the Bittern and the Mallard.  I think it was the streamlined design and punky funnels which caught my childish eye, the bird names would have nothing to do with it, oh no.  Mallard was awol from the museum last time we went, in 2010, but this time she was centre stage, and even had a café named after her.

Mallard

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did manage to take a picture with only two humans in it, which was not easy.  All I know about trains is from the standpoint (touchy subject) of a commuter and occasional steam groupie, but if I could meet Sir Nigel Gresley*I would shake him by the hand.  The trains he designed looked stunning and outperformed most others.  Interestingly, his home had a moat in which he bred ducks.

Record

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I was forcibly extracted from the sheds, we wandered round the town, which was extremely busy with hen parties and football fans.  Every pub had at least two bouncers, mid afternoon.  It’s not like that in Dunfermline.  Passing by York Minster we noticed that the restoration of some stonework was laid out for all to see, and by poking the camera lens through the wire fence I managed to capture this fine fellow. I found this link which could well show the stonemasons involved.

Minster lion

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have many more photos of trains, if you wish to see these please do call round.

We also travelled to Berwick.  However, despite Paul’s best efforts the PC will not view the SD card from the camera, so I have to wait for him to upload them to the shared drive and them drag them in from the network.  Looking at you, Panasonic, and your WiFi link that scrambled my files.  Lastly, a street with identity issues.

Sign

*From  Wikipedia *A statue of Gresley was unveiled at King’s Cross station in London on 5 April 2016, the 75th anniversary of his death.[6] Sculptor Hazel Reeves originally included a duck alongside Gresley in reference to his hobby of breeding water fowl and his bird-themed locomotive names such as Mallard, but this was removed from the final design when two of Gresley’s grandsons complained it was “demeaning”.[7]

 

Hazel Reeves also researched, designed and sculpted the Cracker Packers  statue in Carlisle, as I discovered this morning.

Prey to distraction

We took the car to Dunkeld to check out the charger there and what do you know,  Loch of the Lowes is just round the corner.  LJ is back, and the viewing room was hoachin’.   Stopped off at Tiso’s Perth, and then toured Dunkeld’s shops.  Fortunately most of them were shut, but it doesn’t bode well for Paul’s wallet when we go back later in the year….

Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Yellowhammer (taken by Paul)
Female Pheasant and male Mallard
Female Osprey LJ
Red
Male Mallard head plumage

Treemendous

Townhill Loch today.  Some bizarre stuff going down, which we assuaged with a nice cup of tea and biscuit.

Mute swan feeding
Sparkly loch
Half moon
Strawberry tree
Apple tree
Pear Tree
Cygnet and Mallard

 

 

 

Argentum vacation

As is my wont, I looked up silver on Wikipedia and within three clicks happened upon the delightful phrase “metals of antiquity“, which I think quite aptly describes a milestone wedding anniversary.  The poking about further elicited the notion that metals are malleable, fusible and ductile; going over those terms in detail, l was struck by the last – within the metallurgy concept it means able to be pulled into a wire but it also comes from the Latin ducere, meaning to lead.  Dad often told us that the word education meant to lead out.  Now that’s off my chest, we may proceed.

Wanders north took us to Invergarry, Ratagan, Glenelg, Plockton, Portree, Broadford, the Trotternish peninsula, Ardtornish, Glenfinnan, Lochaline and Tobermory.  We had one boat trip (Sula Mhor, Plockton) and five ferry rides.  Planned but eventually off the travel menu were journeys to St Kilda and Loch Coruisk.   This was not unexpected and only serves as a reason to return.  The weather was in general, bad, occasionally awful and sometimes gorgeous.  The wildlife kept itself hidden, as did the stars, although we did see a juvenile golden eagle from the living room window of our cottage on Skye. We saw changes, having not been to these parts from some five years, maybe more, but we also heard voices from long ago and in every way had a most enjoyable time.  I have waaay too many photos to choose from so, as ever, an eclectic selection below.  Bear in mind that in order to take the shot of the train we had to share a wee hump of a hill with 300 others –  all shouting about a boy wizard going to school ….

Red sandstone by Loch Duich
Glenelg
Glenelg broch
Glenelg broch
Ferry at Kylerhea narrows
Loch Duich from Ratagan hostel
Salty Sam with Ratagan Bear
Eilean Donan castle
Eilean Donan castle
Beautiful Plockton in the rain
Wet birds (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Salty on the Sula Mhor
Old Man of Storr
View from Achacroik
Garden of Castle Cottage, Ardtornish
Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel
Jacobite train crossing Glenfinnan viaduct
Ardtornish Castle, Kinlochaline
Tobermory