Scotland · Uncategorized

Low-flying Jets, busy bees and bickering birds

A day in the garden – part 2

'You go for a bath and I'll hoover up all this seed.'

Ah, the peaceful country life – not! Birdsong provided the backing track to my observations but there’s was lots more to be heard besides. There was the half-bark, half-cough of the ewes calling to their lambs and to each other. There was the deep bellow of a Highland (the large, ginger-haired, horned variety of cow native to these parts) heifer chastising her calves for playing a bit too roughly. This year’s little calf was winding up his brother, born last year. Junior was actually head-butting his sibling. Given that big bro’ weighs twice as much as the little one and has the beginnings of some pretty impressive headgear, I could see why mama cow was getting agitated.

'Leave me alone, little fella!'

I heard one animal noise I’m not familiar with – an intermittent sound –a cross between a snort and a throat-clearing. It came from next door. I peered over the fence. It was the new arrivals – two llamas. They seemed to graze for a wee while and then pause to snort to each other before resuming their chewing. As they stood tail to tail they reminded me of the push-me-pull-you in Doctor Doolittle. They’re a curious blend of camel and sheep – weird!

'Sheep are weird!' The llamas seem puzzled by this stumpy legged creature

The sound of intermittent squabbling between next door’s ducks and geese persisted for most of the day. There are ongoing skirmishes between the two species over water access – yesterday was no different. The geese harangued with their distinctive honking call and the ducks muttered and quacked back – in a literal flap. Also from next door came the cry of the resident peacock calling to his lady – it’s an almost eerie sound, a call full of longing – almost like human crying. I find it quite endearing.

At the bottom of the garden just over the fence, hens clucked and scrabbled in the field – tutting as they dodged cattle hooves and sheep kicks to get at grubs and seeds in the long tussocky grass. And the rooster followed his harem around, strutting like Mick Jagger in best ‘Brown Sugar’ mode, and crowing enthusiastically whenever the fancy took him.

A gannet kept watch on us all from the chimney-top, squawking out his complaints about goodness knows what. Every now and again he was buzzed by the ever-circling carrion crows and cacophonous, winged fisticuffs would ensue. I’m rather fond of crows – they are so intelligent – not the least bit bird-brained. We mainly get two varieties round here – the carrion and the hooded. The hooded lads are mostly peaceful, mind-their-own- business kinda guys – but the carrion crew are loud bully boys. I’ve seen them harry a sea eagle – apparently it’s not uncommon for them to work as a group to see off raptors who might pose a threat to their young.

As well as the chirruping of the small birds and a blackbird singing exquisitely from his perch in one of the rowan trees, the other backing track was a deep and loud hum – bees – many bees. The garden is edged all round with fuchsia which the bees adore. The hedges were full of bees as were the blue hydrangeas, the purple buddleias, the pink daisies, the mauve geraniums, the lilac hebe – yes okay – all the flowering plants. The drone was unpunctuated and I did take some time to track one of their number – what a work ethic as he systematically worked over one yellow potentilla bush.

busy bee

I couldn’t see the horses on the croft to the south of ours as the rosa rugosa bushes that grow against the drystane dyke that forms the boundary are too tall to see over at this time of year. But I could hear them snuffle and whinny – two grumpy old men having a blether.

But  all this noise wasn’t troublesome to me as I forayed through the garden. It wasn’t intrusive. I was able to think – to let my mind play and toy with all sorts of thoughts and notions, observations and reflections –  as I perched, crouched, squinted and scrutinised the plants and creatures all around me.

So when the two low-flying fighter jets materialised – with no approaching sound – roaring up the loch, below the level of the mountain ridge on the loch’s eastern flank, when that ultra-fast, earbusting, engine roar suddenly silenced every living creature on the ground, I thought I was having a cardiac episode of the terminal variety. What a fright! At the southern end of the loch they climbed and banked before turning to head back down the water and out into the Minch.

Mother Nature was momentarily silenced by Man’s fighting machines – that definitely gave me pause for thought. But soon the squabbles, skirmishes and social calling and the serious business of feeding had resumed and I got back to my safari.

Episode three to follow soon…

where the jets banked and turned

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