Sunday, 10 April 2011

Here Be Dragons

Today I took advantage of the last of the unseasonably good weather for a while to head up in to the hills to survey some of my tetrads for the BTO Bird Atlas. The tetrads that I have been allocated are in some of the most remote, wild and lonely parts of the island. In theory I was given these as I have a natural inclination to explore remote places, but I am starting to wonder if our local bird recorder is keen to lose me in the bog.

These four tetrads are located on  one of those blank bits on the map where if you were to ask a local what was there they would look at you vaguely and say "hill". If it was an old fashoned kind of map, there would be a caption reading "Here be Dragons". Nobody goes there, except for the odd long legged estate worker.  There are no famous mountains, or challenging rock climbs, just mile after mile of heather, forestry enclosures and tussocky Molinia grass. It is pretty rough going underfoot up there, but I was rewarded with a vast landscape, complete solitude, big blue skies and wildlife.

Once I had left the thick forestry woodlands I was out on the open hill in the sunshine being serenaded by skylarks. Other birds included wheatears, newly arrived from Africa, and noisy meadow pipits.  I also saw plenty of red deer, who looked much more alarmed to see me than deer I have met in more popular parts of the island. The spot of the day however was a pair of hen harriers (male and female) driving off another male intruder. High drama on the hill.

Flowering bog myrtle covered all my gear in puffs of green pollen wherever I walked.

Beinn Bharrain, seen from the south east.

 Looking downstream, Glen Scaftigil.

Empty cocoon of the Northern Eggar Moth Larva 

The low hump of Sail Chalmadale

So after three visits and one more to come, here is one blank spot on the map that I feel I know well.  I didn't find any dragons, but I did see a common lizard, and it was certainly a monster day.

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